Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Final Lost Thoughts.... What Made it Meaningful

Lost - The final season

Lost is over. Isaac and I started watching the first season on DVD in our first months of marriage at our first itty bitty apartment in Chicago.  Lost has been a part of our ENTIRE marriage. We joke that we had to get pregnant to fill the hole Lost would leave in our relationship.

Everyone has strong opinions about this season and about the ending. I love Jaimie's opinionated rants, and she is gloating right now that the show ended without answering so many questions, just as she always knew it would.

I .... welll.....
You know, I was okay with the finale, and satisfied with the show overall now that I've seen it from start to finish. I was disappointed with the story-telling of this final season, and I do have a number of thoughts.

What I Was Hoping For
I guess to me the most important thing was that the ending justified the story. Once I'd seen it all, would the characters and their time on the island matter? I also wanted to know that the great mysteries that sucked us in weren't completely random - that this story was being woven together somehow, even if there are some loose ends.

How the Lost Mysteries Ended Up
I do think that the story was woven together and that a lot of the mysteries were solved. So - in the end I think my hopes were fulfilled. However, because in the end I think the POINT of the story wasn't the mysteries, it made their revelation a little disappointing at times. Like for instance,  the writers always said they'd resolve the mystery of who the Adam and Eve skeletons were,  and that it would show that they've had the story in mind all along. This season when we saw who the skeletons were, it was a clear answer and it did tie in with the island's story, but it was completely unremarkable because it really wasn't the POINT of it all, it was just a bit of back story. They may have known that piece of back story all along, but if they'd rewritten it, it wouldn't have ultimately mattered for the story. So, for those who watched the show purely as a mystery to be figured out, they were probably disappointed.

On the other hand, the other thing I was looking for is that the characters and their time on the island ultimately mattered and meant something. I saw several people saying over the last few days that they felt like ultimately it was meaningless, but I totally disagree.

The Finale and the Ultimate Meaning of the Lost Story
I think it was easy to misinterpret parts of the finale - people thought in the end that everyone on the island had been dead the whole time, or that all of it was purgatory, etc. No - after the ending, when Jack dies and we're left with the compelling eye-closing scene, life on the island goes on. We assume that the plane leaving the island made it off the island and that their lives went on. We assume Hurley became the next protector of the island with Ben as his sidekick. Life goes on.... and the heaven/limbo/flash sideways is life after death for all of the characters. It's timeless, so it's sort of the future in that it's an afterlife, but it's outside of the time schema.

To me, the side-flash/heaven thing was ultimately to pacify the audience. The writers intended all along to have a story based on a unique island in which evil threatens to destroy people and be unleashed on the earth, and people from a plane crash are sucked into fighting the evil while dealing with their own dysfunctions and brokenness.... and ultimately some would fight and die in the final fight against that evil. I think if it had just ended that way - with evil beaten and Jack and half the other characters dead..... everyone would have been mad, even if it was an epic story. I think the flash sideways was planned to give us a vision of a story beyond the story - a time when the brokenness is fully healed, when everyone is reunited, where we can be happy instead of sad for our characters. That was kind of nice to see, but also sort of pointless to the rest of the story, since it's an entirely different life.

Some people said the flash sideways made them feel like the island story-line didn't even matter. Mike Hale said in the NY Times:

"Rendered insignificant, in this scenario, were the particulars of what they had done on the island. Pushing buttons, building rafts, blowing up hatches, living, dying — all the churning action and melodrama that made “Lost” so addictive in its early seasons — none of it was directly connected to this final outcome, beyond that it constituted “the most important part” of all their lives."

That was interesting.... essentially it's no different than our lives. Do our lives matter? If there IS an afterlife, if there's a time when I end up in a heavenly life that never ends and is beautiful, does it ultimately erase and make meaningless my time on earth with its small relationships and sufferings and beauty? A lot of people DO say that, but I disagree. It's important to have an afterlife to make pain  meaningful instead of meaningless, actually. If the pain and suffering in life are a part of a battle that leads somewhere, that leads to redemption, then it is worth it in the end. So yes, in a way the afterlife picture gives meaning to the pain. There have been some awfully painful moments on Lost, like watching Sawyer say goodbye to Juliette. The afterlife means that not only did their life together mean something because it started and gave meaning to the relationship that they ultimately had in the afterlife, but it gives hope when they're separated in those awful scenes we watched like five times.

