I continue with my project of reviewing and analyzing dramas I have seen, particularly on film, with an occasional dalliance into television. I rarely watch TV for several reasons, such as cost, lack of interest and time, and the general feeling that is a barren wasteland broken only a few rare gems. However, I did watch, once upon a time, the ABC television show known as “Lost.” What follows is a revision of my notes from the last evening of the ultimate broadcast. Forgive me in advance for the lateness of the review. I hope in future critique posts to catch up to the present (eventually...).
First, a confession. I have not actually seen every episode of “Lost.” I did watch a great many of them with my friend Kristin, but as the May 23, 2010, finale drew closer, I found it very hard to suspend my disbelief anymore in this work of fiction. I did tune back in for the final episode, first reading up online for the summaries of shows I had missed. Kris loved the ending. However, I wanted to throw things at the television, preferably hard enough that they went through the screen and hit the actors. But no, each actor did the best he or she could with the material given. I really should be aiming at the writers, who apparently decided long ago that answering the questions raised didn’t matter. What was important was coming up with important-seeming questions and then dodging the answers indefinitely. This is called “lack of payoff.”
(If you want to keep your mind pristine and free of how it all ended, you can stop reading now. Everyone else, carry on.)
I wanted to know the who, what, why, where, when, and how, basically every question journalism teaches you to ask. This was not to be. Some of the questions were answered, but not the important ones. For example, what is the island, really? A portal to heaven? Limbo? How did people survive the hydrogen bomb explosion? (Or did anyone?) Why the time travel? Were Jacob and the smoke monster meant to be God and the Devil, or the Biblical Jacob and Esau. And who made the Egyptian statue?
Clearly, I ask too many inconvenient questions, which is also the story of my life. Some would say that the answers were not really the point of the show. The characters found resolution at the end and a measure of happiness with each other, all the people who had really mattered to them, and that’s what was important.
My response to this is ungentlemanly, so let me use the slightly more diplomatic phrase, “cow manure.”That’s right, you heard me. In my opinion, the last episode worked on an emotional level, while completely ignoring the logical and analytical. This should have come as no surprise, since it grew more and more apparent as the show wrapped up that the writers could not possibly answer all the questions they had set up. In fact, they didn't even try. At least the often inexplicable “X-Files” got David Duchovny to come back onscreen to give an incoherent attempt by writer Chris Carter at explaining the alien mythology storyline. “Lost,” though, appeared to increasingly specialize in dream logic where few events truly make sense in their connections.
I will give the writers and director credit. According to an insider, the final scenes were almost exactly the ones scripted from the beginning, with the exception of Benjamin Linus, a late-coming cast member. He did not enter the church, however, as he still had expatiation to do in Purgatory (or whatever), so remained outside. That was interesting and significant, as it made him a part of the group, but still an outsider at least for a while (who measures time in the afterlife?). So the creators of “Lost” did have a vision, however nonsensical, and followed that vision in directing their writers. I give them points for that.
What I do not give the creators credit for is all the answers never given. If you have to ask what the questions were, you weren't watching the show, but there is an Internet list floating around in movie clip form that is fairly hilarious. My friend Kristin was satisfied on an emotional level, which she said is all she wanted. To paraphrase, “It felt right", she said. I wanted a lot more.
The best answer to what the island is that I've heard came from Will Hindmarch, Internet pundit and game writer, who postulated that the island is the "world navel", or center of the world. It moves around, which is traditional for mythical places. This makes the light that we saw in the cave basically a "stairway to heaven", common in many mythologies, Christian, shamanic, and otherwise. Sacrifice to enter its mysteries is also a common theme (think Odin on the world tree, sacrificing his eye).
I like this explanation a lot, but it was never stated on the show. Should I have to read commentary on the World Wide Web just to have the show make sense? No, I should not.