Usually around this time of the week, Rick Porter and I engage in our weekly Great “Lost” Debate. But because he’ll be hopefully joining the podcast this week, I decided I would only wipe the floor with him in one medium this week. I kid, I kid: Rick’s all that, a bag of chips, PLUS a pickle. But since this opened up a hole in my publishing schedule, I thought it high time to discuss something that’s been percolating in the coffee pot of my mind over the past week. It’s a topic that might seem controversial for controversy’s sake, but it’s one I take very seriously:
Have “Lost” fans gotten sick of the trying to figure out show’s mysteries?
See? I told you. Controversial. Let me explain.
What got me first thinking about this was the lackluster number of responses to my “Recon” recap last week. Now, I’ve since learned that a lot of that had to due with some technical snafu that rendered the comments invisible to some readers. I’m sure they thought I’d had enough of their plebian discourse and simply decided to declaim from on high. But no, I love the back-and-forth, and so was glad to know at least part of the relatively lower number of comments stemmed from that.
But even reading over the comments that did get posted, coupled with recaps/comments posted on other sites, there just wasn’t the spark that was there in recent weeks on “Lost” boards. That’s obviously a very unscientific analysis of fan reaction, but I’ve started to wonder if the rather middling response to the episode has nothing to do with “Recon” in and of itself and everything to do with the psyche of the average “Lost” fans.
Who is this average “Lost” fan? They know the story. They know the mythology. Maybe they can’t recite every episode title from memory, but they know their Hanso from their Heavy Paik, their Daniel Faraday from their David Shephard, and they don’t understand why people giggle when they say “frozen donkey wheel” when explaining the show to noobs at cocktail parties. They read blogs, post theories of their own, have Lostpedia bookmarked, and have been long-time, hardcore fans of the show.
So what’s their current psyche now? Is it elation? Anger? Pre-emptive separation anxiety? Those feelings wouldn’t explain the rather calm (by “Lost” standards, anyways) reactions to “Recon.” If they felt any of these things en masse, then message boards would be lit up, passion would be more easily identified, and fights more likely to break out via keyboard. As the season started, people clashed over the meaning of the flash sideways. They argued over the meaning of the cave writings. They expended serious amounts of mental energy in trying to figure out where this final leg of the show was leading.
Thing is, I don’t think “Lost” fans are suffering anything right now except exhaustion. They are, above all else, mentally tired.
And I can’t say I blame them. Now, this exhaustion does not translate into any negative feelings about the show. I think it’s largely symptomatic of the slow pace at which the sideways flashes have been doled out. Each time we think we’re getting a clue that gives us a chance to understand what’s going on, another piece of evidence comes along and blows that theory out of the water. And that’s “Lost” in a nutshell: one big, massive puzzle that people used to LOVE trying to figure out. But I think people are starting to realize that they haven’t been putting together the puzzle so much as watch a group of people put it together FOR us, and that’s why “Lost” fans might be currently less inclined to question, to theorize, to clash about potential unknown meaning.
With 10 hours to go, we know that certain answers are coming. We know this. So there’s a certain satisfaction in this that allows us some valuable perspective. Where people get frustrated isn’t so much in terms of items not being checked off a list so much as not understanding the importance of what we’re watching. There’s a big difference between the two. I’m not concerned about knowing who was behind the Season 2 pallet drops. That’s nice that apparently we’ll learn this fact, but I just want to know two things: 1) Why should I care about the imminent War of the Island?, and 2) What do the sideways flashes have to do with the Island timeline? Since those two questions are currently almost impossible to answer, I (and I’m sure many others) have simply said, “OK, show, fine. Come to me. I’ll stop coming to you.”
And that’s what I mean by exhaustion. It’s not that we’re any less engaged in the ultimate outcome. But will a finite number of hours left, we understand that eventually, we’ll learn about those two things. The show has established a certain pace of puzzle-piece placement, and we realize we’re passive observers sitting at the table while they do so. It’s a HELLUVA good puzzle, and certain pieces have shocked, delighted, maddened, and deflated us in ways most dramas could never do. But there’s fun to be had in guessing the show’s meaning when only 200 out of 1,000 pieces are shown. That’s not necessarily still there when the puzzle’s meaning is not much clearer with 900 pieces laid out on the table.
A good mystery is one in which you feel like you SHOULD be able to guess the answer, given the information at hand. A bad mystery is one in which you retroactively realize you had absolutely no shot at solving. I think that “Lost” made a slight miscalculation in the pace at which it laid out the flash sideways stories, and that has caused many fans and critics to stop actively trying to figure them out and simply yield to their unknowable existence.
Maybe that’s a saner way to go about looking at them, but I’m pretty sure that “Lost” fans are by and large anything but passive about their engagement with the show. It’s not the type of thing you have on in the background while paying bills or checking up on your online dating profile. The fan I know watches at the edge of their seat, and then goes online to talk about it, and then alienates most of their co-workers the following day by continuing to discuss it. They do NOT just wait for the answers to come to them: They ram straight ahead into TheoryTown and run amuck like characters in Looney Tunes cartoons.
I do wonder if too many virtual anvils have been dropped on too many fan craniums, and if the collective headaches have finally become too much to bear. Perhaps the end date has given people an excuse to finally stop trying to make the show into what THEY want and finally see it for the show it actually is. That doesn’t mean discussion should end, or analysis should stop, or that I fear this blog will shrivel up and die like P. Diddy on Broadway. But I do think it will change, and in fact, actually evolve over the final few weeks.
It’s a pretty great thing we’re experiencing: a complex, 100+ hour story told largely with creative control completely intact, ending on its own terms. So maybe it’s not that fans aren’t exhausted so much as relieved: They’ve enjoyed the head-spinning tale for so long that they’re ready to enjoy its final few hours without vertigo standing in the way of their enjoyment. It only ends once, remember. Everything else? Just progress.
What do you think? Am I onto something? Off base? Deserve to be put into Room 23 for heresy? Leave your thoughts below!
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Photo credit: ABC