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Why Lost sucks

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s like waking up and rolling over in bed one morning to the clear-eyed understanding that the two of you have really just been going through the motions for far too long now; that is to say, it is a truth one is loathe to admit. Lost sucks, as it has sucked for lo these many years.

But, just as in that clear-eyed morning you can find no-one to blame for the fact you’ve grown apart, so it is with Lost: it’s not Lost‘s fault that it sucks. It’s the medium. Television has an ineluctable drive towards a state of what we in the business call crap.

Good drama is dynamic; it moves. Even in stories that shy away from epiphany, the end arrives with a sense of finality; if change is denied, the end arrives with the sense that it will ever be so. Drama moves inevitably from A to B.

Television loves stasis. A television drama is like the stupidest possible particle of quantum physics: it sits in its base state until an inciting incident excites it, and then it jumps up and pretends that things could change, before lapsing back into its  base state, ready for the next episode. Television’s instinct is not to finish the story, but (to channel Hunter Thompson) to ride that strange train down the shallow plastic money trench until it hits the wall.

The show is a hit, people. We don’t know why it’s a hit, so let’s not fuck with it too much. Let’s just spin this thing out as long as we can … this is the instinct of the television writer. And since they don’t know why the show is a hit, they usually play up all the wrong things.

In its first season, Lost was one of the most interesting things on television: character-driven and spooky, it forever raised more questions than it answered, but it remained about its characters first. In the second season, the mystery began to overwhelm the characters, but it was still their reaction to the mystery that counted. Lost was still good.

In the third season, the wheels fell off, because to sustain the thing for four more years, the producers realized that they’d have to keep throwing more balls into the air: new characters, more mysteries, more plot twists. And they forgot who their own characters actually were: Locke warped into a kind of maniac, Sawyer’s childhood became less important than the love triangle, Hurley became comic relief, and so on. It was all about sustaining the plot, an ongoing juggling act involving an ever-increasing array of chainsaws, burning torches and scimitars — which is all very well for a few minutes, but quickly becomes boring when you realize the juggler isn’t going to accidentally cut his own arm off.

And as the final season begins? More plot twists, more mysteries, more bullshit. We’re driving towards the end now, but it no longer matters. The audience fled in droves during the third season for one simple reason: this was no longer the same show. It had lost everything that made it good. And the idea that the mysteries will all be answered? I don’t care. It was more compelling when when it was still mostly about the possibility of redemption — back when nothing had to make sense.

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