“Lost” as a Narrative Ponzi Scheme
I was a big fan of the show “Lost” back in the day, but unlike other shows, I don’t care to go back and watch it again. As much as I liked the show in its heyday, I feel the series was a narrative Ponzi Scheme.
A Ponzi Scheme works by bringing in new investors, whose money pays older investors, funneling up to the top of the pyramid. All Ponzi Schemes are unsustainable by their very nature. The longer the scam goes on, the more investors you need to pay into the scheme. Eventually you run out of investors, and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.
Narratives revolve around problems. That problem could be a villain to defeat, a love interest to woo or a mystery to solve. In Act I, the problem occurs. In Act II, the issue gets worse until all hope is lost, and in Act III, a solution is found that wraps everything up. This is the story behind all stories. In comedies, the Act III solution is a good one, and in tragedies, it’s a bad one. Either way, there is a resolution to the problem presented in Act I. With this in mind, let’s look at the role of the Ponzi Scheme in storytelling.
Mystery Upon Mystery
“Lost” is centered around mysteries. In Act I, something weird happens. In Act II, the mystery gets weirder, exhausting all normal explanations, and in Act III, the mystery gets solved. The problem is, on “Lost”, each solution brings about three more mysteries. Just like a Ponzi Scheme brings in more investors to solve its money problems, “Lost” brings in more mysteries to solve its narrative problems.
People are hard on the “Lost” series finale, but I think this hate is misplaced. The finale wasn’t bad in and of itself; the ending as a whole was. The problem with “Lost” is that they posed so many mysteries that they could never begin to solve them all. Not in the finale, and not in the final season. Hell, by its sixth season, “Lost” would have needed another five or six years just to untangle all the mysteries. But I don’t think that another few seasons would have really helped. The joy of “Lost” was the “WTF?” aspect of the mysteries and the fan theories on the Internet. Devoting a couple of seasons to mystery-solving would have been boring, worse than the ending they came up with. Like a Ponzi Scheme, the rent came due, and the whole pyramid of mysteries came tumbling down.
Did you watch “Lost” back in the day? If so, what do you think of this assessment? Let me know in the comments.