With the glut of vampire-centric entertainment found on television in the past decade, it’s refreshing (pun intended) to see that the next big thing on the horizon is a tale of zombies – The Walking Dead. The six-part first season of the series based on the graphic novel of the same name will fittingly premiere on Halloween, and its pedigree impresses before seeing one frame – coming from the award-winning powerhouses of AMC and acclaimed producer-director Frank Darabont.
While zombies have had their day in cinema, this TV addict can’t recollect a time that they have been the subject of serialized storytelling and it’s long overdue as there is a wealth of metaphor in what they can represent and address – class, addiction, apathy, disease, consumption – but usually the base of all zombie stories is the human struggle to survive. AMC’s The Walking Dead tells the story of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and follows a small group of survivors traveling across the United States in search of a new home away from the hordes of zombies. As their situation grows more and more grim, the group’s desperation to survive pushes them to do almost anything to stay alive.
In anticipation of the premiere a recent fan-made video was released depicting his personal vision of the show’s opening credits. Truly a staggering and impressive creation it has caught the eye of several industry notables working in the sci-fi/fantasy genre including Lost honcho Damon Lindelof.
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.
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.
Well gentlereaders, the day has finally arrived. D-day, or LF-day – Lost Finale Day. Since May 2007 when showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse announced the popular mind- (and eventually time-) bending show would come to an end in 2010 it never occured to me that the date three years into the future would come so quickly. Life moves pretty fast, as someone once said, and while I’m excited to see how our favorite band of castaways since Gilligan’s Island will fare in the show’s final hours and close the chapter on this crazy ride, I still look at this event as if I’m losing an old friend. Now a fond look back at each monumental season in hopes that it will be a kind of therapy for this fan to prepare for many days of Lostalgia.
“GUYS…WHERE ARE WE?”
From the moment the amazing, and still-exhilirating, pilot hit the airwaves in 2004 I knew something special was happening. This was a groundbreaking show. In a time when the numerous CSIs and Law & Orders were dominating the airwaves and a plethora of reality shows were hanging out at the top of the ratings, this serialized show with its questions and cliffhangers at the end of almost every hour practically dared people not to come back every week. It also helped that this was all coming from a band of creatives brought together by J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for another ABC hit, and personal favorite, that melded action and character development so deftly – Alias.
Like following Sydney Bristow et. al. on the spy drama, Lost viewers were not only given present day storylines full of action and intrigue for our castaways, but also multi-faceted backstories courtesy off-island flashbacks fully fleshing out these characters to more than just stereotypes. To top it all off the Lostverse gave us layers upon layers of material to dissect that included philosophical and religious allegories in names, places and situations. Not to mention the multitude of mysteries that continually unfolded on the strange island and the eventual embrace of science fiction with the introduction of time travel that solidifed this show as a wonderfully complex creation.
LOSING ITS WAY
I’ve never claimed that Lost was perfectly perfect in every way; any show with more than one or two seasons under its belt is going to have some missteps. Even in season 1 there were some less-than-compelling episodes, but overall it was a solid start to the series, with the first of many great season finales – “Exodus” – which involved an epic and beautiful scene that still brings tears to my eyes thanks to the genius score from Michael Giacchino. It was somewhere in season 2 that I started to notice things faltering in the story throughline. It might have been the first few boring episodes post season premiere (“Adrift” and “…And Found” I’m talking to you), or maybe it was when my favorite reformed-heroin addict Charlie goes dark for no reason with the one-two punch of attacking Sun in her garden and stealing Claire’s baby.
While there were more than enough bright spots in its sophomore year there were so many times the Bad Robot team was treading water, struggling with where they were taking our intrepid band of plane crash survivors. However, ending year two with a huge bang (literally!) in the amazing two-part finale “Live Together, Die Alone” my faith in the show was fully restored and I never questioned coming back for season 3. And for a show that preached alot about faith mine was about to be tested again in the early goings of that third year.
TWO WORDS: SECOND ISLAND
Oh, fellow Losties you know what I’m talking about. Those handful episodes opening season 3 with bear cages and the Hydra station. Wow, were those some trying times of “Get our heroes back to the real story already!” Although I will hand it to the show that these were also episodes that began to fully flesh out the evilly goodness of Benjamin Linus and finally introduced us to a strong female character with Juliet (sorry Kate, you didn’t earn that badge until much later in this fan’s opinion), the soft-spoken blonde doctor of The Others camp that proved to be an excellent foil in the ever-tiring Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle.
It wasn’t until the last moments of the sixth episode “I Do” where Lost finally did something, as I’ve often found myself repeating at critical points. In a classic cliffhanger moment (and they did leave us hanging for 3 months!) Jack has Others’ leader Ben held hostage bleeding out on an operating table and bargains for the release of his kidnapped castaway comrades Kate and Sawyer, but sacrifices his own freedom, before agreeing to save the manipulative man’s life. This propelled the rest of the season into a breakneck pace – okay, so there were the handful of speedbumps along the way with throwaway episodes, I was never curious about the origins of Jack’s tattoos nor did I care about anything having to do with tagalongs Nikki and Paulo, those two “existing” survivors that until year 3 hadn’t even been seen as background characters – why?
Pitfalls aside you could tell that Darlton had finally found the show’s ultimate direction and knew where it would all end up creatively which was confirmed when they made the announcement, as the third year ended, that the landmark series would end with its sixth season. This declaration then gave way to the best season finale to date with “Through the Looking Glass.” On a side note, this episode premiered three years ago today on May 23, 2007 – fitting.
