Monday, May 24, 2010

What they died for? Not much. How the Lost finale negates the series.

Well, that was a fantastic two-hour epic, completely redeeming the first act of weak, claustrophobic entries that started the season. It was an intelligent, soaring adventure story, rich with excitement, character-development, crowd-pleasing pay-offs, heartbreaking sacrifices, and a final twist that cast the series in a whole new wonderful light. That's what I would be saying if this were a review of "Through the Looking Glass", the season three finale which aired three years ago. Alas, this is not a review of the series-high midpoint, although after last night, I'm of the opinion that Lost only ran for three glorious seasons. Last night's finale was a tragedy, a genuinely uninvolving and downright dull botch that not only fails as a stand-alone episode and fails as a finale, but it lessens the profound dramatic impact of what came before over the last six years. It was the worst major series finale since Ally McBeal, but at least the 'Ally leaves Boston because the daughter that showed up on her doorstep just months prior is fainting' wrap-up didn't wreck the storytelling of the previous five seasons.

What did these people die for, in the broad scheme of things? They died because, on the surface, Desmond forgot to push a button, which caused a surge of electromagnetic energy which in turn resulted in a plane crashing on the island in question. Fair enough. Cruel and random, desperately unfair, but appropriately tragic. But when you start telling viewers that there is a larger destiny at work, that those on the island were there for 'a reason', you'd better make sure that said reason justifies the loss of so many lives, as well as the investment of our time. When you have the main characters willingly return to the island after escaping to civilization, you'd best make their reason for returning a pretty compelling one. But why did the passengers and crew of Oceanic 815 perish? Why are Sun, Jin, Sayid, Libby, Michael, Shannon, Boone, and the rest currently buried on the island or on the ocean floor? Well, apparently they all died because Jack had to put a single rock back in its place after Desmond removed it, so that the island, an island which had two inhabitants at the time (Bernard and Rose, I will miss them most of all), would not sink into the sea. That's it, folks. Six years of hell for our heroes, just so one guy could move a rock, making a smoke monster into a man, so that another guy could toss said smoke-monster-man off a cliff and then put the rock back. All of this so the island which was nearly deserted would not crumble into the sea.

But here are the two problems. Even if you believe that said events were worth the fictional sacrifices of so many fictional characters, does anyone really trust Jacob? Because we never really got the idea that hell would rain from the sky if the Man in Black was able to escape from the island (to say nothing of the urine-river 'source', which was introduced just three weeks ago). Jacob kept telling us that Smokey was bad news, and that the world would crumble if Not-Locke was able to board a plane or boat and get off the island, but we really only have his word on that. Apparently he was wrong. Dead wrong. Once Desmond removed the penis from the vagina (which caused mystical climaxing), the inhabitants of the island, even the magical ones like Smokey and Richard, were rendered mortal. So, theoretically, had everyone just left well enough alone, Desmond would have unplugged the metaphorical hole of importance, which then would have destroyed the empty island, but would have rendered Man in Black every bit as human as you or I. Great, so Not-Locke is able to get off the island, but he can only do as much damage as any other common criminal who is smart enough to slip a bomb into a guy's backpack (sorry folks, even Allison could pull that one off). So, all things considered, there was absolutely no reason for Jack to have to put the condom back on or really anyone to have to return to the island once they were rescued the first time around. That in turn negates pretty much all of the storytelling that took place after season four.

OK, fine, you don't care that the world was never in any peril, it still works for you right? OK, but as written, the first five seasons of Lost are basically just a prologue for season six. As I feared, the giant detours that the show took at the climax of season five, both in the overly-metaphysical 'it's all about destiny/supernatural forces of good and evil' mumbo-jumbo as well as the sideways universe, basically gave the writers an excuse to ignore every mystery and/or question that had been brought up prior to the end of season five. Everything that the show told you mattered, the Dharma initiative, the Others, the character arcs of our main characters, all of that was more or less forgotten for the sake of a hastily-told generic 'good vs. evil' struggle. With the final season, the writers basically told you that none of what happened in the first five years really matters, we want you to concentrate on the epic struggle of Jacob vs. his brother. Charles Widmore, hyped as a major antagonist for the entire run, basically existed to give Not-Locke a small piece of exposition before being shot dead by Ben. And how about that compelling end-game for Johnathan Locke? Oh wait... he really has been dead all this time, and in the end he really was a pathetic, delusional vessel who was fated to be arbitrarily murdered in order to scare the other survivors to return to the island for reasons that were left unexplained for nearly two whole seasons. I'm sure glad we invested our time with that major character. In the end, our favorite believer was a glorified red shirt.

As for the sideways universe, I didn't figure it out until right at the end, but that was only because I didn't realize I had been lied to. From the beginning, the first theories of Lost involved the island and/or the stories being told existing as some kind of purgatory. And from the beginning, we were assured that it was not the case. So yes, the creators invented an entire parallel time-line which consumed much of the final season purely so they could actually deliver on the promise of 'yeah, they are all dead after all'. Except unless you figured it out early on in the episode, the emotional moments of the flash-sideways scenes had no impact. After all, if we believed that both universes were true and equally valid, why would we care when certain characters discovered what their lives were like in a parallel universe? If you believed that both worlds were real, why were Sun and Jin so overjoyed to realize that in a different time-lime, they ended up on a deserted island, got separated, had a child, and then drowned together in a submarine? And if you believed that both worlds were true, why was Ben apologizing to John Locke for actions he committed in a different time-line? "I know in this world I protected you and befriended you," says Ben to Locke, "but I'm sorry I strangled you to death in a parallel universe." Considering how crappy most of the 'real' lives of our island friends had been, why were they so happy to be ripped from their comparatively idealistic afterlife to be reminded of the hell that they had went through? "Gee," thought Mr. Echo had he been around, "I'm loving my life right now as a peace-loving priest, but thanks for reminding me of my horrible, forgotten childhood as a brainwashed child soldier."

