5-4-3-2-Lost!: “The End”

Posted by Jesse May 24th, 2010 at 01:31pm In Lost

So, super-surprising mega-spoiler alert: Lost is over, and a bunch of the internet is mad, but that was almost certainly going to be the case, unless the show really had been planned out step-by-step when it first premiered back in 2004, which would’ve been nearly impossible. I do have some problems with the sometimes haphazard way in which Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof seemed to go about managing their creation — the way they insisted they had an end point in mind, complained about the difficulties of planning an open-ended serial, negotiated for their own end date, then nonetheless brushed off some subplots due to time constraints that they helped bring about, and then seemed to backpedal a bit on the “we’ve been planning this out the whole time” angle.

But those aren’t really problems within the body of the show, which came to a satisfactory, at times excellent, conclusion last night. Honestly, making a series finale is a pretty thankless task. If people are talking about it, it’s usually because a good portion of the audience is saying that it’s crap. If you make a really terrific one — I’d put “Chosen,” the series finale of Buffy, up with the show’s best episodes ever — no one pays all that much attention.

Lost tried to thread the nerd-expectation needle with a balance between fantastical island action and emotional character connections, and, indeed, the central debate between those pleased with the finale and those who are ready to slog off the whole series as a waste of time seems to be whether the focus on the characters is more or less important than the mythology and mystery elements. I can certainly identify with that conflict; for the first few seasons of the show, I maintained that my problems with it had to do with the creators thinking it was about the emotional and character-based components, even though the most original and interesting aspect was the sci-fi/fantasy/mystery storytelling. In other words, no, sorry, I don’t care that much about Sun and Jin as people; I care about what they’re doing on this crazy island.

I can’t say that I’ve completely come around to the character side of things — I’m just not as attached to the Losties as I was to characters in, say, Buffy and her friends or even Mulder and Scully — but, oddly, when the show kicked into trippier sci-fi elements in the fourth and fifth seasons, and started moving at a faster pace, I also found myself more invested in the characters, because even the less essential later episodes didn’t sink to the feelings of time-killing you got in sections of the first three seasons. That is to say that I may not have been most interested in everyone’s character development, but the show did a better job of making that development not come off like downtime. (Or maybe I’m just happier whenever a show adds time-travel into the mix.) So I’ve at least accepted that yeah, the creators are more into the emotional character-arc stuff, some of which is great and some of which is sketchy, but OK, they’ve given us enough fun sci-fi trippiness so that strict, definite answers wouldn’t necessarily make the show any better.

Anyway: so everyone is dead! But not necessarily in a bad way. Actually, in kind of an amazing way. We were left to assume that the flash-sideways world was time-travel related, and it wasn’t (OK, a little bit of a bummer), and/or that it could be some kind of postscript to the series, and it wasn’t (OK, a little bit of a bummer that everyone is still dead, but pleasing that they didn’t issue a bunch of get-out-of-death-free cards) — but the way they handled the flash-sideways afterlife actually indulged in a little of each of those angles. There was sort of a spiritual time-travel going on, the way that some of those characters died way before Jack, and others way after, yet all came together in a single all-time point, and it offers an epilogue to their lives in a way sort of reminiscent of the Six Feet Under finale (which, I admit, I haven’t seen, but I read about it. That and the Sorpanos finale: episodes I haven’t actually seen, but sound completely awesome).

So the revelation about the sideways world was a nice one, and not, to my mind, a cheat, even if it does play right into Lost‘s tendency to get all soppy and slow-mo with the togetherness. But this time it worked; it wasn’t just a time-killing slow-mo sequence of everyone boarding a plane again (I’ll grudgingly admit there was a symmetry in that church sequence that would not have been present without all of that past plane-boarding, but still, never my favorite moments of the show).

The easy complaint is that the show wound up going the purgatory route that everyone guessed in the first year and which Cuse, Lindelof, and Abrams insisted wasn’t the solution. But of course, the island itself wasn’t purgatory — even the sideways universe wasn’t exactly purgatory, but rather that spiritual time-space convergence. Still, no Lost fan could watch the resolution without thinking of those early purgatory guesses, and I’m sure that “so it turned out it was basically purgatory, ugh” will become a whiny meme.

