LOST: One Year Later, the Ending Still Sucks

25 May

For a while, LOST was a guilty pleasure. The girl I had a crush on in high school was equally obsessed with the show, but when I arrived at NYU most of my friends and roommates were of the “I don’t watch TV” variety, not because they’re the kind of dicks who think TV is a waste of time, but rather because it’s time-consuming and they had other shit to do. As was tradition for me back then, I would rewatch past seasons of LOST chronologically in preparation for the new season. As you might guess, this took a considerable amount of time, and my roommates would often walk into the living room and occasionally sit in for a scene or two just to see what all the fuss was about. Pretty much all they did was laugh at the show, which is fair as pretty much any scene or line of dialogue from LOST that’s taken out of context would seem ludicrous, and my friend Jordan pretty much just sat there commenting on how hot Kate was, which annoyed me, but in hindsight I think we can all agree that that’s all Kate, the weakest of the show’s main players, was good for.

Likewise, Jeff “Doc” Jensen‘s recaps on Entertainment Weekly’s website were an equally guilty pleasure. Alison always made fun of me for reading them, but I got a kick out of this uber-fan’s ridiculous theories, some of which were hilariously outlandish, such as one which posited that the Others were all infused with animal DNA, hence the Hydra Island experiments. I usually didn’t take Jensen seriously, though he did occasionally have particularly compelling insight into a show chock full of content.

Naturally, as Jensen was even more crazy a fan than I was, I assumed he would be as equally disappointed with the series’ conclusion as I was. His recaps and reactions to the finale were mixed and cryptic, and it seemed like we were both having similar reactions: LOST was still dear to us and there were things in the finale we liked, but overall there was something that unsettled us, that was leaving us unsatisfied.

I wasn’t planning on ever talking about LOST again, at least not on my blog (if you ask Alison she’ll tell you that one year later, I still can’t shut up about it). I wrote a two-part response to the finale last year which now seems far too forgiving, and planned on doing a third but ultimately didn’t because, hey, it’s still a TV show and there’s only so much I can say about it before I rip my own hair out. But then Jeff Jensen posted his anniversary response to the show earlier this week, and instead of crafting a thoughtful, critical and analytical response, he decided instead to do what he’d always done: gush about LOST like it’s Dickens while coming up with even more ridiculous theories.

I was insulted. I expected more from Jensen, who despite his tendency to wax overly poetic about a show that, in my opinion, is full of literary and philosophical references solely to manufacture a guise of intellectualism, is a genuinely good writer and had a deeper connection to LOST than probably even I did. Moreover, what’s the point of theorizing about mysteries that will never be answered, to try and explain the unexplainable portions of a show that’s been off the air for a whole year? But what really bothered me, was that a year hadn’t seemed to give Jensen any perspective. He was still gushing over LOST like it was Citizen Kane and not an incredibly flawed television program that dashed its chances of being a masterpiece in the eleventh hour. I didn’t expect him to do a full 360 and suddenly cry foul and denounce LOST, but I didn’t expect his seven-page anniversary post to amount to nothing more than “I love this show, this show is still the best, now here’s my dumb theory about what’s up with the Smoke Monster.” Frankly, Doc, I could care less about your inane blathering. I want to know how you feel about the show one year later, and if you are still madly in love with it, maybe you should address the considerably large segment of the fan base that isn’t. How does that make you feel? Do you think there’s any credence to their beliefs?

So, I decided I needed to respond, especially as an overwhelming majority of the comments on Jensen’s post were positive, and other critics and blogs also praised LOST’s finale, including IGN, who just two episodes before the end bashed “Across the Sea,” which while divisive, wasn’t as jaw-droppingly pretentious and disappointing as “The End” (in fact, I wrote a two-part piece defending “Across the Sea”). While I haven’t totally condemned the show like Alison and some of my other friends such as Jacob LaMendola, I do feel the writers lost sight of what LOST was really about, and also lost touch with their fan base and what said fans wanted out of the final season. I still hold LOST in high esteem, but the debacle that was season six has tarnished its reputation, and as I noted before, prevents the show from being heralded as the masterpiece it should have been. LOST could have revolutionized television; instead it fell prey to the same tropes and mistakes as nearly every serial that came before it.

