Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The End of Lost

The ending of Lost has come and gone. I've had about three days and two viewings to think things over and let the series finale settle and sink in to both my brain and my heart. It wasn't the ending I was expecting and it wasn't the ending I wanted, but it was an ending. I'll give them that much. As for whether or not it it was a great send-off to a great show is anybody's guess. What it was was a really good episode of a really brilliant show that had a few fundamental problems that left me feeling a little cold, confused, and upset. In other words, it was Lost.

But while so many episodes of Lost are vexing and confusing and maddening (not to mention brilliant and thoughtful and exhilarating), there was always the promise of more to come, and that all of the answers would finally come at some point. Well, now that we had a definite, absolute ending, that familiar confusion turned into an angry realization that we were now on our own. After my first viewing, I was kind of pissed, not to mention confused about that last scene. But the more I thought about it, talked it over with friends, and rewatched it, I came to understand it more and enjoyed it a lot. But I still thought it was a big let down, if only because the "moral" of the story and the spirituality espoused right at the end was something I simply didn't buy into. But, you know, I liked it.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the last episode yet, don't read this, because I'm going to spoil the shit out of it.

So in order to talk about my fundamental problems with this finale, I have to share my brief interpretation of what the heck it was actually trying to tell us. Everything that took place on the island this season (not to mention everything that took place everywhere every other season) was "real" and took place on, well, Earth. Everything in the "parallel" world was some sort of afterlife where all of the characters went whenever they finally died. It was a sort of limbo that takes place outside of time as we know it, so Boone is there even though he died in season 1 (I think), Jack is there even though he just died, and Sawyer, Kate, et all are there even though they have yet to die at all. And then, at the end, after they all find one another and "wake up" and accept that they are ready to let go of life and move on, they journey together to... the next plain of existence, whatever or wherever that may be. Even the writers of Lost aren't going to attempt to tackle that one.

This little twist and ultimate resolution didn't work for me at all.

First of all, I was kind of annoyed that, after having invested an entire season in this parallel world, it ultimately had no real point other than as misdirection for the audience. I spent so much time trying to figure out how it would all tie in (the bomb, the alternate island on the bottom of the ocean, Desmond's visions, etc) and culminate in the island Losties taking down the smoke monster once and for all, but it just didn't. It was just a trick, which bugged me. But I can't criticize the writers too much for this one, since it was supposed to be a trick. But still, it was annoying to nothing we saw really mattered in that alternate reality until the very last scene in the church.

And then we have the entire cosmology of the show's vision of the afterlife to deal with. Now, I'm not a spiritual man, and I certainly don't believe in any kind of afterlife, but I'm willing to accept different theories and ideas about it in works of fiction. But boy was this one of the dumbest, most depressing visions of any afterlife I've ever heard of. So when we die, we just go to a limbo world for a brief time that is exactly like our old lives, but just with tiny differences here and there? So instead of going to Starbucks every morning to get your coffee, you might actually go to Caribou Coffee over there. And instead of driving a Prius, now you actually drive a Kia. And instead of being an accountant, now you're an actuary. And instead of people watching SNL, they actually watch Mad TV. I could go on and on with this one.

It's for reasons like this that attempts to manifest the metaphysical as physical so often fail in movies and on TV. The idea of the afterlife as a limbo where the world is just a little different and we can't move on until we find all of our old friends makes no sense to me. Jack really couldn't move on to Heaven until he was reunited with people like Boone and Libby? That just didn't strike me on any kind of spiritual or emotional level. It was just too corny, too trite, and too illogical.

And then we have the almost offensive appearance of Christian Shepard as some kind of spiritual adviser (the Virgil to Jack's Dante if you will), who comes in, dumps a bunch of expository dialogue, and then opens a door to some bright light. I'm sorry, writers of Lost, but that function should've been played by Desmond, not Christian. I understand what they were going for -- that it was a call back to season 1 and that Jack was finally reconnecting with his estranged father and blah blah blah -- but it was just stupid and almost offensive because, as characters go, Christian Shepard was a huge piece of shit. He was a bad father, a lousy drunk, and a negligent surgeon who killed at least one patient through his negligence. This guy has no right at all being in any kind of heaven with these character, let alone as some kind of St Peter, acting as God's representative. Sorry, Lost, but you got that one dead wrong.

I suppose it works if you look at the parallel world as just Jack's own limbo after he dies, but that doesn't make sense when you think about how Desmond envisioned it as well. Also, if it was just Jack, why would we have all those other scenes where, you know, Jack wasn't around? No, it was just dumb.

And, finally, forgetting about how their interpretation of the afterlife made no sense for me, why are we even seeing the afterlife at all? That's really how you're going to end your show? With all of the main characters reuniting after they die? They couldn't answer why Walt could kill those birds, how Ben got cancer, what happened to the atomic bomb, and so many other questions, but they did want to settle the whole "what happens after Sawyer dies" question? When people tune in to Two and a Half Men, they aren't thinking about where Charlie and Alan's souls will finally go after they die. And nobody cares about where the Losties' souls are going to go. Get back to the Island already.

But whatever. I began my criticism of the show's view on spirituality by telling you all I'm not the least bit spiritual. So, I guess, what really matters is whether this episode's finale was consistent and true to the show's own internal consistency. Well... sure, but maybe only because she show doesn't really have any internal consistency. This is Lost we're talking about here remember. But, sure, it was trite and overly sentimental and it made little sense to me, but it was well done and executed as well as they probably intended. It was nice to see Boone and Jack hug, even though it was more because the audience was excited to see Ian Summerhalder again and not because Jack ever really gave a shit about Boone.

