Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost Season 6, Episode 17 and 18: The End

[Spoilers. I wrote this RIGHT AFTER the show ended. I wrote it during Jimmy Kimmel. I sent it to Smartpop at like 2am but now the day is over and they did not post it, and I have not heard from them. There is a book expo in New York the Smartpop folks are at so maybe that accounts for it. Anyway, here it is. Look for Jason Powell's X-Men post Wednesday.]

Wow what a deeply WEIRD show.

I was going to start off here with a gag about that Chekov line where if you have a loaded gun in the first act you have to have it go off in the third, and I was going to say something about how Lost has a small arsenal of unused weapons. I was also going to talk about how much I love Kill Bill (the two volumes as one movie), and how I wanted one ending (BIG FIGHT SCENE), and got something totally different (The Bride and Bill did not even get out of their chairs) -- and was totally satisfied. I want to see plots reach their natural conclusion, but I can also be convinced to care about something else. I feel like Walt, and Aaron, and Dharma, and time travel, should mean something -- I don't want to feel like Jin time travelled and Sun did not for no reason other than the writers thought it would be more dramatic to keep them apart. (Don't tell me Jacob did not time travel her because she is a mother: so was Kate and he offered her the job.)

I have no idea what I think about the end of Lost. It is going to take me a while to think it through. I at least three quarters liked the episode. The whole series is going to take me longer to figure out. But I gotta write so here I go.

The summary. Jack and Locke get Desmond and send him down into the light, where they bet on what the result will be. They end up being both right: Jack is right that when he guesses disturbing the source it will allow him to kill the Man in Black, but the Man in Black is right that it will destroy the island -- except it turns out it can be reversed. Jack and the Man in Black fight and both mortally wound each other. Hurley becomes the man in charge of the island with Ben as his second in command -- and their first order of business is to get Desmond back. Kate and Sawyer make it to the plane in time to join Richard, Miles, and Lapidus as they leave. In the alt universe everyone remembers and in the big twist of the night the alt U turns out to be a kind of pre-heaven. In the end they are all ready to let go and move onto whatever the afterlife has to offer.

Obviously we are not supposed to care about a lot of the mysteries. I can live with it a bit. That we are not supposed to care what happens to Jin and Sun's kid is more troubling. That feels like it is going to continue to bug me for a long time to come. My friend Brady points out that the baby is not a character and thus I should be fine with not returning to her, but I am not convinced. Nothing to do with mystery being better as mystery: you can't introduce a abandoned baby three episodes from the end and just leave it there. Or maybe you can. I don't know.

Random thing: the writers got to do one of the worse cliches and get away with it -- the clip show. As everyone remembers the history on the island, the writers get to show scenes from earlier episodes. Pretty clever.

Random awesome: the go-to-comerical where Jack was doing this jumping punch at John Locke on the cliff. Totally comic book-y in the best way.

Also, there was a kind of funny joke where Juliet tells Sawyer that he has to unplug the candy machine and plug it in again to get it to work. This is basically what Desmond and Jack do -- to get rid of the Man in Black they power cycle the island, unplugging the source and plugging it back in. At least the writers were aware of the ridiculousness of what they were doing. I was not so sure they were in on the joke when Kate was "woken up" by basically looking into Claire's vagina. (Sorry, mom). (My mom reads these). But I can live with it.

Just as Jack has to let go of all kinds of things in order to move on to the afterlife we have to let go of mysteries etc as we say goodbye to the show. And so the "Alt U" turned out to be this kind of pre-heaven, sort of like a world of Sixth Sense Bruce Willises realizing that they are all ghosts. I don't know what I think about this. One the one hand I totally see how it made a strong point about how characters matter more than anything else. In the "Alt U" there were no mysteries -- it was just about the way people were connected. And this was the lesson we were to take away from Lost as a whole. Forget the mysteries; character is the only thing that matters. My friend Brady wants to full credit for feeling that the Alt U is especially awesome because it could take place thousands of years in the future after Hurley and Ben were in charge of the island for a LONG time. And I agree that is a pretty good point.

And it was cute how a long running theory of the show -- that they all died in the plane crash and that the island was hell or purgatory -- was sort of incorporated in a weird way -- they DID turn out to be all dead: in the "Alt U."

And I enjoyed the BIG irony of season 6. Usually on these kind of stories it turns out that all the weirdness (the island, the light, the smoke monster) was a metaphor -- a weird way of talking about something like moving on to the afterlife, which cannot be put into words. But here it turned out that all the weirdness actually happened -- it was normal life that was the metaphor. Because, again, it is character that matters, not the mysteries. The island and Jacob and the Man in Black were basically the biggest MacGuffins in history (I think it was my friend Lucas who called the island a MacGuffin a while back).

Character matters is a great point, but it feels like a screenwriter's point, which is slightly less than it should be. Like the writer's room lecturing -- "lecturing" is far too strong a word -- the audience or even other screenwriters about what maters. The "Alt U" felt less than entirely natural. It was a version of the afterlife that seemed designed to make a point. It was a device to tell us that that other devices the writers used -- such as time travel -- were not the point. Something does not quite work there. It is not terrible, and I enjoyed the hell out of a lot of the episode, but it feels like in the final analysis less than it should be. I mean I was really moved by a lot of the emotional beats in the "Alt U," but they turned out to be kind of ... a device. The "Alt U" was not at all a necessary or natural outgrowth of the main story. But then nothing in Lost turned out to be really connected naturally to anything else. It was a fun ride, but it was a fun ride of unconnected material made up as they went along. That is maybe not the very best kind of fun, but it was pretty fun.

Brady is still trying to tell me leaving an abandoned baby plot is fine because the writers are making a point about how character matters -- and the baby was not really a character. But if this is even the right way to look at it, it still feels like a device to make an intellectual point about character, which again, is less than it should be. Cause there is an emotional thing that is being ignored there.

(There is another long post coming about Battlestar Galactica and Lost, and how they handle religious stuff, and character driven stuff -- cause the final episode of BSG also tried to simultaneously turn the focus on character and end with big religious stuff. I feel like BSG was way worse in part because it was a lot more serious than Lost but I also feel like this i a totally personal reaction and I would probably not have any way to argue with someone who wanted to say it was just as bad.)

And of course I have to end by saying that I am one good night's sleep and a few conversations away from a totally different feeling about it.

Thanks to Smartpop for having me. It's been fun. Follow me from now on at geoffklock.blogspot.com. Geoff Klock

After I finished LOST I wrote this the next morning:

The more I think about it the less I like it, as much as I really don't want to be that guy. While part of me loves the glorious nonsense of "power-cycle the universe and also we are all dead and going to heaven maybe thousands of years in the future" I feel like overall LOST is a show with great moments that just don't really hang together very well. Years ago I said I loved how the show mashed up science fiction and magic and hoped they could keep both in a balance for the finale. Well now that the Alt-U is really "pre-heaven" there is no science left in all the 6th season.

I can't even imagine what Widmore did to Desmond in the "oh now I get why it is called that" episode Happily Ever After. Sent him to the far ends of time to get a glimpse of heaven? Because without him the "Alt U" people would have lived in a sort of happily ever after but not the FINAL happily ever after, because to "move on" ghosts have to remember everything and Desmond reminds them? The whole "Sun can only speak Korean for a few episodes because she got hit on the head" thing seems to just be an arbitrary problem, a fake out there to make it look like the "Alt U" could bleed into the Island U.

I think Lost will live forever as a show that was the most amazing collection of great moments ever assembled, but which turned out to not be greater than the sum of the parts, or even equal to them. All the parts did not really add up to one thing. I had said to myself I would not be able to judge the show the show as a whole till that list came out of all the mysteries that were not solved and I could see how much it bugged me that they were left hanging -- the problem with babies being born, for example, was, I guess, just caused by "the incident" and never fixed. Now I think I will not be able to judge the show as a whole till I see a collection of the best moments -- Locke telling Ben that he is not here for Jack he is here for the sub, the reveal of the first flashforward, Ben turning the donkey wheel, the hatch, the polar bear, the smoke.

