Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lost: Answer me these questions three

Spoilers for "Lost" coming up just as soon as I figure out why Sawyer became a con man instead of a TV critic...

So the promos promised that three of the show's biggest mysteries would be solved last night. After sitting through the show and rolling it around in my head for a while, I think I've figured out what the silly promo people were talking about:
  1. What's the story behind Jack's tattoos?
  2. What happened to Cindy, the kids and the other abducted Tailies?
  3. What happened to that fancy bungalow colony The Others were living in when Oceanic 815 crashed?
The first of those is technically a mystery, in that the show had never explained it before, but if Carlton Cuse thought the number of viewers who care about Alvar Hanso is small, someone needs to introduce him to the collected three-member Society of "Lost" Tattoo Analysis, pretty much the only people on the planet who wanted or needed this question answered.

The other two are things of actual concern to the viewership at large, I think, but "Stranger in a Strange Land" didn't so much answer them as clarify a few minor details about them. Most of us had assumed that The Others' village was somewhere on Craphole Island proper, because Ethan and Goodwin were able to run to the respective beaches, but at least it was definitively established that the Alcatraz aquarium is only a place they go on occasion to "work," whatever that means. And we at least got a glimpse of Cindy and company, just not enough to establish whether they were prisoners, brainwashed, or what.

Here's the thing: this is a show that already has major trust issues with its audience. People have been screaming that they want answers already -- and it's here that I repeat my mantra that I'm okay with no answers so long as the individual episodes are entertaining, which has rarely been the case of late -- and everyone in production and at ABC knows this. When I saw that promo last week, I thought, "Hey, they finally get it. They're going to give the people what they want." Then I saw the episode and realized that the delusion or willful ignorance remains firmly in place.

I thought this was a bad episode for a number of reasons, most of them having to do with Jack's tendency to be a pig-headed idiot who'd rather yell than actually solve a problem or listen to what people have to say to him. (That's what makes him the ideal leader for the producers' purposes.) That said, you don't promise an audience starved for answers a three-course meal and then serve them these table scraps. Bad, bad, bad move. Without those ads, it's a mediocre Flashjack episode. With them, it's a symbol of every single thing that people have been complaining about this year.

I could spend time wondering how The Others got their boat back from Michael and Walt, or where Diana Scarwid (the episode's only highlight) was keeping herself during the spine surgery drama, but I don't much care right now and would rather move on to write about "Friday Night Lights." So I open it to you. What did everybody else think?


Alyssa said...

I don't want to rag too hard on the promo people, but honestly. That was terrible.

I thought the episode was pretty boring and how long does it take to canoe 3 miles?

The Jackback stuff was dull - I was willing to endure another one and was cautiously optimistic when he said he didn't feel like talking about his father anymore. And then... it kind of pooped out.

Also Bai Ling is creepy.

The last two episodes have been so promising. I'm hoping this is one was an anomaly and that the show will be really good again. I agree with you, Alan, I don't expect big answers or reveals. I just want to be entertained and intrigued.

Kat Coble said...

I think that for a character primed as deeply as Jack, what with the Daddy issues, the commitment issues and the surgical genius, the show's writers have been amazingly great at turning him into a one-note cartoon. His entire character can now be summed up in five words: I'm a DOCTOR. Frak you.

I think most of those who've stuck with the show have done so precisely because we're of a more inquisitive nature. We like to know things, to find out things. Having the show's major character be the exact opposite of that has become extremely tiresome.

As for the promos, I never believe them anymore. I swear they're all written by my sophomore-year boyfriend as they are masterful at massaging lies into 'just enough of the truth' to pass muster.

Anonymous said...