The overt positivity I see in many fans is to me, a bizarre phenomenon. Nobody I know (with the exception of Sarith, and he likes everything) was satisfied with the end of LOST and many downright hated it. Were they, and I, watching the same show as all these gushers? Or were the gushers merely lying to themselves, pretending like the ending was good because accepting the truth that Darlton had let them down was too much to bear? I’m sure there are sappy religious types who were 100% satisfied with the ending, but I imagine there are many who are just burying their true feelings because they invested so much in the show.

I was in the same camp last year. Even though I voiced dissatisfaction with the ending, I still told myself I liked it. I could feel the sinking pit in my stomach but ignored it. Just the day before the finale I had written a long post about how much LOST meant to me, how it had changed my life, blah, blah, blah. I felt that if I criticized the show too much, I would be untrue to myself.

But a year has given me perspective, and over the course of those 365 days what started out as seething annoyance turned into downright disappointment. In my opinion, there’s no two ways around it: the writers fucked up. And they fucked up real hard. In fact, I think it’s time TV nomenclature had a change up. How about instead of “jump the shark” we change the term to “purgatory church.”

Cheesy, Christian Bullshit.

Last year I said my main problem with LOST’s finale and final season was the flash-sideways, and I stand by that. I’ve tried over and over to put myself in the heads of Darlton, to try and figure out what exactly they were thinking when they decided on that, and how two experienced television writers who I’m assuming went to film school and have read lots of scripts and books, could make such a basic screenwriting mistake. How could anyone think that a season-long red herring, a red herring that takes up half of your runtime and isn’t revealed till the very last moments of the show, was a good idea? How could any professional, sane writer come up with an idea so ridiculously stupid and cheesy? Did the writers decide to start doing drugs at the last minute, did they lose their minds, what happened?

Sure, there were a lot of flaws in the final season unrelated to the flash-sideways. “Across the Sea?” Yeah, I liked it, but it was definitely weird and the “I’m going to combine water with light” line kind of proved that the writers had absolutely no idea how to explain any of their mysteries. Oh yeah, and the whispers are ghosts? Not only does that not make sense, but that scene with ghost Michael, where he tells Hurley he’s a ghost and looks real sad about it almost seemed like a parody of LOST and not the actual show. What else? Well Zoe sucked, and the Temple arc was awkwardly structured. I liked Dogen but throwing in a samurai character was a random move. Ilana turned out to be a pointless character, so pointless that the writers couldn’t even come up with an original way to kill her off and just recycled one of their old death scenes.

But overall, I was satisfied with most of what went down on the Island. I liked all the mythology surrounding Jacob, the Man in Black, the Source and the Candidates and the finale was thrilling. But I can’t justify the good parts of the season when just as much time was spent in a bizarre netherworld that had no meaning or importance. Yes, you could argue that the flash-sideways created emotional resonance but in terms of story, they were meaningless. And some of the worst episodes of the season were heavy on the flash-sideways such as “What Kate Does” and “Dr. Linus,” whose on-Island story was literally just Ben digging a hole. Not only that, but the flash-sideways seemed thematically random: they had nothing to do with the rest of series or any of the themes presented in earlier seasons. Life and death have always been major motifs on LOST, but the “afterlife” was never central to the story. LOST was always about character, about a gaggle of broken people struggling to repair their lives and survive on a hellish jungle wasteland. Making it about life after death and people “finding” each other at the last minute was random and not true to the heart of the series.

