Monday, May 25, 2020

TEN YEARS AFTER

As Yahoo UK recently published:

"In the end, it was a Shephard — two of them, actually — who led the lost flock home. Ten years ago this week, the hit ABC series, Lost, brought it’s time-and-reality hopping narrative to a conclusion in the super-sized series finale, appropriately titled “The End.”

The final moments of the final episode feature the show’s hero, Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), reuniting with his fellow Oceanic Flight 815 castaways in a heavenly dimension as they prepare to move on to whatever realm lies beyond death. “Where are we going?” Jack asks his father, Christian Shephard (John Terry), whose specter had haunted him throughout Lost’s six-season run.

“Let’s go find out,” Papa Shephard replies. At that point, father and son take their place in pews surrounded by the entire cast — even those who died early in the show’s run — and they collectively step into the light.

That may sound final, but “The End” turned out to be just the beginning of the debate over Lost’s place in the pantheon of all-time TV greats. Certainly, the show’s 2004 premiere was a seismic pop culture event, with action that rivalled big-screen blockbusters and ratings to match."

The first takeaway is that LOST was the first epic series that had a complicated mythology and Easter egg fan service to make it the pioneering show for the internet commentary community. Fan sites devoured each episode like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Fan theories became more complex than the LOST writers best imagination. It was the first interactive television program, some of it in real time chat rooms. Today, some YouTubers live stream commentary during k-dramas, but that pales in comparison to the national media dedicating columnists for weekly recaps.

It was a critical and viewer juggernaut. But as the seasons progressed and the tangential story lines got more convoluted, the show runners hubris took the series down split road to a dead end. The biggest complaint was the land fill sized pile of unanswered questions. When one weaves an elegant story, with mysteries, viewers expected show worthy answers. Rambling into the series finale, Cuse and Lindelof acknowledged there was no way they’d be able to craft an ending that paid off every plot thread and satisfied every viewer.


“We have to have the answers to the mysteries so that there is something to work towards, but what we don't have are the stories,” Lindof said in a 2010 Wired interview.  “J.K. Rowling can sit down and say, ‘Here's how Harry Potter's parents were killed, and here's who killed them,’ but how am I going to reveal that information to the audience in the most emotionally impactful way? So we know what we want to do, but we have very little idea of how and when we're going to do it.”

Second, this confirmed in some people's minds that at a certain point, the writers were making things up on the fly. There was no concrete ending from the beginning. The show drifted on the ocean of fan support. In the end, the show runners confessed they decided to do was to design a finale that emphasized "character over mystery."

 But when you base six years of story on mysteries, many fans thought that was a cop-out. Especially true when the show's producers vehemently denied during the first season that the show was set in purgatory. But the End showed a mixed religious message that main characters had died in the past and the island was some other dimension (further complicated by another universe of the sideways world).

Third, LOST did get into the surreal story writing genre by not only having character flash backs but also "flash sideways," a different  timeline where apparently Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons.

But these did not add a layer of mystery more than one of confusion. A few critics thought this was mere annoying filler episodes. Others thought the writers "stumped" themselves in their original time frame ("painted themselves into a corner") so they tried to "re-boot" the series with another time line.

The evolution of the Man in Black as the personification of dead Locke really did not answer the confinement of Jacob and the Smoke Monster to an island where human beings were used as chess pieces in a sadistic game. But if you look to the religious elements, especially ancient Egyptian culture, one could find a potential answer that the island was the underworld which a soul would have to navigate dangerous tests in order to be judged by the gods in the afterlife.

But the show runners did not want LOST to fall into that realm. They wanted LOST to stand on its own mythology as pure fantasy. They decided that they did not have to answer all the questions or defend their creative choices because enough fans were fully invested (with their own ideas) it did not really matter.

Fourth, there was a sour taste of being hustled by a three card monte boardwalk shark. The End did not tie up loose ends. It made them more tangled as we see Jack "die" on the island while  Hurley and  Ben Linus remain on the island as "new protectors" only to "shut it down" in a hasty DVD epilogue. It did not explain why pilot Frank Lapidus miraculously gets everyone else — including Kate, Sawyer, and Claire off the island. Why were these characters "saved?" What did they do when they returned "home?" How did some find their way to Christian Shephard's church?