List your favorites, and let me know how they balance it against whatever you thought of the last 15 minutes.


Writing this now, "the more think about it the less I like it" continues to be true, though it is mostly about the Alt U plot. I am also very much with Neil in my surprise that of all the crazy mish-mash philosophy and genres the show landed on such a squarely Christian ending, with the Christ statues, Jack who sacrifices himself to save everyone, defeats the devil and restarts the sputtering light of creation, and even has a wound in his side, then takes his people to his father "Christian Shepherd" who welcomes everyone into the afterlife in a big Church.


Jake said...

I also liked this more immediately after watching it than I do after having a day to think about it.

So, no island answers. In the end, the writers decided to give the characters an end instead of the island. And it was nice, but, shit, I kind of wanted to know what the fuck the deal was with the island. I get them NOT telling me, but that doesn't mean I still can't be irritated. Why show 1880s shit, why show fucking holy light and shit, and then not give us shit.

I am disappointed in the lack of SCIENCE. Was that light actually fucking, God? Or Creation? Or was it just some fucking electromagnetic shit (I say "just" like that would be a smaller answer, but for me, I would have dug it just as much). I know that they pretty much abandoned creepy science shit for the entire season, but really, throughout 5 seasons of the show, EVERY exciting moment and plot was based on

A) people we don't know, and
2) spooky science shit.

That encompasses abandoned Dharma joints, Others, energy being drilled for, time travel, atomic bombs. And just...all of it was dropped. You guys remember the first few seasons--3 probably--when the show wasn't just interesting or exciting, but also CREEPY? I miss that. But I'm losing focus here, talking about the whole series instead of just the finale.

A question: if the sideways was the sort-of-purgatory they all created, wtf is Eloise's deal. She asks if Desmond is taking Daniel--meaning she knows what's what? So in the "real" reality she was an Other and is a super-physicist or whatevs...and in the pre-Heaven, she's cosmically aware? I mean, what?

And is Daniel just not dead yet? That's acceptable, the Daniel not going part--I don't think that's sloppy. Or maybe he's just completely atheist because of math, haha. But the Eloise thing seems pretty crappy.

Also, just in general, I don't remember any really exceptional dialogue in the finale. And a lot of the time was spent cashing in the Happy Reunion chips. They GET to do that, they've earned it, but it felt like the writers were kind of just taking it easy.

In the end, the finale provided emotional satisfaction but not really intellectual satisfaction. Which is a flaw, because so much of Lost was post-episode thinking about what was going on.

Ping33 said...

Hello again,
It's been a while for me.
Living in the UK, I didn't see The End until last night. When I went to bed I liked it, when I woke up I loved it. The difference was largely the loss of the denial I was in last night about the nature of the Alt U, I SO wanted it to be a quantum universe which existed in tandem with the island. I wanted it to be science, or failing that... at least magic. What I didn't want going in was for it to be metaphysical doss. We get so much of that, especially from America where religion is taken so literally.
When I woke up today though, I was happy with it. I liked that it left so much open but gave so much closure. I still think I was right when I posted that the Island was fairy land (in order to be the human king you have to eat the food/drink the water, time moves differently etc) but I also like that it's not ONLY fairy land.
I also don't mind the cul-de-sacs and loose ends of Walt and Aaron (they were important to the story because they were important to key characters) of Widmore and Ben (their rivalry was important for many reasons even if neither of them truly understood what they were fighting over) or anything else you can think of.
Lost started as a show about people, before it was about magic or science or monsters or time-travel it was about the characters and I think it's a highly fitting end that after all that has happened it returns to its first strength, a strength that the hangers on (flashforward et all) have forgotten that before we care about the genera hooks we should care about who is being hooked.

James said...

I think of Baby Kwon as besides the point in the same way that the (surviving) characters' post-Island lives are. It's natural to be curious, and you can fill in the gaps if you want*, but the time spent with those people was the most important, so that's our ending.

*Here's mine!
SAWYER and MILES become private detectives

CLAIRE happily raises Aaron, as KATE discovers her love for the last, sexiest Shephard

RICHARD gets an apartment with LAPIDUS in a fish out of water/odd-couple comedy double-threat

THE ISLAND's Ragnarok-cycle continues, but in a vastly more laid-back fashion - with BEN, HURLEY, ROSE, BERNARD and VINCENT mainly getting to Chill.

Did I miss anybody? Oh, JI YEON is raised by her Nanny, turns out okay. Phew!

Jake: Seems like Eloise does know what's what, just as she did in life. Don't forget that now Ben does too, and knows that he has more repenting/figuring out to do before he can move on.

That there is another, older, unexplained machine at the Source was enough Science for me. I don't think Faith/Magic won so much as they became the same thing - I'm sure someone 'round here has already pointed out that Magic starts where Science's ability to explain ends, and that point moves further back the better Science gets.

Geoff, I have to repudiate the idea of "unconnected material made up as they went along" - the "Bad Twin" easter egg from Season 1 suggests some pretty big stuff was nailed down from the get-go, so I think it's much more a case of running out of room for the mythology. That could be due to poor planning, OVER-prioritisation of Character, just plain reluctance to explain mysteries, or most likely, all this and more.

I said I wanted Jack/our guys to reject the Island and especially Jacob's job, so it'd be cheap for me to be okay with Hurley getting stuck with the role just because he's not Jack. Here's why, in the morning light, I am happy with Hurley's ending.

If Hurley is the fan-surrogate, then the Island is the show. Hurley not only gets the Island, but gets to run it how we wanted the show run all along! His meditations on Star Wars end up being key - he's gonna talk things out just like Vader and Luke should've, he's not gonna be cryptic and aloof like Yoda (or worse, Jacob). The Island was brutal, and the cycle continues (I originally wanted it to End), but maybe it'll won't be so bad with Our Guy in charge.

We didn't get a big rug-pull in the finale, but what we did get was pretty much Lost-porn from start to finish. I cried twice.

I loved the fake-out of having Jack and Locke just lead a Season One-style trek to The Light, making us think the only confrontation would be between differing Faiths and Points of View, only to THEN give us the rain-drenched, clifftop fist-fight we've waited 6 seasons for. A (psuedo)haiku:

Jack the Hero:
Leaping punch of Destiny.
I Love Lost.

Katie Davis said...

Ha! I said the same thing about Claire's vagina as we were watching! That was ridiculous. Also, it was the most comically speedy labor and birth in the history of television.

I loved the episode right up until the church, which didn't ruin the rest of the episode or the show for me so much as it just made me roll my eyes and sigh. Lost made a big deal about being so original and multicultural, and then it all ends in a Christian church and is entry number 123,293,987 in the Jesus allegory canon. Boring. I think you're right, it's best enjoyed for its many awesome moments, and it doesn't hang together.

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff wrote "The more I think about it the less I like it, as much as I really don't want to be that guy."

Yeah, i'm right there with you.

Actually, i think that i still really like the main-timeline, and like that Hurley ends up in charge, (I think that Jake, above, said that since Hurley is our representative, it leaves us in charge of the island - and i like that) that Jack sacrifices himself, and that some of them escape. It's the Purgatory-timeline that bashes me over the head with the lesson about letting go, (which felt like they were saying 'don't worry about the mysteries, guys! they don't really matter! it doesn't HAVE to all make sense - just let it slide!') convinces me that this afterlife can't be anything other than Christian, and ruins Jack's sacrifice for me by making it impossible to read him as anything other than Christ. I mean, fuck off, really.

And the 'it's not as good on reflection' thing even poison's the stuff that should be most touching: I liked the scenes where everyone remembers until I realized that I was being force-fed a happy ending for the sake of 'closure'. (I like my 'closure' to develop somehow more naturally from the plot, but that's me.) And that made me resent the show a bit, too.

