Reviews & Recommendations, The Modern Times

What’s Being Said: Considering the LOST Finale

If you’ve been anywhere near my Facebook page lately you probably noticed that I’ve been mesmerized all week by Sunday’s LOST finale. In my opinion, it was a fantastic blend of mystery, drama, nostalgia, and general, all around LOST-yness. If nothing else, it was the most interesting few hours of television I have ever seen and has been rattling around my somewhat confused but completely exhilarated brain since about 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday night.

Apparently I’m not the only one.

The debate/discussion has been raging fast and furious since then and, as expected, responses have been varied and wildly emotional. That’s as it should be, how it always has been. LOST is a show that, since it’s pilot episode aired in 2004, has itself varied wildly within the collective consciousness of the American viewing public, caught somewhere between opinion that it’s a near perfect example of diverse, postmodernist pop culture and the belief that’s its an unwieldy behemoth of narrative condescension. LOST is confusing, mysterious, full of unmet promise and unanswered questions – and that seems to be why people love it as much as it is why people hate it. But it is also full of characters who feel like friends; struggles that, despite their fantastical nature, hit close to home; and storytelling that captures the imagination and the heart alike.

Concerning the finale, the most common complaints seem to be the following:

– So it was all for nothing? None of it mattered? Screw Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, those bums!
– What about Walt? What about those dead mothers? What about the polar bear? Screw Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, those bums! Screw Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, those bums!
– So what happened with the a-bomb?
– So did Jack have a son or not?
– Who died when now?
– Were they dead the whole time or not?
– What was the deal with Eloise Hawking and other such “annoying plot devices?”
– What were the “rules” and where did they come from?
– And, of course, what the heck was up with the sideways world and why the island on the bottom of the ocean?

These questions, and many others, are answered (or at least valiant attempts were made to answer them) in the following articles, and blog post retrospectives. Obviously, this is a very small sample size; if you have found others please post them in the comments section.

Mike Hale from the NY Times says that the show cleverly “removed the possibility that they were dead all along” and he writes:

And on the other hand: the ending was also elegiac and beautiful, with its stately pace, its elegant cross-cutting between Jack’s death on the island and his awakening in the present, its long shot of the cast arrayed in the church pews like passengers in an airplane. The actors seemed relaxed and genuinely happy, and Matthew Fox, as Jack, underplayed nicely (in a scene where shot after shot was ripe for overacting). The final image of Jack’s eye closing, a reversal of the show’s opening moment six seasons ago, was just right.


— Marc Peyser from Newsweek
writes this:

Once I got over pondering the fates of the individual characters and focused on them collectively, I fixated on the show’s really metamessage. I actually think that the shared journey of the characters—of the collective life they made on the island—is a metaphor for the show itself. In our fractured culture, Lost may arguably be the last mass entertainment to cross genre lines and draw together a group of disparate people. Sci-fi folks, religious-minded people (notice all the different religious symbols in the stained-glass window at the end?), fans of spectacle (the plane crash was nothing it not a blockbuster-movie moment), Web fanatics and old-fashioned TV viewers—the most amazing thing about Lost is the way it managed to draw all these people together into a common discussion, and one about the weightiest of topics. When Jack’s father tells him that the time he spent with the Oceanic passengers was the best of his life, I could hear him talking to the viewers, too, who spent so much time picking and prodding and pondering what was happening and why. Call me crazy, but any television show that gets people talking about the meaning of life—even the meaning of the life of a smoke monster—is a rare commodity these days. I might even say it is an island of thoughtfulness. And now it’s gone.

Meanwhile, Kristin Dos Santos, from E! Online, delves into many of the show’s most mysterious questions in a series of thought provoking, entertaining videos. She too believes there were alive the whole time.

Over at Christianity Today, Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, was less than thrilled with the show’s ending, but had this to say:

If we all follow the example of Jesus and leave behind the 99 sheep (in Sunday school class) and pursue the one that is lost (in bars, gyms, streets), we might discover the same kind of transformation experienced by Jack Shephard. This is our calling.

“Live Together, Die Alone” is not a slogan to rally the redeemed. It is a call to the broken in need of redemption.

And at the Hot Air Green Room, Doctor Zero calls the LOST finale a “betrayal.”

In a wonderful blog post Jeff Keuss interprets LOST through the lens of Augustine and St. Paul. He wrote:

Because LOST is a memory bound up in love and longing that signaled for millions of people that as ridiculous as life on the island was, the reality of the life we live day to day was just as insane and far-fetched if it was devoid of love. It is the material thing that signals something beyond itself and triggers the deeper nostalgia for something more. For without love and the eternal light by which to see, hear, touch and taste that love by, this life – whether in a flash back, flash forward, or alternate reality – would not be worth living whether we battled commuter traffic or a vengeful smoke monster, punched a time clock or punched in a sequence of numbers every 108 minutes. For in the end, it is about Desmond finding Penny, about Charlie finding Claire, Jack and Christian embracing, Sun and Jin finding each other, and it is about living together in the light of love rather than dying alone. Perhaps this is something Ben is still pondering on that bench.

And finally, Jeff Jensen from EW.com, considers the finale in a tour de force of a blog post in which he considers the role that Desmond played in the final season and the way in which he and Ben Linus might have something in common. He writes:

Desmond wasn’t an Oceanic 815 castaway. Why was he tasked with the work of their Sideways world enlightenment? Because Desmond was the person technically responsible for the defining experience of their lives: crashing on The Island. If Desmond didn’t leave the Hatch to chase after Kelvin, if he hadn’t given into his rage and killed that man on the rocks, he wouldn’t have missed his button-pushing shift, and the plane wouldn’t have crashed. The rejoinder that it was Jacob who pulled the castaways to The Island doesn’t cosmically absolve Desmond of his actions. You always have a choice. And Desmond chose not to push the button. The consequence: crash. Last season, Lost cited the book The Little Prince that includes the great line ”You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” The word ”tame” in this context means ”to create ties.” Desmond created the tie that bound the castaway spiritual clan. So he became responsible for them. Forever.

– – – –

That’s all for now but please post any conversations, threads, or articles you found interesting or helpful. For the most part, I have actually found the discussion a bit over the top, with emotional responses too often prevailing. Many critics are dismissing the show altogether, a reaction I consider ridiculous considering the themes and characters the show developed (and forced us to consider) even if you think the plot itself falls flat. Claims that it failed on account of kitsch, considerations of eternal life, or talking dead are foolish. On the other hand, while I did say that the finale made for some of the most interesting TV I have seen, that doesn’t mean I consider LOST the best TV show of the decade (Friday Night Lights or Mad Men would probably hold the top spot for me).

But it certainly has been mesmerizing.

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