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Friday, May 25, 2007

"We have to go back!": LOST after "The Looking Glass"

This post is going to be heavy on spoilers regarding this past Wednesday night's season finale of Lost, titled "Through the Looking Glass". So if you're someone who's still trying to find time to "get into" the show (someone who is probably going to be borrowing my Lost DVD sets, and you know who you are ;-) then you'll want to steer clear of what I'm about to say, until you're able to watch "Through the Looking Glass" as virginally as possible, with the three seasons of stories behind it.

Everyone gone who doesn't want to know more at the present time?

Good, 'cuz here goes...

The Lost Season 3 finale was the most diabolically devious trick that was ever pulled with a TV show, that I've been able to think of. What makes it work is that there were three seasons of an established format building up to it, and during this episode we think we know what's going on. And then that final scene happens... which was the absolutely most confusing thing that I ever watched firsthand until my wife figured it out and told me about it... and kicks the table not only over, but clear across the room. The producers said that this episode would be the long-announced "game-changer" that would totally alter how we watched the story.

I don't think that they were kidding. Just as Alice went through the Looking Glass and everything was reversed, that's what this episode represents. For three years we have been watching these characters be revealed through flashbacks of their lives before coming to the Island...

...and now we are getting ready to see how exactly the Island affected them, through flash-forwards of what happens to them after they were eventually rescued.

Which I think is one of the most original things... if not the most original thing, to ever be done with a television show mid-stream.

In fact, I have to wonder if Lost has raised the bar so high with this move, could television as a story-telling medium ever be able to top that? So far, no ideas are entering my mind... and I've tried to think of plenty.

That final shot of Jack crying "We have to go back!"... maybe that wasn't the traditional season-ending "cliffhanger", but that was easily the most haunting way to end one chapter of a television show that I've seen. This whole episode was filled with shots that stick to your mind, but that one tops them all.

So now we know that Jack and Kate, at least of the Flight 815 survivors, do get off the Island... but at what cost? A man does not obsess with maps of the Pacific and keeps flying over it praying that the plane will crash unless there is something massive on his conscience about whatever happened. Why can't he find the Island again? If they were rescued, then certainly somewhere there is a log showing the coordinates of the Island, right? However it happened, it made Jack a very recognizable "hero figure" and Oceanic was embarrassed enough to give all the survivors lifetime free flights to anywhere. But there's something else that they can't talk about: Jack says that he's "tired of the lying" about it.

So... what was it?

What does happen to Sawyer and Sayid and Hurley and Claire and Sun and Jin and all of the rest once they finally return to their normal lives. Can they even return to those? For some reason I keep envisioning a future episode of Lost where Hurley and his dad take their car to the Grand Canyon, just like Papa Reyes promised Hurley. I also see, if the show is going to be flash-forwards from here on out, how Michael and Walt can be brought back and how Malcolm David Kelley's growth can be realistically addressed (without having to resort to anything wacky like "the Others experimented on him" etc.). We might see years down the line, where Sun and Jin are a happy couple with their beautiful baby (if there are no "complications" that is). The thing about Desmond and Penny, we might get to see a happy ending to that story too... maybe.

And then there is Locke: where will he be, long after the ships or helicopters or whatever have come? Because you just know that he won't go unless he's unconscious or dead or bound and gagged and even then I wouldn't trust him to not blow something up.

I do believe that the show will end with us seeing the 815 survivors being rescued. But the story shouldn't end "there". These characters are going to be changed for the rest of their lives by what has happened on the Island. And now we are going to get to see how it affected them, too.

The Lost producers, it seems, have crossed a terrible line and painted themselves into a corner with "Through the Looking Glass". So now they're going to tear a hole straight through the wall.

This is what makes excellent storytelling, folks. It's when you challenge yourself and decide that you won't be bound by "the norms". That you are going to tell this story your way and let come what may. They have taken a huge gamble with this: maybe the biggest ever tried with a television show. But, I think it's going to work.

Besides, just about all the major characters (and a lot of the minor ones) have had their pasts explored about as much as the viewers are really interested to see. We need to explore some fresh ground now. By altering the format of the story, they get to do that and in the process do something quite rare for a television show: make it completely fresh and compelling viewing again well into the show's run.

So it will be a long eight months until Lost returns. But somehow after this week's episode I don't feel upset at having to wait at all. There is a sense of completion here. Now we just have to sit back and watch how the thing unfolds along the way to get us there.

Lost with no more flashbacks... who'da thunk we'd see that happen? :-)