Lost, television

Lost Forum: “The End”

We found ourselves rewatching the “Lost” pilot on Saturday night (ABC re-aired it to amp up expectations for the finale), and we were reminded that from the very beginning the writers have always been opening boxes without knowing what’s inside them. The smoke monster, the polar bear, Charlie’s “Guys, where are we?” — we eventually got answers to these mysteries (sorta, kinda), but it took a good six seasons.

Those weren’t the only boxes though. By the end of season one we had the Black Rock, Adam & Eve skeletons, the Others, the lame walking, a baby-stealing French woman, and of course the hatch. Season two began with more boxes — there’s a guy in the hatch, and he pushes a button every 108 minutes? — and the boxes kept coming, one after the other, all the way up through last season, when the writers opened one with TIME TRAVEL written on it, and into the final season, when they opened a box labeled ALTERNATE TIMELINE/SIDEWAYS WORLD that threw everyone for a loop. The writers’ aversion to anything resembling certainty, much less closure, has been the show’s most frustrating but also its most essential quality. Ambiguity has always propelled the show forward. (Whether you wanted to stay along for the ride was another matter.)

So it all came to a close tonight with “The End,” and there were two essential questions we had going in: 1) Would somebody explain to us what was in all the boxes and how they fit together?; and, regardless of the answer to #1, 2) Would we care? Another way of putting it was whether “The End” would end with — let’s use Michael Giacchino terms here — a harp or a trombone. Would the finale be the equivalent of one long slow-motion beach sequence, a happy reunion free from dry eyes? Or would it be a cliffhanger what? twist, something more akin to the Sopranos fade to black?

The answer, it turns out, is both, although it was certainly more harp than trombone. Like many a TV show finale, the writers gave us a literal reunion — they put all our favorite characters in one room, a church, and they shocked us by making it a funeral. (Yes, “Everyone died” is actually a pretty accurate description to tell your friends who didn’t watch it.) As Jack stumbled to the same spot on the island where he first awoke (this time with Vincent curled up beside him, which made no sense whatsoever — a dog who has been AWOL for the past, what, four seasons, suddenly turns up with island hippies Rose & Bernard and then follows a dying man through the jungle so he can lie down next to him while he breathes his last? — but boy if the sight of man and dog didn’t make us tear up a little), he looked up and saw a plane overhead, this one not crashing but lifting off with his friends in it, the ones he saved by, um … rolling a giant rock plug into the island’s drain so that the Water of Life could flow once more through the Cave of Light. This scene, Jack’s island death, was emblematic of the entire last season: It strained credulity but there was still powerful feeling behind it. As an image, and as the story coming full circle, it was emotionally resonant and deeply satisfying. “The End” was something rare indeed: an ambitious finale that went for broke. Logically, it really didn’t all add up. But emotionally, it delivered.

We got answers tonight (like the fact that was no appendectomy scar), but they will be different depending on who you ask. Was the island purgatory all along? Was it real in the first place? (Christian Shephard said yes.) Or was the Sideways world purgatory? Was everything we saw simply from Jack’s perspective, his reconciliation and redemption and letting go? We may or may not have answers after we sleep on it. Honestly, though, we’re pretty satisfied as is. We were fine not having all the answers; we just wanted a good goodbye.

It was probably a mistake for the writers to keep ripping open boxes like a six-year-old on Christmas morning, but we let them get away with it because of the characters. No matter what missteps the show’s creators have taken over the last six years (and they definitely took some), the story never strayed from its principals, and the characters they gave us were rich, complicated, fascinating creatures. Jack got redemption. So did Kate. (And they got each other.) Locke got his soul back. Ben got forgiveness. Hurley got the island. Sawyer got Juliet. (We were happy.) Lapidus got his plane. Daniel got his concert. Claire got her baby and Charlie got Claire. Richard got gray hair.

“Lost” was unafraid to think big. It was a show about good and evil, redemption and salvation, science and faith, life and death. It found a way to dramatize these themes that was unlike just about anything network TV had seen before. We’ll certainly miss it. We liked “The End.” But we also knew it was time to go.

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What did you think? Vote now!

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And thank you to Tad and TB Smith for hosting a kick-a “Lost” finale party.

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13 thoughts on “Lost Forum: “The End”

  1. Here are some questions that I was left with that I hope someone can shed some light on:

    Why did Jacob get to make the rules?

    How come man in black had to adhere to them?
    What was the point of Widmore?

    Did free will (plane crash) or Jacob bring candidates to the island?

    Where the hell was Walt? Everyone and their mother shows back up but not Walt! His freaking dog was there and he couldn’t get an invite to heaven?

    Why did they show us the island at the bottom of the sea in episode #1 this season if that never actually happened?

    I liked the episode overall and felt it was an appropriate end to the show. I remain convinced that the writers flipped the script on us and made the sideways world purgatory and the island was real. That leaves me to wonder if the island was “really” traveling through time. The only scene that I could have done without was the totally lame fight scene between Flocke and Jack where Jack launched himself with the flying fist of rage and they cut to commercial… lame.

  2. I feel very sad today, as if I am in mourning. I think it will take a long time to sort through all of the ramifications of the finale and the show as a whole, but the good news is that my Lost shirt should arrive Friday. Maybe I will feel some closure by then.

    I don’t think the finale could have done any better with regard to its characters. You are right — it delivered emotionally. Bringing everyone out on stage for a final bow (well, everyone except Shannon, but whatevs) was, in my mind, absolutely necessary. Their framing device for accomplishing this worked for me. Maybe it doesn’t hold up when you inspect it too closely, but (kind of like the show itself), I’m not sure that is the point, ultimately. The people are the point, and these were great, nuanced, finely drawn characters. I will miss them.

