LOST as ever

It’s been a few weeks since LOST ended and I still have questions.

That can be a good thing or a bad thing. I’m still working through the scattered pieces of narrative we were given and trying to see if there’s a hidden symmetry interwoven throughout. If not, the whole thing amounts to a shoddy house of cards collapsing in on itself. I don’t think there’s any middle ground between the two.

My wife and I began watching LOST six years ago with everyone else. I’m not a big TV viewer, other than the NBA, but it happened to catch our attention at a time when our first daughter was newly-born and the only thing we had enough energy to do was watch the tube. At first, the show seemed like a mindless diversion. An adventure/castaway story with a big budget and one of the hobbits from Lord Of The Rings. But it soon took on a life of its own and I found myself drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

It was slowly becoming an epic. What at first seemed like a simple, straightforward scripted drama turned into an intricate tapestry of intriguing mysteries, philosophical quandaries and personal histories of interesting characters. That was season 1, and I’ve never seen anything like it on television. Something that didn’t insult the intelligence of viewers and actually encouraged deeper reflection. On the other hand, it was fun and exciting. The writing held the balance between depth and action nearly seamlessly. The show was almost lyrical in places where it probed human existence using the plane crash as a metaphor for life interrupted and the island as a stand-in for the strangeness of life itself.

Plus there were polar bears, a smoke monster and an unearthed hatch. “There obviously has to be some grand design,” I told myself. I’ve been telling myself that ever since – until a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago, LOST ran out of runway without clearing the ground. The characters were somewhat resolved, albeit in a painfully contrived way. Yes, I choked up. My eyes got misty. The swelling music did its work on me. It hit me that I was saying goodbye to the show itself. I was reduced to blubbering like an elderly woman – somewhat. And as the final “LOST” title hit the screen, I told myself I was satisfied with the ethereal conclusion. I rode that high for a few days. Then one day I found myself thinking about the show as a whole and found myself plummeting into the bogs of despair. While the finale was in itself a good episode, as a conclusion to the series it was an unmitigated disaster. It not only left loose ends dangling in the wind, it took pride in doing so. It went out of its way to draw attention to its gaping plot holes, as if the nonsensical direction it took was some kind of “grand design.”

I’m not one of those people who wanted an answer to every little minute detail, but I did at least expect a grand mosaic. I have always watched this show because of the allure of the island. The island was what LOST was about. The glimpses of the deep mysteries of the island we had received in previous seasons were intriguing and evocative of life’s bigger questions. The ancient history of the island was the holy grail I was looking for. Was the island some sort of forbidden paradise that was dangerous to humans in their flawed existence? I was hoping so. They didn’t have to come out and call it “Eden”, but maybe a reference to its mythical primordial-ness and an explanation that humans of all times and civilizations have tried their hand at harnessing its power only to have it bite them back every time.. That theme would have satisfied me and would have been much more interesting than the slosh we were handed in the much-anticipated Jacob back-story.

Seasons 1-5: All excellent. There were some slow places in seasons 3 and 4 but all was forgiven with season 5. At the end of season 5, I was ready for a tour de force of an ending. Um…didn’t quite get it. Interesting questions, unfortunately they went nowhere. The island itself was probably the most intriguing locale of any episodic television show I’ve ever seen. It became iconic. Even seeing the Target ads during the finale made me remember what a wonderful piece of pop-culture iconography it has become. I hope there are spin-offs in either books, movies or TV, because frankly, the producers of LOST were unable to deliver any kind of semi-coherent all-encompassing vision of what the island was. There is still too much to explore to simply end it in the ridiculous place LOST ended. Seriously, the grand theory of the island can’t boil down to two immature brothers playing a game for no reason. The island existed long before them and that is the story I wanted. Jacob and The Smugly Unnamed One were not that interesting. Making the endgame all about their poutiness wasn’t a good narrative move. Or maybe they could have been written as more interesting characters in the first place.

