DJ Haza reflects on six years of Lost with more 'Frustrated Ramblings Of An Aspiring Filmmaker"...
If, like me, you had been eagerly anticipating the long awaited final episode of Lost and all the answers that were destined to accompany it then you too would have looked like a school kid on Christmas morning. We would have all been sat itching to unwrap the mystery in front of us and get the long, agonising wait over and done with. So many questions. So much I needed to know. What is the island? Why is it so special? How will it all end? I couldn’t wait.
I must confess that I wasn’t up at stupid o’clock in the morning to watch it and I had instead Sky Plussed it for viewing after going for dinner that evening. But, I did indeed wear a child-like grin all day in the anticipation of what awaited me on that magic box provided by Sky. Over the six long twisting and turning series of Lost I had barely missed an episode. I was damn proud that I had seen it through. The people who I discussed Series 1 with were no longer interested come Series 3 and told me to shut up about it come Series 5. For the last year I had been practically ignored as soon as my lips uttered the word ‘Lost’. The lack of plausibility left weaker viewers falling by the way side, but not me. I was hardcore.
The day of the final episode I tried desperately not to spend too long on Facebook for fear of stumbling across some random comment that was a clear plot spoiler. I did sneak a peak at the odd comment that was evidently not going to ruin things for me – and people didn’t seem impressed. I started to wonder – What if the important questions are not answered? What if it doesn’t make sense? What if I’ve spent the last six years waiting to find out something that not even the all powerful JJ Abrams even knows? Perhaps there are no answers? Only questions! What if it was just a group of arseholes jabbering a load of nonsensical words on a tropical island with no point or meaning? No. It can’t be. It will all come together. I reassured myself and anyone else who wanted to be bored by my Lost theories.
Then the time came. I sat wide-eyed, open mouthed and grinning like a schoolboy who had just seen his first pair of boobs. I turned off all the lights. Grabbed my bottle of red and a large wine glass. Hit the play button on the Sky Plus remote and sank into my chair to experience this magnificent TV event in all it’s highly defined glory on my widescreen 46 inch TV. Three hours passed.
Had it been worth the wait? I sat sunk in my chair. My bottle of red was empty. My glass empty. My eyes narrowed. Teeth gritted. WHAT THE F**K WAS THAT ABSOLUTE PILE OF W**K? To say that I wasn’t happy was a little more than a minor understatement. I was livid. I ranted on Facebook. I ranted by text. I rang anyone to rant away even if they didn’t care, or in the case of my mother, understand what Lost was! My questions definitely were not answered. I felt cheated. JJ Abrams had brain washed me into sitting there every week for six years to watch a show that at times was no more than drivel, but had me hooked because I didn’t really understand what on God’s green earth was going on! So I started a Facebook group – I’m Sorry, But You’ve Lost Me? I encouraged people to rant as I did and post links to other rants or even explanations. In all honesty it wasn’t the most successful Facebook group of all time with only 62 members, but I had to express my discontent somewhere. Unhappy about what tripe had been fed me on this night that promised so much yet delivered so little I began to think of all the questions I did not have the foggiest idea of the answers to. I wanted to know so much. I would be happy to understand it all or I wanted Abrams lynched. The entire show may not have been his wrong doing, but he is the person put up on a pedestal when the show received praise so he will be person who is hung by his genitalia from a lamppost in Hollywood if I had my way.
When I calmed down I decided that I was going to write this article venting my frustrations and trying to make sense of things. I felt like the fog had cleared and I had come to realisation that Lost just wasn’t written too good. So I once again Sky Plussed the Sky One special two parter – Lost: The Final Journey. I would read, watch and listen to other writers and critics view on things and see if my worst suspicions of pants writing was in fact true, or that I was indeed a moron and didn’t get it.
I watched Lost: The Final Journey and it was no more than a general summing up of the entire 6 series with Carlton Cuse (Producer) and Damon Lindelof (Co-Creator) grinning from ear to ear very, very proud of the fantastic job they had been patting themselves on back for. It offered no additional information to me what so ever, but it did remind me of questions that once had, but had forgotten about because there so many more to consider. Maybe I expected something that I was never going to get. Answers. My next ports of call on my search for enlightenment were the many fan sites that clog up the internet. Almost all of the posts on these sites were either from people like me who felt livid and cheated, or people stating how brilliant it was and didn’t care that it was flawed. Personally – I did care.
