I’m in the middle of watching my personal Favorites before the Finale on Sunday May 23rd. Isn’t it great that Netflix has season 1 – 5 streaming in what my TV seems to think is HD?

Anyway, here is my viewing Schedule:

I’ve Already Watched:

5-18-10 – The Pilot Episode, and Walkabout – I watched the Pilot just because I always felt that The first shot is potentially the most important moment in all of the mythos, and Walkabout, because the way it unfolds to the BIG reveal at the end is some of the best TV storytelling I’ve ever witnessed. Also, the last shot of Locke on the beach is a little unnerving now that we are at the end. His smile is a little too sly. Is he Smokey at this point?…… nahhh. That would be cheating.

5-19-10 – Live Together Die Alone Parts 1 and 2 (Season 2 Finale) – Because I wanted to watch the fail-safe protocols again, and boy did I get more than I bargained for. These two episodes are SOOOO important to what we are watching right now in the homestretch.

I Will Watch:

5-20-10 – The Man From Tallahassee – Because I love how Locke’s tragic flashback storyline culminates in this episode. ( Season 3 Ep. 13) and

The Man Behind The Curtain (Season 3 Ep. 20) to get some quality Ben Linus time.

Through The Looking Glass Part 1 -2 (Season 3 Finale) Because “You All Everybody”

5-21-10 – The Constant (Season 4 Ep. 5) – Because Desmond and Penny will be all right Damn it! and …

The Shape of Things to Come (Season 4 Ep. 9) Because Ben is a bad-ass.

There’s No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3 (Season 4 Finale) Because the end gets me a little bit choked up. They are all so flawed and broken even though they escaped. Brilliant TV.

5-22-10 He’s Our You (Season 5 Ep. 10) Because of this line “A 12-Year-Old Ben Linus Brought Me a Chicken Salad Sandwich. How Do You Think I’m Doing?”

Some Like it Hoth (Season 5 Ep. 13) Because Miles has a really cool back story and Hurley’s Empire Strikes Back scheme.

Then “The End” on May 23rd

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In two parts, lets look at how both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost were able to consistently raise the stakes for their characters, storyline, and viewers over the course of their respective TV runs.

Buffy: Raising the Stakes

WARNING: IF YOU’VE NEVER WATCHED BUFFY, I PRETTY MUCH GIVE IT ALL AWAY.

One of the most challenging hurdles that a television show faces in this day and age is stagnation. As audiences become more intelligent, more tech savvy, and are editing their own you-tube videos, the magic of actually making TV is leaking to the masses. The only thing that can keeps viewers coming back week after week, month after month, and season after season, is by presenting stories that are so well conceived, performed, and executed, that we NEED to come back next week to see what happens. TV needs to evolve. The laws of evolution state that when faced with a shift in environment you have three options, Leave, Change, or Die. Good TV should apply that mentality as they change their fictional landscapes. Characters and stories should evolve.

Any story, be it fiction, non-fiction, long form, short form, or, well, even a joke, follows a commonly known ‘story arc’ structure. You, as the writer begin with the exposition portion, where characters, locations, and necessary info is introduced and more or less spoon-fed to the audience. Through interactions, actions and situations the primary conflict is introduced. Something must be accomplished or overcome by the main character(s). At the climax/ apex of your arc, it is good to pull together the plot threads that you have running as the characters face their obstacles. Then there is the falling action, or back end of the arc, as the resolution and consequences become apparent. Not all stories have a clear resolution, also called the denouement, though. Some leave it open to interpretation for the audience. And, some audiences don’t sit well with ‘the true meaning’ being shoved down their throats.

(I couldn’t find the Denouement conversation from Adaptation, but this is a wonderful moment to watch as a writer)

In TV, application of the story arc gets complicated. Every episode needs its clear beginning, middle, end, conflict, climax, falling action, and possibly denouement. In addition, a show like Buffy has another larger arc, which spans the entire season of 18 to 20 or so episodes. And, because of continuity junkies like myself, creators feel compelled to tie things up by looking at an entire series as an arc, and bring their opus to a clear end when the time comes and the curtain falls.

So, how does this relate to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and more importantly how does this relate to Lost which is currently reaching its season climax, but is also in the series denouement? Easy. Buffy was a show that was in constant danger of being cancelled. Even though it was an underground sensation, the studios didn’t know what to do with it. As a result Joss Whedon, creator of BTVS, was constantly prepared to end the show at each consecutive season finale. This created a wonderful precedent in television. The stakes were raised at the finale to such a degree that, when asked to give Fox another Season I’m rather certain Joss must have scratched his head and wondered “Where do we go from here?….”

