Friday, March 25, 2016

Ranting On...Nikki and Paulo

All right, we're going to get into it here, tackling one of the most divisive issues in the world of the Lost.  Actually, scratch that.  This isn't divisive at all-everyone is pretty much on the same side here on hating these two characters.  They popped up in Season 3 randomly, seemingly out of the blue and their entire story-line felt tacked on, if only because we hadn't seen them before and the writers wanted to pretend they'd been there the whole time.  Yes, ladies and gentleman, it's time to discuss Lost's "Two Seymour Skinners," its winning Roseanne's lottery ticket, its Felicity haircut.  We can't have Lost week without the bad to go with the good.  It's time to talk about Nikki and Paulo.

The characters make their very first appearance in "Further Instructions," and in the series they appear only in six episodes (seven for Nikki if you count her split-second cameo in "Ji Yeon").  The pair are meant to have been on the show, from what I can tell, considerably longer than initially discussed, but due to poor fan reaction they were cut relatively quickly and "Expose," their first centric episode, continued a long trend of having main characters die in their centric episode, though with them they joined Shannon as the only main characters to die in their very first centric episode.  As a result of the short span (they were only alive for a stretch of eleven episodes), they are the main characters who are in the least amount of episodes, and the only ones who never appear in either a premiere or a finale.

The reality is that Damon and Carlton were trying here, and should be given credit.  The survivors that we knew and loved were not, in fact, the only survivors on the beach or in the caves, and it was foolish for us to think that some of them wouldn't sneak into the conversation at some point.  We saw that with the additions later in the run with Arzt and Frogurt, characters who had been there the whole time but who had been sidelined from the main action.  After all, it's safe to assume that some people were just at the beach, chilling or doing laundry or fishing or collecting food.  Not everyone may have needed a dose of destiny and to heal.

It's also worth noting what had happened to our castaways at this point in the series. Lest we forget, Boone, Shannon, Ana Lucia, and Libby were all dead, and Mr. Eko, the producers knew, was on his way out.  There was beginning to be a shortage of survivors, and our existing survivors, under the show's umbrella of flashbacks, had had most of their offshore mysteries solved.  If the producers were getting pressure from ABC to keep the show on as long as possible, you needed to start to introduce new elements, and it couldn't just be the Others.  Having Nikki and Paulo, two duplicitous murderers who could perhaps start to take over the villainy angle that was lacking on the beach with a reformed Sawyer and Ben on Hydra, wasn't the worst idea.

I think where they went wrong with Nikki and Paulo was that they weren't in on the joke fast enough.  Lost fans take their show VERY seriously, and both of these two were just along for the ride, as if they had always been there.  It would have been a better idea if they had maybe gone with Steve (or Scott-whichever one was still alive), or Frogurt or someone of that nature being promoted since they had already been mentioned, or if they had led with a "get to know the rest of the beach" episode where they introduced Nikki and Paulo and perhaps had them end with something suspicious, like Paulo digging through the jungle after a confrontation with Sayid or Sawyer for the diamonds, and ending there for an episode.  That would have felt more organic (expository, but at least organic), and would have better introduced these two, as well as perhaps a couple of other side characters along the way.  The problem wasn't that these two had a bad storyline ("Expose" taken on its own is kind of fun and a great Hitchcockian whodunit stuck near the center of the series), but that by the time the writers wanted to start using them, they were already toxic.

So let's bury the hatchet with the two most scorned members of the island family, cruelly brought down by a smoky spider, and remember them as a failed experiment.  Not everything on Lost worked, but Nikki and Paulo at least tried, and without them we wouldn't know that the toilets in the Dharma Stations still functioned.  And that's a mystery we can at least cross off the list as solved.

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