Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lost: Determining the Value of X

Two notes on last night’s Lost, both verbal in nature.

I’m very happy that the on-screen title, “LA X,” was not a typo. Though “LAX” would have been a very appropriate title for this final season opener, since half the episode was devoted to Oceanic 815 finally landing at Los Angeles’s big airport, a few blogs have posited that the extra space is intentional carries meaning. It could be a reference to Earth X, a “what if” take on the Marvel comics universe. (Though, to be fair, DC comics also has a parallel dimension called Earth X. Two, in fact.) Lost has drawn from the supermen books before, and I’m happy to accept the notion that appending X to any given geographical location means it’s some alternate dimension’s version of that particular place. Los Angeles X. Four Toe Island X. Dover, Delaware X. You can go nuts with it.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how the absence of Four Toe Island from Lost’s “sideline” dimension could account for Shannon not being on the plane and Desmond taking a seat next to Jack. I assume someone’s already done the math on this.


On the other hand, I have to object to the use of the term flash-sideways to refer to the show’s movement from one dimension to the other. Yeah, I realize that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof used the term themselves in their explanatory interview with EW’s Doc Jensen. But it seems like we can do better. In the context of the previous timeline-scrambling mechanisms, the flashback and the flashforward, flash-sideways seems like it would make sense. But practically speaking, moving from the familiar Lost timeline to the one where everything’s wonky — Hurley is lucky, Rose is a confident flier, and Ana-Lucia is likely perky and pleasant and adored by all — isn’t only a move to the side. Since we’re going from Lost’s “now” of 2007 back to what would have happened if the plane had landed, back in 2005, it’s still a flashback, as far as the calendar hanging on the wall is concerned.

Can I suggest we use the term flashover?

I admit it sounds a bit more like something that could result in an indecent exposure arrest, but then again so do flashback, flashforward and flash-sideways, now that I think about it.

I think flash-sideways has risen in popularity recently enough that we can still ditch it in favor of flashover. As near as I can tell, flash-sideways hadn’t really been used to describe bouncing from one dimension or narrative line to another before Lost — at least, according to these two Google searches, whose non-Lost-related results seem to be about photography techniques. But it seems like we should have a term for this device, since it could have been used to describe, for example, the narrative switch-arounds in Atonement and non-scifi works. Here’s hoping.

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