In order to not stagnate, and offer a conflict that was equal in horribleness to the prior season, it became necessary to raise the stakes to a near ludicrous level so he could go out on a high note. Although, it wasn’t ever really ludicrous because of the laws set forth by the ‘Buffy Universe.’

Buffy’s Season 1 Finale, Prophecy Girl: There was a clear plan here. The story arc built to this episode where a prophecy stated that the Slayer would die so that the Master, an ancient Vampire living under Sunnydale, could rise again. Buffy’s friends were keeping this information from her for her own good. People were planning to go fight in her stead, until…. In a very Three’s Company moment, she overheard them talking about it. She goes through normal reactions a sixteen-year-old girl would until deciding to go and face the big evil vampire. She faces him, and dies, rather quickly. But, she doesn’t die bloody in a violent fight. It all happens rather pathetically. He bites her and drops her unconscious and face down in a small pool of water. Buffy drowns.

Prophecy Girl - Season One Finale

Minutes later, her friends revive her using CPR. I guess millennia-old prophecies don’t consider modern medical techniques. Then, yadda yadda yadda, Buffy saves the day.

That finale would have been a satisfactory end. The Master was supposed to end the world, and Buffy stopped him. It would have been a very western-like way to end it. The hero walks off to fight again.

The second season had its work cut out for it. Of course the world needed saving again. This time it was the nature of the villain that upped the stakes. The world ending baddie was Buffy’s vampire ex-boyfriend Angel, who goes by the name Angelus when evil. Buffy, stood up to the man that she still loves, saves the world, and at the moment when all of the plot threads collide, Angel reverts back to being a good guy… But it’s just too darn late. Buffy needs to kill him in order to save the world. She does the bloody deed, and sneaks out the back door, avoiding any discussion or denouement.

Season three culminates at Buffy’s High School Graduation. The Mayor is the big evil this time (Joss have a problem with local politics?). He plans to achieve ascension, which means that he will become pure demon. Pure demon is ominously described by the character Anya in the finale.

“All the demons that walk the Earth, are tainted, are human hybrids, like vampires. The Ascension means that a human becomes pure demon. They’re different.”

“Different?”

“Well, for one thing, they’re bigger.”

To make matters worse, the ascension is scheduled to occur at graduation and the mayor is the commencement speaker. As you imagine, Buffy and the gang survive, save the day, and beat the baddie. They survive High School and Evil and demons.

Season four is a bit of a toss away. It creates a ‘who can you trust’ problem for Buffy, as the US government gets into the demon hunting and dissecting business.

Season five introduces Glory, an actual goddess from a higher dimension. She is slumming it in our universe looking for the ‘key.’ She find’s it. The universe gets re-written and Buffy’s spontaneously created sister, Dawn, is revealed to be a hide-a-key in human form. This finale ups the stakes as much as you really can. Buffy sacrifices herself to close a door between dimensions. She dies. You think she’s going to wake up, and she doesn’t. It ends with her friends crowded around her lifeless body as they cry.

Dead is DEAD

Dead is Dead, unless you are Buffy Summers

So where do you go from there? Really? Joss was asked if he has one more in him.

“Buffy is dead.”

“Well, you have to fix that, right?”

Her friends resurrect her with a spell. When Buffy returns something is different. She is distant and detached from her friends. It is revealed, in one of the best hours ever of television, (“Once More With Feeling” the musical episode) that Buffy was not rescued from a hell dimension at all. She was ripped from what she described as pure bliss. She thinks she was in heaven. Even after all of the violence, she was in heaven. As Buffy comes to terms with her reincarnation, this season raises the stakes so far as the brutality it depicts. A would-be super villain utilizes something rarely seen on this show, a gun. He kills one of the Buffy gang, which sets off a series of events leading to Willow, Buffy’s best friend who just happens to be a powerful witch in training, going completely nuts and attempting to end the world. Again…. But this time it is her friend.

Season Seven: The Final Season – Buffy faces an evil, that is in fact THE evil. He/She/it refers to itself at “The first.” The first true evil. It is the inspiration for all that is bad in the world. Buffy has always fought her enemies one way, with her fists. How do you hit something this big, both metaphysically and physically? She raises a slayer army. She recruits for the big showdown.

Slayer Army Stand at the ready to kick Vampire ass!

They win of course. Some of her friends die. Some escape. In the end, the status is not quo. Buffy has become something more. She is now a warrior teacher that has the remnants of a slayer army looking to her for guidance. She is no longer a cog in a machine; she is now controlling the machine.

