Lost Without The Internet

What I'd like to discuss here is Lost and how the Internet, arguably, has become a fundamental element of the show for good and for bad. It may surprise you to know (though, really, the healthy response for you to have is one of absolute ambivalence) that I was something of a late-starter to the Internet-aspect of Lost. I didn’t even look at the Internet regarding the show when I watched Season One. I knew a few people that watched it and we just discussed it amongst ourselves. Imagine that! What old-fashioned conventions we used!

It was at some point during Season Two I discovered Lostpedia. I’m not sure how. But I distinctly remember getting into the routine of watching an episode and then logging on to Lostpedia to take a look at the details I might have missed and some of the theories people may have had. Take, for example, the Blast Door Map.

A great moment on the show, for sure, but after that initial ‘wow’ moment what you really want to do is check out that map in great detail. The Internet provided such facility. This was a major turning point in the show because there was no way you could glean any information about the Blast Door Map from watching it on television. You either needed to get a copy of an article about it at the time, or you had to log on and find out about it for yourself.

Personally I feel the Blast Door Map is an example of Lost using the Internet right. The show presented something you could either investigate further online, or simply allow to slide by. Your enjoyment and understanding isn’t diminished either way, but for those that checked out the map’s notations they would have opened the door to ‘Valenzetti’ and ‘PRD’ and more Dharma Stations that could fuel debate and theorising.

Point is, you needed to look online to get more information. Those that didn’t learned nothing more. A clear faction developed: The Lost Fans, and the Online Lost Fans. I’d argue that it’s to the Online Lost Fans that, from Season 2 onwards, Lost started to cater for and this is a trend that has been continuing ever since.

As if to emphasise this point, look what happened for the first time during the break between Season 2 and Season 3. The first Lost ARG – The Lost Experience.

I don’t mind admitting that I did start this game but, at the time, I wasn’t particularly an online enthusiast about Lost. So I started it, but I got fed up of it. Those that stuck with it would have tumbled down a plot involving The Hanso Foundation and Rachel Blake and Joop and Alvar Hanso. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it – as with all the ARGs since, the online games were designed to link in to the show without ever actually presenting anything pertinent to the complete understanding of it.

Subsequent ARGs took in a search to find Oceanic 815. . .

. . . to becoming a member of the Dharma Initiative. . .

. . . to pre-empting the fated Ajira 316 crash. . .

All of them, in hindsight, had neat thematic links with the Season they prefixed but none of them could ever be considered essential. And that was entirely the point. Keep the online fans happy - invested - to tide them over the long breaks. As I said, I believe Lost has geared itself towards this group of fans (since you’re reading this, and I’m part of that group, I guess I’m talking about us here!) more and more.

Of course, this is surely by design. An audience that takes the trouble to go online and discuss and theorise is an active fan-base that is going to keep tuning in week after week. That’s what it comes down to. In some ways the Online Lost Fans have become more elitist than ‘regular’ Lost fans.

Think about it. How many times has someone in your real life told you they like the show? How often have you thought to yourself, I’m pretty sure you don’t like it as much as me! These are the ‘fans’ that don’t know their Hydras from their Orchids and, more specifically, they don’t even care.

Personally, I’m impressed with anyone who sticks with Lost without reading about it online. Seasons 4 and 5, especially, probably prompted plenty of casual viewers to throw the towel in and call it a day. I live with one such casual fan. Mrs. Comet only ever reads the Analyses I write because I shove them under her nose, trying to keep her up to date with the time travelling, flashbackforwarding madness. Without me, Mrs. Comet – once a big fan of the show – probably would have quit a while back. Sawyer’s torso helps ease matters for her when the time travel stuff taxes her brain, mind.

If the Blast Door Map got the balance right, between entertaining a casual audience and feeding the Online Lost Fan, I think that balance has been tipped over quite some time ago.