In the final scene, Christian opens the church doors to engulf the inside with a bright white light, symbolizing the moment between death and the after life. In the real world, “The End” wasn’t exactly the end that a lot of viewers were waiting for with half the fans found it a comfortable, happy ending while half felt it was a disappointing conclusion in a Hollywood trope way. It did bring to the forefront the debate on whether  the “Flash sideways” universe functioned as a kind of purgatory between life and death — the same theory that was advanced about the island itself when the show first launched. As one commentator put it: “I think the overall lesson is that we're all going to die eventually, so we may as well surround ourselves with as many attractive people as we can.”

Fifth, the LOST legacy may truly be the backtracking by the show runners.  Lindelof heard the criticisms loud and clear, and responded to them in public. “There was a very early perception… that the island was purgatory and we were always out there saying, 'It's not purgatory, this is real, we're not going to Sixth Sense you,’”


But three years later, he said  “Lost was all about mystery and questions and answers and [I wanted] to try to answer a mystery the show hadn't even asked up until that point… A portion of the audience was like, 'Oh, that wasn’t on my list, I'm not interested in that.' But we were.” Even as he stood by “The End,” the online reaction clearly took its toll.

Despite its still-divisive ending, the early success of LOST remains something that TV networks would love to emulate in an increasingly fractured TV landscape. In 2019, ABC hinted that it would not be adverse to rebooting the series.  But do not expect any of the original creative team to return for a potential revival. "I, personally, am not going to be involved with other versions of Lost because we told the most complete version," Lindelof said last year.  "I feel like I spent four years of my life begging them to end it and when they finally said yes, the ending that we did probably should stand as our ending."



LOST was highly entertaining, addictive and mentally stimulating but with all first loves, it had its bad points, questionable choices and nasty arguments.  As a series of intertwined and related episodes, LOST could never handle syndication re-runs because viewers missing episodes would themselves become lost. Syndicated viewers demand self-contained episodes like Star Trek.

It is hard to believe that it has been TEN YEARS since LOST concluded its run. There are very few blogs or sites that still contribute new content to the LOST community. But there are occasional posts of nostalgia about the series. And that is one of the hope's of any television production - - - a nostalgic memory.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

THE BIG SIM

One of the Big Theories for the premise of LOST was that the entire series was an elaborate mental dream, a collective dream or a computer simulation. It was not real. It was pure imagination.

Hurley was the perceived imagination engine. He was the one character that actually had vivid, structured and strong imaginary friends. One almost got him to jump off an island cliff, after telling him "none of this is real."

There were other clues that Hurley's mind was in control. The Others lab featured rooms that were based on psychological manipulation to mind control. The lab people were dressed and functioned like the doctors and nurses at his mental institution. Likewise, Hurley was able to move in and out of the institution like he owned the place.

Another strange thing was that Libby was in Hurley's same day rule at the mental hospital, but he did not recognize her when she showed up on the island. Hurley was friendly with everyone at the hospital; just like at the island everyone was his friend. The idea that Libby would fall in love with Hurley is something he could have longed for - - -  recall, he lost the clerk young woman to his best friend.

The idea of the "collective coma" was a theory I stated when the series was still running along. It was basically that a series of coma patients were hooked together on a local area network to track brain wave activities. However, the coma patients minds are much more active than the patients outward appearance, so they have created their own virtual world (all of which predates our current AR and virtual reality headsets). Bits and pieces of the patients memories could have been used by Hurley and others to create the island world, the adventures and action which none of patients could fathom because of their medical conditions.

Locke's miracle recovery when he landed on the island is another example of "mind over matter" imagination. Locke believed he was an Australian outback hunter, but the wheelchair made that dream an impossible nightmare. He created his own path and adventure in the island world.

There is also a possibility that the main characters major accomplishments may have been embellished. Jack had a huge daddy complex. He suddenly became a miracle surgeon, to surpass his father's hospital status. But what if he was not an accomplished surgeon - - - but a mental patient who has hallucinations of his dead father. In order to patch things up, he dreams of a way to show his father that he was worthy of his praise.

It is the same motivational theme with his father's abandonment of him. It was something that stuck in Hurley's mind. He turned to eating to cope with the abandonment. It made him unattractive and unmotivated to succeed in life. He dreamed of being a rich and successful man. The only way that could have happened was the miracle win of the lottery - - - which in turn was his curse that he tried to runaway from.