The universe in which Buffy takes place allowed this story to take place. These conflicts and finales could not have taken place in the Law and Order universe of NBC. Many shows are generally afraid of change. Studio execs like when they discover a formula, and they like to stick to it. The majority of half-hour comedies return to status quo by the end of an episode. Buffy defied status quo, as does Lost.

A quick series of coincidental similarities between the villain of BTVS Season 7, The First, and MIB/ Flocke:

  1. Both are really old. The First is, if you believe it, the origin of evil, soooo I guess it was there pretty much at the beginning. MIB is old. We’re not quite sure how old yet, but old.
  2. Both have the ability to shape shift, and they use that to their manipulative advantage to mess with their opponents’ minds.
  3. They both seem to be able to travel pretty much at the speed of thought.
  4. They are both trapped, and they want out so they can play with the world again.

That is it for now. Tribeca Film Fest is this week! I saw Zonad last night. It is the next film by the folks that did Once. It was really funny. Check it out if you get the chance. Also, Tribeca Film Fest Films are available On Demand on a lot of cable systems this week, and one of the films, Timer, stars Buffy alum Emma Caulfield.

Look for Part 2 Tuesday as we examine at how Lost consistently raised the stakes!

Lost is a remake of Time Bandits!

I am joking—

No, I’m not.

It is a remake.  It is.

No it isn’t— Is it?

The  parallels are crazy!!  I have loved this film since I was a child, and am still in awe of the respect that Terry Gilliam shows to his audience, particularly children, as they are left to interpret such a wonderful adventure.  There are so many subtle clues in this film that allow you to watch and re-watch and constantly discover more amazing things with each viewing.

So, lets break it down into a few categories and compare Time Bandits to Lost.

Hints/ Foreshadowing:

I’d like to start with one of the first scenes in the film.  Kevin was sent to his room for bed.  Suddenly his wardrobe explodes revealing a fully armored Medieval Knight on horseback who, shocked by the small confines of Kevin’s bedroom, attacks the ceiling hanging lamp, probably assuming it is composed of hellfire.  The knight and horse jump across Kevin’s bed and gallop off into a forest that has spontaneously appeared.  A terrified Kevin pulls his blanket over his head.  After a breath, Kevin peeks out to find himself back in his bedroom.  The forest is gone.  Knight’s gone too.  His wardrobe is repaired and there is no evidence that any of this ever occurred.

"Way to go Kevin! You broke the universe. Let me introduce you to this guy named Jack. He broke the universe once too."

Kevin jumps out of bed to inspect the wall where a forest stood a moment ago.  On the wall are all of Kevin’s dreams and aspirations in the form of photos, drawings, maps, etc.  There is a photo of a rocket, a cowboy, Robin Hood, an Ancient Spartan-like warrior, Napoleon, a map of Italy.  Strewn about on his floor are robot toys, legos, etc.  On a dresser stands a Punch and Judy style puppet stage.

Every single item on the wall, the floor, the dressers, and shelves plays a vital role in the story.  Kevin and the Bandits meet Napoleon in Italy.  They attend a King’s banquet in an Ancient city with a warrior-king.  They band with cowboys to fight evil.

Kevin's own Swan Blast Door?....

The attention to detail was the first thing that made me say “Heyyyyyyy—  I’m feeling a blog coming on.”

So, I started thinking about ‘course correction’ which is a constant issue in Lost.  The universe in Lost, in an almost sentient manner, knows that is has to get from Point A to Z, and in order for that to happen B through Y must occur.  When Charlie didn’t die when and where he was supposed to, the universe itself attempted time and time again to expel Charlie from its cosmic fold.  That is course correction in Lost.  It is comparable to a ship losing its bearing, and, well, correcting its course.

In Time Bandits course correction is a little more like a frustrated writer furiously erasing a poorly chosen word.  In that first scene, a Medieval Knight is not supposed to be in a British boy’s bedroom in the 1980’s.  Also, that boy does not belong in a Medieval forest.  The universe got scrambled for a moment.  Both Kevin and the knight were in both time periods simultaneously.  Kevin, understandably afraid pulled his covers over his head, and at that moment, the universe righted itself.  Instantly, the knight was deposited where he belonged, the wardrobe and lamp were repaired, and Kevin was right back in his bedroom.  Even if Kevin was looking, I doubt he could have understood what happened at that moment.

Lost leaves us to interpret the various paradoxes that occur because of the characters’ various universe shattering moments.  Time Bandits takes a different approach and explains the nature of the universe’s problems in a very quick summary eloquently delivered by the Bandits’ unanimously unelected leader Randall.

