Monday, May 24, 2010 815 (or fewer) words: "The End"

Well, kids, this is it. The end. Tonight was the last-ever episode of Lost. Right now I'm writing my last-ever Lost recap.

But it's not the end of the questions--no, certainly not. I've spent the past few hours mulling over the finale. I've watched Jimmy Kimmel, hoping that someone--anyone--could offer some useful intel on the finale. And you know what? I still feel lost.

The reason I love Lost is because is does two things that are very tough to do: have a fantastic plot, and have fantastic characters. Most things have a noticeably better plot than characters, or vice versa. For much of the six seasons of Lost, I felt like both plot and characters were equally lights-out.

I think I've changed my mind on that viewpoint.

After seeing the entirety of Lost, all six seasons, I'm going to say that the thing they did best was, undoubtedly, character.

At this point, I'm really, really, really (x 1,000) iffy on the plot.

From what I've gleaned from various blogs/commenters/Facebook friends/etc, it seems like what happened was the island timeline was real, the sideways timeline was purgatory, and *this* group of people was so intensely connected that they all needed to move on together--after working through their emotional stuff and redeeming themselves as good human beings, of course. There is no "now"--as Christian Shepherd said--and they didn't all die at the same time (some before Jack, some many years after), but they all needed to move on together--as shown in the church scene near the end of the show.

Standing on its own, that's a decent explanation. But what I don't like is that, if that explains the entire show, there's a lot of shit that was pretty pointless over these past six seasons. I'm not going to bitch and moan about wanting answers to every little thing--but I feel like the writers failed at creating a wholly convincing story. They could have done this story in, like, three seasons. Cut out the freighter (even though I'd miss those folks). Cut out a lot of the Dharma crap. Cut out the time-traveling. In the end, did we need all this stuff? Nope. The writers could have conveyed the same message in less time and with far fewer distractions. And looking back on the last several seasons, I feel like we saw a lot of distractions. So my stance, really, is that could be a decent explanation for a show that isn't Lost. But I think Lost deserved more than this. I think we as viewers wanted to know that a decent amount of what we saw over the past few years mattered. We wanted to feel confident in the knowledge that the writers had their shit together. I'm not entirely sure that's the case.

What they did do well--really, really well--is character. We've cared about these characters for so long, and during the finale, we saw these characters at peace (well, mostly--but I'll touch on that later. We saw them reconnect with the souls who were important to them. We saw many of them, these flawed souls, strip away some flaws to become more giving, more whole. I think all of those moments were incredibly satisfying. I'll argue that those moments were what saved this finale. Do I care enough about these characters to overlook the shaky overall plot/story and simply focus on the individual characters' stories? Yes.

The recognition scenes were incredibly well done. Many of them brought me nearly to tears, and I'm the anti-cry. The Claire/Charlie one--wow. Just wow. I think that one was my favorite, with the Sun/Jin one being a close second. I'm not the hugest Suliet fan, and yet I liked their recognition scene a lot, too. And Locke wiggling his toes after Jack had done his surgery--and then, later on, with Ben telling him he didn't need that wheelchair anymore...awesome. These are the moments that make Lost special. These are the reasons we still care about this show. These are things that, in my mind, even a flawed storyline can't ruin. We saw Kate and Jack each being very heroic, and we saw Hurley stepping up into a leadership role even though he was clearly nervous about it. We saw the characters we've loved for so long finally grow, and I think each character arc was really done right. It's just that, in my opinion, those arcs were then inserted into what I feel was a flawed, distracting, and needlessly confusing overall storyline. The only character whose arc I'm not sure I liked is Ben's--I'm not sure they wrapped him up the right way. I loved, absolutely loved, that he was Hurley's #2 guy, helping him protect the island. I thought that was fantastic. But I wish he'd have gone in the church with the rest of the Losties we know and love. I'm thinking perhaps he stayed back, knowing his time to move on hadn't arrived, that perhaps he had some more redemption to do. But you know what? If he stayed on the island helping Hurley for a good, long time, isn't that enough to earn him some redemption and a ticket to heaven with all the folks who beat the hell out of him at various times on the island? (And it's not like it was just 815'ers who were in that church, either--Penny was there, and she was never on that flight...same deal with why was Ben excluded? On that note, what about Richard Alpert? I wish I understood how--or even if--Guyliner's character arc was tied up...)

