The Lost Experience – Failure of plot, success of commercialism
“The Lost Experience”, a creation of ABC and their advertising partners, was to be an immersive portal for “Lost” viewers to be part of a tiny, lurid slice of the “Lost” universe. In the beginning, it was the story of The Hanso Foundation, a seemingly benevolent corporation with a dark secret, a secret that a mysterious hacker named Persephone was intent to reveal.
There were codes to be solved, clues to follow, and a mystery to solve. As time went on, the millions of followers of the game came to know the good guys and bad guys of the game: The hacker Persephone was really the waifish Rachel Blake, on a personal mission to bring down the man; the defiant conspiracy radio-show jock DJ Dan, whose nemesis was -- you guessed it -- The Hanso Foundation; Alvar Hanso himself, the super rich head of the foundation which bears his namesake mysteriously missing; Thomas Mittlewerk, man of science with a shady past. The allusions to “Lost” were often tenuous at best, but tantalizing to fans of the series hopeful for a glimpse into the universe of the show.
Over the summer, an agonizingly slow exposition revealed the following story: A mathematician created a formula for predicting the end of mankind. His work was eventually suppressed, even a book by the famed author Gary Troup (who also wrote "Bad Twin", the manuscript of which made a cameo on “Lost” during season two) has disappeared, but unbeknownst to everyone, the formula had been solved, and human kind had precious little time left.
The output from the equation was a set of factors 4,8,15,16,23,42, numbers known very well to “Lost” fans. If you could change a factor, you could prevent the end of mankind. Enter the Hanso Foundation. Hanso developed a research project on a remote island and named it Dharma, which stands for Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications. Dharma was not successful in affecting any of the factors, and humankind was doomed setting the stage for Mittlewerk's hanso foundation coup.
The nefarious Mittlewerk, now possessing with a deadly virus disguised as a vaccine, sat out to affect one factor that he felt was within his control: the population. Reduce the population by 30%, and you upset the balance of the equation.
Rachel uncovered this plot with a series of video blog entries that chronicled her trip around the world in pursuit of the truth. She finally discovered it in Sri Lankha as she taped Mittlewerk instructing a team of Hanso cronies on how to carry out tests of the deadly vaccine, disguising it as an inoculation.
Eventually, along with the help of a Hanso mole, Rachel made her way to Hanso himself who confirmed the evil plan, and the fact that he was Rachel's father. Rachel brought the video to the authorities and they tried to capture Mittlewerk but were met with an office rigged to explode. The evil Mittlewerk has escaped, vowing to continue his work to save humankind.
And that, as they is, is all folks.
“Lost” fan’s reaction to the story and the execution has been overwhelmingly negative. For starters, the game was held over for several weeks between the release of the Srti Lankha video (which players had to assemble by finding an exhaustive seventy codes) and the finale that took place on a DJ Dan "live" podcast and was plagued with uninteresting callins, technical glitches, and an actress playing "Rachel" who just didn't seem to have her heart in it. For the “Lost Experience” finale to do nothing more but recap what we already knew then move from a Star Wars cliché’ to a finale that cries "sequel" was not exactly the payoff that fans who had invested hundreds of hours into the game were looking for.
If there is one success to the game it would seem to be the way advertisers were able to integrate themselves into the flow of the game. Verizon, Sprite, Jeep, Monster.com, amongst others, had prominent product placement throughout. It could be argued that the word "sprite" was used more in the aggregate of game dialogue then the word "Dharma".
And despite promises to explain the numbers and various other issues of the show, the game creates a meta-fictional conundrum. Since the show also exists within the universe of the game, Dharma, Hanso, et al as known in the game are not the same entities as those in “Lost”, which are merely fictional representations; representations that, if Ms. Blake is to be believed, are made to glorify Hanso and their work. Given this duplicity, we cannot be sure that any of the Hanso/Dharma/Numbers exposition is relevant to the series at all. If anything, by including the show as a work of fiction within the game they have insulated themselves from intruding on the continuity of the show. A clever maneuver for sure, the show writers have no obligation to provide a link between the game and the series and vice-versa.
That is really all I have to say. As with “Lost”, the theories surrounding “The Lost Experience” proved to be more interesting than the actual plot; but I think there is little question that it could have been done better.
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