Not only that, it shoved overtly religious imagery and thematic material down the throats of viewers after five seasons of spiritual ambiguity. LOST always approached spiritualism from a very neutral standpoint, taking ideas from various faiths and ideologies. And sure, the purgatory church had symbols from various religions on its stained glass windows, but it’s still an Anglo-American church and the final scene found a man named Christian Shephard opening massive gates that bathed our characters in golden light. If you’re telling me that’s not Christian propaganda you’re out of your fucking mind. And even if there isn’t any underlying Jesus-y message, the scene itself was still horrendous. What’s supposed to be a scene where the souls of long-dead people reunite before passing on comes off more like home video footage of LOST’s wrap party, with all the actors hugging and patting each other on the back. Just thinking about it makes me angry.

Seriously man, stop being such a dick.

What makes me more angry is how unabashedly arrogant Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have been about their finale. Now, I understand LOST is their baby and that despite whatever kind of psychosis caused them to end their show this way, they’re still proud of what they created. If I made a TV show, thought I was ending it in a cool way and other people didn’t I would still stand by it. But they seem blinded by their own hubris, their egos clouding their judgements and disallowing them from looking back on their work with some perspective. I don’t expect them to admit, “You know what, yeah, we fucked it all up.” But they shouldn’t just gloss over the large number of negative responses their finale generated. Their stance seems to be “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” which is true, but there’s an underlying message that seems to read: those of you who didn’t like it had too high expectations and are just wrong. If you read interviews with the two post-finale you’ll see what I’m talking about. For instance, I don’t have the exact quote on hand, but Damon Lindelof mentioned how hurt he feels when people tell him he “ruined LOST for them” or that he wasted six years of their lives, which is a natural response for a writer, but the subtext seems to read: those people are assholes. Granted, I wouldn’t be as rash as to say LOST wasted six years of my life, but I can see how someone would feel that way and Darlton needs to acknowledge that. I don’t think they completely fudged the story, but they did produce five years of incredible television (okay, season 3 was a little shaky) only to end it with a final season that was 50% kinda cool, and 50% crap. For people like me, who defended the show through thick and thin, it feels like a disservice. LOST was poised to become television’s greatest works of art, and instead settled for your regular, run of the mill, popcorn fare. It’s like my college roommates allegations are finally grounded: what I claimed to be art was really nothing more than same old, same old.

And then there’s Damon Lindelof’s attempt at creating a lame Twitter feud with George R.R. Martin. In a recent interview about the Game of Thrones series, Martin said he didn’t want his show/book series to end like LOST. A pretty reasonable thing to say. Not so, says Lindelof. He started bashing Martin on Twitter and then felt it was appropriate to do an extended interview about it and how it bothers him that Martin doesn’t like his show. Boo, fucking hoo, dude. Deflecting these insults and acting like your show is an untarnished gem is incredibly egotistical. You don’t need to trash your own work, but at least have the balls to admit that maybe you created an ending that appeals to a very specific group of people. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard for anyone to ever take you seriously again.

It’s also frustrating to me that the writers and defenders of the finale seem to believe that the only reason anyone is unsatisfied with LOST is because it didn’t provide all the answers to every mystery. Not so. I like when things are kept more ambiguous, and didn’t expect LOST to explain every little detail. But it is annoying when half of the final season is spent on something devoid of meaning, when that time could have been spent wrapping up some of the series’ greater mysteries, while also fleshing out the on-Island story. For example, the writers claim they “didn’t have time” to wrap up the outrigger shootout from season five. If all of season six was set on the Island and lots of crazy stuff was going on, I’d understand. But if the flash-sideways hadn’t existed, there would have been more than enough time. And I don’t see why they don’t see how unprofessional it is to create a new mystery in your penultimate season and then just ignore it in the final season. “We can’t explain every little mystery” the writers would say. Fine. Then why create them in the first place? Why imply Walt is psychic if you’re never going to pay it off? Things like that show just how sloppy LOST’s writing truly was. Another argument for the flash-sideways is that the writers needed to pay off the hydrogen bomb detonation from season five. Fine, but instead of making us think we’re watching an alternate reality for an entire season, how about actually telling a story about an alternate reality or connecting the flash-sideways to the Island story in a meaningful way, rather than, “Oh yeah, it’s just where dead people come to find each other.” Just… Jesus Christ, what were you guys thinking?