And all of this just comes if we take what we saw at face value, which if course may not be the case. But what we are otherwise left with are simplistic notions of sacrifice and redemption, complete with the idea that the ditzy-blond you boned for two weeks can be your soul mate as opposed to the actual love of your life, and how quickly you can accept your tragic fate and move forward is directly proportional to how big a star you were in your island adventures. The finale didn't matter because the story it told was seemingly invented from whole cloth at just the start of this season. By creating a whole new mythology in its final season, in a failed attempt to give the show 'deeper meanings', the series chose to ignore everything that viewers had become invested in. It takes a certain chutzpah to craft a finale to a long-running series that purely centers around incidents revealed in the last four episodes and the revelations behind a narrative-strand that was unveiled at the start of the final sixth of the story. Hell, even the X-Files did a better job of tying up nine years of mythology by the time it ended, and Chris Carter was even smart enough to slowly close the book on various story threads during the last four seasons (destroying the conspiracy in season six, resolving the mystery of Mulder's sister in season seven, etc). By leaving everything unanswered right up to the end, and then pulling a narrative switcheroo instead of finishing the story that was being unveiled, Lost basically mocked those who bothered to watch from the very beginning, as such rabid viewership proved entirely unnecessary. Thus, the finale of Lost rendered the entire series run relatively pointless and effectively killed any and all rewatchability of the prior episodes.

So, in the end, Lost ended for me with season three. The three later, abbreviated seasons no longer count. The show didn't need an endless parade of island invaders that arbitrarily tried to kill our heroes. The show certainly didn't need a return trip to the island, which left the cast randomly wandering around the island with no direction or motive for nearly an entire season. The show didn't need the confusing time-traveling, which rendered the actions of the island inhabitants pointless since they could jump through time at any moment of peril or triumph. And the show certainly didn't need a last-minute infusion of old-school religious parables, with newly introduced characters as angel/devil stand-ins in order to give our islanders some manufactured higher purpose which in turn robbed the show of its quasi-plausibility. The show as I know it ends at the end of season three. It ends with Charlie sacrificing himself so that everyone else could get rescued. It ends with Ben defeated and alone. It ends with Locke choosing to stay on the island in search of a purpose that would never be revealed. It ends with everyone who choose to leave apparently off the island, but still just as miserable as when they got there in the first place. Thump... Oh well, hopefully 24 will end on a superior note.

Scott Mendelson

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post, just wanted to let you know, I think you meant Jack sacrificed himself, not Charlie. last few sentences...

dana said...

Hey, don't forget, the urine river is "that magical light that lives inside all of us" ... or whatever bs they doled out to us a couple episodes ago. So if the island sank, we wouldn't have that magic anymore? Or something?
Plus Jack needed this epic saga to get over his daddy issues before he died. That's a good reason for all those deaths, right?
Also, Jack was able to do in 20 minutes the thing Jacob couldn't do over centuries: Defeat the MIB. Really? A spinal surgeon figured out there was a better use for Desmond than having him type a series of (pointless) numbers over and over again and Jacob couldn't? Way to make me care even less about a character I already thought was pointless.
This has been my stance:
To me it seemed like that finale could have been the finale to any TV show ever. The final season of Friends could have been had an alternate reality in which they didn't know each other and then when they touch hands they remember good times at Central Perk. And then die happy. Blah.
But if Gunther had been a smoke monster that killed people, we would have required a more in-depth explanation than "Who cares! Ross and Rachel got together!"

Scott Mendelson said...

It was awkwardly written, but the final sentences discussed how the show should have ended. IE - at the end of season three.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Scott, you're dead on. For me the show ended in Season 5 when Juliette detonated the Bomb.

The finale was a total betrayal whose "spirituality" was the usual crass Hollywood crap of good "white" people go to heaven.

The show actually rendered all the action on the island moot when they invented Sideways Purgatory. In any reasonable universe anyone who took a knife in the side to die alone at the bottom of the Anus of the Universe by inserting the Butt Plug and saving his friends and the whole world would instantly be transported to Valhalla upon dying. But no -- Jack had to do something even more important than all that: he had to resolve his Dad issues. That was the key to heaven.

Amazing, to think that had surgeon Jack merely spent a few thousand on therapy he could have resolved his Dad issues, missed the island and its suffering and horror, and gone on to heaven without that hellish purgatory where he is a wealthy, talented, well-liked surgeon of great skill with a lovely ex-wife and a handsome and talented son.

The theology of the show is actually quite disturbing for its lack of imagination -- once you get your therapy over, you can proceed to heaven. You're not allowed to go if you have psychological issues. Morality doesn't enter into it; you don't have to be good or do good. The Hero does not redeem himself and the world through his death, but through a process of therapeutic resolution of his issues in Purgatory.

Meanwhile those of us who believed the producers were had -- the long con that sawyer warned us about in the finale. Those of us who loved each new revelation, who thought that the island really meant something important, we were had. Those of us who looked for something that would push the envelope, we were had. The writers in the end retreated to shallow middle class morality. You could even read Jack's reconciliation with Dad as finding God the Father Figure, except that I doubt the writers had pumped that much depth into the ending.

What great potential that show had, and what a letdown it was.

