Final Thoughts On Lost
Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.
I swear, this is the last blog post I will write about Lost. I’ve still got the last episode on my mind, though. I haven’t re-watched the last episode, and I actually don’t think I will. I think I’m going to take a Lost hiatus, not watch it for a year, maybe two, then come back to it. I wanted to use this blog post to look back and reflect on the show in general, but first a few more words on that finale.
With few exceptions, series finales are almost universally despised. There are myriad reasons for this, but one of the big ones is that people watching television, in most cases, are not looking for artistic greatness. Joe Six Pack doesn’t care that The Office ran out of steam two seasons ago, or that Seinfeld stopped being great in season 7. If someone is a fan of something, they want that thing to last for as long as possible, regardless of whether or not there’s a decline in quality. Here’s another example: no matter how old and washed up a professional athlete is, his fans always want that person to stick it out for one more season (see Favre, Bret). It’s natural human instinct: we want the things we love to be around for a long, long time.
So the Lost season finale had that working against it. Lost is a bit different from most television shows because of the hard-core nature of its fans. Go to any article on the internet about Lost, and there will be thousands of comments on it. The comment sections on most articles usually consists of one depressed loner questioning the sexual orientation of another because they aren’t in total agreement over whether Miley Cyrus is a slut. The comments on Lost message boards can sometimes take on dissertation like proportions. Just go to Lostpedia.org and see how seriously people take this show. Over the years, there have been more theories about just what the hell the island is then they’re have about the Kennedy assassination. The show is also unique in that it is hugely popular. My point being this: over the past six years, a huge number of people have made this show a significant part of their lives, and now it’s over. Is it any surprise that people are upset about this?
Pictured: Disgruntled Lost fans react to a sub-par series finale.
Here’s another strike against Lost: no matter how good an episode the finale was, there was just no way it was going to live up to expectations. Over the years, there have been so many interesting, confusing, and just plain weird stuff. People naturally assume that, when we see something crazy, an explanation is going to be forthcoming which will explain it. What we (and by “we” I mean Lost fans) have to realize is that some of the stuff on the show very well might have been just made up on the fly as a “hey this is pretty cool/confusing, let’s use it in the show.” The writers themselves might have had no clue what that meant. Especially in the earlier seasons, when the creators of the show had no clue how many seasons the show was going to last, it must have been hard to extrapolate as to what the show was going to develop into.
Don’t worry, I’m winding down here. The next point I want to raise is the rewatchability issue. Basically, if I want to rewatch this thing in a few years, will it be as compelling as it was as a first-time viewer? That’s probably an unfair question; no show will be as compelling the first time through. But I think this is big in Lost’s case simply because the show relied so heavily on disorientation and keeping fans on the edge of their seats. Many a night has been wasted watching episode after episode of Lost, trying to find the answer to some question only to be led down a path with a murky answer and a handful of new questions
(Entering into Spoiler territory here)
Here’s the thing: I think I’m going to have a hard time watching an episode with, say, Boone, Shannon, Michael or any of the characters that end up dying (don’t even get me started on Nikki and Paulo). In the last season, for instance, all of the “flash-sideways” as the alternative timeline was erroneously dubbed, we now know to be completely irrelevant to the story. There’s just no way it can have the same kind of emotional weight, now that we know the whole thing was basically a ruse.
Last question: where does Lost rank in the pantheon of great television series of all-time? I think it will rank fairly high, but it is a very flawed show. I think one of its biggest knocks, from a historical perspective, will be what were considered its strengths during its run on television. It’s a thrill ride and the mysteries are so damn intriguing, but maybe not so much when you’ve seen the end. Let’s face it: for a show that aspires to be set in reality (even if it is a strange reality) Lost has to be one of the more unrealistic shows of recent memory. This is a show where people never, ever discussed anything. I’ll give you two examples: Ben Linus and Richard Alpert. During the last few seasons, particularly this past one, Ben and Richard were no longer villains. Despite Ben still being kind of a dick, he essentially becomes one of the little cast of 815’ers. So they’ve got this guy walking in their midst who has lived on the island for a long time. Admittedly, Ben doesn’t know a whole lot, but he could at least explain the Others a bit. Like, you know, why they tried to kidnap certain people, why they were so creepy, etc. But no one ever asks him anything! It’s ridiculous! Same goes for Richard, who certainly has a pretty unique perspective on what the island is all about. No one ever asks him a damn thing though!
Lost was also plagued at times by less than stellar acting. It’s odd, because you have people like Michael Emerson (Ben Linus) and Terry O’Quinn (Locke) who are awesome. And I think for the most part the actors are good. But damn, the acting is pretty rough at times. One of the most scarring memories from the early season is Michael, floating in the water after his boat got blown up, just screaming “Walt!!!” over and over again. It’s not pretty. Matthew Fox, the poor man’s Luke Wilson (before Luke Wilson got fat and started hawking AT&T) is the main culprit in the poor acting column though. If there is a main character on this show, it’s Jack Shepard, and he just is not very believable at times. When he’s playing the confident, heroic doctor, Fox does a good job. When he has to show emotions, particularly about his father, that he comes up short. Fox also seems to come from the Brendan Fraser school of unnecessary yelling, which stresses the need to yell in order to convey most human emotions.
Still, despite these flaws, I think Lost has to be regarded as, if not the best, one of the most innovative shows of all time. The show’s structure allows it do essentially try out different genres on an episode by episode basis. This was especially well-done in the last season, as the “flash sideways” have potential for at least three different spin-off series. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch a CSI style show with Miles and Sawyer at the helm, or a comedy-drama with Locke and Ben as high-school teachers? I think the thing that Lost will most be remembered for is the characters. The show has given us some of the great characters in television history. In particular Locke, Desmond, and Ben were all terrific and dynamic every time they were on screen. The pop-culture resonance of Lost is another element that will be around for quite some time. Pushing the button, the smoke monster, the hatch, whether or not the jughead reset the timeline. I know I’ll be incorporating Lost into my own lingo, whether or not people know what I’m talking about be damned.
Well, that’s it. Thanks for reading, Lost fans. In case you haven’t got enough Lost (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this you probably haven’t) here are a few websites that overanalyze and dissect the whole phenomenon. Enjoy!