Posted by Dan February 10th, 2009 at 11:28am In Lost
I hate time travel.
Not that I’ve really done it myself (unless you count my trips to visit my extended family in small midwestern towns — which is basically like stepping back into the fifties). But on the large and small screen, I find that time travel is often one the most confusing, ridiculous and uninteresting ways to structure a story. Which is why I’m so disappointed that Lost has so heavily incorporated it into this season and, if you ask me (which you didn’t), completely lost its footing. Especially after it unexpectedly got awesome again last season.
I am, admittedly, one episode behind, but I find this whole conceit that the castaways are ping ponging through time a bit tedious. The time travel aspect has added so many layers of possibility to an already-dauntingly detailed story — it makes me less interested in keeping up with what’s going on on the show. It’s like the latter seasons of The X-Files, when everything got so mixed up with government conspiracy that I finally stopped caring what was happening. And then I gave up.
I think there are two reasons I hate time travel stories.
First, they sacrifice story for flash. It’s a dramatic, but hollow, construct that muddles character development. If the Lost story progressed in a linear way, not only would the story make a hell of a lot more sense, but we’d get to see the characters develop naturally. But now the characters are constantly reeling from the shifts in time and hardly have time to regain their orientation to their surroundings before they’re thrown into another crazy situation.
But the second, more important, reason is that time travel stories inevitably invite the viewer to poke holes in the story. In the end, it’s all about suspension of disbelief — and a special kind of suspension at that. You’re not trying to overlook how unlikely a situation is, you’re trying to overlook the glaring inconsistencies and questions about why things went down the way they did.
Let me explain. Remember that movie Speed with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? Specifically, the scene where they have to make the bus jump the gap in an incomplete bridge? They did it, flawlessly of course, and even chubby, sweatpantted, 14-year-old Dan knew how ridiculous it was. But, at the same time, it was an action movie with Keanu effing Reeves and even though I didn’t really know it at the time, I was willing to forgive them in the name of fantasy.
With time-travel, though, it’s a different kind of suspension of disbelief. You’re basically forced to overlook all of the reasons why certain things wouldn’t make sense. These stories (which have played out in Heroes, Sarah Connor, etc.) always invite people to ask “If this happened, then wouldn’t that have happened.”
At this point, I’m worried that there’s no turning back for Lost and that everything’s grown too sprawling and grandiose. But I’ll still watch. Hell, I’ve sunk enough time into the show — may as well ride it out.