May 28 2010 5:04pm

Lost “The End”: On finality

The Lost Round Table disbanded this week so we can give our individual reactions to the finale. You can find Rajan’s and Bridget’s here and here respectively. I am sure we will gather together again one day and swap war stories about the late nights we struggled to find new words for Smocke/Flocke/Silas/Esau/the Smoke Monster, to plumb the depths of Kate-hate, and collectively swoon over Jeff Fahey’s raw masculinity. (Perhaps that was really just me.) But we’ll meet in a dark and dusty bar for old sailors, not a Unitarian church of some kind. First round’s on me.

But for now, it’s time to say goodbye to Lost.

A few confessions: I am a TV addict. I empathize with fictional characters to an embarrassing degree. In fact, I blush for characters when something embarrassing happens to them. Lastly, I am terrible at goodbyes. All of these things would make me an ideal victim of a manipulative montage of characters I love embracing and crying to a sad Giacchino score. I should’ve been a sobbing mess in Darlton’s hands. But I wasn’t. Quite.

My first instinct was to ask if I had really stopped caring about the characters this season. I didn’t. I cheered (loudly) when Frank was found at sea. Of course Frank survived. First, he’s too cool to ever die. (We never saw him in the Sideways universe, right? That proves my point.) Who else could fly that Ajira plane off the island in dangerous weather conditions? That was the satisfying ending for the character—he fulfilled his duty. I smiled when Miles discovered Richard alive, too. Was it the touch of the Man in Black that made Richard age, as Jacob’s touch granted everlasting life? I don’t know. I didn’t need an answer to the how. Richard got a happy ending, too—he was given a gift of mortality. And Miles lived to be funny and sarcastic. (Miles never really had an arc.) Rose and Bernard! Vincent! You can’t say this episode lacked a little fan service.

But the main characters that made me fall in love with this show have lately seemed more like pawns in a game I never wanted to play. I’m so glad Jack acknowledged how disrespectful it was for the MIB to be wearing Locke’s face. If I wanted a good answer to one nitpicky thing this year, it would be why the MIB couldn’t continue to use Titus Welliver’s face. Why did he need a new face at all? Locke deserved more emotional closure for being one of the show’s better characters. But maybe that was the point; life and death are beyond our control. I’ll give Lost that, but it seemed like a waste of a good character. How much more interesting would the MIB be if he actually was John Locke gone bad, someone we knew intimately? Someone who had a damn name. And then the MIB didn’t get a very satisfying ending either. Kate shot him. After he became mortal thanks to Desmond draining, literally draining, the pool of glowing light. (Ugh. Nothing will ever make me like that whole cheesy concept.) Desmond was no longer a cool, time-traveling, romantic whiskey enthusiast; he was ultimately just a plumber. Hurley was the Island’s real choice of a protector and Ben his lieutenant. But they had adventures we will never get to see on an island that lives on, which is kind of comforting in one way—to know we are still free to add our own mythologies to the Island’s many—and frustrating in another because there were no final revelations about the Island in the end. Also, you can say the ending is kind of inviting terrible Hugo/Ben fan fiction and that most certainly is a negative.

I was more let down by the sideways universe being a layover on the way to the afterlife. For me, the heart of Lost wasn’t about corks and smoke monsters. It was about people and the choices they made that either sabotaged or redeemed their lives, whether those choices were acts of free will or preordained. So I am fine with spirituality in Lost, to a degree. But this season swung way too far into religious cliche territory for me. Personifications of good and evil and white light in a church still don’t seem at all related to the fuzzy-science TV logic of hydrogen bombs, electromagnetic flares, time travel, and teleporting bunnies. The events of last season really made me believe an alternate reality was created and, by the end, Jack and everyone else would earn the opportunity to choose which life they wanted and deal with the repercussions. Atone for past sins, find new connections. Saying the sideways universe is a spontaneously created collective purgatory is about on par with “It was all a beautiful dream.” It feels like a trick and an easy out. And it begs more questions. Why did Jack have a son? Why was Aaron still a baby? Why was Sayid’s lifelong love Nadia less valuable to him than his island fling, Shannon? Really? Her? I was a defender of the sideways universe and I now feel like I wasted my time a bit because it didn’t lead anywhere. I didn’t want to know what happens to the characters in the afterlife, or after their deaths, anyway. I wanted to know what happened to them in this one, after the Island. No 80s movie-style freeze frames and text, just some hint of how the Island impacted their lives. 

