'Inception' vs. 'Lost': Which Solved Its Puzzle-Plot Better?

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With puzzle-like plots that jump back and forth through both time and reality, Lost and Inception are similar in many ways—including the visceral audience reactions to how those respective plots concluded. Time's TV critic Richard Poniewozik revisits Lost's polarizing series finale and wonders how both critics and fans of that ending will respond to Inception's, which faced similar challenges of tying up multiple narratives and answering lingering questions. Ultimately, he invites a debate as to which balanced story, puzzle-building, and solution the best (beware of spoilers):

What I'm really curious about, though, is how well Lost fans—those who loved and hated its finale alike—thought Inception handled answering its own questions and tying up its own ending.

Obviously, a six-year series and a two-and-a-half-hour movie have different advantages and challenges. It's easier, on the one hand, to tie up loose ends and make all the pieces fit together in a (relatively) short story for which you have a complete script before shooting. It's easier, on the other hand, to develop characters beyond familiar situations and gestures if you have six years to deepen the story.

I was struck, watching Inception unfold, with how its elements meshed together in the way that the ideal version of Lost would have in many fans' minds: the timeline of each dream-within-a-dream, for instance, resolved in sync with one another. But Inception was able to do this by using devices that Lost probably wouldn't have been able to get away with: had the finale of Lost, for instance, in any way suggested that the series had been a dream, I'm guessing there would have been rioting in the streets.

Read the full story at Time's Tuned In blog.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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