Lost: “The End” of an era

With today’s announcement of the 2010 Emmy nominations, I’ve realized that this review has been in the making for far too long and with more than enough time to mull since the final new frame of Lost graced the small screen in May. Almost two months and the thought that remains at the forefront of my mind is, “It’s like I’ve lost a friend.” Sorry, unavoidable pun. Truly though, there has been a sad passing of a different era in television, both in how shows are viewed and made, with the end of this monumental series. No matter where Losties’ loyalty fell after the finale – and boy was it a divisive split – one thing that everyone can agree on is that we won’t soon be seeing another show like Lost produced for television.

It’s strange to say that in just six years the landscape of television has changed dramatically. When Lost premiered in 2004 TiVo and DVR had yet to be fully integrated into the majority of homes – this TV-holic was still setting her VCR to record what might be missed on a night out – and iTunes episode downloading was only a twinkle in Apple’s eye (trivia sidenote: Lost was one of only 5 shows initially offered by the insta-entertainment-offering giant when their video service premiered in October of 2005). Gone are the days of appointment television – a time when missing something upon first broadcast airing meant catching it again only when a network saw fit to repeat, usually months later – and while we’ll always have those water cooler shows that must be watched immediately or perish at work during the next day’s hot topics discussion (Glee comes to mind) the plethora of other media outlets (hulu and even IMDb) now allow us to watch things on our own terms rather than living by a programming grid.

EPIC TELEVISION

While it was the quiet, introspective character-driven moments that made me embrace this series like a close friend, I was consistently blown away at how almost every episode had a grand-looking moment. From direction to production value (who knew Honolulu could plausibly stand in for the snowy streets of Berlin?) these areas of Lost were 100% top-notch and astounding for the small-screen. Setting the bar with the amazing pilot, I’ve since lost (stop that!) count of the number of scenes and sequences throughout its six years that have looked like they belonged on a movie screen – the season 1 finale with the breathtaking raft launch, complete with sweeping score from composer Michael Giacchino; season 3 opener with the aerial pull-back shot unveiling a fully-operational Others village inhabiting the island pre-Oceanic 815 crash; the island disappearing!

The finale itself delivered in the epic particularly with a visual tour-de-force scene that made me wonder if producers were making up for the fact that there will never be a Lost movie – the highly-anticipated showdown between central characters Jack and Locke (or rather the embodiment of evil in Locke-form). Kudos to long-time show director, and co-executive producer, Jack Bender who received a well-deserved Emmy nod for his spectacular direction work on this episode.

Now enough with these even-toned, middle-of-the-road observations which don’t really incite the kind of dialogue that has always been the cornerstone of Lost viewership, it’s time to get down to my personal stance on how one of my favorite series of all time wrapped up and why I think it couldn’t have been done any better.

IT’S THE CHARACTERS, STUPID

A statement initially expressed by Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore upon explaining how he approached his own cult show’s end, I find it perfect that Damon and Carlton chose to follow in the same narrative footsteps as this similarly-beloved, genre-breaking drama with sprawling stories and a deep mythology. However muddled, and maddening, that final hour of BSG was for fans, putting a strong focus on the characters’ personal journeys and giving them closure is the greatest respect a show can give to their viewers, and the same can be said of Lost. For all its time-twisty and theology-spouting adventures, some I was overjoyed to go on, what it all boiled down to was the central theme they started out with – redemption.

We were introduced to a band of castaways that had massive amounts of baggage (seriously, are there anymore lame travel metaphors left for me to abuse). Daddy and general relationship issues abounded. Some were criminals. Some were sick. There was a junkie and another who just had bad luck, but all seemed set on personal paths that looked pretty grim if they hadn’t crashed on the island. At the outset of their journey all were forced to set aside issues and rely on others (“live together, die alone”), strangers at that, in order to survive. As the seasons went by all of our main characters had moments where they were able to come to terms with who they were and took long strides to redeem the missteps they’d made in the past, sometimes in the face of death and other times with the outlook of a better life ahead. It’s the choices made by Lost‘s creative team in this respect that the finale has my whole-hearted stamp of approval.

Focusing on the central hero of our story, Jack, down to the beautiful ending mirroring the pilot was perfection. Beginning as a logically-minded man of science, which up until the Oceanic 815 crash had only brought him heartbreak and disappointment, in the end he accepted the things that couldn’t be explained and his bittersweet decision to play last line of defense keeping darkness at bay from his loved ones and the rest of the world, ultimately giving his life for an idea rooted purely in faith, embodied the very essence of the show.

FLASHSIDEWAYS EXPLAINED AND IT’S…PURGATORY? AT LEAST IT WASN’T ALL WALT’S DREAM

While I’ll defend to my last breath how the wrap up of the island storyline was almost sheer perfection – some characters died a hero’s death, some characters lived to see another day on or off the island (and there was still open-endedness for me to imagine how those days would play out) and good literally triumphed over evil – there is a part of me left disgruntled regarding the conclusion of the other half of this final season. In a move that allowed the writers to completely indulge an idea that had been mocked years before as being the “real” answer to all of Lost‘s mysteries, we were told that the seemingly “what could have been” universe was actually a plane of existence that our characters created in order to have moments of clarity about their life and death which would then lead them all to meet up in a big church hugfest before moving on to the great beyond together. Insert eye roll here. Snark aside, I understand and enjoyed that Lost contained serious under (and over) tones of religious themes from the show’s onset and the creators wanted to give a proper nod to these themes, but the purgatory explanation felt too heavy-handed, especially Christian Shephard’s exposition on the afterlife.

What started as an intriguing twist on the flash device, a tactic that kept viewers guessing whether the characters had indeed reset their pasts with the fifth season’s explosive finale, culminated with a treacle-y montage of fuzzy memories from the series’ greatest “aww” moments. I will not deny there are certain characters that always get me teary-eyed (count me a sucker for anything involving the Charlie/Claire or Sun/Jin ‘ships) but in those final moments more often I was checking the time rather than basking in the reunion love.

Although upon some reflection, after the reveal that we were seeing their after-life I was happy that it hadn’t been a do-over life. There was no question that what we had seen the previous five years on the island was real – what happened, happened. Any other approach and I would have felt betrayed as a viewer after investing so much emotion into these characters, especially if they had all been dead the whole time or just Walt’s or Hurley’s fevered dreams.

SERIES FINALE, NOT SEASON FINALE

As a single season I found the sixth to be Lost‘s weakest. At times the story meandered into territory that had no relevance or presented unnecessary new MacGuffins to keep viewers continually on their toes. There had already been amazing plot possibilities peppered throughout the previous years that dedicated fans would’ve been overjoyed to see return instead of being introduced to such misguided mysteries like Jacob’s temple and his followers. But “The End” was ultimately not the season six finale, it was a series finale. It captured the heart of the show which was the journey of the characters – the characters facing their fears, coming to terms with their failures and most of all embracing the faith it takes to move on.

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