The countdown has officially begun. The final season of Lost will begin on Feb. 2. That’s a Tuesday for all of you who don’t have an iCal on your mental desktop. I was initially jarred by this news: It’s hard to think of the series being on any other night but Wednesday. (Never mind the aberration that was the Thursday digression of 2008, i.e., the strike-impacted season 4.) I will miss marking the middle of the week by slipping through the looking glass and chasing white rabbits of thought for the theory food this column serves up each week. And so we offer a Thanksgiving salute and bid adieu to our mutual friend, the Lost Wednesday, with this, the first official Doc Jensen ramble of the new — and last — season of Lost. Beginning next week, we post on Tuesdays, and I can promise you that our December columns will be chockablock with all the spotty insight, suspect intellect, and specious scholarship you have come to rely on — plus a few newsy scoops and legitimately pearly nuggets. Let’s start prepping for The End with…
STATUS REPORT: SEASON 6
Based only on info released or confirmed by the producers. While you won’t find any spoilerific ”Transmissions” here, I encourage anyone who has endeavored to remain deliberately ignorant about Lost 6.0 to skip over the next several paragraphs.
What we know? Lost began production in August and just finished shooting the eighth episode of its 16-episode, 18-hour season, which includes a two-hour premiere and a two-hour finale. The title of the first episode: ”LA X.” At Comic-Con last July, exec producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof showed three short videos — a Mr. Cluck’s commercial with millionaire Hurley, an America’s Most Wanted segment about fugitive Kate, and an Oceanic Airlines ad touting its spotless safety record — that contained details that deviated from established continuity. Did Juliet succeed in changing history by detonating Jughead in the Dharma Initiative past? The producers say: That’s exactly the question we should be asking. (I’ll have more thoughts in this issue in the READER MAIL section.)
Who’s in, who’s out… Emilie de Ravin’s maybe-dead Claire — last seen haunting Kate’s dreams and hanging with Ghost Christian in Jacob’s shack — rejoins the narrative in a big way after going MIA last season. A number of certifiably deceased characters will be making seemingly inexplicable return appearances this coming season, including Charlie (Dominic Monaghan, now of FlashForward), Boone (Ian Somerhalder, now of The Vampire Diaries), and birthday-ambiguous Charlotte (Rebecca Mader, who can currently be seen in The Men Who Stare At Goats). The producers also recently told my colleague Dan Snierson that Juliet is indeed toes up — but actress Elizabeth Mitchell will materialize at least twice during the final sweep of episodes. (Let’s take a moment and shoot furious eye darts of blazing indignation at her new show, V, for completely letting Mitchell down with mediocre material.) Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert) has been promoted to series regular. Henry Ian Cusick, who plays Desmond Hume, will not be a series regular this season, but it’s believed we haven’t seen the last of the ex-Hatchman.
…and who’s new: Hiroyuki Sanada, a popular Japanese actor who worked with Matthew Fox in Speed Racer, has been cast as a character named Dogen. (New Lost Philosopher Reference Alert! Dogen Zenji was a fabled Zen Buddhist teacher.) John Hawkes (Deadwood) has been cast as Lennon, whose name has me humming ”Imagine” while painfully recalling that time in high school when I took a test about Russian history and I got docked one full grade for consistently misspelling ”Lenin” as ”Lennon.” Damn the corrupting mind virus that is the Beatles! Other familiar faces/names scheduled to appear this season: Sheila Kelley (L.A. Law, Sisters) and William Atherton, the always-entertaining character actor who specializes in playing… well, a–holes.
NEXT PAGE: Status Report continued, and superfan Doc Arzt takes questions
STATUS REPORT: SEASON 6 (cont.)
What’s next? Possibly very little. Team Lost would like to keep as much of season 6 under wraps as possible — even down to keeping ABC’s promotional campaign free of any season 6 imagery. We’ll see if this plan holds. Examples of other hotly anticipated pop culture that considered — then reconsidered — ”No Advertising” gambits: Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace and James Cameron’s Avatar. In both cases, the producers and the studio (Fox) decided that remaining secretive would only further stoke already unrealistic expectations. However, movies and TV shows have very different concerns. Moreover, the very premise of Lost‘s final season (i.e., will the story take place in a rebooted or non-rebooted time line?) is itself a massive spoiler. And regardless: I don’t think anyone who has stuck with this show for this long really needs any more wind up for the saga’s climactic act.
