Friday, May 25, 2007

Lost & Heroes: The ol' switcheroo

For today's column, I returned one last time to the "Lost" / "Heroes" compare/contrast that I'd been doing frequently this year in print and here on the blog:

On Wednesday at 11 p.m., we came to the end of another network TV season, which means it's time for another one of my season-ending mea culpas:

To the producers of "Lost," I've been too hard on you this year.

To the producers of "Heroes," I may have been far too easy.

That I came to these twin realizations only after watching the shows' respective season finales may seem unfair. After all, you're not supposed to judge a season on a single episode, right? Yet what happened -- or, in some cases, didn't happen -- in each of the finales made me reconsider much of what I've said and written about these shows.

To read the full column, click here.

42 comments:

Some Dude said...

I think the 16 episodes per season format will work great for Lost. This season, if you take away the first 6 episodes (the so-called fall season) and the horrible tattoo episode, you have a very solid batch of exactly 16 episodes.

Rickey Henderson said...

Or just do a Lost/24 comparison. I dug the 24 finale a lot but it looks weaker and weaker in comparison to the unadulterated awesomeness that Lost displayed Wednesday night. Nice blog by the way.

jim treacher said...

In that joint interview with Lindelof and Kring, I forget which one said it, but one of them pointed out that you can't have the "hey, wow" episodes without the relatively boring setup episodes. "Five Years Gone" wouldn't have had the same punch unless we'd seen, for example, what a decent, boring guy Parkman is today. But push him far enough and he becomes a creepy, brutally effective henchman. You can't mess with our expectations without giving us those expectations to begin with.

You do have to give them props for at least trying to tie everything up, though. As great as Lost was, there's still that voice in the back of my head going, "Suckerrrrrr..."

Hey, who'd win, Ben or HRG? Straight-up fistfight, I'd go with Noah. But in a staredown, Ben all the way. Father of the Year? Tie.

jim treacher said...

Oh! And after watching Lost another 3 times, how great is it that the two biggest "joke" characters were the biggest heroes? Hurley's curse is broken! (Maybe.) And Charlie put that Sharpie he was always using to write on himself to good use one last time.

Lizbeth said...

Alan, I completely agree with your assessment. I was hooked on Heroes all season long and then felt completely let down by the finale. The final scene didn't even match the earlier visions of the explosion (which took place during the day and showed the heroes coming together on a NYC street).

But Lost totally won me over by that finale. And now I can't imagine having to wait until February to see how it all plays out. Of course, that means the Lost writers will have to come out really really strong. We're all coming back with such high expectations. Let's hope they don't disappoint.

My other problem with Heroes from the beginning has been -- how come all of these people didn't discover their powers until the eclipse but the older generation knew about their powers all along?

Louis said...

Sorry, this is not entirely related to your article, but I watched the Lost finale again last night and I think I might have noticed something that hasn't been commented on (in your blog, anyway).

As the underwater hotties are beating Charlie, he's singing. First, it's his band's old hit, but then he's humming something new. He says it just came to him.

Then, in the "flash forward," Jack is blasting music as he pulls up in front of the funeral home. Was it Charlie's song? Or am I reaching?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Louis, Jack was listening to a Nirvana song ("Scentless Apprentice").

Louis said...

Damn. Not only do I have no insight, I have no grunge credibility, either.

jim treacher said...

"The final scene didn't even match the earlier visions of the explosion (which took place during the day and showed the heroes coming together on a NYC street)."

It was a vision. It wasn't supposed to be literal. Claire and Matt were wearing their respective uniforms, for example. And Simone was in it too, even though she ended up being killed before it happened. It was symbolic.

Apparently the Lost finale was the first time a Nirvana song has been used on network TV. So there's a few more bucks for Courtney's plastic-surgery fund.

Taleena said...

I just rewatched the Heroes finale with the Dear Husband and I enjoyed it much more than I did the first time around.

Watching it I realized (aside from the whole Richard Roundtree bits. Not even Shaft can save the Deveraux family from banality) that the episode was very strong and if they had just delivered a few more fireworks than everyone would be raving about it.

Taleena said...

Plus Peter says "Nathan I cn't doing anything I've frozen." Necessitating Nathan fly him away.

Susan said...

I totally agree with your article. Lost won me back with the finale while Heroes - which I watched all season with anticipation - had me going "eh." However, I think Heroes has some lessons to learn and will grow into things like knowing how to finish a season. I think a more apt comparison might be Heroes Season 1 Finale to Lost Season 1 Finale - in which Lost teased us for months about opening the hatch, then opened it, only to show us... a ladder going down. That's it. Total letdown. So let's see what Heroes can do when they're ending their third season.

J said...

It was a vision. It wasn't supposed to be literal. Claire and Matt were wearing their respective uniforms, for example. And Simone was in it too, even though she ended up being killed before it happened. It was symbolic.

