…and the rest: Lost thoughts extra

During an email discussion with some friends about the most recent episode of Lost, someone brought up Rose, Bernard, and the rest of the surviving castaways, and how they’ve disappeared, and what happened to them. Some of my friends basically just said “jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.” Others said that their disappearance matters to them, because it ought to matter to the main characters. My pal Kiel Phegley put it like this:

…if Lindelof, Cuse and the rest want me to think that Jack and company are doing something of worth and are worth my support and investment, then I can’t just accept that the only people it’s important for them to save are the ones they’ve either slept with or who have mind powers.

This is really interesting to me.

Back in Season One, as it became apparent that of the 48 castaways we’d only ever be focusing on about a dozen or so, and as it became apparent that there was something really weird about the Island, and as certain characters like Locke argued that they were “meant to be here,” the question of why it was the above-the-credits cast that mattered and not the extras, aka redshirts, first popped into my head. Obviously, the real answer here is “because that’s how TV works,” but what diegetic explanation would the show concoct? The first time this was addressed in-show was with Dr. Arzt, who complained to Hurley or Charlie or whoever it was about the main characters’ “adventure club” or whatever he called it. I was fascinated that characters within the show’s world had realized that some of them were more important than others. At that point, though, we still didn’t really know why this was, or even IF it was actually true.

As the seasons progressed, the show began to reinforce the notion that these characters we’re following were in fact the most important ones, using various plot points to make this argument. They were the characters who had to press the button. They were the character’s on the list given to Michael. They were the characters giving birth to babies, or who had children with special powers. They were the characters on “Jacob’s list.” And so on and so forth. The reason we were following them rather than Scott, Steve, Frogurt and the other randies really WAS because they were more important, or at least seen as being more important by the Others and/or the Island itself.

By the time we’ve reached where we are now, that’s been taken even further. These are the characters who comprise the Oceanic Six. They’re the characters that Ben, Christian, and by extension Jacob INSIST must return to the Island in order to save it. They’re the only characters even CAPABLE of returning to the Island. They’re the characters that traveled through time and are therefore having double the impact on the Island’s history. By comparison, the redshirts mean less and less.

But here’s the thing. As we learn that they really don’t mean anything to the Island, they mean less and less within the world of the show; that is to say they mean less and less to the plot, they mean less and less as plot drivers. And therefore, the creators of the show seem to believe they mean less and less in terms of the audience’s emotional investment in them versus our emotional investment in the main characters, simply given the amount of relative screentime and story importance each group has been given.

However, main characters, and the audience, are NOT the Island. Whatever the redshirts’ lack of importance may be in terms of the Island and what its powers mean for those who try to harness them and for the world at large, we the audience understand on some level that they’re supposed to be actual, full human beings. We may not have seen Kate go swimming with them or Sawyer play golf with them or Jack treat their headaches and splinters and so on, but presumably that happened. Presumably they had campfire singalongs with Charlie, presumably they traded some notes with Hurley about who the hell Desmond and Juliet were, presumably they wondered whether Boone and Shannon were doing it and asked other characters if they thought they had a shot, and so on and so forth. And most importantly, presumably the recent actions of Locke, Jack, and Sawyer were intended to save these anonymous souls along with the main characters–heck, it seems like Sawyer spent three years organizing grid-pattern searches of the Island just to track them down.

Here’s my point: The Island is a harsh mistress and doesn’t care about any of that. It seems as though the show is training us not to care about it all that much either. But sometimes we can’t help but do so, and when that happens, it becomes weird to realize that the main characters apparently don’t. They’re supposed to be full human beings too.

8 Responses to …and the rest: Lost thoughts extra

  1. Ben Morse says:

    Well put both by you and Kiel.

    Ever since you brought it up two weeks ago re: Juliet/Sawyer, I’ve been more and interested in what the writers want vs what we as an audience react to. I feel like they’re steering towards Sawyer/Kate, but wait, the audience like Sawyer/Juliet, so what happens? Can they adjust plans despite knowing their endgame if a particular couple or plot point clicks unexpectedly? And I don’t just mean “clicks” as in we like it, but as in Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell clearly have a chemistry.

    This also gets back to what Sean was saying about real vs on-screen time in the sense that we’ve seen Sawyer and Kate’s entire quasi-relationship on-screen even though it was “really” less than 200 days, whereas Sawyer and Juliet had a three-year “real” deal, but we didn’t see it. Rationally, Sawyer would be more attached to Juliet, but I believe the writers wrongly assume the audience still has an inherent loyalty to Kate for he reasons above. Same deal as to the red shirts.

  2. Yeah, these are definitely related issues. One of the unintended consequences of how involved Lost gets its audience is that in addition to the mysteries and other more explicitly interactive elements, we also begin paying a lot more intention to the run-of-the-mill mechanics of fiction–screentime vs. real time, main characters vs. extras, answers provided by the show vs. the “real” answers we sometimes insist lurk beneath the answers provided by the show, and so on.

