Dissatisfied with the final season of Lost so far? Finding yourself wondering "who is the baseball," and not "what are the numbers" any more? We understand your pain — and we blame it all on the parallel universe. Spoilers ahead...
If you've been unhappily struggling through Lost's final season of parallel-universe craziness, apparently you're not alone, judging from producer Damon Lindelof's snarky tweet a while back. And he has a point, this is a "strap in and take it on the chin" kind of show, and that's why we generally love it.
But we're still not so sure the alternate time line where Flight 815 never crashed (and the island sank) was the right way to go. Here's why.
Same Shit, Different Day
What are we really learning from this parallel universe that is adding to our enjoyment of the show?
Jack is a bad dad, like his dad? We already knew that when he was a troubled mess, from the bearded pill-popping days of yore. He couldn't even commit to Kate when he finally had her — he is a screw up that we continually find ourselves rooting for, even when he continually disappoints. This has been established, I don't need a blinky blue-eyed boy to wring more sympathy for Jack out of me. He's been doing this for years, without a son.
What about Kate? Claire makes Kate a better person? That was established when she decided to raise Aaron on her own, give him back to his mother, and then go back to the island for the sole purpose of rescuing Claire so she could be with her son again. Still, it was Claire's child that made Kate step up. Sure she's not perfect, but the same could be said about bizarro Kate's moment of altruism, returning the bag of baby belongings to the stranded bizarro Claire. Kate's still a thief and messed up, but at least Claire forces Kate to think about others. You know: Shit we already knew.
Same goes for Sayid. I think that if I have to sit through one more "Sayid struggles with the evil inside of him" flashback/flash forward/flash sideways episode, I will scream. We know this already. He was a torturer, for god's sake. We get it — he doesn't like killing, but thinks it's a necessary evil. That was established when he tortured Sawyer for an inhaler he didn't have, roughed up Ben, went on a killing spree after his lover Nadia was murdered — hell, he even murdered the hell out of that chicken when he was a boy. We get it: Sayid kills to serve his own twisted reasoning, whatever that may be at the moment. We don't need a parallel story to demonstrate a fact we already know about this character. What's happening to him on the island, with the stabbing and fever, is much more interesting than relearning what we already knew. And that's saying something, because this whole "evil disease" McGuffin has got to go.
The thing is, we've learned nothing new or interesting about these characters we've known for years — nothing at all. It would be one thing if the characters were wholly different people after the safe landing, but they aren't. While I completely understand that the lack of differences is interesting in its own right, it's boring as hell to watch. I predict that bizarro Sun and bizarro Jin are still fighting, but he still loves her and struggles with just how to show it — you know, like in the entire first season.
Who Are These New People? Oh Wait, It Doesn't Matter
By bringing in the parallel universe, the viewers in turn spend much less time with all the new characters that have been introduced to the series. In fact, were we supposed to care the Dogen has a magical baseball that reminds him not to fight? Yes, yes I know it was his son's but do you know what I care more about? The characters I spent five seasons getting to know, the ones we're running out of time with before the season finale. Dogen's cameo in the parallel universe was a total throw-away moment that was only used to reinforce things we already knew about Jack. It could have been anyone. Sure he's a kick-ass ninja, but were we sad when he and his nerdy sidekick were brutally cut down by Sayid? Nah, I had to look up their names to remember them. So, what was their purpose: to hand Sayid a magical dagger that didn't work, or to talk about magical ash which we had already come to terms with? Who are these hippie others and why should we care? Well we shouldn't, because they were all killed off this week by the smoke monster.
By spending so much time re-learning what we already knew in another world, we in turn spent too little time learning about these characters and how they illuminated the mysteries of the island. Not that we cared, because clearly all these characters did was talk in riddles and serve as a brutal illustration of Sayid's fall from grace.
The Shock And Awe of Parallel Whaaaaat??? Moments Have Lost Their Luster
Sure, we were all happy to see Martin Keamy's shit-eating smile again, but what was the point? Same goes for Rose popping up at Hurley's temp agency. I think we all went, "Hey, that's cool," but the enjoyment from these winky little fan nods lasts about as long as our laughter at a cat fighting to get out of a box on Youtube.
Plus, they cheapen some of the past awesomeness these characters went through. Let's not forget Keamy MURDERED Ben's daughter in a pivotal, "holy shit, Lost is awesome" moment. Watching him ask Sayid if he wants eggs and then taking a bullet to the chest isn't rewarding, nor is it really as justified as watching the smoke monster having his way with him after he's murdered Alex. What is the point? Sure, this is cool, but how about instead of making us some eggs, you scramble up a few answers? There's no reason why the parallel universe can't be a question-answering aid.
Right now it just feels like pandering to fans: "Hey, remember the time?" Yes, we do, and it was a lot cooler the first time around.
It's Undoing All The Hard Work From Previous Seasons
This is possibly the most frustrating thing about the final season for me as a Lost lover. Don't get me wrong, I love this show — which is why this is so frustrating. There are a few highly emotional payouts we've been waiting months for, one of those being the big reunion between Sun and Jin. We've watched this couple grow from a pair that made us constantly nervous, to a couple that broke your heart into a thousand little pieces. Admit it, you wept like a baby when Sun lost it at Jin's fake grave, baby in arms.
Jin's triumphant, if not heavily predicted, return was a huge victory for Lost lovers. And watching these two keep missing each other, thanks to French farce-like time-warps and running in and out of temple doors has been a constant sit-on-the-edge-of-your-couch struggle.
But now that we've had to sit through five long parallel universe episodes, I've completely forgotten about all the hard work the writers did building up the tension between these two wonderful characters. When Sun popped up with Lapidus, did anyone else say "Ooooh yeah that whole thing"? It trivializes their struggle to find one another, and Sun has been reduced to standing around uselessly for too long now. I worry that the great reunion will be overshadowed with "why is Jin in the freezer?" parallel plot points, when in reality all we want is to watch these two strive to be together again. It's been too long, and Jin saying "Where is Sun?" is not rekindling that burning desire that both he and we, the viewers, have had to see this couple reunited. And this is just one of many dramatic payoffs that are being watered down by excessive parallel-universe meanderings.
Where Are My Answers, Lost?
Here is the promo ABC screened right before this week's episode, "Sundown."
Did you hear that? They promised answers. What questions were answered? We now know what the magical baseball Dogen carries around is... but that was never a question, was it? We are running out of time — where are our answers? There are big, big mysteries that will take a lot of time to explain. And so help me, if they are as flippant about who Jacob really is as they were about this new lighthouse, ["I guess we were never looking for it"] I will burn my own apartment to the ground.
Do my issues with the parallel universe mean I'm going to stop watching Lost? Heck no. I've invested years of my life into these characters, and about four gallons of tears after "The Constant." We've come to learn that the payout is usually pretty bananas, but time is ticking away, and these issues do have us nervous. But maybe that's the point? Still, I have confidence that the show will get back on track — even if the trivialities of the parallel universe keep getting in the way.