    Thank you for providing this forum for discussion, and for leading that discussion with such clarity and intelligence. Kudos.

    (/harp)

    1. “Thank you for providing this forum for discussion, and for leading that discussion with such clarity and intelligence. ”

      I don’t know that I have ever read these words in reference to the Voreblog.

  3. I had decided before the season began to try and just go along for the ride, not being too nit-picky or spending too much time thinking about theories, but just enjoy the pleasure the show brings me when watching. I’m very happy with this choice, as I thoroughly enjoyed the season.

    Of course there are all sorts of questions to which we would like to know answers, and one could bring up many scenes or even full story lines throughout the series that were either somewhat nonsensical or even unnecessary. Nevertheless. I enjoyed the finale, and after listening to Christian’s final conversation with Jack a couple of extra times I am very comfortable with the way the series ended.

    I don’t believe that I will ever come across a show that grabs my mind and my heart in such equal measure and to such a high degree. I hope I’m wrong.

    P.S. Thanks for the cool video link, Tad.

  4. Oh, and for Matt, a few pseudo-answers:

    Q. Why did Jacob get to make the rules? How come man in black had to adhere to them?
    A. Midichlorian rule – you just have to accept it and not delve too deeply. This rule applies to a LOT of Lost, as well as a many other sci-fi classics.

    Q. What was the point of Widmore?
    A. His power play against MIB didn’t turn out like he had hoped; I think he wanted to be in charge of the island again. He brought Desmond back to the island to play his key part, intended or not, if nothing else.

    Q. Did free will (plane crash) or Jacob bring candidates to the island?
    A. Jacob. He had been following these people for years via the lighthouse, and had not only chosen them as candidates but helped them along their way to the island.

    Q. Where the hell was Walt? Everyone and their mother shows back up but not Walt! His freaking dog was there and he couldn’t get an invite to heaven?
    A. Walt was only on the island with the Losties for 45 days, and unlike what Christian said to Jack, his best days were not spent with these people on the island. Lucky him. He gets to lead a fairly normal life and maybe earn his way into heaven anyway. Plus the actor is probably about 8 feet tall now and would look silly impersonating a Walt that is only 3 years older than when he started the show.

    Q. Why did they show us the island at the bottom of the sea in episode #1 this season if that never actually happened?
    A. I have no idea. Probably so they could show us Ezra J. Sharkington again. What the heck do I know after all? That’s what the Lost Encyclopedia (http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Encyclopedia-Tara-Bennett/dp/0756665949) is for!

  5. It ended like all poorly constructed convoluted plotlines… in the old deus ex-machina cop-out. What was it all about… corked light? HOCUS POCUS. Even the Greek hacks would be ashamed.

    (And here’s a thumb rule… Any story that ends with tumbling styrofoam boulders somehow involved is probably not a very good story)

    But do you know what convoluted plotline doesn’t cop out? A convoluted plotline that struggles against the light? One that ends with nary a styrofoam boulder–tumbling or otherwise–in sight?

    That’s right… the U to the L to the Y to the SSES. We’re coming back. A page a day. Starting June 16th.

    Eat it!

    http://wanderingrox.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/dear-wandering-rockers/

  6. That’s right! We’re (once again) trying to fill the “Lost”-shaped hole in our lives with yet another dense, confounding, time-sucking encounter with James Joyce! More on this terrible decision shortly!

    I have spent surprisingly little time analyzing the finale since Sunday night/early Monday morning. It’s not that there wasn’t a lot there — there was — but I really think it was satisfying on the right levels, and that I’m with Andy: all the unanswered questions and subplots were (mostly) ones I’m fine leaving unanswered. The writers knew what they had to do right — give us emotional closure with the lead characters — and they did it. They played to their strengths. Never easy to do, especially in a series finale.

    Recaps from those we’ve come to know well over the past six years: Doc Jensen (part one and two), Zap2It, the Slate TV Club, and Videogum (which even works in a MacGruber reference!).

  7. I too thought the finale was pretty good. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I was satisfied with it.

    I thought the Christian/Jack conversation was good, but a lot of itseemed to be Christian to audience. I don’t know that I think that was necessary. Is it weird that I would’ve been happy with more ambiguity?

    I think some kind of Lost Fatigue had started to come over me this season (maybe last season?). It almost felt like something I had to do. A chore.

    I think I was a little relieved that the watching, discussing, and dissecting finally ended.

    So, of course I get on my friend’s blog and start reading and writing about the finale…

  8. Thank you, to Mr., um, Grit, for reminding me of own pessimism. Doc Jensen and Ben and all these other comments to the positive were starting to win me over.

    For my part, I think I was ultimately disappointed with the series finale because I was disappointed with the whole season in which it was embedded. I’ll buy the contention that it was an “emotionally satisfying” end for the characters, but I’ve just felt through this whole season that we were missing a lot of what made the series great.

    Two things to note in this regard: first, I think Lost suffered this season from the same malady that most series that are built around mystery have–the answers usually aren’t as interesting as the questions and possibilities (see BSG). Second, in the early going of the series, the most compelling aspects were the mysteries and the exploration of character, with the one providing momentum and the other providing staying power. Seeing our characters’ pasts, seeing how their time on the island gave them a chance to repeat their mistakes or redeem their mistakes (or both), that was the real meat of the show. This season spent too much time resolving the mysteries (often with more mysteries or with something fairly banal) and too much time bringing in new characters who weren’t really developed or weren’t developed that well.

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