To give an example, I also watch Battlestar Galactica. I don’t check out websites about it. If you ever looked at my blog for that show you’ll see it’s nothing like the laborious overhaul and investigation and analysis that I produce for Lost here. At time of writing BSG is entering its final few episodes and some of the latest ones have been absolute knockouts. Seriously. There were a couple in particular that elicited knuckle-shredding tension that had me physically stressed out and feeling an emotional drain throughout. I found myself wondering, When was the last time Lost ever made me feel like that?

Truth is I don’t think Lost has ever truly delivered anything knockout since the Season 3 finale, in an emotional walloping sense. That finale was, of course, the grand reveal of the flashforward, but it was also tense (Sayid, Jin, Bernard at gunpoint) and exciting (Hurley steams in driving the Dharma van!) and emotional (Kate and Jack’s hopeful disbelief that rescue was coming) and edgy (Ben’s warning of doom for all concerned regarding The Freighter). In hindsight that finale feels like a last hurrah before the show got clever-clever.

I started participating on Lost theory sites at some point between Season 3 and 4. By the time Season 4 started I created this blog here purely to capture all my thoughts and formulate my ideas for when the show re-started. A Lost Place was born. Thanks for dropping by. If this is the only site you visit to read about episodes then I commend your sophisticated taste, but I’m certain you go to other places, probably contribute to other sites. You are an Online Lost Fan and probably you can’t imagine how you’d like the show if you were anything else. I can’t either.

Lost has become more of a cerebral affair, with flashforwards and flashbacks and Island stories all forcing us to work out the plot and piece it together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Fascinating, inventive and unique for sure – but emotional? The only emotional moment I can think of was Desmond and Penny’s declaration of undying love at the end of The Constant. Choked me up at the time, has choked me up since.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, since the moment Lost was provided with an official end date (prior to Season 4), the show has become this way. Where episodes could previously take their time with the characters it’s now all about plot plot plot. Most of the time the question is not about what happens next, it’s more about how what we know happened came to be. That’s not particularly great for generating drama, but ideal for fulfilling the Online Lost Fan’s theory-hungry sites and blogs.

We know ‘Darlton’ (you know what that means because you’re an Online Lost Fan) are aware of the Lost community theories and discussions. There’s always been that devilish notion circulating that ‘Darlton’ read Lost Theory sites so they can cherry pick good ideas for their show. I like to believe that’s definitely not true. I can’t guarantee it isn’t.

Fundamentally my gripe here (and it’s somewhat ironic, given that I write online posts after each episode) is that the moment an episode of Lost finishes I don’t feel totally satisfied that I got everything I needed. I know that the full story will be filled in online. Most of the time I don’t mind it, but surely there’s got to a break in that trend!

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. As of Season 5, Episode 8, Lost is almost poised to get back to a point where we don’t know what happens next. The Island has stopped moving around in time. There’s Locke and Ben, with Ajira, on the Island in the ‘present’ day. All that needs to happen is Jack and Sawyer and co get back to the present with Locke’s group and then we will, finally, find ourselves back on the Island with an unknown future for our main characters.

Maybe then Lost can settle back down and give us some genuine emotional drama to compensate for the intellectual plot gymnastics of recent times. As much as Lost catering to the Lost Online Fan may produce crowd-pleasing episodes (Young Rousseau and the science team spring to mind) I can’t help but feel like the best episode of Lost is one the most casual of fans will get blown away by.

Not blown away by the revelation of some obscure reference from the show (Ms. Hawking is Faraday’s mother! WOW!). Not blown away by the validation of some bizarre theory (Widmore was once on the Island! WOW!). Not blown away by the later understanding discovered by reading about it online (Jack on his back in the jungle for his second arrival was a mirror inversion of his first appearance there! WOW!). An audience at home, Casual Fan or Online Fan, should be blown away purely by sitting in their seat, watching the show, and nothing more.

Lost should still have what it takes to rock our hearts rather than rattle our minds. Lost can still be Lost without the Internet. So say we all, right?


Corellian said...

It´s pretty curious to look at that map with all the knowledge that we've acquired since then...

