Monday, May 24, 2010

One Day We'll All Meet In Our Happy Place

For the sake of my television, I'm so glad I stopped watching Lost at the beginning of its third season. Had I gone against my best judgement and stuck with the show for the duration, I'm sure something would've gone flying through my TV set by the end of Lost's finale last night. Now, to be fair I didn't watch the entire finale, just the last half hour but I think I get the gist - the future timeline where they're all off the island is heaven, or at least some version of the afterlife, and the characters have all reunited there in spirit because their time on the island was the most significant event in their lives (I guess it's hard to top living on a magic island). Some got off the island, some stayed, but in time they all died and met again in some version of the hereafter. Um, that's supposed to be an ending?

I don't have much steam to blow off about Lost because I ditched it so early on but as far as I'm concerned, this was a six year scam on its audience and for what it's worth, I hope the writers and producers are called out for it. I don't doubt that some Lost fans found the finale emotional but let's be honest - if you took any long-running show and ended it with all the characters reuniting in fucking heaven, you'd get the exact same reaction. It's the lowest kind of emotional baiting (well, almost the lowest - it's probably even cheaper to have a wounded character stagger off alone and be kept company in their dying moments by a dog, which Lost's finale also stooped to). Compare the narrative smoke and mirrors practiced by Lost with the way a show like Supernatural has consistently played straight and true with its audience and I think the critical acclaim and adulation Lost has received over the years is nearly criminal.

Mysteries and ambiguities are fine but what the makers of Lost delivered was an epic cop-out. What's worse is that they clearly had this cop-out ending in mind for years, an ending that they knew would answer none of the show's long-standing questions. To call it a six season shell game with the audience would be giving Lost more credit than it deserves. In the end, it was just a full-on con job.

15 comments:

Marty said...

As much as I love you, Jeff, I'm rubber and you're glue on the bullshit meter here. Having jumped ship when you did, you've missed out on some wonderful character developments, deviations and evolutions. I can honestly say that, as a viewer since the 1st season finale, the investment I placed in these characters bordered on the profound (in relative, TV character-investment terms). And last night's episode was, for me, a resolution of character(s). The episodes leading up the finale were chock full of enough 'plot' revelations and 'answers' to appease the myth-hungry viewer in me. Last night, smartly, wasn't about answers; it didn't attempt to be, and it would have been a mistake to have tried . It was about character.

There were missteps, sure - the final battle between good and evil with fisticuffs on a cliff wall? Super lame. The dog? I'll give you that. And though I wasn't sold on the whole 'light in the middle of the island', the moment when Jack looks up and see the plane overhead made up for it.

'Lost' was always about spiritually, mysticism and ambiguity. Last night's finale gave me everything I hoped for.

Jeff Allard said...

I'll always believe that the first season of Lost was one of the greatest years of any show on TV but I felt early on that the show's creators didn't have a fulfilling endgame in mind and based on what I saw in the finale, I feel that was a correct guess on my part. I'm glad you liked it but for me, having six seasons worth of mysteries and misdirections come to a happily ever hereafter ending crosses the line from spiritualism to mush-headedness.

On the upside, watching Lost's conclusion makes me want to give the X-Files finale a more forgiving second look.

Emily said...

Sorry Jeff, I too will stand in Marty's army. It's just not that fair to attack a show's finale when you missed out on 2.5 seasons of what led up to it.

Ultimately, Lost wasn't about purgatory or heaven or numbers or good and evil. It was a story of about two dozen people, heroes and antiheroes, everyday men and women who faced a whole lot of life and death in a few years in a mystical place. The reason people who didn't watch the show are so quick to poop on the ending is simply unfounded.

Not to compare Lost to The Wire--which is a far superior show in most ways--but if you left that series in Season 2 and jumped into the finale, you'd similarly shrug at some of the ridiculous storytelling that seemed to have occurred. What television does--and what normally, most stand alone films cannot--is give the audience characters to follow throughout whatever journey they end up taking. I agree with Marty--the finale of Lost had its issues--but to say that the ending was a copout is simply unfair.

Wings said...

I have been happy with the up and down, twist and turn ride LOST was, and the finale lived up to it all for me. It was about the characters, about them finding someone to trust, to love and to care about.

Enjoyed it all.

Marty said...

I get you. It's just that without having seen many of the resolutions and misdirections satisfactorily answered in the episodes leading up to the finale, it's a bit unfair for you to gauge the show as a whole based only on the last episode.

And as far as a 'endgame'... yeah, I think it's pretty well understood that Lindelof and Cuse definitely painted themselves into several plot corners, but again, never at the expense of character - and that'd what made the show special for me.

In the documentary leading up to the finale the actor that played Ben Linus admitted that the producers only contracted him for '3 episodes', so clearly... there was a lot of punting going on. But from that punting came one of the greatest TV characters, in my opinion, of all time.

And 'Supernatural'? I guess I have to catch up with that show, though you certainly burned me on 'Buffy' :)

the jaded viewer said...

Not sure you can call out Darlton when you gave up on the show but I agree to a point.

The show is made of up 50% character awesomeness and 50% island WTF.

They totally bailed on the island and that disappoints me which is why I like half the finale.

Jeff Allard said...

