I just finished watching season three of Lost and wanted to comment on the last episode, Through the Looking Glass. So if you haven’t seen this season and are planning on watching it, then don’t read any further, because this post will definitely spoil a lot.
In this final episode (which is broken down into two parts) the format of narration takes an unexpected turn. Instead of illustrating flashbacks that help fill in the backstory of different characters, the episode shows flash-forwards to what will happen. But it is done in a discrete matter, so the whole time you think you are watching flashbacks until the very last one when it is revealed that this is the future. It even took me a while after the episode ended to figure this out, although now looking back it is was pretty obvious.
I’ve never really seen this sort of change in narration before, but it is definitely quite interesting. The typically format of narration is showing us the plot/discourse, and then slowly revealing some aspect of the story (things we would never assume but help us in unpacking who that particular character is). All of this changes in this episode. Now we get an ellipses and see the future– we see where the plot is going. We are told what will eventually happen in the future, but now we are put in an entirely different position as we want to figure out how we got there. We are no longer dealing with story or backstory… instead it is all plot/discourse that has a large whole in it.
Now there is a different relationship between what the audience knows and what the characters know. The fact that we know what happens in the future creates more suspense while simultaneously eliminating some surprise. How does Jack generate such a drug addiction? Why does he need to go back to the island? ( And howcome Kate looks so damn good?)
It’s also interesting that the creators can be playing with the future/past in such a way that we don’t know which one it is. Because of the established narrative norms of the show, I assumed the entire time that these were flashbacks. All the narrative cues were the same– the sound, the sudden cuts in and out, etc. Yet instead of this actually being part of the backstory it is part of the plot. It makes you realize how much power the creators have and how we simply accept the narrative norms until something big cues us to ask questions (like Jack saying that he needs to go back to the island).