But see, this is where you can go wrong with flashforwards. Though Heroes was clear about changing its future, it does your audience no favors to create visual landmarks and then abandon them altogether. If you're going to change something, keep it out of frame or shoot from a different angle, or something.

Eric R said...

I think most if not all of the disspointment from Heroes is due to the letdown in the fight b/w sylar and peter. I don't know if they purposefully avoided violence and CGI to focus more on story, but everything suffered because of it. And really, Sylar didn't flinch when Hiro came rushing at him from 10 feet away? It felt like that scene from Austin Powers where the guy ever so slowly gets run over by the steam roller.
I definitely think that this is a mistake that Heroes can recover from. Especially after they dropped the bomb about the even bigger bad guy. I am also hoping "Big Baddie" or BB as I call him, is responsible for Sylar's body dissappearing. I think it would be awfully dissappointing if Sylar just didn't die after Hiro's mighty stab. BB has to play into next season, right?

jim treacher said...

"But see, this is where you can go wrong with flashforwards."

It wasn't a flashforward. It was a vision. It was not literal.

jim treacher said...

I mean, you didn't see anything dreamlike about having Claire and Parkman in their uniforms? All the abandoned cars, as if everybody had just disappeared? The way Nathan talked to him? It was a prophecy, not time-travel.

Dark Tyler said...

Yeah, but see, the writers made a point all that the future is not changeable, every little detail came true, but then suddenly it just didn't. Why after 22 episodes, they were able to change the future in the 23rd? Because it was the season finale? Lay-zee! (Sorry for that, I just woke up.)

And I'll say it again. Lost delivered in its first season finale but for the last 30 seconds. Up to that point it was excellent and it managed to address all the other threads. Plus, the hatch was in play for something like 6-7 episodes, it was the main season plot, so it's not like they blew the whole season by now showing what was inside it.

Anyway, great article, Alan.

Dark Tyler said...

Oh my God.

* Yeah, but see, the writers made a point all SEASON that the future is not changeable

and

*the hatch was NOT the main season plot.

Gonna get some coffee in me now.

A. said...

No, wrong. The Heroes writers never set in stone that the future could not be changed.

Hiro did theorize he couldn't change the *past*, as he was unable to save Charlie (the waitress with perfect recall) in any timeline.

However, whether the characters could change the future and control their own destinies was one of the major themes of the season. Characters like Hiro had faith they could change the future; cynics like Nathan and Linderman felt the future was unchangeable.

As for Heroes vs. Lost, all I know is that despite being disappointed with the season finale and some other issues, I enjoyed virtually all of Heroes season one and always looked forward to the next episode. Whereas with Lost, I watched the first half of season one, and episodes from January through March this season, was utterly bored for each episode, and dumped it again as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

Dark Tyler is right. Kring and Co. certainly made the paintings and comic book panels "literal," some of which could have been storyboards for the scenes that were ultimatley shot. We were led to believe that the future was fixed, from the paintings, the visions, Hiro's several visits to the future, the comic book, et cetera. The trick was, how will the heroes fix that which is unfixable, alter that which is unalterable? As Dark Tyler suggests, somehow, in the last episode, it just inexplicably became fixable and alterable. That was indeed lazy, and lame to boot. We can apologize for Kring and say it was prophecy or what have you, but the point is that the writers painted themselves into a corner and couldn't think of any better way to limp out of it. The fact that it never occurred to Kring that Peter could simply fly away (as evidence in the TV Guide interview someone linked in the comments earlier) indicates they weren't thinking about anything other than the results. Here, the result was: stop the explosion, though the manner in which they did it was not in accord with all of the preceding episodes. Too bad.

jim treacher said...

When did the writers say the future wasn't changeable? Hiro thought that and got discouraged, but that doesn't mean it was true. Just part of the hero's journey and all that Joseph Campbell stuff.

Again, why have a show called Heroes if they can't change things for the better?

Anonymous said...

Treacher, you've missed the point. The point isn't that they changed the future. Of course they were going to (although it would have been cooler, I think, if the nuclear explosion was the result of them saving the world and NYC was a consequence of that). The problem Dark Tyler identified is that it was only in the last episode that (1) Nathan suddenly turned around and became a good guy (2) the Heroes changed fate and the future. It was wholly inconsistent with the previous 23 episodes, which were grim and fatalistic and based on a set future which seemed immutable. Changing the future is fine; doing so just by yelling "psyche" in the last half of the last episode isn't.

jim treacher said...

Oh, and it was more like 12 or 13 episodes of wondering what was in the hatch. According to Lostpedia it was discovered during the Dec. 11, 2004 episode, and we didn't find out what was inside until the 2nd season premire on Sept. 21, 2005. Talk about a pregnant pause, LOL

jim treacher said...

"Treacher, you've missed the point."

No I haven't. You guys are just confusing "let's put the heroes through hell for a bunch of episodes" with "this is the philosophy of the show."

