Still feeling “Lost”?

24 05 2010

Today, I actually had so many things I wanted to write about, that I had to chose. Guess that’s a good problem to have. So which option won out? Well if you read the headline, you already know.

Last night, the series finale of “Lost” aired. I was a latecomer to the hit show. I always wanted to watch it but once I missed the first season, I knew there was no way I was catching up on all the backstory. So I waited and bided my time. Then, once I knew this was going to be the final season, I started getting the first 5 seasons on DVD whenever I saw them on sale or at Half Price Books. Finally, last fall, Erin and I started watching the show. We immediately could see why it was such a hit. We fell in love with the characters and were pulled in by all the mysteries. What was the Smoke Monster? Why was Walt so important? Who were The Others? What does the Dharma Initiative have to do with the island and its past? Why does that scary music play all the time on this deserted island? And as the seasons went on, there were more questions, with few answers. Scores of new characters were introduced. I loved how the flashbacks always revealed something about a character’s past while also being tied in to whatever story there were telling on the island that week.

Along the way, there were parts of the story that I thought worked, and some that really didn’t. But through it all, I was holding out hope that the creators (Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse) knew what they were doing and that there would be a satisfying conclusion at some point. After watching last night’s finale, I’m not quite sure I got that payoff.

All along, the creators kept saying their show was really about the characters, not the island and its myriad of mysteries. The island was just a setting and a storytelling device to tell these rich stories about flawed characters and their attempts to find redemption. As the final season started, they were honest in saying that there would be answers to some of fans’ questions, but not all of them. In fact, some of the “answers” may not have even been answers. For example, in the episode two weeks ago that showed how Jacob and the Man in Black got to the island, most people who watched believed that Jacob’s brother, the Man In Black, became the Smoke Monster after going down the river and into the mysterious light. But I’m left wondering if that didn’t release the Smoke Monster who then took on the appearance of the Man In Black. We’ve seen the Smoke Monster take on the form of dead people all along. And we did see Jacob burying the Man in Black after the Smoke Monster was released from the cave. So it’s open to interpretation.

As is the ending of the show, apparently. To me, it was pretty straightforward. But looking on Facebook and Twitter, it still is confusing some people. OK, spoilers coming so if you haven’t watched the finale yet, stop reading.

Throughout Season 6, we’ve seen the story of the castaways continue to unfold on the island. But we’ve also been introduced to what has been called a Flashsideways world – a world where Oceanic Flight 815 from Sidney, Australia to LAX did not crash. Most people thought this was an alternate universe created by the exploding bomb in the Season 5 finale. The flashsideways stories have shown the characters in lives similar to what they had in the “real world” before they went to the island. But most of the stories had some important twists. The last few episodes had shown characters in the flashsideways world remember the “real world” and their time on the island. Usually some very emotional event that was similar to one that had happened on the island spurred the memory. In the last few minutes of the finale, we finally found out why. The flashsideways world was actually a purgatory of some kind where all (OK not really all. Where was Michael?) the Losties had gathered, waiting to go into the light. They were just waiting for all of them to remember their previous lives. Since time doesn’t matter in the afterlife, we don’t know exactly when these scenes are taking place, but it is somepoint in the future since all the Losties have now died, even the ones who escaped the island in the finale.

In the “real world” on the island, we see the final showdown between Jack, who has taken over for Jacob as the island’s protector, and the Smoke Monster who looks like John Locke. In the end, Jack is able to kill the Smoke Monster and ends up sacrificing himself for the island. With Jack gone, Hurley becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben as his No. 2. And some of the castaways actually survive long enough to fly off the island in the Ajira plane that the Oceanic Six used to return to the island. Kate, Claire, Miles, Sawyer, Richard and Lapidus soar away with Jack watching as he lies on his back, dying. And the show closes with a close up on his eye closing.

On one level, the finale did just what the creators wanted it to. The moments in the flashsideways world where the friends and lovers were reunited and remembered their life on the island were some of the most touching moments the show has ever produced. However, we are left with so many questions. Where did the island come from? Why did it jump through time? Why was Walt important? Why was there a pocket of electromagnetic energy in that cave? And on and on and on. It just feels like we got shortchanged. Would it really have been that hard to answer some of the nagging questions?

As a writer myself, I understand having a creative vision and being true to it. If it wasn’t their mission to answer all the questions, then from an artistic point of view, they should be true to their mission and vision. But from the point of view of a viewer, especially for people who have been watching for 6 years now, many are left wanting more. They want resolution to the 6 years of stories and some kind of payoff for the hundreds of hours they spent watching the show faithfully. But as longtime viewers of the show, they should have known to expect the unexpected.

The writers were in a no-win situation. Even if they had answered every single question, there would be people not happy with the finale. So they told the story that they wanted to tell, and decided to let the viewers decide for themselves if they felt that it fit or not.

So what did you think? Did the story of Jack’s test and redemption satisfy you? Were you left wanting more? Were you left wondering what the heck was going on?

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