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Lost: The End - Musings from a Non-Lostie

Unlike many of you on this site - writers and readers - I'm not a rabid Lost fan. I know, hard to believe those exist, right? I followed it obsessively the first season, pulled my hair out during the second, and then decided that the only way to enjoy it for what it is was to wait until each season was over, and watch the episodes all in a row. I never had theories on what the Island was, didn't get any of the number stuff unless people pointed it out to me, and had no clue what an Easter egg was - much less, tried to interpret from it. As I often say in my Glee reviews, I don't want to think when I watch TV, I just want to enjoy it.

Yet, the Lost finale has got to be one of the most haunting episodes of television that I've seen in as long as I can remember. Was it intellectually satisfying? No. I didn't have a clue what the Island was until I started reading all the blogs and reviews the next day. Did I roar in frustration at the ending? I'm pretty sure that my dog is still hiding under the couch from Sunday night. But I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop feeling it. Somehow, something has ... shifted.

The End of an Era

Part of it is that, with the finales of Lost, 24, and Law & Order this year, it really does mark the end of an era. Fan or not, these three shows defined and influenced television for the better part of the last decade. With the premier of Lost and Desperate Housewives 6 years ago, ABC firmly reestablished itself as a major player amongst the broadcast networks. Not only that, it redefined our expectations of a good show, and became a major leader in emotionally compelling storytelling. Since I hated Friends and Seinfeld, and don't take my teeth out every night, NBC and CBS never held much appeal for me, respectively.

Lost and 24 mainstreamed my personal favorite type of television - serialized story arcs. Before then, yes, there were fantastic shows such as Buffy, but those shows tended to be on smaller networks (UPN), or cable. Lost and 24 (initially, at least) brought back intelligent storytelling, and didn't treat the viewer like your typical Glenn Beck fan. Lost and 24 made the small screen just as hot as movies. Suddenly, actors like Gary Sinise, Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin, Edward James Olmos were following Kiefer Sutherland (dammit!) into what had previously been seen as the wasteland for failed movie stars. In fact, stars are going onto TV to prove themselves as respectable actors - 22 episodes allows you a lot more room to develop a character than 120 minutes.

Musings on The End...

But it was more than just the end of a cultural landmark. The reveal about what the Flash Sideways really was stunned me. Not so much out of surprise, because when I think back now about Season 6, it makes a lot of sense. I was shocked because it really hammered home that Jack was dead. Sun and Jin were dead. Sayid was dead. There was no magical, happy world where they continued to exist after death on the Island. OK, there was, but it wasn't real, they weren't alive.

At first, I was pretty disappointed. Not only did I not get a single answer about what that frakking Island was, but they didn't even have a happy ending! I make no pretense about wanting my tv/music/culture to be realistic and gritty. If I wanted to be depressed, I'd read the news, not listen to Fiona Apple. I wanted a freaking happy ending. I wanted Kate to be with Jack. I wanted them to "live" happily ever after. I wanted them all to live happily ever after.

My only consolation was that, at least it wasn't BSG. Purgatory, heaven - those had all been prominent themes in Lost; it didn't feel completely random like Starbuck disappearing. (Yes, I'm still bitter about that.)

... and After

But there's a beauty about the "afterlife" construction of Flash Sideways that really touched me. I'm Catholic, and I believe in Heaven, so I wasn't as thrown off by the blatant Jesus references like many sci-fi fans tend to be. I also sort of-kind of believe in Hell and Purgatory - personally, I think that life on Earth is kind of it. If you don't make it your first life, you keep getting recycled back in others here until you "redeem" yourself. (Just as an aside, I'm strongly influenced by Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit in my view of what Hell is.)

So the Island as Purgatory always made sense to me, regardless of how the writers intended it. But Purgatory has a strongly negative connotation - you're not here, you're not there, it's like having a mullet. So does the idea that souls who were killed or done wrong cannot rest until they are avenged, a la Sixth Sense. You're still stuck. And for the most part, you can't do anything about it - you need Jennifer Love Hewitt to help you move on, or something absurd like that.

Why the flash Sideways is so compelling, then, is that not only does it reunite you with the ones you love - rather a given for Heaven, if you ask me - but it gives you the chance to work out your issues and put your souls to rest. Like the characters on Lost, most of us are deeply flawed, and most of our regrets come from what we ourselves can, can't, did, didn't, or should do. Most of us - God willing - don't suffer from a violent death, where you need to be avenged; when you look back upon your life, it is really our own conscience that we struggle with, not the actions of others.