And think of this: lots of people will buy the DVDs for the Sopranos, and Babylon 5 and Seinfeld and Battlestar Galactica, because the stories are good and there is a resolution, however sucky (I grew to appreciate the ending of Seinfeld more after I watched it on DVD). But Lost? Why would you buy the DVD now? All but the last episode is completely meaningless, and you can't appreciate the deft way that the story unfolds like with the Sopranos or Babylon 5 because... there is no story.

Michael Turton

Shar said...

Originally, I was going with the theory of alternate realities, parallel universes. Then it got convoluted. But as Scott Mendelson reminded me of some of the highlights, I realized, sadly, that we were "lost" because the writers were "lost". I heard the writers say in an early interview, that they really didn't know where they were going with this. Surely this turned about to be the truest statement they made. It is now clear from the finale (playing the "dead card") that the writers were completely lost, even in the end. On another note, I thought "24" was true till the end....Excellent writing, meeting all my expectations. Kudos to the writers of "24"

Canine Confessions said...

I agree with everything you said. It wouldn't have been so bad if the writers hadn't, repeatedly, told the fans and the press "all will be revealed in the final season" and "all will be answered" if we all just stuck with it.

To promise so much and deliver little or nothing, is *VERY* galling and not a little irritating. From what I can gather on other sites all dissecting this finale if I were the writers I wouldn't leave home without armed guards any time soon. To say lynch mobs with pitchforks and torches are forming is an understatement.

I still say they made it up as they went along and then forgot a lot of what they were saying; the whole thing now smacks as little more than the insane ramblings of a demented pensioner on speed.

Personally I'd forget the lynch mobs and just send the writers to the damn island and leave them there; perhaps they can help Hurley find "the other way"?

Anonymous said...

Can someone help me understand what I just don't get...

Flocke's main mission was to get off the island with a plane...why not just focus on Lapidus and fly away right after Widmore was killed off and there was no more sonic fence?

Why did all of the sudden the Flocke Agenda become to destroy the island instead of leave it?

I missed something...

Jamil said...

Hey look, someone who fundamentally disagrees with you.

I'm extremely confused about how the shows rewatchability was destroyed... The big reveal of the show was that it was a spirital journey, not a mystery show. Even though it had sci-fi elements, cliffhangers, and WTF moments, wasn't it ALWAYS about how the characters coped, accepted, and battled through them?

It was about faith. It was about being thrown into something and having no clue what was going on but surviving, and then beliving in somehting bigger than yourself. Jack did not know what was stone falice was but he knew he had to put it back into the Island's vagina. In a chaotic, mysterious world Jack did what he thought was right, believed in something that wasn't even fully explained, and saved the world because of it.

AND YES HE SAVED THE WORLD. Wasn't that the point of the Super Puragtory ending? He, and his friends, did something so profound they were rewarded with a common journey into the after-after life.

Smokey leaving the Island wasn't the problem, it was HOW he was going to leave the Island (by destroying it). It never really mattered if he got off or not, but because of the eventually chain ) of events(which I admit, are confusing, but I think Jacob was implied to have unrivaled foresight/ precogitive ability. Part of the proctector gift package I suppose), IF he got off, it was going to be because he "uncorked" it and thus removed the "lynchpin" of the world/universe, cauing massive destruction/ the end of the world.

Yeah, I'm inserting my own mythology, but that was implied to by Hurley's leadership role. Hugo was always the voice fo the fan, the stand-in for the viewer and his/her concerns. So when the writers handed Hurley this tourch they were metaphorically handing the Island's command to US. WE'RE in charge of the mythology now, its ours to show and form. As long as your explanation doesn't clash with in-show facts, then its true, right? (with that said, I can probably explain most lingering mysteries).

And if you have a problem with John Locke, then I don't know what to say. Locke's story was one of the most well crafted, and justified character arcs in the entire, show, even if it did end tragically.

I'm at peace with my Lost experience, but I understand a lot aren't. But I'd ask you to give the finale, and the series as a whole, more thought before you deem it a an absolute failure and never worth mentioning again. The show was always more than mystery, it was about how we accept mystery, and what we do with it. Some people study the white light in the cave (DHARMA), some try to munipulate it (Smokey and the wheel), some worship it (Others), and some see it something beautifully inexplicable (Jack, Jacob and Mother).

You can let go now, Scott.

clearvalleyfrost said...

i thought it was a great ending. you make it sound as if the show owes you something. you should be thankful you had 6 (or 5) great seasons of entertainment. and in the end it's just a television program. stop getting so worked up and go outside and take walk and smell a flower or pet a dog or something...

Canine Confessions said...

To all those who imply that the rest of us are just not intelligent enough to understand Lost; forget it.

I think it sums up the pseudo intellectuals when one, on another forum, said "as an existentialist student I thought this was simple and self explanatory in the extreme".

So, basically, they're saying if you're *not* a student of existentialism then that's why you don't get it. (imagine my eyeroll here)

Guys, I have to reiterate this Mendelson's right - it was rubbish; it was sad it was rubbish; we're angry it was rubbish and maybe some of you have to go into big pretences that there is a deeper meaning there if we just look hard enough.

But you're wrong and there's not - existentalism or not, it was as shallow as rainwater on the sidewalk and made as much sense as a box of monkeys with some alphabet blocks.

Anonymous said...

For quite a while now, practically every episode of every series I watch has followed the same format: introduce some mysteries, riddles, who-done-its, whatever, and then keep the viewers guessing until the last five minutes (or finale) then pop out some ending that's invariably rushed and therefore usually lame and unsatisfying. Somehow I thought, or hoped, that LOST would be different. It seemed so much more intelligent, and was so intriguing early on. I think the reason that series seasons and episodes do this is because they know we have the remotes in our hands. It's all about tricking us into staying put, giving our continued attention in a channel-surfing world. And that will always weaken the plots that writers write. I was trying really hard to love the ending of LOST, but have to admit it was just like all the rest.

