Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lost and Ballistic Trajectories Over Marine Carnivores

As I think I may have mentioned, my wife and I are addicted to Lost. We TiVo it, and on the fairly rare, but not rare enough, cases when TiVo screws up, we download it from iTunes. We're not ultra-devoted quasi-insane-stalker fans of the show, we don't own it on DVD, and we haven't watched every episode more than once. We don't take notes.

At the end of season two it seemed to me that LOST jumped the shark. Worse than that, since the previous seasons have never had a single satisfactory denouement, it really shows that it started in midair over the shark.

LOST made an implicit (within the show) and explicit (from the producers of the show to their fans) that the story would make sense without requiring aliens, cans of creamed corn containing psychic terror, or other such addle-brained garbage. For two seasons it managed to appear to, possibly ... somehow ... just maybe, sticking to this set of constraints by (very cleverly) violating the usual rules of storytelling -- i.e. building characters up from the past to make sense of ongoing narrative.

But, by reframing the entire narrative in terms of a more knowing group entirely outside the crucible and simultaneously pulling the viewpoint out from the claustrophobic interior (of the crash survivor experience) to the omniscient, they have gone too far -- it's now clear that the entire story, initially presented as some kind of mystery which human intellect might penetrate, is in fact merely a series of dei ex machinis which the writers can pull out of their collective back passages on demand.

Here's some of what we (think we) know (but as I've said, I haven't been taking notes):

  1. They crashed on an island.

  2. It appears as though the leader of the "others" knew in advance the crash would happen.

  3. Either the others knew who would be on the plane and had detailed records of them, or they arranged for at least some of the people to be on the plane.

  4. The others have high tech communications links to the outside world.

  5. There are seemingly magical phenomena on the island, but we've been told that the plot does not involve magic, divine intervention, and it's not a dream or hallucination.

  6. One of the survivors won a lottery with a specific set of numbers.

  7. Those numbers appear on a seemingly very old plane wreck found on the island.

  8. Those numbers are the combination for the dead man switch in "the hatch".

  9. ...

Either they can arrange for certain people to get on a plane, the plane to crash, and the right people to survive. Or they can't.

Either they can fix lotteries. Or they can't.

If they can, they're basically as powerful as, say, the CIA and they're willing to spend bazillions of dollars on some kind of whacked experiment. Why are they bothering with this ridiculous crap?

If they can't, they can implant memories in people. It's not a dream, but it's a bunch of implanted memories. This is magic in my book, but given the creators of LOST created Alias it's probably allowed by their rules. It's a pretty sucky premise, but it's barely plausible. Even so, if you can implant memories you have better things to do. Why are they bothering with this crap? Unless you're still working out the kinks.

So perhaps that's the story. Someone has developed near-perfect brainwashing techniques which can create completely compelling (however implausible) and yet bogus memories in a person and thus control their attitudes and behavior, but they haven't perfected it and are performing experiments to figure out how well it works, etc. They need to test both how strongly people cleave to their (false) memories under stress and the subtle effects (e.g. sexual preferences). It explains why a guy who looks like he should be some kind of athlete-cum-killing machine is in fact a doctor, and why they give a damn whom Kate prefers.

Tomorrow, the world.