A Thrilling Grab Bag of Mixed Results- LOST Series Finale (Part 1)

24 May

Oh hey dude, nice seeing you again. Pretty cool that we're dead, right?

The Island is often described as its own character on LOST, and in my opinion, so too is Michael Giacchino’s score. There is simply no other score quite like it on television; it gives LOST the ultra-cinematic feel that sets it apart from nearly every other show. Without it, the series surely would have suffered, and many moments that were supposed to be emotional or thrilling would have fallen flat. That’s how I feel about the final moments of LOST. Now that the flash-sideways universe has been revealed as a weird mix of artificial reality and purgatory, I fucking hate it, and yet, as Giacchino’s music played while all the characters reunited and prepared to pass on, I couldn’t help but cry. And that’s why, despite what is in my opinion, a super, super, SUPER lame resolution to the flash-sideways plotline, the ending still touched me, still resonated on an emotional level. But on an intellectual level? If you call turning your entire saga into a cheap Christian allegory intellectual, well then, maybe.

LOST basically decided to refute the exact praise I had given to it yesterday- that it doesn’t depict any specific brand of religion, or religion at all for that matter, but rather, an all-encompassing view of spirituality. Well, for whatever reason, the writers decided to throw that out the window with their final scene. After fine-tuning our Island Jack into a Christ figure complete with Spear of Longinus side wound, they decided to go even more Christian by having the characters reunite in a church, then have a man named Christian Shephard- Christian fucking Shephard!! -open big-ass gates that lead into the pearly white light of heaven. Blech.

This ending bothered me on two different levels. I felt the final moments we got with our Island characters were nice (especially Jack), but too brief. Hurley accepts his position as Island Protector and elects Ben to be his Richard. AWESOME. But why not let me see more of that? Why do I have to go to a metaphysical church to see a bunch of people become embraced in the light of Jesus? Frank, Richard, Miles, Kate, Sawyer and Claire escape on the Ajira plane. I couldn’t be happier- suspecting the flash-sideways was the afterlife, I was worried the Island was just going to sink and they’d all be dead. I was very happy to see a handful of characters survive the events of the series, and it was especially touching to have Jack see the plane fly off and know in his final moments that he saved his friends once and for all. But what happened after that? What happens when Ajira Flight 316, which vanished off the face of the Earth two weeks prior, shows up to make an emergency landing at some airport? What happens when the authorities discover all of the passengers missing, save for one and the pilot, as well as two purportedly deceased survivors of Oceanic 815 and a guy that has no legal records of any kind because he’s 170 years old. THEN WHAT?!!! That’s what I wanted to see, just a little more resolution with the characters from our original timeline, not some Sunday School special!!

On the other level, I’m bothered because it was just too Christian, and yet also too ambiguous. The imagery was very Christian, but the nature of the reality our dead buddies were populating didn’t really make any sense. Christian Shephard implied that it was both its own reality, and a place the Losties made so they could “find each other.” Is he referring to the detonation of Jughead? Did that somehow create this purgatory? And if this is indeed a manufactured reality, then do people like David Shephard not even exist? Is David just the thought-child of Jack and Juliet? And what about Aaron? Why did he get born again? If they’re all dead, then Aaron is also probably dead, which means he’s probably older than 1 fucking second. Which means that the Aaron we saw got born was not a real thing, just a manifestation of Claire’s consciousness. And why the hell is the Island at the bottom of the ocean? That never happened it seems, and now that I know it’s purgatory the sunken Island doesn’t seem to have much relevance.

I interpret the flash-sideways as equal parts manufactured reality and purgatory. Yes, all the characters are dead, but the reality they are populating is real in the same sense that the Matrix is real. The truth is, we could spend months trying to pick apart this Christian-y ending and the true nature of the purgatory universe, but who cares? As far as I’m concerned the flash-sideways are dead to me. I wish they had never happened. They were intriguing in the first three episodes, and occasionally engaging afterwards (as in “Happily Ever After”), but since they ultimately turned out to be a post-Island purgatory, I have no interest in them, and will from now on, pretend like they don’t exist. I might even edit together a version of the sixth season that does not include them, because frankly, I think this season would have been SO much better without them. In the end, I believe the decision to have the flash-sideways didn’t come from a desire to make LOST about the afterlife, but because the writers were afraid of abandoning their “flash” mechanic. God forbid if they had to do a season with no flashes that took place entirely on the Island. Imagine how awful that would have been.