Emily, Wings, Jaded - as someone who didn't stick with the show, I know can't totally call Lost out. However, the fact that I knew four seasons ago that they'd be going with a "everybody's dead" ending and I tuned in last night and saw exactly that makes me think that the writing talent never had anything great up their sleeve. But for those that liked it, I'm glad.

Marty, I haven't seen Buffy since it went off the air but I'll still stand by it - at least up until the final season, which was weak but not terrible. As for Supernatural, it's just a fun, well put together show that knows exactly what it needs to be.

knobgobbler said...

At the end of something like this I really wouldn't expect fans who stuck with it all the way through to own up that it disappointed them and they wasted their time for six seasons. Especially if they've watched in groups like most of my friends do. I had a great time watching the first season of Survivor that way.
With Lost though, I suspected it was a shell game from the first time I heard about it and stayed away despite (or in spite of?) my trusted pals telling me how great it was. I think I was still feeling the burn of other 'mystery shows' like 'The X Files'.

At this point I think I'll wait a while, see what folks are saying in a year or so... and maybe watch it off Netflix if the vibe is still so positive.
Meanwhile, 'Breaking Bad' is the big communal viewing experience at our house...

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Wings said...

Jeff: They weren't "all dead". They were alive on the island, all that time was real, and it was about not only redeeming themselves, but finding people to love and care about. To not be alone, to not be lost.

After they died, they went to that holding/purgatory/whatever place, the sideways world. But island life was real life.

Jeff Allard said...

Knob, I'll have to give Breaking Bad a look at some point. I keep hearing it's great!

Wings, yeah I know the island was "real life" but from my understanding, the sideways world or alt-universe stuff has been a running element in the show for a couple of seasons now. To have the future, post-island fates of the characters be revealed as them having been in heaven's waiting room is super lame, in my opinion. My expectation of the show was that they'd put themselves into such a corner that the only way out was to have the characters be dead and that's how it went. You can say, "well, the island stuff was all real" but yet none of what happened there was ever explained so that's two cowardly moves on the part of the Lost writers. They string viewers along with scenes from an apparent future timeline where maybe all - or some - the answers will be given only to have that only be about "they're dead and none of the questions about the island ever mattered."

It feels like disingenuous storytelling to me. But, if some people enjoyed it, that's great.

Marty said...

Jeff, you say, "from my understanding, the sideways world or alt-universe stuff has been a running element in the show for a couple of seasons now." That's not true. The 'sideways' storytelling was a Season 6 development, stemming from an event in the Season 5 finale. And it is 'sideways' world events that are crucial to understanding the finale. Not to be glib, but this season you skipped 20 hours of this fascinating/frustrating but ultimately wonderful parallel world... no shit, you didn't like the finale.

Knobgobbler makes a GREAT point that invested fans may be reluctant to state their disappointment. I'd also add that former or non-fans (I'm looking at you, Jeffy), may be jut as reluctant to admit they missed out on something special.

Jeff Allard said...

So, there was a whole season leading fans to think there was a future timeline off the island only to have it be heaven. Ok. Whether it was one season, two seasons, or just the finale, it's still goofy. In one of the last episodes I watched, there was a copy of An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge lying on a table so clearly they were telegraphing this hackneyed conclusion from way back. Lost was a great set-up, a long middle act and a fizzle of an ending.

If you feel your time was rewarded by watching it, terrific. Based on where the story went and how ultimately insignificant the mysteries of the island were, I think this could've been a very concise one or two season series and have been the better for it.

Emily said...

Oh Jeff, I love ya dear but you're still being quite the frustrating spouter of narrow-minded argh.

In regards to this being a "good one or two seasons" worth of TV, I echo Marty's point that in one or two seasons, there would never have been time for the dozens of characters we as an audience became genuinely invested in. A story like Sun and Jin, the Korean couple with marital issues, would never had had the time to develop from what seemed like a stereotypical male-dominated archetype to the beautiful, and fully earned love story of two people who faced infertility, infidelity, time travel, and years of separation to become one of the most special relationships on television. Would an actor like Jorge Garcia, all 300 pounds, ever have become more than a punchline? And seriously, if you missed seasons 3-6, you missed one of the greatest, most fascinating and original villains of all time in Michael Emerson's Benjamin Linus.

yes the series had low points, most of which occurred in Season 2/3 when the creators didn't have an end date. As soon as the series knew how much time was left, Cuse and Lindeloff made every minute count for the fans, not new viewers.

One last thing: purgatory/Owl Creek doesn't begin to summarize the series of Lost. Sideways world may have been something of a waiting ground, but it was far more complicated than just "characters died and are waiting in a fake existence." This wasn't about going to heaven or the last 6 years having been some sort of dream. Some of the people in that church had lived full lives after the action you saw (Ben & Hurley, clearly) and others had died earlier. I'll stop theorizing now because I realize how silly it probably sounds to you, someone who didn't follow 6 years of this kind of stuff. I think it just furthers our point that the finale of Lost wasn't meant for you, and for you to attack something you have no real context for is simply unfair and ungrounded.

(p.s. we are still friends.)

Jeff Allard said...

Emily, don't worry about offending me - and don't take any of my criticisms to heart! Thanks for taking the time to defend Lost (and that goes for everyone else as well) - otherwise things would be too one-sided around here!