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?