I understand the show wasn’t really about a mystical island and it was about people who were lost in their lives and facing the world and its trials alone. Understand that through this peculiar event they found friends, loved ones, people to trust and share their lives with. That’s all well and good. But so many unanswered questions left me so frustrated. The best episodes were when questions were answered and all the clues that we had been collecting finally came together. That was the thrill of it. Like a murder mystery – when you finally get to the bottom of it and have worked it all out - that is the pay off. The satisfaction. That is why you watch. With Lost those pay offs often came with the characters discovering something about themselves, or connecting with another character. Story revelations came hand in hand with character development, which was great. However, those pay offs were too few and far between. There were so many story strands with questions attached that arose and the audience wanted answered, but they seemed to fade away, end abruptly or continue with no explanation. Was this a ploy by the producers, creators and writers to keep the audience guessing? Maybe, but at some point you need to answer a lot of those questions or you run the risk of confusing or alienating your audience because you didn’t give them the pay off that they were expecting.
Basic storytelling classes will tell you that if you create a fictional world you need to fully understand it and be able to explain it, because if you can’t then how are others expected to understand it? Another basic expectation of storytelling is that if you begin a story strand it needs to come to fruition and have some sort of resolution or otherwise it confuses the audience. Have you ever tried to tell a joke that you don’t know fully? You set it up and then get to the end and your punch line is lost because you didn’t get the set up right. Sometimes the person you’re telling will question the joke. It isn’t funny because it didn’t quite make sense.
Lost felt like this to me. I was so sucked into wanting to know what the island was that I cared less about the characters. On the forums and sites I’ve read people argue that it was about the characters and not the island. Great, but when the island is such a huge character in its self then it detracts attention away from the actual characters themselves. The Lost team definitely knew how to keep us all glued to the screen and it wasn’t to see if Kate and Jack would be together forever. Don’t get me wrong, I did want them to be together and I did care if they were going be together or not, but if it wasn’t for the islands mysterious and magical nature I may not have tuned in at all. The island was why I watched; the island was the mystery, the island kept me glued to my TV screen. Jack, Kate and the other characters were a side product almost. This may be the fatal flaw that has polarized Lost fans. Some were able to overlook the unanswered questions for the characters stories. Others couldn’t forgive the obvious story flaws and lack of explanation and turned off. Questions like - How did the island move and then time travel? This is a massive unanswered question is it not? Time travel is not just accepted as part of daily life. I for one couldn’t just think – okay there’s a lever underground that moves an island and it travels through time and it’s irrelevant because Sawyer has found love with Juliet and it is now 1970 something. This doesn’t make sense. Then when Jack and the Oceanic 6 find out how to return to the island via some sort of voodoo magic nonsense from Eloise. Did that not seem odd to anyone else? And then some of them landed in 1977 whilst others didn’t. How? Why? I understand that it makes the show more interesting and adds to the conflict and the drama, but it makes not one tiny bit of bloody sense!
The flash sideways in the final series was confusing to start with, but eventually we learn that this is the afterlife and eventually leads to the survivors meeting in purgatory. Once they have found some sort of peace with themselves they can all walk through the church doors and into the bright light. OK I get it and I buy it. I’m happy with it. It’s nice. A little confusing to start, but I get it. It was meant to be a test to see if they could impact each other’s lives again. That’s fine. It was all a little convenient and coincidental maybe. For example, the company that fires Locke just happens to be owned by Hurley, Charlie’s band just happens to be playing at Charles Widmore’s event and Desmond has to get him, plus loads more, but I could by pass that. So they all meet in purgatory and head for the next stage in their lives/afterlives for a strange sort of happy ending in a way. And this is how it ends. But what about the island? The time travelling? What exactly was the light in the well on the island? Come to think of it – if everyone on the plane was meant to meet there then where was Mr Eko? And several others? Still none the wiser after being promised answers.
The questions continue. When Richard goes to the island he learns from Jacob that the island was the plug stopping the evil getting out of hell. Okay, so why and how? Then Jacob throws his brother into the cavern and he becomes the smoke monster. Okay, so why and how? Then the man in black wants to leave the island but cant leave until he kills Jacob. Why? When he kills Jacob he knows the passengers of Oceanic flight 815 are shortlisted to care for the island and he must kill them all to make sure he gets the right one. Okay, but I’m still unsure as to why he can’t leave anyway? Does he lack the skills necessary to build a bloody raft? If so, why doesn’t he ask nicely and maybe someone will build one for him. Why did Jacob’s touch keep the candidates alive? Why then and how did he touch them all early in their lives? I thought Jacob was always on the island protecting it? If Jacob can leave then why couldn’t the smoke monster? I suppose that once he had become the smoke monster he wouldn’t look much like his passport photo. If he hadn’t killed his mother then maybe he could’ve gotten her to take a photo of him and he could’ve updated his passport. Also - why were the names scribbled in a cave? If Jacob had left the island couldn’t he have popped into Paperchase and gotten himself a nice filofax or even a pocket notebook? They have a fantastic range of paper products and I’m sure they cater for the mystical protector to the gates of hell. No answers or even reasons at all apparently. Hang on a minute - why wasn’t Claire dead? I thought she had died! How did Sayid come back to life? God knows!