I’m being sarcastic, it would have been awesome. That’s what I thought they were going to do at the end of season 5, and that’s what I think they should have done. Without wasting time in the flash-sideways, the writers’ would have had time to flesh out what was a cool, but structurally flawed sixth season, as well as answer some of the fan favorite mysteries that ultimately ended up going unanswered. Instead we got some proto-Christian bullshit that added nothing to the Island story, and in my opinion, ultimately detracted from it. LOST was always an intimate character study with an epic backdrop, but the final scene seemed to go against that and instead turn what was a show about people into a show about death and the afterlife. Sure, I loved seeing the reunions- particularly Claire/Charlie & Sawyer/Juliet, and despite my criticisms of the church scene it was undoubtedly beautiful and artfully composed. But Sayid and Shannon? Really? Not only was that stupid, but it seemed to go against this loose flash-sideways mythology where only meeting your soul mate could unlock your Island memories. Well I’m sorry- Shannon sure as shit isn’t Sayid’s soul mate, Nadia is, and why the hell is she married to his brother? Are they real? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S REAL ANYMORE!!!!!

Are you fucking kidding me?

Which is why the flash-sideways sucked. Alison and I both agreed that we were totally into the episode until the very last moments. Even then, I was totally into the scene of Jack dying with Vincent by his side, and loved the final shot of his closing eye. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. But when Christian Shephard opened those gates and the light flooded the church I couldn’t help but groan through my tears. That being said, the resolution of the Island story was phenomenal, and was more or less everything that I could have hoped for. Specifics of what I liked will come in part 2 of this post.

It’s taken me all day to write this and I’m still not sure how I feel about the show. I loved the Island stuff- that much I know- but my feelings on the ending and the purgatory/afterlife reveal are still mixed. For instance, while I loved Jack’s death scene, I wondered if it would have had the same impact had it not been intercut with Jack “letting go” and passing on. At first I thought I should rewatch the episode immediately to reassess my opinion on it, but I’ve decided to instead immediately start rewatching the entire series. Maybe if I watch it from beginning to end consecutively I’ll like the ending better in the context of the whole story. Maybe not. Tune back in September to find out, when I post a retrospective of the entire series. And check back tomorrow or someday soon thereafter for part 2 (and maybe even part 3) of this post.

Proceed to Part 2

2 Responses to “A Thrilling Grab Bag of Mixed Results- LOST Series Finale (Part 1)”

  1. robtom 26. May, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    Loved the commentary man. It is nice to see an another fan with an actual brain.


  1. A Thrilling Grab Bag of Mixed Results- LOST Series Finale (Part 2)  | Alex Hilhorst - 04. Jun, 2010

    [...] Last week I went off on the resolution of the final season's flash-sideways plotline, which may have given the impression that LOST, in its eleventh hour, had finally jumped the shark for me. It didn't- I still love it, and loved nearly everything else in the sixth season that didn't involve confused wraiths wandering around a creepy bizarro world searching for each other so they could go to heaven and hug Jesus. Ruminating on the show's final moments has incited a lot of internal debate for me, a debate I think I will save for Part 3 of this post. I'm still not satisfied with the flash-sideways story and there's nothing anyone can do or say that will make me love it. But because of the beautiful way it was used in the final scene, the intercutting, the return of original Locke, etc.- makes it hard to hate outright. For now, I'd like to prove my love for "The End" by going through the things I think it did right. Even though LOST is gone forever doesn't mean I can't blog about it, so expect a few more posts before I move on to obsessing over something else. There'll be Part 3 of my finale recap, which will be a reassessment of the flash-sideways plot, then an entire series retrospective after I finish re-watching it, and an accompanying Top 10 LOST Episodes. [...]

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