Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"Lost" Love

Last night, I was planning on attending a lecture by starchitect Frank Gehry. But it was an unseasonably warm evening and I wasn't in the mood to sit inside an airless auditorium, so I went for a walk with my husband instead. In all honestly, I was also worried that I wouldn't get home in time from the Gehry chat fest to catch "Lost." (And yes, we are the only household in America without a DVR.)

I know that "Lost" is no longer the buzziest show on TV, hasn't been since Season 1, mostly because it airs on a broadcast network instead of cable. (And yes, we are the only household in America without cable.) I don't care. I still think it's amazing. I know a lot of people find it frustrating and confusing--some think it's too heavy on "mythology" and light on coherent plot. What they're missing, and what was on display last night, is that it's also wildly romantic.

You can see that in the show's larger themes: Jack's "live together, die alone" speech. The belief that people have the capacity for heroism and redemption. Sure, there's also a lot of stuff about electromagnetic energy and pushing buttons and smoke monsters, but the foundation of the series has always been its characters and their connections to each other. Ask any long-time fan of the show to name their favorite episode and 9 out of 10 will say "The Constant," which featured the star-crossed duo of Penny and Desmond reaching across time to declare their love. It sounds hokey on the page, but in practice it was an emotional stunner.

Lately, I've been more or less forced to read a number of novels with infidelity as their central premise. I find this depressing and discouraging and not particularly relevant to my personal experience, but I understand the writers' urge. It makes for good drama--soap operas have known this for decades. Falling in love is exciting, staying in love is a drag. What gives writers fits and starts, it seems, is how to make a successul relationship seem equally interesting. And really, why just single out novelists. Was "Access Hollywood" covering Tiger Woods before he became a sex addict? How many romantic comedies show what happens after the meet-cute and inevitable wedding?

In that light, "Lost"'s creative geniuses--Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof (aka, Darlton)--have managed something truly astounding. In contrast with, say, the Drapers over on "Mad Men," "Lost" presents its core couple--Desmond and Penny--with a total lack of cynicism and a complete belief in the power of true, enduring love. (Of course, there are still a few episodes left in the final season and they could blow this all to hell.) Darlton's real trick wasn't getting us to believe in time travel, it was getting us to believe in lasting romance and to find it utterly gripping. They didn't hide behind the "will they-won't they" that so many other shows rely on, but bravely said they are, they always will be.

I imagine "Lost" is the last place most people would go to find an affirmation of soul mates. But there you have it and I, for one, find it refreshing.


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