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New Escapist Video! On “WandaVision” and the Death of Ambiguity…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, following the end of WandaVision, it seemed like an appropriate time to take a look at what the show said about contemporary pop culture, in particular the show’s approach to its “mystery box” format and its insistence on explaining every ambiguity without any willingness to leave space for interpretation. It’s a big, ambitious video essay that looks at everything from Lost to Twin Peaks to The X-Files to Doctor Who, and I hope you enjoy.

New Escapist Column! On “WandaVision” and the Death of Ambiguity…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With WandaVision ending just over a week ago, I had some thoughts about art, ambiguity and meaning. You know, small things.

One of the more interesting aspects of WandaVision was the way in which it presented itself, and was received as, a “mystery box” show. It was framed and treated as a puzzle to be solved. What’s interesting about this is the care that the finale took to carefully explain and confront each possible fan theory and speculation, to communicate very simply and very straightforwardly not only what its audience was supposed to take from this story, but also how they were supposed to feel in response to certain key plot beats.

This is arguably a reflection of a larger trend in pop culture, in which there’s a strong rejection of the idea of ambiguity and an embrace of the idea that everything has a fixed meaning that can be clearly determined and objectively derived. This ignores the reality that art exists in ambiguity, that there’s no simple, single decoder ring and that meaning is often something derived from conversation between the art and the audience consuming it.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Don’t Leave Us Hanging: Going Out on a Cliffhanger…

So, I saw the final episode of V last night. Talk about disappointing. The series throws us a giant big cliffhanger and then… boom! It’s cancelled by the network in what has been referred to as a “bloodbath.” What makes it more frustrating, though, is the fact that the cancellation was quite probable even as early as last year, so it wasn’t as though the series was cut down in its prime without any warning. The cast and crew knewthat there was a fairly significant chance that this episode would be the last to see the light of day… and they ended on a whopping big cliffhanger anyway. I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed.

After two years, the visitors are sent packing...

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Gotta Have Faith: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife…

Well I guess it would be nice…

Battlestar Galactica has a lot to answer for. It seems that religious-themed endings are now in vogue again, at least for mindbending television shows of choice. Both Ashes to Ashes and Lost came to an end within days of each other last week, and both included some fairly noticeable religious themes in their finales. Has religion somehow become a non-taboo subject on mainstream television?

Go in peace...

Note: As the introduction suggests, this article will contain spoilers for the finales of Ashes to Ashes and Lost. I’m posting it about now because I figure that anybody who wanted to watch them has had the chance.
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You All Everybody: The Series Finale of Lost…

Those of us looking for an explanation of what the island is, how throwing a body down a well creates a smoke monster or why Locke getting off the island was a bad idea were undoubtedly a little disappointed (as I predicted they would be). In fact, I’ve spoken to a few at work, so I know that they are disappointed. However, I was still quite taken with The End, because it was… well, an end. It was a fitting coda to the series, wrapping up most of the major character arcs and giving the audience a sense of closure.

Excuse me, I was Lost in your eyes...

Note: This post will contain spoilers for the final episode of Lost which has already aired worldwide. Still, consider yourselves warned.

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Lost for Words? Do We Really Need an Explanation for Lost?

Lost is entering its final phase. Just two weeks left and it will all be over. I have no doubts that The End, the final episode, will be a bit of a phenomenon – ABC are reportly charging nearly $1m for advertising space during the finale. However, I imagine that a lot of people tuning in will be disappointed – as I expect a large number of viewers will be expecting an easy answer or several to (in fairness, perfectly reasonable) questions like “what is the island?”, “why was there a polar bear on the island and how did it survive?” and “what the hell happened?” To be honest, some of these questions have already been answered (not necessarily satisfactorily), but I still don’t think that the answers – even if they are provided – will be offered in a viewer-friendly mode. And I’m actually reasonably okay with that.

Lost at sea?

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Oceanic Airlines, We Salute You…

Lost returned to Sky One recently, for its sixth and final mind-bending season. In the fourth season it was flash-forwards, in the fifth season it was time travel and this year it looks like it’s alternate dimensions. In fact, this season opens with an alternate universe where the Oceanic 815 flight from Sydney never crashed. Yes, there exists a timeline where an Oceanic Airlines flight made it from one side of the world to another. I’m a big fan of linking seemingly disconnected threads from various strands of fiction together – like postulating that Fight Club is a sequel to Calvin & Hobbes – so I was quite impressed to learn that Oceanic Airlines have a long and varied history of aviation disasters across any number of movies and television shows.

Note that flying that low over London is incredibly dangerous... and perfectly in keeping with oceanic's standards of safety...

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Holy Interactive Lost Character Map!

I rarely take the opportunity to get in on some solid internet meme action right here, so please indulge me. With the sixth and final (‘thank god,’ says most of the audience) season of Lost hitting the airwaves on this side of the Atlantic soon, it seems some fan has thought of a nifty and interactive way of charting the various connections between the castaways, whose lives interact in ridiculously unlikely ways before they end up the island. Anyway, it’s an application where you highlight a main character’s name and it’ll connect them to others through numerous smaller secondary characters. Give it a go here, or click the image below.

Not to mention there’s a little Nathan Fillon love going on there, which I think we can all get behind.

My Top Ten Shows of the Decade

Yep, it’s retrospective time. I’ve done my top 50 movies of the past ten years, so it’s time for me to reflect on my top 10 television shows of the 00s. Prepare to be awed and mazed, shocked and astounded, angered and enraged, by the inclusions (and omissions) from my list. The good folks over at Television Without Pity included their favourite episode in each choice, so I think I’m going to run with that idea.

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Ever Ben Lost?

I have mixed feelings about the Emmy awards. On one hand Bryan Cranston is awesome, but on the other Hugh Laurie is due a statue, albeit probably not for this lacklustre year. On one hand 24 deserved recognition, but on the other Anne Wersching was the best actress on the show – certainly not Cherry Jones. it was awesome to see Brendan Gleeson get some over due love. And there is one decision I’m glad that the Academy made. Michael Emerson deserved an award for his role of everyone’s favourite sociopath.

Ben, the two of us need look no more… We both found what we were looking for.

Where have you, Ben?

Where have you, Ben?

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