May 27 2010

A rebuttal to "50 questions Lost needed to answer: a report card!"

, Entertainment , ,

This list is in reference to a checklist posted on IO9 about 50 questions that need to be answered by LOST. As part of this article I'm going to refer to this VENN diagram.


Spheres of Influence


 Okay, here goes with my take on some of the questions on this list:

1) No, the Island isn't "alive" but it has influence and when we talk about what it "wants" this is what is meant.  A planet doesn't have intelligence, but its gravity force "wants" to draw objects to it.  When we talk about what the island "wants" we mean mean "under its influence".  Jacob, The Outside World and the MIB (Man in Black) are countering influences to the island in varying degrees. Each of them can exert enough counter-force to remove someone from the island's influence.

 2) Everyone heals faster on the island.  Jacob may have "miraculously" healed individuals he considered candidates (such as Locke and Rose) off-camera.

4) Jacob and the MIB may have been Roman but the woman who raised them seemed more Sumerian or Messopotamian.  Jacob wasn't the first protector and he wasn't the last, either. Any of the previous civilizations to reach the island may have built the statue.

6) See #4

10) Moving the island got it away from Widmore and drew the candidates (Ben, Jin and Sawyer) back from Widmore's control. Of course, Ben botched it and unhinged the wheel sending the island them careening through time. Only the candidates (those not aligned with Jacob or the Man in Black...see the above diagram) moving through time. The Candidates all fall neatly in the "Island" category and are influenced by the other forces until they align with one of them.

11) I may be dreaming this, but I thought she said she suffered from anxiety attacks and depression that were brought on by the death of her husband. Confirmed

12) Short story, the actor wanted off the show and it was an easy way to write him out.  Sometimes real-world events affect fictitious ones.
Rousseau was spared becasue she was working for the MIB.  I think he wanted to use her to try to kill Jacob but she was too unstable.  For whatever reason or bargain he made with her she was spared.  The MIB has shown he keeps his bargains even if they are inconvenient.

14) Actor issues again (see #11). Clearly, he was supposed to be one of the candidates (but not his Dad).

16) It wasn't that Kate wasn't supposed to raise him but that Clare was supposed to raise him.  Presumably by raising him meant she would have escaped the island.

18) They were looking for ways to harness the energy of the island (Remember the MIB digging the wells?).  It was likely considered a failure because they could not find any practical way to harness the properties of the island when they weren't on the island.

21) The island wasn't literally underwater becasue the "flash sideways" wasn't a real place or time.Metaphorically speaking it was "submerged" or of you think of the surface of the ocean as a membrane it was "on the other side".

23) They were playing Jacob and MIB's game by proxy. harming each other directly was "against the rules". Ben broke the proxy when he killed Widmore.

24) See #23.  Widmore had been working for the MIB when he sent Keamy. Keamy went "off track"and started to kill everyone so Jacob set Widmore straight afterwards.

26) Okay, look at the diagram.  The Others were split between Jacob and the MIB. Richard was clearly Jacob's man.  Widmore was a MIB follower as was Rousseau.  I don't doubt that the MIB pretended to be various people over the years to mislead one or more of the Others.  I'm not surprised the lists don't match.  Jack and Swyer were "leader types" they'd not be recruited easily but they could be baited into doing things.  Both the MIB and Jacob knew that.

27) Dharma screwed up the properties of the island in 1977 when they hit that EM pocket. It also lead to time-travellers coming to that time.  I suspect that the island's healing properties caused the fetuses to be re-absorbed or it kicked the immune system of the women into high-gear making the fetuses non-viable.  Babies represent new beginnings and fresh starts.  The Island is about maintaining a stable status quo. That conflict is at the heart of the two primary forces that operate on the island. Those forces are often mirrored in the events of the residents of the island.

 28) Okay this one is complicated but bear with me:
Jacob and The Outside World overlap on Dharma in the diagam above.  This represents "harnessing the properties of the island" and is manifested in the Donkey wheel. Operating the Donkey wheel means you place youself directly under the influence of two outside counter-island forces when the island jumps away and you are free from the island's influence.  This is one of two ways to leave the island permanantly. Jacob couldn't use it because he was a own force in his own right.

