Monday, May 24, 2010

The LOST Finale

LOST is done. The finale was last night. It has generated a ton of feedback, and if the feedback is from someone outside entertainment media, it is OK feedback at best with a lot of frustration & betrayal. I keep going back to the Sopranos ending, which I reviewed and gave creator David Chase kudos for doing his way. It upset people that they didn't know if Tony lived or died. LOST managed to not answer a wide variety of mythology questions, and left a lot of character questions up for you the viewer to extrapolate. The show also ended in one of the sappiest ways possible and the most religious way a Hollywood production could be without stating a belief in God or not. I was entertained, and I was left depressed and frustrated.

Let's start with the good. The Jack/MIB story arc was great. Jack figures things out, challenges MIB, considers Desmond as a weapon, and defangs MIB long enough to kill him. He then sacrifices himself for the greater good to 'fix' things. He dies as he lived. Wonderful. The island sequences were action packed, mystical and fun. Hurley's final acceptance of the Jacob role was great, and a wonderful final touch to his character development. Ben's redemption as the teacher job offer was nice, but I feel Ben was underused in the finale. A Rose/Bernard sighting is always fun. Richard potentially aging was a nice quick detail. Still, he never told us what the island was. The glowpit turning to firepit must have messed with the magic. Seeing Claire break down and admit she can't be a mom was touching. It was the part of the show that had me choked up. Kate says to her "who ever really is ready to be a mother"? She believed in Claire and wanted to help. I can't believe I'm typing this but Kate was great to watch last night. She was ol' fugitive, street smart Kate with an edge. It would have been great to see her this way in every season. So much has been made of the Jack final sequence, and I think a cool touch was him sitting in the glowpit and feeling the water rush over him. The first episode was about Jack finding water for the survivors. Nice touch by the writers.

There was a lot of emotional moments, and I credit the actors. Conveying strong emotions in a sci-fi drama about timeshifts and different planes of reality is difficult. They key was good acting by good actors, not just hot people. Consider Locke, Ben, Juliet, and Hurley. Any of them winning beauty pageants? No. They did all carry entire episodes. Hurley didn't win awards but his depiction of the crazy lovable loser to a stronger, more confident person (at peace with his 'gift') is one of the best character progressions on any TV drama. I felt for these characters, and I was happy to see awakenings or to see Claire break it down on the beach. Jack giving MIB the "i'm going to use Desmond and kill you" line was cool, but made better by MIB Locke having a look of surprise and concern on his face. This show had cool ideas, and sometimes great writing, but the acting is what us fall in love with them.

That is about it. That is all I can say positive. Entertaining episode in a mediocre season (weakest of their 6) of one of tv's greatest show. My grief is over the blown final season. Slow moving plots, wasted episodes, and the absolute no pay off flash sideways. Yup, the flash sideways had nothing to do with the plot. It was a quasi-purgatory place for people who spent maybe as little as 50 days together (less for Charley), living in fear or confusion on a spooky, exotic island with smoke monsters, polar bears and hostile others. Plus, shitty awakenings like Boone probably smirking himself awake, Sayid and Shannon pairing up, or Penny even being at the final meet up left a bad taste in my mouth. Here's the odder thing; this means Desmond didn't just have time travel capabilities, he could also cross planes of existence of life and afterlife. The flash sideways had no impact to our plot of "why are they on the island". The tease of Desmond knowing what he had to do once he crossed that plane was useless. The odd thing is the flash sideways are a weird wrap up. The show relies on you assuming the flight made it back safely. The flight would be low on fuel, dinged up, in the middle of the Pacific, and desperate for a safe landing strip. What if they just crashed after? We don't really know they made it, but we have to assume it since it is implied Kate missed Jack for so long. How would they explain Claire coming back with them or Richard Alpert? These flash sideways all took up 1/3 or more of the final season. The flash sideways were wastes of time that could have been used to explain the mysteries of the island.

