Island of No Choices

One of the best movies ever made out of a good book (and one of my all-time favorites) is Wonder Boys. The plot revolves around Grady Tripp, a college professor suffering from the opposite of writer’s block…the follow-up to his successful first novel is closing in on 3,000 pages. One night, his smitten student, played by Katie Holmes (don’t worry…it’s one of the two great underrated movies she doesn’t ruin…Go is the other one BTW) finds his manuscript and sits up reading it. It leads to this remark by her:

You know how in class you’re always telling us writers make choices?…And even though you’re book is really beautiful, I mean, amazingly beautiful, it’s, it’s at times, it’s very detailed….And, I could be wrong, but it sort of reads in places like you didn’t make any choices. At all.

That is the quote that’s been running through my head as I’ve watched this season of Lost. It isn’t that it’s bad…it’s just that it’s lazy. Going into this season, there seemed to be two reasonable choices: 1) the nuclear blast worked and they all ended up back on the flight as if nothing happened, or 2) the nuclear blast didn’t work, and they were still on the island. I was more excited for the first scenario…as a fan of Short Cuts and Magnolia, the idea of watching a season of chance encounters between people who knew each other in a past life sounded fruitful. Obviously, they would have been forced to forge coincidental relationships, but given that the overriding theme of the show has been “Fate vs. Choice”, it could have fit in well with the past seasons. And it would have saved the writers from having to answer every little question about the island. But they could have also had them on the island, the blast having failed. Juliet would have to be dead, but I’d have been willing to buy a time shift…they obviously needed to get everyone back in the same time.

Obviously, the writers agreed with me (and most other Lost fans) about this choice…they just refused to make it. They decided to have their cake and eat it too…give us both scenarios as parallel universes. Now, I’ve sat through 107 hours of this show, so it’s not like I’m not going to watch the final 14. But I’m more than a bit annoyed by the direction. As The Dilemma has pointed out, it really messes with the idea that anything that came before was consequential. I’m sure they have some grand plan to tie it all together, but there’s a huge ontological difference between what they’re doing now and time travel. Even when characters were zipping through time, their lives had a narrative line…if they’d gone back to “present day”, they would have remembered what came before. Now they’re two separate characters living two separate lives.

I’m also not sold with how they changed the plane scenario. Changing everyone’s lives for the better isn’t particularly interesting, and it smacks of desperation, a way for them to continue to their “back stories” format. It would have been better to let that die with the masterful final episode with Jacob last season. And while I like what they’re doing with Locke in the island storyline (as long as he stays dead), I can’t say that I love the Jacob vs. the Man in Black plot. They are two opposite frenemies locked in an eternal struggle for control…that’s fucking original.

But really, I just wanted to write about Lost before my partner (the Jacob to my dead Locke) had a chance. Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you? One of these days, sooner or later, I’m going to find a loophole, my friend.

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Filed under David Simon Cowell, Television Has AIDS

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