Thursday, June 14, 2007

The strange deaths of Phil, Nikki and Paulo

Having been a "LOST" blogger for some time, it seems like my mind has been programmed to look for "LOST" analogies in other television shows. One of these analogies occured to me today as I was contemplating the recent series finale of "The Sopranos". First consider the somewhat bizarre death of fictional New York mobster and Tony Soprano enemy Phil Leotardo:
Shortly thereafter, Leotardo is shown talking to his wife through a car window at a Raceway gas station when he is suddenly shot in the head by Walden Belfiore, a soldier in the Gervasi crew of the DiMeo crime family. Leotardo's wife gets out of the car screaming his name, and the car is shown rolling over Leotardo's head with his grandchildren inside, leading some witnesses to vomit.
Compare this to the equally bizarre fate of "Lost" season three castaways Nikki and Paulo:
In "Exposé", Nikki discovers that Paulo has the bag of diamonds when he drops his nicotine gum. After failing to retrieve a gun from Sawyer, Nikki lures Paulo into the jungle and uses one of Arzt's collected Medusa Spiders to paralyze Paulo. As the paralysis is taking effect, Nikki takes the diamonds from him and he tells her that he kept them from her because he was afraid she wouldn't need him any more once she had them. The island "Monster" is heard and more spiders arrive, biting Nikki in the process. Panicking, Nikki runs to the beach, burying the diamonds along the way, and collapses nearby Hurley and Sawyer. When asked by Hurley "what happened", she says "paralyzed" but Sawyer and Hurley are unable to make it out. Everyone presumes her dead, along with Paulo, and begin to investigate. By the end of the day, the camp decide to give the two a funeral. Sawyer throws the stolen diamonds into the grave before they bury them. Nikki opens her eyes just as the other survivors start to fill the grave, but no one notices, and both Nikki and Paulo are accidentally buried alive.
Notice the parallels here. In the case of "The Sopranos" finale, we have a series finale that was rather deliberately underwritten -- with the unprecendented fury of "The Sopranos" audience in response -- with a gruesome and heavily ironic death thrown in to appease those fans. In "Lost", we have two new characters entering the show in a way that was critically deplored by the fan base, and again public opinion is expected to be appeased by giving these characters gruesome and heavily ironic deaths.

In a certain sense, this is reminiscent of the early Roman Imperial approach to entertainment. A patrician elite of professional critics has developed a willingness to endure the plebian-pleasing, gruesome games of the Colosseum in the hopes of later enjoying the high art of their day in peace.

From another point of view, it appears that at least these television producers are much more responsive to the "Left-wing" forms of protest from their audience. For example, the audience displeasure with the introduction of Nikki and Paulo could have been interpreted by the producer in two ways: 1. the "Right-wing" interpretation that this negative reaction indicates a failure of believability in the show that could be corrected by better writing in the future or 2. the "Left-wing" interpretation that Nikki and Paulo are obviously bad characters who deserve terrifying death. Given a choice between a relatively "silent" call for better writing in the show or the vocal death chant issuing from their fan base, the producers caved and picked option 2.

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