Thursday, April 5, 2012

Help With That "LOST" Feeling

Amanda Lowery
-NSD Writer

I recently read an article outlining the viewership blessing of Game of Thrones as a substitute for the engaging, metaphysically mind boggling, and fantastically scientific hit series LOST. At first I agreed, because I am officially obsessed with Game of Thrones. I am reading the fourth novel in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series and also keeping pace with the show, devouring each episode several times to make sure I understand why the literary genius was adapted on the screen the way it was. However, I do not think that Game of Thrones alone has filled the vacancy in our minds and hearts left by six seasons of LOST.
First of all, we all need to reflect on our LOST experience and why it is we were attracted to the show. There were so many different compelling themes to follow: the metaphysical/spiritual mystery of what the island was, the character drama, survival situations, numerology, literary themes established by whatever book Sawyer was reading, redemption, physics, time travel, social experimentation, love, mythology, good vs. evil, etc. And then we need to consider whether encompassing all of that was too big for one show to handle, and to handle it well. I am of the opinion that it was too much for one show and the audience was left with a slightly unfulfilled viewing experience when the revelation of the series came about. Not all of these themes were concluded effectively, the story wasn't finished, it wasn’t told correctly.

So, I found myself then disagreeing with the article that claimed Game of Thrones was filling the LOST void for viewers aching to be intellectually stimulated by their television viewing experience. I think that Game of Thrones is effectively stimulating viewers on only a couple of these fronts addressed by LOST, and that is a good thing. There are several shows on right now that seem to be addressing some of these more challenging themes identified in LOST, but it is no longer a one show game to attract an intelligent viewing audience that craves stimulation. LOST proved to the creative world that audiences were ready for more meaty material; shows to sink their teeth into and chew on all the next day at work, to talk about with co-workers, references to google and complex themes to blog about. LOST opened the door and now other shows are walking through it.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy, so viewers can watch the birth of fire breathing dragons through some kind of mysterious dragon blood magic while on the other side of the world an ancient power awakes bringing the White Walkers that can only be killed by fire and (SPOILER) dragonglass out of hibernation (how's that for some story telling brilliance in bringing balance to a plot and the creational powers of a fictional universe?). Game of Thrones also allows us to compare the life or death political power play to what we are exposed to every day with the desperate grappling for presidency.

And then we can tune into shows like the Walking Dead and watch characters struggle to hold onto remnants of humanity and the defining characteristics of civilization in a post apocalyptic world overrun by some mysterious zombie virus. The group dynamics on Walking Dead while at times seem over dramatic – they are also totally compelling. The birth of leadership in survival situations is something that LOST continuously returned to with John Locke, Jack Shepard, Ben and later Sawyer and it is also a big part of the Walking Dead with Rick, Shane, and Herschel. It’s a fascinating psychological journey into what happens to people in survival situations and how people possess the mysterious personality traits that turn them into leaders, muscle, moral centers, followers, and psychopaths. Then bringing different groups of survivors together to watch the established dynamics implode, explode, and expand is another entertaining task that LOST examined with the two different survival groups, the Dharma Initiative people, the boat people, the crazy French chick and has also been a big part of the evolution of the Walking Dead. People are compelled to watch these scenarios play out because they wonder where they fit in, what would they decide in that situation, and so on.

Then there were all those complex scientific themes that persisted throughout LOST. The new writing team and beefed up production budget for BBC’s Dr. WHO is really digging into the science of time travel and the greater mysteries of space and dimension. It’s a show growing in popularity in America, and it isn’t hard to see why – we’re an audience that watched the entire fifth season of LOST with the island popping in and out of time, and don’t even get me started on the time traveling anomaly that was Desmond. With the quirky Doctor as our Time Lord guide we can travel through space and time and chase down Universe-wide mysteries like The Silence. I haven’t been so intrigued by a void since the Neverending Story’s ‘The Nothing’. Dr. Who is also very keen to examine the complexities of human nature and the delicacy of human existence, providing plenty of thought provoking idioms for audiences to take with them.

So while I see that Game of Thrones is a huge draw for audiences, it will never ‘fill the void’ left by LOST, and do we really want it to? LOST was its own phenomenon; owning its intrigue and its mess. I think it is better to have several brilliant and well conceived shows that culminate into making our minds think that LOST is back by tickling our intellects and embracing the intrigue of the unknown, with the odds being ever in the favor of conclusions that can effectively achieve an ending worth the story telling. LOST showed creators what could be done, and what not to do.

I know I only touched on a couple of shows filling this LOST void, but you see how long this column is. Please comment about other shows you think are also walking through the doors opened by the complex themes offered by LOST and gobbled up by viewers.

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