And in spite of that resentment, and the anger that I'm sure people can read in these paragraphs, I still really enjoyed most of the finale and really liked the show as a whole. I suppose that I'm willing to give a lot of forgiveness when they screw up so badly because they did so much so well. Lost is the baseball slugger who both strikes out and homers more than anyone else - and you forgive him the former when he gives you the latter.

And as for mysteries... I kinda feel like I could have done with even less knowledge of the light at the center of the island, so I have no qualms with the island itself or the weird coincidences or Jacob's powers. (Though I would've liked some closure with Walt, since his powers to make stuff die was established as one of the first mysteries on the island.) But I'm seconding the 'what the fuck was Eloise's deal?', especially since she was also cosmically aware in that Final Destination episode with Desmond way back in season three. As an older woman, she seemed to be conscious of absolute everything - like, not unlike Christian in the finale. And not unlike the kind of consciousness that Desmond seemed to be moving toward in the last season. Even if this is a show 'about the characters' and not so much the mysteries, they were even tied into the final resolution withe Purgatory - so what's their deal?

ba said...

Two quick comments based on what other people said:

1) Yes, it was a speedy delivery for Claire, and a speedy operation for Locke...but it's also taking place in purgatory, so, why do things have to move at a normal pace?

2) It didn't seem wholly christian to me, as martyrdom and dark and light sides are hardly uniquely christian. And they did not end up in a christian church. It was VERY clearly a unitarian church, inasmuch as the stained glass had taoist, buddhist, islamic, jewish, and christian symbols.

That said, I was wondering - what happened to Desmond? Is he now stuck again on the island with Hurley and Ben, or will Hurley and Ben use their new powers to send him home to his family?

Kevin Maher said...

Excellent write-up Geoff. I'm impressed by how quickly you can digest and process these things. And I always like it when you add a follow-up a day or two later.

I've read a few interpretations about the finale and I'm surprised that no one (in the stuff I've read) has addressed all the META stuff that's going on.

If anyone watched the final episode of XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS you'll know what I'm talking about: XENA has to die, and Gabrielle panics because she's unable to live without Xena. (the same way die-hard fans can't let go.) But Xena gives a speech about how she will live on in Gabrielle's memory, and there's even a whole thing where Xena's spirit is transferred into Gabrielle (which is passed into Gabrielle's body through a kiss!)

The last 15 minutes of LOST was all about the actors, creators and audiences creating something very special. The chuch is the show, the message boards, the culmination of this 21st century media circuit that connected the writers with the audiences and the web pages, etc. And now it's time for everyone to move on. The actors will move on to other movies and TV shows (which will inevitably be compared to LOST.) Audiences will have to find new obsessions. Abrams will move on to gimmicky movies.

For the past 6 seasons, the ABC voice-over (the voice of GOD) would announce at 9pm "an all-new episode of Lost starts NOW!"

Christian Shepard told Jack (and told us) there is no more "NOW". Show's over. Time to move along into an unknown future.

other oddball moments:

* iPad commericials voiced by Peter Coyote (who narrated those turgid hour-long LOST "recaps")

* HURLEY: You were a good number two.
BEN: And you know a lot about good number twos, don't you?

James said...

ba: Ben suggests to Hurley that maybe getting Desmond home should be his first task as the new Jacob, and there's at least one boat hanging around (that Smokey was going to use to leave), so I think we're to assume that he did get home, and lived happily ever after with Penny and baby Charlie. Awww.

Neil: That was me that said that about Hurley, ME! It also occurred to me that if we were to somehow find the Island right now, Hurley would be there. And he would be welcoming and open and tell us everything he knows. But if we asked if we could maybe get a peek at The Light, he would say "Sorry, Dude", and Ben would quietly murder us with his telescopic baton.

Katie Davis said...

ba: I thought there was a giant statue of Jesus in front of the church? And I quote my bf Jason on the stained-glass window: "'You sure we won't offend people?' 'Nah, slap one of them Jew-stars and a yin yang thing on a stained glass window and we're covered.'"

If they had actually wanted to be nondenominational, there were better settings than a big white church. How cool would it have been if they all met up in Locke's sweat lodge??

Shlomo said...

1) my biggest mystery itch that they never scratched was the freaking freaky cabin, and who that guy was that asked locke to "save/help him"

2) Immediately after watching, I was very frustrated with the end. not because its religious, but because if the whole sideways-world was something they collectively created, then all the little dramas effecting each individual seems so pointless--as meaningful as day-dreams...

3) but then i decided to reinterpret it, to fit in closer with what I wanted to see. I'd "like to imagine" that when they nuked the hole during the incident they actually did create the sideways/limbo world. And then when history caught up to the plain crash, everything started to come apart. The pocket reality started to show some tears. Thats why desmond and charlie started getting flashes of their happy memories from the "real" world. so, ok, theyre all dead. but that doesnt mean that what happens in this world doesnt matter to the people whoa re still living in it (ie, ben, analucia, ethan rom, etc.). I'd "like to imagine" that this pocket world didnt completely dissapear, and it was only the people in the church that vamoosed to "heaven". this helps me digest the religous slant, of those final moments. its balanced by the more "sciency" creation of the limbo world by the incident.
4) that being said, I think that another way that the spiritual aspects of the finale on the island world, were tempered when i later came to the same relaization of geoff's that the vending achine reboot was explaining what happened to the "light". Yeah, the ending was spiritual, but the mechanics used a machine-like/techno metaphor. is it religious also? You could view it that way... but they did stick the vending machine scene in, to highlight, how it's not ONLY religious.

Geoff Klock said...

Shlomo -- here is something attributed to a LOST staff writer

"It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people’s heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a “Protector”. Jacob wasn’t the first, Hurley won’t be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him — even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob’s plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn’t do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn’t take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma — which I’m not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interferred by “corrupting” Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben’s “off-island” activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the “Others” killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that’s what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn’t do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB’s corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Canditates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That’s a question that is purposley not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still … Dharma’s purpose is not “pointless” or even vague. Hell, it’s pretty blatent."

Does that explain the cabin thing?

Geoff Klock said...

I should note that the whole thing is one long quote there and I should thank Katie for sending it to me.

sara d. reiss said...

I agree with Katie (& her bf Jason). I know ba is adamant that it's a universalist church, but there were many, many shots of the honkin' huge JC there. And, while I don't know many Buddhists, I do know a lot of Jews and no matter how many "Jew stars" you hang up, a church is a church, Buddhists and Jews and Hindus and Muslims don't go to church They go to synagogues, temples and mosques. and JC there, makes it definitively Christian.

Anyhoodle, I found that Slate and Defamer summed up my feelings with much sharper snark, and with better writing, than I could, and I recommend reading them. I am decidedly on team "a collection of awesome moments and ideas that don't hang together to make a whole show"

- side note: the final scene, just before the magical "speilbergian" doors opened, had something in it that reminded me of the end of The Muppet Movie. I guess it's the idea of a big group of people (or muppets) that belong together and have to end up together, and also they have a sort of leader, jack/kermit, whose show it is that they are a part of. But the Muppet Movie ending is stronger.

Kevin Maher said...

Sara, wouldn't it have been awesome if during the church scene, the music swelled and became very sentimental, and then Mr. Echo burst through the wall and said "I just knew I'd catch up with you guys."

Andy said...

I present to you, the Tibetan book of the dead.
A decidedly UN-christian concept which seems to have greatly inspired the concept of the Flash Sideways universe.

Jake said...

You know guys, just because the last episode is telling us that the mysteries weren't important, doesn't make that a fact. It's like a thesis statement that the rest of the paper doesn't prove.

Katie Davis said...

I've seen the writers say they were indeed inspired by a myriad of religions and philosophies, and I totally buy that. And yet they still chose Christian imagery (with a lame token nod to other religions' symbols) for the final scene, which, whether they overtly meant to or not, says that Christianity is the thing, the end-all-be-all expression of faith. If they didn't want to say that, they should have chosen another setting. Maybe something that looked more like the island itself?