I blame a good chunk of this deflated feeling on the last ten minutes. The last ten minutes are the most important of any series finale. It’s the last chance for the creators, the writers, to give us something to take away. First, as a TV junkie, I would say that Six Feet Under had the series finale against which all other series finales will be judged. Everybody dies. That doesn’t need a spoiler because that was one of the show’s main points. To say that everybody eventually dies and this is how one family deals with it. Six Feet Under left the airwaves with a touching message about our fragile mortality. (Richard should maybe Netflix this show when he gets back to civilization.)

Look at the series finales for Angel and Farscape, two shows canceled before their time that still managed to depart on great terms, doing what they did best. We said goodbye to Angel & co. mid-apocalypse, knowing that evil was always present, but they would just keep fighting the good fight until they died themselves. And Farscape's "Bad Timing" gave us a soapy romantic twist and a cliffhanger, two things Farscape did better than most (until Lost came along anyway.) But what really got me was the defiant “To Be Continued....” Farscape kind of had balls and it went out that way, too.

Fan outrage makes me uncomfortable. I spent six years of my life watching this show, so I feel a sense of proprietary investment in it, but I don’t write for the show. I don’t own any piece of it, really. I’m just a viewer. The ending that would’ve made me happiest was not the one the creators envisioned. So I can either whine about this or choose to just accept it and move on. Now I can look at the complete story and stop the inevitable re-watch with “LA X” if I so wish.

Because that’s it. I will still re-watch this show. Several times, I’m sure.

Lost was never really about the mysteries for me, it was about the people. I genuinely liked a surprisingly large chunk of the characters. Maybe some people didn’t like these characters, but to them, I’d wonder why they bothered watching Lost at all because if you were expecting real answers, no questions left, and a big intellectual payoff... you were expecting too much of a TV show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a genre show truly escape the weight of its own mythology. Mythologies are messy, self-contradictory behemoths that need to be handled with extreme care before they consume a fanbase. And the format of television, with its many writers, directors, tight schedules, and unforeseen casting problems (like actors “hating the shooting location” or extreme puberty) doesn’t foster careful planning as well as the creators may like.

When I think about what I should take away from the finale of Lost, what resonated with me most was Jack dying in the bamboo field where we first met him in the pilot, Vincent at his side. His eyelid closing, the last thing we ever see. It was beautiful balance. I’m a big fan of full circles. It would’ve felt wrong if Vincent wasn’t there. Is there any better symbol of loyalty and unconditional love than a dog?

Lost was about a community forged out of nothing that grew to include more and more people who fought, fell in love, did stupid things, did bad things, did great things. They played games and talked and kept secrets and created families from strangers we knew weren’t really strangers, after all. It was about human connection and companionship. And the show created a community of fans to discuss and dissect and theorize together. What fun would it be if all of the questions were answered and everyone got exactly what they expected?

That wasn’t Lost.

Not at all.

Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Chizine. She’s eagerly awaiting the return of True Blood.

Lost | Tv
1. Kudzu
I don't think Sayid felt he could end up with Nadia as he had tortured her in real life. This is not to say that I think Shannon was his soul mate. I just think he wouldn't be able to get past the torturing.
2. politeruin
Farscape didn't go out on Bad Timing, it went out on The Peacekeeper Wars parts 1&2. Which did wrap the whole thing up...of sorts.
Allison Lockwood Hansen
3. Talisyn
"...and teleporting bunnies."

Ha! I'd forgot about that teleporting bunny :-) Also agree that Six Feet Under was the best finale, oh just ever. I still get choked up when I hear the song by Sia that plays at the end.

"Also, you can say the ending is kind of inviting terrible Hugo/Ben fan fiction and that most certainly is a negative."

Apparently, there is 14 more minutes of Ben/Hurley on the island that we'll see on the DVD release. Which I plan to buy, not just for that (though they, along w/ Daniel Faraday were my favorite characters) but because I think viewing the episodes a little closer together w/o all the interruptions by seasonal breaks and endless repeats will afford a certain continuity that the televised format left to be desired.
Theresa DeLucci
4. theresa_delucci
@2 At the time "Bad Timing" aired, there was no guarantee of The Peacekeeper Wars. I'd written more about it, but cut it because holy crap, this post got way long! ;)

It's true; marathoning a season on DVD helped. I didn't like season 3 much until I got the DVDs. That season especially had a lot of repeats and hiatuses. Season 6 might be helped by that and of course I'd give any extra footage a look. You can never have too much Hurley.
5. Paws_on_the_wall
Vincent's a Labrador retriever, not a golden retriever. Labradors are slightly more headstrong than goldies, also, golden retrievers have been too popular for their own good in many countries, and as a result have been overbred for looks and docility, resulting in deficiencies in other areas. As a result, many goldies are slightly, umm, vacuous, whereas (most) Labradors are very intelligent dogs.