The afterlife turn, and several repeated shots and self-referential lines of dialogue, made for a surprisingly meta final episode, which added some fun (Hurley’s “I have a bad feeling about this,” Sawyer’s joke about Kate following after him) to a pretty dire situation. Also fun: watching a trio of later cast additions, the kind of characters that are killed off all the time on the show, actually survive: Lapidus! Miles! Richard! Flying to safety! I mean, yes, they brought along Sawyer, Kate, and Claire at the last minute, but I really liked the way they accomplished this primarily by breaking away from the major characters and just trying to get themselves the hell out of there. Lapidus even got a petulant “leave me alone!” while the main characters yelled from the walkie-talkie. In a season that provided all manner of hilarious ideas for spin-offs via the sideways universe, it was fitting that the last episode would add in some tantalizing non-sideways possibilities: Hurley and Ben, Island Administrators! Lapidus, Miles, and Richard, super-mismatched trio flying ’round the world!

I did have some problems with the finale. Desmond came back into this season with a bang, and his role turned out to be disappointingly minor: passive in the island world, and receding in favor of Jack’s story in the flashpurgatorium. He basically lacked a single awesome moment here, which was kind of a problem considering how much build-up his presence received. I mean, we got to see the tearful flash-reunion of Sayid and Shannon, but not Desmond and Penny. That’s kind of messed up considering that probably at least a third of the audience would be more likely to go “What the fuck? Oh, right, Sayid and Shannon, yeah, I guess they were a thing” rather than, you know, the intended “awww” (I would’ve been way happier with Shannon and Boone having a touching moment where they remembered how they boned that time).

Also, some of the on-island action felt a little perfunctory, even with an epic Fake Locke/Jack battle strangely reminiscent of a sequence from The Matrix Revolutions, a movie I’m pretty sure no one but me actually likes (I was going to say that made sense if it was originally conceived in 2004, but actually, no, even in 2004 it would be weird to conceive anything to look like Matrix Revolutions). I’m not sure it makes sense to describe the island as a metaphorical cork, and then have it turn out to contain basically an actual cork. In fact, that seems sort of confusing. But, as I hoped, the series managed to sidestep the “good versus evil” idea. I mean, yeah, Fake Locke was pretty rotten, and the new Jacobs are obviously pretty solidly good, but Hurley and Ben don’t seem particularly inclined to follow the Jacob administration’s approach to island governance; it sounds like they’ll be focused on helping people find their way home, which honestly, even if there wasn’t a larger mission, I don’t think Jacob would’ve done. I just don’t like that dude.

So yeah, I thought it was a pretty solid, slightly uneven end to a pretty solid, slightly uneven show, with some really lovely moments of direction from series regular Jack Bender, and touching character moments for most of our core castaways: Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, and Ben all had a wealth of good moments (or in Ben’s case, good fortune: anyone else catch how Ben got out from under that tree towards the end? I didn’t think much about it, but a friend pointed it out and now it seems really weird that they weren’t able to lift the tree, but he somehow escaped, and also didn’t seem to have shattered any bones under it). There was resolution with some ambiguity. There was spiritual stuff but it wasn’t too hokey. Hurley said “dude” a bunch of times and we saw Vincent. Good show. What did you guys think? And what am I going to watch now?

9 Comments

  • 1. Maggie  |  May 24th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Liked it! Well put!

    I think I’m going to take up this Breaking Bad thing everyone’s being going on about.

  • 2. Marisa  |  May 24th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve been doing some thinking about it, and yeah, the finale was pretty good and not spectacular.

    I love the on-island resolution. I thought the Locke/Jack punch-fight was immensely satisfying. I wanted Hurley to be Island Protector from the beginning. I’m glad that Ben finally had someone to toady for. And I’m happy to see that everybody didn’t die, and that some people finally got to leave the island for good. I would’ve liked to know more about what happened to them afterward–and Desmond and Penny, too–but I’m fine with them not telling me.