So - I do not think the afterlife diminished the Lost story. Maybe some of the specifics of the Lost storyline no longer matter, but the people, the island, their journey... it did matter. As Christian Shephard said to Jack, "The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people." And as the TIME Lost blog said, "Without the pain, and struggle of the physical world, and without the actual memory of it, their happiness was meaningless."

What WAS the point of the Lost story, though?  Interestingly, I think this show ultimately sent a very humanistic, anthropocentric message. In the end, the most important thing was relationships. They were all brought to the island because they were alone in the world with no meaningful relationships. Those who turned their back on relationships were those that were considered "unredeemed". They were given choice after choice to build meaningful connections, and once those were made they were shown as being happier, redeemed, and then paired up in the flash sideways/heaven. James Ponzie-whatever on TIME's Lost blog said, "To me, the closing of Lost was not telling me that I do or do not have an immortal soul; it was telling me what these characters lives meant. And that meaning, like all our lives' meaning, derived from the interactions they had with, and the memories they shared with, other people."
Jack referenced it too, on Jimmy Kimmel after the finale. He said, "I knew the final image, I knew the show would end with his eye closing and he would die and I hoped beyond hope that there would be redemption in that, and I believe there is... it would take him four years where he becomes sort of a broken man that has deviated from his destiny on the island and knows that he has to go back...Then he starts to embrace the notion that he has this thing to do on the island and that he's going to give his life in doing it."

Ultimately they are redeemed when they love each other, and when they sacrifice for each other. Does that satisfy me? It's not that I LOVE that that's the answer, but I'm okay with it, mostly because it is a reflection of our society and beliefs right now. We Westerners are people centric, we don't really believe in a supreme God or heaven or hell, but we do want to think there's an afterlife that gives meaning and that ultimately relationships DO matter.

Science and Faith:
Interesting that they played with these concepts the entire show, and in the end they do not pick between them. Some people say that this last season with all of its mythology went towards faith, but I again disagree. Nothing in any of it negates the science that they showed in the last season. The unique scientific properties of the island remain in place. There's still electromagnetism and weird time travel crap, but there's also a mythology. They fit together. Like our world. We have science to explain the way our world works, but why it works that way? Well, I'd say it works that way because it was set up that way... which shows my faith. Again I agree with the TIME Lost blog, "The golden water, and now the Giant Bathtub Drain, work for me; they're no more outlandish root explanations than "giant pocket of electromagnetic energy." One is "science," one is "faith," but both are ways of describing phenomena beyond our ken."

What Still Bothers Me
Heck, what bothered me most is that I had to see Sayid and Shannon together in what seems to be eternity, making out. GAG ME. What the hell gave the writers the idea that the audience LIKED Shannon and that that is in any way a redemption of Sayid? Hello - he loved Nadia ... always. They were always the couple. Shannon? EW. I never wanted to see her again. That made me mad.

Desmond - Desmond was special, Desmond had flashes the whole show, Desmond was portrayed as being key to this resolution of the island story. I feel like that way overplayed for the amount of action he actually got....

Actually, much of this last season bothers me. Why'd we bring in Dogen and the temple people? They made it into a few episodes as if they were being set up to be key to the end or the mythology, and they they were killed and that's the end of that. What's the point of bringing Widmore back to the island with his team? They were also pointless - only served as a method to get Desmond back - couldn't Desmond have just been put on the plane? The random groupings and regroupings and ungroupings all season seemed to be leading to something - a great island battle  with Jacob vs Esau or maybe Widmore vs the Losties, or maybe the good people vs the bad people... but in the end it all just ended in the bathroom drain scene. I think this was a failure on the writer's part - this season was particularly badly considered and set up.

Walt. That was always my loose end that I really wanted tied up that never got tied up. I know he grew up and couldn't play himself anymore, but couldn't someone have explained how he was supposed to be "special"? Was he meant to be electromagnetically weird like Desmond? 

