Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LOST Thoughts: Everything, Really

So over on DarkUFO someon claiming to be working at Bad Robot posted this. We probably can't say whether or not his claim is true, but what he has to say is certainly intriguing.

Good stuff on here! I can finally throw in my two cents! I’ve had to bite my tongue for far too long. Also, hopefully I can answer some of John’s questions about Dharma and the “pointless breadcrumbs” that really, weren’t so pointless …

First …
The Island:

It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people’s heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a “Protector”. Jacob wasn’t the first, Hurley won’t be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him — even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob’s plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn’t do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn’t take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma — which I’m not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interferred by “corrupting” Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben’s “off-island” activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the “Others” killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that’s what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn’t do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB’s corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Canditates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That’s a question that is purposley not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still … Dharma’s purpose is not “pointless” or even vague. Hell, it’s pretty blantent.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his “candidates” (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of “candidates” through the decades and letting them “choose” which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn’t. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector — I know that’s how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won’t answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he’d always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we’ll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on …


Sideways World:

Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least — because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer’s room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we’re all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it’s not exactly the best word). But these people we’re linked to are with us duing “the most important moments of our lives” as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It’s loosely based in Hinduisim with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this “sideways” world where they exist in purgatory until they are “awakened” and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show’s concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own “Sideways” purgatory with their “soulmates” throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That’s a beautiful notion. Even if you aren’t religious or even spirtual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It’s a really cool and spirtual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events — not JUST because of Jacob. But because that’s what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith — and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that’s THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosiac.

But the writer’s took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways “purgatory” with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn’t allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died — some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley’s case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are “awakened” and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren’t in the chuch — basically everyone who wasn’t in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here’s where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It’s possible that those links aren’t people from the island but from their other life (Anna’s parnter, the guy she shot — Roussou’s husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn’t go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can’t move on yet because he hasn’t connected with the people he needs to. It’s going to be his job to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to attone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley’s number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It’s really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more “behind the scenes” note: the reason Ben’s not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn’t believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It’s pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church — but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church … and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder — the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ’s ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I’ve been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I’ve loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spirtual questions that most shows don’t touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story — even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST Thoughts: The Untold Adventures of Ben & Hurley

Like the previous LOST Thought (and those forthcoming) there be spoilers here!

HURLEY: You were a great Number Two.
BEN: And you were a great Number One, Hugo.

I've never been one for fan fiction*, but I have to believe that all over the world right now, people are writing the Untold Adventures of Ben & Hurley. Reading between the lines, those two sentences tell such a wonderful story.

Never mind how wonderful that closure is for both characters. What my mind is whirring at is what happened next. The last we saw them, Hurley had become the NewJacob (or the New Jack) and had offered something of a partnership to Ben -- making him the New (and Surprisingly Kinder and Gentler) Man in Black.

I'm not convinced Jack gave Hurley the conditional immortality that Jacob gave Jack, since Jack didn't pray over the water in the same way Jacob did. But if he did, did Hurley offer Ben that immortality? What was their final story? There seemed to be no animosity between the two of them, so I'm assuming their story didn't play out like the Jacob Brothers' did. Did more people discover the island? How did that dynamic play out? Did Hurley protect the island while Ben tested the survivors? And if they're in the Great Beyond now, who's protecting the light at the end of the tunnel?

Two sentences. Endless possibilities . . . including possible fodder for spin-off movies, novels, and TV shows . . .

*Okay, that's not true. In high school I wrote a bunch of Star Wars stories, but never about any characters you might know. I created my own characters and placed them in the Star Wars universe. Trying to tell untold stories of Luke, Leia and Han never interested me because in the back of my head, I would always know that those stories never happened. What happened was in the movies or in the books or in the video games. The rest is just nerdist conjecture.

Monday, May 24, 2010

LOST Thoughts: The Light at The End of the Tunnel

With LOST coming to a close last night, I thought I'd ruminate on a few "unanswered" questions. Beware, if you haven't seen the finale, or haven't watched LOST at all (but plan to), you might not want to read anything beyond this paragraph. Here there be spoilers!

While we caught a glimpse of the glowing yellow light when Ben turned the donkey wheel, we weren't properly introduced to the yellow light at the heart of the island until Across the Sea, an episode very late in the series' run. Once it was introduced, it featured very predominantly in the story. At first it seemed strange that such a new element would feature so heavily in the story's wrap-up. Yet, now in retrospect, it really was the beginning of The End.

For what else is the universal sign of "you're about to die" than a light at the end of a tunnel?

But what was the light at the end of the tunnel? At first I thought it was just a McGuffin, but the glowing light slowly revealed itself to be so much more. It was what gave Jacob and the Man in Black their conditional immortality. It was what was keeping the island together. It turned out to be a source of great (and sometimes terrible) power, allowing Jacob and Ben to "beam" off the island and transforming the Man in Black into Smokey McMonster. It was by extinguishing the light Jack was able to kill the Man in Black and it was by rekindling it, we assume, that Hurley would be able to live on as the New Jacob (or is it New Jack now?).

But what was the light at the end of the tunnel!? The maddening answer is, "you tell me." What is the light at the end of the tunnel? I get the distinct impression that LOST does not take place in a universe unto itself. While it can be classified as a fantasy, it is one that takes place completely in our world.

My take on it all is that the writers are acknowledging that there is something holding this world together -- something bigger than us. But what that is, isn't their place to say. Perhaps they're still trying to figure it out themselves. But there is something out there. Something mystical, magical, powerful, and all-together impossible to define.