Bringing thrills, chills and a mess-load of tears, this has always been the definitive episode for me. There’s a sense of danger on at least three fronts – The Others bearing down on the castaways with intent to kidnap all the women, Charlie’s daring plunge into the underwater and titular Looking Glass station and a mysterious freighter offshore that may or may not be the harbinger of salvation. Plus you have one of the all-time most heart-breaking deaths in Charlie, bravely sacrificing his life to make sure the rest of the group can contact said freighter but finding out in the last moments that those on the boat were not telling the whole truth about why they were there. And don’t even get me started on the big reveal in the last moments that all the glimpses of Jack’s story off island were actually flashforwards instead of the flashbacks we had all come to expect – mind-blower and game-changer all-in-one.
“I’M ONE OF THE OCEANIC SIX!”
While it was the final line of season three – “We have to go back Kate! – that left us wondering what was to come, this opening line from Hurley threw us headlong into the big “what the what?” of season 4. We all knew that Jack and Kate had found their way off the island, but who else was a part of this Oceanic Six, and why only six? There were at least a dozen more characters we’d come to know and love (and hate) so who was a part of this select number and what happened to the rest? This brought us a full year of the flashforward device, playing out who had made it back to the mainland, and showing the paths each had taken to lead them to their place either on or off the island. We also got new character additions in the form of the freighter folk, including physicist Daniel Faraday, the character behind the show’s full-tilt turn into science fiction with the introduction of time travel, and realized for the first time in what is now considered Lost‘s benchmark episode, “The Constant.”
A beautiful piece focusing on island button-pusher Desmond trying to reconnect with his true love Penny so he doesn’t die from time-traveling aneurysms, I’ve come to realize that this might be the one hour that is more divisive than any other in the series. While the complaints had previously been all about unimportant details and slow-moving stories, the choice to embrace the idea of time travel turned off many viewers who believed the show was diverting terribly from its initial focus of being a character study, a grown-up Lord of the Flies.
I, for one, always supported Darlton & Co’s decision to fly their geek flag high; never feeling it took away from the true heart of the show – our characters. It provided more peril and most importantly provoked more questions. It might’ve made the series a bit more inaccessible to non-regular viewers, but as a fan of Twin Peaks I love that it became more complex. To cap off this newly-minted sci-fi-filled season we were treated to the sight of the biggest time travel moment of all – as the Oceanic Six are flying away they realize that the island they left behind has disappeared.
CASTAWAYS BECOME PASTAWAYS & COMING FULL CIRCLE
Now that we had all learned how the Oceanic Sixers and the Left Behinders got separated, season 5 was like watching a game of time Twister, and a dangerous one at that as we came to find out that because of this schism both groups were meant to suffer – those still on the island would eventually die because of the continual time jumps created from moving the island and the Six would always wallow and wonder what happened because they left. And so the crux of this fifth season was to bring these two camps back together, but all is not so easy in the Lostverse.
The time travel element really took center stage this year and really wreaked havoc with my own comprehension of this very dense subject and of the Lost timeline in general. Regardless of my spinning head being able to see the island’s goings on prior to the 815 survivors’ arrival (from primitive days even!) was an amazing addition to the already brimming-with-goodness show mythology. The pièce de résistance being the big reunion moment for our two camps during the heyday of Dharmaville – 1977. Yes, they achieved the goal of getting back to the island by, how else, traveling through time.
Although it didn’t end up quiet that simple, as nothing in the Lostverse does, since not all of our original castaways joined in the Dharma grooviness of the past. The plane transporting those back in time ended up landing safely – in then-present day 2007. Here was a story arc that created a whole new mess of questions in the shady folk who didn’t trust you until you correctly answered, “what lies in the shadow of the statue?” as well as a miraculously resurrected-from-the-dead John Locke. It wasn’t until the finale “The Incident” where we started to see the turn the series would take back to where it all started, the basic story of human nature, fate, free will and the ultimate battle between the light and dark within which we have seen play out in its final season.
As the series went through its last year the biggest compliment I can give is that it never lost (heh) sight of its core – the characters (I’m repeating myself, for a reason) – and has done a tremdendous job in honoring everyone that has inhabited this world. To add to that at almost every turn I never quite knew where it was going, in a good way. Consistently surprised, always left wanting more this was the year that I realized there were so many questions in the mythology yet to be answered that I resigned myself to just sitting back and taking it all in rather than become outraged or dissatisfied by overlooked and abandoned story elements. Will we ever know why Walt had special powers? What did happen to Vincent the dog? Will it all come down to a heated game of backgammon over the fate of the world? Most of these things don’t matter in the grand scheme, but I have faith that ultimately we’ll all have closure but with a side of mystery that will continue to spark theories, speculation and spirited debates for a long time after the final moments, which was what Lost always did best.
Some of us at this point in the evening already know the outcome (East Coasters!) but this viewer has just a few minutes to prepare for the beginning of the end and knows one thing for sure, I’m grabbing my box of tissues ’cause there’s a tearfest to come.
Not to say that my entertainment fix for humpday isn’t being fulfulled with other great shows (although this godforsaken World Series must end already so FOX will bring back new episodes of Glee!!), but there’s a little hole in my heart that can only be filled by a good helping of mystery from Lost. Last week’s oh-so-brief (a mere 15 seconds) promo for the final season that aired during Flash Forward certainly didn’t help matters, particularly as it offered no glimpses of what’s to come.
It did make me revisit more interesting (and decipher-worthy) videos courtesy the Comic Con panel from July.
And in other news, I’ve discovered an awesome piece of Lost art right under my nose at work!Created by a department colleague, he is one of only 16 artists commissioned by Team Darlton (exec producers and show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) to capture significant moments and aspects of the show in commemoration of the final season – check out his blog detailing how he approached the piece. Each poster is steadily being revealed as the months to the January premiere tick off the calendar, and only limited numbers of prints are being sold on the website Damon, Carlton and a Polar Bear, but due to their exclusive nature all have sold out quickly.