Sunday, January 31, 2010

An interview with "Lost" guru Nikki Stafford

The beginning of the end is near.
That's right, folks -- Tuesday marks the first episode of the last season of the TV series/pop culture phenomenon "Lost." Other critics and bloggers are preparing for this momentous occasion by interviewing people associated with the show and/or publishing their own thoughts, memories or ideas about this unique, bizarre series. I decided to gear up for my final days with Ben, Hurley, Locke, et. al. by interviewing the most eloquent, funny, tireless "Lost-ie" I know: author and blogger Nikki Stafford. Stafford, as you might know, is author of the popular "Finding Lost" series of books ("Finding Lost: Season Five" is now available). She also writes the hilarious, insightful blog Nik at Night , on which she provides her thoughts on a variety of shows (including this lovely piece on the devastating "I Will Rise Up" episode of "True Blood"). But she saves her greatest thoughts and analysis for "Lost." In fact, her blog is the one I link to to help fill in gaps in my own "Lost" recaps (which, incidentally, will re-start soon).
Given her expertise on the topic, I sat down and had a lengthy discuss with Stafford on what she'll miss about "Lost," some of the show's greatest moments and what she'd like to see happen. Below are some snippets from our interview. If it seems disjointed, it's because I usually have such a great time talking to Stafford, I sometimes forget to take notes (Bad TV blogger! Bad! Bad! Bad!). So, I decided to write this as sort of a loose account of our conversation. There's still some good, revealing stuff in here, so dig in.
What she'll miss
We started off by talking about what she'll miss most about the show once it ends its six-season run in May. Not surprisingly, she mentioned one of the qualities that most fans -- including your truly -- hold most dear about the show: the way it combines drama and comedy. Stafford said the show is unique in the way it inserts humor into its fabric, which, let's not forget, includes time travel, death, and some serious daddy issues.
This unique combo of laughs and gasps is personified by one of the show's most treasured characters, Stafford said. And that character's name is the one that she most often mentions when asked what she'll miss most when the show's over.
"The first thing that jumped into my mind was Hurley," she said. "I'm going to miss Hurley. He has a lot of humor without reducing him to comic relief."
Hurley is, Stafford pointed out, a fairly serious character. After all, his father abandoned him. He lived in a mental institution, where he developed the world's most convincing imagining friend. The woman he loved was murdered by one of his friends. And yet, he's the source of the show's funniest moments (for one of Stafford's faves, click here).
Another unique "Lost" quality we discussed (and that we'll both miss) is the way the show can introduce seemingly meaningless characters who turn out to be instrumental to the "Lost" mythology. This list includes Eloise, Richard Alpert and Charles Widmore. The show also introduced two major characters -- Ben and Desmond -- relatively late in the game. Stafford and I both marveled at the fact that Benjamin Linus doesn't even show up until season two and doesn't reveal his true identity until season three. But, as Stafford points out, it's now hard to imagine the show without him -- or without Michael Emerson's amazing performance. "The show moves into a whole new sphere once he shows up," she said.
One thing Stafford won't miss? All those questions from casual fans about the show's much-contested love triangle. "I really wish less time was spent on the whole 'Is Kate going to be with Jack or with Sawyer?'" she said. Though she's aware that the triangle is a vehicle to hook viewers who aren't interested in smoke monsters or time travel, she contests that the Kate/Jack/Sawyer triangle isn't what the show is really about.
"Lost" highlights and lowlights
We also discussed some of Stafford's favorite moments and twists. Like many viewers, Stafford counts season three's shattering "flash-forward" twist as one of her favorite moments, and a crucial one to the series. Around that time in the show's run, Stafford pointed out, some viewers were growing tired of "Lost's" flashback structure. "Fans were saying 'How much more can they mine out of these people's past?'" she said. To learn that the "flashback" in the season three finale was, in fact, set in a future in which Jack and Kate (among others) were back home, blew lots of people away. That includes Stafford. "That was, for me, the game changer," she said.
Other important "Lost" moments include the death of Alex, Ben's adopted daughter. Stafford said the death was not only shocking, but it had an amazing ripple effect on Ben and his relationship with Charles Widmore. When Alex dies, Stafford said, "Ben becomes this incredibly sympathetic character -- for about 30 seconds." The murder also leads to Ben's hypnotic, beautifully photographed visit to Widmore near the end of the season four episode "The Shape of Things to Come." It's a scene that's incredibly important to the show, Stafford said, not just as a standalone episode, but also because it strongly echoes the conversation that Jacob has with the Man in the Black at the end of season five.
"I have reviewed that scene (between Ben and Widmore) so many times," she said. "That scene is the centerpiece of the series."
Of course, not all of "Lost's" twists and turns have been good ones. And, of all the show's creative missteps, there's one that Stafford famously loves to hate: the sudden appearance of good-looking (and seemingly useless) couple Nikki and Paulo in season three. "That was a gigantic mistake," Stafford said, laughing. Indeed, her dislike for the couple has become something of a running joke in her writing. Still, she said, their sudden appearance was almost (emphasis on almost) worth it, because of the excellent episode in which the grating twosome make their exit. As most fans know, the two are mistakenly buried alive while embroiled in a fight over some diamonds. "Watching them die is one of the funniest things ever," Stafford said.
Other storylines she cares to never to see again? Anything explaining Jack's tattoos. "Jack in Thailand never made any sense to me," she said.
What she wants to see
With the end of "Lost" just around the corner, fans and critics are starting to divide into two distinct camps -- those who have a concrete list of questions they want answered by series' end, and those who are pretty much willing to let the chips fall where they may. Count Stafford firmly in the second category. "I just want to leave myself open," she said. "If I marry myself to one theory, I'm going to be disappointed when it doesn't happen."
That said, she does have some wishes for the show's final season -- one of which might surprise you.
"I want to see Kate happy," Stafford said. "I know there's a lot of Kate hate out there, but I've never disliked her."
As much as she doesn't care about Kate's relationships with Sawyer and Jack, Stafford said she's fascinated by Kate's bond with her "adopted" son Aaron, whom she took when Claire was assumed dead (and whom she had to give up to return to the island). Unlike her romances, Kate's relationship with Aaron is marked by unconditional love. "Aaron has never wanted anything from her, except for her to be his mom -- which she can't do," Stafford said.
And, despite his polarizing effect on viewers, Stafford has nothing but good wishes for Jack as well. "I'm the first one in a huge long line of people who laugh whenever something bad happens to Jack," she said. "(But) he means well. He really thinks he's helping people."
As far as "Lost's" many mysteries are concerned, Stafford does hope the show answers some of the "gigantic" questions it's raised. For instance, she'd like to know where Jacob came from, and how that giant statue got destroyed. But she's leaving herself open to some unsolved mysteries. "They can't answer everything," she said.

1 comment:

AchingHope said...

Ooh... Very nice interview. :) Thank you for sharing!