Kate's own daddy issues made her runaway from reality. Her back story was one of manipulation and adventure but she never suffered any true consequences for her crimes. The unbelievably wrong trial was clearly the outcome of a delusional criminal.

All the bits and pieces of the LOST tangential story lines can be easily merged into one big mental simulation of events. An adventure for those who cannot adventure. Those people who wasted their lives without accomplishment, true friends or a path to enlightenment. Yes, LOST had its sci-fi fantasy elements but those can also be created in the imagination of one or more main characters.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

SLEEP

Sleep literally cleans your brain. During slumber, more cerebrospinal fluid flushes through the brain to wash away harmful proteins and toxins that build up during the day.

Harmful build up of proteins and brain toxins can lead to neurological damage. Many dementia patients have a difficult time sleeping. They can never "switch off" their brains in order to rest. The brain is in constant "on" mode which can lead to hallucinations, temper and mood changes.

Throughout the series, the castaways were shown constantly on the move, day and night, mission after mission, worn down by lack of sleep. The physical strains of island survival took a mental toll on them. They became irritable, possessive, paranoid, abusive and sly. Even level headed Sawyer showed those various traits as the days and weeks passed on the island.

If the first theme of the show was the standard "how would you survive on a deserted island," then the basic survival instincts would take charge of your body. The gut instinct of fear of the unknown would be front and center in your mind. What is behind the bushes? What is that noise? Is something out there that can harm me?

That is why the castaways felt compelled to stay together; strength in numbers. That is also why they chose the beach to set up camp; they only had to worry about the land side at night.

Getting past the fear, castaways in this situation would have four things on their mind: food, water, shelter and rescue. The island seemed to have sufficient plant life to provide some basic nutrition. Water was the first problem that needed to be solved which led to exploring the island. Shelter was from the airplane debris which kept the castaways focused on something else besides their plight.

The one issue that did not take center stage was rescue. It was more an afterthought than a compelling mission. Even when they found a way by finding the cockpit radio, things stopped by a tragic death. Only when the Others created a more dramatic need for survival did the main characters, as leaders, tried to find a way off the island. Michael's boat was really the first and last chance. When the freighter arrived, a second set of danger emerged which left most of the castaways unable to escape.

Throughout the incidents, it seemed that main characters stopped thinking rationally - - -  asking the key questions to their colleagues. Information was sparsely communicated on a need to know basis. This led to jealousy and splits among the group. The island began to assert a deranged assertiveness in both Jack and Locke which drove a stake between a combined effort to leave the island.

At one point, Hurley hallucinations became so real that he almost killed himself by jumping off a cliff. His friend, who may have been imaginary, almost got him to buy into the premise that the only way to leave the island was to die.  In some respects, this was a true statement. (Anti-purgatory theorists will not fixate on the Ending church as anything particular to island life.)

Hurley was the world in which the other characters orbited. Hurley was the only character to truly fit into all the castaway sub-groups and with the Others. (He was let go without any torture or retribution.) Some theorists believed that the entire show was within Hurley's own mind. A sleep depraved mind that got the story line farther and farther away from reality as each season ended. Hurley was a known mental patient - - - who seemed to get along with all the day room patients just like he did with the island people. He was not special. He was not a forceful personality. He was not a danger. He was the perfect observer.

Or, in the analogy to another fantasy, he could have been the Wizard behind Oz's curtain.

Collective dream theorists think that Hurley could have been the "thought engine" that connected the various characters subconscious dreams, desires, thoughts and issues to "life" on an imaginary island world. Dreams and a weakened mental state was suggested as the reason why the story lines had so many continuity errors and dead ends.

With so many tangents weaved into the LOST episodes, it is not difficult losing sleep over trying to figure everything out.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

THE SICKNESS

It takes a pandemic to put the microscope back on the deadly Sickness that haunted part of the LOST story. In today's world, people fear the coronavirus. It preys on people with pre-existing medical conditions and immune disorders. It is a novel virus which means there is no past immunity. It can spread quickly as it is a respiratory virus.

Characters in LOST were deathly afraid of The Sickness.