LOST’s legacy continues to endure, and I don’t mean that in a good way. TV networks are still trying to manufacture “the next LOST,” an impossible feat they shouldn’t even aspire to in the first place as LOST is so fundamentally flawed. Take NBC’s recently cancelled series The Event, which tried to combine the sci-fi mysteries of LOST with the action sequences of 24, ultimately creating a show that felt like LOST written by a bunch of sloppy drunks. Fringe, another show stamped with the J.J. Abrams seal of approval, has been getting better and better but it’s really wacky and could really go either way. Game of Thrones has a good chance of being awesome forever, but it’s so expensive to produce I wonder if every entry in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series will actually be adapted. The Walking Dead also has a lot of potential, but considering the comic has had nearly a hundred issues and shows no signs of stopping, it’s possible that show could drag on and on till it turns into The X-Files circa its last two seasons. So when, when will that show come, that show that’s perfect and ends perfectly and was pre-planned and feels like a natural, serialized story, like a novel with multiple chapters? Battlestar Galactica came close and there are lots of shows with satisfying endings, but it isn’t the norm. When will it be the norm? When will writers for network television treat their medium like an art form and not a business (looking at you, Chuck Lorre)?

I feel there is an impending network TV renaissance, one I want to be a part of. And while I’m still not sure I have the chops to be a TV writer, if I am ever given the chance, I’ll do my best to learn from LOST’s mistakes and not fuck it all up a the very last minute.

And who the hell thought it was a good idea to have Shannon and Sayid get back together in the afterlife? Seriously? Whoever came up with that idea should, as my father would say, “be shot.”

14 Responses to “LOST: One Year Later, the Ending Still Sucks”

  1. HitchSlap 25. May, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m not a scifi kind of person, so I was one of those rubes who actually got invested in the characters back in season one and thought this was a character-based story set in some weird circumstances that were ultimately not the point, etc.

    That’s why watching the show devolve into embarrassing straight-VHS-quality syfy channel bullshit was painful. It baffles me how the little fanboys and fangirls would NEVER in a million years stop blabbering about how you din’t geeeeet it and how it was aaaaall about the characters. Ask them to explain what was satisfying, coherent and touching about Claire’s story, or Sayid’s story or Sun and Jin’s story and they just stick their fingers in their ears and go lalalalalalalalalalalala. The one that hurt the most for me was Jack’s story because I identified with him and basically only watched for him as the story got shittier and shittier. Right now though… I um… kinda don’t remember most of it and I’m happy to let it rest in the rubbish bin of TV history.

  2. Cybertakiri 01. Jun, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Totally agree except that I’d be even more harsh. I found your blog by typing in “lost sucks”. I was that person who spent countless hours of (ahem, work)time reading/writing theories… my obsession peaking in year two and slowly dwindling. By the last season, I knew disappointment was inevitable, but I still am baffled at how bad the ending was. Seriously, plugging/unplugging a pool of water is the highpoint of the show??!! I think the fans could have written 1 million different endings for that season which would have been exorbitantly better!
    Lost made me vow to never get obsessed with anything in the pop culture ever again. I watch and enjoy Doctor Who but don’t look for/expect any great meaning in it. Nuff said.

  3. TheHil 10. Jun, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    As sad as we all are about the ending “LOST,” I wouldn’t give up hope yet. “Game of Thrones” is amazing and based on a book series, so will only have a bad ending if the final book does. And “The Walking Dead” is pretty great as well, and considering it’s about zombies probably won’t have a happy “let’s all go to heaven” ending like LOST, but a “everyone’s dead because of zombies” kind of ending. And even though it isn’t all that serious, “Fringe” has been pretty good and could have a cool conclusion as well.