Characters (Jack & Kate, Sawyer & Juliet, etc)
I've never liked Jack. First season, first episode.... I've never liked him. He's got a hero complex, and he wants to be the savior but he can never develop real relationships where he's really known. So yeah he likes Kate and Kate likes him, but Kate's running away isn't the problem - Jack just can't open up. On the other hand .... Sawyer =  hilarious and harmless bad-boy. I love it. I always used to root for Sawyer and Kate, until they matched up Sawyer and Juliet and I grudgingly admitted it was sort of cute and satisfying. And so of course we know Jack and Kate would end up together in the end, but I still groaned at that point. I also groaned when Jack stepped up and said he'd be the candidate, because it's yet another "I gotta be a hero" moment.... so he pacifies Kate with a final kiss and then runs off to his destiny. Whatev....

On the other hand, I took a cue from my roomie and agreed that Jack might save the island but ultimately he'd die and Hurley would replace him. LOVE IT. Love the goofy big guy getting a chance to take over. Hurley mentioned on his blog months ago that he'd just read the script to the finale and it was "AWESOME!!". Now it makes sense!

In Conclusion
I still think Lost has been a brilliant show. I think it was best written in the first two seasons. I think some of the characters are brilliant actors, and I LOVE the way the story was woven together with mysteries that keep you watching and guessing, and that I'll be able to watch it all again and figure things out. I think ultimately the mystery is not that important, but it's a part of why we watch! I still love the way science, faith, and philosophy are themes through the show and that truly engaging it makes you THINK and research.

It's still my favorite TV show EVER.


Jaimie said...

You like Lost on a deep level, and that's cool. The way you talk about it, I think, "Man, this really is a great show." The problem is I could never get into it enough to explore it that deeply -- which is why I think it's really flawed, since a huge part of good writing is working on legitimate suspense and mystery as well as meaning. But anyway. (You've heard this 10 times, and I've said my peace now, since the show is over.) I'm glad that it's a good show for you.

I think for a lot of people, that afterlife ending was the balance-tipper in the science/faith debate. They said even The X-Files didn't tip quite that much, that Scully still had her valid argument at the end. *shrug*

Rachel H. Evans said...

This is such a great review, Kacie. I especially liked how you explored the idea of how the afterlife affects life - if it renders it meaningless. Hadn't thought about that. (I would add that we have to keep in mind folks like Hurley and Ben who lived on - perhaps for many years - doing really important things that would not be able to do were it not for their experience on the island.)

Also, I COMPLETELY AGREE with your Shannon assessment! I was kind of hoping we'd bumped into an alternate universe in which Shannon did not exist. No such luck! :-)

Great thoughts, Kacie.

P.S. Jaimie - I think the strong writing of the series is made evident by all the conversations that are happening around it! (And have been throughout the series.) The cool thing is, at least in my experience, Lost has led to some pretty significant conversations about more than just the mystery of the island. It's led to conversations about faith, doubt, determinism, free will, religion, death, the afterlife, etc.

Anonymous said...

So when did LOST become racist? How come Michael, Walt and Mr. Echo don't get an afterlife?

Thanks for this though Kacie. I don't think I was quite as satisfied as you by the whole thing.

I feel like the whole "flash sideways" deal was just a smokescreen invented in the final season to disguise the lack of answers to our real questions. I don't really care what happens to our characters in the afterlife.

I think my biggest disappointment was the episode "the candidate". So many "answers" so little satisfaction. Really Jacob, really?! all you need to be a candidate is to live a meaningless life? WOW I guess anyone could have been on "that" flight. What made OUR losties so special? It's nice that they all had numbers, but what were their numbers derived from? How did they allow Hurley to win the lottery?

Where did Jacobs "mom" come from?

Did anyone else feel a lot of sympathy for the Man In Black AKA smoke monster, or Esau?

A show about good vs evil, not so much. More like an epic waste of my time...but aren't all the most entertaining things in life?

I just hope your marriage survives!

Tim Lister said...

Not sure why i'm Anonymous?

justaweeblether said...

I am NOT reading this post because I have not seen the last season yet! :)

Thanks for the info! I looked at their website and they have a pastry supervisor position available which sounds interesting. Should I send my resume for that one to the same person you mentioned or the person listed under the job openings?

bloggingsbetter said...

Nice recap!

- Andrea