At Long Lost, The End

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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11 Responses

  1. Will says:

    The YouTube embed is a little askew on my browser, Erik.Report

  2. I’m slowly embracing the finale and as I digest it, I think it works. We were told that what happened on the island was real, so no ripoff there. The sideways world was more of an entertainment device so we could spend several weeks enjoying seeing all these dead people back on the show. Some of my favorite moments this season were in sideways land. Finally, we wanted to see them all back together at the end so why not let them all find each other in the afterlife? A bit cheesy but pretty cool.

    And was anyone else thinking of Moses when they saw Ben remain outside?Report

  3. Trumwill says:

    I am still collecting my thoughts on it. However, I do have (at least) one major gripe about the general unfolding. I don’t want or need them to explain everything, but I think a better explanation was needed for the impetus for wiping out the Dharma Initative. That was a pretty severe act and Jacob The Good Guy appears to be in on it. Obviously, they represented a threat to the island and so it had to be done, but given the repercussions, I would have appreciated a better outlining of the threat that was posed and the lack of alternatives.Report

  4. Louis B. says:

    Freddie was right from the beginning:

    So let me say straight away that I am not in any way a Lost hater. I’m not a big fan of the show— it’s not quite my cup of tea— but I find it refreshingly original, smart, and respectful of its audiences intelligence.
    With that said, I’ve never believed that they are going to be able to wrap it up into a satisfying conclusion for the show’s devoted fans, and the more I see of it the more convinced I become.

    When the show first came out, if you’ll remember, the creators of the show kept saying “It’s not going to be Twin Peaks.” I read those words in a lot of interviews, with JJ Abrams and the cast members. “It’s not gonna be Twin Peaks.” The idea was that Twin Peaks failed because it didn’t have a cohesive storyline plotted from the beginning, and Lost did, and that would help to prevent the kind of dissatisfaction with the endgame that plagued Twin Peaks.

    To me, though, the model for how the show will eventually fail has never been Twin Peaks, but rather The X-Files (for a few seasons a favorite of mine.) Both Lost and The X-Files have, as their main draw, persistent mystery, and the pleasure that comes with the gradual revelation of the missing pieces of that mystery. And there lies the problem. As time went on, the creators of The X-Files had to reveal more and more; the enjoyment of the show came from learning the secrets, and you couldn’t have a season finale or event episode without giving the audience some crumb. But they also couldn’t reveal everything, because then there’s no show.

    So as time went on, more and more mysteries had to be introduced, even while other mysteries were explained. The plot started to lose coherence with so many loose threads and dangling points. As is always the case, the possibility of the solutions to the mysteries was more enticing than the actual solutions, so the secrets revealed always tended to disappoint. And as time went on, a dedicated watcher became more and more impatient with yet another tease. Most damagingly, maybe, the story lost concision— there was no unified plot or theme but rather a hodge-podge of stories and threads meshed together awkwardly.

    I think Lost is definitely entering the same territory. Like the secrets on The X-Files, the secrets revealed on Lost can’t quite match the expectation. Remember the hatch? Many people were disappointed with what was down there (answer: a room)!), but how could they not be? The creators couldn’t match up to the possibilities of what the audiences couuld imagine. That’s a problem with any mystery, I suppose, and wouldn’t be a big deal, if the answer to the mystery fit coherently into some sort of a unified whole. And that’s the biggest problem to me with the show. Here’s an experiment: try and summarize the plot of the show, giving a potential new viewer a version of the story that doesn’t withhold important information. I find it’s hard, and getting harder. There are reams of plot points, reams of conflicts, reams of characters, reams of events… and a never ending string of shifting allegiances and, frankly, changed premises.

    Just try to list the genre elements that the show now has going on within it. Survival narrative, obviously. The “deserted island” motif. Science fiction. Psychic ability. Places with regenerative ability. Men who are ideologically extreme (or is it just crazy?). Numerology. Conspiracy theory. Ghosts. (Ghosts!) Rather than being a positive aspect of the show (Lost has everything!), I contend that all of this is actual a major drawback. The simplicity of the beginning narrative— strangers, trapped on a strange island, who must survive against unique perils and themselves— has been sacrificed for an ever-widening circle of plot twists and new storylines, which rob the show of any thematic unity.

    And, of course, there is the simple question of the endgame: what possible “secret” could sum up the show, answer the fundamental questions, in a way that satisfies? I can’t imagine one. Remember when the show first came out, when everyone had a theory— they were dead and in the afterlife; the island was a government conspiracy; etc. What possible single secret could now exist that provides anything like a satisfactory answer to the shows questions? How could any one thing explain all of the bizarre turns the story has taken, and not conflict with previous continuity? And if there is no single answer, but rather a string of small answers that have no narrative unity, well, that’s X-Files territory: a seemingly broken promise of an interesting and meaningful solution to a mystery.

