LOST gets more space - Macleans.ca

LOST gets more space

So, are you satisfied with the ending? Will there be a backlash?


So having seen the finale, and not wanting to talk too much about what did and didn’t happen (as I write, it’s not over on the West Coast, and many people will watch it later than that), it leaves me with two questions:

1) Do I think this ending will be satisfying to enough people to prevent the show from creating a massive backlash?

2) Did the ending speak to me in particular?

I think question # 1 is the more interesting of the two questions. Obviously I can’t answer it definitively, short of taking a scientific poll of Lost watchers. And many people are, understandably, annoyed with the ending. I do think, though, that the ending seemed like it would provide enough closure to do what a big finale needs to do most of all: provide people with the sense that it’s over. And while hard-core fans will duke it out over the ending (unscientifically, it seems about 60% yea and 40% nay right about now). most people aren’t hard-core fans, and while the ending didn’t provide “answers,” it provided an ending, or rather two endings, both with a sense of finality.

As it happens, the episode uses a gimmick that has been used in one form or another in many previous works; a commenter mentioned William Golding’s novel Pincher Martin as a possible source, while others brought up the movie Jacob’s Ladder and Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come. But it’s been used before because it sort of works, and sort of satisfies while also leaving people talking and asking questions about What It All Meant. And by turning the ending into a sort of Wrap Party scene, Lost enveloped the whole thing in sentimentality and sweetness — or, at least, you can take that from the ending if you want. It’s not like Seinfeld where we knew that everyone was miserable. And the ending offers at least one interpretation that’s very simple and mostly happy; it’s probably not the interpretation the creators would prefer, but they offer it and at least some viewers will be satisfied with it.

Now, does this really work for me personally? Not really, because the show wound up focusing on questions and themes that don’t grab me tremendously, and that I feel like I’ve seen more than I’d like. Everyone seems interested in the meaning of death and the afterlife, religious iconography (almost making me wish for a Gene Roddenberry type of liberal-utopia show, without all the metaphysics), while the questions of how we live life in the here and now tend to get submerged a bit. If you compare Lost to Survivor, which after all was the show that caused ABC to order Lost in the first place, Survivor is all about human nature and human relationships, often coming at those issues from a very dark place. Lost wound up being about metaphysics and light and making peace and setting things right.

These are absolutely legitimate themes for a show to deal with, which is why I don’t think my personal response to them is of particular interest. It was a well-executed finale whether or not I respond to the themes. Still, it did bring home the fact that I’d like to see a hard-headed, stoic show in this vein — as someone else pointed out, even avowed atheists like Joss Whedon can’t resist religious themes and iconography in their shows. Lost is what it is, and it ended as it ended, but there’s a lot of non-metaphysical stuff that remains to be done by some other show.


LOST gets more space

  1. ugh. That finale was epic and amazing, up until the final 10 minutes. Not only was half of the final season rendered pointless, but all of meaningful/tragic deaths throughout the series were flicked away and trashed in favour of an ending that bows to people's moronic superstitions.

    And explain to me why Aaron-as-an-infant was even in the church at the end???

    • People's moronic superstitions?

      • Yeah, you know, that heaven BS.

    • Everyone appeared as they did during the Island days, despite some of them having died on the Island, and others having died much, much later, including, presumably, Aaron.

  2. I stopped watching Lost religiously (no pun intended) after the third season. Every now and then, I'd watch an episode, get confused, and change the channel. The season finale, in my opinion, cemented what this show was all about: populism. The writers weren't writing a show to provide a meaningful moral message or a point, but were writing a show to appeal to people's emotions. It was a show full of white noise, unanswered questions, and pointless sub-plots. Populist garbage at it's best (or worst).

    • A very good summary, imo.

  3. Whereas, for me, it avoided all the things I dislike about sci-fi (and the things most of my friends love) like the specifics, the dharma initative, codes, time travel, other hard sci-fi etc and focused on core human issues. It was about people who were lost – literally, on an island, but also figuratively. There were passengers who died immediately, and everyone left behind were complex characters with difficult pasts, personal demons, isolated from community.