One thing I love about Lost is that it always gives us things to think about. We've seen The End, but it's not the end for us, really. We have blog posts to read and write and comment on, character arcs to consider, water-cooler chatter to engage in--simply put, these characters and this story will be on our minds for a long, long time. None of our questions are easily answered, and if you don't have a million questions running through your mind at this point, you must be a much smarter person than I am. ;) Not only do I have questions, but--as a budding novelist--I have praise and criticisms for how they approached this finale and this show as a whole. I've learned a lot from Lost in terms of how to create characters that audiences can connect with, how to enhance a plot with flashbacks, and how to build a linear storyline (obviously Lost didn't do that--they were nowhere close to a linear storyline--that's one of the lessons I learned from what I felt like Lost could have improved upon. I knew that going into this finale, I've already taken away so many good writing-related tips that, no matter what, even if the ending was unsatisfying, I had soaked up so much good stuff from Lost that I, as a future novelist, found this series meaningful and enlightening and educational.

I still don't know if I'm satisfied. I loved so many moments of this finale (from the "Awww" moments like Vincent laying down with Jack during the last on-island scene to the funny moments like Miles saying "I believe in the power of duct tape"), and so many character arcs, and the recognition/connection scenes for these characters. I'm still struggling with the big picture. Maybe sleeping on it will help. Maybe not.

In the end (and, literally, in "The End") I think that the characters not only find redemption themselves, but they redeem this crazy-ass storyline. Without these strong, emotion-evoking characters (and the superb acting, especially by Michael Emerson, Terry O'Quinn, and Josh Holloway), I think this story would have fallen flat on its face. We started out this series caring about the characters and not knowing what the hell was going on plot-wise, and I think that's how we--or at least I--have ended this series.

Fellow Losties, how did you like the finale? Did you like it at all? What were your favorite moments? And for goodness' sake, if you can make me like the storyline better, please throw your best theories out there. :) I wanna hear 'em!

Namaste. :)


Sarah said...

It broke my heart to watch that show last night. Your recap was, as always, spot on. I couldnt agree more. As the screen flashed LOST for the last time I was so happy it was over, which sounds odd but really means I was so glad nothing more could happen to these characters I have loved for six years. And that feeling carried me for about 5 minutes, when the reality of STILL NOT UNDERSTANDING set in. I, like you said, dont want to carry on about every little question we didnt get an answer to- but I am thoroughly disappointed that after six years of the most confusing plot twists, polar bears, and timelines we still dont know what any of it was FOR. I did want an explanation that would address all of the "other" things we watched, theorized about and got involved with over the years. Not the where did the dharma food come from stuff, but definately the what the hell just happened kind of stuff. I am so pleased with how it ended for the characters, even if I dont know what the end really meant. Everyone was back together and it was so sweet and touching to see it. I was overwhelmed by the power of a bond among people that was so strong none of them could move on without the rest. So happy that it kind of makes up for the fact that I feel like I started watching a sci-fi show and ended up watching a hallmark movie there at the end. I am sad LOST is over, and so disappointed to still be feeling so LOST.

michael said...

Okay, cue the Ramble-O-Matic:

I think Richard wasn't in the church because he was not seriously connected to the others. He had been in the Island for over one hundred years, and, while he certainly interacted with them a great deal, it wasn't the "none of you could have made it on your own" sort of connection that Christian was talking about.

I, too, was disappointed that Ben didn't go in with them. Locke forgave him, Hurley thanked him, and no one beat up on him. Or maybe he was uncomfortable going into the same room with all of the people who had socked him so many times? I don't know. What I *do* know is that I was satisfied with the way his on-Island character played out. Especially when Sawyer clocked him at the well. You could hear in his groan "Oh, Christ, not again!"

Speaking of Christ, it looks as if the Easter/Resurrection allegory ran into a brick wall somewhere. No one was playing backgammon on the beach, and even if someone had a board there was no way Locke would be joining them.

Which brings me to the part of the finale that still confuses me - what the HELL was happening down the waterfall? Desmond pulled that pin and all the light was drained away, and it looked like that Energy was destroying the Island. But why did that make FLocke mortal? And for that matter, when Jacob threw his brother down there, what exactly happened to him? Was Jack immune to the Light, too, because he was the protector? I was expecting Jack to become a Smoke Monster, but a not-so-angry one, and as part of a whole "renewing the cycle" bit.

And I suppose the next minor question is, how did Jack get out of there? I thought all the water was flowing IN, not OUT.

All in all, I thought it was a wonderful finale. The plot was wacky, but I think I could make sense of most of it. If not all the "why"s, then at least the "what"s. The big "why" that I think I can answer for you is something like this: what we thought was "Sideways" was all wrong. It was convenient for the storytellers to make it appear as if it were a parallel universe created by the bomb. However, what we thought was a world created by Physics was really a Spiritual place. Christian was right - there was no "now." Which means that everything that happened over the last six years was certainly necessary. It was a six year odyssey showing us WHY all of these characters were tied together, and why they all needed each other, in life as well as in moving on.