I can see where people might feel this is a cop-out of an answer. They'd prefer a "it was Jesus" answer or "the island was being controlled by aliens who were running a sociological experiment on the human race." But I disagree. I believe this answer is, in itself, the same series of questions LOST has always asked its viewers:

"Is it science or faith? Is it a measure of both? What can be understood? What can't? Which (or whose) side are you on? What do you believe? Why?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Health PSA

I'm hobbling around like my grandfather. Well, I'm hobbling around like I imagine my grandfather would, if either of them were still with us. I never met the one and the other died when I was four. And because they both died of heart attacks, I've decided that I really need to be better about what I eat, what I drink, how I exercise -- and really, the amounts of all those things.

I'm cutting back on soda and trying to avoid the fried fast food. I've also started the P90X program. When Kelly first suggested it, I said, "an entire hour of exercise? Every day? No thank-you! I'm looking for something in the 20-30 minute range, something that will let me get on with my life as soon as possible." Because, really, I'm the kind of guy who goes around wondering how other people get so much done. I've often been heard complaining about the shortage of hours in the day. So the thought of dedicating an entire hour to lifting heavy stuff and running around in circles was absurd to me, to say the least.

But now I've started it. And I'm enjoying it. I like the competition I'm getting into with myself. I like the feeling afterward. And what's weird, is afterward, my mind is cleaner, crisper, and more conducive to creative thought.

The downside, of course, is the aforementioned geriatric hobbling. I did plyometrics yesterday and 24 hours later, if there's anything on the floor that I need to pick up, I have to squat like a pregnant woman.

But I feel good. I'm glad I'm doing it and I'm going to continue doing it. I want to be on this Earth as long as I can. I've just started my life with my wife and we're dreaming of children. I want to be in their lives as much as I can.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Got an iPod Touch (or is it an iTouch?) last week and haven't been able to put it down. Apple is easy to demonize and hate, but they make some darn addictive and fun pieces of equipment (maybe that's why I hate them -- because I love them so much).

But on on my little iTouch I found this app called "Note." I can -- using its tiny, good-only-for-texting, onscreen keyboard -- to jot down little notes. Gone is my need to carry a journal around (which I used to do). Now I can just whip out my iPod and tap, "make Derek funnier, but not funnier than Oliver." But I can also tap more.

I have this little story idea that, quite frankly, is rather small. It has the potential to be something bigger, but I'm just not seeing it yet. So, using "Note," I'm writing the story. On my ten minute breaks at work or during my lunch half hour, I'm tapping away at the sentence, paragraph, or scene that came to me while I worked. I'm only writing it at work and I'm going to let the story tell itself. Whatever comes to mind, whatever I think is cool or interesting or funny, that's where the story will go. I have no agenda for it.

But who knows, it might be the first book written on an iPod -- unless that's already been done. Something tells me it has. Some leader in the Cult of Mac had already written his memoir, one thumb tap at a time, I just know it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Writers Assemble!

I am assembling the Writers' Room.

The idea is this: Create a writing group not unlike Lewis and Tolkien's Inklings. But instead of just reading and critiquing each other's writings, I would like for us to make each other's writings.

The project at hand is Remnants. I would like for you to come on as a writer for Season 2. I had an outline for it, but after viewing the episodes of Season 1, I would like to chuck that outline out the window and (more or less) start over from scratch (but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water, there were some good ideas in there).

Together we would flesh out the world of Remnants, write the outlines for each of the episodes and then we would divvy up the episodes, each of us writing a certain allotment.

After Season 2 was/is completed, we could either move on to Season 3 or to other projects. If you have a series idea, pitch it to the group and we can see what we can make of it. If you have a short film idea, a music video idea, or maybe a story that could be told in three five minute chunks, pitch it to the group and then we, together, make that happen.

That is my dream for the Libertas Picture Company. We keep doing what we love through blood, sweat, and tears until someone wises up pays us to do what we love.

So, what say you?

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's the Great Depression, Charlie Brown!

I've never had the chance to write someone else's characters before. I'm pretty sure if you dig around on my computer (or one of my older, stuck-in-the-barn computers) you could find some fan fiction that centers around the life and times of Han Solo, but I cannot confirm or deny that. This was a true first.

Andrew Strong e-mailed me and asked me to help him out with some plays he was writing for camp. He had completed two and a half and due to a long and drawn out story that's not mine to tell, he was looking for help completing the other two and a half. His plays focused on two characters, two time travelers called The Professor and HG. Each night, campers will sit down and watch these two characters bumble their way through time, searching for a treasure, and learning a great deal more than they actually find. The scripts are that fun mix of comedy and drama that all good camp skits are and with having worked at camp for four summers, how could I say no?

It's interesting, working with and within someone else's framework. Andrew gave me all the freedom in the world. I really could write anything. There were a few guidelines, a few do's and don't's, but most of those barely needed to be mentioned. With a few encouraging words, he unleashed me.

He wanted 20 pages and I gave him 18. I'm still waiting to see what he thinks of them. He wanted the play to be about how we have to choose to be happy in order to be happy and so I thought what better juxtaposition of this idea than The Great Depression? I had to make sure the characters still sounded like, and acted like, the characters he had created, which wasn't too hard -- I don't think. The Professor is a Doc Brown sort of guy, all ideas and flailing about, and HG is a no-nonsense smart-ass in the mold of Juno. Both characters were a lot of fun to write -- though, admittedly, my Professor might have strayed from Doc Brown and into the Tenth Doctor a bit, but . . . weeeellllll . . . that's still good territory, I'd say.

I enjoyed the experience and would look forward to doing it again. I've always said I've love to be a part of a writers' room -- I've just always imagined it being on a show I created. The idea of joining a writer's room is both intriguing and intimating.

But I'd be up for it.