The Five Three said...

How very, very well said. My thoughts on this awful season and awful finale are pretty much the same. Thanks for this.

Ward Anderson said...

My thoughts exactly. Stupid final season. Stupid finale. A big middle finger to the fans. People who put their brains in the mystery were disappointed. People who put their hearts into the characters loved it. But I don't tune in to "Grey's Anatomy" for a reason, and I tuned into lost for that same reason. Way to go, "Lost" writers. You made a sci-fi show into yet another lazy allegory. Yawn.

JasonFPorter said...

You know, if not for those last five minutes of the finale, this all could have worked for me. If they had just let everyone in the parallel universe just go one with their lives after thier "awakening" moments I would have been happy. That way everyone is alive and everyone gets to have a second chance at their lives as perhaps a reward from the island for saving it. There would still be a ton on unanswered questions, but I could almost live with it

Deal Junkie said...

Great post. Thanks you! I really feel punked. I want 120+ hrs of my life back. What made it even worse was that the first 2hr&15 minutes of the finale wasn't all that bad, I wasn't expecting much after the horrible season 6, but actually thought the writers might pull it off. But the ending made the previous seasons irrelevant.

Between Projects said...

Scott, I enjoyed your post and I wanted to echo a few of your points...

Certainly, “The End” had moments of huge emotional impact. Watching the Sideways characters “rediscover” their Island memories was very powerful and rewarding. And you would have to be a four-toed stone statue yourself not to be moved by seeing Sun and Jin alive again, or Sawyer finally reunited with Juliet.

That said, the “Lost” finale was ultimately a failure because it was bad storytelling, plain and simple. No one since Aristotle has found a better formula for a compelling story than this:

Drama = Characters + Conflict + Stakes.

It’s a Rule that no storyteller can escape, not even ones as successful as Lindelof and Cuse. While “Lost” succeeded in creating characters in which we became totally invested, “The End” failed on two counts:

(a) The final conflict (i.e., Jack vs. MIB) was fleeting and inconsequential, and was resolved not through anything the hero did, but through a lame ‘deus ex machine’ circumstance (“Wait, MIB is suddenly, magically mortal? What?! How the hell did that happen?!”); and,

(b) The stakes were never made real for the audience (“The island is sinking!” So what? “The rock-cork-thing came loose!” Who cares? “If Smokey escapes, everyone dies!” Oh, yeah?), and more importantly, any stakes that actually existed were rendered totally irrelevant by the “Sideways = Limbo” contrivance.

Sure, it was emotionally satisfying to see all the characters reunited in The Church of Every Denomination (although it felt at bit like they edited in clips from the wrap party). However, that ultimately cloying ending had nothing whatsoever to do with the original story! As you point out, it could have literally been the finale to any television series!

This was a lazy and somewhat dumb effort that betrayed what made the show special in the first place. And it can’t be defended by retroactively invoking the “it-was-always-about-the-characters” argument.

If that were true, would anyone have spent the past six years watching the “Dr. Jack” show?

Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you! "Narrative switcheroo" - I've been trying to sum up what a cop-out the finale was, and that really does the trick.

I found it ridiculous that the sideways world was a place where everyone needed to seem to be alive, but were really in limbo waiting to pass on as group. Well jeez, why couldn't they just all hang out and shoot the breeze, why have to "forget"? That was my first clue that the writers couldn't tie up the sideways world properly. Jack's got a kid in sideways world? Um, why?

Finally, of ALL people, JACK is the one who is all surprised and sad - "I died???" He knew he was sacrificing himself when he went down the waterfall, and knew he was bleeding out when he stumbled into the bamboo field. Sun, Jin, Sayid, even Locke, all knew that they were dying when they were dying. And Christian says they decided to make this place, the sideways world, so they could all meet up and go on together? Uh, when? Oh right, how convenient, there is no "now" there.

Lame. They should've just explained how the hydrogen bomb worked and they all go a do-over, and the destiny part was that they all were going to be connected to each other powerfully no matter whether the plane crashed or not.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot on. You hit every point that I've been bringing up when discussing this over the last few days. Every stinking point that made this finale totally destroy the last 6 seasons of the show (I do feel that the show retained it's quality after season 3 and up through even this season at points)

brendan said...

I hope I never have the misfortune of being drawn into a "charater study" like that ever again...too much left to interpertation, which probably would have worked out fine is you were a writer on the series, but as a watcher, not so much...we got "Dallas-ed."

Tracy said...

I've been trying to put my finger on what it was that's been bothering me about this finale...and you nailed it. It is that the ending had nothing to do with the entire series. And I agree that it sort of negates the rest of it, makes it un-rewatchable.
Ok, I knew that 1) not ALL the answers would be revealed. I was ok with that. Some residual mystery would have kept up the appeal.
2) The writers have emphasized that the show is mostly about the characters.
Well the problem with that is that while loyal viewers have indeed come to care very much about the characters, the fact is that they weren't the ONLY thing we cared about. I also cared about the mythology of the island. The reasons for the various conflicts that arose throughout the series. The connectedness that the characters had, unbeknownst to them.
And the finale didn't address any of that.
I was ok with it all up until Jack announced that 'he died too'. If anything would have happened other than that, I would have been ok with it.
The entire 6th season is pretty much completely pointless. Why the heck would someone have a son with a girl he never even dated, in purgatory?
It was also never explained how MIB leaving the island would destroy the world. It's been pretty clear throughout the series that there was a reason for them all coming together to that island...and this was never revealed. Not even close.

