Monday, December 19, 2011


Heather Havrilesky, the Los Angeles-based television writer for the New York Times uses the analogy of lab rats lured through a maze by the promise of false treats to blast the current writing trend started with The Ending of Lost to current dramatic television. She concludes that "Lost" ruined the market for nuanced, character-driven dramas in the same way that the Star Wars franchise dumbed down action movies. Her immediate point is her disappointment in "Homeland" and "American Horror Story." From the Times piece:

"[Lost's] finale was the crowning disaster, the Scooby-Doo ending to end all Scooby-Doo endings. After hinting for years that their nonsensical mess would add up to something, not only did the producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof fail to address a tiny fraction of the trillions of mysteries they introduced, but they threw out the Lostpedia with the bath water, scrapping all of those riddles for the equivalent of Lucas’s teddy-bear victory dance: a celestial moment with the survivors, hugging and holding hands in the afterlife.

"This is all ancient history — or would be, if not for the fact that the implosion of “Lost” was like a dirty bomb that made the world unsafe for serial dramas to this day....

"The problem lies in the fact that the dead-end suspense and pill-popping, knife-wielding darkness of today’s TV dramas shove more subtle pilot candidates out of the way. The empty thrills, the ticking clock that never runs down, the pointless twists and turns that are neither motivated nor resolved, all degrade the audience’s palate until all we can taste is blood, all we can see is teenagers in hot pants, all we can hear is flat dialogue and all we can expect at the end of season is a giant, flashing question mark.

"And that’s sad, because it’s also true that television writers are taking big risks in their laboratories these days. They’re experimenting with speeding up and slowing down the time line, trotting out unlikable characters and testing our tolerance for crazy, for demented, for morbid. Instead, they should focus on testing our tolerance for smart, complex characters and nuanced stories, just as “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” and “Mad Men” did. Because some of us have been burned too many times to head back into that jungle maze yet again."

The analogy of writers using "thrill pills" to lead lab rats (viewers) through a dead end plot arc dead ends through a maze of story lines to a WTF? conclusion was a long running criticism of the LOST anthology and brought up here several times.

It is a cheap story format to throw out bizarre events, cloaked clues, mysterious dangerous secondary characters to scare, threaten, or haunt your main characters - - - but just throwing elements at them is like endlessly shooting bullets in a video game that leads to no where except shooting more bullets.

Maybe the most inadvertent Easter Egg of the whole lost series was Daniel Faraday's lab rat (Eloise, named after his mother) time maze which meant nothing in The End.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The Island had a mix of artifacts from ancient to modern civilizations. There were Egyptian temples to modern science research facilities. There were many places where tests were conducted, and/or where the LOST characters had to pass test in order to survive.

In trying to find an analogy to help clarify the concepts lost by TPTB when the series concluded, one can find context by examining the Mayan culture.

In the Mayan culture, the underworld was called Xibalba, as a place below the surface of the Earth associated with death and with twelve gods or powerful rulers known as the Lords of Xibalba, often referred to as demons and are given commission and domain over various forms of human suffering: to cause sickness, starvation, fear, destitution, pain, and ultimately death. These Lords all work in pairs to sicken people's blood; to cause people's bodies to swell up; to turn dead bodies into skeletons; to hide in the unswept areas of people houses and stabbed them to death; andto cause people to die coughing up blood while out walking on a road. The remaining residents of Xibalba are thought to have fallen under the dominion of one of these Lords, going about the face of the Earth to carry out their listed duties.

Xibalba was a large place and a number of individual structures or locations within Xibalba, among these was the council place of the Lords, the five or six houses that served as the first tests of Xibalba, and the Xibalban ballcourt.

Xibalba seemed to be rife with tests, trials, and traps for anyone who came into the city. Even the road to Xibalba was filled with obstacles: first a river filled with scorpions, a river filled with blood, and then a river filled with pus. Beyond these was a crossroads where travellers had to choose from between four roads that spoke in an attempt to confuse and beguile. Upon passing these obstacles, one would come upon the Xibalba council place, where it was expected visitors would greet the seated Lords. Realistic mannequins were seated near the Lords to confuse and humiliate people who greeted them, and the confused would then be invited to sit upon a bench, which was actually a hot cooking surface. The Lords of Xibalba would entertain themselves by humiliating people in this fashion before sending them into one of Xibalba's deadly tests.

The city was home to at least six deadly houses filled with trials for visitors. The first was Dark House, a house that was completely dark inside. The second was Rattling House or Cold House, full of bone-chilling cold and rattling hail. The third was Jaguar House, filled with hungry jaguars. The fourth was Bat House, filled with dangerous shrieking bats, and the fifth was Razor House, filled with blades and razors that moved about of their own accord. A sixth test, Hot House, filled with fires and heat, is identified. The purpose of these tests was to either kill or humiliate people placed into them if they could not outwit the test.

This underworld contained 9 levels. For those souls who could finish their journey, there was the possibility of 13 levels of heaven.

What was the LOST series to the characters but "rife with tests, trials, and traps for anyone" who came to the Island. Much of the island action centered upon long treks through the jungle, fighting off unknown forces, and dealing with people like Ben whose main purpose was "to confuse and humiliate people."

What greater "test" was Ben bringing Sawyer to the cliff face of the island and pointing to Sawyer's chest scar to tell him he implanted a device that would explode if he ever left the island. Was it true? Was it a bluff? Was it shear madness? But it did cause Sawyer to change his own plans to stay on the island until the miracle Ajira plane take off at the End. We do not know when Frank got the plane off the ground whether Sawyer's chest sprayed the cabin with his blood and guts, but we do know that Sawyer found his way to the afterlife party.

Jacob was another character to used, abused, confused and tormented other people that he brought to his Island realm. Jacob may have thought it a evil diversion with his brother, using human pawns, like two Lords of the Mayan underworld playing a game.

Since the biggest unanswered LOST factor was what the Island actually was, we can only speculate on what it could represent in order to fashion a coherent, orderly and plausible end result.