TV Club

Season 6: Enough With the Dural Sacs

Desmond from Lost. Click image to expand.

Jack, Chad: It turns out we don’t need to watch the final few episodes of Lost to discover what happens when the smoke monster escapes from the island. We now know for sure. His ashy, silicate particles will hover in the atmosphere and— posing a threat to jet engine turbines —shut down airline service around the world. This will wreak havoc on the global economy. A truly nightmarish scenario! No wonder Jacob was so concerned!

So, what did we learn this week?

- We learned that when Dr. Jack saw his dad on the island, he was really seeing Smokey. This surely eases a lot of the festering father-son tensions that had no doubt clouded Jack’s mind. And, whaddaya know, suddenly Jack’s relationship with his son in Los Angeles is all smiles and easygoing banter.

- We learned that Lost’s writers ceased their research on spinal surgery right after they learned the term “dural sac.” My goodness, there’s a lot of shredded dural sacs going around. What, Jack never has to operate on a conus medullaris or cauda equina? It’s all dural sacs, all the time?

- We learned that the key to combating Smokey is not letting him speak. Once he speaks to you, according to Claire, “Whether you like it or not, you’re with him.” We saw this notion suggested earlier, when Sayid was instructed to stab Smokey before the monster could squeeze in any small talk. Does this focus on verbal matters relate to the fact that Sun claims she was rendered mute by Smokey? I have no clue. But the moral of the story seems to be: Shoot first, ask questions later.

- We learned that Liz Lemon—sorry, Zoe—has the power to call in artillery strikes. This would seemingly obviate the need to be within speaking distance of Smokey before killing him. Couldn’t they have launched those strikes before Smokey got his hands on Desmond, thereby saving themselves a whole lot of trouble? Or can Smokey be killed only with a giant dagger?

- We learned that a gorgeous, 60-foot yacht (stocked with canned food, no less) has been lying at anchor a few yards off the beach this entire time. Perhaps you remembered the yacht was there, but I’d somehow lost track of this important fact. I realize that Desmond failed to escape the island’s orbit when he took off on the yacht. But, come on—Sawyer (who clearly knows how to sail) wouldn’t even try to catch a gust and make a run for Fiji? After all his talk about how badly he wants off the island, I think he’d at least give it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen?

- We learned that Sawyer agrees with me: “Sayid’s a zombie,” he says with conviction. But it’s unclear what exactly this means. Sayid appears to have free will—otherwise Smokey wouldn’t bother to ask whether Sayid had gone through with killing Desmond.

- We learned that Evangeline Lilly’s hair looks only marginally more styled in her ad for L’Oreal EverStrong shampoo than it does in her scenes for this show. These castaways sure do maintain their hygiene!

- We learned that one mystery the show is teasing us with is the identity of Jack’s mainland baby mama. We’ve seen Jack visit her house and talk to her on the phone, but we still don’t know who she is. Place your bets in the comments—my money’s on Juliet, who’s been conspicuously absent from the mainland storyline (though conspicuously present on the ABC show that follows Lost’s timeslot).

- We learned that Sun’s temporary muteness got cured when she was reunited with Jin. Why? I have no idea. There seem to be brand-new metaphysical island rules invented every week, and I can’t manage to keep them straight anymore.

When tonight’s show ended, a friend sent me an e-mail suggesting I check out footnote 59 from David Foster Wallace’s essay about the director David Lynch. DFW was assessing the second (far worse than the first) season of Lynch’s show Twin Peaks, but I think his words might just as easily apply to the later seasons of Lost:

Like most storytellers who use mystery as a structural device and not a thematic device, Lynch is way better at deepening and complicating mysteries than he is at wrapping them up. And the series’ second season showed that he was aware of this and that it was making him really nervous. By its thirtieth episode, the show had degenerated into tics and shticks and mannerisms and red herrings, and part of the explanation for this was that Lynch was trying to divert our attention from the fact that he really had no idea how to wrap the central murder case up.

Food for thought. What do you think, Shafer? Has Lost fallen victim to its reliance on mystery as a structural device? When the pleasure of a show lies almost entirely in its puzzles, a denouement that promises answers will likely bring nothing but disappointment.

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