Thinking as a Hobby

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So I just finished watching the first season of ABC's Lost on DVD. I thought the pilot was a little goofy, but I kept on watching and it hooked me. By the finale I was pretty impressed with it overall.

It reminds me a lot of the TV show Twin Peaks. It's basically a puzzle show. The winning formula for a show like this is basically to set up a head-scratcher of a mystery, sprinkle a crapload of clues around, and then each show reveal the answer to one secret, but toss in three more things that make you go "What the hell?" That way the audience is never ahead of the game.

These kinds of shows are interesting because they feed into the way our minds work, throwing piecemeal patterns at us and challenging us to tie them together. Our brains have evolved to try to find's key to our survival. It's why we see faces of Mary in tortillas, or in rock formations on Mars. It's why so many people believe in astrology. If there seems to be some underlying structure, we'll immediately try to fill in the gaps and complete the pattern.

But that's not all there is to the show. It also has engaging characters with interesting back-stories. And it creates an effective mood on the island. Still, I think most people are watching it because they're trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.

My own theory is that the island works like the resort planet in the original Star Trek episode "Shore Leave". In that show, a party beams down and whatever they happen to be thinking about at the time appears (and sometimes it isn't always good). The planet was designed as a holiday retreat (kind of forshadowing the Holodeck, only without having to press any buttons or sit in a room).

So without having seen Season 2, I think that's what's going on. I think some group of scientists set up shop on the island and worked on technology that tries to focus mental energy through electromagnetism (or something) and make it possible to manipulate reality with thought. The Others are either researchers or subjects (don't know much about them yet, but I think there's a lot in the next season). Their interest in children reminded me of a bit in Stephen King's Dark Tower books where the bad guys kidnap children and extract some kind of essence from their brains that they then give to psychics to boost their powers.

But really, who the hell knows? I'm guessing even the writers aren't completely sure where they're going or what the ultimate answer is to all this.

And the problem, of course, is that the answer to the ultimate mystery is never going to be a satisfying payoff. The entertainment value is in trying to catch all the loose threads yourself and make sense of them. So I'm watching it and enjoying it, and will get season two, but I'm kind of dreading later seasons, because what will happen is what happened with Twin Peaks and some say X-Files (though I didn't watch that show). They'll keep milking it and dragging it out, way past the point where they should have stopped. And the later shows will simply suck. Then they'll try to wrap it up with something lame that tries to tie up most of the threads, but still leave something open.

But eh...until then I'll keep watching.

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