    I’m not cheerleading an unsatisfying ending. But I absolutely can’t imagine one that can cash the check the creators have written.Report

    • Trumwill in reply to Louis B. says:

      And, of course, there is the simple question of the endgame: what possible “secret” could sum up the show, answer the fundamental questions, in a way that satisfies? I can’t imagine one.

      But they did, at least partially. They did a lot more than I thought they would. The Secret was the war between Jacob and Esau. It explains if not the origin of the island then at least why it’s important, why it’s special, why The Others “protect it”, why the Dharma Initiative was so interested in it, and so on. Yeah, there were loose threads, but they were loose threads of a cloth.

      I was really expecting the same thing that Freddie was getting. I don’t feel that’s entirely what I got. And I really don’t think that comparisons to X-Files are really on target.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Louis B. says:

      @Louis B., I think Freddie’s right that outside and around the central core story, they did a lot of hodge-podge storytelling, making it portentious by inserting tons of overlap among these peripheral characters. This made the impression of some type of cosmic conspiracies going on in the outside wrold revolving around the Island. Along with many fans and critics, I too wishe they could have returned to these connections and fleshed them out – i.e. just what was Widmore’s interest in the Island, the Hanso history (which was pulled back in time to the 19t c. on Ab Aeteerno) and connection to Dharma — things like that. But I am also a huge fan of the show anyway, and I don’t really consider this a critical flaw, just something I’d like to have gotten and didn’t. Fundamentally I am entirely on board with the idea that this a story about a small group of folks tossed together in a trying ordeal, and the show had to always return to that. But it does reveal some of the appeal of the early seasons, where the overlapping and portentious coincidences made for such evocative viewing to have been more or less arbitrary conceits. This just means Lost is something we already knew it was: a good not great, but emotionally powerful entertainment that is without a doubt among the best things network TV has brought us, and very likely the last, and in some ways the only one, of its kind in that venue.Report

  5. Zach says:

    They should’ve just made the smoke monster sound (and maybe had some shadow cast over whatever was on screen) either right as Jack’s eye shut or while showing the wreckage over the credits.

    The sideways world was a pretty good device to allow them to use the “it’s all a dream!” ending without *only* having that ending, and still killing everyone off on the island or otherwise disposing of them and more or less wrapping things up on that end. I think folks would be even less satisfied with the ending if people just teleported back from sideways world, did battle with Locke, and fled the island, died, or stayed on to protect it.

    Were Walt/Michael in the tearful montage at the end?

    Are the Target commercials considered Lost canon?Report

    • @Zach, Walt wasn’t there because apparently that time wasn’t the most important part of his life. Michael was trapped on the island for his sins.Report

      • Zach in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

        @Mike at The Big Stick, I figured it was because black folks weren’t allowed into heaven unless they married a white dude. Probably the biggest unexplained thing in the show is why Walt zipped off and never came back despite being so important to the island or whatever.

        Going by the logic of the show’s creators, Walt was never flawed to begin with so I guess he never belonged there. You’d think that would apply to his dog, too, however.Report

  6. Am I the only one that thought for a minute that after Jack put the plug back we might see white smoke pour out of the cave as he was turned into the new smokey, but a good one?Report

  7. Jack was dying there at the end, from the wounds he incurred from his fight with Flocke, which would explain why he didn’t turn into a new Smokey, while Desmond’s relative resistance to the electromagnetism precluded him suffering that fate. Michael was not in the final scene, and it turns out his never showing up in the Sideways World was a major clue as to what Sideways really was. Others that weren’t there included Richard Alpert, Lapidus, and Miles.

    In Michael’s case though, his spirit was doomed to remain eternally trapped on the island as a whispering spirit, never allowed to move on, thus the lack of his appearance in Sideways. The actor who portrayed Walt frankly has just grown so much it was impossible to use him and keep the show consistent. There were other “real world” reasons, such as contract disputes, that other characters, such as Eko, could not be used.

    I would have appreciated more answers myself, but the onus for the blame for that should go not to the show’s writers and producers, but to ABC and Disney. They are the ones who limited the show to eighteen episodes plus the extra half hour, as opposed to the standard twenty-two episode season allotment given most programs. The show’s creative staff did the best they could with what time they had to work with.

    Who knows, maybe some of those answers might eventually be broached in a future special, possibly a mini-series. That would be cool.Report