Shlomo said...

Geoff... That's a great quote--it sums things up nicely, verifying what sometimes feels like conjecture... but how does it explain who that was in the cabin? Whatever, that was just the one thing, of which I was curious if it would be mentioned. At least i got the donkey wheel in "Ab Aeterno".

neilshyminsky said...

re: Church

Also? They were brought there, in a sense, by Christian Shepherd. It was so ridiculous that they had to give Kate a joke about it just to save (a little bit of) face.

neilshyminsky said...

Oh, and sorry, James. :)

Todd C. Murry said...

Guys, this is Lost - the show that passes off scenes of well known Hawaiian locations as Berlin, or LAX. There is a lot of Christian in what they were doing, and a lot of other stuff too. I felt like the church thing was location limitation (not wanting to choose something too exotic like Oahu Baha'i temple) + wanting the majority of the audience (mostly christian and part of our wonderful American exceptionalism) to instinctively get that the ending was explicitly spiritual. But they made specific overtures besides the window (it was the Buddhas I noticed first) to showing that this was supposed to be a non-sectarian spiritualism. Cut them some slack. Or just say that that ascendant moment was Jack's and that's how he would frame such a place as a christian.

I actually wish the end were a little less traditionally spiritual and a little more vaguely metaphysical, but I find the lack of science and the overall nature of the ending fine and inevitable. Since the early second season when the show began to really wear it's literary influences on its sleeve, I've thought the show has been swimming toward the transcendent humanist end of the pool, and a plot concerned "physical" ending where the island was a flying saucer, or an Atlantis engineered whoojib could never have worked. In a show so frggin' gnostic in its preoccupations (why isn't Geoff talking up THAT), and ending which favored the Manichean would have felt entirely wrong.

Andy said...

And do you all realize the Church they are in is the one that had the lamp post station in the basement? The off site hatch that Mrs Hawking used to determine when the island was accesible? There was a history to that church in the show

neilshyminsky said...

Todd: The airport. They could have met at the airport.

Mitch said...

I was definitely satisfied by the ending, but can understand the frustration people feel. My wife feels like she spent six years of her life decoding backwards whispers and polar bear maps that meant nothing. I don't really have an argument. I agree that saying the "characters" are what matters sounds like a screenwriter's defense, but can you really say that you were actually interested in was the "cool science" behind a show that had a smoke monster?

Things that annoyed me were the non-deaths of characters like Lapidus and Alpert. I was also annoyed about the babies. Especially that Claire's baby is a baby in the afterlife. You mean to tell me that not one moment of that kids life (some of which we even saw off-island) was more definitive or affecting than his experience as an infant?

I didn't feel misled by the flash-sideways being purgatory, nor did I feel that it was suddenly TOO religious. With BSG, the ending to which I hated, the spirituality came out of no where. Here, it seemed to fit for me.

I guess, ultimately, I've always felt that the core strength of Lost was that these characters were better people on the island, that this was their shot at redemption after years of mistakes, partental abuse, and depression. I like the ending because it spoke to that, whereas the BSG ending didn't speak to what I felt was core strength of that show was - that humanity soldiers on in the face of huge obstacles.

sara d. reiss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sara d. reiss said...

(I deleted my earlier post, because I left off two links)

kevin: OMG that would have been AMAZING

neil: i think i agree with you. airport.

Seth and Chadwick really are on point here, I feel:


Anonymous said...

I like Shlomo's idea of the Alt-U as a pocket universe (Pokéverse?), but I'm still bothered by the disappearance of David Shephard. Was he an imaginary construct created by both Jack AND Juliet? Did he vaporize as soon as they both have their Island Awakenings? Or is he Left Behind while his parents experience the LOST equivalent of the Rapture?

And how does death work when everyone is already in the Afterlife? What happens to Keamy after he's killed by Sayid? Is death Keamy's Easy-Pass to Heaven? Or is he reincarnated as a pillar of smoke or a disembodied whisper back in the Island-U? (I'd like to think that he wakes up in his Alt-U bed and re-lives the same day over and over again until he gets it right.)

And having everyone's souls disappear into the light really is the equivalent of Lindelof & Cuse singing, "LOST's like a movie. Write your own ending! (We have done what we set out to do!)" Which is fine for the Muppet Movie but not so satisfying here.

Anonymous said...

Surely, how the alt is created is left open to interpretation. The weird science angle can still hold - if it was in part created by the bomb splitting off from the 'whatever happens, happens" linear time reality we've followed all along. The alt is only a literal 'after-life' from Jack's p.o.v. since as Christain says, "It's outside time".

Dharma, time-travel etc. all did build on each other to narrate how the characters created this alt world, via another loophole in the architecture of how time and consciousness was shown to operate on the show.

Troy Wilson said...

Neil and Sara: Yeah, definitely airport. And some variation of the line: "Where we're going, there are no planes."

Troy Wilson said...

Oops, I mean "Planes? Where we're going we don't need planes." That's what I get for quoting from memory.

Casey Malone said...

I've been thinking long and hard about the finale, and here are my thoughts:

In the end, I did feel moved, and that final shot of Jack, dying in the bamboo forest, was the perfect way to close the series.

However, this season being so Jack-centric led to a feeling of dissatisfaction, since Jack really stopped being the emotional center of the show several years ago. In that time two characters took over that role, as well as took the best episodes, and they are Locke and Desmond.

It wasn't them not closing off any mysteries that bothered me, it was the lack of closure for these too characters that bothered me the most.

Desmond is fairly simple - his entire reason for being and some of the best emotional drama on the show came from his love for Penny and his desire to go back to her. To end the final season without giving the two of them a big, important moment in the land of the living was a miss for me. Ben simply saying that Hurley can send them home isn't enough.

Locke is another problem entirely. Locke has been a driving force since season one, the only one who could really see into the island and the only one who believed in what was happening. He's a sympathetic character, a man whose life was the epitome of what Jacob said about Hurley, Jack, Kate and Sawyer - his life was a mess, and coming to the island gave him purpose. And just because of the dramatic nature of fiction (faith will always be more compelling than reason, just because faith is far less deterministic), we always ended up rooting for Locke when he had faith that things would work out.

But instead of this character getting what I feel is a really satisfying ending, instead we kind of get tricked TWICE into thinking that his story is reaching some kind of important resolution.

The first time is when Smokey takes his form and we think he's come back to life; as soon as that's revealed to be the case, we're introduced to what appears to be an alternative time-line where the character is alive... I, for one, expected him to cross over in some way and work against Smokey. Turns out, he was dead all along. So we never get that resolution of John Locke's quest to save the island... it's just a failure. And that could have been dramatically satisfying, if we had known it had been a failure at the time.

On the other hand, we do get a resolution on his internal conflict... he works through his issues in the afterlife. And that's, in the end, what the storytellers thought was the most important. Maybe, re-watching it, knowing that the alt-U is the afterlife instead of a world that I'm expecting to cross over to the island means that it'll be way more satisfying at the time.

Stray thoughts:
What was the thematic point of time-travel? Was it just there to serve the big mis-direction of the "Alt-U"? Or did it mean something more? Geoff, I think you pointed out that the afterlife was entirely mundane - maybe that was the point of the show, all the insanity and statues and immortals and time travel really don't mean anything, and the people in our lives are really important.

"If we don't live together, we're going to die alone."

In the end, because they did live together, they got to die that way too. (There may be a better way to say this.)

Ping33 said...

I don't understand why people seem to think that the sideways-verse matters less because of the end.
Christian even tells Jack that everything matters...
I guess I have the same problem when comic fans dismiss things that are 'out of continuity' because, clearly: as Dark Knight Returns and Superman Red Sun and others have shown through the years: if it's a compelling enough 'side-story' it becomes as important as the main story.
The entirety of Lost is, after all, a work of fiction, one in which David Shephard appeared in more episodes and had a greater emotional consequence than Paulo and Nikki, both considered REAL characters and a (perhaps unfortunate) part of the cannon.