Getting back to the island means placing yourself into the sway of forces that will draw you back to the island and means drawing on the "connections" that represent Jacob and the Cult. Which is why Ben could return to the island with the Oceanic Six.  

You can also get back to the island by "harnessing the secrets of the island" (the MIB method) but that means aligning yourself with the MIB once you get there since it takes two forces to get to the island.

31) This isn't part of the show but comes from the "LOST: Via Domus" video game. Radzinski built it when he was stationed at The Swan station following the Incident.  It leads to "The Incident Room"

32) I see it that way. I'd mark this as "unverifiable"

33) It was to protect against the effects of radiation (from the Incident).

34) I believe he intended to impersonate her since she was dead.  He clearly can tap into all of the memories of those he impersonates.

35) I think he did this in order to identify which groups recieved which information. Because Dharma was partially a sociology experiment depending on how people addressed him he would know which information they had been made privvy to.

36) This was the runway that Ajira Flight 316 landed on. How they knew to build it is another matter alltogether.  I can only assume that one of the time-travelling characters left someone a note or else some supernatural being (whther Jacob or the MIB) told them.

41) I presume it was "lost" the same as it was in the flash-sideways and so was never actually ON the island. the MIB doesn't need a body to impersonate the dead.

42) "Claimed" is the same as "Under the influence of".  See the Venn diagram, For all practical purposes it means "not under the influence of anyone else".

43) Back to the Diagram. See those circles? Imagine them as cut out of construction paper.  Imagine the Island as a thumbtack and the whole thing is stuck to a table called "The Real World". You cannot rotate the circles so that they are NOT touching each other. Effectively that means that you cannot escape the island. However, you can move little dots of sand or rice or backgammon pieces between the various circles and the DON'T touch the island or the other circles.  

 Now, if you rip off the circle marked "Jacob"(i.e. kill him) and rip off the circle marked "The Outside World" (I.e. Destroy the world) that leaves you and the island all alone, right? If you remove the island from the table (i.e. pull out the plug) you are effectively all that is left of "the real world"; You and any rice/token/sand you choose to bring with you.  This was what Jacob feared would happen.

44) The numbers were just numbers. In other instances with other "number ones" they may have been Egyptian hieroglyphs (remember the 108:00 countdown when it went past 0:00?).   To borrow a line from Battlestar Galactica: "This has happened before and it will happen again."  The numbers had power for Hurley, and nobody else.  Although the numbers were also tied very closely to the Island (and were therefore a source of influence).  Why those particular numbers?  Because they represented the candidates who travelled back to 1977-79.

45) So that Hurley would hear them and play them in the lottery. Rousseau changed the message (probably at the MIB's insistance)but it had already affected Leonard Simms (the Connect Four guy).

48) The line of ash and the Sonic fence are cases of "magic that serves the plot". It just is. You don't question a sentient column of smoke that can assume the form of the dead and you want answers to this?  Sheesh.

49) Jacob could leave because he had never died.  He had a physical form.  Jacob could have left the island permanatly had he wanted to had it not been for the MIB and his various and sundry agents (such as Dharma). The MIB had died and was brought back as "smoke" that was presumably tied to the island. The onlyway he could leave was to eliminate the need for a physical form (i.e. destroy the world) and Jacob (or whoever was Number One).

50) This is pure speculation, but I beleive this was a fight between Jacob and the MIB that is witnessed by Locke and Ben. I think Locke saw Jacob who said "Help me" and then the MIB came and tried to prevent him from recruiting Locke as an ally against him (since the MIB had been working on Locke up to this point). The painting of the dog, the jars and all the ephemera were just that...ephemera of the people who lived in the cabin.

Overall I'd say that most of these "questions" are nit-picking.Ihave a feeling that people either 1) Weren't watching closely enough or forgot minor details or 2) Didn't understand what they were watchingbecasue they couldn't extrapolate/imagine/concieve of the larger cosmology that was being built.  Granted, the writers of LOST didn't spell it out in explicit language and so a lot of it is speculation, but it is founded in sound storytelling principle.  Principle that is evident if you read...especially the books that the writers pointed you to.