The Sickness manifested as a severe mental change on the part of the afflicted. In 1988, shipwreck survivor Robert tried to kill Danielle, his financee. In fact, except for Danielle, her entire party was taken over by the Sickness, which we thought was caused by the Smoke Monster attacking them at the Temple. Danielle began exhibiting what appeared to be similar paranoid delusions, though she claimed to be the only crew member to escape the sickness. Danielle personally killed all other members of her expedition and other characters wrote her off as insane. Sayid, after his infection, killed even more readily than usual, and he said he could no longer feel emotions. The Others were paranoid about the infection. The medical labs were obsessed with reproduction and Claire' baby. They injected her with an alleged vaccine, which did not work.  Claire post-infection became a mentally unstable, paranoid murderer and cradled a boar's skull to replace her baby.


Dogen, the Temple leader, tortured Sayid in order to measure his level of good and evil. According to Dogen, the infection was irreversible. As a result, he tried to trick Jack into poisoning Sayid.


What is believed the infection was in reality a demonic mind possession by MIB (Smoke Monster). It was part of his plan/game to get back at Jacob, who kept his "imprisoned" on the Island. If MIB could develop an army of infected followers, he could take down Jacob to get his freedom. In the last season, MIB was succeeding in the role as fake Locke when he massacred the temple occupants. Those who survived but not directly infected, were controlled by fear. Once there free will was compromised, they could be manipulated against Jacob.

It is a natural human instinct to fear the unknown. Death is the greatest unknown. Something you cannot see in the darkness, is a great unknown. A virus so small it is invisible can enter one's body to reek havoc. In today's panic world, daily updates of confirmed cases and fatalities has the world on edge.

People are told to stay at home. Shelter in place. They have panic purchased supplies including a vast run on toilet paper. It gets to a point of irrational behavior.

Just as in LOST's story line, it plays out in a similar fashion in real life.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

FROM THE DARKNESS TO THE DAWN

If one looks back at the legacy of LOST, it was a dark friend who could not find his final path.

It began as an action-drama in the vestiges of tales of shipwreck sailors on uninhabited, savage tropical islands. The viewers were drawn into the story as "what would I do?" "How would I survive?" and "This is what I would do" questions in their minds. But we quickly saw the reality of the situation: death. Tragic death.

It quickly shifted to dramatic politics as alpha males started to lobby the survivors to impose their dominance over the group. Jack was the reluctant leader, over the burning desire of Locke and the self-interest of Sawyer.

But the leadership issue was secondary to the instinctive greed of the castaways. Survival of the fittest was the rule of the day. Sawyer began to hoard valuable things which made him into an outcast, a role that he enjoyed. Because he had no connection to the group, he could con them out of their perceived valuables. Kate also fell back into her pre-island survival tactics: charm and escape.

As the days, weeks and months went on, darkness beset our friend. We would see the return of the inner madness in Hurley as his imaginary friend tried to convince him to kill himself. Sawyer would not hesitate to kill Locke's father in a "deal." The Others, especially Ben, had no remorse in ruling by fear and death.

Even the island's guardian angel, Jacob, did not intervene when his Temple followers were massacred by his brother. We were told that this cycle of human carnage was the norm for the Man in Black in his game with Jacob.

In a sense, whether you thought it was true or literary, our island friend was in purgatory; a place where one could not leave on your own - - - trapped in the deepest, darkest and troubled portions of your personality. 

It has been said that it always darkest before the dawn. Before the final duel with MIB, the island was in chaos. Splinter groups hid in terror or joined the hunt to destroy the remaining castaways. It was only when Jacob "died" to give Jack the magic power to defeat his brother, did only a handful of people could break their physical and mental chains to leave the island cesspool of damnation.

We never saw what the dawn of a new day would have brought to the survivors who flew off Hydra Island in a broken airplane flown by an alcoholic pilot because the show diverted into a parallel universe. The flip side of darkness, a lighter more gentle (almost medicated) view of the main characters. But even then, they were subconsciously haunted by their island past.

In the end, when the full light engulfed the church, no one can say for sure that anyone found true redemption, true happiness, or even hope of enlightenment. The white light like white noise was a background element that erased the moment only to leave lingering questions in its wake.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

LEADERSHIP

Joe DiMaggio said, “A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.”

In LOST, there were various characters who pushed to become leaders. It was a mix of office politics and mortal combat.

