In particular, a wonderful point:
Here's one of the things about mysteries: not everything is a clue. If you went to the headquarters of a company and you were trying to solve a murder, you would find a few things related to the murder, but you would also find lots of isolated, noteworthy things that aren't related to the murder. That's because the building exists outside the murder occurring. The building wasn't built just to house the murder.
I'm humbled by the simplicity. And that leads me to point-of-view. Lost was a pretty heavy POV show. Most TeeVee shows are omniscient. Particularly procedurals. There's no room for interpretation there. The point-of-view is going to be your investigators and maybe your criminals, although networks (and audiences, apparently) tend to dislike showing the criminal's point-of-view. When you think about POV, it sorta makes sense. You're tooling along in your obvious, 2D investigative point-of-view when you toss in a scene of the criminal doing bad things. Holy smokes! What are we to think? Well, since we're so automatically invested in the POV of Our Heroes (this is what TeeVee teaches us), that Our Heroes are fucking stupid. Point-of-view in television is very, very simple and any messing with the formula confuses people.
Ensemble shows are pretty much the same thing, only you get many omniscient points of view from all the different characters. But Lost... the entire series opened on a guy's eye. Flashbacks came FROM those characters. There wasn't an omniscient point-of-view taking us into the flashbacks; the characters themselves were doing it. I just think there was a different focus with Lost. I don't know if the writers were aware of how much they were expanding point-of-view, or if they realized it later. It sure could've been a happy accident. It's super-tough to do this on television, mainly because nobody will let you. It's one thing for a plot-point or character's action to be open to interpretation but it's something entirely different when it's the entire show.
And now, I direct you back in time to Twin Peaks, a show that was strictly set in POV. And that's why it was so fucking scary. That spooky shot up the Palmer's staircase? That's not the omniscient camera. It's so specific that that's why it's scary. What people see is what THEY SEE and not just what the camera is choosing to show the audience. People compare what they perceive as Lost's failings to the similar failings in Twin Peaks. Totally true, but I'm not sure they know why. Lost gave us a few seasons of caring ONLY about the weird island shit, forgetting about the characters entirely while they tried not to answer any questions. Then they came back to what made the show work in the first place -- the characters. And the plot began to suggest itself again. Twin Peaks faltered after giving up its mystery, who killed Laura Palmer, and meandered around trying to find some other plot. But when Twin Peaks came back to itself, it did so because the writers got back into the characters and then plot suggested itself.
Both Lost and Twin Peaks had ensembles that were heavily into their own points-of-view. I think the shows that try to ape this success, like FlashForward, do so with the typical omniscient TeeVee point-of-view. And just before some of you wiseacres think I'm saying that ensemble shows are character-driven while single-lead shows aren't, that ain't the case. THINK ABOUT THIS. In most TeeVee shows, you're watching a chosen point-of-view. It's safe; there may be character or plot surprises, but you know that what you're seeing is what's happened. Stuff may get held back, but you watch because you know that the omniscient friend with which you've made a pact will faithfully reveal the truth to you at some pre-designated point in the future (end of episode, two-parter, episode arc, season).
Lost didn't make that pact with people. Now, if you went into the show expecting the answers that you get from other shows, then yeah. You'll be disappointed. And maybe that kind of storytelling just isn't your cup of tea. Doesn't mean it's wrong.
You know what other show does this? Damages. And I dig that show. Except for season two. But one and three? Fantastic.
Does this approach allow the people who write the show a little bit of wiggle room, and allow them to get out of things that might originally have been envisioned as meaningful, but now just turn out to be blind alleys? Of course. But it also respects the fact that when you solve a real mystery, there are blind alleys. There are things that don't mean anything. Haven't you ever watched Law & Order?
This is a real frustration when you're breaking a procedural. It's all about the smarts of your detective. There HAVE to be twists (somebody somewhere made that a rule), and not every twist can lead to the final unmasking of the villain or the solving of the case. But not every twist can NOT, either. There's an appropriate level of smartness that the detective needs to have. This isn't a new thing but the perceived complexity of the procedural IS. Now, we've got technology that can help or hurt. And every moment, we're always asking, "Does this make our detective stupid? Wouldn't he know this? How do we get him to walk through that door?"
Lost started this way and then they finally went, "Fuck it. How about we just tell stories about these characters and don't explain every little thing because not everybody in every situation HAS all the answers?" For me, that's refreshing. Because I can wonder about the power source without being flat-out told what it is. Yes, one of the show's themes is faith but for me, it's a philosophical faith. And the power source is endemic of that. The "first cause" argument. Plato vs. Aristotle vs. Thomas Aquinas, for example. They never worked that shit out.
Backed up on comments. I'll get to them next. Swear! Now I've got to go argue with some stupid horse racing people... it's like crack to me...