But therein lies the problem. Lost has been superseded. The standard for vaguely-SFnal shows with double-digit main casts, multiple and intersecting storylines and ever-proliferating mysteries is now Heroes (a shift which is neatly illustrated by Kristen Bell, who as of two weeks ago was negotiating for a role on Lost, instead choosing to join Heroes), and for all of its improvements in the field of plot progression Lost still hasn't matched the newer show's strengths in other respects. The plot still makes no sense; the characters are still idiots, and most of them are so morally depraved they make the good folks from Torchwood look like candidates for sainthood by comparison (John Locke, you soulless, pitiful excuse for a human being, I'm looking at you). Heroes is deeply flawed--possibly in ways that will lead to it unraveling in much the same way Lost did in its second season--but it hasn't squandered my goodwill yet, while Lost's writers haven't done nearly enough to earn it back. I'll take Heroes's strong season with its weak and disappointing ending over Lost's strong ending to a mediocre season any day.
A few other thoughts:
- There's a flaw in the rendering of the main title sequence--the 3D 'LOST' floating towards the viewers--that's been bugging me since I started watching the show, and was even more aggravating when viewed more than twenty times over a single weekend. As the S floats past the bottom edge of the screen, you can see black pixels between the white front of the letter and its gray side. This is probably the result of a problem with the algorithm that simulates a diagonal line on a pixel grid--I had a similar result in a piece of homework for a computer graphics course I took a few years ago--and should have been pretty easy to fix. And yes, I do realize how silly I sound complaining about this.
- About halfway through the season, it's revealed that women who conceive pregnancies on the island invariably fall ill and die before their third trimester. Can you guess which two words, one of them starting with an A and the other with a C, don't get mentioned in any of the discussions of this tragic malady? In a scene from a mid-season episode, a pregnant Sun weeps when she learns that her fetus was conceived on the island, and then reveals that she is weeping for joy because the baby is her husband's and not that of the man she was having an affair with before the crash. It's bad enough that we're expected to read this disturbing attitude as romantic, but how is it possible that she doesn't follow this touching display of spousal devotion by inquiring about termination options, especially once she learns that she has no chance of carrying the baby to term? Later in the season, chief bad guy Ben explains to his teenage daughter that he jailed and tormented her boyfriend because he didn't want her to become pregnant, and I don't care how evil he is, surely it would have been less trouble to give the kids a few lessons about birth control? I can't decide whether this is yet another example of the show's trademark idiot plotting, or whether the writers truly believe that dying along with your unborn child is preferable to terminating a pregnancy or even using contraceptives.
- And since we're on the topic of dispiriting treatment of gender issues: there are almost no romantic relationships on the show that don't boil down to the male's obsessive need to protect and provide for his mate. Sun and Jin, Charlie and Claire, even Rose and Bernard, all fall into the protector/protectee roles by the end of the third season. Desmond and Penny's relationship falls apart because Desmond can't handle the fact that Penny doesn't need him to support or take care of her, and the narrative treats his choice to leave her as tragic but ultimately correct--his path to becoming the kind of man who might deserve her. Even Kate, the only female main cast member with anything approaching the male characters' agency, gets sent away from the action for her own protection not once but twice, by both of her love interests. What's interesting about this tendency is that there are strong female characters on the show, and some of them--Penny and Alex, mostly--protect their male mates. Once a romantic relationship stabilizes into a marriage, however (or, in the case of Charlie and Claire, leapfrogs romance entirely and arrives directly at a chaste, verging on asexual, marriage), it is invariably the man's role to take care of his wife and the woman's to wring her hands with worry.
- Charlie's death is probably the first time that a main character's demise has been handled effectively by the writers, so it's a great shame that its execution is so flawed. It takes Charlie forever to reach and bolt the door that traps him in a rapidly-flooding room and saves Desmond's life--so long that he obviously had time to exit the room and bolt the door from the other side. Also, this could be a trick of the camera, but the porthole through which the room is flooded definitely looked big enough for him to swim through. Dominic Monaghan and Henry Ian Cusick do fantastic work in that scene, and it is tragically undercut by inattention or laziness on the part of others.
- I'm curious to see how the flashback format gets used next season (by 'curious' I mean I'll read about it in the TWOP recaplets, and might watch the fourth season in its entirety next summer). The writers seem to have taken the step Veronica Mars should have taken at the end of its first season, and jumped forward several years (it's depressing to think that although both shows made the same mistake, it's Lost that's been given the chance to come back from it), which hopefully means that instead of regurgitating and needlessly complicating the characters' pasts before they came to the island, next season's flashbacks will bridge the gap between the survivors' escape and the finale's last scene. I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that the writers might not be committed to the future they presented in the finale (mainly because I think the person in the coffin has to be Sawyer, and I don't think the writers are willing to kill him off entirely), which means we might be in for more of Kate's wacky fugitive hi-jinks or more highlights from John Locke's horrible, miserable, no good life.