How are the producers feeling about the final season? EW‘s Chau Tu caught up with Damon Lindelof at the launch party for the Star Trek DVD and asked him that very question. His response: ”It’s very emotional right now. It all depends on the day. There’s an incredible level of excitement on our part that we’re finally getting to end it. There’s a lot of nervous anticipation. It’s like if you get somebody a gift and you’ve got it locked up in your closet, and you think it’s the greatest gift in the world but the longer it sits there, the more you think, ‘Oh, I hope they don’t already have one. Are they going to like this? Will it fit?’ But that’s all good. I think it’s natural…. I feel tremendous pressure from the fans, but it can’t possibly [match] the pressure that we’re putting on ourselves. We’ve been doing this show for five and a half years now. It’s the single greatest piece of creative work of my career, Carlton’s career, a lot of the writers’ careers, so our own sort of sense of ‘Please don’t f— it up’ is pretty overriding.”
QUESTIONS FOR A SUPER-FAN: DOC ARZT
Beginning this week and continuing periodically, we’re going to salute Lost‘s legion of super-fans who’ve given much time and energy to loving Lost over the years, at great cost to their relationships, careers and health, and THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Call it: Profiles In Courageous Fanaticism. We launch with a fellow named Jon Lachonis, but better known as Doc Arzt, a handle inspired by his favorite Lost character, Leslie Arzt, the teacher who got blown up by Black Rock dynamite back in season 1. (Classic Hurley, pointing out some fleshy remnants on Jack’s back: ”Dude…you’ve got some Arzt on you.”) Doc’s current Web home is docarzt.com. He is also the co-author (with fellow super-fan Amy Johnston) of Lost Ate My Life: The Inside Story of a Fandom Like No Other. I dig his raw and unvarnished passion for, and his deep appreciation of, big picture storytelling. I also like how he often serves as conscience and voice of reason to a fan culture that can get too spoilerhoundish and nitpickish. I recently asked Jon some questions. He was kind enough to give me some answers.
DOC JENSEN: What episode of Lost made you go, ”Yep. I’m obsessed.”
DOC ARZT: Seriously, the pilot. The obsession has just increased incrementally with each episode after that, but the pilot certainly contains the winning template for the series.
What character do you relate to the most and why?
Doctor Arzt, because I really am that socially awkward guy who seems to have an opinion on everything, and probably every bit as annoying to boot.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in expressing Lost fandom?
Planting myself in front of a computer for so many hundreds of hours to document, speculate, and dissect the show.
NEXT PAGE: More with Doc Arzt
QUESTIONS FOR A SUPER-FAN: DOC ARZT (cont.)
DOC JENSEN: How have you been spending your hiatus?
DOC ARZT:I’ve been mostly re-watching the earlier seasons and catching up on reading some of the books from the Lost book club on abc.com. I’ve also spent some time watching some old favorites like The Prisoner, Nowhere Man, and Twin Peaks.
Are you PRO time line reboot or ANTI time line reboot?
I am PRO time line reboot because I cannot imagine what the writers would do with that scenario, yet I trust they would do something great. So that possibility offers more of what we’ve come to expect from Lost — the unexpected.
In 25 words or less: Explain the true significance of Jacob and Man In Black.
Aside from their history and their connection with the Island, Jacob and Man In Black represent the sides to be chosen in Lost‘s final game.
In 25 words or less, answer this question: What is Lost?
When some distant descendent of Bulfinch sits down to document the mythology of our generation, Lost will be our Iliad. It is a sprawling myth. [Doc Arzt speaks of Thomas Bulfinch, noted 19th century scholar specializing in history and mythology.]
What will you miss most about Lost when it wraps up next May?
The tidal wave of creativity that crashes through the fandom after every episode. We all like to bicker about whether or ideas are right or wrong, but I’m always blown away by some of the accidental storytelling that takes place while fans are trying to suss out Lost‘s mysteries. Hopefully all the theorists are keeping track of ideas that turned out to be wrong, so they can write them into their own brand-new mythologies.
Wait! Does Doc mean to suggest that there might be a market for a six-season TV saga built around my much-beloved though totally debunked The Others Are Animal-Human Hybrids Theory?!
