One more post about Lost and the finale, then I’m done, I promise:
Lost has come to an end after six seasons. I watched every episode and loved most of them, and loved the experience. The first season of Lost it was FAR more accessible than later seasons, as the dense mythology, complex storyline, and countless subplots and supporting characters scared off the casual viewer.
One complaint about the show that seems to be popping up in numerous places is that the show’s creators did not have the answers all along.
An example of the criticisms is articulated by John J. Miller : “I enjoyed the first season, put up with the second, and gave up after the third. I gather that tonight is the night when the world learns conclusively that the creators never had any idea of what they were doing to begin with.”
If you accept the argument that Lost creators introduced big mysteries like “What’s that unseen creature in the jungle?” and “What are those numbers that haunt Hurley all about?” without the answers ironed out and locked in a safe, I ask: So what?
Did you not like the answer about “What is the monster?” Since it’s hard for me as an ardent fan to explain what — or rather, WHO — the monster is, I would admit that you have pretty darn a valid point.
To illustrate the validity of the argument, I will gamely attempt to answer the “what is the monster?” question with the disclaimer that it makes TOTAL sense . . . if you watch every episode of the series twice. Here it goes:
The Monster was the nameless Man in Black, brother to the island’s guardian Jacob, who was killed, entered the light at the center of the island, then turned into a pillar of smoke able to assume the form of the deceased, determined to get off the island but unable to do so until Jacob was dead, but he couldn’t kill Jacob because of rules set up by their foster mother and even after he got someone to kill Jacob he had to kill all of the candidates to take Jacob’s place as guardian. Got it?
Yeah, it’s convoluted and impossible for new viewers to grasp, but I don’t think it’s a fair complaint to say that the Big Answers weren’t composed at the same time as the Big Questions. I’d assume the Magic Numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 were invented as part of Hurley’s backstory.
I imagine the conversation in the writer’s room went something like this: “What if Hurley was a lottery winner?” “Cool! What if he won the lottery and then he just became bad luck? Everything touches falls apart. He thinks he’s cursed.” “Rockin’! Why would a lottery winner feel cursed?” “Because he used some numbers that he picked up from a crazy person who had been to the island before!” “Awesome! Hey, what if those numbers pop up on the island and various places and drive Hurley nuts!” “Let’s do it!”
The collaborative, creative process goes something like that. Tom Stephens and I have often talked through theorhetical stories, screenplays, novels, etc. (sadly we’ve never actually completed any of them) and it usually ends up similar to the above creative evolution.
Even though I did not like the explanation for the numbers (the numbers represented Jacob’s candidates, Hurley among them), I did like the story of Hurley. And was Lost more about the Big Mystery of the numbers or was it more about characters like Hurley? If I didn’t care about Hurley or the other characters, would it matter that they’d come up with a great reason why cursed numbers appeared on a mysterious island?
Some writers plan every detail out from the beginning, some more or less make it up as they go.
I have written several novels, published two, and I never plan things out too far in advance. Part of the fun of writing is the discovery. I create characters that intrigue me and an interesting situation for them to be in, a problem to solve, etc. You go where the story leads you; sometimes it takes unexpected turns, sometimes you run into roadblocks, sometimes you strike gold, sometimes you erase the last two chapters and go a different way, sometimes you scratch the whole manuscript and start over.
Years ago, frustrated by starts, stops, and reboots, I plotted a novel from beginning to end, had all the characters outlined and their story arcs, and at that point I had no real motivation to complete the actual manuscript. The story had been told, and spending months churning it into 70,000 words would be work (and I have a real job already).
Granted, the creative process behind Lost is a lot more complex than writing a novel. With a novel, it’s just me. No one can tell me what I can’t do. I’m not constrained by a budget, not dependent on a director to bring my vision to life, or an actor to capture the emotion I’m conveying.
The creators said that the character of Mr. Eko was going to be pivotal in the show’s mythology, but the actor playing him wanted out, so Mr. Eko died midway through season 3 and played zero role in the show’s mythology.
Actor Jorge Garcia auditioned for the role of con man Sawyer (the audition is a bonus feature on season one). The creators loved Garcia, even though he wasn’t right for that part (it went to Josh Holloway), and they introduced the character Hurley specifically for Garcia. The same happend for the actress who played Sun, who tried out for the role of Kate.
It’s an evolution, creative minds laying the foundation and then building on it. Lost evolved as a collaboration with various writers and creative minds in conjunction with audience expectations and various pleasant surprises and obstacles. The diabolical Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) was introduced for a three episode arc, but the actor knocked the role out of the park and was a fixture of the show until the finale.
If you don’t like my joke, that’s fine, say it’s not a funny joke. But don’t be mad because I didn’t know the answer was going to be “banana” when I said “knock, knock.”
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