Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST (spoilers).

So-- LOST is done.

I was a late arrival to the party, watching seasons 1 - 5 on Netflix streaming this past winter, and much of season 6 on Hulu. I watched the finale as it aired on ABC, commandeering my parents' living room for four and a half hours, since I do not get cable at my house. I've found my tolerance for commercial breaks has dropped to nearly zero.

So, by gorging myself all at once I was able to devour the series in ravenous chunks, not having to endure the incubation periods of days and weeks in between mysteries during which a traditional viewer might hatch his hairbrained theories as to what was actually going on on the island. I don't know if this was beneficial or not; I don't have a frame of reference. I do know that I enjoyed seasons 1 - 5 immensely, and was sad to see it all come to an end.

My thoughts on that ending: I was not disappointed. The series was built on mystery, and many of those mysteries remained intact, if a little jumbled. When the writers made attempts to reward the viewers' tenacity and explain certain things, the show tended to suffer from it. It's rarely as fun to know as it is to guess.

Some of the finale felt a bit rushed. Locke's recovery for example, though I suppose you could attribute this to the uncertain physics of Limbo. Emotionally, however, I felt the need to see Locke's faith somehow redeemed in the real world; he was a long-suffering character, broken like the rest, but I felt that despite his talk of being special and having a purpose, Locke's role was simply to be used. As he was murdered a few seasons back, for example, Locke's last thoughts were, "I don't understand."

Overall, a series finale is a bit perfunctory in nature. If it entertains and keeps the spirit of the show alive, I think it has done its job. I was happy to have been given a chance to see these characters on their way.

Jack's end was poetic and heartfelt, if a little lonely. I was satisfied with his having to die alone, in that the character had learned to let go-- much of the show was concerned with inherent flaws; the "clean slate" the characters were given in the first season was an illusion. No one can leave his past behind. In fact, Jack found that out shortly after he'd said it as he found himself chasing his dead father through the jungle. That he eventually learned to accept that whatever happened happened and move on was fitting.

Still, the overall philosophy of the show was often difficult to pin down, but considering the ways that Jack and Locke ultimately left the earthly realm, the show's final message struck me as surprisingly bold in its fatalism. I would be tempted to say that this was kind of an exasperated, nuclear reset of the show's themes-- a result of the writers' inability to wrangle the myriad of philosophies, plot points, and themes they had introduced; tempted, if it weren't for the fact that this was so personally satisfying to me. As a whole, the final vision of the show is of an ultimately unknowable world and a character's subsequent passing from it. Pieces can be discovered, but how often do we understand the full scope of things? How often do you get to rest? There is always one more thing, one more thing, one more thing, until you're dead. I find this to be rather sublime. Rose and Bernard's continued existence in the story is the only clue that this was intentional; they had let go of it all a long, long time ago, and their lives looked pretty good to me. Someone who might find Jack's lonely Zen to be unfitting is probably the type that still identifies with Locke's restless hunger in earlier seasons. I was one; but when I realized what it earned him, I suppose I started to drift. Locke was no more enlightened than Jack.

I am not naive enough to believe that all the show's unanswered questions were left unanswered on purpose. Part of this adventure was sleight of hand. Some of the fun of writing is retrofitting the mess you've made with themes that develop naturally from your interests, your values, and your sensibilities. That certain mysteries of the island were never "solved" is probably more a function of the show's simply reaching its end before the writers were forced to deal with loose ends. Not a problem, as far as I'm concerned. The mysteries of the island-- striking as many of them were-- were often placed as secondary. Earlier, anyway. Later, it became necessary to try and strike a better balance. Things then tipped in the other direction for a while, and the island and its mythology took center stage. I think the back-and-forth is a good representation of what people go through in their lives: too often we're swallowed by the details of our maddening world. Rarely can we escape.

I am sad to see such an ambitious show come to an end. It didn't always hit its mark, but I am glad to have taken the trip.

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