    The sideways timeline resolution was not as satisfying. Personally, throughout the series I liked all of the scientific explanations better than the spiritual ones, even if they were equally fake. (I prefer hearing “electromagnetism” over “magic light.”) So the super-spiritual existence of the purgatory-ish world isn’t really up my alley.

    But, besides that, I needed the framework of that world to be more outlined for me. I get that they all met there so they could work through some problems, come to terms with their deaths, and let go. That makes sense. And the events of the purgatory world make sense with that explanation for some of the characters. Jack, for instance, was a good father in sideways-world because he had a poor relationship with his father in real life. Or Sawyer, who was a cop so that he can catch con men. But what about Sun? Getting shot in the gut–that’s a pretty sucky purgatory, and not one that really does anything for her character. (Was she sad that she was not shot in life?) And what happens if you get shot and killed in purgatory (like poor, sweet Keamy)?

    The same goes with moving on to the next life together. I’m still not sure why some people moved on, others knew they could move on and didn’t, and still others weren’t invited to move on. This ambiguity left me with a lack of closure for some of the characters, which, in a character-based rather than a plot-based finale, meant a small degree of failure.

    In this case, I understand why Sun and Jin would want to leave–they had each other, and there was nothing going on for them in sideways-world. Locke, though, was healed and was going to get married to Helen–why wouldn’t he want to stick around for that? Or, if moving on is the noble thing to do, why does Ben get to stick around with Alex and Rousseau? And why didn’t they get Charlotte and Daniel to join them? Or poor Lapidus? (And why would Shannon want to spend eternity with the rest of them? She never really liked anybody there except Sayid.) I get that some of the most flawed people have to stay behind (or worse, get trapped on the island as a whisper-ghost), but some of the people who got through seem just as flawed. Maybe if I knew more about how they died I’d understand. But I wanted the rules of that whole situation spelled out for me a little more, and the fact that it wasn’t was what was unsatisfying to me about the ending.

  • 3. Marisa  |  May 24th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Also, while I have a mixed reaction to the finale, I think people who hated it didn’t really get it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people say, “What’s with those island pregnancies, anyway? They never explained that.” A) They did. B) From now on, just chalk up everything they didn’t spell out for you to “electromagnetism.” They dropped the ball on a lot of things–Walt, mostly, but did we ever find out why Hugo was called Hurley?–but not really on the biggest complaints that haters have. Demanding answers to questions the show has implicitly already answered makes you, not the finale, look weak!

  • 4. Jesse  |  May 24th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Maggie, I’m tempted to watch Breaking Bad, too, especially because the episode that aired last night was apparently directed by Rian Johnson (!!). Although: I also wonder if the seedy crime elements of that show aren’t already covered (for me; I know BB got there first) by Justified. What I really want is a new sci-fi-ish show, although on the other hand, maybe one hour less of TV a week is not so bad.

    Marisa, I’m not sure if you can apply stricter rules to the Sideways World and have it still fulfill that function (or maybe if you did, it would sound to me more like a videogame or a lame screenplay). That said, I think the show gave me enough to answer most of your questions:

    Regarding Sun getting gut-shot, the violence, obviously, doesn’t address any problems she and Jin had but: she and Jin did face some horrible violence/death, while hoping to reunite and get back to their kid. In the Sideways world, they come out of a sticky situation united, and get to see that their baby is unharmed, and experience a moment of real relief between them. I can see that relating to the disappointments of their real life. I also feel like there’s a bit of free will going on in this sort-of dream-world; it’s not as if every incident has to work towards that goal of breaking through. Remember, many of them needed Desmond’s help to get that jolt, and likely would’ve gone through that Sideways World a bit longer without him. That does raise the question of why, in the end, it was necessary for Desmond to goad people on; there’s nothing really *wrong* with Locke going on to live his life with Helen, just as Ben opted out of moving on just yet, wanting to work on things a little more with his surrogate daughter. But I think what causes Locke to walk away from this pretty excellent life he has going is acceptance: he feels at peace, enough so that he *can* walk away from this good (fantasy) life, even though it must be tempting. Ben isn’t there yet. I actually thought that was a really nice touch on both counts: to see Locke at peace, and Ben not, quite. It’s less about flaws and more about acceptance.