Yeah, you would be right to be frustrated about how the polar bears, the Dharma Initiative, and so many other mysteries throughout the years didn't matter in the long run, but they sure made it interesting! It was, I think, a plot entirely of the characters, by the characters, and for the characters, to borrow a phrase. WHAT was happening didn't matter nearly so much as to WHOM it was happening.

And Jimmy Kimmel was hilarious, but I don't think they covered anything very important. Though I loved the part where Widmore admitted that he had no idea whether his character was good or bad. Also, "thank you for shooting Ana Lucia."

April said...

It took me a bit to say this but I am truly satisfied with how it ended. I was pretty confused for a while at the end of the show and my initial reaction was that I loved it until the last 15 minutes. In my case, sleeping on it did help.

There may have been a lot of plot that seems useless now at the end but if you look at it from the perspective of the losties, this was the experience they had and not all of it made sense but in the end, it was their life, their stories. It's like our life, not everything in our journey makes sense or will even matter in the end but it's still the life we live, the experiences we have and the connections we make along the way that make up our story.

It was a truly beautiful and emotional episode. In my opinion, it was the perfect ending to this story. It was fun to get tangled up in the mystery of the island but this story was never about the island, it was about discovering these characters and watching them grow and ultimately find redemption. I think they executed that brilliantly.

MarieC said...

I haven't seen any of the footage from Jimmy Kimmel last night; I hope that clears up some of my questions, 'cause I have lots of them!

I got the sense that neither timeline was real, and that they all died in the crash of 815. The scenes during the credits after Jack laid down with Vincent gave me that impression. And, that makes it all that much more confusing.

Betseeee said...

It's funny, if you'd told me midway through this season that in the end it would all come down to the characters and redemption, I'd have snorted in your face. I felt like in many ways the writers worked really hard to make me not give a crap about any of them in the past...year? What I wanted to know were answers to the island's questions. But in the end, last night, they redeemed themselves on a character level. They all grew, they all became more interesting and more worthy. And I'm frustrated as hell by the same pointless plot points by which you are frustrated, but I do feel somehow strangely satisfied with the way the characters' stories wrapped up. I'm glad they are together, and I'm glad they're moving on somewhere pleasant. So, I guess the writers succeeded on that level, and I appreciate it.

But yeah. Three seasons. Easy.


@ Michael: I think my beef with the Richard storyline is this: He was the one character who explicitly said (in Ab Aeterno) that he WANTED to atone so that he could go be with his dead wife. He was the one character actually focused on redemption, and yet he's the one character that...well, we have no idea if he got it. Last we saw old (literally) Richard, he was being dropped straight into 2007 with nobody (that we know of) to go home to.

I, too, was satisfied with how Ben's on-Island character played out. You could tell he was truly honored to be Hurley's #2 guy--especially because he knew Hurley would appreciate him more than Jacob ever did. (By the way, I'd totally want to be on that island with those two in charge; that would be a hoot, I think!)

I'm confused about all the stuff regarding what happened down the waterfall. I had even read part of the script that addressed this (Gawker found it several weeks in advance, and I'm a spoiler slut, so I couldn't help but look), and it still confused me. Seems like Desmond pulling out to cork got rid of the island magic that made FLocke more or less invincible...and made Richard immortal, etc. Things seemed rather hellish immediately afterward, though. So Jack corked the place back up and offered himself as a sacrifice to the island, and...magic restored? That's my best guess, anyway.


@ Sarah: Your thoughts echo mine. I am thrilled for the bulk of the characters, because they each individually got great endings, but the more I think about the plot--and how much stuff over the last 6 seasons it renders seemingly meaningless--the more annoyed I become!


@ April: When you say:

"...If you look at it from the perspective of the losties, this was the experience they had and not all of it made sense but in the end, it was their life, their stories. It's like our life, not everything in our journey makes sense or will even matter in the end but it's still the life we live, the experiences we have and the connections we make along the way that make up our story."

...this makes sense to me, and I agree with it. It's the thing giving me the most comfort as I mentally curse out this plot and those damn writers. I'm still not entirely happy with the way this all played out, but I really like your explanation and apply it to my thinking whenever I get too ticked at the writers, haha. :)


@ Marie: Kimmel was basically useless last my opinion, the actors all looked bewildered, and nobody really answered anything important.

At first I too thought they had all been dead and the island timeline wasn't real, but then revamped that theory after reading a bunch of stuff online. Trying to read about this online didn't help all that much though, since so many people were as confused as we were! :)


@ Betsy: Agreed on all your points (except that the redemption storyline does not surprise me in the least). Thank goodness for the characters, as they are the heart of Lost and stayed the heart of Lost in the finale. :)

Andrew said...