Did the Bomb 'work'? Well it allowed Juliet to see both sides and express that view in the 'real world.'

I really think that part of the genius of Lost was that it provided so many hooks that viewers could latch onto that which they most wanted to. Casey says that Jack became a less relevant character to Locke and Desmond, I disagree... the whole context of Season 6 was about Jack's journey to me. His withdrawal from the seat of power following The Bomb, his indecision, his discovery of faith and finally his sacrifice. Some people think that the show was about the Island and the characters were ancillary, it was many things to many people. At the end of the day, The End was going to shift focus to some aspects over others, it had to. By doing this it was going to leave some people in the cold.

James said...

Glad this comments section has caught ablaze, trying to keep up:

I agree with the consensus that they were going for an-inclusive multi-Faith ending, but ended up with something Christ-flavoured by going for imagery that would connect with the largest section of the audience.

The airport is a nice idea for a alternate setting, but the "Church" (which I think here is just modern English for "temple" in the same way that Christmas nowadays means "winter-time present-fest") could have sufficed if they pushed the non-denominational thing harder. (Well, it did suffice for me, because I Love Lost.)

Ping is (always) right to point out that Christian tells Jack "everything matters". I can't profess to have my head entirely around the mechanics of the Sideways U, but certainly Desmond and Juliet's glimpses of it seem straightforward enough: they time-travelled in the same way that Desmond always has, only this time to a point after their own deaths.

James said...

"Surely, how the alt is created is left open to interpretation. The weird science angle can still hold - if it was in part created by the bomb splitting off from the 'whatever happens, happens" linear time reality we've followed all along. The alt is only a literal 'after-life' from Jack's p.o.v. since as Christain says, "It's outside time"."

Wow, that's great. The bomb both created The Incident AND created the new time-line. "You created this place together". Sure, the Sideways U differs in ways that pre-date the sinking of the Island, but who's to say changes can't ripple backwards in time and well as forwards?

James said...

In the interest of full disclosure, Neil has converted me to the "they should have met at LAX" side of things. (Sorry for the triple-post.)

Anonymous said...

The Dark Knight Returns equivalent of the LOST Sideways-verse would end with Alfred "waking-up" and telling Bruce he never had a sidekick named Carrie Kelly, Bruce remembering his "real" life and death on an alternate Earth prior to the events in this one, and Thomas Wayne appearing to Bruce in the Bat-Cave before taking him to Heaven.

Shlomo said...

partial digression: I just finished a research paper for grad school about the Eisenhower Interfaith Chapel (@ penn state and biggest such facility in the country). It was built in 1955, and has been expanded and partially renamed (center of ethics and religious affairs, then spiritual center) but one question i was thinking about is whether its an oxymoron to have an "interfaith chapel" does chapel automatically mean church? technically? practically?

For that matter, whats the deal with Unitarians? do they consider themselves Christians?

Geoff Klock said...

Savage Critics pointed out a small detail that is representative of the kind of thing I feel let down by. I get that the origin of magic or whatever is really going to be an impossible thing to give an explanation of, but I remember being on the edge of my seat in Season 2 when there was a problem pushing the button in the hatch (John Locke was trapped under a door and Ben had to do it maybe?) and as the numbers flipped down to zero and the klaxon roared you could see, very quickly, that hieroglyphics and other symbols started to appear underneath the numbers. I was really fascinated by that -- why someone would build something like that. And it was just ... I don't know, cause they felt like it or wanted to screw with the guy inside. And it had nothing to do with, say, the statue, which was also Egyptian. I am happy to imagine for myself the whole "Jacob's Cabin" thing -- clearly the Man in Black manipulates folks. And I get that there is not really going to be an explanation for sentient black smoke that makes sense (and we accept monsters just existing in fantasy and sci-fi all the time), but I feel like there SHOULD HAVE BEEN a better explanation of that detail in the hatch and many others like it.

Geoff Klock said...

And my two cents on the church thing -- while it is POSSIBLE to read the scene as being other than Christian, it FEELS so overwhelmingly Christian and that kinds of dwarfs any kind of "well, technically" thing. You can go into a Catholic Church and see people eating the body of their god and drinking his blood and see the Virgin Mary with her exposed heart and say "oh, well this is not Christian at all -- this is clearly ancient Greek pagan." And I get that it is kinda because that was such a huge influence. But it is still a Catholic church and that has to mean something. Otherwise it is IMPOSSIBLE to do specifically Christian symbolism ANYWHERE (even in a Christian story like CS Lewis) because if you are looking you can see the background of ancient religions in the religion itself. It would be like concluding that when the lion dies and is resurrected in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (or one of sequels -- is that what happens?) the whole thing was really about Osirus or whatever.

Geoff Klock said...

Also, the more and more I think about it, the more and more I am disturbed and attracted by the idea that in a much earlier season 1 draft the island was supposed to be purgatory for all our main characters who died in the plane crash. But fans figured out that theory and it became such a mainstream interpretation that it would be been lame to end the show with it -- because it would not have been much of a rug pull surprise. But the show runners wanted to do their final scene of Christian Shepherd and everyone being dead, and going to heaven. So they incorporated the purgatory thing into the Alt U only, and still got to end their show the way they did. This explains a few things -- why the mysteries of the island do not hang together (they were intended to hang together only because they were taking place in a kind of collective consciousness which would have bits from various people in weird combinations); why season 5 was so weak (because they were maneuvering this bomb into place so the Alt U timeline would hide their real intentions for the final moments).

James said...

Well, I think the multi-faith stained-glass window carries more weight than Christianity stealing from pagan rituals, so it's not quite a fair analogy, but the overwhelming Churchiness of the denouement is undeniable.

Shlomo: I'll be generous and say I don't think chapel (especially in that context) automatically means Church. Above I say I don't even think "church" automatically means Church; not in the parlance of our times, at least.

As for Unitarians, I believe they do identify as Christian (Shephard) - with respect, I think ba was misusing the term above. (Although I could be wrong in which case I do not get Unitarianism AT ALL.)

James said...

Geoff: I've had the same thought re: a purgatory re-shuffle. Hmm.

Geoff Klock said...

A fantastic video about LOST's unanswered questions.


ba said...

Re: the JC statue in the front. As someone said earlier, it's the church with the Lamp Post station in it. I don't think it has any significance as to what is going on inside the church. I am sticking with non-denominational purgatory.

James said...

Oh, well I think I'm settling on Actual Divergent Timeline mashed with Buddhist spirituality (that Tibetan book of the dead link was one hot ticket, Andy!) - the light they move on to was Nirvana, not Heaven.

Word verification: emption. C'mon!

Ping33 said...

I refuse to discuss the Church thing... I think it's an insubstantial point, it was clearly intended to be all faiths, Jebus statue or no Jebus statue.

"The Dark Knight Returns equivalent of the LOST Sideways-verse would end with Alfred "waking-up" and telling Bruce he never had a sidekick named Carrie Kelly, Bruce remembering his "real" life and death on an alternate Earth prior to the events in this one, and Thomas Wayne appearing to Bruce in the Bat-Cave before taking him to Heaven. "
-Wasn't that part of the Grant Morrison run?

Andy said...

Re: The college humor video
I can answer 80% of those questions. And some of them are SO nitpicky.

Re: The purgatory switch
I've never hear purgatory was in a initial draft. I'd love to see some documentation on that. If true, it does seem to explain a lot of the issues people are having with the ending. It once again proves that television can not be a novel (with maybe the exception of The Wire)

One last thing on the church. In the context of the plot, Jack is lead to where his father's service is to be held in order for him to wake up and let go. A man named Christian Shepard is going to ask that his body be buried in a church. The logistics of getting a coffin in the airport are difficult to say the least. Jack was already having a hard time comprehending all this. If they lead him to a church and said his father was in there, how do you think he'd react?

Andy said...

ABC says Lost's final images of plane wreckage were "not part of the story"


James said...

