By Teague Bohlen
Squandered promise — that’s what this list is about. It’s not is a list of the worst characters on Lost (which for many would include at least a couple of its main cast). It’s not a bitch-session for minor characters who you sort of liked (more Frogurt!). And it’s not just a list of everyone who’s died, though death was the premature end for several of the characters below. This is a list of characters used and abused by the people who make Lost, who seem to be stricken with that same sickness that sometimes befalls comic book writers — which is to say that when you paint yourself into a story corner, just kill someone and step on their corpse to get out of it, and failing that, just ignore or change what came before.
Now, this doesn’t just refer to the show’s writers — several actors and actresses have helped screw over their own characters as well, as you’ll see, leaving the Lost creative team to scramble to find a solution (which invariably involved killing off their characters). Before you watch tonight’s fifth season finale, take a minute to remember the 10 Lost characters who been most thoroughly screwed by the nature of television.
10) Sarah Shepherd
Granted, she was a pretty minor
character. But Jack’s ex-wife had an important mission, and she
completely scrubbed it — or rather, the writers did it for her. The
story surrounding the dissolution of Sarah’s marriage to Jack was
supposed to give his character some insight into what made Jack what he
was. And maybe it has something to do with the supposed plan in the
original script to have Jack die in the first episode, but his whole
backstory just seems… well, boring as shit. And his ex-wife, she of
the miraculous spinal recovery, is no exception to this. It wasn’t a
problem with the actress, as Julie Bown is generally awesome; but her
Sarah is given precious little to do, and even less to make sense of
her actions and reactions. We get the vague idea that Jack ignores her,
and that she’s sad about that, and there’s something in there about
being unable to emotionally connect with each other. Which is ironic,
that, given that this is the very problem with the whole storyline,
only between viewer and character. Despite the fact that I’d watch a
still photo of Julie Bowen for an hour and consider that hour
well-spent, I was terribly glad when her disaster of a character on Lost departed for (hopefully) the last time.
9 & 8) Paulo and Nikki
A complete failed experiment — the writers were thinking about introducing new characters from Flight 815, and pretending they’d been there all the time. “Yeah, remember when Paulo handed Sayid the water bottle that one time on the beach? No? Well trust us, he did.” Yeah, but…no, he didn’t. It was a ham-fisted attempt to shove characters into a storyline that hadn’t previously included them, and it was obvious — but who knows what Lost had planned for these two? We’ll never know, since we fans bitched and moaned and got their asses killed ASAP. Happily, they got a kick-ass sendoff in an episode full of Hitchcockian awesomeness. And so that one episode stands out like a What-If episode of Lost; sort of the Marvel comics assistant-editors month episode, where the story takes place in the same world, uses some of the same characters, but has little to do with what’s come before, and is never spoken of later.
Leslie Arzt makes me feel badly for all high-school science teachers. Ninth-grade science must be a bitch to teach anyway, but to have a high-profile exemplar of your profession finally get on TV, and then proceed to become an exploding buffoon? Must suck. He was more or less a walking punchline, created about the same time as Nikki and Paolo, but not meant to last long (too bad, because he was ten times more interesting than Nikki and Paolo combined). First he blows himself up with dynamite in the middle of lecturing the main characters about how to safely handle dynamite — an irony that at least is in keeping with Arzt’s 9th grade teaching level, since it doesn’t quite rise to the level of sophomoric. Sure, it produced one of Hurley’s best lines (“Dude, you’ve got some Arzt on you.”), but that’s cold comfort to high school teachers everywhere.
