Monday, May 24, 2010

"Getting" LOST

Well the finale of perhaps the most polarizing and unique show of the past decade is finally over and judging from Facebook, Twitter, and my brother's text that simply read "That was awful," opinions on the finale are divided.  I for one loved the finale and think it did a beautiful job of tying together the narrative of the show.  Given the discussion, speculation, and even argument surrounding the finale, I figure its time for my second ever non-sports related blog post.


Okay you've been warned.

So before I begin dissecting the finale and the show in general.  I want to make a couple points about LOST that are pretty much not up for debate in my opinion.

1) It has some of the best music in television.  Michael Giacchino did an amazing job with the soundtrack.  He just won an academy award for Up! and also conducted the music for Star Trek.  He was pretty unknown at the start of LOST and his great work has led him to most likely be a long time fixture in the movie soundtrack business.

2) The casting and acting were PHENOMENAL for a cable television show.  Every major role was cast perfectly.  Casting isn't easy.  The acting was equally amazing with Ben, Locke, Richard, and Sawyer particularly standing out. 

I could continue waxing poetic about particular episodes or great performances, but I want to keep this as brief as possible.  So now to the finale.

Opinions are understandably mixed about the finale.  Before I explain why I loved it or respond to any criticism of the show, let me first attempt to clear up any confusion about the plot/ending.

First of all the island was NOT purgatory and the characters did NOT die in the crash of Oceanic 815.  The events happening in the first 5 seasons AND the events on the island during the sixth season WERE really happening.  The "sideways" timeline was in fact not an alternate reality at all but instead a "waiting area" before the characters entered the afterlife where they had to remember their lives on the island and realize the significance of their interactions before moving on together (Matthew Fox pretty much confirmed this on Jimmy Kimmel after the finale).  As Christian said, the characters died at different times.  We saw Jack dying in the final minutes.  Boone and Shannon died in earlier seasons.  It can be assumed that Kate, Sawyer, and others died after leaving the island and living their lives.  Ben and Hurley lived out their lives as protectors/leaders of the island and died later.

If this seems somewhat vague that is because it is.  No one has ever accused LOST of being clear cut.  LOST is more like a book than a TV show in some senses in that you have to use your imagination and think, as opposed to shows like 24 (and I also very much enjoy 24) where you can just sit back and watch.

A few more points to clear up before I get into the debate.  The plane Jack saw over him was most likely Sawyer, Kate, and co. escaping (though as Kimmel points out it could be the plane from the "sideways" and that is when Jack moves from the real world to the "waiting" area).  The images of the wreckage during the credits don't suggest they all died in the crash but instead represents (remember the concept of "symbolism" from high school English) what tied all of these characters together.

With those few things hopefully cleared up, lets jump into the finale itself.  The reason I loved it so much is because I feel it did a wonderful job wrapping up the narrative of the characters.  The point of LOST is not the island and its mysteries, but instead the characters who landed on the island and their stories.  More specifically it focuses on a group of individuals who all were flawed and all seeking redemption.  While the question of why they were on the island was certainly a point of interest to fans (including myself) throughout the show, the true significance of the characters were their intertwined paths to redemption, that, without each other, would not have been possible.  So in that regard I felt the finale was hugely successful in emphasizing this point.

The moving on of the characters to the afterlife was also done in a way that did not come across preachy or seem to put emphasis on a particular faith. LOST is a show in which faith is a major theme and one that draws from many religions, however I do not believe it was the intent of the producers to preach any particular religion.

The major criticism of the finale seems to be coming from those who feel disappointed with the lack of answers to questions about the island and mythology of LOST.  While I understand this point of view, I think the lack of answers is for three main reasons:

1) The writers were making it up as the went along up until the end of the third season and have said as much (listen to Bill Simmons podcast with the producers from a couple weeks ago). They had vague ideas of where they wanted to go, but until they were given an end date they could not sit down and plan out an ending.  That actually leads into point two:

2) Raising questions that do not directly impact the main narrative is a good way to keep people interested without sacrificing the narrative of the characters

3) The writers wanted to leave some things open to speculation. Does it really impact the narrative if the island was built by ancient Egyptians? No. I think they want the nature of the island (as well as what exactly the flash sideways was) to be open to speculation. As I said earlier LOST wants you to use your imagination and to speculate about certain mysteries even after the show ends.  Consider what happens when you try to give too much explanation.  You get something like season six of 24 in which the mysterious conspirators behind the plot in season 5 end up being Jack Bauer's family.

Consequently, I liked the decision to spend the finale focusing on bringing closure to the narrative of the characters instead of distracting from this with a bunch of answers to the mythology.

Lastly, none of this is to say I wouldn't have wanted more answers. Where they really messed up was not the finale (which as I said I loved) but the Jacob flashback episode. That was their real chance to delve into island mythology and explain things and instead they wasted a lot of time with two kids running through the jungle and some strange mother character.  I thought the episode was one of the weakest of the series.  It, not the finale, was the best time to answer island mythology and it completely disappointed.  Either the writers did not have a good idea of what was going to appease the answer-hungry fans, or they thought it was best to leave the answers to some questions open to interpretation.

The finale, much like the show throughout its run is destined to create division among those who watch the show.  Some will express their disappointment.  Some will get frustrated and antagonize those who liked it.  Some will think it was the best finale ever.  However, I hope most can agree that LOST was something unique and special.  It became a pop culture phenomenon.  It may be the last really successful sci-fi show on network television.  It introduced  us to interesting characters and was filled with twists and turns (the first flash-forward in the season 3 finale springs to mind).  And, love it or hate it, it was able to go out on its own terms.

Goodbye LOST. And Namaste.


  1. Great analysis! You get an "A"!

  2. Nice! Thank you! I now understand the show... it's not about the island, it was about the people.

    Thank you for making that clear. I will miss the show. R

  3. Wrong, wrong, wrong! The island was some form of purgatory (depending on your religious beliefs), and all the passengers DID die on the plane crash. Your analysis leaves open a very unbelievable and unanswerable question: Do you really expect me to think that that many people would forget being in a plane crash and all the other adventures they experienced? Human beings remember all the most intense, exciting, and dangerous events that happen in their lives, so your explanation is completely wrong. Some passengers died sooner than others because they were willing to let go of all their failures and mistakes in life sooner than most of the main characters were. They were all still living and haunted by their past, and mistakeably trying to make amends for this instead of moving on with their lives and trying to correct the past. Lost's ultimate message was to never look back at all the mistakes you've made in your life and regret what you've done, but to look to the future and try and do better from this point forward. Going back in time ultimately didn't change a thing, so all we can do is move forward and try and live better lives each and everyday. That's why all the main characters reunited in the church before they could move on to heaven, or whatever else your religious belief is on the afterlife. Jack's father, Christian, opened the door and walked into the light while everyone else was finally letting go of their past and accepting their death so they could move on to the next stage in their eternity. I could go on and explain all the other facets of the island, but it would take entirely too long. If you accept my explanation of what the island was, then everything else makes sense without any huge holes and assumptions in the story.

  4. I'm sorry but it is you that were wrong. Christian confirmed in the show that "everything was real" and Matthew Fox also confirmed on JKL. Furthermore the writers (DL and CC) have said time and time again the island is not purgatory