They need to get rid of the Others already. The only thing interesting about them is why they're there and what they're doing. But if they're not going to tell us that then they're just boring as hell. And having the characters interact with them and NOT ask those questions just comes off as ridiculous and a lazy way of avoiding having to give any answers. I was literally yelling at the screen through most of the conversations last night. Like Karl's "we take them to give them a better life." "WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?" would have been the normal response. But Kate and Sawyer just freaking sat there. And the whole story about Jack's tattoos was incredibly dumb. I mean, I don't mind getting the story behind his tattoos, but was there really any reason to try to make a mystery out of that too? "I have a gift." "There will be repercussions." Whaa? I think I actually got a headache from all of the eyerolling I did. I actually don't mind extra mysteries (like Desmond's story last week) but they need to be interesting and have some impact on what happens on the island. This story didn't. Let's put it this way: last week's episode ended with Desmond's "you're gonna die, Charlie." This week? Jack and Juliet doing their own personal version of "I'm king of the world!" zzzzzzzzzzzzz

BF said...

Does anyone remember any card-playing during the FlashJack? Because when we first learned of Jack's Jolly Adventures to Phuket, it was when Sawyer asked Jack where he learned to play poker.

Another tiny tidbit we learned was that Ethan was the in-house surgeon, although that now makes Ben's decision to send him on scout duty look extra-stupid.

Anonymous said...

Ha! "Zzzzzzzzzz" was going to be my post too!

I agree 100 percent with the "BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!" frustration. To that, I'd add another useful questin: "WHAT THE @#($&% IS GOING ON?!"

My god, that WAS Diana Scarwid. I love her! I might have seen her name in the credits if I hadn't fastforwarded through them. Anything to cut down on the running time of this snoozefest.

I've been watching LOST since the beginning, but only in a casual way because I find I can't connect or sympathize with a single character. (Unlike FNL's characters, my affection for whom is approaching Deadwood-level. Really looking forward to your thoughts on last night's powerhouse performance from Connie Britton, Alan.)

Here's another LOST mystery that maybe ya'll can help me out with. Do the show's creators actually intend for the viewers to like or admire Jack? This smug, one-note, say something/shout something character has driven me crazy from the begining. For a while there, I tried to tell myself that we were MEANT to see him as a total ass; I'm less convinced of this with every episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Kate, go hit refresh on the main page for my "FNL" review.

Andrew Dignan said...

Horrible, horrible episode. Honestly, who gives a f*ck, really? As I pointed out in my House Next Door article this is now Jack's 9th flashback episode and we've reached a point where the writers have absolutely nothing left to say about the man. Not to mention, they pull a stunt like this on the second to last episode of sweeps? No wonder their ratings are in the toilet this season.

Unknown said...

Good Lord, do I feel dumb and insulted for watching this show. After we both had very long days at work at our respective jobs, my girlfriend and I got home around 10:30pm, exhausted. Decided to fire up Tivo and watch "Lost," mainly because I said: "remember in the promos for last week they said three huge questions would be answered?"

These words actually came out of my mouth. I can't believe I actually fell for it, after this entire letdown of a season. We looked at each other at the end of the show, and said at the same time, "That was horrible."

Alan, you're right about the trust issues. It's getting ridiculous, the way the writers are stringing along the viewers, so much so that you have to wonder if they are just protecting their jobs at this point. "Hey, if we keep generating loose ends, we can keep this up forever!"

So thanks, ABC, for continuing to abuse the fans of the show that were mostly responsible for your resurgence three years ago. When your network is back in the toilet, maybe you'll look back on the way you handled Lost as the starting point.

But I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

As someone who no longer watches promos because I procure my TV via other means, I find it fascinating how they shape people's expecations of what an episode should be and how those expecations affect their enjoyment of the show. You should write a column just about that. Who does the promos? How is it determined what will be in them? Do the promo people actually watch the show or are they just interns in a booth?

Toby O'B said...

I just hope there are a couple of interns at the 'Lost' production offices whose main job is to look at all the blogs and their comments and bring them to the attention of the writers.

If they continue to ignore the griping, then it's their own hubris that will bring them down.

For a character that was originally conceived to be killed off in the pilot, we've gotten an overdose on the Flashjacks since Season One. (Love that word, Alan!)

Enough already! His story is played out and if his character was to be killed off, it would neither be a shock or a big loss in my book. So many other characters on the show we know so little about and are far more interesting.

Anonymous said...

