Damn. That was a good episode. I don’t think any actors in the cast will be getting drunk driving tickets anymore, what do you think?
What makes this show tick? What makes it run? Let’s lift up the hood and take a look. Last night’s episode is a good place to start.
Most network dramas have multiple storylines in each episode. In TV industry parlance these are often referred to as the A-story, B-story, C-story and so on. Very complex shows sometimes run up to 5-7 storylines a show, but typically this will involve only a scene or two each episode to remind the viewer of a plot thread over many episodes–a good example of this is the church which Mr. Eko seems to be building bit by bit.
Once you understand this some shows that seem really complex seem less complicated. 24, for example, typically has an A, B, C, and D storyline. In the first two seasons at least, it rotated between Jack, Kim, Pres. Palmer (or the White House) and CTU.
Last night LOST had an A-story, Ana Lucia’s search for revenge, a B-story, Michael’s return, a C-story, Ana Lucia’s trip to Australia, and a D-Story, Hurley’s attempt at a date with Libby. Don’t let the letters fool you, they don’t necessarily mean that one story line is better or more important than the others. Four storylines is a bit of an exception for LOST.
Your typical episode of LOST usually has only three storylines, an A story that typically takes place on the island in the present, a B story that typically takes place in the past, and a C story that typically takes place on the island, but is often a source of comic relief, or at least involves lower stakes. Hurley shows up in these stories a lot. Recently, for example, Jack played poker with Sawyer, in one episode Sun lost her wedding ring, they made their own golf course once, etc.
What makes LOST really work, and really innovative, in my opinion, is that B story–the one that takes place in the past. As I said earlier, just because it’s a B story does not necessarily mean it’s less dramatic, or considered less important by the writers, the letter designation is primarily arbitrary. Generally, screenwriters are wary of flashbacks because they don’t move the story forward. However, from its inception the LOST writers made the brilliant choice of having an entire storyline each episode take place in the past. In this way the flashback storyline must move forward, and it doesn’t detract from the story in the present, in the strongest episodes it enhances that story and gives it more relevance. “What Kate Did” was a great example of this. Plus, the freedom of getting off the island makes the setting feel less claustrophobic to viewers.
Much of what makes LOST original and ground-breaking is the way it compells viewer interest into the future and the past of these characters simultaneously. It has multi-directional storylines stretching back in time and forward in time simultaneously. As a result we’re at least as curious to know how John ended up in that wheelchair as we are to know where Walt is. It’s pretty ingenious.
I’m not sure how interesting any of this is to anyone, so feel free to comment on last night’s episode instead.
I’ll tell you this: I am the President of the Henry Gale fan club. What a great villain (and a great actor)! Marvel at how he mixes the truth with the lies, just like Satan. Look at all the trouble he’s caused with only his mind. He makes Hannibal Lecter look like a girl scout.
Hmmm…I’m now wondering if he might not be the brilliant but merciless leader he was talking about.