Lost: Season One

"Weak"

Lost: Season One Review


Agatha Christie wrote something in excess of 80 novels. Christie was a practiced and a brilliant mystery taleteller, a commercial writer who exploited her full and total grasp of the mystery genre to massive popular success. Each plot was intricately realized, no facet of the mystery introduced that could not be resolved. Such is the enjoyment of good mysteries: a confidence that although clues and complications have confused us for now, in the end the equation will make sense. We should not know the ending, but it should not be impossible to work out. Lost, 2004's hit about a group of plane-wreck survivors milling about on a mysterious island, crashes and burns on its inability to handle the genre Christie had mastered. Not so much a whodunit as a "whatisit," Lost never seems confident that it can provide the answers to the questions it asks.

Before triangulating the discombobulating mystery that anchors Lost's first 24 episodes, it is necessary to acknowledge the brilliance of the program's premise. An aircraft traveling from Sydney to L.A. crashes, and part of the plane lands on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Several survivors emerge from the wreckage to take pole positions as the show's cast, and slowly but surely, as some semblance of society is established, we get flashbacks into their previous mainland lives. This design leads to situations such as this: Jack (Matthew Fox) is falling for Kate (Evangeline Lilly). However, as dramatic irony would have it, the viewers know that Kate was actually a gun-wielding fugitive in her pre-island life. Watch out, Jack! This conceit of letting the audience in on the characters' secrets while they mingle obliviously with each other is Lost's greatest power. Nevertheless, creator J.J. Abrams was not content with just that.

There of course had to be monsters. No crazy island is complete without monsters, and why not a few panda bears? The island, which is the mystery of Lost as is the culprit of a Christie novel, is a fascinatingly overpopulated creation. The cast is big enough, making flashbacks confusing, clichéd and tedious as the episodes roll on. Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), the former rock star had a drug problem and issues with his lead singer. Doctor Jack got into medicine, because, you guessed it, his dad was a prominent doctor and it was expected of him. The only thing keeping us afloat as we navigate our way through the back-stories of Lost's fourteen principles is the unoriginal predictability of their histories. Cliché is perhaps a device against getting, well, lost.

If I mentioned monsters and then trailed off into a riff about hackneyed characterizations, forgive me, but I only mirror that which I review. As Lost opens, with two brilliant episodes, a plane crashes, characters unravel and monsters attack. For some time following, these monsters, cameramen on cranes, continue to frighten the island's new residents. Then, for episodes on end, the monster disappears. As if the writers decided that the idea of monsters was too difficult to resolve, a new idea, a French woman (L. Scott Caldwell) from a previous wreck, appears. Then there are the mysterious numbers. Then the boy who makes comic books come to life. Like sideways glances in an Agatha Christie novel, the mysteries pile endlessly. None seem explicitly linked, and no new twist seems to turn to anything previous. We never see the monster; and the numbers, the boy and the French woman are never explained, nor one suspects could ever be. The internet went wild with predictions about what might be revealed in Lost when it first aired (all theories much more interesting than anything the creators offered) and one suggestion was that these characters were dead, and caught in Christian limbo. This is perhaps the exact location of the pregnant but unborn ideas that complicate Lost.

Despite its frustrating nature, Lost has been an undeniable television phenomenon. Its cast of castaways has much to do with this success. Dominic Monaghan is charmingly inept as the former rocker and is well matched by pregnant love interest Claire (Emilie De Ravin). Maggie Grace as petulant rich girl Shannon and Naveen Andrews as former Iraqi soldier Sayid, are both blessed with an unexpected chemistry and television charisma. However, Matthew Fox as the lead is stunningly banal. Jack is a sturdy character, good and honest, and entirely wooden. Fox seems not to have graduated from his days as Charlie in Party of Five, where emotions were communicated in a bizarre Morse code of eye squinting and sighs. Much of the dead weight Jack brings to the series is lifted by a truly impressive production. The sets are dynamic and visually interesting, the island is beautiful, and the direction is at times exciting.

This is perhaps the greatest regret one has with Lost. It could have been great. With a little more confidence in where it was headed, and a pairing back of its insistent need to complicate, Lost as a series may have lived up to the promise of episodes like its pilot, "Walkabout" and its three-part season finale. In these episodes, and in snippets of others, terror, sadness, and genuine excitement are brought to the fore. Yet the ultimate feeling one comes away with watching Lost is frustration. With Christie, the mystery moved forward. With Lost, it stagnates. Though Lost begins with a glimmer of hope, titillation becomes tedium all too quickly.

For fans of the series, this DVD is a must. There are deleted scenes, four commentaries, and the art of Matthew Fox. Let us hope the art is more interesting than the man.

I dropped a contact.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: , Daniel Attias, Jack Bender

Producer: Bryan Burk, , Jack Bender, Sarah Caplan

Contactmusic


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