My only regret is buying Season One of Lost on DVD before realizing the show was gonna be pretty crappy in Season Two. Now I'm stuck with a DVD set of a show I don't care about...

Anonymous said...

Wait...are we in Season Three of Lost? See...that's how little I care about this show! I don't even remember what season we're currently watching.

Anonymous said...

The frustrating thing about the Jack storyline this season is not that we're not getting answers, but because Jack isn't asking the same questions that we are. Mr. Friendly (whose actual name I can't remember) mentioned that they had access to the outside world until the sky went violet. Why doesn't Jack follow up on that?

It's not that the problem is failing to answer questions, it's the simple dismissal of the concept that viewers have any interest in not having resolution. I agree with Alan-- it's ok to get new questions without answers if the new questions make the old loose ends moot. But Lost hasn't managed to even come close to that.

In one way, some of the problems facing Lost are similar to the difficulties BSG experienced during the first half of its 3rd season-- learning more about the Cylons/Others makes them not only less mysterious, but also less threatening.

The last couple of episodes have had flashbacks that actually advanced the story. This week we did get a brief scene of Jack getting the crap kicked out of him. If all of the flashback had been Jack getting beat up, it would have added more to the episode than what we actually got.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Andrew - 9? I've been keeping a character-by-charater flashback tally and I come up with seven Jack flashbacks - three in season one, and to each in seasons two and three. Not counting the multi-character season one flashback at the airport.

Andrew Dignan said...

toshy and cosh:

Yeah I'm including part 1 of the Pilot (which depicts the crash from Jack's POV) and Exodus part 1 where Jack is one of many who get flashbacks in the episode. Perhaps a semantics issue, but the fact remains Jack has benefited greatly from the flashback structure.

Anonymous said...

If they continue to ignore the griping, then it's their own hubris that will bring them down.

See: Sorkin, Aaron and "Studio 60"

I was so bored by last night's ep, I nearly slipped into a coma. They're squandering all viewer goodwill this season, and for what? To make it to 100 eps for syndication? Bah!

This was the first ep I truly did not like.

K J Gillenwater said...

After last week's brilliant episode with Desmond, this one was a real let-down. Very boring. Very unrevealing. I never really cared to know what Jack's tattoos meant, because they are REAL tattoos on Matthew Fox's arm, and to have the writers pretend that suddenly they mean something in the world of "Lost" is just ridiculous.

What I was really hoping for was Bai Ling to be a con artist/prostitute type who scams Jack and just destroys him. Then, I wanted the story to be parallel to his relationship with Juliet. I still don't trust that woman. Jack is believing in her a little too much.

It was probably the worst "Lost" episode yet.

Pete Prochilo said...

Can anyone explain to me why Jack would force this chick to tattoo his arm? What was the motivation there?

Makes-a no sense.

Anonymous said...

Could we please have more ´You´re a leader/ not a leader´ flashbacks? For the love of God, I cannot get enough of it.

If you don´t have anything to say, just don´t say it = If the flashbacks don´t have any sense, don´t include flashbacks.

If Heroes moves at LOST´s speed, we would still be watching episode three.

The LOST cast has become too large, the mysteries have gotten more and more complicated without any answers and the characters annoy me.

Way to go.

Anonymous said...

This week's Jericho did a better job of answering questions while raising more mysteries than freaking Lost has done all this season. JERICHO! JEEZ!

Anonymous said...

but yet, we still watch...

Anonymous said...

On a non-Lost note, I'd love to see a post on the best and worst promos. I think HBO does some of the best promos - they build anticipation without revealing too much.

As for bad promos, Lost and Heroes tend to suffer form the problem of baiting the audience with promises of big revelations or shocking deaths which naturally reduces the impact of these twists.

Yet the award for worst promo of the year goes to BSG following the midseason finale "The Eye of Jupiter" which spoiled the entire cliffhanger.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the promos and it still sucked.

During the spine surgery drama, Diana Scarwid was getting tied up and almost raped by T-Bag over on Prison Break.

(Hey, Jim!)