    It's ridiculous that the immediate twitter outcry was how stupid it was it was all a dream – because each of these characters experienced personal growth, found redemption from inside themselves. A group of tortured loners came together in a community, and they work out all of the issues and learn the lessons they were unable to learn during their truncated lives. It wasn't until they had completed their journey that they were ready to accept their fates, first on the island, then in reality. It isn't a "gotcha!" or a twist ending dream.

    Nothing in the ending negates any of the story that came before it – Everything happened, they just happened to be dead at the time. Either they grew in a purgatory type place, or you get to see who these flawed people could have been, but never got the chance. Before this revelation, they were all going to live happily-ever-after in a magical sideways world that is far more preposterous than saying that everything that came before is impossible in current earth life. Which is the bigger cop-out again?

    The last scene was chilling – it doesn't end on a wrap party inching towards the light, but an empty beach covered in wreckage … reminding us that no one survived. I'm neither religious nor a hard-line atheist, but if people wanted more portals and polar bears or aren't open-minded enough to toy with the idea that we don't know what happens immediately after death, then they've completely missed the point of a character-driven television show.

    • I agree with the sentiment of your post, but not all of the facts – they DID survive the crash, and all of the events on the island happened. Christian Shepherd said to Jack that everybody dies sometime, and everybody in that church was, in fact dead – but some of them died before Jack (Charlie, Jin, Sun, etc.), and some died long after (Hurley, Ben, Kate, Sawyer, etc.). The only "purgatory" level of existence was the sideways L.A. Everything else occurred in the real world.

      • That was my understanding as well. Kate, Sawyer, Claire, etc got off the island by plane and presumably lived the rest of their lives in civilization, while Hugo lived on the island with Ben as his "number two".

        That it takes some thinking to figure out what actually happened is, I believe, just one reason to dislike the finale, among others.

  4. On the first question – no. Most definitely not – the finale, and the season as a whole, didn't provide enough answers. Darlton provide ends for the character arcs, some of which I have enjoyed, but they didn't really answer any big mythological question. True, they said that the show was about the characters, and maybe it was … but many people were in it for the mythology of it all, and they weren't aquatically taken care off.

    As for the second question. Well, I was fine with it. The fact that the remaining survivors left on a plane out the jungle for several days seems … unlikely. But the whole series has been unlikely, so I let that pass.

  5. For five seasons, I thought I was getting Hitchcock meets Creighton, instead the last season turns out to be Shyamalan meet Newhart.

  6. I'm curious – I know British TV isn't really your bailiwick generally, but do you happen to have been following Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes? Its finale this past week resolved the ongoing myth arc very similarly, and there's probably a comparative essay in that.

    • Thanks — I haven't seen Ashes yet, but I will. It is pretty surprising to have two shows end basically the same way within a few days of each other, but now I feel I need to check if it's happened before…

  7. They took Sartre and turned him on his head. Heaven is other people. The ending was a bit hokey, but it didn't stop me from getting a lump in my throat.

  8. The more I think about it, the more I liked it. The finale itself was really well done in my opinion, my one quibble is that they moved to far in one direction in the flash sideways to make it an even bigger swerve,

  9. I'm not really interested in the nature of the plot — whether or not it's metaphysical, as you state — but on the plot itself. Is it good or bad. And, on that score, I think the Lost season finale was bad. Two and a half hours to tell us that all is light and, in the meantime, not answering basic questions about what in the world just happened, even to characters who we don't know are alive or dead. Oh wait, they all died at some point, which is why there were in the Church, right? Next.

    If you include the two hour introduction to the finale, I think that the entire effort was maybe a bit too insular and self-congratulatory.

    My feeling is that this is not a writer's dream finale. More like a marketing feel-good let's not offend anyone effort and leave it at that.

  10. Don't quite understand why some people have to be so insulting to others who disagree with them on things like religion and morality.

    So, you think that Tommy Douglas, Paul Martin, Pierre Trudeau, and countless other conscientious Canadians are morons, do you? That's quite a civilized and tolerant view of the world you have.