Frankly, I am very satisfied with the answers we got.  The few questions I had afterwards were minor and could be explained away as being "unavoidable continuity errors brought on by production realitites" such as actors leaving, plotlines that were revised two or three years after the fact, and such. You can't always predict what you will be able to do two years in advance of a story this big.

Care to Comment?

May 14 2010

36 hours ago...

, Writing , ,

Last night's episdoe of Fringe opened in media res with an action-packed teaser.  Heather turned to me and said "I hope this isn't one of those 20 hours ago things."  I had to agree with her.  Cue the credits, a commercial break and then 36 hours ago caption on the screen.

Once upon a time, the flash-forward teaser was cutting-edge.  Few people were doing it and it made for compelling TV.  It allowed you to start in the middle of something and then fill in the story.  But frankly, it has become lazy storytelling of late.

Case In Point:

A recent episode of V featured a thrilling adventure with this opening scene:

Kyle Hobbes takes aim with a stinger missile launcher. He fires. KABOOM! It’s a direct hit! A V shuttle explodes in the sky. Jack realizes something isn’t right. He races to the scattered wreckage. The shuttle was supposed to be filled with V trackers sent by Anna to hunt down those responsible for stopping her soldier. But there weren’t any trackers onboard. No, this shuttle was carrying humans.

 The show then jumps backwards to show the progression of the story then shows us a recap of the opening scene and then continues the story.  It was clear what had happened in the opening.  I saw only a few lines of dialog that needed to be added to the opener to expand on what had happened up to that point.

It would have been so much more compelling if we had just kep going from the opening scene.  Then, we could have had real emotional dialog as they run over what they had planned looking for where it could have gone wrong.  They could have had real tense investigation as they track down the possible leak.

We could have completely avoided going over the same thing we'd already seen and gotten right to the gripping revelation that they unintentionally and innocently did it to themselves. We might have even seen some real acting and growth in these characters.

In the Fringe episode it was less egregious.  I understand the desire to make the body found to be unexplained which added tension. I can see how there was a need to explain the presence of the other characters (even though they didn't last long) but I am not sure that I needed to see it presented that way.  The cancer-ridden body wasn't identifiable and so it could have been cut in a way to eliminate the flash-forward in favor of a cut placed just after they are in a circle and the one character falls down.

Then we cut to Twolivia (clever, eh?) with infected!Charlie arriving on the scene...more or less what we saw in the teaser. I think it would have been more compelling and certainly less jarring.

And less jarring is my point. It sort of takes the wind out of our sails to have an action-packed opener followed by a milquetoast lead-in. I understand that the teaser+three-act structure doesn't leave you alot of leeway for plot but the "N-hours before" storytelling pattern is getting tiresome. It is robbing your shows of energy.

I suspect this is some sort of network inititive to try to catch viewers in the first few moments of a show.  Those precious seconds of slop-over when their DVR catches the beginning of the next show or that they come back from the toilet break during the credits and have yet to change the channel.

And while it might grab a couple of hundred viewers for a few seconds they'll be completely lost again when it hits them with "N-hours before".  The energy is gone. 

TEASER_____ __Act III___/
|n-hours later /
| __Act II__/
|__Act I__/

Compare that to this

__Act III__/
__Act II__/
TEASER___ __Act II__/
\ __ACT I__/

What happens in the first is that you have to kill all the momentum of your story and hope that the anticipation of what has been seen will hold to fuel that extra jump in intensity between Act II and Act III.  That is needed to make the viewer feel like they've had a good ride on the show with an energy level at the end abovethe energy level at the beginning.

It can be done, but as the structure gets overused the anticipation gets lessened until that boost isn't realized.

By sticking to the more traditional second structure the energy level is an extra degree higher at the end leaving viewers feeling excited at the end of the hour. The slow build asks less of your audience to bring to the process.

I think it is time to give "N-hours before" a rest for a while. It isn't as edgy as it used to be and in the long run you are going to hurt your shows by over-using it.

Care to Comment?

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