LOST: The End

You have to lift it up.

I suppose I should do this before the mist clears and I have to spend a lot of time away from the only television serial drama I’ve ever followed.  For those who live in a cave or don’t own a TV, ABC’s LOST ended for good this past sunday in a quiet-yet-climactic episode simply titled “The End.”  No matter what you thought of the plot events, especially the end (and I’ve heard some truly savage and thoughtless remarks about it), the episode was well-written, passionately acted, and full of the heart we’ve come to expect from this show and its cast and crew.  

This has generally been a great season, with the vintage LOST sectioned-off storyline patterns (we started at the Temple and moved to the battle against the Man in Black), and the best episodes, “Dr. Linus,” “The Last Recruit” and “The Candidate” were real gems.  

I’ve always loved the show but had my own judgements and observations.  Being a fiction and screenplay writer, my perspective has always been from that of the craft, which Damon, Carlton and the others have not always been too good with.  They’ve introduced multitudes of mysteries and red herrings, leaving a heavy suitcase full of them behind never to be spoken of again.  They’ve killed off great characters for the sake of A) writing themselves out of a hole, B) “cleaning up” the cast because they left themselves with too much material (in the proper style of inexperienced or tired, uninspired writers such as J.K. Rowling or Stephen King), and C) simple shock value.  They’re also guilty of throwing things in without a solution in mind: since the first season they’ve admitted to not having an original idea of what the “Monster” was, the origin of the Others, the mysterious secrets of the Island (including who the skeletons in episode 1.06 were), and who Jacob was.  There are also the cases of irresponsible writing: the character cleanups (rewatch the series and count the mass deaths), continuity errors and contradictions (what was the cabin for?  Who was inside and what was “help me” all about?  If MiB was Christian, how did he appear off-island twice and speak to Vincent?), preposterous things left unexplained (why were the Egyptians, a non-seafaring people, on the island?  Where did they quarry the stone to build the statue and the Temple?  How is the Dharma Initiative still receiving food-drops?), and having a sixteen year-old girl shot in the back of the head after begging for her life.  Yes, D&C could use a few crash-courses in writing (as good as they think they are), but luckily the performances and the direction of Jack Bender/Mario Van Peebles bring the sometimes-clunky scripts to vibrant life.

I respect the writers for burning their bridges at the end of each season, however.  The first time around, the characters were trying to get into the hatch and also build a raft to escape the island.  Both were accomplished in the season 1 finale.  In season 2, we were pushing the button.  At the end, the Swan exploded, so no way they could continue with that.  Season 3 focused mainly on the Others, most of whom die in the season’s climactic ending.  Season 4 featured the flashforwards, the mystery of who was in the coffin, and the battle against the freighter folks.  In the finale, we see Locke in the coffin and the freighter blows up.  Season 5 was Dharma season and involved time travel due to Ben not turning the Man in Black’s wheel hard enough, and in the end the wheel is put back in place and Jack detonates a hydrogen bomb in Dharmaville.  Season six was the end, and it ended.  Taking risks in a narrative is always good, though every package D&C delivered to us was chock-full of extras that didn’t always get resolved.  On one hand, I blame the viewers for latching onto every tiny detail and making a “mystery” of it (somewhat perpetuated by Lostpedia, which kept a record of what everyone was thinking just in case they forgot).

In any case, the series became a phenomenon that has never been seen in television before, and is unlikely to ever be seen again.  The fandom was something out of the Star Wars universe: the vast amounts of fan-designed t-shirts and swag; the internet games between seasons that fans would play just to get the slightest clue of what was to come; the viral videos featuring cast members; the Missing Pieces mobile episodes; the weekly podcasts and contests by both the creators and the fans; the tie-in novels (including the fictional Gary Troup’s ghost-written Bad Twin); the video game (Via Domus)  the musical tributes (see Sonic Weapon Fence).