And that's why the episode worked, because it was a gift to the viewers, and it was really about us moving on and not actually the characters.

Oh, and it was also about the Losties taking down the Smoke Monster! Even forgetting everything that took place in the parallel world (and I intend to), all of the stuff on the Island was awesome. The fight between Jack and Locke was epic. And the actual last scene where Jack dies and closes his eye for the last time was brilliant.

So, looking back, it was a strange episode of a strange series. But it was also brilliant in its own way, even if I had some fundamental problems with their intentions and execution. But it didn't ruin the series for me (which is what I feared after Battlestar's terrible finale totally ruined that entire series for me). After Star Trek, it's still my favorite show of all time. Even if I don't really know where Mother came from, what the Smoke monster is, who the others were, etc. And, of course, they never answered the final question that all Lost fans need answered: What the hell am I going to do on Tuesday nights?

And even this has gone on way too long already, here are a few random observations and nitpicks:

So if Sunn is pregnant with a healthy baby, does that mean when their daughter eventually died, she had to spend eternity in the afterlife as a fetus? Because that's just weird.

And who the hell is Jack's kid then? Is that a real person's soul in the afterlife, or just some kind of afterlife extra being used just to make the people who matter have a better time up there? Same goes for the janitors, cab drivers, and baggage handlers. I'd be pissed if I was forced to spend the afterlife cleaning up Hurley's bathroom.

When Miles is on the phone with Sawyer, he tells him he's at "my dad's museum/concert/benefit thing." Even the writers of this show had no idea what that party was supposed to be. Oh, and how bad of a cop is Miles anyway? An escaped murderer drives by in a bright yellow hummer and he doesn't even think to take down the license plate?

When Claire went into labor, why didn't that guy she told actually, you know, do anything about it? That seemed like a pretty ritzy party with lots of well to do people. Nobody thought to ask if there was a doctor in the house?

Boone is a total dick. Always has been, always will be. If somebody asked me if I wanted to stage a fight so my sister will get slapped by some guy in an alley on the off chance that Sayid will jump in and save her, I'd say... no. I'd tell Desmond to come up with a better way to "awaken" Sayid that doesn't involve me and my sister getting our asses kicked.

After Desmond removes the cork from the light, white smoke comes out of the hole. Is that the good version of the smoke monster?

I like the eyeliner all of the guys in Drive Shaft wore. A good idea for a punk bad would be "The Richard Alperts" who all wear really thick eyeliner, dye their hair black, and leave one single gray hair.

That concert where Daniel played piano accompaniment with Drive Shaft totally sucked. And not just because bass player left after one song to chase after some pregnant chick, but because it was just bad. And why did Daniel want to play with those guys anyway? It'd be like if my parents were rich and I told them I desperately wanted to have a concert where I played along with Dexys Midnight Runners.

I laughed a little bit when Locke said that Desmond is going to help him do the "one thing I can't do on my own," which is destroy the island. Oh, and he also can't leave the island on his own. Or kill Jacob. Or kill any of the candidates. Or Dogen. Or enter that temple. Or pass through those sonar barriers. Or, you know, anything at all really.

If Jacob's job is to protect the light, why does he live way the hell away under that statue? Why not build a house a little closer?

Why is Sayid's soul mate Shannon? Wasn't she just an island booty call because he thought he'd never see Nadia again? If I go to heaven, I want to spend it with the actual love of my life, not some chick I boned just because she happened to be deserted on the same island with me.

Same goes for Claire and Charlie. Sure, he loved her, but did she ever really love him? I always took her affection for him to be more like that toward an annoying and kind of creepy platonic friend who didn't really understand boundaries.

If Lapidus, Miles, and Alpert can get that busted ass plane flight-worthy in under an hour, during a massive storm, with only a blowtorch, a few boars of wood, and some duct tape, why do my planes always sit on the tarmac for hours just for "de-icing"?

When Jack sees his father in the church, why doesn't he freak out and yell, "the Smoke Monster is back!!!!!" and then try to kill him? He was "awakened" by that point, so he must've remembered how Smokie told him that he had really been the father he saw back on the island. Considered how every reanimated dead person he'd seen by that point was actually the smoke monster, why didn't he assume this was too? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part because it would've been a better ending had that actually really been the smoke monster?

Why does Jack have scars from the wounds he sustained on the island? Why doesn't Shannon also have a bullet hole in her belly? I'm not sure what was the point of that, other than that it was "kind of neat."

And as much as I like Hurley as a character... come on. He's going to protect the island? Jacob and the Man in Black spending 2,000 years in a struggle between good and evil is epic and totally bad ass. Hurley and Ben protecting the island sounds like a bad sitcom.

But, you know, I'd watch that sitcom.

Not that it matters, because I'm fairly certain Jack isn't dead. He gave Hurley a bottle of water, sure, but he didn't do the Latin chant. Jack still had the power all along. The "death" we saw was just his final transformation from human into the next Island protector. How that ties into the parallel world... I dunno yet. But I'll figure that out later.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

This sounds like one giant mindfuck. If I ever get around to watching Lost, I'm not going to watch the last episode and make up my own ending.

Shan said...

Are all of these going to be in your stand up act?