The “flash-sideways” device that sucked the whole season into utter insipidity: too long and nothing worthwhile happened in it until the last ten minutes of the finale. And even that was pure sentimentality for it’s own sake. Seriously, I thought it was a given that whatever “flash” plot device they used for the last season would be to give us the island’s mythology. Instead we got what we thought was a parallel universe with very little significance as to what was transpiring on the island. This really slowed down momentum and infuriated viewers like me who were strung along for 5 years expecting things to be tied together. Instead, we got a timeline in which nothing mattered and nothing happened. It was pure hubris on the part of the producers to force-feed us this drivel after promising so much in previous seasons. To find out the flash-sideways was a sort of limbo in which spirits were waiting to “move on” was tantalizing, but too little too late. The season was already ruined. Also, this “limbo-world” had absolutely no connection to the island! It could have been the epilogue to ANY show. It was an obvious easy-out for writers who had painted themselves into a corner. This is also one of those extremely annoying dangling loose ends that does nothing but rub salt in my wounds as a pathetic loyal viewer. Would it have been that hard to connect the creation of this “limbo-world” to the island itself in some way? Not the way magic was being thrown around this season! Why not use the “it’s magic” cop-out to actually connect the story to itself?

This brings me to my final complaint. Not only did we the viewers not get what we had been waiting around 5 years to receive, but we actually got the added insult of hearing the producers try to redefine the show itself in interviews all year. “It’s not about the mysteries, it’s about the characters” became the mantra. After respecting our intelligence for 5 seasons, now they began to propagandize to excuse their own laziness. They can’t actually expect us to buy that LOST was all about the characters. I never lost any sleep wondering who Kate was going to kiss next or why Jack cried all the time. The numbers, the smoke monster, time-travel paradoxes, the Dharma Initiative, the four-toed statue, the whispers, etc: THESE were why I watched and what I wondered about. The few characters (Sawyer, Frank Lapidus, Daniel Faraday, Ben Linus) that were worth centering a show around were written into irrelevance while the tedious characters got all the screen time. Yet every time an interesting character was introduced…someone who might have an insight into the nature of the island, that character was either systematically demystified into a whimpering blob of goo or killed instantaneously. Other than Locke, I didn’t give a rip about anyone in the church at the end of the show. And Locke went out like a fool. Thanks, writers! In short, if LOST truly was supposed to be a character show than it was a horrible one.

“Every answer I give you will only lead to another question.”
I don’t know if it was the way the actress said it, but I knew this gem was a slap in the face directly from the writers. Now, technically we did receive answers this season, but they were beyond stupid. It almost seemed as if they were being purposefully delivered in unsatisfying ways to illustrate that answers aren’t as interesting as mysteries. Then the producers could say, “See? You didn’t really want answers. You just thought you did!” Actually the producers did say exactly that before they went into hiding after the finale. The problem with this line of thought is that it assumes that no answers could be well-written or intriguing. This is a red herring. Just because the writers couldn’t think of any good answers didn’t mean that a more talented group of writers couldn’t. I have read fan theories infinitely better written and visualized than the pig-slop we got. They didn’t even have to wander into midichorian territory! They just sat down for more than 5 minutes and came up with something exciting and interesting. There was a time in season 5 when I thought the whole show was one big time travel paradox, which would have been much more intriguing than…well, whatever it turned out to be. Not really sure what that is yet.

Well, that’s it. LOST is dead to me. A story that distinguished itself early devalued itself late. I hate writing and posting this. I’d rather focus on works of art that inspire and move me, but I spent so much time hoping that LOST could pull off something special, I at least wanted to put down my thoughts, negative as they are. I will say that the final scene of Jack laying down in the bamboo grove was a masterful stroke. There were flashes of genius throughout the finale; if they would have come after a better-realized season, it would have been icing on the cake rather than lipstick on a pig.

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~ by shardsofeternity on June 8, 2010.

4 Responses to “LOST as ever”

  1. Nice essay. I think it encapsulates the frustration that most people have with the entire final season. I think it’s validity is evidenced by the complete halt of post finale podcasts.

  2. Exactly. All conversation halts because LOST is a tale told by two um…(lesser storytellers), full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing…

  3. I feel your frustration with LOST. Went back not too long ago and was hoping to find something I’d missed, but that sideways/purgatorial nonsense that was the last season truly did mar the possibility that LOST could’ve been so much more.

    The finale was a heart wrencher for me simply because I have lost loved ones and often dream of what awaits when we are all together again. And Jack in the bamboo with Vincent, that ever faithful canine, resting beside him, truly a lovely moment.

  4. Yeah, I did love the last 10 minutes. For reasons I can’t explain as soon as I saw the coffin I knew it would be empty and when it was empty it hit me – empty tomb, new life. It was a beautiful moment. Also with Jack dying in the bamboo grove juxtaposed with reunion and reconciliation – masterful and beautiful.

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