Andy: I don't think it would be so hard to have them converge on the airport - just have Oceanic ask Jack to pick up the coffin himself.

I can imagine why they didn't go with that (if it was even considered) - if the castaways "moved on" by boarding a plane, it would probably cause even more confusion than ABC's insertion of the crash-site. I would've loved it, though.

Christian said...

I haven't seen Lost since Season 2, so take it for what it's worth.

Non-esoteric Christian iconography, or at least some sort of subversion of it, is superboring. Are we done now with that? BSG and Lost, both dropped far more interesting sources in favor of this? As a means of influencing the audience, I understand that living in the Western world is going to make this particular religion more effective, but it's just boring. Except in Morrison's Batman. Then it works just fine.

neilshyminsky said...

I posted this on Geoff's facebook page, but it makes sense to add it here. It's two long articles by EW's Lost guy, both of which made me feel better about the finale. (And i'm now leaning more in the direction of 'i liked it'.)

Part one: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20313460_20387946,00.html
Part two: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20313460_20388269,00.html

neilshyminsky said...

Oh, and that quote from the staff writer that Geoff cut-and-paste? It makes no sense. (Did i already say this? I think i wrote about this somewhere. Anyway...) How could Ben have been misled/manipulated by MiB when Ben claimed to have never heard/seen Jacob? So it's not like MiB appeared to Ben as Jacob, or claiming to be Jacob. So did MiB appear to Richard, then, and manipulate Ben through him? Because, as Locke, he doesn't give the impression that this was the case when he knocks Richard out on the beach.

Patrick said...

The big issue I have with things like the hieroglyphics on the countdown, or the existence of the countdown button in the first place, is that the implication of leaving them mysterious is that the reason why they exist like they do will be revealed down the line, and that it will play into the larger narrative.

So, to not pay them off is just sloppy writing, and makes it feel like inexplicable elements were thrown in for no apparent reason other than to provide a thrill in the moment. Seasons two and three had so many terrible flashback episodes and drawn out plotlines, why not pay off the mystery of why the button exists as it does in season two? That's basic writing, not introducing a ton of loose ends into your story just because.

You can't just say that the show isn't about the mysteries and have it be so when the content of all of the temple stuff this year, or all the hydra cage era is about characters literally sitting in place and asking questions. That implies that the answers to those questions have a meaning. And, apart from a few actors who really ran with the material, most of the characters are pretty weak. Kate and Claire are totally opaque boring characters illuminated by a bit of pop psychology motivation.

But, this all obscures the greatest misconception of all, that it's somehow impossible to satisfactorily pay off plot elements (which is what the mysteries really are) and character in a way that is satisfying and make sense. The best shows do that, and just saying they all go to heaven serves to diminish the importance of all the events we watched for the past six years.

Stefan Delatovic said...

I'm totes on board with this jam:


My immediate thoughts on the finale were neutral-to-negative. I'm liking it more and more though, and I'm starting to think it was really great.

Ping33 said...


James said...

Neil: That's a huge question, but I think it could be another story thread that got excised for time. Maybe MiB was manipulating Ben as someone else entirely (there are a lot of questions about the heirarchy of the Others - Dogen, that black lady from Season 1 who died[?]).

So, while I'm not 100% sold on this mysterious Bad Robot mole, I'm not gonna write him off just yet.

Just finished the EW 2-parter: incredible! The only thing I can't agree with is his assertion that Jughead didn't go off. If the writers are explicitly anti-paradox, then fine, that quashes my "it created both the Incident and the Sideways" idea. But "the detonation of Jughead wasn't part of the fixed ''whatever happened, happened'' timeline"? How do we know that? It wasn't detonated at the Source, which could have sunk/destroyed the Island, but at one of the EM pockets. Perhaps most of the explosion/radiation was absorbed by this, and the Incident/energy fluctuations that necessitated the Swan resulted, only killing those in close proximity. But I remember the fairly explicit sound of an explosion, and the staging of the scene would be too much of a cheat if there was no detonation (especially given the already-convenient yanking of the time travellers back to the present).

But a really lovely piece with some cast-iron theorising. I love his visual read of the church as another jet-plane, after all. I also love the idea of humanity being rendered soulless while the cork was out.

Stefan: Another good link, thanks. Though I think the EW piece is probably closer to the mark on the finer points of the Sideways.

Ping: Yuss.

Geoff: Foolishness?! Umbrage! Umbraaaaage!

I got it all in one comment, this time!

raj said...

Here is something i really dont understand: Jacob told witmore to bring desmond as a fail safe and exactly how to use him...Why did he not pass on this info to jack i mean he found it necessary to tell witmore but not Jack?? Jack could have used the info, so that he could have planned a nice attack on Locke instead of a fist fight to death...And if locke new the island would be demolished he must have known he would be turned mortal, why the hell did he only have a weak little knife, he would have kept a gun, shot jack and sailed away while the island got destroyed...After watching the finale it felt like the writers were way over thier head so decided to play the emotional card to end everything...

Geoff Klock said...

I feel like I have a better way to articulate what I want to say maybe. It is not that I wanted mysteries explained a la the explanation of The Force in the Phantom Menace, so much as I wanted the various mysteries (psychics, Egyptian stuff, ghosts, Dharma, The Man in Black, the fact that the oceanic people were connected to each other before they got on the plane) to turn out to be ONE interestingly connected (but still fundamentally mysterious) mystery. Ping, you pointed me to the site that said "If you hated the finale of Lost you will also hate Pulp Fiction, and 2001 and the bible but will love the Phantom Menace" but this is not quite fair. Pulp Fiction and 2001 had ONE mystery each, and the bible is written in such a chaotic way by so many people at so many different times there is no suggestion the mysterious things are all supposed to relate to one another (unless you are deeply religious and believe god orders all, in which case you will love the BSG ending -- but Lost cannot claim to be speaking to such an audience). I can suspend my disbelief for one mystery, no matter how weird, no problem. So I don't wish the mystery had been explained; I wish it had turned out there was ONE mystery connecting everything up. Otherwise it just looks like people throwing "cool" things into the story at random, just to be cool, suggesting they are related when they are not (the statue looked symbolically to be connected to the pregnancy thing for a while as it was a fertility statue I think, or looked for a minute like it was). (or it is a device, like you have Dharma make a food drop for no reason other than you don't want to write stories where the castaways have to look for food). And when you make things look like they are related, and then at the end you realize it was just a series of random events this is disappointing -- even though I still agree with the fundamental fact that the characters and their stories come first.

Anonymous said...

One thing that has bothered me in the days since the finale, especially with the repeated insistence online that LOST is a character-driven show, is Sayid's Alt-U resolution. Although having Sayid end up with Shannon is, I suppose, more consistent with the show thematically – the relationships the castaways have with each other on and off the island are supposed to be the most important ones in their lives – this feels cheap to me.

We don't see Shannon as a character for at least two seasons prior to Hurley's mentioning her by name when he finds her inhaler outside the caves. However, we see Nadia off-island in Season 5 and in the Alt-U in Season 6. In both timelines, Nadia is the reason Sayid kills: to avenge her death caused by Widmore's henchman (the hit-and-run) and to protect her and her family from Keamy's people.

For these reasons, we (or ,at least, I) originally assume Sayid is talking about Nadia when Locke offers him a deal ("The only thing I ever wanted died in my arms") and when Desmond asks Sayid what Locke has promised (to bring back the woman Sayid loved). In light of the finale, I think we're supposed to infer that Sayid was talking about Shannon all along. While this is not at the same level as killing off the audience's P.O.V. character in the pilot episode, I feel as though the same motive is at work here – the writers want to undermine the audience's expectations just because they can.

