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Old 06-23-2010, 12:00 AM   #6205
Reaper16 Reaper16 is offline
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Man of Science vs Man of Faith: Ah, the most important theme of the whole series. Jack started out as a man of science and ended as a man of faith. Much of the show was centered around this conflict. Locke always trusted in the mystical nature of the Island. He was a deep believer in fate, in purpose. And even though his purpose was not as grand as he may have hoped, the dude was right. Faith is the side of things that the show props up as the correct one. The examples are numerous and you all know all of them so I won't bother to recap; it is the most obvious theme in the show. But it also leads, perhaps unintentionally, to Lost's greatest artistic achievement. I think that the show, more or less, can act as a barometer of one's own side of the debate between science and faith. My personal reactions to the show pretty conclusively tell me that I am a thoroughgoing Man of Science. For one, I majorly balk at the show's Heaven-y, faith-y conclusion. Frankly, I felt as if the show was playing the Long Con on me; Surprise! 'Twas all for God! It feels empty to me and makes me think that the show doesn't have much to say about the world we live in (mostly because I don't think that there is a Heaven or any religious body to put one's Faith into). Moreover, I would be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of people who are pissed off about the dozens and dozens of unresolved plot points and unanswered questions are Men of Science, too. The fans that went crazy into theorizing and analyzing screen shots and trying to figure out the answers are totally engaging their Science sides. But the show goes out of its way at dozens of times in dialogue to belittle fan theories or to slap the wrists of those fans by saying that certain answers aren't important at all. The Faithful fans can accept that explanation, and they are rewarded for their faith when, at the end of the series, those questions are indeed shown to be completely unimportant to the story that was told. I am curious to see how many people here on CP that this doesn't apply to, i.e. how many faithful or religious Lost watchers are/were upset at all of the loose ends or didn't like the ending. Even if there are some of you, the show provides you then with a chance to reassess either your capacity for Faith or your allegiance to Science, to making sense of things and finding answers. This is an incredible thing for a network television series to achieve.

So, with that out of the way comes an important question: Given that the creators clearly state their intent for the show to be foremost about its characters, does Lost succeed as a character drama? My answer: No. It really doesn't, not on the whole. The show ended like it wanted to be one all the way. The big payoff in the finale is watching our character remember each other and share emotional moments with each other. It so very, very much wants to be a character drama. And it tries. And it works at times. But it ultimately fails on a few levels, the most important being that the characters just aren't that good. Yeah, I said it. Don't get me wrong, there are some very good characters on this show. And even some poorer ones are fun to watch. But do the characters work as people? Do they exhibit growth throughout the whole series? Does the story move forward as a result of the characters' actions?

Let's address those one a time, starting with the latter. So much of the show is propelled by cliffhangers and island mysteries and the promise of future answers. I'd bet that 90% of episodes don't end on a character moment. People keep watching for the plot AND the characters. Now, the ideal show would be both and it is certainly possible to be both exciting/mysterious and character-centered. My qualm is that a large part of the show revolves around the characters doing things that they don't understand, motivated by bits and pieces of information. Why? Because mystery and intrigue make for compelling dramatic TV. For a character-based drama, though, all the story happenings need to be generated from the characters themselves. Lost is full of vague explanations for why people are doing things and it is also full of complex stuff like time travel. The problem is that all the mystery and complexity of plot is mysterious and complex for the sake of being mysterious and complex. It is not coming from the characters themselves. The characters are in service of a plot and story designed to be interesting and compelling from week to week.

Despite this, some characters are strong enough to force the story around them and do manage to feel like real people to boot. Ben and Locke are fully realized characters, and the two best-written ones. We see actual growth from them at a natural pace, with plenty of character-based actions (though Ben has a lot of contrived actions too, especially in season 3 when 75% of the season was the Others being made out to be evil for the sake of mystery). Sun and Jin felt like real people, and Jin especially demonstrated a lot of personal growth. It took Jack a long while to become that Man of Faith but grow into that role he did. I hated the flash-sideways but even I smiled big-time when Sawyer and Juliet reunited in the finale - because their character moments were so nice throughout the show. Desmond's story is one that seemingly everyone gets invested into. Their reunion at the end of season 4 (set up by series highlight "The Constant") was a joyous character moment.

(It occurs to me that the best character moments come from either 1.) the best actors on the show nailing the moment, or 2.) the writers really nailing a storyline, such as how all the Desmond-centric episodes are the most unique, well-executed episodes of the series. Perhaps Lost would have been a better character drama if it more good actors and writers?)

The final nail in the coffin in the idea of the show being principally a character drama is the flash-sideways universe itself. It is supposed to serve as a big character payoff, what with all of the remembrances and recollections and characters like Ben being able to live happier lives and such. But it doesn't pay off the characters at all, not if you're really paying attention. The flash-sideways doesn't give our characters ANY room to show how they've grown from their island experiences. We don't get to see how the island time "fixed" those broken few who got off the island in the finale because the flash-sides take up so much time. The flash-sides characters are largely ignorant pseudo-selves who remember all of their island experiences only in time to "move on" from them. In effect, the show's big character payoff in the finale only serves to cheapen everything we see our beloved characters go through! They have to let go of those experiences without learning from them. The flash-sideways then not only doesn't make any sense but it makes the show less effective at what it wants to be. What a ****ed up way to end an important series.
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Last edited by Reaper16; 06-23-2010 at 08:43 AM..
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