AngeloComet said...

Corellian - Not a bad idea. I might do that. And do a post about it.

When I get a spare five hours!

Acharaisthekey said...

First off...this is brilliant! Great write up and couldn't agree with you more! Almost every point correctly points out the life of an ONLINE lost fan and the dealings with CASUAL lost fans.

So, at this point in the show...what do you beleive the show has more of a responsibility to? Fulfilling the ONLINE fans curiousity with heavy plot...or keeping the show on the casual level where anyone can get emotionally 'vested' in what just happened?

I think (and am sure hoping) everything we ever needed to know about the past will be wrapped up with a nice bow tie at the end of season 5. With over plot (and some I have just downright not liked this year....Locke's short visits to the 06 and the lack of 'interest' from the survivors topping the list) exploitation...I hope for nothing more then the end of the season ending with the CURRENT GROUP at Locke's time being visited by the Sawyer and Jack group...with Rose and Bernard walking from the forest with Vincent.

Give me that...and fulfill my knowledge of the Islands history...Season 6 will be able to allow us to go into the unknown (as you've stated)...and even the most casual fan will be able to follow to the final moments when John convinces Jack to....[Fill in your theory]

(still my prediction for the final scene)

I really do hope we get GREAT MOMENTS, TRAGIC DEATHS, and ULTIMATE TRIUMPS. My biggest fear of the show is the RESET BUTTON.....please don't trap me into a loop of events making redemption nothing more then dying in a cave...and sparking off events that have already happened in the future.. (i am saying that right).

shamballa said...

BSG Lost me from the get go this season. A few episodes back there was a rush of answers that flew at me from the "final" cylon and a half brain dead guy in an infirmary. I'm keeping my finders crossed with BSG but the magic is gone.

After reading this AC, I couldn't tell if you had concluded and decided that 1) you were done watching the show or at least posting about it here anymore or 2) you think the show is a joke and you will suffer it our till the convoluted end.

I finally enjoying it again and you hinted at some useful tactics. Those being: Don't over analyze the show, enjoy it for what it is, and don't get caught up with internet asshats chatter.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst...

AngeloComet said...

Sham - BSG, for me, is poised to be a triumph. Or, potentially, a mass disappointment. But when the whole show rests on just three episodes left then I'd have it no other way.

I suspect Lost may find itself in an equally pressurised when it hits the final stages.

As for here, no, I'll certainly be watching and posting about Lost. Whilst I may have seemed slightly scathing of this trend the show has taken that doesn't take away from the fact that it's still a great show and delivers some terrific twists and turns. Intellectually it's a feast.

I guess my point was it's the emotional kickback I am missing that older episodes used to hinge on. But, as I said, there's hope that Lost could find its emotional mojo once it gets the main characters together again at a point on the Island when we, the audience, don't know anything about their futures.

timeisrelative said...

Ahoy hoy, AC. You might remember me from the defunct Lost-Theories.com. I drop in every few weeks to see where your mind has been. I enjoy reading your thoughts, ruminations, even your occasional blathers.

This was an enjoyable write up. I've also never met in person as big a fan as me and I also currently live with a casual fan, Mrs. Relative. She and I can no longer watch the show together because we're basically watching two different programs. When we were first introduced to Ellie in 1954, I very casually said, "Oh, Ellie must be short for Eloise, as in Eloise Hawking, as in Daniel's mom." Mrs. Relative had no idea was I was talking about and hasn't watched an episode with me since then.

It does feel like the mystery has gone out of the show now that they're actually starting to answer more questions than they pose. We're starting to see the end of the tunnel even though the path is still dim. I love analogies. And the emotion has fizzled out a bit, not that I ever got too invested in that aspect of the show. But the drama is going to have to get pushed aside to adequately address the four seasons worth of questions.

But there's always the smoke monster. I can't even begin to imagine a satisfactory explanation for that. Not to mention the clue in the pilot episode that the producers--joking.