The characters were good and at times great. Some moments were so moving and truly phenomenal television. When Sun and Jin died together on the submarine I shed a tear. It was so beautifully tragic. I’d followed these characters from day one and saw their relationship struggling, saw the flashbacks of Sun thinking about leaving Jin and then their struggle to try and find each other. Then they were reunited, just before their deaths. It was moving and I applaud it. But… how could they time travel? This is my point. No matter how dramatic, moving or beautifully wondrous the characters and their stories became I could not expel from my mind the so many questions. It hindered my ability to suspend my belief and buy into the story. There were times when I could forget about things and I was totally sucked in, but then once the episode had finished I would sit and think – hang on, this and that were not explained!
So many story strands did not come to fruition or were not explained that in my opinion it was poor writing. If a budding writer like myself had managed to get the opportunity to stand in front of the producers and executives of a major film studio and pitched this idea would it have been snapped at a record breaking price and produced with no expensive spared? No. If I had stood there and pitched Lost with so many unanswered questions and loose ends that are never, ever tied I would have been looking at a row of blank faces. Confused. They wouldn’t get it. And I wouldn’t blame them. I don’t get it! At least one of them would pose the questions - What is the island then? Why is it so special? How does it time travel and disappear? And I would answer – Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe we can draw this whole thing out over six years and then end it without explaining it all. We bang a few love stories in it and loads of flashbacks and it won’t even matter. So what do you think? Blank faces. At this point I would probably be escorted from the building, banned from the studio and my career would be as developed as the story of the lighthouse that lets Jack see himself away from the island.
In the five years I have been studying film and screenwriting not one person has said to me – if it doesn’t make sense don’t worry. It is drilled into you from day one that you must know everything about your characters and their worlds and be prepared to explain it on the spot at any one time. Do Jeff Lieber, JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof really know the questions to every answer? I’m not convinced. If I had created the same idea and shot it on a small island in the pond at my local park would it be celebrated as a TV phenomenon? No. So why because of its massive cost and production value is Lost haled as changing television? It seems that the old saying that 'in Hollywood good enough, is not good enough' is in no production truer than in Lost. It cost more money than most countries see in a year, and was shot in HD using helicopters, cranes and all manner of high tech equipment and so we can forgive its obvious flaws? No. I’m not expecting too much in asking for these answers. I feel that I’m just expecting the basics of story telling to be adhered to. Do not start a story strand unless you can explain it and find some sort of resolution for it.
There are so many questions that have remained unanswered in Lost that this article could’ve been twice the length atl east if I had decided to ask them all. Of all the sites, videos and explanations of Lost I have seen, watched and read there is only one that connects with me and seems to know exactly what it is like to be a frustrated Lost audience member. CollegeHumor have created a five-minute video asking all the questions that seemingly do not have answers. It’s simple yet straight to the point. It lists a whole host of questions that I hadn’t thought of and when I watched it made me think – oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. The fact that they have highlighted so many unanswered questions just goes to prove the point that so many stories did not come to fruition, were not explained or did not make any sense. Whether this was by choice or unintentional the writers need shooting. In my book it is poor storytelling and lazy writing.
The only thing that worked from start to finish without any questions, flaws or nonsense was the title. I was indeed Lost from episode one and I will continue to be Lost until I finally get my hands on JJ Abrams and the others, nail their testicles to a chair and get my chance to ask them the questions I need to know the answers to. Perhaps I am destined to wander this earth with the rest of the Lost audience searching for answers that never come. Maybe we shall all meet in purgatory where Abrams will be holding a seminar in a church complete with Q and A so that we can all find each other, get the answers we need and head through those doors at the back that lead into the light. Or maybe it’s all a massive pile of shit that could’ve been written better by a monkey?
I’m sorry, but you have well and truly Lost me!
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