“You see, to be quite frank, Kevin, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It was a bit of botched job, you see. We only had seven days to make it. And that’s where this comes in. This is the only map of all the holes. Well, why repair them? Why not use them to get stinking rich?”

Antagonists:

Evil / Smokey Team Up! Look out Universe! (click to see full size)

In Time Bandits there was no mistaking who the bad guy is.  He is Evil.  Evil is given form, and he doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that he is evil. He can change his form at will to repel attacks or just to make a point.  Evil is trapped in a finite space and can only influence the outside world.  He seems to do this through game shows and psychically contacting weak-willed people.

So, a shape-shifting evil entity trapped in a place from which he can only slightly influence people in the outside world—  MIB/ Flocke sounds a bit like Evil, doesn’t he?

Location:

No man is an island, but an island can be a fortress of darkness.

To cross into the world/ dimension in which Evil bides its evil time, you first must cross through the “Time of Legends” which seems to be a dimension unto itself where there are orks, giants, rat people, magic, etc.  Once through the Time of Legends, when all seems completely lost (heh) at the edge of that place, you arrive at a desert.  This desert seems to go on forever, and is there to test your resolve.  Can you make it?  You just have to believe, because it is closer than you think.  The Fortress of Ultimate Darkness is hidden from the outside world, (just like a certain island) behind an invisible barrier.

Hints at a greater purpose:

The final battle scene with Evil brings the film full circle, back to Kevin’s wall, AKA his Swan Blast door.  All of his toys come to life and join the good fight.  I had to pause right there, because I had a moment of clarity…  The fortress is made of Kevin’s legos that were lying all over his bedroom?  Kevin’s knight figurines and cowboy toys are fighting for him?  Kevin is the Supreme Being!  The Supreme being took some small part of himself, and made it into a boy.  This boy then explored the universe and even a bit of an outerverse preparing to perhaps replace the supreme being?  Perhaps he is a candidate?

Consequences:

At the end of Time Bandits, Kevin asks the Supreme Being “You mean, you let all those people die just to test your creation?”  To which he replies, “Yes.  You really are a clever boy.”  What an arrogant Deity!  He should really just go hang out on the island.  He would get along well with Jacob, seeing how they think exactly alike and all.  I think I’ll arrange a play-date so they can go play with some more people!

The Bandits will be reprimanded for their actions.  The Supreme Being agrees to take them back, but on his terms:

“I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I’m too tired. So, I think I’ll transfer you to the undergrowth department, brackens, more shrubs, that sort of thing… with a 19% cut in salary, backdated to the beginning of time.”

Ben becomes a high school European history teacher.  Hmm?  They all felt some serious cuts in their salaries.

Final Thought:

The Supreme Being is a smoke monster!  But he is the good grayish type of smoke monster—  Too much of a reach?

The Supreme Being - The Good Smoke Monster of the North?

This was fun.  There are many more parallels.  People using flaws in the universe for their personal gain.  Holes in the universe being used to travel great distances, and through time.  Science versus Faith.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  If you have any other thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

I’d like to present a seemingly random chain of events and show how we can relate “The first murder” to the chemical-electric thought processes of the human brain and Daniel Faraday’s namesake:

The first murder, according to the Bible, was committed by Adam and Eve’s son Cain. The victim was his brother Abel. This was a premeditated crime brought on by avarice. Some say this was the moment that evil was let loose on the world. Logically then, Evil was a concept that mankind had not yet encountered. Up to that point man was happy with his/her close connection to god, the earth, family, etc. This was a new concept for man. It was a new thought.

Thoughts are electrochemical responses to stimuli in our brains and bodies. Another way to say it is; thoughts are energy. So, when that first murder was committed, a new energy was created or accessed for the first time by a man. In this way, one could theorize that, by thinking about evil we sort of create it. We feed it by giving it the energy of our thoughts.

You think of a wonderful thought!

Now lets go a little crazier.

I really enjoyed the whole “Cork in the bottle” analogy, and I’d like to take this whole thought is electric energy idea and add to it. Lets say for a moment that MIB/ Flocke/ Smokey is an ancient deity and embodiment of EVILLLLLL!!!!!! He is an abstract concept with sentience that has but one purpose, to do EVILLLLLLLL!!!!! He is an idea, and he got out once. He got out and let a teeny tiny part of himself loose in the world corrupting mankind forever. That small part was the idea for ‘murder.’

I bet he just wants to join the E.L.E.

So, if he is a self-aware idea, then it is safe to say that he is a pure energy being. This energy is pure and concentrated and he can/ will invade our minds and infect us, like a disease, like what is wrong with Claire and Sayid…..? Hmmm? I’m just making this up as I go along, and even I’m surprised by that revelation.

