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.