This promo for the Lost episode "The Man From Tallahassee" aired on March 14. It, and the episode it teased, encapsulates all that is intriguing and problematic about this series (or to be more precise, serial). Amidst much rapid cutting, explosions, and close-ups, we are essentially told This Is It. This is the one you've been waiting for. Why? The cause of John Locke's paralysis (his pre-crash state, which was revealed way, way back in Season 1's "Walkabout") will be revealed. The ostensible gravity of this revelation (pun intended) is a function of Lost's de facto contract with its long-term viewers, which promises eventual narrative resolution in exchange for continued viewing. Dangling a tasty narrative carrot, the promo explicitly acknowledges the waning patience of the audience, and implores it to keep the faith, if only for one more week. While serial narratives, even on prime-time television, are nothing new per se, what is new about Lost is the degree to which it requires not only diligence but patience. Bits and pieces of exposition are peppered throughout every episode, but, two and a half years in, have only added to the overall enigma. Every Big Revelation has, thus far, led to another Big Question. Fair enough, in principle. Narrative "arcs" have, after all, been a common feature of prime-time drama since Dallas and Hill Street Blues, and long-running, complex narratives have driven daily daytime soap operas for decades. However, Lost's plotting pushes the conventions of prime-time television drama to the breaking point, piling on enigmas, clues, and ambiguities, and occasionally even exploding (pun intended) viewers' perceived diegetic stability (e.g., the recent episode, "Flashes Before Your Eyes"). Whatever the arguable aesthetic and cultural qualities of Lost's narrative experiment, it is, after all, also a particular kind of product (a prime-time television serial, and an expensive one at that) thoroughly dependent on ratings stability and/or growth. The limitations of that format and its conventions (including, among other things, the length of episodes and seasons) presented considerable, and ultimately insurmountable challenges to David Lynch and Mark Frost back in 1990 with the (now) relatively straightforward Twin Peaks, let alone anyone attempting anything on Lost's scale. In the actual episode, "The Man From Tallahassee," which aired on March 21, the missing chunk of John Locke's backstory (the cause of his injury) is predictably replaced in the denouement by another, out-of-left-field enigma. Earlier in the episode, Locke actually says "This is going to be more complicated that we thought," a deliciously metatextual line that encapsulates the series' precarious position, revealing the anxieties of the series' writers and network, and the increasing frustration of its viewers. Accordingly, at this point, the narrative enigma I'm most interested in is whether (and how) Lost will ultimately pull it off, rather than in what's actually going on on that damn island. I'll have more on this subject up soon on my blog, DKMM.