So, in retrospect I guess a golden retriever would have fit "Lost" better. Putting a Labrador in there was just another of the producers evil tricks to make the show seem more clever than it was :-)
Allison Lockwood Hansen
6. Talisyn
I just wanted to say thanks so much to Theresa, Bridget & Rajan for the Lost blogs!
I looked forward to coming here and hearing your take on the show each week. You made me LOL, and your opinions and observations were always interesting and insightful. I don't watch a lot of tv - this was a fun show to have in common. I'll miss that. Thanks again guys - nice work!
7. ssgorik
All questions about the sideways universe can be answered by thinking about one thing: If they created this world themselves what changes would they put into it? Why does Jack have a son? Think about Jack. Aaron was a baby because that's when they all got together at the church, if they'd lived out another twenty years in the sideways before getting together then he wouldn't be. Plus you could just say he was a baby while on the island. I saw someone post a number of questions recently and one has stuck with me - Why did Tom have to wear a fake beard? First, are these the kinds of questions you have to have an answer to? Second, maybe you're overthinking it. Some people seem to think that LOST is going to answer every question. They would also tell you it's an intelligent show that makes you think. If that's true then the writers are going to assume you can figure out on your own why Tom wears a fake beard (and a great number of other "mysteries").
8. sofrina
"No 80s movie-style freeze frames and text,"

that's a '70s style. see "cooley high."
9. sofrina
what stunned me about the finale was that it completely overlooked some of the bigger parts of the initial mythology. the island meant nothing. the so-called answers doled out throughout the season were simply inadequate. hurley's lottery numbers of doom were their seat numbers on the flight? the candidates were chosen because they were lost souls? but they were tested as children. they can't all have been lost souls that young. and what about all the other passengers on 815? their suffering through this ordeal - their deaths - was incidental to bringing the candidates ashore? a token michael appearance to explain the voices? really? he betrayed relative strangers to save his child, then died in the act of trying rescue said strangers only to be eternally damned to that island? ana lucia wasn't stuck on that island and she was a murderer.

i found the ending elegaic, even elegant. but most bitter to receive. it brought a silly climax after jacob's ridiculous back story about protecting the source light of the world. he didn't seem to know anything about his vigil after all those centuries. that's what was most offensive these intense deliveries of evasive non-statements. what are we, stupid? we don't know when someone isn't answering the question.

theresa, you know i took a full season off out of outrage. and i only came back this year on the notion they could weave this back into a tight story. and all we got was nonsense and an elegant sally that was completely beside the point.

and no one will ever be able to convince me that the writers couldn't have worked walt back in as a significant character. given the nature of the limbo - that age was irrelevant - he could easily have been locke's student at alex's high school. he could have been the other special soul who helped desmond guide the others to the chapel.

these people are on my list right next to the wachowski brothers as 'most in need of a slap.' not for the finale but for pretty much everything after season one (including losing about 30 castaways in the time travel flashes who MUST have survived the time sickness and still be stranded there.)
10. dmg
Thank you, sofrina, for your excellent comments. You summarize my feelings and misgivings re this final season and final episode exceedingly well.

Yes, what about Walt? Hey, what about Aaron? Both characters were supposed to be special. Sheesh, LOST signed off with many questions still dangling; e.g., What about the four-toed statue? (About as useless a question re the show's mythology as I can dream up.)

I devoured voraciously each episode of LOST, and especially loved the meta-stories in each episode of Season 5... But in the end, the show's plethora of ideas met a paucity of realization, which only proves the necessity for an editor in any creative endeavor.

PS: re the Wachowski Bros, did you ever see their earlier movie, Bound? That movie's artistic success allowed them the creative freedom to make The Matrix. (And damn the sequels!)
11. sofrina
dmg, what can i say? i don't think it's too much to ask that a storyteller finish the story. these guys leapfrogged ahead to an ending that they have not earned.

there once was a show called "china beach" with many characters, relationships and plotlines. it was briefly taken off air during the gulf war. when the show returned to shooting the story broke format and moved btw it's present, past and future to show the character's continued development before, after and long after their tours in vietnam. we found out what became of mcmurphy, dick richard, kc, major lilah, sarge pepper, dodger, boonie, and beckett plus sweetness, frankie and wayloo marie. THAT was an awesome series ending.
12. dmg
i don't think it's too much to ask that a storyteller finish the story. these guys leapfrogged ahead to an ending that they have not earned.

Your insight above is spot-on, sofrina. And stated especially well. Thank you.

I recall China Beach. I watched its first few episodes due solely to Dana Delaney. Dana breathed a whole lotta life into a briefly recurring character on Thirtysomething. That one performance ensured I would watch whatever she did next.

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