The three rules: 1 Verisimilitude (aka plausibility)
Here are some late thoughts regarding why people seem frustrated with LOST in the final stretch. We were all looking for the writers to tie a lot of threads and questions together so that what we have been watching would satisfy our need to respect these three rules.
All fictional writing should have verisimilitude (plausibility). This helps us identify with the characters and feel what they feel when they feel it. While it is difficult to gauge how to apply this in a science fiction or fantasy setting, it helps to ground the fantasy elements in a real world type of environment.
Let me use Star Wars as an example:
If Han Solo brags about how fast his ship is because it did the Kessel run (whatever that is) in under twelve parsecs (a non sequitor as a parsec is a unit of distance) we can at least identify with Han’s pride in the Millenium Falcon. We get it. He’s a hotshot. A braggart. The shag carpet next to him is his business partner and co-pilot.
On Lost we are looking for certain reassurances that the producers have done just enough homework to make their world believable. At least the elements that we know something about. If someone points a gun at someone else and fires, we are not going to see daisies come out of the barrel.
In season one, in the first moments of the pilot we see a huge aircraft that has crashed on the island. Of the 300+ passengers, over one fifth have survived, which is bloody well miraculous. Normally that very fact would be a stretch of the series’ credibility. In the very next sequence though we are given some strange creature roaming the jungle and uprooting trees.
In the following episodes we discover a lot of strange things on this island and we are left to sort out the weird and wonderful from the life and death survival situation these people are in. To their credit, the writers, actors and directors do little bits of business to build verisimilitude. They have the characters hike for hours through the hot jungle and stop to drink water. This becomes one of the shows’ stylistic flourishes (rule number three).
But here’s the thing. Plausibility can easily break down if the writers get carried away with something. Details can slowly fray away a cool idea and make it seem ridiculous.
Sayid is introduced as a communications expert. He’s the hotshot professor who can build walkie-talkies out of cocoanut shells. He finds a cable burried on the beach and follows it into the jungle where he encounters a crazy french chick who has been living wild and surviving for SIXTEEN years. Okay. I’ll buy that. What I have trouble buying is that upon his return to camp Sayid never gets a bunch of people together to return and explore where THE OTHER END OF THAT CABLE GOES. For crying out loud Sayid at least cut the darn thing. If it is still in use someone will send out a repair crew and you’ll be rescued!
My pet peave with the Dharma initiative is that they supposedly brought most of their materiel for constructing all those lovely bunkers and barracks on a submarine. Sorry, but even disassembled, I don’t see DI carting cranes and concrete mixers, bulldozers, girders and H beams onto the island to build a three story building or dig an underwater marine biology study center.
My second pet peave was the scene in which the Oceanic Six board the Ajira flight. You can read that in my rant “The dumbest airline in the world” if you haven’t already. Episodes like 316 beggar my abilities to take Lost seriously anymore.
In season one we see a Beach craft twin engine airplane taking off from Nigeria and crashing onto an island in the South Pacific. No regards for the actual geographical distances or fuel consumption.
This season we are shown a small group of Roman-Egyptians ship wrecked on the island who have spent 40+ years on the island and built most of the rest of the artifacts we see in the show. The Statues, temple and light house as well as finding and digging the magnetic wells. You tell me if that is plausible.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that Lost is an adventure show. I get that there is more that is right about the show than there is that is wrong. As far as rule number one is concerned I am satisfied that Lost has done its level best to give us a show that is grounded in a gritty sort of reality. The premise is so fantastic (as in fantasy, not as in great) that certain elements are bound to be a hard sell. Most of the above are secondary to the main plot anyways.
Feel free to throw in any comments or examples of good or bad stuff on the show relating to plausibility.
In my next post I will discuss the second rule.