  11. Even though Survivor was the show ABC was reacting to. I think Abrams and the writers had no interest in following it beyond group of people suddenly thrust onto deserted island. I thought the finale was pretty epic and was generally okay with the course of the show. As TV shows go, it had an ambitious amount of depth and intelligence. I think it opened peoples eyes to what well written scripts could be like. People who would normally be excited with Twilight. My opinion is probably skewed though, i live in New York and beyond watching the show, we have things like 'Previously On Lost' a band who writes songs all about episodes. http://www.itsasickness.com/lounge/adam-and-jeff-
    I watched them perform with 500 other Losties then watched the finale. Keeps it fun and emotional with a human connection. Gonna miss it.

  12. Worst ending EVER. Now, the ending to 24 today, that was epic!

  13. I did not understand the ending—watched it twice. Was very disappointed. Needed to read editorials and comments to explain that everybody was really dead at the end—so what was the point of the escape from the island and time shifts and the return etc. when everybody was dead anyway—seems like a lot of violence and death for hundreds of years for nothing ? ?

  14. I watched one or 2 episodes of Lost & Survivor (1st season). Big waste of time IMHO. Love Mad Men but have yet to season 4. Too bad Law and Order has been cancelled.

  15. Couldn't ask for more from one of the most thought provoking shows ever.
    The ending was easier for people of faith to enjoy. And the characters won out in terms of the final storytelling.
    BTW – its clear that everything that happened on the island was real. The Alt was a place without the limits of time, the losties who flew away continued to live out their lives.

  16. I liked it.
    Some major questions are left unanswered, but we knew that was going to happen. I managed to download the finale since I missed it on TV, and having heard so much negativity about it I was pleasantly surprised: some very strong moments.

  17. Pincher Martin, indeed. I'd often thought, watching the series, of "Lord of the Flies." Turns out I had the wrong Golding novel. "Major questions left unanswered" is putting it mildly. They set up up for an intellectual thriller and left us with a sappy faith-based initiative. Has nothing to do with my personal beliefs. I want to know what the polar bear was all about….

  18. The entire plot line of the show was premised on the continuing debate between Jacob and his brother, and the choosing of the candidates to take over Jacob's role.

    The smoke monster is THE central antagonist for the entire show.

    Season after season of intrigue focused on the island and its mysterious forces and players.

    And yet, we're left without a real sense of the continuity concerning the island reality? Are you freaking kidding me?

    It's so disappointing that such a great show gave such short shrift to the central reality it used to drive the story and the character's choices.


  19. Imagine if “Buffy” had ended with shots of the great battle and Sunnydale collapsing, broken up with equally prevalent and interspersed scenes showing the Scooby gang reunion at a coffee shop 50 years later.

    That would kind of suck out the urgent feeling of the situation don't cha think? LOL

    Oh and minus the closure of seeing the huge pit that's left of Sunnydale too. Who knows what happened to Sunnydale you may ask, and the writers answer, who cares!? The main characters you love so much are all happy aren't they? Who cares what the ultimate result of all their efforts was? (Uh, well me actually…)

    THAT's how I feel about what they did in the Lost finale.

  20. Personaly I thought the sideways world worked really well as your classic split/multiple reality, ie Daniel Farraday succeeded, and we were seeing the real results.

    Instead it's a pre-heaven consensus non-reality?

    Seems like a massive cop out to me.

    For choices to have meaning they have to have real consequences, but if it IS a pre-heaven type staging place, then one's ability to impact people around you would obviously have to be limited in some fashion, ie, it's less meaningful because the full impact of free will cannot be felt or is contained somehow.

    So nearly half of the last season was a complete waste of time essentially, since nothing that happened in the sideways world was of any consequence really at all, and merely distracted from the real action.

  21. If the sideways world ISN'T a real alternate reality, then the writers REALLY went out of their way to fool people.

    And then the big question becomes WHY?

    Nothing was gained by this in my opinion. They could've kept the sideways world as a real alternate reality and STILL had their "big hug" moment replete with meaning and spiritual subtext, without having to be so damn prescriptive.

    That's why I call this the pseudo-Christian cop-out. This show had international and multi-religious flare, but ended up in a church pushing the heavenly gates.