Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Resurgence Of “Lost”?
Facing a dwindling viewer base, the braintrust behind “Lost” has responded with a run of five straight episodes that have hit the mark in terms of relevance, tone, backdrop and character building. With an estimated 2 million viewers voting themselves off the island this year after simply tiring of the roundabout storytelling fashion, the introduction of five more questions for every answer, and the incessant, occasionally exasperating flashback device, the powers-that-be behind the show realized that, at worst, a tweak of the process was needed.
Perhaps as a result, starting with “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead,” the season’s 10th episode, the show seems to have made a conscious effort to market more closely to the existing audience by providing a somewhat lighter tone in its teases and by offering more compelling storyline previews. “Expose” was the fifth in this series of elevated story-spinning, dealing with the tale of the mysterious duo of Nikki and Paulo.
Introduced only in season three, these two began to receive lines seemingly out of nowhere, leading faithful watchers to wonder, “Where the hell have these two been the entire time? Is there a Tropicana shoot going on on the other side of the island or something?” It could have been an awkward introduction, but the writers covered it up cleverly by intimating that Paulo had a grudge against Jack and the others for not including him in some of their adventures.
Instead, the writing staff developed a very neat and unique device by replaying key scenes from Nikki (hotter than a box of stolen tamales, by the way) and Paulo’s perspective, showing the duo’s relation to the island and other survivors during the crash, subsequent meetings and other decision-making scenarios. It helped you see that the two were always just barely in the background, involved in some aspects of the island but also dealing with their own internal and moral issues.
At the end, the episode displayed a large writing departure from the rest of the show, using an Edgar Allen Poe-worthy twist involving Nikki and Paulo being buried alive. At one point, Walt’s dog, Vincent (does anyone else remember him being on the boat with Walt and Michael when they left the island?!), drags the cover off of Nikki and Paulo, who were being prepared for burial. Was this him knowing they were alive and trying to find a way to alert the survivors? Are the two actually dead, and how long will the writers take before they revisit this plot line? How will the presence of $8 million in diamonds in a shallow grave affect the other island dwellers? Will Artz’s collection of new, undiscovered species of animals and insects make any other contributions to the island? Will the Sun-Sawyer feud escalate, and where does Charlie fit into that?
Here was an episode that was devoted to and isolated some very minor characters and had no bearing on the “Others,” Jack’s dilemma, Locke and his father, Kate and Sayid, Claire and Aaron, Sun and Jin’s child, etc. However, unlike at past points during the season, you didn’t feel like you were cheated out of the overriding story arc or that it was a wasted episode that gave you nothing. While the Los Angeles Times made a compelling argument that Locke is the straw that stirs the “Lost” drink, I think the dominant character in this show remains the island itself. Whether it is or has healing powers, the ability to hide secrets, a monopoly on the future, a malevolent force in terms of actual monsters, an inherent guilt complex that manifests itself into dwellers’ realities, or a living, breathing, Gaia-like force, the island itself remains the integral, misunderstood thread that weaves itself through every other element of plot, denouement, resolution and conclusion.
And that’s what keeps Faithful Viewer coming back every week …
February 8, 2007: “Lost” V 3.5: Let The Games Begin
November 9, 2006: Mini-Season Makes For Long, “Lost” Winter Months
November 2, 2006: Vaya Con Dios, Mr. Eko
October 4, 2006: “Lost” In A Sea Of Questions