Jack was the Reluctant Leader. He got the job from the 815 survivors because he was a doctor. There were injured people who needed his help. He gave instructions . . . people listened to him. But a few did not like Jack because he got the respect they did not. Sawyer, for example, wanted the appreciation of being a leader without the responsibility. Only after the time flash skip to become the sheriff of the others did Sawyer learn what it took to protect his people.

Locke was the Hopeful Leader. He always wanted to be acknowledged and accepted for his skills so that he could be one of the popular kids. The fact that his foster home orphan upbringing gave him the anger and bitterness that would shape his adult life and decisions was not lost on the writers. For every opportunity to take a leadership role, he failed because he demanded too much. When he came back to camp with food, he thought he would be accepted as a leader. But Jack was still the man. Locke never let go of that rivalry. When Locke was thought of the chosen leader of the Others, one who could dethrone Ben, he took the chance to seize total control over the group. But the one condition he could not meet: killing his own father.

Ben was also an outcast. He grew up in the environment of an alcoholic father who blamed him for the death of his mother (in childbirth). As a result, Ben was a shy, bitter boy who dreamed of controlling his own destiny. When the Others were in a leadership flux, he took control by means of violence - - - slaying his rivals to seize total control like a military dictator. He used fear and threats to become the Absolute Leader on the island. But being a dictator brought detractors in his own group who wanted to have someone to remove Ben from power.

Leadership is a double edged sword. It can be used to offensively consolidate power, direction and support for the common good. Or it could be used defensively to hold onto power, unilaterally force decisions and abuse authority for corrupt purposes.

All of those elements were seeded in LOST's story lines. None of the main character leaders had a good final result. There leadership strengths would turn into their personal weaknesses. Even Jacob, the islands real, True Leader, succumbed to his own hubris.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DREAM RESEARCH

One of the stronger theories of LOST addicts is that the entire premise of the show was one trapped in a dream.

Whose dream is an open question. As is why humans dream at all.

Scientists are still not sure why we dream.  But new research in mice suggests that the brain might be using periods of deep sleep to clear out residual memories to make room for fresh ones.

Published in the journal Science, researchers in Japan observed the mice's hypothalamus while the mice slept. During their deep REM sleep - - -which is associated with dreaming in humans - - - a type of neuron that produced a hormone called MCH had a sharp uptick in activity. The MCH neurons also appeared to be targeting neurons in the hippocampus, the brain region that consolidates memories.

In an experiment, researchers isolated MCH neurons in the mice's brains for observation. The mice were allowed to sniff and play with two toys, which were removed when the mice had become familiar with them. Later, the mice were given a familiar toy and a new toy. With their MCH neurons artificially activated, the mice sniffed them both—suggesting that their memory of them was worse. When the neurons were artificially deactivated, the mice were able to remember that they had already been exposed to the familiar plaything.

The ability of MCH neurons to go patrolling the hippocampus during REM sleep led the paper’s authors to suggest the brain might use this dream stage to do some neurological tidying up, getting rid of non-crucial information so fresh data can be processed.

Why would we want to forget things? An abundance of information can be overwhelming and inhibit the ability to make sense of new knowledge. But if something is truly important—a birthday, a PIN number, a vacation—the brain will hang on to it.

If you want a technology analogy, it is like de-fragmenting your hard drive. Bits and pieces of computer information (code) is randomly stored on your hard drive media. But over time, accessing bits of information get stored in different places on the drive. When you run a preventative maintenance program, it rejoins the associated information bits for better access.

One of the reoccurring oddities of the show was the frustrating part that the main characters "forgot" key information at important moments. As a viewer, "how stupid!" was a common reaction to a character falling into a known trap. This study could be an explanation that the characters' memories were being erased by new memories (or brain washing).

Also, if the story engine was in the mind of one character, such as Jack or Hurley, then certain stimulus or an overactive imagination could jumble up aspects of his fantasy world to create continuity errors.

Story continuity errors was a big gripe during the show's run. It was bad enough that certain questions were asked but never answered, but drastic errors made some people wonder if the writers were getting lazy or there was a deeper meaning. The consensus in the end was the former.

The dream theory also gets some credence because of the Sixth Season's forced "happy ending" in the church for the main characters. The story and show premise did a 180 DEGREE turn on the adamant "this is not set in hell or purgatory" show runner promise to an after life after show.

This current science study may be a small point in the larger picture of what we do not know about ourselves. Likewise, it also shows how much we still do not know about LOST, the series.