  4. Faulty logic 05. May, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    What a bullshit article. I wish there was a way to in-bulk explain to all the closed minded simple people why they are mistaken in their “arguments” about how bad the finale was. The bulk of the people are complaining because they think they knew a better way to wrap things up, or to make things make more sense. This is subjective and a shitty argument. But your haphazardly presented arguments in particular are pretty shit too:

    So rebirth and life after death are not part of the theme of the show? LOL and you’re the authority on that? The island is a place of new beginnings for many of the characters, aka rebirth. Boom shat on your argument in one sentence

    Upset with what you construe to be Christian imagery? First of all, highly subjective. Secondly, coming from both my hristian and atheist friends, the ending was at best “vaguely spiritual” much like the rest of the show. You argument is hardly universally true. They gathered in an effing church, so what. They didn’t say Christian church, they didn’t talk about Jesus or focus exclusively on crosses etc. chill the fuck out

    Honestly, besides tht your post is pretty devoid of anything substantive and reads like a child’s angry diary entry

    My last broad response to anti-fans who bitch about “omggg they didn’t answer X detail!”: your ‘mystery’ is either stupid/unimportant or has been answered. I challenge you to submit your questions to the lost answers tumblr. Seriously, people are getting mad over not explaining why the smoke monster makes the noises it does. Wow, why not get mad that lost didn’t explain how polar bears roar, or explain why the weather on the island didn’t match with weather reports for the South Pacific during the same time range. Petty, stupid and pathetic

  5. Faulty logic 05. May, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Likewise I can’t believe you can hate on lost and support GOT in the same article . People don’t seem to get that Lost is just as much a fantasy show and is entitled to some degree of suspension of disbelief, just like GOT. Where is the outrage that it hasn’t been explained where the dragon eggs came from or what genes allow targeryens to be fire resistant or how people make wildfire or who built the wall or why white walkers can only be killed with fire or how do the danaerys communicate with the dragons if she doesn’t speak dragon OMG this show is the worrsstt at answering questions!!!! Why can’t George RR Martin himself send me an apology letter over how bad my little brain hurts :””(

  6. John Oslin 19. Sep, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Seriously. I had concerns because the writers had been telling a story that was all over the place, and that the finale would suck because they could never pull it together plotwise. And that is what happened. J.J. Abrams should have been banished to QVC.

  7. John Oslin 19. Sep, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    I am posting again, because I messed up my email address.

    Seriously. I had concerns because the writers had been telling a story that was all over the place, and that the finale would suck because they could never pull it together plotwise. And that is what happened. J.J. Abrams should have been banished to QVC.

  8. TheHil 07. Oct, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Guy, if you had even the remotest concept of what makes a good story you’d know instinctually that LOST is a pile of garbage.

  9. Mike Card 26. Mar, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    Alex you are right. I googled for “why did the ending of LOST suck so much” and found this page. I should have believed my friends who said they thought the writers were making it up as they went along and that there was no point and the mysteries would never be explained. They were right. The first couple seasons were great, then when they did the whole leave-the-island-and-come-back thing, what a waste of time. The whole point of that was just to add another season; it accomplished nothing. Then there was the ending: shudder!

    LOST was such a colossal disappointment in the end I swore off serials. I was very tepid about Fringe but I think JJ Abrams wouldn’t have dared to let another random plot creation project get out of control like LOST did, and I thought they did an acceptable job of wrapping up the series. Infinitely better than LOST.

    The best serial wrap-up I have seen was for DS9, I thought they did a terrific Jo because the end of the series was a climax of the Dominion / Bejor story lines. It wascwrappingnup with a bang, not a rushed checklist of “oh we better resolve these items in a 2-part finale.”

