Far be it for me to let a little “Lost” controversy slip by into the ether of the interwebs without making a comment or two. Or four. Or eight. Or…you know what? Not gonna do it. Not gonna repeat all The Numbers. That was cute pre-“The End”, but now seems something more appropriate for John Nash or the lead in “Rubicon.” No, I’m gonna talk a little about the leaked version of “The New Man in Charge” that popped up to absolutely no one’s surprise before the release of the Season 6 DVD set. If you were surprised, well, I have a few bridges I’d like to sell you.
I’m not here to talk about the merits of leaked footage of this 12-minute bonus feature that shows glimpses of, among other things, what happened during Hurley’s time as Island Protector. Leaked footage is never a GOOD thing, but at times it’s an indifferent thing. It’s all a matter of taste. Leaked Justin Bieber songs really don’t bother me either way, in that I pretend he doesn’t exist. If you’re an ABC executive, you might be upset someone will watch this and not buy the DVD set. It’s probably not a valid concern, but I can see their point. But again: I don’t care so much about that aspect of the leak as the assertion by some that what this leak constitutes is a spoiler.
The only people for whom this might be a spoiler are for someone that has not watched every episode of “Lost.” That’s it. Finito. You literally cannot spoil a show that’s over to someone that has seen the whole thing. It’s impossible. “Lost,” as a show, started on September 22, 2004, and ended on May 23, 2010. The freakin’ episode title was “The End,” people. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse repeatedly and vociferously told reporters and fans that the show consisted of the episodes themselves, not ancillary (albeit officially) released mobisodes/extra footage. I’m not saying that I enjoyed that explanation (especially since it came years after all the ARGs that led us down a rabbit hole of what was essentially high-production fanfic), but I swallowed it and moved on, praying for a quick mental bowel movement to relieve the pain.
But let’s look at this extra for what it is: an extra, nothing more, nothing less. I’m excited to see it, sure. But I’m excited because I’d like to see a little more Hurley. A little more Ben. A little bit more of whatever beloved characters that may show up from a show I enjoyed for six seasons. I am NOT excited because I am going to finally get a few answers that the show never bothered to getting around to answering while the show actually aired. If they mattered, they would have been in the show. And if the finale showed us ANYTHING, it’s that looking for those types of answers was the wrong way to watch the show in the freakin’ first place.
I loved “The End,” even while it pretty much invalidated a good chunk of the way in which I watched, processed, and analyzed the show up until the final fifteen minutes. I saw the show as 50% character, 50% mystery. And while I weighed them equally, I think putting “character” first in my mind helped ease me into an understanding that I should have probably had about an 80%/20% approach the entire time. Now, is it my fault that I had the imbalance so wrong? Not really.Especially as the show went apeshit bonkers into sci-fi in Seasons 4 and 5, it invited us to think about the events of the survivors of Oceanic 815 as the central point in a mythology spanning thousands of years and indeed the very fate of humanity itself. But the show showed itself less concerned about fate and much more about humanity. It wasn’t about answering questions on a mythical, mystical scale so much as trying to weed past the unimportant queries. Much as Jack tries to weed past the bamboo poles on the way to his final resting place, the characters of “Lost,” and in some respects we the viewing audience, had to weed past what amounted to trivia contained in the world of “Lost” and get to the most important mystery of all: “Why are we here?”
The fact that Darlton even attempted to give an answer to that question blows my mind. They didn’t try to definitively answer it, but they certainly offered up a perspective. Maybe you didn’t like their specific version of the answer. Maybe it’s too utopian. Maybe it avoided questions you thought were more pressing. Maybe you think the answer retroactively made you realize the sideways world was more trickery than actually narrative. Maybe you think it’s a cop out of all cop outs. But you can’t say they didn’t answer this particular philosophical question.
By landing the show where it did in the sideways world, it essentially asks us to lay our own burdens down, in addition to those carried by the characters into the afterlife. The sideways world was created through some sort of psychic kinship to ensure that we don’t kill ourselves wondering where the hell those pallet drops came from. Sometimes, we die not knowing things. And maybe you think that sort of thing is fine for real life but not scripted drama, but I am pretty much OK with scripted drama reflecting back something that seems true, even if it’s not always to my liking. Because Lord knows real life is not always to my liking.
So, awesome, “The New Man in Charge” is canon. Doesn’t mean it was part of the show. There’s a difference there, and maybe we’re just on the tipping point of trying to give up assigning strict categorization of what truly entails a piece of a “television show,” a phrase already dangerously anachronistic. If you watched every episode on iTunes or Hulu, is it technically a television show? If you only consumed it on DVD, is it really still a television show? Let’s just stick with “long-form scripted programming” for now, which isn’t very sexy but I suppose gets the job done now for our intents and purposes. “New Man” is canon: does that mean we should care about its content?
Like I said: I’ll watch it because I love “Lost,” and while I shuddered at the idea of an extra 12 minutes that detailed events that happened after Jack died on the Island, I’m more amenable to it now. Excited, even. But I’m not excited for anything more than being able to see the last bit of the show for the first time (for the last time). This is my last shot at not knowing the next thing that’s going to happen. But will I watch it to scratch some burning question itch? Heck no. That itch stopped irritating me once Jack’s eye closed. The show instructed me that wondering about the origins of the statue was the wrong way to go about things. I was OK with that answer, even though it meant years of theorizing on various blogs were out the door.
In this week’s issue of “Entertainment Weekly,” Lindelof tells Jeff Jensen that he and Cuse would have been worse off in terms of fans’ overall reaction to “Lost” had they never spoken in public. But I’m pretty sure he’s wrong. I don’t blame them for talking and teasing in the media: it’s all part of the game, a game both sides play and in which both sides have equal blame. But I have a sneaking suspicion that someone that will watch “Lost” start to finish in the future, without reading anything its creators ever said about it, will have a different sense of what is and what is not actually important about the show. And I have a further suspicion that that viewer will have a much clearer sense of what the show’s creators deemed important than anyone that actually listened to them during the run of the show.
I sympathize with the position Darlton was in, since I myself wrote about the show four times a week for nearly three years. No way could I have done that had I focused on the characters and the characters alone. But trying to apply coy phrases said in interviews or podcasts by Darlton into my overall theory of the show is something I stopped doing about halfway through the show’s run. Intentional misdirection was part of the game, and shame on people that felt betrayed because something promised outside of the show didn’t actually happen inside of it. Cry me a river. A river that hopefully doesn’t lead to a glowing cave that contains the light that exists in all of us.
So track down “The New Man in Charge” before the DVD arrives, if you’re absolutely dying to do so. You’re the type of fan that couldn’t resist learning about things before they officially dropped before today, and there’s no sense changing your stripes now. But please, let’s stop with the “spoiler” nonsense. The show ended in May. This is a nice little treat, which might exist in the same universe as “Lost,” but not in the same story as it. We’ve already seen the end of that story. Maybe it didn’t end the way you wanted to, but it ended all the same. Anything else isn’t progress…it’s just a little unnecessary for this “Lost” fan.
But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take on “The New Man in Charge”? How do you plan on incorporating it into your overall view of “Lost”?