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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Commercial interruption: Feeling 'Lost' and lethargic

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email of course, we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Beware of the rising black smoke. Thomas Rozwadowski and Adam Reinhard are about to tackle their disatisfaction with the final season of "Lost." Perhaps they aren't candidates after all.

Thomas: When we last left our “Lost” discussion, both of us were a bit squeamish about the wisdom of the flash-sideways device – which as some TV critics are now theorizing, may in fact be the show’s epilogue.

My brain always hurts after watching “Lost” … but usually that’s a good thing. This season, I haven’t been able to muster up much thought or inspiration about “what it all means.” In fact, I struggled to write a simple opening paragraph about Tuesday’s “Dr. Linus” because I didn’t seem to particularly care about any of the off-island developments (even though Michael Emerson was predictably brilliant) and the greater lesson that continues to extend to the post-Jacob island.

Honestly, I’m stunned there are only nine episodes left, because I don’t feel as though I’ve had anything affirmed about the past five years I’ve poured into this show. In fact, I feel as though I could’ve started watching last season and that might have been good enough considering how dominant Jacob and the Man in Black have been in shaping these final conclusions we’re supposed to reach.

Even a new character like Dogen – who I enjoyed watching – makes me question the wisdom of this final season. Why should I care about his purpose when I don’t even know Richard Alpert’s? Why should I care about Ilana when she’s been introduced so late in the game? Why am I so utterly unsatisfied by Claire (Emilie de Ravin is so not a bad-ass) and Sayid’s transformations? Why did Jack need to be convinced of anything from Jacob when he already decided to return to the same craphole island he had been trying to leave since day one of the Oceanic crash?

Oh, and if you’re not questioning time travel, why are you questioning whether some omnipotent being has been watching your childhood home? C’mon, man!

Am I asking too many questions, Adam? Do you have any sense of direction here? As cabin bound Jacob would once said … “Helllllpppppp meeeeeeeee.”

Adam: You'll find no bigger "Lost" apologist than me. I've never had trouble defending every half-cooked mystical curveball and metaphysical gobsmacker that the show decided to lob my way. As such I've gotten very good at coming up with excuses for any and all plot inconsistencies and logical conundrums, and trying to convince my more skeptical friends and family to stick with the show, answering every question with a hopeful, "Stick with it! They know what they're doing!"

But now even I find myself asking, well, do they know what they're doing? Have my five years of blind devotion to Team Darlton really led to this -- an aimless, wandering final season that continues to pile more questions on top of questions, willing to make up new rules willy nilly? (Where's Claire been all this time? Oh, she's just got "the darkness." Why has Richard lived so long? Oh, Jacob just "touched him," that's all. And Smoke Locke can apparently do magic and break chains off people with the flick of his wrist. They're called rules, people!)

Honestly, I feel like I've become Walter Cronkite, Team Darlton is Lyndon Johnson, and "Lost" is the war in Vietnam, and soon they're going to be sitting in their trailer in Hawaii, shaking theirs heads, saying, "If we've lost Reinhard, we've lost middle America."

I don't think I'm there yet, though. Because as unfulfilling and maddening as these recent episodes have been, I've seen definite glimmers of hope pointing to a possible satisfying resolution. Like how in this week's episode, "Dr. Linus," we've finally gotten a sense of who will end up of whose side: Team Smoke Monster, and Team Jacob (oh come on, really? How unfortunate.) We're seeing characters bump into each other in Bizarro L.A., and they're starting to seem less random (Rose interviewing Locke) and more like part of some master plan (Ben sacrificing his power play to become principal in order to secure a college recommendation for Alex.)

It's not much, but I'm sticking with it. Because, really, I've come this far.

What can Team Darlton and "Lost" do next week to help you keep the faith, Tom?

Thomas: That's the hardest question of all. What do I want from "Lost"

Look, I don't need the four-toed statue to make sense. I don't even need Richard Alpert's backstory on the Black Rock to be all that satisfactory. But I do need some time consuming plot points from the past to be resolved: for instance, the importance of children, particularly Walt. The inability to have a baby on the island. Something, anything being pinned to Desmond as more than just coincidence

But you're right: if everything is explained away in mystical terms -- it's Jacob's “touch,” the Man in Black can blink and free you from chains, it's "the sickness" -- frankly, that blows. I never thought "Lost" would be distilled to a war between two supernatural beings, no matter what greater thematic significance they represent in the end. I thought what separated this show from others of the sci-fi ilk was that it didn't deal with metaphysical properties and hocus-pocus. I continue to want to be wrong about that.

Yet even the human elements off-island -- Ben as mild-mannered history teacher, Jack as attentive father, Alex as Yale bound nerd, Keamy as egg-eating debt collector -- just aren't doing it for me. I don't care enough about new realities that stray from the old ones I'd come to already know. I understand that the timelines will likely be resolved in the end, but I want it all to matter on first viewing, not a second one once I have the answers in some big bang finale.

I suppose starting this week with Charles Widmore's arrival, we'll see some old plot threads get renewed life. That's a good start. Seeing the formula so far, I'm not confident anything off island can get me to care about the alterna-existence. So Ben as a history teacher chooses Alex's future at Yale just as he should have chosen her life as his daughter on the island? Yawn. Way too on-the-nose for me. At this point, I just want some consistency with the old characters and less focus on the newer ones. Like Miles. He only seems to be around so he can make wisecracks and advance any and all plots involving communication with dead people. Has he just been "blessed" with a power, perhaps because Jacob touched him? See ... that doesn't satisfy me. Or why Hurley can see Jacob and communicate with him. Is there an actual purpose to that, or is it simply because someone has to and Hurley asks the fewest serious questions.

I'm still in it, too. I still look forward to each new episode. But upon being unable to reconcile how Ben can summon the smoke monster in one season and it suddenly becomes the Man in Black in the next, I find my faith waning. Perhaps I need to be touched by Jacob.

What would you like to see starting next week?

Adam: ABC keeps promo-ing each episode in very dire terms: "Only 9 episodes left before the series finale!" -- which is all well and good and hysterical, so then why not actually give us some sense that the end really is near? A little taste of the endgame, perhaps? A glimpse of some giant ribbon towering over the horizon, on its way to tie this whole glorious package together?

What that will entail, I have no idea. But I know what it shouldn't: No more character development (and no more blasted new characters! Submarine navigator, I'm talking to you!) for people we already have a pretty good grasp on. No more mysteries like Richard's inability to kill himself (side note: Is this why Michael was unable to off himself in Season 4?). No more dialogue along the lines of "I can't tell you that right now," (tell us right now!), "You wouldn't believe me," (try me!), or "Jacob said so" (did he say why he's such a enigmatic poopyhead?)

Nine episodes? Not a lot of time when you think about it. Get it together, "Lost." Jacob may love you, but you're really trying my patience.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, and Adam Reinhard,

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