    They also have a pretty good out for not including some people: it may be that this was not the most important section of their lives. I mean, for Lapidus, his actual island time only amounts to a few weeks total, right, with a big gap in between. He could’ve had a whole other lifetime of more important events. Even Daniel and Charlotte probably had a whole other host of events to come to terms with in their lives, and seemed to be on their way to finding each other, anyway. So maybe they’ll make that trip together. (I forget if Miles was there; I don’t think so, though. Freighties reunion!!)

    I also don’t read the afterlife situation as them all necessarily spending eternity *together* — I would imagine they move on to some kind of higher state of consciousness or something, rather than literally spending all of this time with Losties and Losties alone. I like that it’s left ambiguous, but if I had to guess, they wouldn’t be headed for some kind of eternal Lost cocktail party.

    Finally, regarding (sweet, sweet) Keamy, I’d look at that as Keamy not necessarily being there, just as baby Aaron may not have been experiencing that world himself; it was probably more of a construct of him for Claire’s sake. Keamy was the bad guy in a little segment of Sun and Jin’s life, not really himself with his own pre-death issues. There was a version of Widmore in Sideways World, for that matter; but who knows if that was really Widmore’s consciousness or if that was just something that Desmond or whoever else needed to make sense of that world.

  • 5. Marisa  |  May 24th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Yeah, I get all that, and it’s fine. (That’s actually a really good explanation about Sun and Jin, although I’m not sure if either of them ever really saw Keamy.) But it would have been more effective for me if it were tighter. To me, it’s sad that the island was the most important part of Libby or Shannon’s lives. It’s probably more important to Sayid and Hurley that Libby and Shannon were there, so I think they could have phrased that better or done it a little differently. (That’s really what I meant when I griped about Shannon spending eternity with them. I don’t really think they’re all going to the same campsite to sing kumbaya.)

    I’m far more intrigued about the people who didn’t get to move on, and why, and what that accomplishes. I think Daniel gets stuck in sideways world because his mother has to atone for getting him killed, but that sucks for Daniel. And I don’t really get why Desmond would hit Locke with a car to get him to let go, but he wouldn’t punch some sense into Ben a few more times. It’s the one time in the history of the show when someone opted not to hit Ben in the face! I’d like a clearer delineation about why they weren’t ready, but, given the previous six seasons, I’m pretty sure it’s my fault for wanting Lost to be clear about anything.

  • 6. Jesse  |  May 24th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Well, Libby and Shannon both died on the island after spending significant time there (as opposed to Faraday and Charlotte, who died after not really that much time there), so I can see why it figures heavily into their moving-on process, even if, yeah, it seems a little more important for their respective men.

    I don’t think Faraday being stuck there sucks too bad, though. One thing I liked about the sideways world is that while eventually the characters should be moving on to the next step, it’s not like this trap or prison (which makes it much less purgatory-like to me) — it’s remarkably non-judgmental about matters of whether people are ready to move on. It’s like grad school or something.