The more I think about this finale the more upset I become with it. I've been a loyal fan since the beginning, and this is the only show I've ever cared about. And I was so sure that no matter what they did with the ending, I would be satisfied. I trusted the writers to, if not blow me away with the ending, at least honor the amazingness of the show. And they failed.

mia said...

EPIC FAIL. After 6 years of unbelievable intellectual debates and in depth banter with friends and family that lasted hours after the episodes, I for one feel cheated, led on, and completely shocked at what they gave us for an ending to this marvelous ride. After experiencing philosophy, psychology, sci-fi, fantasy, theology, pop-culture, heartwrenching and heartwarming drama for all these years, to let us down and bring it all to a close with some 'white light' and a very fast paced 'touch and re-live six years of memories" in less than 10 seconds each character, was an insult and a shock! Where are OUR ANSWERS????!!!! I mean, c'mon? We already figured out they were all DEAD three seasons ago!!! Is that why we had to wait months and months in the middle of a season before the writers figured out what they were going to do-knowing that die hard fans already figured it out???? It could have been an EPIC ending to the most thought provoking, smart, brain bending and unbelievably creative treasure on TV in decades, but they obviously did NOT know where they were going and for them to not expect more out of us (their audience) is a huge let down of epic proportions. I feel completely BETRAYED. SHAME ON YOU LOST WRITERS!! SHAME ON YOU ABC!!

innerjuju said...

Rule #1 for Television Series Writers: If you have to do a 'time-forward' for no good reason (i.e., Desperate Housewives, Ghost Whisperer), if you have to create an alternate timeline/universe (i.e., Dallas, Lost) to explain your storyline- forget it. Its at that point where you've "jumped the shark". If your story and characters have no where else to go, then its time to wrap up the series and move on to something else. Viewers have invested time and emotion in your shows. Don't abuse it.

Steve said...

Excellent post.

For me, the debate is now "which season should have been the final season?"

You have eloquently made the case for season 3, another poster suggested season 5. I think season 4 could have also made a fine ending.

Each of those season finales could have have been tweaked to conclude the series better than it was.

I'm extremely disappointed, and I'll spend the last bit of my mental energy I'm giving to Lost trying to decide if the story concludes with season 3, 4, or 5.

ozworld said...

I mostly agree with your review. The story in the first three or even in the 4th season was really compelling...but then the absurdity crept in.

After season 4, I expected season 5 to really do a deep dive on the character's lives after they returned to the real world...especially Ben going after Charles Widmore. That would have been some exciting TV...What exactly was Widmore trying to do...why did he send those people back to the island.

The fact that this island had some very special properties was a huge part of the show: the healing properties, the Wheel of Time, the Temple, the electromagnetism, the freakin numbers, the fact the island couldn't be found, why they all needed to be on the plane to return to the island, the sickness, the voices, the cave of enlightenment and the friggin cork (what's up with that anyway). It was the entire reason why Jacob needed to protect it, why the Dharma Initiative was there, Ben, Charles Widmore, and the guys on the freighter were there because of how important the island was... It was a character on the show just like Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hugo...probably the biggest. So why the hell didn't it get its due wrap up just like the other characters.

Scott, I have a blog topic: ask readers for suggestions on what season 4, 5, 6 should have been about and how the show should have ended.

Waste of Six Years said...

I found two typos. 1: First Paragraph Third Sentence should read "That's what I would be saying..." 2: Last paragraph should state "Ben defeating Locke.." I chalk everything else up to style.

Scott, I must ask this question. Are you tapping my phone? Your blog details every point I been complaining about since I viewed the finale. The show is completely unwatchable a second time.

By the way, Michael Emerson stated in an interview that the blu-ray version of season 6 will contain 10-12 minutes of footage of Ben and Hurley as the island protectors. Gotta sell that merchandise!!!

Kelly said...

Absolutely brilliant, spot-on post -- best single summary of the failings of the finale that I've read to date.

The real damn tragedy of the finale was that they had time to tie things together in grand Lost style until about 40 minutes prior to the end. There was a proper final twist in there, which resolved the paradox of the other world, brought the joy of the characters coming together again some meaning, had the properly dramatic sacrifice that validated all those previous, and actually addressed five seasons of scientific and/or mystical mysteries some cohesive meaning. It was there -- but it was like the writers didn't care enough to bother with it. They got you there and then just threw it into the garbage.

It was like in the last 40 minutes, the show that the writers had desperately been trying to land for three seasons was hijacked and deliberately driven into the ground and blown to bits, for us only to be assured afterwards that the damn thing actually landed and is fine.

It was all downhill for me once it was made clear that Nadia -- the woman whose mention by Desmond apparently overcame the "sickness" in Sayid in the real world -- WASN'T his real love, it was the ditzy blond who was Sayid's next choice after cashing out at the Kate table early in the first season. He could have been with Nadia, as she was really IN the sideways world -- or maybe she wasn't, since she was married to his brother, and the sideways world was populated by randomly generated ghosts like Jack's son, who never really existed in the first place, but were the philosophical zombies of the sideways world who were there because...uh...I'll get back to you.

T-RO said...