LOST was at its best during the first three seasons, which focused on the interior development of the characters, relevant  flashbacks, and creative approaches to directing.  After the third season we moved in the science fiction and mythology direction, which was engaging in and of itself but simply did not fit a character-driven narrative.  The best material was in season 1, when we didn’t know what was coming and the most incredible revelations had to do with the characters’ personal lives (see 1.04, “Walkabout,” when Locke’s paralysis is revealed).  The premiere of season 4, entitled “The Beginning of the End,” was just that.  The story departed from character flashbacks and took a sharp turn toward violence, convoluted mythology, and fast-paced narrative.  Season 6 attempted to bring back the season 1 way of doing things, recalling the character reunion moments and revisiting the original beach camp where our survivors first met.  It was a truly inspired choice, and I retain my claim that “Dr. Linus” is the best episode of the final season.  Throughout the series the performances of Terry O’Quinn (Locke), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Michael Emerson (Ben), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Matthew Fox (Jack), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond) and several others have brought the show to all-new highs as far as expressing fear and passion, and I can’t imagine spending time in the dazzling world of this show without them.  

Michael Giacchino’s score is an integral part of the series’ lifeblood, and as the show goes on it becomes an organic piece of the story as though it’s invisible, not soundtrack music but a subtle (yet essential) piece of every scene.  One of the most amazing instances occurs in season 3’s finale, “Through the Looking Glass,” during Charlie’s sacrifice.  I can’t say how many times I’ve seen that episode and it still makes me rather misty.

I kept hearing the words “satisfied” and “explanations” thrown around in the weeks leading up to the series finale.  If you were upset or dissatisfied with the ending, it’s more or less because you planned on being upset or dissatisfied.  Even at the beginning of this season, I heard comments such as “They’re going to let a lot of people down this season.”  Nothing could have satisfied some viewers, even if they had written it themselves.  During the LOST-themed shindig I attended, shivers and tears crept upon me during certain scenes.  The climactic battle between Jack and Locke, the reappearance of Christian Shephard and the near-assurance that he wasn’t MiB, and most of all, the final moments of Jack lying in the bamboo forest, nurtured lovingly by Vincent in his final moments.  On one hand, the whole “moving on” ending with the characters in the church seems like the coward’s way out (i.e. leaving it open to interpretation and thus alienating less viewers), but there’s something almost beautiful about it.  Many dismiss it as the characters all being dead and waiting up for each other before moving onto their respective afterlives (as indicated by the different religious icons, and notably the island-moving wheel, on the stained-glass window).  That didn’t occur to me, but I won’t share my theory here unless someone really wants to read it.  In any case, it was great to see the entire cast together again, and the moment the final title came up after realizing the entire six years had happened in the blink of an eye… heavy. Just heavy.  I actually felt sad.  Probably too sad considering it’s a television show, but I invested a good amount of time and energy into it.  Matthew Fox’s portrayal of Jack Shephard, while all the while knowing his character’s fate, should serve as an inspiration to television actors and anyone involved in a serial project.

For posterity, I’ll share my top episodes.  “The Moth”: the story of Charlie’s life with Driveshaft, addiction to heroin and his redemption on the Island with the aid of John Locke, who creates a wonderful (if convenient) metaphor about a moth breaking through its pupal casing; “Tricia Tanaka is Dead”: The reveal of Hurley’s ultimate bad luck due to the numbers and his acceptance that he must “make his own luck” in life – this episode also contains some of the most lighthearted and feel-good moments of the series; “Par Avion”: Claire’s most important story, in which her mother is rendered comatose due to Claire totaling the car the two of them are riding in.  On-island, Claire deals with Charlie’s depression and Desmond’s secrets while attempting to capture tagged seagulls; “Man of Science, Man of Faith”: the premiere of season 2 in which Jack performs an impossible spinal surgery on a woman he later marries, and he meets Desmond while running a tour de stat in an abandoned stadium; “Outlaws;” Sawyer believes a troublesome island-dwelling boar is the reincarnation of a man he murdered in Australia.  He and Kate bond as outcasts while on an all-night hunt.   

From the very human relationships to the literature/film references to the late nights of theory-spinning with good friends, this show has taken us for a whirl.  Now, like the beached castaways waving to the crew of the raft in the first season, I must bid LOST a fond farewell.  I look forward to seeing how its legacy will live on and how it will inspire future entertainment, as well as the places this phenomenal ensemble cast will go.  

Good luck, brother.  See you in another life, yeah?