A side note: Jacob visits Widmore shortly after the freighter sinks to invite him back to the island. At this time, he apparently gives Widmore a list of candidates and tells him about Desmond as a fail-safe option. Soon thereafter, Jacob is waiting on an LA street corner to distract Sayid while Widmore's henchman runs down Nadia with a car. This makes Jacob out to be especially ruthless if not outright cruel. And why do Widmore or Jacob want Nadia dead anyway? She's not the reason Sayid does not want to return to the island; Jacob eventually needs to recruit Ilana to forcibly escort Sayid onto the Ajira flight. Widmore also gets nothing out of the deal since Sayid ends up killing a bunch of Widmore's men on Ben's behalf.

And, apropos of nothing: I was hoping to see Christian Shephard appear to Jack in his final moments on the island, either in the mystery chamber or the bamboo grove, but that would probably have been even cheesier than Christian's reappearance at the Alt-U fake funeral.

Geoff Klock said...

one more example. Ping, you compared this to 2001 but for me LOST is more like if 2001 ended with, like, a Wizard. You would be left with no idea how the obelisk at the opening relates to the Wizard, if at all. You would want them to be connected, but it would feel like they were just unrelated things. But in 2001 the obelisk comes back. And while it is weird that our guy becomes a space-baby, it is clear that it is the same kind of jump that was made by the monkeys in the opening -- like them he sees the obelisk and evolves. So it is one thing. Lost is not one thing in that way. maybe I should not want it to be one thing, but this is different than asking for the mystery to be explained.

Mitch said...

60 comments! Is this some kind of record, Geoff?

I have to admit that the points about a wizard at the end of 2001 and eveyone meeting up at the airport are pretty strong, despite my earlier support of the ending.

Patrick said...

I'd agree that the Pulp Fiction example doesn't make sense since the briefcase is one small element that's a mystery. The characters never spend a lot of time discussing what's in the briefcase, and there's not twenty other random unexplained elements in the story. 2001 is also not relevant because that ending was left deliberately ambiguous/open to interpretation. I would have loved a batshit crazy ending to the island story, but what we got was pretty straightforward, just with a ton of inexplicable occurrences along the way. Plus, the baby/monolith's are pretty discernible within the context of the narrative.

The better equivalent would be if Returrn of the Jedi started off with a sequence where Luke was still living on Tatooine, and gradually he met all the other characters in his home town, before revealing that none of that really happened and he was going to heaven, and not having that play into the overall narrative at all.

Ultimately, it's not about wanting 'answers' rather than 'character' beats, it's about basic writing rules, which is that your story should stand up to retroactive scrutiny, and way too many fundamental elements of the series make no sense, like the nature of the hatch, or why the Others dressed up like wilderness people, etc. Without tying these things together in a consistent way, the show becomes something that's very hit and miss, not a coherent single work.

And, just giving the audience a bunch of clip show happy endings can't elide the fact that the story itself doesn't hang together.

neilshyminsky said...

Maybe, Geoff, Lost needed one HUGE mystery that was ambiguous enough that it could accommodate other, seemingly unrelated mysteries. I'm thinking of my response to the Jacob flashback episode, where I suggested that the cave and the light would have been more powerful if we never actually saw them - if, instead, the camera were positioned from the perspective of the cave and not the perspective of those looking at it. If we're uncertain whether the cave is just a cave and the light is just a light - maybe it's a glowing dragon, maybe it's Rube Goldberg machine - then it suddenly becomes a lot more accommodating of a Theory of Everything that can tie it all together.

I'm remember, for instance, how much more compelling the monster was the first time it confronted Locke, when the camera was positioned exactly where the monster would have been, looking at Locke. We could see his wonder, but we also had to wonder what he was looking at. In that moment, it could be (and WAS) absolutely anything. The eventual reveal, when it was staring down Eko, couldn't possibly AVOID being a letdown because it suddenly closed off all of these possibilities.

For anyone who cares, I put together a sort of catalogue of Lost mystery types on my blog, and wouldn't mind it if others want to refine/correct it: http://neilshyminsky.blogspot.com/2010/05/categorizing-losts-mysteries.html

Geoff Klock said...

Neil -- thanks. That is very helpful and reminded me of a few things

Mitch -- it may be a record.

Forget how the mysteries did not turn out to be one mystery. Even mysteries you would have been sure were one thing splintered: the ghosts on the island were everything from regular ghosts, to the Man in Black impersonating the dead, to maybe Jacob pretending to be people, to immortals (Richard), to regular people (when the others stole tail people they were just so fast they looked like ghosts) to psychic projections, to hallucinations and some that were never explained (like when Shannon saw Walt). Lost is a great collection of things, but it lacks any kind of unity. Maybe that is a good thing, but I am still thinking on it.

raj said...

LOST is televisions greatest con.

Its not about explaining mysteries its about legitimizing them. I cant just one day as a writer, say "wow it would be pretty cool to see a flying car" and then just throw it into a scene...Like i said i dont need mysteries to be explained but they need to be legit, for example if an unidentified object was really spotted and there was legit proof that is something that would keep me and the world thinking for days on end, but if we later find out that the spotting was not legit or even doubt the legitamacy then it looses all its impact.

This is the case with Lost what kept me going season after season episode after episode were the mysteries. I wanted to know how they would be legitimized not necessarily explained...

Up until the season finale i had my hopes up but at the end all the writers did was create some tear jerking scenes and use a sentimental ending to blind the people of the great con they just pulled off...

To put it simply the finale was str8 cheesy, no mystery, no profound message, just good ole american cheese...

Jake said...

One thing I liked was that even though Sayid and Claire got "marked" as being "tainted," Sayid died to save them, and Claire was brought on the plane. That helped sell the message of the finale, that the Losties ignored the labels given to their own by Others and just trusted their friends.

Ping33 said...

I like your blog post... but I don't think there are any questions which don't have an answer or at least have an answer which can't be teased out based on other criteria:

* Who was shooting at Sawyer and company's boat when they were being chased across the water during all the time-flashes?

-No one of import... with time in so much flux, and so many names crossed off the wall it could have been anytime/anyplace. Perhaps some licensed novel will address it down the line.

* How was Juliet's sister's cancer cured if Ben's cancer couldn't be?

-Ben's cancer was cured. Jacob and the Island brought Jack there didn't they?

* Was there really a box that granted wishes? And what is it, really?

- It was smokey, he impersonated Locke's dad. Ben wasn't clear on the hows and why's at the time.

* What is the Temple, where do its occupants sit in the Others' hierarchy, and what sort of magical powers does Dogen have that could repel Smokey?

-It's a Temple, built by the ancient tribe MIB lived with after leaving Jacob and Mom on the other side. It was built to worship the light. Not sure about Dogen, but obviously there are some ways to keep smokey out... power of spirt? Fine that's one.

* Why does Sayid, who killed dozens of people as a torturer and then as Ben's lackey, get to go into the Light when Michael, who killed two people - one out of desperation and one accidentally, and only to save his son - but also seemingly redeemed himself, get stuck on the Island?

- I don't think that the people in the church were the ONLY people who get to 'move on' They get to do it together because of their relationships and closeness to one-another... Michael wouldn't have been comfortable with them and they wouldn't have wanted him. He made his choice to go outside the group and go it alone to go after HIS BOY! HIS SON! and has burned his bridges with the rest of them.

James said...

Good answers, Ping, but I don't think Smokey impersonated Locke's dad - Sawyer ended up strangling him, remember? I think in that case Ben just used his International Man of Mystery/Menace skills to kidnap him.

Ping33 said...

Like I said: nothing definitive... he could have faked his death, I think either answer for the magic box is legit.

As for WALT/AARON... I still go back to my The Island is Fairy land thing... clearly children raised on the Island are more in touch with the magic of the place. Walt's clearly expressed innate abilities only magnified this connection.

On to others:
* Why would Chang - or whoever else built The Swan - include Egyptian hieroglyphics in the timer, which are displayed only after it reaches zero?
- I tend to think that the Dharma scientists had learned a lot about the properties of the island by studying what there was there (the temple, etc) which had many hieroglyphic type writing. I kind of think that the use of them in the countdown clock is akin to CETI using Math, language, Arecibo, and other forms of communication to convey messages into space. The thought being that anyone who had gotten to the Island and was manning the Swan would know the history and danger involved. ...A rationalization? Perhaps it was just there to be mysterious and cool... but this is how I've made sense of it.

