[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.