  3. Yeah, these are definitely related issues. One of the unintended consequences of how involved Lost gets its audience is that in addition to the mysteries and other more explicitly interactive elements, we also begin paying a lot more attention to the run-of-the-mill mechanics of fiction–screentime vs. real time, main characters vs. extras, answers provided by the show vs. the “real” answers we sometimes insist lurk beneath the answers provided by the show, and so on.

  4. Ryan Collins says:

    Hi Sean,

    The co-pilot that died in the most recent plane crash is none other than “Kevin Buchanan.” Who is Kevin Buchanan one may ask? A character from the great ABC soap opera, “One Life To Live.”

    Some great insight from your brother!

    Ryan Collins

  5. Ryan Collins says:

    The Jack-Sawyer conversation.

    I understand that this scene portrayed Sawyer as a tad bit harsh towards Jack. However, I don’t feel that it was all that out of place. When you think about it, Sawyer had learned earlier that Locke, a man that he had come to grow fond of, had apparently died in his attempts to bring the Oceanic 6 back to the Island.

    As we saw when Locke fell down the well and disappeared after a “flash,” Sawyer was visibly affected by this. He literally tried to dig up the ground in order to find his missing “leader,” (at least his leader at that specific time).

    After that, Sawyer basically becomes the “brains” of his remaining castaways. He seemingly transforms from merely the “Han Solo” type to a mix of Han, Obi-Wan and Luke all rolled into one (pardon the Star Wars references).

    Sawyer brilliantly “cons” the leader(s) of the Dharma initiative to believing that he and the rest of his crew were survivors of the Black Rock wreck (at least that was the impression that I got). He manages to gain the trust and respect of the highly guarded Dharma Initiative members and spends three years manipulating them for the benefit of his “people.”

    You can argue that he did all of this obviously to save his own hide but at the same time, he was convinced that Locke would succeed in his mission.

    When Jack returns with Kate and Hurley, not only does Sawyer learn of Locke’s “demise,” but he has to face Jack again. Jack is a friend of Sawyer’s at this point but, at the same time, he is also that man that was so hell bent on getting off the Island, he caused Sawyer to lose the woman that he loved.

    So when Jack comments that it just seems like Sawyer is reading, I was not too shocked by Sawyer’s reaction. Frankly, when Jack left the lovely Sawyer-Juliet household, he almost seemed content that someone else was now “in charge.”

  6. revD says:

    Amend Sawyer’s con to read “survivors of wreck which was conducting a search *for* the Black Rock”…

    But otherwise, yeah, R.C.’s on the nail. I found Sawyer’s reaction to be pitch perfect, and very calmly delivered in opposition to Jack’s usual childish snark. It was almost a Hell Yeah, Hallelujah moment for a certain contingent of the audience.

    What I personally find troubling about the pairing of Jack / Kate, Juliet / Sawyer are the 50/50 odds that it’s gonna be one set or the other that becomes Adam & Eve.

  7. revD says:

    …which makes me sound as though I’ve missed the entire damn point of this post, sorry.

    Sadly, I’m in the contingent of those who care less for the rest of the cast. I take your point, I really do, and believe it to be valid, but there was never going to be enough room to develop / follow through on Locke’s promise of Everybody’s Destiny. For all its “Wheee! Mystery!” LOST can’t afford to be an unwieldy ensemble like TWIN PEAKS, and it’s almost as though to underline this fact that Lindelof, Cuse et al. have gone to very great lengths indeed to divide & subdivide the survivors.

    Everyone in TP had a story, too, but the ratings gods declared that the Main Tale was about Laura’s murder & Dale’s role in a tiny town stuck ‘tween two worlds, not whatever wacky cranny Lynch & co. wanted to explore. Not for nothing that Josie’s reincarnation-as-a-log was shoehorned into the background of the penultimate episode w/ a pitiful Pete Martell moaning to a wall, “Josie, I see your face!” while the camera followed Ben & Audrey… Anyone else smell metacommentary, or is it just me?

    Personally I’m liable to place the callousness that’s struck (& reinvigorated) the past two seasons of LOST at the foot of ABC/Disney instead of on the creators. I can’t really fault Lindelof & Cuse for feeling the need to serve God and Mammon both in this weirdly epic attempt to do a long-form sci-fi / fantasy misadventure on a network that avows a distinct distaste for the same. It’s the most ambitious work on mainstream TV and may remain so for years to come. That’s a legacy you’re liable to be ruthless to protect.

  8. Lost thoughts: Season Five episode guide

    Below are links to all my “Lost thoughts” posts for this season. I’ll add a link to any post-finale posts when they go up. Episode 5.1: Because You Left/Episode 5.2: The Lie Episode 5.3: Jughead Episode 5.4: The Little Prince…

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