Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'll see you in another life, brotha.

The Lost Finale


Note: I'm not going to give a complete scene-by-scene analysis. I'm just going to talk about my reactions to the show.

In reading and hearing people's reactions to the Lost finale, I've concluded something important: People who understand it love it. People who don't understand it hate it. (And I suspect that many of these haters are not full-time fans, or are people who don't really understand anything about Lost in the first place.)

Here's what I know: Three weeks ago, what I wanted from my Lost finale was answers to lots of questions. Questions about the Dharma Initiative, the Egyptian statues, the time travel, the electromagnetic fields, Eloise, Daniel, Widmore. Last week, in the second to last episode, everything about what I wanted began to change. When Jacob told Kate "It's just chalk on a wall," I had a moment of clarity that told me that things are not what they seem. I decided that the questions to which I so badly needed answers did not really matter. And more than that, that episode helped me let go of preconceived notions about what was important to the show. I decided to just go with whatever the finale offered and see how I felt about it.

That's not to say that I did not have my own ideas. I definitely went into the finale with some predictions about what was going to happen, especially regarding the flash sideways story line. My predictions did not come true, and I'm glad, because the finale was much better than what I had plotted out in my head.

As I said earlier, I think most people who did not like the finale did not understand it. I know several people who thought that the ending meant that everyone died in the original plane crash. For so many reasons, this is just flat-out wrong. It is a total misreading of the events of the show, and even a partial viewing of the episode disproves this nonsense. And then of course others interpret the ending to mean that the island was purgatory. Again, nonsense. These people either did not watch the show or just don't know how to interpret complex texts. (These are the same people who think Frost's "The Road Not Taken" is about nonconformity and forging one's own path. Silliness.)

As everyone knows, I am a nonreligious person, so one might think that I would have some problems with the very spiritual ending of Lost. But I don't. The story of redemption is a powerful and universal tale, and the producers tackled it with great artistry. They even poked fun at some of their heavy-handedness, as when Kate says, "Christian Shepherd? His name is Christian Shepherd?"

Here's what else I know: About ten minutes into the finale, I suddenly realized (a realization that probably came to everyone else four seasons ago) the obvious fact that the title of the show refers to the characters' souls, not their physical (or temporal) location. These characters need to be found. Correction: they need to find themselves, which they cannot do alone. It is so obvious when I type it that I feel dumb for not figuring it out before.

And so all of these other things like the Dharma Initiative, the Egyptian statues, the time travel, the electromagnetic fields, Eloise, Daniel, Widmore--they don't matter in the way I thought they mattered. They do matter, because they were part of the characters' journeys toward personal redemption, but in that sense they are simply vehicles carrying us toward the larger point of the show. These things are interesting, but they are not what the show is about. The finale tells us what the show was really about, and I have never been so happy to be wrong about something.

So in the end, the six year journey of Lost, which has taken up many hours of my time, has been a wonderful journey. I count Lost near the top of the list of greatest television shows of all time, so I am sad when I hear that some people hated the finale. I'm sad for these people who just don't understand.

About ten minutes before it was over, I thought, Some kind of twist is coming. These reconnections (if you watched the show, you know what I mean) seem so different than they were in previous episodes this season. (And by the way, if you were not moved by these reconnections -- these "letting go" moments -- then you may not have a soul. Especially the Juliet-Sawyer scene and the Kate-Claire scene. Stunning in their purity.) But when all was revealed, I was emotionally jolted. (And by the way, if you were not moved by the exchange between Locke and Ben outside the church, well then good luck in life.) Oh, and Hurley and Jack's conversation on the island once they figured out what needed to happen? Holy crap.

The finale moved me deeply. Like, to the core moved me. I cannot say I completely understood everything at first. No, that's what lying awake in bed was for. And what waking up every 30 minutes or so was for. As I slept and half-slept and no-slept, I tossed this finale around in my head. By morning I was certain that I had seen something powerful and wonderful. And satisfying. Sad and happy and surprising and satisfying.

That's me: deeply, deeply satisfied.


At 10:19 PM, Blogger Matt posited...

Hey John,
Matt Duncan here. I can mop what you're spilling... but I don't think they handled their complex text as deftly as you've intimated here - mostly from a framing/POV perspective. Certainly, they changed the game in an intriguing way, but they also intentionally misled, riffed when faced with conundrums (like "lost" actors), and just flat out didn't address things... things that they blew whole seasons developing which are now reduced to red herrings.

That said, the episode itself was well-executed. What you said about Ben & Locke - yes. Ditto Hurley and Jack and "I believe in you." The finale wasn't about what I signed on to watch 6 years ago, but I'll just have to cope. :D

FWIW: I believe Kate says "Christian Shepherd? Seriously?"

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Steve posited...

I concur with your assessment.

We didn't get any real answers about what the island really is, I've always thought it was the Garden of Eden (for a wide variety of reasons, but this was spawned by learning that Charlie's middle name was Heironymous, as in Bosch). I'm ok with them not answering that question definitively.

It should be obvious to anyone that the alternate timeline was, in fact, purgatory. There was no reality where the plane did not crash. The entirety of the rest of their lives played out in the nanoseconds after the turbulence. In the alternate timeline, when the plane recovers, and Rose says "it's OK. You can let go, now." They are all already dead. Some died on the island, some died off the island, but it's all irrelevant to the timeline in the alternate world, because time is meaningless in the afterlife.

It was a beautiful ending. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest series finales of all time.


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