Someone up top said, 'the people who put their hearts into the characters loved it.' i am one of the people who loved the characters and i didn't love the finale. BECAUSE the story was no longer following any of the previous logic, character deaths meant nothing at all. it was like, well Locke was dead, then he wasn't, then he sort of was undead, and claire and sayid, they were both sort of undead, and then they weren't sort of, then sayid died, and oh, sun and jin, you haven't seen them together for 2 seasons? well, here they are for 10 minutes, and now they are gone, POOF!

none of this had any of the heft of charlie dying in season three, which we had known was going to happen but didn't want to happen, and it was sad when it did. because none of the stuff in season six make a lick of sense, jack's 'sacrifice' at the end, also meant nothing.

story still matters even if you are a character-centric Lost lover. the story needs to make an iota of sense.

CHUCK said...

While I always respect what you write I very much disagree especially when you say that this this fails as a stand alone episode. For my money this series final episode was as great a piece of television as I've ever viewed. It was just simply GREAT. I would also argue that it was far more satisfying than anything playing currently in a movie theater (except for Kickass which I loved). YES it didn't answer every question but on a human level I found it stunningly good. I LOVED it! Jack was a great hero and his death scene was brilliantly staged. I've watch the episode 3 times and love every frame.

Ken said...

1. Why exactly was the beginning of Season 6 full of "weak, claustrophobic entries"? "LA X" was a cool episode and had some great revelations about the series as a whole. I will give you that "What Kate Does" was probably the least interesting. But what about "The Substitute" and "Lighthouse" with Locke and Jack, respectively? Great stuff.

2. I share your sentiments about the Season 3 finale -- everything about it was amazing.

3. "Last night's finale was a tragedy, a genuinely uninvolving and downright dull botch that not only fails as a stand-alone episode and fails as a finale, but it lessens the profound dramatic impact of what came before over the last six years. It was the worst major series finale since Ally McBeal..."

Obviously this is my opinion, but come on -- Ally McBeal? Besides your unnecessarily high level of cynicism, the main problem I have with your post is that you seem to be going to extremes for hyperbole's sake. That, or an attempt at humor. Sure, the finale wasn't for everyone, but to go beyond that and say that it didn't even work as a standalone episode and that it completely failed on every level makes me think you were watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

4. Ultimately, these people died in the name of saving the souls of the world. Sure, it's incredibly broad and outlandish on the surface, but my point is they died for more than just trying to put a rock back in place. It was their destiny to come to the island. Jacob admitted that he brought them there because he made a mistake, but at the same time, he needed them for an important purpose that was in everyone's interest, whether they knew what it was or not. More importantly, he told them that he plucked no one from a happy existence. Again, it's not completely clean, but it's more than what you think it is.

5. They had to return to the island because their work was not done yet. No candidate had replaced Jacob to protect the island, and the Smoke Monster wasn't dead.

6. "OK, fine, you don't care that the world was never in any peril..." Had Smokey escaped, the world WOULD BE in peril, at least according to Widmore, Eloise, Ben, and Jacob. Did you miss that?

7. "...basically gave the writers an excuse to ignore every mystery and/or question that had been brought up prior to the end of season five." -- Another overstatement. If you go back, we learned more about the island than you think.

8. "Everything that the show told you mattered, the Dharma initiative, the Others, the character arcs of our main characters, all of that was more or less forgotten for the sake of a hastily-told generic 'good vs. evil' struggle." -- it wasn't hastily told. I wouldn't call three backstory episodes "hasty", especially when fans couldn't even handle "Across the Sea". Obviously Dharma and the Others played a part in the entire island saga -- but that doesn't mean every single thread had to come together in the finale -- some had already wrapped.

Ken said...

9. I also would have liked to have seen more from Widmore. But he did serve as an important antagonist. Not to mention bringing Desmond back to the island. As for Locke, he may have died in the fifth season, but would Jack have undergone his transformation from Man of Science to Man of Faith had it not been for Locke? Would he have been able to kill the Smoke Monster and save the world? Unlikely.

10. "Considering how crappy most of the 'real' lives of our island friends had been, why were they so happy to be ripped from their comparatively idealistic afterlife to be reminded of the hell that they had went through?" A fair question. But it wasn't all hell for them. There was a lot of love. You're getting hung up on the hell part -- focus on the love and forgiveness that took place. In the end, that's what matters the most.

11. "...complete with the idea that the ditzy-blond you boned for two weeks can be your soul mate as opposed to the actual love of your life, and how quickly you can accept your tragic fate and move forward is directly proportional to how big a star you were in your island adventures." This was something I think everyone had a problem with. One possible answer: After what Sayid did to try and get Nadia back (per the Smoke Monster's orders), did he really deserve to have her? In "Sundown"'s flash-sideways, that's more or less what his subconscious says.

12. "By creating a whole new mythology in its final season, in a failed attempt to give the show 'deeper meanings', the series chose to ignore everything that viewers had become invested in." I think you're confusing "creating" with "revealing". This is another exaggerated statement.

13. "Oh well, hopefully 24 will end on a superior note." Not so much. http://keninthecity.blogspot.com/2010/06/seconds-out.html

Anonymous said...

Nice review. The series should have ended after season 3.

The part that bugs me most is when the showrunners said the show was always all about the characters. The show was about the characters only with respect to how they interacted with the mysteries of the island. Take away the mysteries and you have a show that would not even have gotten past the pilot.

Inexplicably, they made the ending all about afterlife romances! Really? That bucks every religious tradition out there, there's no such thing. And the pairings were not the ones they'd spent the entire series slowly establishing with actual scenes showing the evolution of relationships.

Soap opera romances are written better.

