I Once Was Lost-Reflections on the Series Finale
So last night was the season finale, and I repeated a cycle I seem to have-coming to a show VERY LATE (usually when all a majority of the original fans have abandoned the show hurling insults in its direction for failing to meet the promise of the first season/episode), becoming slavishly attached (maniacally watching all the episodes in a week), and then the show ends. In short-once I'm a fan, the writing is on the wall. Thus when I began watching Lost last year, well, it's days were numbered. (The exception here is Law and Order which managed to survive my fandom for over almost a decade-and before you huff and puff I didn't have a TV until 2001.) And so only a year after becoming a hardcore fan, I had to accept that the series was ending.
To prepare, I watched every single episode in order last summer so I would know what was going on. Yet there wasn't a single episode this season that didn't completely freakin baffle me. Whidmore likes Desmond? Claire is the new Danielle? The smoke monster has mommy issues?I felt like I might have well not watched ANY episode. How the Hell were the writers going to resolve this? How were they going to answer all these questions (the magical numbers, the giant statue with FOUR TOES, the rules that govern the Island) in 42 minutes (the length of episode sans commcercials)?
What makes the final episode is the writers' layered approach to the episode-for example Juliet's lines to Sawyer in the break room. They are the same lines she says on the Island before she dies. Thus when Juliet originally said to Sawyer before her death on the Island "Let's go for coffee sometime," it made no sense and was dismissed as incoherent babbling. When Juliet repeats the lines in the break room, the viewer understand that Juliet was in between realms, in the same way that Jack, as he dies on the Island, is in between realms-both aware of the Island and the sideways flashes. Thus a question that seemed to be answered (Did the bomb work? Yes.) was actually the answer to a very different question. (What the hell is the sideways world? It's the purgatory/bardo that the main Lostaways go to.)
It is this nuanced approach, like Rose telling Jack on the plane that it's OK to let go at the beginning of the flash sideways that in retrospect indicates IMMEDIATELY that this is a purgatory realm, that attracted me to Lost in the first place. I wasn't in it for the Others or the soap opera drama between Sawyer, Jack, and Kate or figuring out why Desmond was special. (It's because he says "Brother" all the time, right?) I was in it for the more difficult characters like Locke, Linus, Sayid and Eko (who I did seriously miss in the finale). Even Danielle Rousseau is a complex character (although ultimately she's really playing out the Man in Black's mommy issues, which are also visited upon Claire), and it was this inability to quickly characterize these individuals or actually to effectively give them a consistent character that was Lost's strength. (This is the same thing that drew me to Brian Lumley's epic Necroscope series.) The series actually highlighted something that Michel de Montaigne wrote about in his "essaies" that human beings are inconsistent. A person may act like a villian in one circumstance and a hero in the next. I certainly saw that on Lost, and it was this quality that kept me coming back (way more than Jack looking tormented-although he did tormented really well).
The ending struck me as two-fold-sure it had a kinda kumbaya afterlife feel, which I have to admit was problematic for me for various reasons. It completely omitted to explain WHY THE ISLAND WAS MAGICAL and yeah that annoys me, but more importantly this happy fuzzy ending doesn't really gel with me in terms of the world of Lost. I mean, I don't want to say that the world of Lost was bleak, but happiness on the island was about short lived as a Arzt handling dynamite. So suddenly this "Let's all hold hands and sing as we walk into the great golden beyond even though we all tried to kill or torture each other."
But that was offset by Jack's actual death. His redemption was achieved literally minutes before his death so I guess they tempered the happy happy joy joy with brilliant surgeon dies young on island with dog.*
But what the ending allowed the writers to do was give closure to the characters and speak directly to the viewers. The main focus of the episode comes down really to two things-the relationship you forge with people is the most important thing you will ever do in your life and you need to know when to move on. These two messages work perfectly with focal points of Lost-the writers have maintained this is a character generated drama so of course relationships would be the most important aspect of the show. (One of the sub tenets of this is that issues from the past, if unresolved, will come back and wreck havoc upon on our lives. Kate was the first person to learn this lesson on the Island).
But it also works as the writers talking to the audience-by telling us that the relationships are the most important, they are openly telling us "The polar bears, number sequence, smoke monster, giant statue with four toes...all that mythos stuff isn't important. So we don't need to explain it." Why? Because the most important aspect of the show is the handwavey sci-fi stuff, it's the relationships the characters have to each other and the relationship we as the viewer have to them. Me, I was most invested in the morally ambiguous characters, but the show offered such a smorgasbord of characters that, much like a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, there was something for everybody including lots of hot eye candy in bathing suits on the beach. So all the mythos didn't matter-it's that we formed a bond with these characters and that's what is ultimately the most important quality of the show.
The second issue-it's time to move on-is kinda obvious. It's the finale. In some ways, it's a plea to fans saying "You have to let go." Much like the sideways reality, yes it's fabulous and fantastic, but it's also transitory. The viewers, like the characters, have to prepare to let go of these individuals even if you think there is still a great deal more of their character to be explored (like Ben Linus.) But as someone who has loved many characters in my time and watched what can happen to them when a series goes on too long (I'm looking at you X-Files), I praise the wisdom of writers who know when it's time to let a story go and move onto the next thing. So ultimately the viewer, if he or she is emotionally engaged is receiving the same message as the characters, only it's far less dire because when the viewers are told to move on all it means is to watch the finale of 24.
Which brings us to the credits. There has been lots of theorizing about the credits. This is how I interpreted it-those closing shots are for us. It's so we can say good-bye to the Island itself which both the writers and actors have admitted is a character on the series. Seeing the Island empty and peaceful, these locations that meant so much to us and the survivors the message is clear "They have gone." And by seeing it empty and peaceful, we can let go.
Listen, I'm not one for messages about the afterlife to end a TV series, but as finales go-I enjoyed this one. It wasn't as powerful for me as Six Feet Under, and it certainly was more frustrating than many finales I've watched. But still, it felt like a good-bye. You always want one minute more, one more hug, kiss, moment, but there has to be an end. And damn if I wasn't crying when that dog lay down next to Jack ,and I'm sure that the reason why Vincent wasn't in the chapel is that all good dogs go to heaven immediately. They don't have to wait around. (And yes I'm welling up while I'm writing this. Sigh. Oh Vincent. I will miss you most of all.)
And if all that means nothing to you, at the very least you should respect it as a finale because at least the ending wasn't Walt looking at a snowglobe of an island with a crumbled statue. (Because yes St. Elsewhere is the yardstick by which I measure all finales.)*Jack's death in both the sideways world and in the real world is a direct refutation of his first season Mantra-live together, die alone. Physically Jack dies with Vincent (his laughter at Vincent seems to indicate his awareness of that) and spiritually his death is shared with the other key Lostaways who formed "the most important part of his life."
Labels: bardo, jack's death, Lost, michel de montaigne, purgatory, Series Finale, TV series
Bad Bunni posted at 5/25/2010 10:29:00 PM