Soft-Boiled Wonderland & the End of Lost

First off, this is a long one. Also, it's about Lost. And S*P*O*I*L*E*R*S, too. You have been warned.

Okay, so I had this thing written about the finale of Lost and it was gonna be all about misplaced expectations and letting it end on its own without getting in its way and how Lost was a drama with mysterious elements and not a mystery with dramatic elements and all this stuff. I had extended and shaky metaphors about apples and oranges and answers and questions and all this stuff. It was pretty highbrow ish.

And then I read Geoff Klock's post on his problems with the finale and man, this dude is totally right. You should really go read it. I'll wait.


His theory that the endgame of Lost was retooled (and eventually shunted into the Sideways World/Afterlife Construct/Purgatory we've seen over the last season) once the show became popular and their rather intelligent and rabid fanbase pegged the ending pretty early on totally explains some of the more nagging problems people have had in getting everything to lay down just right. And I can understand their frustration with its inability to do so. Human beings like order. But by its nature as a televisions series – as art in service of commerce and tight deadlines – Lost just isn't going to come out perfectly no matter how much we'd like it to.

As I said in the comments thread on the post, TV is a messy medium, especially network TV. When all is said and done, a network television show is a work of art created as a shell for advertising and, hopefully, syndication. It's created solely to make money. If some art sneaks in with that money-making; fine. Whatever. But let's not kid ourselves. The fact that any of these dollar-vessels achieve any sort of success beyond that purpose (and I think we can all agree that a lot of TV shows don't) is a small miracle. The ambition of Damon, Carlton and their production and writing staff is to be applauded. They took a fairly disposable, unappreciated medium – the television drama – and set out to say something about humanity. Now, whether you feel that they were successful or not is another thing entirely and that's between you and the universe. As I said, I think they were successful, despite the best efforts of fate.

Being as this is a serialized drama with real actors and real-life constrictions, both monetary and otherwise (for example: Walt having to leave the Island because the actor playing him hit puberty, Ana Lucia/Libby being killed off because of DUI charges, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Mr. Eko character being killed because he was bored with the show, large swaths of the third season that exist solely to kill time while the show was retooled to work for another three seasons), sometimes stuff gets tossed out. Sometimes bad ideas find their way into the mix and end up forgotten once calmer heads prevail. ("Stranger In A Strange Land," anyone?) Sometimes opportunities get missed. Somebody somewhere in the Internet said, derisively, that Lost was just a glorified soap opera and yesyesyes, it totally is, but does that mean it's devoid of worth? Like I said, it's messy and the fact that this show managed to pull this much off while still remaining fairly popular is a small miracle.

Which is why I am prone to cut this show some major slack. Its ambition overpowers its shortcomings, in my opinion, but then again, I really respect ambition. I'm more inclined to overlook little incongruities and misfires if the artist/author/et cetera aims high and falls short. It's like this guy says about an even more flawed series and finale – Grant Morrison's noddle-cooking ending to Final Crisis – it's flawed, but still ultimately succeeds solely because it's trying so hard. Does everything about Lost fit together like some Swiss grandfather clock, immaculately designed and constructed and built to run for lifetimes? No. Is it still one of my favorite TV series and, in my opinion, one of the better ones in recent memory? Absolutely.

Because where else are you going to see a TV drama focusing on the debate between free will and predestination? Or if we can ever overcome our past? Or the importance of community and living together? I know it's sort of a cop-out to say "Lost has always been about the characters, not about Jacob and his brother or time travel or whatever so shut up, dude on the Internet." I know that it's a cop-out, but it's also sort of true. I was always more invested in whether Jack could overcome his need to control Every. Little. Thing. or if Locke could stop being angry with his dad or if Kate could stop running from catastrophe to catastrophe or if Hurley would embrace his destiny or if Ben could really not be a creepy, manipulative creepoid.

So here we are. A month or so later. Everything that happened, happened. And it only ends once. Everything else is progress. Our Castaways found some sort of peace in a non-/multi-denominational afterlife (the Sideways World) after struggling through their problems on the Island. It was pretty beautiful, when all was said and done and all those unanswered questions, they don't matter so much any more. And besides, we all knew they weren't going to be answered to our satisfaction, which is why a lot of them were left dangling. Because a lot of Lost's appeal has been sussing out just what the heck is going on and now we can debate this stuff forever if we're some sort of weird shut-in or something.

Sure, it seems slapped together in retrospect. Because it was. Sure, the Final Boss Battle™ between Jack and Flocke was really uninspired and sort of hackneyed. But it's a TV finale. And the giant magic plug is a little silly, but when we're talking about a show whose main conceit is it's a magic, time-tripping island, well, you don't really get to pull the "Silly Card." Sorry, them's the rules.

In the end, we got a dramatically satisfying, happy-ish ending for all the people we've watched for the last six years. And that final scene with Jack stumbling wounded through the bamboo field, his side pierced like another Shepherd, laying down in the same spot he awoke in the pilot as he traced the path of the Ajira plane as it finally, *finally* escaped the Island? That was pretty dang perfect.


And now, your questions: (did you think I forgot?)

Dave asks:

So, were they all dead when the plane first crashed? I don't know if I was just so wound up in it being the end that I didn't understand it well or what. If they were all dead from the start I don't understand the significance of the no-crash dual story line this season.

Also, what about when Jacob touched them all way earlier in life. How does that work?

Yeah, that was a bit of a problem. ABC has since clarified the reasoning for the Oceanic crash set playing through the finale credits. You can read their reasoning here. Kind of dumb, but there you have it.

As for the Jacob-touch, well, we now know that that happened earlier in their "afterlife," as the Flash-Sideways all took place in a kind of Spirit Prison/Purgatory mental construct.

Chanel asks:

1. How would you think the Hurley as "#1" thing plays out?
We'll find out when ABC releases the Complete Series boxed set later this year which contains a 12-minute vignette, according to Entertainment Weekly.

2. Did the plane make it from the island?
I think so, yeah.

3. Why were certain people like the pilot not there at the end? I mean I get the whole being ready to move on, but that guy seemed just totally left out for having such a big role in the end.
I'd imagine after all the trouble the Castaways caused him, the last thing Frank Lapidus wanted to do was hang out in the afterlife with them.

4. My take on the end, on my blog, if you get a chance to read, I am "getting it" right? I mean it is actually really deep stuff, which I am DYING to hear you GO INTO DETAIL on how you see it all.
Hopefully this is "in detail" enough. Cuz I don't think I can say anything else about this show. Oh, who am I kidding? I could keep going, but man, who's even reading this?

Until next time, kids.


Josh said...

I decided to stop looking for ways to make things "match" or "fit", it was taking the fun out of it, now I can just enjoy one of the best shows ever. Thanks for talking about it so much, which resulted in me giving it a second chance. So... you gonna throw down for the complete series? (I am).

chanel said...

your commentary is way better than Geoff's, im just saying. well said and simplistic. interesting to "see" how the biz played a role in the direction of the show. anyway loved it.