So the beauty of Lost is that, with this, after-ish life, we are in control of our destiny beyond what we do in the living world. I mean, if you only have 2 choices - Heaven or Hell, the decision is going to be based on the sum of your life. If the only way to get into Heaven was to be perfectly good all the time, God must be a pretty lonely dude up there. So regardless of what our lives end up to be on balance, there's a good chance that there are still issues that you haven't worked out when you die. And, at least for me, the resolutions that stay with me are the ones that I figure out on my own.

Look, I'm not a terribly deep person, and I admit that. I loved Sawyer because he's hot, I like Britney because she's bouncy, and I literally will leave a room if people start discussing politics or religion. I want to be happy, not right. So the fact that Lost stayed at the forefront of my mind for almost a week is really saying something.

Does it make me reevaluate my faith, my science, or my worldview? Not necessarily. But it does give me another layer to think about. It also, honestly, made me think about my priorities in life. If I have a Flash Sideways, I want it to be with the people I love, not my job or a stupid title. And that means I need to focus on building and strengthening those connections, not just get promoted.

Aha! Now It All Makes Sense!

So now I look back on Season 6, and I have to say, the writers were quite brilliant. Not necessarily even, from a storytelling perspective, but really quite clever in how they handled the "awakenings". If you notice, the major reunifications involve someone who'd already died. Libby, Charlie, Shannon, Locke, Daniel and Charlotte, and of course, Sun and Jin. I never noticed how many characters lost their mate, their loved one until I saw all these couples back together. (I argue that Locke was Ben's soulmate - not romantically, but from an intellectual and spiritual equal perspective.)

It also makes sense why everyone familiar was converging all in one place. Even for Lost, it's pretty implausible that everyone from one flight ends up at the hospital at the same time. The character connections in the flashbacks occurred throughout the course of their lives. Yes, they were all connected in some way - spiritually - but still.

On a completely unrelated note, I loved that the final fight was between Jack and Locke. It was always about Jack and Locke. That it wasn't really Locke didn't matter; the symmetry was poetic.

So. Do I know what the Island was? Sort of, yes intellectually, but not really. It didn't connect for me, it's more like trivia I read on Wikipedia. Do I understand what happened as a consequence of Jughead? Do I know why they were time traveling, why it stopped, and how Good/Evil/Light/Bad/Smoke Monster has to do with time travel? Frankly, I don't even understand the last sentence I just wrote. But now, upon reflection, I find the Lost finale to be more than emotionally satisfying - it stirred my heart, my brain, and my soul.

It took me 5 days to get there, but now, I love it. That, my friends, is amazing television in my book.

A Final "Thank You": Like many of you, I found this site because of Billie's reviews of Lost and Buffy. I want to take a moment and thank you, Billie. There have been many a-times where I've been unconfused about this show, and many more, thanks to your fantastic reviews. And now that I'm written a few of my own, I can genuinely appreciate how much talent goes into writing not only an insightful review, but a succinct and entertaining one as well.

7 comments:

  1. "You're not here, you're not there, it's like having a mullet."

    The contrapasso haircut. I love it.

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  2. From now on, I'm referring to mullets as "Hair Purgatory".

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  3. Serena, thank you for sharing your perspective. It was really interesting to see how you came to an overall appreciation for the finale given your basic "I want answers and live happily ever after resolutions" attitude.

    This finale may not be the Most Perfect Ever finale, but it surprised me and touched me in a way that was completely unexpected and will stay with me for a very, very long time.

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  4. If someone wants another series that abandons some of the longstanding mysteries and does a character study in the finale i recommend the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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  5. I could never understand it when people oppose thinking to having fun. For me, one thing has always enhanced the other.

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  6. When a story ends and there are no spinoffs or comic book tie-ins intended i can't see any reason to to keep anyone alive. If it's the last we'll see of the characters might as well give them a big sendoff like here and show how they died.

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  7. Oh, no, I like to keep the dream alive. Unless their death has specific dramatic relevance, heroes should always live on to fight another day. In my mind, Millennium is on its fourteenth season. Frank Black has just discovered an alien soldier trashed his house. Riveting!

    Nice review, Serena, and this comes from a Fiona Apple fan!

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