It’s lonely here. I feel like the only guy watching Lost this season and getting twitchy at the more prominent sci-fi elements. The show was always science fictiony – there was a monster in the jungle from the start! – but it’s never been more in the forefront with time travel, teleportation, anomalous cabins and more being the foci of recent episodes. I have faith in the show runners that Lost won’t turn into a dweebfest.
Being twitchy about the sci-fi elements may have led me to be more critical of some aspects of the show, but I think that no matter what I would be bothered by the way Lost continues to treat the secondary, background castaways. It all culminated in this past week’s episode in a scene that not only made Sawyer seem like a real dick (and not the kind of dick that he’s supposed to be) but that was also unintentionally hilarious. When the military squad from the freighter descended on Othertown, Sawyer ran off looking for Claire, and only Claire. While other castaways had followed Locke to Othertown, none of them were of any consequence to Sawyer; I understand that these nameless folks aren’t important in the grand scheme of the storytelling and this is why we don’t know who they are, but Sawyer should, by now, have some basic concept that he is living with other human beings and not nameless redshirts.
As bad as it was seeing Sawyer being essentially annoyed by having to warn a redshirt to hide inside the house, we were then treated to the sight of the rest of Othertown’s redshirts running out of a doorway in rapid succession, each being shot dead as soon as they came outside. The military guys were able to off all the redshirts with one quick shot apiece and then couldn’t manage to hit Sawyer with hundreds of rounds… even when he was hiding behind a fucking picket fence.
Of course the faceless bad guys can’t kill the heroes. It’s Stormtrooper Syndrome – supposedly crack shots who suddenly go to shit as soon as one of the name characters shows up. And of course redshirts are needed – you gotta kill somebody off to raise the stakes, even if that somebody is Ensign Bobby from engineering. But Lost has taken both of these to ridiculous extremes.
In season one Lost addressed their redshirt problem in a tongue in cheek way with Doc Arzt, the science teacher survivor who took the heroes to task for leaving everyone else out of their clique… and who then blew himself up. But while that might be enough for a two hour movie, a continuing TV series can’t just brush all the other background characters off with a joke. At one point the background survivors were seen as a potential pool for new faces, but after the Nikki and Paolo disaster, the background characters have been more background than ever. In the last two seasons the show has so egregiously ignored these survivors that one has to wonder why the producers haven’t gone the cost-saving route of just sticking mannequins in the background of shots.
Lost simply needs to get rid of these redshirts – and not in a wacky shooting gallery. I don’t quite understand why the writers of this week’s episode didn’t have the military guys blow up the redshirt barracks, making their deaths quick, simple and less comedic. But with two seasons yet to go, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse need to sit down and decide how to quickly and easily eliminate the remainder of the no-name survivors rather than keep them shuffling around for no discernible reason. At least Star Trek, birthplace of the redshirt, occasionally gave background crew members roles or lines to speak; Lost just uses the redshirts as set decoration. The writers don’t let them do anything, and when they get killed, they don’t even make the main characters give a shit.
As the show becomes less and less about surviving on the island, and as Lost brings in more expendable characters from the outside world, the redshirts are becoming nothing more than a glaring annoyance. And as the show will start to ask us to suspend our disbelief more and more with science fiction elements, it can’t afford to ask us to suspend our disbelief with this faceless mob that serves no purpose and has no bearing on what’s happening in the plot.