Saturday, July 17, 2010

If I Wrote Lost...

Here’s how this evening started:

Kate: “What are you going to do tonight?”

Brian: “I think I might finally Blog again.”

Kate: “About what?”

Brian: “Lost.”

Kate: “Isn’t it too late for that? Does anyone even care?”

The answer is probably “no”, and in all honesty, I’ve actually thought very little about Lost since my last post over a month ago… which when you think about it, is absolutely insane. Here’s a show that created thousands of online communities dedicated to discussing and dissecting every minute detail over the past six years – and even though we all hoped that it would eventually end in a way that tied up all the loose ends and prevented the need for us to over-analyze the finale, I don’t think that anyone thought it actually would. Heck, even the actors and writers told us that it would end in a “very Lost way” – which to me, means somewhat ambiguous, open to interpretation, and with a dash of unanswered questions – questions that the fans would debate for the rest of time.

Yet somehow Lost did the impossible – it created an ending that, aside from some initial debate on when characters died, seemed to squash the questioning nature of its rabid fan base. Maybe we realized that once you see the very ending of the story (the death of all the characters), the unanswered questions along the way don’t seem to matter as much. Or maybe we were all so exhausted from six years of heavy thinking that it was a sigh of relief to finally have Lost complete, allowing us to return to mindless television and reality shows.

But I also think part of the reason, one that almost seems like blasphemy, is that Lost actually started to lose itself in the final season. There was something missing for a lot of the last season – like the writers knew where they had to take us, but didn’t enjoy the ride in getting us there… and that they weren’t sure how long it would take to get there. Think about how many episodes from Lost’s final season would make your “Top 10 List of the Best Lost Episodes Ever”.

My answer? Zero.

For those wondering, in no particular order my Top 10 list would include:

  • Pilot
  • Walkabout
  • Man of Science, Man of Faith
  • Orientation
  • Lockdown
  • Live Together, Die Alone
  • Greatest Hits
  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Constant
  • The Shape of Things to Come

(Note: you’ll also notice that there are no episodes from Season Five in there either. Weird.)

Why do I bring this up? Because for as great as Lost was – and don’t get me wrong, it’s without a doubt one of the greatest television series of all time – I feel like a few minor changes along the way – in particular in its final two seasons – would have taken it to another level, the kind of level that would put Lost head and shoulders above all others… at least for me. And in the end, isn’t that what matters the most?

Disclaimer: it is super easy to criticize someone else’s work, especially in hindsight. It’s even easier to come up with storylines without the limitations of real life actors, budgets, and network brass. I’m just saying – in a perfect world, had Damon and Carlton called me up, here’s what I would have told them.

The Easy Fix.

In my mind, the biggest problem with Lost’s final season was the Flash Sideways – not the concept behind them, but the way in which they were carried out. In the end, all the weird differences between reality and the Flash Sideways were all part of a “long con” of the audience into thinking that things were different because our Survivors had changed the past during the Incident. The writers basically wasted half of Lost’s final season building what amounted to a dream world that didn’t really matter.

What would I have changed? It’s quite simple – I would have had the Flash Sideways actually represent the lives of our Survivors had Oceanic 815 landed in LAX. Jack wouldn’t have a son, Locke wouldn’t be engaged to Helen, Sawyer wouldn’t be a cop. They would be the exact same people they were when they boarded Oceanic 815 in the first episode. It’s still the “after life” – but instead of representing some weird dream sequence where the characters came up with their own back stories, it would truly be a purgatory of sorts, where our characters proved to God if they would have turned their troubled lives around on their own had Oceanic 815 not crashed on the Island.

It’s kinda like “The Bachelor”. How hard is it to fall in love with someone when you’re going on crazy vacations and living a glamorous lifestyle without the day-to-day grind of work, chores, and paying the bills? It’s not. Likewise, how easy is it to turn your life around when a mystical being (Jacob) brings you to an Island that removes you from the majority of negative temptations and influences in your life – putting you on a literal and spiritual Island to “find yourself” and turn your life around. It’s still hard (as there were still temptations), but it was a lot easier than it would have been back in the real world.

The storyline on the Island plays out exactly as we saw. Jack and Desmond save the world, defeat Locke, and some characters fly away to live happy ever after. In reality, we know who found redemption and how – but in the Flash Sideways, we would see who would have found redemption and how… or who wouldn’t – were it not for Jacob. Knowing as much as we do about the characters, wouldn’t it have been fascinating to see Jack struggling with drug addition, Sawyer learning to live an honest life, and Desmond trying to win over Charles Widmore?

I feel like that’s what purgatory would actually be like – proving that you learned lessons in life that you would carry over to the afterlife. Learning how to be good and do good, and passing a final test to show that if you had to do life all over again, you’d do it better.

The ending remains the same – Jack gets over his daddy issues and reconciles with his father in church, where he (and the audience) comes to the realization that they are in the afterlife. Those who “remain behind” like Ben are the characters that didn’t learn their lessons quite yet – and are doomed to stick around, or repeat the process until they get it right.


The Flash Sideways would be much more “real”, build on the characters that we got to know in the past five seasons, and actually mean something in the grand scheme of things – rather than being a waiting room for people to realize that they are dead but once had some crazy times together on an Island.

That’s my easy fix.

Want to get more complicated? That requires going back a bit further and making a few fundamental changes to what ended up being the overall end game of Lost.

The Complicated Fix.