I need to rewatch some earlier eps to answer the rest of the questions from #5

* Why did small animals die when Walt got angry, and what was so wrong with him that even The Others wanted to get rid of him?
-Mentioned above. Natural ability + Island magic.

* What's the deal with Eloise and her seeming omniscience, in both the living-day present and in the afterlife?
- The afterlife was a creation of the Losties' collective unconscious so she possesses the same nature there as she does in the 'real' world. It's fairly clear to me that both her and Whidmore knew more about the true nature of the Island and 'the rules' then Ben (who was an outsider and usurped power) did.

* What's the deal with the Hanso family, who were the financiers behind both The Black Rock and Dharma and were featured prominently in the Lost Alternate Reality Game?
- Found out about the Island, wanted to use it's magic because of its innate power but without any real understanding of it.

* What's the Man in Black's name? And if he doesn't have one, why? (Because deliberately not mentioning it seemed significant, at first, and just annoying, later.)
- It was significant, he wasn't given one... this allowed for his soul to be taken more easily. See Ping's Fairy Land theory chapter 17.

* Do The Numbers refer to the Valenzetti Equation or the final six Candidates? Or both? And how are they related? Is it mere coincidence (?!) or fate that the final six Candidates are assigned the same numbers that appear in the Valenzetti Equation? And if it's the latter, how does that compromise Jacob's whole 'i want you to have a choice' speech, or diminish the centuries-long process of finding a suitable replacement and watching most of the Candidates die in the process?
- Both, the equation figured the end of the world/humanity due to the release of evil which could only be stopped by the candidates. They did have a choice... but the choice wasn't REALLY being in charge, it was a sacrificial stop-gap before the true custodian stepped up (Hurley) Also, the centuries long selection process was all part of it. The journey of 1000 miles (years) starts with a single step.

neilshyminsky said...

Hey Ping - There are some good answers, there, but I don't know that they necessarily throw-off my list.

I agree, for instance, that it was ultimately unimportant who was shooting at the boat during the time-flashes, which is why I put it in the 'it doesn't matter' category - it's still a mystery, just not an important one. And I think I agree with James that Anthony Cooper couldn't have been Smokey - I mean, why would Smokey allow himself to be strangled by Sawyer and carried around in a bag by Locke? It seems pretty inconsistent.

And I'm with you on Walt and Eloise. But what I want is something more - when the build-up is six years long, as with Walt, or made to seem monumentally important, as with Eloise, I want more than the obvious. And we never got more than the obvious. But maybe that's just me.

I wanted Walt to be somehow central to the story, and it turned out that he wasn't even marginal. That sucks, and ends up feeling as if much of the first season - why was Walt worth kidnapping? why was Aaron worth kidnapping? - was simply misdirection.

Anonymous said...

I know Geoff quoted the first part of this in an earlier comment, but here's a link to the full text in case anyone is interested. Supposedly, ABC has confirmed that the source used to "work for ABC as an intern" three or four years ago, for whatever that's worth:


I thought the part about "linked souls" was interesting per Ping's answer to Neil re: Sayid vs. Michael (although this guy has Michael's soul stuck on the island, but whatever).

James said...

Yeah, so clearly he's exaggerated the amount of access he had (why would an intern be privy to the secretly-scripted final moments of the series?), but he does have some interesting insights into the intent.

Going back to an earlier point/question of Neil's:
"If we're uncertain whether the cave is just a cave and the light is just a light - maybe it's a glowing dragon, maybe it's Rube Goldberg machine[snip]"
I think you can still have this. Probably not to the point of providing a Theory of Everything (hence the [snip]), but I love the fact that after seeing the fairly cheesy Golden Cave of Light, you go down to The Source and there's... more machinery! Like the Donkey Wheel we saw MiB make, only older! Who put it there? Does it generate the Light? Channel it? Maybe it's aliens! In any case, that's why I don't quite buy the charge that they ended up being too specific. Crazy stone cork!

neilshyminsky said...

James wrote: "I don't quite buy the charge that they ended up being too specific. Crazy stone cork!"

Yeah, i suppose. But crazy stone cork in whole in the ground says mysticism/magic to me immediately and unequivocally, i guess. I could have used just one element that muddied things. Like a sound that seemed strangely mechanical or at least out of place - something incongruent that complicated the pure-magic reading. (Which is to say that, based on what we have, it's easy to say it's magical or mystical and much harder to argue that it's a machine.)

It would have worked for me if, for instance, we just saw that Desmond and Jack had to pick up something very heavy but never saw what it was they were moving - to riff on that link that was posted earlier, it would have made The Cork into the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

And the donkey wheel nuttiness worked for me, i think, because we couldn't actually see what was happening behind the wall. (And so it was diminished for me, somewhat, when we saw it in the flashback and were told that it was pure light on the other side, and not something else.)

neilshyminsky said...

By the way - anyone else hear about this?: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/815747--thought-you-saw-all-of-lost-no-you-haven-t

Shlomo said...

was this mentioned already? Doesnt that article from the "inside source" point out that the last scene in the church was actually the original scene that JJ abrams created at the time of the pilot? if thats the case than its possible to imagine that cuse and lindeloff were sentimental about it, and decided to keep it as the ending, even though the stories they had worked out, were more ambiguous and subtle--less "on the nose". So perhaps we can talk about it as an editorial add-on in the same way Jason is always talking about the meta-issues between claremont and his writers and editors.

Perhaps it was abrams who wanted faith to win, and thats why that ending seemed to be out of touch with the spirit of the show, which was mostly built by cuse/lindeloff.

I really want to believe this... (and let it go viral on the internet...)

Shlomo said...

here's the quote:

"But, from a more "behind the scenes" note: the reason Ben's not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn't believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It's pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church -- but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church ... and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder -- the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ's ending. And they kept it."

Patrick said...

I don't buy that explanation, since Juliet, Desmond and Penny are in the church, and they weren't part of the original conception of the show. So, even if that was the originally conceived ending, it was altered to accommodate those characters.

Shlomo said...

Patrick, I totally agree with you. but, what I'm focusing on, is that the church/limbo/"we're all dead" idea, was a legacy of Abrams, who was not the one who shaped the majority of the show beyond the first season.
(i shouldve deleted the part about ben--since it clearly doesnt make any sense.)

James said...

Neil: I'd heard about it, and assumed it would be a humorous bit to deliver the details I mentioned at your blog (with Hurley the fan-surrogate asking Ben a laundry list of questions, or something). The quote sounds much more serious than that, but he could be pulling legs.

Anonymous said...

Just finished watching the finale for a second time. A few random thoughts:

1. The Alt-U reunions are a lot more moving when I'm not thinking to myself, "How the hell are they going to wrap this up?"

2. The "non-denominational" stained-glass window includes, I think, the donkey wheel in the lower left-hand corner, and placed between and above all the religious symbols is a circle with lines radiating outward.

3. The camera pays a lot of attention to statues and pictures of angels starting with Jack entering the church. This might be a catch-all explanation to my lingering Alt-U questions, like "Who or what is David Shephard?" and "Where the hell is everyone 'moving on' to?" Right now, I'm okay with this answer; we'll see if that lasts.

4. After Christian lets the light into the chapel, he steps to the side and we don't see him again. I'd like to think he does not leave/move on/ascend/whatever with them.

5. The possibility occurs to me -- and I know it's a stretch -- that Christian might not actually be Christian but The Man in Black, appearing to Jack in a recognizable form in order to thank Jack, in the same way MiB's mother thanked him, for freeing him from the island through death. I know that makes a lot of their reunion -- the hugs, tears, declarations of love -- reeeeally creepy, but, if their island relationships are the most important ones in their lives, shouldn't the MiB count?