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, any idea if ABC will replay the finale of Lost any time soon? My wife recorded Idol on the Tivo and didn't notice that Lost was on at the same time. grr

Anonymous said...

Treacher, you again miss the point. There was a large element of predestination in the earlier episodes, from the panels in the comic books coming literally true to the paintings also becoming literally true. It was quite apparent that what Isaac painted was gossip. In your fanboy glee, you may wish to excuse Kring's writers' laziness at their last minute switch into a fateless unwritten future. But the show wasn't just about putting the heroes through hell, as you clumsily put it. Rather, it was about the heroes fighting that which was fated. That makes for a better story. However, the writers seemed to abandon this point and rather opted for the "future is unwritten" theme in the last episode. This was inconsistent with what came before and there was no meaningful bridge between the two philosophies of fate. But, I guess if you think it's cool and neat, that excuses it, right?

jim treacher said...

"In your fanboy glee..."

Personal insults and questioning motives now? Checking out.

Anonymous said...

I just call it as I see it. I mean, you liked "Drive," after all, right?

But, I guess the best way to concede without appearing to concede is to check out. Checkmate.

jim treacher said...

Oh, it's THAT anonymous...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Once again, I feel the need to quote John Munch: Girls, girls! You're both pretty!

Now move to neutral corners, okay?

jim treacher said...

I'm not sure what I did wrong, but okay.

Anonymous said...

Alan, it's all in good fun to disagree about TV, whether it is good or Minear. And since when is it an insult to have or be identified with "fanboy glee"? I sure had it for Spider-Man 3, and was I disappointed.

Also, Alan, can you call HBO and make them air a new Sopranos ep tonight?

Dark Tyler said...

I vote that from now on, "Anonymous" will be Anonymous' official screen name. :P

jim treacher, I guess it all comes down to the question if you consider every single panel drawn by Isaac that came true, an absolute coincidence. If yes, well then... okay. No point in arguing any more. :)

jim treacher said...

"jim treacher, I guess it all comes down to the question if you consider every single panel drawn by Isaac that came true, an absolute coincidence."

No, because they hadn't figured out how to stop what was happening yet.

Now, do I wish the last episode, particularly the showdown, had been thought out better? More action-packed? Definitely. But it didn't somehow contradict what had gone before. Would it have been better if NYC had been destroyed? That would be kind of a downer, especially for a show called "Heroes."

Anonymous said...

Downer or no, the show would have been interesting and exciting if they had lost. I understand that in the traditional superhero narrative they should win and save NYC, and I didn't expect them to do otherwise. But if you have characters to see/paint the future, then you can't change the rules in midstream. That is the point being made here. Either Isaac can see the future or he can't. Either his paintings come true or they don't. Either his drawings come true or they don't. Either the future is unwritten or it isn't. That's fine, but you can't have it both ways, and that's what it felt like in this show, particularly in the last episode when they suddenly in the last episode changed that which seemed fated for 22 preceding episodes. I'm not saying they should have lost, just that the narrative should have been constructed better.

Kenrick said...

I was conflicted by the Heroes finale. I think the ending would have been stronger if the bomb had gone off, but they were still able to stop Sylar, thus saving the world. This being mainstream television, I can understand why they didn't have NYC go kablooey. The finale did also redeem Nathan. Lost had a great finale, but for me, that doesn't make up for a horrible season 2 and half of season 3. I still enjoyed the ride on Heroes much more than I enjoyed the single final episode of Lost. I hope Lost will do better in the 16 episode format, and I hope there Heroes won't fall to the Jeph Loeb syndrome again - great build up, poor finish.

jim treacher said...

"Jeph Loeb syndrome," good point.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree the ride was great with Hero. It was slow at first, but you could sense it was building. This is why the finale was so disappointing. Nathan suddenly turns good again. It would have been nice to see him struggle a bit more.

J said...

>>I mean, you didn't see anything dreamlike about having Claire and Parkman in their uniforms? All the abandoned cars, as if everybody had just disappeared? The way Nathan talked to him? It was a prophecy, not time-travel.

No, I get that. And obviously you scrap the dreamier elements when you reapproach the situation live. But it just would have been a much, much stronger ending had they kept the visual touchstones they'd given the viewer before. Have it take place in a street full of abandoned cars, not in a barren plaza. Frame shots to match Isaac's paintings. It grounds the viewer, establishes suspense, and doubles surprise when you finally veer off in another direction.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"I certainly agree the ride was great with Hero. It was slow at first, but you could sense it was building. This is why the finale was so disappointing. Nathan suddenly turns good again. It would have been nice to see him struggle a bit more."

I thought there were very subtle hints in the last few episodes that Nathan had not completely bought into Mama Petrelli's and Linderman's grand plan...especially certain looks he'd give his mother or Claire or Peter. I thought you could see he was struggling internally.

hujhax said...

Hmm. The nj.com link goes to a blank article....

Alan Sepinwall said...

NJ.com only archives stories for two or three weeks; after that, the links go to a blank page.