1) Sayid and Shannon? There were so many scenes throughout the series showing how much Sayid loved Nadia, how his love for her shaped the course of his life from the moment he set eyes on her until long after she died. Then he had a brief affair with the island bimbo, and suddenly Nadia is resigned to being unhappily married to Sayid's gangster brother in the "flash sideways"? And she is completely forgotten in the last 10 minutes. Because it's all about the bimbo. Nadia, Sayid's wife, doesn't even get to sit behind Sayid and his bimbo at Jack's funeral, she wasn't even invited.

2) Sawyer and Juliet? Another "relationship" we never saw, they had a total of one and a half superficial scenes together before Kate returned and from then on Sawyer ogled Kate so much that Juliet finally killed herself in a fit of jealousy. I read the transcripts to make sure, this is all spelled out in great detail. The writers wrote countless scenes over six seasons telling the Sawyer and Kate love story. They escaped from the island to start a new life together (and this was later confirmed). But that's all forgotten in the "flash sideways".

3) Claire and Charlie? Claire also escaped, she was about 20 and had another 60 years of life ahead of her - her life had barely begun. Yet in the last 10 minutes, she is reunited with Charlie, but again, we never saw a romantic relationship beyond a kiss. She never even mourned his death, they turned her into a zombie and she remained that way until inexplicably in the final moments of the series finale, she turned back into herself. And her child, of course, was born dead. Just in time to go to Jack's funeral. With Charlie. Seriously, if this was a soap opera, it would have been cancelled after the first episode.

4) Hurley and Libbey? They almost had a date once. So of course they are paired off in the "flash sideways". He also went on to live a full life, and maybe even got to have an actual date with someone. But that was it for him. The girl he barely knew at all and almost had a date with.

And so on.

It all became so vague and nonsensical, viewers just made things up to suit themselves. That's what confused writing does, it opens up holes that you can drive a mack truck through.

And in the "flash sideways" all of the characters were not only not themselves, but dead, so the showrunners' claims of character "redemption" rang hollow as well.

It makes a bit more sense if you view the "flash sideways" as Jack's dying vision (he imagined things the way he remembered them or wanted them to be). But the characters became largely one-dimensional extras by the sixth season.

This was not a well-told character story, by any measure.

About Ken said...

Anonymous - if the show sucked after Season 3, why did you keep watching for three more years? I'm assuming there was something you actually liked about Lost that kept you coming back.

"This was not a well-told character story, by any measure."

Hilarious!

About Ken said...

Anonymous - if the show sucked after Season 3, why did you keep watching for three more years? I'm assuming there was something you actually liked about Lost that kept you coming back.

"This was not a well-told character story, by any measure."

Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Nice review. The series should have ended after season 3.

The part that bugs me most is when the showrunners said the show was always all about the characters. The show was about the characters only with respect to how they interacted with the mysteries of the island. Take away the mysteries and you have a show that would not even have gotten past the pilot.

Inexplicably, they made the ending all about afterlife romances! Really? That bucks every religious tradition out there, there's no such thing. And the pairings were not the ones they'd spent the entire series slowly establishing with actual scenes showing the evolution of relationships.

Soap opera romances are written better.

1) Sayid and Shannon? There were so many scenes throughout the series showing how much Sayid loved Nadia, how his love for her shaped the course of his life from the moment he set eyes on her until long after she died. Then he had a brief affair with the island bimbo, and suddenly Nadia is resigned to being unhappily married to Sayid's gangster brother in the "flash sideways"? And she is completely forgotten in the last 10 minutes. Because it's all about the bimbo. Nadia, Sayid's wife, doesn't even get to sit behind Sayid and his bimbo at Jack's funeral, she wasn't even invited.

2) Sawyer and Juliet? Another "relationship" we never saw, they had a total of one and a half superficial scenes together before Kate returned and from then on Sawyer ogled Kate so much that Juliet finally killed herself in a fit of jealousy. I read the transcripts to make sure, this is all spelled out in great detail. The writers wrote countless scenes over six seasons telling the Sawyer and Kate love story. They escaped from the island to start a new life together (and this was later confirmed). But that's all forgotten in the "flash sideways".

3) Claire and Charlie? Claire also escaped, she was about 20 and had another 60 years of life ahead of her - her life had barely begun. Yet in the last 10 minutes, she is reunited with Charlie, but again, we never saw a romantic relationship beyond a kiss. She never even mourned his death, they turned her into a zombie and she remained that way until inexplicably in the final moments of the series finale, she turned back into herself. And her child, of course, was born dead. Just in time to go to Jack's funeral. With Charlie. Seriously, if this was a soap opera, it would have been cancelled after the first episode.

4) Hurley and Libbey? They almost had a date once. So of course they are paired off in the "flash sideways". He also went on to live a full life, and maybe even got to have an actual date with someone. But that was it for him. The girl he barely knew at all and almost had a date with.

And so on.

It all became so vague and nonsensical, viewers just made things up to suit themselves. That's what confused writing does, it opens up holes that you can drive a mack truck through.

And in the "flash sideways" all of the characters were not only not themselves, but dead, so the showrunners' claims of character "redemption" rang hollow as well.

It makes a bit more sense if you view the "flash sideways" as Jack's dying vision (he imagined things the way he remembered them or wanted them to be). But the characters became largely one-dimensional extras by the sixth season.

This was not a well-told character story, by any measure.

Ken said...

9. I also would have liked to have seen more from Widmore. But he did serve as an important antagonist. Not to mention bringing Desmond back to the island. As for Locke, he may have died in the fifth season, but would Jack have undergone his transformation from Man of Science to Man of Faith had it not been for Locke? Would he have been able to kill the Smoke Monster and save the world? Unlikely.

