Dear Lost

Lose the Guns

by Glenn McDonald

26 February 2008

The gunplay in Lost shot past the ken of lessons-not-learned in Screenwriting 101 and blasted into an over-the-top Marx Brothers routine.

Dear J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, et. al.

Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not a warm gun.

Love the show. Big fan. You had me at ‘hello’. Well, more specifically, you had me during the pilot four years ago when the unseen jungle monster rattled the island with a monstrous bellow that sounded remarkably like the end of the world, and/or Manhattan’s A train rolling into 207th Street.

Lost is my kind of TV—big, ambitious, inventive and slightly goofy. I love that the show is willing to tackle Big Ideas like faith and redemption, then wrap them in pulpy paranormal/science fiction tropes. I love the careful balance of character development with more kinetic passages like…transporting unstable dynamite, say, or triggering giant electromagnetic pulses that pull down airplanes. I also very much appreciate fugitive babe Kate in a tight tank-top, every Thursday at 9pm, like clockwork. On behalf of a grateful nation, let me say: Nothing wrong with that.

There’s so much to love about your show. But I have to tell you—there is a great danger brewing in the land of Lost, and it’s not the monster, not the Others, not even the competition from American Idol. It’s your recent and disturbing tendency to resolve plot points by having everyone point guns at each other. 

I realize that putting guns into your script is more or less de rigueur in American entertainment. It’s the dustiest of screenwriting chestnuts. When you can’t figure out how to resolve your conflict, or if you just need to generate some cheap tension—bring out the firearms.

Of all programs, Lost should rise above this—but instead, it’s just getting worse. I rue the day when guns were introduced to the island. Well, let me amend that: It was better when there was only one gun on the whole island, and it was a commodity, and Sawyer used it to kill the charging polar bear. That was cool.

But now, four years in, we have several armed factions roaming the island, with more guns being imported every episode. Characters are literally tripping over weapon caches in the jungle. At some point toward the end of last season, the gunplay issue passed beyond the ken of lessons-not-learned in Screenwriting 101, and into some new and exciting vistas of lameness.

Let’s try a little run down, shall we? Just off the top of my head, in a story about ostensibly regular folks who have crash landed on a desert island, we’ve seen:

•  Charlie shoot Ethan
•  Ben shoot Locke
•  Ana Lucia shoot Shannon
•  Michael shoot Ana Lucia
•  Michael shoot Libby
•  Locke shoot Charlotte
•  Sawyer shoot Tom
•  Mr. Eko shoot the old man
•  Desmond shoot Mikhail (with a spear gun)
•  Jack shoot Ben (well, he tried—but was out of bullets)
•  Sayid shoot his commanding officer
•  Sayid shoot himself in the leg
•  Sayid and Elsa shoot each other in the same scene
•  Sayid shoot dynamite to blow up invading Others (Admittedly, this is more efficient.)

I could go on. And this isn’t even quibbling about the countless times a gun is pointed at someone, or flashed around, or otherwise used as a quick-and-easy prop to nudge the plot in the desired direction. Take for example the recent scene where newcomers Miles and Frank point their guns at Jack and Kate. Until Juliet and Sayid fire warning shots, at which point Jack and Kate take the guns and point them back at Miles and Frank. It’s like a Marx Brothers routine out there.

So, please—knock it off with the hackneyed TV gunplay. Here are a couple quick tips for the new season: When someone gets shot in the chest, but there’s no blood (like Charlotte in episode two), we in the audience already know she’s wearing a bulletproof vest. We don’t need the dramatic reveal where her shirt is ripped open.  When someone gets conspicuously shot in the shoulder (like Sayid in episode three), we in the audience already know he’s not really dead and will soon grab the other gun lying nearby. Luckily, in Lost there’s always another gun lying nearby.

There are bigger issues here, of course. Many can make the argument about the cartoonishness of guns in the media informing all manner of real-world tragedies. I make that argument myself, in my blacker moods. But in this case, I’m more concerned about getting my favorite TV show back on track.

I mean, c’mon fellas! Look at this goldmine you’re sitting on! You’ve got plane crashes, a magical island, global conspiracies, time travel, telekinetic ghosts, psychic kids, rogue medical experiments, con artists, fugitives, Korean organized crime, miracle healings, baby-snatching, dead rock stars, utopian cultists, and—lest we forgot—a tree-stomping, people-eating monster that may or may not be made of sentient nanobots.

So, what do you think? Can you lay off the frigging sidearms for a while? Make it a rule. See if you can go the whole rest of the season without the phrase “held at gunpoint” making it into any scripts. Have the prop guys do a gun sweep. Post some signs around the writers’ room. Have a sandwich. Drink a glass of milk. Do whatever you have to do to calm yourselves down, allow yourselves time to think.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Say “hi” to Kate for me.

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