Preparing For the End- Tonight’s LOST Finale

23 May

In the above video, which I first saw on EW.com, the cat portraying Jack Shephard states: “I left my position as a prominent spinal surgeon to protect a light from a cloud. Seriously.” More than any other television show out there, LOST defies explanation. As I showed in my recap for “What They Died For,” even attempting to explain the plot of LOST to the uninitiated will result in them laughing in your face. Even Twin Peaks is easier to pitch: a really popular girl named Sarah Palmer is found dead, an FBI agent hunts for her killer and ultimately realizes it’s the work of shadowy, other-worldly spirits. Weird, but not that weird. Which is funny, because if you actually watch Twin Peaks you’d notice how it’s 100 times weirder than LOST. LOST’s story is just so rich and complex that to try and summarize it would be an injustice. Sure, you could say something simple like, “it’s about 48 people who crash land on a mysterious island,” but that would sort of be a white lie- someone who’s not into sci-fi or fantasy could watch it on that pitch assuming it’s just a dramatic version of Survivor (which, funnily enough, is exactly what I thought it was going to be when I first read about it), and by the time they reach “Orientation” and are watching Locke watch Marvin Candle, who’s real name is Pierre Chang, explain what the DHARMA Initiative is, they’d probably throw their Netflix DVDs out the window.

My point is, that on the surface, LOST appears totally ridiculous… which it often is, but I think people who don’t watch the show take the more outlandish aspects as proof of the show’s idiocy. Because the show is about “a spinal surgeon protecting the Source of everything, which appears as a magical light on a magical Island, from evil incarnate, who used to be a man but turned into a giant cloud of black smoke when his immortal brother shoved him into the magical light,” they assume it must be retarded. Obviously, LOST is a required taste. It’s certainly not for everyone, but frankly, I’m tired of the belief that fantasy or science fiction are incapable of being intellectual. Even after Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and films like Blade Runner or The Matrix, science fiction is still trying to prove to the intelligentsia that it is legitimate. In my opinion, LOST is television’s example of how sci-fi can be more than just special effects and monsters. Sure, I love Battlestar Galactica as much as the next guy, and it’s certainly intellectual as well, but it simply does not have as much going on. LOST is equal parts science fiction and philosophy, which is perhaps why it has become so popular.

Over the weekend I spoke with a kid who, like me, had been watching the show since the beginning, but unlike me, hated “Across the Sea.” He also said the third season was “great” and the second “crap”- I suppose he forgot about “Stranger in a Strange Land” and Nikki/Paulo. I suggested that “Across the Sea” had evenly split LOST fans, but he seemed convinced it was more like 80% hatred and 20% minor appreciation. I wonder what the actual statistics are- I know my friend Rob, who’s also been watching the show since season 1 hated it, but my friend Alex Taylor loved it as much as I did.

The Man in Black takes a ride on the LOTR Log Flume Ride, while Jacob, too afraid to ride himself, watches

I’m still saddened by the “Across the Sea” backlash. There’s no doubt in my mind it was a flawed episode- if it was perfect everyone would have liked it. It’s not so much the complaints about poor dialogue or acting or a script that seems unnaturally sloppy that bug me, it’s the complaints about the mythological reveals. I know on premise alone the Source is dangerously cheesy, but it’s not a concept unique to LOST. This is an idea that has been portrayed in multiple artistic mediums over the course of human history, and perhaps some of you dislike it because of that very distinction: the Source is not original. This is true, but I think the reuse of certain concepts can be considered cliché, while other ideas are just so compelling that they stay original no matter what iteration they go through. I think the Source is just such a concept, and I think LOST’s writers actually took a pretty unique spin on the idea. I mean, we’ve all seen depictions of infinity, divine understanding, immortality, the afterlife- all the things the Source seems to represent- but never on a magical Island that’s been populated by Romans and is covered in Egyptian statues.

In the context of “What They Died For,” many of “Across the Sea’s” revelations seem more relevant and well, good. Yes, I too was turned off by Jacob as a man-child, but it all paid off when we heard him explain himself to the Candidates. He admitted to creating the Smoke Monster, to the whole conflict being his fault. He made a terrible mistake, and now he wants to fix it. Sure, he’s sacrificed many lives- but it’s all for a good cause. That, to me, is what makes a great, and more importantly, complex character.