  10. The Black Rock 23. Jul, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    Thank you a million times over for succinctly identifying the myriad ways in which LOST was ruined in Season 6 and The End. A real shame- one I still cannot believe I think about and get pissed off by to this very day. Oy vey… when I think about how shabby the stories of basically every character BUT Jack (The least compelling character on that show, for me) turned out, I see red: The sad lumping together of the deaths of Sun, Sayid, and Jin; the absence of Michael and Walt in the church, as well as Ana Lucia (“Oh she’s not ready yet,” whatever the heck that means), Aaron, Alex, Rousseau, Alpert, Miles, Lapidus, Nadia, Helen etc.etc.etc; the inexplicable screeching halt of the Sawyer and Kate love story and its hasty flip to a sudden Juliet/Sawyer relationship; the non-confrontation between Jack and his dad, once tauted as a Luke-meets-Vader showdown by Matthew Fox himself; the shoddy treatment of Widmore and Eloise, and the absurd removal of Faraday and Locke from the meat of the story (turning Locke into Flocke is a weak cop-out for the Locke character), I could go on and on about these choices not serving the story or their characters or the world that was created in S1. These were not talented choices, they were rushed and hollow visions of the show I had come to love for so long. Damon and Carlton speak adamantly about it being all about the characters, but in the end, the only one who had any comprehensive treatment was Jack. All the others were just pawns to fulfill his destiny to save the world, which apparently still needed protection after he plugged the cork back in, as evidenced by Hurley and Ben becoming the Island Protectors, even though “it only ends once.” The End was just that, an end. And the sappy reunions were meant to detract from the lack of logic, creativity, and courage to follow through on what mythology had been set up from the start, which, considering that such aspects were made up as they went along, with a very loose structure of where the show was going, should not be any surprise to me. Random, random, random, is all I can think.

  11. Shahu 25. Nov, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to patting myself on the back over quitting LOST at the end of season 2. I felt like I was in a boat on a voyage with the dawning realization that there were a LOT of holes in it. I saw NO way it could get anywhere satisfying. Recognizing that and abandoning ship then helped me not waste the next four years of TV watching sessions. I haven’t tried to watch S3-6 since, but have read the synopsis and am happy I missed it all. Wow.

  12. Reardon Galt 16. Aug, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    My wife and I never saw one episode of Lost all during its realtime showing. We were busy doing other things, so it just wasn’t on our radar at the time.

    Starting a few months ago, LOST was constantly being shoved into my Netflix Queue. I ignored it for a month or so, and then one day I told my wife, hey this might be really good. I had heard from my daughter that the end was controversial, but that’s all I knew.

    So starting two months ago, we watched all six seasons from beginning to end. Usually 2-3 episodes at night, with some 6-7 episodes per night on weekends.

    As soon as they introduced multiple time jumps, I thought I knew what the problem was going to be. I figured some kind of paradox was going to annoy one group or another.

    After they blew up the hydrogen bomb, and Juliette whispered to Sawyer that “it worked”, I thought wow, now all they have to do is wrap up all the still open mysteries, like who Jacob and his brother were, and where they got their powers, and why the island had to be protected, and any other lingering mystery, and they had the perfect ending:

    We’re back in Oceanic 815 with all the passengers, they land in LA, everyone goes their own separate way (like in “12 Angry Men”) and boom. That’s it. It worked. Faraday had figured it out, he could change things and none of that stuff would ever had happened. That would have been very satisfying, like the way movies ended 30 years ago. No reminiscing, no gathering around to discuss things, just boom, it’s over.

    But no, they had to do the flash-sideways thing. But even so, I still thought that could be worked out. The original thread on the island could have ended, and this new thread with Sawyer and Miles cops could have been where the show ended. Even that could have been worked out if they were being advised by some good scientific minds.

    But instead we got a season of mush, and an absurd ending that was a massive copout.

    Yeah, it was a lot of fun, but if that was a novel I had just finished, I would have thrown it out the window.

  13. Jim 02. Sep, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    Yup – still sucks.

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