I have a problem with your opinion that the series had unneeded seasons/storylines. The real question is, "Were you entertained?" If your answer is, "yes," then every episode was necessary. The storyline on the island was a wild ride; an ends to a means; an intense mystery that kept us on our seats until the very last minute when we realized it all didn't matter. What happened, happened. And it was entertaining and fun, but ultimately, the characters who impacted each other's lives are what is important here.

Also, I have a problem with your dislike of a non-linear timeline. What percentage of TV dramas have linear timelines?? 99.999%? Probably! In my opinion, the crazy timeline was one aspect that made this show standout and be so much more interesting than others.

The show could have ended 100 different ways. And all would have been great. But I think the way the writers chose was absolutely perfect. It was all about the relationships the whole time.

Andrew said...


-Richard didn't have a big enough impact on the Losties lives to be a part of their group. Most likely he found his wife and moved on with her.

-Ben still had to resolve the most important thing in his life. Not the Losties. Instead, he needed Alex to forgive him.

-The wreckage during the credits has been identified as file footage placed there by ABC, not the writers of Lost. Seems like a horribly dumb move by ABC, but it was not intended to mean anything.

-Desmond was immune to electromagnetism. Thats why he was a "failsafe." He uncorked the island, released all the energy/magic that was built up and thus the island became very normal for a brief time. fLocke was mortal. Jack became mortal. Both got fatal wounds. Jack went down in the well, recorked the island and restored all the magic. How he got out is a mystery perhaps lost on the editing room floor. Maybe intentionally for time/continuity. Maybe accidentally. But his previously inflicted wound ended up killing him. Also, how he was safe from the magic was probably something to do with being the protector.

-Kimmel was dumb and pointless. The only funny parts were the taped bits from the cast. Most of them said nothing interesting live.


@ Andrew: I was entertained, yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was a great story. Or maybe it WAS a great story, but I don't think it was the BEST story they could have given us. (I am entertaiend watching the Seattle Mariners play baseball. But that doesn't make 'em great!)

But I agree: the important things in the story were the characters--and those, I feel, were done well.

I'm OK with a non-linear timeline if there's a reason for it. But I feel like they had a lot of non-linear stuff in there that, in the end, didn't matter.

I hope Richard found his wife and moved on with her. He was the only one of them who specifically sought out it disappoints me that his was the only redemption we really didn't get to see.

Agreed--that was a dumbass move by ABC, re: the plane wreckage at the end. (Seriously, did they actually think we weren't going to overanalyze the hell out of that? Sigh.)

My take on Kimmel: Seemed like most of the actors were just as confused as many of the viewers were.

Jamy said...

I'm no expert on Buddhism, but I know some stuff about it from my practicing friends and classes I have taken and I think a lot of the symbolism and inexplicableness (I know that's not a real word, but just bear with me) is because we are thinking too much in linear terms and from a Christian perspective.

For starters, the whole idea of purgatory is Christian and I think it's been pretty plain since the beginning that this isn't all about Christianity. There were definitely some Christian references, but there were way more Buddhist tie-ins: The Dharma Initiative, the number sequence that added up to 108 and the number 108 itself (which is a very important number in Buddhism), the bagua...all of that is classic Buddhist. I think Jacob and Old Smokie represent Yin and yang, the opposite sides of the same coin: Light and dark, fair haired and brunet, good and evil etc. Even the island is part of the Buddhist belief system (The island of the rose apple tree).

Living your life, dying, going to purgatory, then passing into heave or hell is a linear notion, but Buddhists (and a lot of other religions) don't see life as linear at all. They have The Wheel of Life. The idea is that we are all a part of the universe, which has no beginning, no end, and no time. They believe we are connected with everyone and everything in the world. The only way to achieve liberation and go to nirvana is to attain enlightenment.

Buddhists also believe that are 12 causal links that prevent people from gaining enlightenment...they are sort of like our seven deadly sins and if you think about it, all the characters had flaws that needed to be addressed that could apply to either religion.

I know I didn't hit on everything and please forgive me if I got some of my Buddhist beliefs wrong, but that's what I think. I think it all wasn't meant to make total sense because as some other person posted earlier, a lot of what happens in our lives doesn't make sense to us.

I'd have been really disappointed if they had tied it all up in a neat, easily digestible, little package like TV and movies usually do. Too much happened in the past six years for it to all be explained that easily.

Well...and they had to leave some mystery for the movies they will probably be making in the years to come. ;o) LOL