Why the final season of LOST was not a letdown

This post has been a long time coming, since shortly after the finale aired in May, but I wanted to let the entire experience stew for me awhile. Since then I’ve rewatched the finale twice, discussed it to no end with my family and a few friends, and now I’m working my way through all of season six on the DVR. And I still think the finale, and the show as a whole, was a glorious piece of work, of art.

The main criticism I’ve seen deals with the shows refusal (or, as some have said, inability) to answer all of the mysteries. I saw it described very eloquently as a failure to pay the bill of dipping into the future, but I still disagree 100%. And here’s why.

The show was never about the mysteries.

Yes, they figured prominently, yes they drove the characters, and yeah, they didn’t always make sense (I still don’t understand how Sayid came back to life after two hours, or what that means about Claire). But in the end—and from the beginning—the show was about a dynamic cast of characters: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Sun, Jin, Ben, Richard (and Juliet, of course). That’s why the writers incorporated the flashbacks in season one. That’s why shows were usually centered around one or two characters, even while the story might touch elsewhere. And so if that’s what the writers most heavily invested in, that’s what the payoff had to be—not answers.

Because the show was based in reality—or rather, it was based in something I’ll call character reality. The characters were dropped onto the island like us, with our range of views and beliefs, our fears and ambitions, our problems and our pain. There were broken families, bitter disappointments, successes tinged with the unexpected. They were lives interrupted, and except for the more extreme circumstances they had been put in, they could have been us. When the mysteries started, they reacted in a variety of ways, as would be expected from what we know of the world. Some characters were easy to relate to while others took more work. For me, I felt most akin to Shannon and Charlie in the first season.

And for me, this reality can logically mean only one thing. There will never be a minute when all, or even most, of what people want to know, becomes clear to them. This is clear in our own lives, without the added benefit of mysteries. I will never know why my first boyfriend was so nasty to me at the end, or how I passed my intro biology class in college. I will also never understand the physics behind what caused the survivors to jump through time in season five, but it is enough that I accept that the island was jumping through time. Yes, there might be a bigger explanation there (and I’d be willing to bet that the writers know and understand at least a significant part of this), but it had no place in the television show. First off, someone please explain to me how that would have ever fit in with the show.

There were many mystery/answer combinations like this in the show that many fans simply couldn’t accept or weren’t satisfied with. My guess is because they didn’t understand or believe the explanation, but if my ex were to come back now and tell me in a few sentences why he treated me that way, I bet I’d react in a similar manner of disbelief or unacceptance. But what matters here is that those things didn’t matter. Rose says this herself when Desmond meets her in season six, commenting on how they’ve moved through time, and it is clear that while she doesn’t understand it, she accepts it. And if LOST is trying to teach us anything (though I would never call the show didactic), it is this.

What the show promised, the show delivered upon. The show had a very definite and satisfying arc, and to me, it was indeed a masterpiece that I will watch again and again over the coming years.

And also, just to clear this up, the finale in no way meant that they all died in the plane crash. The writers are not laughing at you.

Lost: Why I love the characters lots of people hate

If you read my post yesterday, I listed some of my favorite characters from the show, and while I think my Hugo and Ben choices are pretty well received, I think my Shannon and Juliet choices are much less so. I’ve seen these Facebook games where someone posts a list of all the characters in the show, puts the number 10 next to each character, and then turns the post loose. The game is that each new poster copies and pastes the list into his or her post, subtracts one from his or her least favorite character and adds one to his or her favorite character. Once a character hits zero, they’re removed. Though this list seemed a bit strange in that it had Ben being eliminated pretty early, something you don’t usually see in these.

As before, spoilers below.

The general reception to Shannon was especially harsh and overwhelmingly negative. And yeah, she was a bitch through most of her time on-screen, but I always saw depth of character underneath that, and I thought it was interesting that the writers took such a well-known archetype and, in the end, turned it around, complicated it. There were hints of her vulnerability, sympathy, and complexity from the first few episodes: Boone’s comment that she’s a “functioning bulimic”; her conversation with Claire while Shannon is suntanning; her resistance to translating because she might mess it up.

Juliet’s character, on the other hand, was received rather positively by critics, but very negatively by a lot of fans. They criticized Mitchell’s acting because Juliet often came across as flat (for lack of a better word; what I’m trying to get at is that she didn’t react as emotionally as many of the other characters we’d come to know and love), but this is a character trait of Juliet, not a failing of Mitchell. Juliet’s story was always incredibly captivating for me, and so complex, and while she did things that I wouldn’t expect over and over again, afterward, I felt that her reactions were really the only possible ones for her character. She sacrifices much throughout the show, and when she turns on Sawyer in the season five finale, I found it heart wrenching and utterly believable that she would fall back and try to protect herself. And throughout all of season six, her death has been hanging over Sawyer’s character, driving his choices and decisions in much the way I wished the writers had done with Claire after Charlie’s death. If Juliet does not come back during the series finale (she’s not listed as a guest start for “What They Died For,” I will be a very, very sad little Lost fan.

Finally, if anyone is interested in playing along with my favorite character and who-would-win-in-a-fight bracket games, let me know and I’ll post the links here once I make the PDFs.

Lost: The end

Lost, Seaon 6

Best show ever! Except where's Juliet?!

In honor of the looming end of the best television show of all time, I’m going to dedicate some of my blog space to LOST this week and next. And first, for my own personal reminiscence, I want to talk about how I came to this show and why I love it so much.

The previews for the first season didn’t do all that much for me. I only caught a few minutes of the show once, during a boar hunt (maybe the one where Locke, Michael, and Kate go after the boar), and I was bored. Then, the week before the season one finale, a friend of mine had me watch the penultimate episode with him and became hooked. I watched the season finale totally confused and then borrowed all of season one from him. I remember I watched the final twelve episodes in one day because I couldn’t stop.

Since then, I’ve been addicted. I’ve planned my evenings around the show, going so far as to not sign up for classes that met during it (though then ABC changed the day on me and I was screwed anyway). I buy every season the day it comes out and frequently rewatch episodes. About once a year I go through the entire season, starting with episode one. I’ve introduced the show to a handful of friends and also gotten them hooked. Once a year I print up an NCAA March Madness style bracket and then pass it out to people so that we can pick our favorite characters. This year I’m thinking of doing a second one that asks the question, “Who would win in a fight between…?” which is going to take an entire new seed-selection process. I’ve been mourning the end of the show since it was announced a few years back.

And here we are, two episodes and 3.5 hours away from the end. I’m excited and I’m sad, and I love every minute of it.

Spoilers below.

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