6 & 5) Boone and Shannon
Boone was a great character, Shannon not so much. Boone had a great death — an affecting death, for both characters in-story and the audience watching. Shannon didn’t — gut-shot by Ana-Lucia (another fine moment for that gem of a character), and after a bit of obligatory hand-wringing, no one but Sayid really cared. And speaking of Sayid, it was actor Naveen Andrews who had the idea to get Sayid and Shannon together, purportedly because he thought it would be interesting to shock American audiences by romantically linking the Iraqi torturer to the walking Barbie doll (I’m sure it had nothing to do with Andrews’ motives that Maggie Grace was smoking hot). In any case, neither Boone nor Shannon (nor Sayid) was well-served by the storylines. Even though Boone’s exit was dramatic, it killed off a decent character prematurely, and all we ever found out about him is that he occasionally had sex with his bitch of a stepsister. And Shannon — well, she never really got the chance to redeem herself and escape from the tower of bitchiness in which the writers had been keeping her.
It’s not supposed to be telling that the
episode in which Ana-Lucia and Libby are both shot dead is called “Two
for the Road,” but come on. If it’s not an in-joke, it’s a coincidence
of Lost-ian proportion. Actresses Michelle Rodriguez and
Cynthia Watros (Ana-Lucia and Libby, respectively) were killed off on
the show after both were popped for DUI traffic offenses. The arrests
and the character deaths are supposedly unrelated — the whole
post-hoc-ergo-proctor-hoc fallacy — but the title of this episode
seems to admit otherwise. Not much was made of Ana-Lucia’s demise,
since fans were at best ambivalent about her survival (and to be fair,
the writers admit they made her too unlikeable), but still, just
because she was a bitch doesn’t mean she didn’t have more story to
tell. She did, and most of it — like most of the Tailies’ stories,
none of which really amounted to more than a season-long tangent (with
the exception of Bernard, who found his Rose) — just dropped away like
dead soldier beer bottles in the Hawaiian sand.
3) Mr. Eko
Arguably one of the most interesting
characters on the show — a powerful man with a dark past, trying to
make up for it by doing the best he can. His brother was a priest kidnapped and killed about a heroin-smuggling plane that crashed “coincidentally” on the island. He was a great counter-point to the similar faithful but far less self-assured Locke. But Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was
perhaps the first person in history who disliked living in Hawaii, and
thus asked to be prematurely written off the show so he could move back
to the paradise that is London. And so, of course, Mr. Eko died. Too
soon. There was a lot more that Eko could have done, aside from being
the sacrificial lamb on the altar of shock-ending cliffhangers. The
fact that it took an explosion, a polar bear attack, and whatever the
hell the smoke monster is to do him in speaks to his physical strength.
But his real strength lay in his intriguing storyline — and one that
could have, and should have, moved forward.
Libby was bound to be hear the top of this list, since unlike some characters, her storyline wasn’t finished by the time she was offed. According to Cuse and Lindeloff, the writers realized that Ana-Lucia’s death wasn’t going to cause the emotional impact that they wanted to provoke in the audience, and since Libby’s storyline hadn’t proven itself to be all that dramatic, they went ahead and had her shot, too. This was problematic for two reasons — for one, many fans liked the Libby-Hurley romance, which never really had the chance to blossom. More importantly, Libby did have an interesting backstory — she gives Desmond the boat for the race that gets him shipwrecked on the island, and she was in Hurley’s first loony bin, seemingly as a fellow patient. Was she working for Widmore? We might not ever know, because actress Cynthia Watros has no desire to play the character again, despite having been asked by Lost’s producers to do so. Hopefully some other character will drop a few clues before the show ends regarding Libby, since Libby’s not going to be able to.
Remember back in the first season, when Walt was, like, important? Maybe the writers are taking a long, slow, supposed-to-be-surprising curve around the main story, and they’ll bring Walt back in the final season, and all the crap built up around him in the early going will make sense. But based on what we’ve already seen, I don’t know that anyone would be all that surprised to find out that his recent sidewalk chat with Locke (“The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”) was his swan song. I hope it’s not — I hope the Walt storyline gets better closure, especially since his mysterious power and the Others-kidnapping it brought about was such a focus of the end of the first season — but then, I hoped that Mr. Eko wasn’t going to die, that Libby would get it on with Hurley, and that someone — anyone — would just start asking questions and demanding answers. So like most Lost fans (not to mention Inigo Montoya), I’ve gotten used to disappointment.