In a nutshell, I would have kept Lost’s focus on a concept that was introduced early on, always lingered in the background, and seemed like the “point” of Lost all along:

Science vs. Faith

It’s a pretty heady concept, one without a clear answer, and something that anyone can relate to – just the kind of thing that you would expect Lost to build its overall foundation upon… and it did, until the end. In my mind, we had two characters to full represent this battle, a “good guy” and a “big bad” – although it’s debatable about which was which (just the way Lost likes it):

Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore


It’s a storyline that was slowly introduced over the course of the first five seasons, but then relegated to the background and hastily resolved in season six as Jacob and Anti-Jacob took over the roles of “good guy” and “big bad” (again, both ambiguous). But the problem was that the writers basically introduced a new storyline about escaping the Island and ending the world (maybe) which didn’t truly build on the foundation of the first five seasons.

So here’s what you do – keep Jacob the same way he was for the first five seasons of the show – as a mysterious being that may or may not have a physical manifestation that the Others believe in and follow… a “god”. Benjamin Linus represents faith. You can still keep the storylines of Ben faking his relationship with Jacob, as it shows how deep his faith in the Island truly is – he’s believing without ever seeing.

As for Widmore, although the fifth season established the start of the rivalry between him and Ben, you would take it a step further to have the rift start over a fundamental difference of opinion. Widmore wants to research the unique properties of the Island, use them to make the world a better place, and if he makes a few bucks in the process, great. Widmore becomes the one that reached out to Hanso and Dharma to start their research on the Island – which brings me to another point.

The fifth season of Lost basically ruined the Dharma Initiative. They went from what we thought was a group of the best and brightest scientists in the world attempting to save the world from its own destruction to a group of no good hippies who just wanted to party in paradise. While I’m fixing things on Lost, I’d make Dharma full of people like Pierre Chang – believers that the Island had the properties to save the world, as long as they could figure out how to use them.

Widmore bringing Dharma to the Island also would allow Lost to fulfill another of my long-standing theories for the show – the “cowboys and Indians” theory. The Others join Dharma, they move into their fancy Barracks, they enjoy electricity and beer, and they start to lose their faith – lose their connection with the Island. This is the cause of the sudden pregnancy issues on the Island, and one that Ben hopes he can remedy by creating a faction of true believers, who eventually wipe out Dharma on the Island. These are all the storylines that we should have been getting in season five – ones that would prove to be immensely important to understanding the overall story of Lost. Because when you think about it, the net result of season five was basically setting up the audience to trick them into thinking the Flash Sideways of season six might be the result of our Survivors changing the past. But since we changed those Flash Sideways with my first “fix”, this is no longer required. Instead, we can build the relationship between Ben and Widmore, learn more about the unique Island properties we’d been wanting all along, and have our Survivors get a front row seat in this “faith vs. science” debate that was playing out between Ben and Widmore.

Which would nicely setup season six – with our Survivors having to pick a side in the debate. Charles Widmore returns to the Island, and the “battle for the Island” that we talked about for years actually comes to fruition. Who is right and who is wrong? Who do our Survivors side with? Battle lines are drawn, you split up the characters in the love triangle on different sides of the debate, and you have some great tension and storylines that focus 100% on the core characters of the series for the final season of Lost.

Why would our Survivors care about the “battle for the Island” in the first place? Well, tying in with the other major theme of Lost (destiny vs. fate), they are told by Ben that they were all brought to the Island by Jacob for the critical roles that each would play in the battle – but keep in mind that no one knows if Jacob even exists, if Ben is lying, or if any of this is true. But they also find out that in the wrong hands, the Island could be destroyed – and if destroyed, it very well might bring about the end of the world. The Island truly is some type of electromagnetic lynchpin that holds the world together – and there’s the risk that if Widmore wins, and starts digging up the Island (like we saw at the Swan Station Incident) to harness its power, it might bring about the end of the world. Again, at least that’s what the “faith” side believes. Widmore would counter with “that’s ridiculous, and we could save a lot of people by curing cancer, etc.” through his Island experiments.

So there’s your heavy drama. Like we discussed during the middle of the sixth season, with everything that transpired over the first five seasons of Lost, all suffering, all the death, and all the importance of everything – the only possible justification for it all is that it was all required to save the world.

How does it end? The logical answer to the science vs. faith debate is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle – and I think that’s the answer that our Survivors will realize. Ben and Widmore both probably die in the battle, leaving our Survivors as the de facto “leaders” of the suddenly leaderless Others on the Island – and they impart this knowledge to them. Thus, we see that our Survivors truly did grow up, overcome their own issues, and serve a higher purpose thanks to all the time they spent on the Island.

In one of the final scenes that take place on the Island, Jack wonders aloud if they would have all achieved the same sort of enlightenment and personal growth were it not for the plane crash on the Island… cut to the Flash Sideways scene in the church with Jack and Christian Shephard. The audience now understands that the Flash Sideways represented exactly that – a purgatory type place after the death of our Survivors that takes place after they all die, where they prove to themselves that it would have been possible to turn their lives around even if it weren’t for Jacob and the Island – and for those who didn’t, that they can keep working at it in the Flash Sideways until they get it right.

I swear in my head it’s not as cheesy as it probably sounds when I write it out.

Sure, there are some other details that would need to be worked out with this ending – most notably an explanation for what Smokey is and how he was created – but heck, you could even piece together a pretty easy explanation that similar to what happened to Anti-Jacob falling into the “heart of the Island” and becoming Island Protector without much effort and it would still nicely tie into the new storyline I proposed.

So there you have it – was it worth the wait? Absolutely not. Again, I’m sorry for the huge delay on this – but come on, you know the Blog always sucks in the summertime, right? Once summer is over, life should get a little less busy and the posts will once again be more frequent. Now we just have to figure out what those posts will be about.

(Note: this will not be my last post about Lost, obviously. We’ll still have to discuss the additional scenes on the DVD once it is released, at the very least).

But for now, if anyone still cares to think about or discuss Lost, the Comments section is yours!