What if the actual Smokey creature, when freed from his island prison, was able to infect billions of people? What if the whole world was suddenly irreparably EVIL?!

This freight train of an idea leads straight towards a problem though. How do you trap an Evil Energy being on an island?!

“Easy” I say. You build a humongous Faraday Cage of course!

From Wikipedia:

Michael Faraday, FRS (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English chemist and physicist (or natural philosopher, in the terminology of the time) who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

And…

Faraday built two devices to produce what he called electromagnetic rotation: a continuous circular motion from the circular magnetic force around a wire and a wire extending into a pool of mercury with a magnet placed inside would rotate around the magnet if supplied with current from a chemical battery. The latter device is known as a homopolar motor. These experiments and inventions form the foundation of modern electromagnetic technology.– hmmmmm?

And the cage:

A Faraday cage, or Faraday shield, is an enclosure formed by conducting material or by a mesh of such material. Such an enclosure blocks out external static electric fields.

Also…

The metal layers are grounded to dissipate any electric currents generated from the external electromagnetic fields and thus block a large amount of the electromagnetic interference.

Faraday Cage

So, the cage would dissipate any energy that touched it to keep the items within safe from any outer energy. It stands to reason that it would keep energy ‘out’ or ‘in.’ Perhaps it could keep an evil energy creature trapped on an island?

And…

Note that the reception of external radio signals, a form of electromagnetic radiation, through an antenna within a cage can be severely reduced or even totally blocked by the cage itself. – Like the French transmission being kept from transmitting off the island.

So I’ll sum up. If the island is a Faraday Cage containing a murderous sentient Idea in an eternal prison so it can’t infect the human race with pure evil, then maybe I’m onto something here.

My brain is tired.

Let me know if any of this makes any sense. I think I went a little mad with this one.

Some thoughts about “Ab Aeterno.”

Sitting around a fire was a perfect setting for a good old ghost story involving a loved one’s death, a murder, a shipwreck, the personification of evil tempting you to murder the personification of good, and a tragic wish.

The transition from Richard trudging through the darkness of the jungle to his 1860’s feverish full gallop perfectly set the tone for the episode and let us, the audience, know that we were in for some amazing wide-screen spectacular television.

We always new there was something special about Richard. He has been a mediator, a supervisor, a messenger, and some would even say he is the “word of god”, or at least the god of the island, Jacob. He was one of the Others-in-charge that we saw back in the mainland, cryptically looking for recruits to bring back to the island. He tested children by offering them a knife or a compass forty some odd years ago. He seems to appear at will from the island’s secret embrace. Even with all of these amazing feats, Richard always seems oddly human with all his foibles, failings, and concerns. He’s just been this guy that ages really well and has a fondness for eyeliner. This episode gave Richard something that he desperately needed, a depth of character and motivation.

Richard, then known as Ricardo, spent his life attempting to rise above his social station, which is that of a farmer/ laborer. He was teaching himself English in hopes of traveling to the new world with his wife. A moment of passion later, and Ricardo is a murderer and soon a widower. Faced with death by hanging, he begs a Padre for penance. The Padre informs him that he should prepare to meet with the devil. Fate (or Jacob) has other plans though. Richard is pulled by Jacob’s invisible hand of fate to the island to act as a pawn in a cosmic game to prove a point about mankind.

After encountering both sides controlling this cosmic board game, he is offered the chance to get ‘anything in the world.” Since, his first two choices (reuniting with his wife and absolution for his sins) were not in the cards, Ricardo’s third choice was a tragic impetuous option, “Then I do not want to die.” This poor shattered man would live forever, because a small minded Padre told him to prepare to meet the devil.

This episode was able to convincingly and organically transform Richard, one of the Island’s most enigmatic MacGuffins, into one of the most richly colorful characters.

Quick sidebar:

Hugo seems to be getting some terrific on-the-job training. He has embraced his position as an intermediary between the living and the dead. Does this make him the most viable candidate to replace Jabob as the protector of the cork that is the island? No. In my opinion it qualifies him to replace Richard as the mouthpiece of the protector. Richard has earned his peace many many times over, and I hope he gets it. Unfortunately that means he’ll have to die.

Speaking of Sidebars, what happened to the Sideways universe in Ab Aeterno? I suppose we saw it, because the past of both universes is the same, so Richard would have the same story in either universe.

Hope to get a “Lil’ Ben” out tomorrow!

Enjoy Episode 10, “The Package” tomorrow!