Monday, May 24, 2010

In the end, "Lost" lost me as a fan

Last night I, along with millions of other fans, watched the series finale of "Lost." To say I'm a little disappointed would be an understatement. I was hoping for something a little more coherent. A little more of an epiphany, or a Shyamalan-esque twist ending. The "Lost" writers delivered on NONE of these things. None.

If you haven't seen the finale, stop reading. Spoilers follow!

It seemed to me that the writers were intent on not pissing off any segment of the fan-base, so they tried to incorporate aspects of EVERY possible ending into one ending that would give every fan something to take away from it - but in the end just created a confusing jumble that is probably going to piss off everyone who stuck with the show for six years. Six years that often seemed even longer because of enormous gaps in airing and so many re-runs viewers thought they were time-jumping like Desmond.

The ending, much like the entire show, is open to interpretation. It took an hour after the finale finished for me to muddle through and make some kind of "sense" of it all, but there's no way for me to know if I'm correct.

Things fans were hoping for, such as Jack becoming the new Jacob (which is actually called out in the episode as being too obvious), but Hurly also gets to become the new Jacob. Sawyer and Kate sort of end up together, but so do Sawyer and Juliette and Jack with Kate (in the afterlife). The Smoke Monster gets killed. Desmond survives and in both the reality and the afterlife will get to be with Penny. Locke gets to stay on the island (his body does anyway), he also gets to walk (in the alternate reality). Hurly finds purpose in both realities. Characters meet both tragic ends and get a happy ending (albeit in the afterlife). How the island "works" is left both explained and a mystery. Turns out everyone was dead and in limbo. It also turns out some of them aren't. Like I said, they tried to put in a little of everything.

The simple answer for the end of the show is something people were assuming right from the pilot episode - they're all dead. Which is a bit obvious, and a total cop-out if that was what the writers intended. Especially for a show that prided itself on not insulting the intelligence of its audience.

But, of course, this is "Lost" we're talking about. It couldn't be that simple. Could it? Please tell me it isn't that simple! Well, I'm pretty sure it isn't. Here's my attempt to make sense of it all:

They're All Dead
The "flash sideways" parallel timeline after the atomic bomb went off isn't real. It's part of the afterlife, sort of a limbo or purgatory. They don't even realize they're dead. It's an idealized version of their lives - their lives as if the island had never been a part of it. Jack is a self-confident surgeon, a father with a teenage son and apparently none of the self-esteem sapping "daddy issues" he had before. His ex-wife is Juliette, who is happily practicing as an Ob/Gyn. Sawyer (aka Ford) isn't the scoundrel with a heart of gold, he's on the right side of the law as a detective. Miles is his partner and has an apparently close relationship with his father - who isn't a Dharma Initiative scientist, but runs a Los Angeles museum. Desmond isn't hated by Charles Whitmore, he's Witmore's right-hand man. Hurly is the luckiest man alive. Sayid still has a checkered past, but he's basically a good guy looking out for his family. Claire isn't crazy, and she'll have a chance to raise Aaron. And so on and so on - the main point being they are all living better, if not idealized, versions of their lives. Except they aren't. Because they're dead.

The Island was REAL
Christian Shepard tells Jack that they all created "this place" (the alternate LA) so they could find each other, because the time Jack spent with "these people" was the more important. Meaning the events on the island DID actually happen!

Another clue is, at the church at the end, Hugo invites Ben to come inside. Ben is obviously reluctant to join them as I'm sure he believes he won't exactly be welcome. Hugo then tells Ben he made a great "Number Two." In the last scene on the island with Hugo, after he has become the new Jacob, he asks Ben to help him. This means Hugo did protect the island, with Ben as his go-to guy. But in the alternate LA they are both dead.

The last scene of the show is Jack stumbling, mortally wounded through the bamboo trees. He falls down and looks up at the sky only to see a plane fly over. It is the Ajira plane leaving the island. If you thought it was some time travel weirdness and the plane was Oceanic 815 well it can't be. When the credits roll we get a shot of the wreckage of Oceanic 815 strewn across the beach. The plan DID crash. The events on the island DID happen.

The A-Bomb Didn't Kill Them
If the alternate timeline isn't real, then the island is NOT at the bottom of the ocean. The energy of the bomb must have been absorbed by the island into the strange matter at the bottom of the drill shaft. So the bomb only killed Juliette, because she was on top of it. But the bomb DID apparently change history on the island because the Dharma station there had never been built. and appears to have synced the 1974 people up with the 2007 people. Which means Frank, Richard, Miles, Kate, Claire, and Sawyer lived and escaped from the island on the Ajira plane, and Hurly, Ben, Desmond, Rose and Bernard all survived on the island.

Time Doesn't Matter
I'm sure a lot of people have trouble rectifying the two "timelines" because if a bunch of the characters SURVIVED then how come they are in the "afterlife" all dead? Well, if you'd noticed this show plays with concepts of time. The alternate LA "flash sideways" is actually a sort of limbo after death, which means linear time doesn't apply. As Christian Shepard told Jack, in that place there is no "now." It's happening after ALL the characters have passed away, whether they died on the island, off the island, escaped the island and lived long and happy lives, or stayed on the island and eventually died the point is death is inevitable and unavoidable. The "now" of the alternate LA occurs after everyone has died, which is why they can all meet up there. They could all start remembering their connections to each other - from their time on the island - because that actually happened to them and it's how they know each other.

The Island Is Still Waiting
Sure, they're all dead and "moving on" to some sort of afterlife together. But the island, save the parts that fell off during the earthquakes, isn't at the bottom of the ocean. It's still there, somewhere, waiting for more people to arrive. It still has crazy energy and mysterious temples. The story of the Oceanic 815 characters and Ben's "Others" has ended, but there is room for a new story. . .on the island.

It's a Big Disappointment
As I noted, from the very first episode people believed the characters were actually all dead, and the island was some sort of purgatory. Well, okay, here's the twist (if there is one) that it was the alternate Los Angeles that was the non-existent purgatory. The characters were actually all ALIVE on the island, and it's a real, physical place. A real, physical place that defies the laws of time, space, and physics and makes no sense at all and the writers - convinced the show was primarily "character driven" - decided the PLOT wasn't worth trying to explain. Probably because they were making it up as they went along and it doesn't make any sense to them either.

It wasn't the worst series finale I've seen (that award goes to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica), but it did seem like a terrible cop-out that makes me not particularly ever want to rewatch the series knowing this unsatisfying finale awaits at the end.

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