Posted by: dougery | May 24, 2010

*Whirring Lost Intro Sound*

I’m just guessing here but there might be a few armchair culture critics blogging today about the end of a little program called Lost. Just a hunch. Each, like some noble island protector, will defend this fine series or sell it down the river and each has a different means to that end. All will meet a stabby demise in the comment section.

Spoilers, duh.

I met Lost well after the series began. I remember seeing the intriguing commercials for the premier during my single year of graduate school. But I was much too busy drinking. And watching re-runs of Mr Show and FLCL. To be honest, I do not remember why Lara and I bumped Lost to the head of our Netflix cue a few years later when we moved in together. But both of us were blown away. In my mind the pilot episode may as well be taught in tv school. Watching it again, almost 5 years later, it is even stronger. And it even remembered to be funny. Something Lost slowly sloughs away as it matured, and not to it’s betterment.

Watching Lost on Netflix was ideal. Lara and I would open up the envelope and burn through a disc in a single night. There were no lousy commercial interruptions, no waiting between cliff-hangers. And when a stinker of an episode stank up our DVD player (“Stranger in a Strange Land” I’m looking at you, *gorge rises*) we could simply blow on by it. Because Lost is inconsistent if it is anything. With an ensemble that big, you are bound to find some folks dull, some flashbacks hackneyed, some motivations contrived. But it never lacked the balls to go for the home-run swing, and man when it connected, well, the ball might still be sailing out of the park even now.

Season one was mostly brilliant and elegantly organized. Paced well, from crash to hatch. So much happens in S1, and as I’ve said before, there’s levity and laugh out loud moments. Yet even here we have curious, somewhat suspect ‘on-the-fly’ decision-making. Jack, originally slated to die in the pilot, becomes the shows reluctant protagonist. Other characters (Sun) are written into existence because they did so well trying out for other characters who would not be half as interesting (Kate).

The cast is mostly made up of nobodies. Josh Holloway? The dude from a Party of Five? Oh, but there’s one of the hobbits. All will be well. And somehow it was. Because yeah, as the producers drilled into our heads the past year, the shows success did hinge on the characters and the emotions that drove them. We remember Sawyer’s nicknames, Charlie’s embattled romance with heroin/Claire, Jack’s infuriating fix-everything-ness, Sayid’s tortured past (sorry) and later, Eko’s Jesus-stick, Ana-Lucia’s swagger, and Ben’s dead-eyed stare. And much more.

Yet what the producers may have forgotten along the way, was that all of these wonderful character interactions were heightened, supported, fostered and undermined by the goddam island. Somewhere during S3 the island stopped being the most interesting character. Mythology became weird for weird’s sake, and many folks began to doubt whether or not the show would ever come through on it’s ridiculously high ceiling. To them, after last night’s finale, well, my heart goes out to you.

But you had to have seen it coming. The finale really was the entire sixth season, a season as self-contained as any, as S1 or the timetravely goodness of S5. It was a season long coda, where we got a few answers to a handful of mysteries (at times, it felt to me, arbitrarily selected) but mostly spent too long marching these poor bastards around the island one last time until the ultimate showdown. The final season had Lost’s ugliest warts on display and took a long time to deliver (and almost pander to an audience that it should have respected a bit more by that point) individual character resolutions. But damn if I wasn’t moved by some of those ‘awakenings’ last night. Damn you Hurley’s smile as Charlie opened the motel door, damn you vending machine scene, damn you ultrasound machine.

From the unsolicited question factory: my favorite character of the show was Ben. Where we leave him epitomizes my feelings of the entire series. Ben does not move on, is not ready for warm glowy resolution of the hereafter like the others inside the church. And it is wonderfully ambiguous as to why. Is he still repenting a life full of some pretty despicable acts? Or is he simply content to live the sideways-construct reality a little longer, content to spend some time with Rousseau and Alex and goddamn it, lead a normal, non-smoke-monster filled life? A single, bemused facial expression is all we get, and with an actor as talented as Emerson, well, that’s more than enough. Because in that expression I can still see Henry Gale from Minnesota, still see the man who would massacre an entire village, still see a man who would sacrifice his own daughter to protect what he loves, even if, especially if, the reasons for that love were sold to him with lies.

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Responses

  1. Very well said, my friend. Season 6 sunk like a stone writing-wise, but the emotional payoffs were great. I loved that the writers played around with so many different genres (adventure, scifi, Korean drama, telenovela, historical fiction), I just wish they’d avoided fantasy as they were not very good at it.

    I loved Ben, too. Michael Emerson is a great actor and sold Ben’s journey really well. Moments that would have been indescribably cheesy in other hands were brilliant and heartbreaking or deeply creepy in his.

    See, I saw the end as Ben being the new Island protector. Immortal, outside of time and death… but I like your interpretation, too.

  2. Great review, man. I think you really caught the conflict between the characters and the island. If you buy into the characters, you don’t care as much about the island–and maybe you thought the finale was pretty good. If you buy into the mystery and mythology, you were probably disappointed by the finale. I wish the finale had been successful on both the emotional and the plot/mythology levels, but in my opinion, the emotional payoff was great and the rest was confusing.

    And I love Ben, too. 🙂


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