The finale of LOST was shown a few weeks ago, and it’s been bouncing around my head ever since. I can’t decide what I think. I rarely read reviews any more as I value my mental health, but I made an exception for LOST as there was enough going on in the show that it was possible I’d missed something. It turned out I hadn’t, but I also found people were surprisingly polarised: some thought it was excellent, others that it was utterly terrible – almost always one or the other. I personally find it hard to disagree with either side.
Matthew Baldwin expressed it nicely: it was satisfying emotionally, but not intellectually. The characters all had decent, unpredictable endings – there was really no telling who would live, die or escape. The story was very well told. It ended a little more spiritual than sci-fi1, but it wasn’t actually specifically religious – the church window had symbols from all the major faiths – and the world-between-life-and-death had a nice message: nobody has to do it alone. This neatly summed up the entire series, which was revealed to a great character story of people working together. The producers have explained that the ‘LOST’ of the title refers to the characters, not the predicament, and this makes sense. And the finale ticked all the boxes in this regard.
But. But. The island was left unexplained. Ok, there was the hint of the golden light – but that was it. And for me the question of the island was too big, too important in the show to be left hanging. Sure, the characters were as important – but everything the characters did on the island provided some more information as to its nature, and we were clearly meant to assume these were clues building to something larger. To claim they weren’t is disingenuous at best. Lots of people seemed to know what the island was – Widmore, Faraday’s mother, Richard – but this information was never divulged. It might have been acceptable if the show had concluded with the island being unexplained within its own universe, but it wasn’t – we were just never given the facts. LOST unambiguously portrayed itself as a mystery that would be solved, but didn’t follow through.
To an extent, the resolution didn’t matter. It was a spaceship, purgatory, the prison of some banished gods – whatever. I didn’t want every little thing explained, every little detail to be consistent, and I certainly wasn’t expecting some incredible surprise – that’s too much to ask in the internet age. But no intellectual resolution at all was a big disappointment. There was just too much back story: the numbers; the Others; the illness; the Dharma Initiative; the not being able to have babies; “I’ve made it so you can’t hurt each other”; the frozen wheel thing; the time difference between the boat and the island. All of these things were given a lot of screen time, but turned out to be meaningless other than vehicles for characterisation. For me this was all a bit too specific, too detailed and intentionally meaningful to cast aside as if it doesn’t matter. I’ve heard an admittedly poetic interpretation that the role of the Others, the statue, the hieroglyphics, and Dharma were all as the relics of people who’d been there before. That they add to the metaphor for life – humanity has always encountered things it can’t explain, but we work together to get through them. I’ll admit this has a certain appeal. But it’s a bit retrofitty, and I can’t help but feel a little duped.
However. Unlike some, I don’t think this renders the entire series null and void. That’s silly. LOST has produced, in my opinion, some of the finest storytelling on television. The life and death of John Locke was beautifully told, and continually surprising. The endings of series 2, 3 and 5 were remarkably exciting – the moment in the S3 finale when you realise we’re flashing forward, not back, was amazing (especially when all the hints were there – in the soundtrack and editing too). The writers built up many mysteries, and solved many of them in satisfying ways – particularly pleasing was needing to press the button to discharge the electromagnetism, which turned out to have caused the plane crash in the first place. And the characterisation was remarkable – by the end you knew and felt very close to all these people. Sawyer’s up-and-down journey from complete dick to decent human being was great (in S3 when he punched the Other so he could kiss Kate in the field? – that was awesome), and anyone who didn’t desperately want Desmond to find Penny must have had a heart of stone.
All of these things LOST did very very well, and it was completely compelling up to the last minute. The show was about more than the mystery of the island, and it gave me six years and 116hrs of solid entertainment. It built to a proper finale that was great television, and I don’t think the lack of an intellectual resolution negates all that. I was left a little deflated, but it was still a great show.
- I really liked the idea that the nuke had split the timeline, and I assumed magic Faraday-mother lady would find some way for No-Crash Group to save Crash-Group – was a bit disappointed it didn’t pan out that way [↩]