  • 7. Nathaniel  |  May 24th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Yeah, I think my take on the sideways word is closer to Jesse’s. It seems to me that they basically were just getting to play out another run through their lives without any of the rest of the show’s master plot influencing them (no island, no Jacob, no Man in Black, etc) and with some of their subconcious desires (and not necessarily the things they might have picked first if given a choice) fulfilled. And I definitely think there’s still free will and choice and human frailty and the regular messiness and unpredictability of life in the sideways world. In fact, the sideways turns out to be the biggest tip-off that the writers were WAY more interested in the characters than the specifics of the island mythology, because they devoted half of the last season to just showing the characters meet each other and heal each other again without any of the science fiction/fantasy stuff from the rest of the show. Regarding Sun and Jin in the sideways, Sun getting shot wasn’t the wish-fulfillment part of their story, it was the fact that their relationship was in a better place without the pressure and acrimony that came from Jin having to be Mr. Paik’s attack dog in order to marry his daughter. But because the sideways world wasn’t a total candy cane fantasy world there were still consequences to their actions and bad things could happen (Locke was still paralyzed, Charlie was still a junkie, Rose still had cancer, Sayid was still a killer, etc.). They just had to resolve their problems and redeem themselves without a magic island as catalyst this time around.

    I don’t recall them really clearing up why Desmond went on his campaign to wake everybody up. I guess the high of finding out that all of these people meant so much to each other must have just got him overexcited. I did like how infectious they made the enthusiasm of some of the awakened people, like Hurley’s glee at seeing Charlie again or Jin and Sun being so charmed by Sawyer as a cop.

    The sideways stuff will probably be the most controversial element of the finale/final season (along with all the stuff they dropped like Walt) but I liked how they tried to walk the fine line between giving an emotionally satisfying epilogue for our characters and just indulging in an overly happy ending that negates all of the hardship we’ve seen the survivors go through. I was ultimately grateful for it because of how sad the real world endings were for pretty much all of the characters. In fact I really do think the finale was excellent. I know I was probably more interested in the characters than you were over the course of the show, but it was also just predictably exciting, well-acted, and filled with moving Michael Giacchino music.

    Now I’m wondering how many hours of ABC programming we could fill up with awesome Lost spin-offs.
    Between the Linus: High school history teacher Dr. Benjamin Linus laughs, loves, and learns with the help of substitute teacher John Locke, science teacher Leslie Arzt, and principal William Atherton.
    Lost…Again!: A Fantasy Island for the new millennium, following the exploits of new island administrator Hugo Reyes and his assistant Ben Linus.
    Untitled Ford/Straume Procedural: One’s a sexy southern charmer with a secret, the other’s the snarky son of a museum administrator. Together they clean up the streets of Los Angeles.
    The B-Team: A ghost-whispering smart-aleck, a laid-back pilot, and a formerly immortal Spaniard travel the globe righting wrongs, romancing the ladies, spending eight million dollars in diamonds, and…delivering cargo with their busted up Ajira airliner?
    Cooking with Keamy: Cooking tips from the uniquely hilarious, insinuating, and sometimes plain creepy mercenary/chef Martin Keamy.

  • 8. Craig  |  May 24th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Start watching Breaking Bad immediately. It’s a much different show from Justified, but it’s absolutely fantastic.

  • 9. Nathaniel  |  May 24th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    And I agree with Jesse that the sideways world doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be bad or that there’s anything wrong with not moving on yet. Ben specifically states that he’s not moving on and that was treated more like an opportunity than a punishment or anything like that. So Faraday gets to live out his musician dreams a little longer, gets a shot to be happy with Charlotte, and gets to have a positive relationship with his formerly domineering mother and absent father. Good for him.

    I also think that taking Christian’s statement about it being the most important part of their lives too literally is going to give you the same trouble as worrying too closely about the rules governing Jacob and the Man in Black or Ben and Widmore. I just figured it was sort of a fuzzy “the people they met on the island and the things that they did there were significant enough that they have to resolve them”. So Shannon, who we can assume based on her flashbacks was a pretty unhappy and damaged person before the island, unable to fulfill her dream of becoming a dancer and engaging in a series of abusive or meaningless relationships, found some peace in making herself useful on the island and in her relationship with Sayid. I thought that giving Sayid two loves of his life, while maybe kind of realistic, muddled his character’s resolution even more than they did earlier in the season with the sickness and his sacrifice, and consequently kind of weakened Shannon’s reintroduction in the finale a bit. But I don’t feel too bad for her that she got the ending she did. Better than we had reason to expect really.


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