Doc Arzt may find the prospect of a Lost time line reboot to be capture-the-imagination cool, but there are others for whom the thought makes them want to lock themselves up in their homemade hatches and Radzisnky themselves in despair. (A little season 2 reference for you there.) One of these prematurely distraught fans is John David Bibb. He writes:
I have a tradition that I’ve kept every year since the hiatus between Lost‘s first and second season: I rewatch all the previous seasons on DVD before the next season airs. Every time I rewatch the past seasons, I’m obviously watching with more knowledge of the larger story. Things make more sense, certain things stand out. But here’s the problem/question that I’m bumping up against in re-watching this time: Does any of this matter? The biggest concern I have is that [Juliet’s attempt at rebooting time by detonating Jughead] will nullify all the emotion we the viewers spent during the previous five seasons. Who wasn’t just emotionally wiped out when Charlie sacrificed himself for Desmond and the others? Now Charlie will be back to his junkie self landing in Los Angeles. Who didn’t think Sawyer’s character arc wasn’t fascinating and satisfying — this piece of scum, who turned into the person everyone was rooting for as he and Juliet seemed to have an idyllic life together? Now he’ll be back to his conning, snarky self in Los Angeles. It seems to me that everything we’ve invested in will be wiped away. As for Claire, what was the point of her disappearance and hanging out at the cabin with Christian? We never found out what really happened, and whatever did happen won’t matter, anyway, because the reboot will have wiped it all out. I love this show (probably a little too much) and I’ve always said that I’m along for the ride no matter what happens. But the more I’m re-watching previous seasons based on the knowledge of what’s to come, it does put a pit of worry in my stomach.
NEXT PAGE: Dealing with reboot anxiety
READER MAIL! (cont.)
Dear Mr. Bibb, and to anyone else dreading a Jughead reboot,
First of all: ”Piece of scum” is pretty genius. I hereby adopt a new nickname for pre-Island Sawyer: ScumPiece.
Second: The fact that so many fans are sweating reboot anxiety speaks to perhaps Lost‘s biggest accomplishment last season. Usually by the time a show gets to its fifth season, we know the drill. Yeah, there’ll be a cliffhanger — and yeah, we know most everyone will make it out alive. Lost 5.0 had the added challenge of being the penultimate chapter of the Lost saga; we all watched, knowing that we were still a year away from The Stuff That Really Matters. But the function of a penultimate chapter is to ramp up the peril, bring the story to crisis, and make us fret for the survival of the characters. Reboot Anxiety = Mission Accomplished. If you’re approaching season 6 wondering if our castaway heroes’ oddball odyssey has all been for naught, that their tortured trek toward change and redemption (or not change and damnation) is about to go up in smoke — well, that kinda means that season 5 kinda did what it was it was supposed to do, right?
Third: As I mentioned earlier, the producers of Lost went to Comic-Con and teased fans with a series of short videos that included subtle inconsistencies with the Lost saga. A mock commercial for Oceanic Airlines touted the company’s unblemished safety record. But such a commercial would make no sense in a Lost world where Oceanic 815 went missing in 2004. In another video — a clip from America’s Most Wanted — we learned that Kate was wanted for killing a guy named Ryan Milner, who worked for her skuzzy father/presumed stepfather. But that makes no sense in a Lost world where Kate was wanted for actually killing her father/presumed stepfather. Did the producers screen these videos to tease the reveal that yes, season 6 will take place in a Jughead-rebooted alternate world? Possibly. But I also think they could have been impishly poking at reboot anxiety — and at the same time, assuaging it. The message: We know you’re sweating this — and we want you to know that we know you’re sweating this.
Bottom line: For all y’all wracked with Jughead dread, I offer my Dr. Strangelove solution: embrace it. Put on you cowboy hat, saddle up on that bomb’s frightening belly, and ride that scary thing all the way down to the ground with yowling Yahooo! in your heart. Okay, maybe evoking the image of thermonuclear annihilation isn’t the most comforting allusion for the last season of Lost. But I hope you get my point. Stop worrying. Learn to love the Jughead reboot angst. And have a little faith that the producers will keep faith with their creation — and with your investment in it. Yeah, it sounds a little Pollyanna, but life is more fun when lived with hope. Besides, as my wife likes to remind me: it’s just a TV show. And who knows? Maybe she’s actually right.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with a deep dive into Jacob/Man In Black theory, plus some other nifty stuff. I’m looking forward to our final foray into Lost land and the crazy discoveries waiting to be found along the way. Until then, I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.
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