10. "Considering how crappy most of the 'real' lives of our island friends had been, why were they so happy to be ripped from their comparatively idealistic afterlife to be reminded of the hell that they had went through?" A fair question. But it wasn't all hell for them. There was a lot of love. You're getting hung up on the hell part -- focus on the love and forgiveness that took place. In the end, that's what matters the most.

11. "...complete with the idea that the ditzy-blond you boned for two weeks can be your soul mate as opposed to the actual love of your life, and how quickly you can accept your tragic fate and move forward is directly proportional to how big a star you were in your island adventures." This was something I think everyone had a problem with. One possible answer: After what Sayid did to try and get Nadia back (per the Smoke Monster's orders), did he really deserve to have her? In "Sundown"'s flash-sideways, that's more or less what his subconscious says.

12. "By creating a whole new mythology in its final season, in a failed attempt to give the show 'deeper meanings', the series chose to ignore everything that viewers had become invested in." I think you're confusing "creating" with "revealing". This is another exaggerated statement.

13. "Oh well, hopefully 24 will end on a superior note." Not so much. http://keninthecity.blogspot.com/2010/06/seconds-out.html

ozworld said...

I mostly agree with your review. The story in the first three or even in the 4th season was really compelling...but then the absurdity crept in.

After season 4, I expected season 5 to really do a deep dive on the character's lives after they returned to the real world...especially Ben going after Charles Widmore. That would have been some exciting TV...What exactly was Widmore trying to do...why did he send those people back to the island.

The fact that this island had some very special properties was a huge part of the show: the healing properties, the Wheel of Time, the Temple, the electromagnetism, the freakin numbers, the fact the island couldn't be found, why they all needed to be on the plane to return to the island, the sickness, the voices, the cave of enlightenment and the friggin cork (what's up with that anyway). It was the entire reason why Jacob needed to protect it, why the Dharma Initiative was there, Ben, Charles Widmore, and the guys on the freighter were there because of how important the island was... It was a character on the show just like Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hugo...probably the biggest. So why the hell didn't it get its due wrap up just like the other characters.

Scott, I have a blog topic: ask readers for suggestions on what season 4, 5, 6 should have been about and how the show should have ended.

Steve said...

Excellent post.

For me, the debate is now "which season should have been the final season?"

You have eloquently made the case for season 3, another poster suggested season 5. I think season 4 could have also made a fine ending.

Each of those season finales could have have been tweaked to conclude the series better than it was.

I'm extremely disappointed, and I'll spend the last bit of my mental energy I'm giving to Lost trying to decide if the story concludes with season 3, 4, or 5.

innerjuju said...

Rule #1 for Television Series Writers: If you have to do a 'time-forward' for no good reason (i.e., Desperate Housewives, Ghost Whisperer), if you have to create an alternate timeline/universe (i.e., Dallas, Lost) to explain your storyline- forget it. Its at that point where you've "jumped the shark". If your story and characters have no where else to go, then its time to wrap up the series and move on to something else. Viewers have invested time and emotion in your shows. Don't abuse it.

Tracy said...

I've been trying to put my finger on what it was that's been bothering me about this finale...and you nailed it. It is that the ending had nothing to do with the entire series. And I agree that it sort of negates the rest of it, makes it un-rewatchable.
Ok, I knew that 1) not ALL the answers would be revealed. I was ok with that. Some residual mystery would have kept up the appeal.
2) The writers have emphasized that the show is mostly about the characters.
Well the problem with that is that while loyal viewers have indeed come to care very much about the characters, the fact is that they weren't the ONLY thing we cared about. I also cared about the mythology of the island. The reasons for the various conflicts that arose throughout the series. The connectedness that the characters had, unbeknownst to them.
And the finale didn't address any of that.
I was ok with it all up until Jack announced that 'he died too'. If anything would have happened other than that, I would have been ok with it.
The entire 6th season is pretty much completely pointless. Why the heck would someone have a son with a girl he never even dated, in purgatory?
It was also never explained how MIB leaving the island would destroy the world. It's been pretty clear throughout the series that there was a reason for them all coming together to that island...and this was never revealed. Not even close.

The more I think about this finale the more upset I become with it. I've been a loyal fan since the beginning, and this is the only show I've ever cared about. And I was so sure that no matter what they did with the ending, I would be satisfied. I trusted the writers to, if not blow me away with the ending, at least honor the amazingness of the show. And they failed.

JasonFPorter said...

You know, if not for those last five minutes of the finale, this all could have worked for me. If they had just let everyone in the parallel universe just go one with their lives after thier "awakening" moments I would have been happy. That way everyone is alive and everyone gets to have a second chance at their lives as perhaps a reward from the island for saving it. There would still be a ton on unanswered questions, but I could almost live with it

Anonymous said...

I got linked to this article from Fishbuiscuit's recap. You both hit the nail on the head with your assessment. After all this time, I got my "copy" of the entire series DVD (from overseas...steeply discounted PC-only copy) and still have not watched it as initially planned from the start. I did rewatch the last season (free from the library)...but only to make sure I didn't really miss something. I didn't. I still can't watch the whole thing. Cuse & Lindelof are still in hiding and deservedly so. Someone needs to fish-slap them both.

Anonymous said...

I got linked to this article from Fishbuiscuit's recap. You both hit the nail on the head with your assessment. After all this time, I got my "copy" of the entire series DVD (from overseas...steeply discounted PC-only copy) and still have not watched it as initially planned from the start. I did rewatch the last season (free from the library)...but only to make sure I didn't really miss something. I didn't. I still can't watch the whole thing. Cuse & Lindelof are still in hiding and deservedly so. Someone needs to fish-slap them both.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Labels