I will admit I was more of a mysteries fan than people fan. LOST was great sci-fi. It was a cross of mad science, magic, spirituality, fate vs. free choice and action that I have never seen on TV. It was like X-files with Twin Peaks with the good bits of the Matrix on an exotic island. The mysteries made LOST fascinating and so many mysteries made for good talk. LOST was an experience that took advantage of the Internet to enhance the viewer experience. It fostered the theories and speculation. It did answer why they were brought there. The candidates were there to take over in case MIB found a way to kill Jacob, like the anti-virus software for a CPU. It failed to deliver on some basic mysteries about which everyone created a theory. Here's a quick hit list:

1. Why did pregnant women die on the island?
2. Why were Walt and Aaron so special?
3. Who built the temples, statues and lighthouse?
4. Why was the island hidden? What was the source of that light? How did the island come to be? How did a wheel allow it to jump time?
5. The number references somehow leaking out to the real world?

This is where I think the creators dropped the ball with going the MIB route they did rather than doing the Aaron is MIB thing. The creators and writers chose to create new mysteries and introduce characters even in the final season rather than answer old questions. The final episode even created new questions: who put the rock in place into the source of the light? What was with the hieroglyphics on it like on the temple. It predates Jacob. These questions messed with me since they could lead to incredibly cool answers. I wanted to be wowed with those answers. I expected it because of all of the great things already on the show. Who didn't love the Richard backstory episode? We did not get big answers, and when we did sometimes they were lame (wooden boat destroying stone statue... hello??).

Here's an example of my love for the 'world' of this show. My pet theory of the island was that it was the Lost Island of Atlantis. Quickly scan the top part of that entry. Powerful nation of 9000 BC that sunk and was destroyed in a day. Maybe Atlantis was an island that would use glyphs, was influenced maybe by Egyptians, was dedicated to science, built temples, and ahem, disappeared in one day!!! That is the island. Imagine if the island was Atlantis, and the Atlanteans had discovered the source of their fortune and strength was the light in the island. They sink the island in one day because they 'move' the island with the donkey wheel. This is why they die off and only Jacob is left as he has been strengthened by the light. Others find the island through research and whatever or are brought there by Jacob. This Jacob-Island origin story could have been last season or at the beginning of this season (throw in MIB being a mad science experiment by Atlanteans for a bonus). How cool was that? A lot cooler than never being told what the island is.

I really think LOST was too scared to come out and endorse a God concept for some of their explanations. They talked about the light within everyone. There is an afterlife or next plane of existence. The stained glass window behind Christian Shephard (seriously, look at that name) had different symbols from different religions. They dance around it. The light on the island was a light in a New Age kind of way. They could have just said the 'G' word. It's OK +90% of Americans believe in a god. I blame this a bit on the Hollywood bubble. The bubble that makes fun of hick Christians and their 'simpleton' belief in the Judeo-Christian God yet will wrap a series up with the dorky 'go into the light' crap and the light of the island thing. Sometimes, it is Ok to roll with the norm and not subvert a mainstream concept. I think this was a blind spot of the show's writers (like how Mad Men's writers are making some of the greatest female characters ever because they have women writing women).

The ones we love oftentimes are the ones who hurt us the most. I loved LOST. It was a joy to watch. It hurt seeing this season unfold, knowing we would not learn everything. This is not one mystery. This is not one unresolved plot line. There are tons of unresolved issues and this feels like a tremendous relationship of amazing potential with a half hearted partner who holds the power. LOST is the partner that doesn't love the other partner as much and knows it. I'm going to miss LOST, but deep down inside, there's a part of me that is happy I won't be frustrated anymore by the absolute stupidity of the 'answers' and the never ending parent-child theme shoved down viewers throats. Sometimes we just want to see smoke monsters, mad science experiments and chases through the jungle. I applauded the Sopranos' creator endign the show on his terms, and the LOST guys did this as well, but they were very sloppy with the show. The Sopranos ended with the end of the Soprano mobsters and the dead or not Tony question. LOST ends with MIB defeated, soem leads alive, some dead, some left behind, and lots of questions. My only hope is that someone sees this show and comes up with another concept 3-7 years from now and knocks our socks off. Thank you LOST. I am glad you occupied an hour of my week for 6 years.

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