I imagine “The End” will be similar- things that may have bothered or frustrated us in the past will now be illuminated, and in the context of the whole, over-arching story, will make more sense. Or it could not. This is LOST, so anything is game, and I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility that at 11:30 P.M. tonight I will be super, super disappointed. But… it’s unlikely. This show is a part of my life, and thus it feels like a part of me. Turning on it is like turning on myself. Yeah, I know- statements like these make me seem kinda creepy. But I just don’t think any of you understand just how important this show is to me. So let me elaborate.

Jack, moments before he became a douche for three seasons

LOST premiered in 2004. At that time I was fresh out of television obsessions. I had watched three seasons of 24 and was starting to get tired of it. After the fourth I quit. I had no clue what was going on on Alias anymore. Farscape went out with a bang one month after the premiere of LOST. I was as yet uninterested in BSG. I had grown up loving TV shows that acted more like movies, that had complex characters and long, epic, overarching plotlines. I liked TV shows that weren’t just interested in getting the audience to tune in every week, but actually tell a story. With a lack of such a show in late 2004, I was convinced that such a form of broadcast storytelling was all but dead. Then, out of nowhere, came LOST. I read about it in Entertainment Weekly, which piqued my interest due to mention of the Monster, and after seeing a promo that showed Oceanic 815 breaking apart in mid-air, I decided I had to catch the pilot. I was blown away. The LOST premiere was the most expensive pilot ever made, and it certainly shows. That was, at the time, the most cinematic thing I’d ever seen on television. It wasn’t until the fourth episode, “Walkabout,” which revealed that Locke was once a paraplegic, that I was hooked. When I watched that final montage, of Locke yelling “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” at the walkabout official, then a flashback to him standing up after the crash, and finally him smiling as he watches the plane burn, his discarded wheelchair in the foreground- when I watched that I knew I had just seen something really special.

Before we actually knew who he was, Locke was just that creep with the orange in his teeth

The character of John Locke really stuck with me. He still remains my all time favorite LOST character, but during that first season he was in his prime. Back then, he was almost always in control, almost always sure he knew what he was doing. He truly was the man of faith, and perhaps, as a man of science, I was drawn to the character because I admired his ability to believe in something he couldn’t prove. But I think the reason I really empathized with him so much was because of his tragic backstory. John Locke is the spawn of a promiscuous high school student and sociopathic con man, who eventually conned him out of one of his kidneys, then shoved him out of a window, paralyzing him. He grew up as a nerd who wanted to play sports, and was either betrayed or abandoned in nearly every situation in his life. In 2004, I was a senior in high school, and seeing Locke become a man with a purpose after a life of suffering gave me hope that even dorks like me could one day accomplish something great. I was madly in love with a girl I would never get with and who a relationship with would never work, had a group of friends that were very abusive and mean, and in general, felt alone, isolated, and apathetic. And as silly as it may sound, LOST gave me hope.

The show has evolved significantly since then- many might say for the worse- and has become about much more than just hope. There’s the continuing “science vs. faith” theme, the daddy issues, the mass deaths- it’s a rich show that covers a lot of topics. And yet, even now, with nearly every character now dead, I still feel like the show is about hope. I’ve never been a spiritual person, but I do love LOST, which is undoubtedly a spiritual show. I like the way it approaches spirituality and religion though- it doesn’t accept it as a truth, but rather depicts it as something we all strive for. The truth is, even the most devout Christian must still question his faith from time to time, simply because God never gives any signs to anyone (because he doesn’t exist… but that’s a topic for another blog post). LOST is about the search for that truth, the proof that there is a higher power, that there is more to life than just eating, sleeping, fucking and shitting. I didn’t scoff at “Across the Sea” when the Source was revealed, even though I thought its golden glow was absolutely ridiculous- because as an idea it was something I could believe in. I want such a thing to exist, not because I want power or so I can turn into a Smoke Monster, but because it would prove that there’s more to the universe than what we can prove with numbers.

Needless to say, one way or another, I will be very sad starting at 11:30 P.M. tonight. Guess there’s only one thing to do- blog about it!!!

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