Part 1: Introduction
I am arguably LOST’s biggest fan. Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired I have become addicted to the format of serialized scripted television shows. And to me, LOST would have to fit into the category of the purist form of this kind of storytelling. I have seen every episode of LOST at least five times and I can’t think of a single self-contained episode. Every episode was a small piece of the larger puzzle. And every episode ended with a cliffhanger. So with the final season looming on the horizon I found myself popping in every blu ray disc from the first five seasons in order to refresh my memory. Then when the brilliant first episode of this season (LA X) premiered I found myself getting wrapped up visiting spoiler sites and messages boards theorizing about what the hell I think may be going on and debating cynics and haters on the validity of what we all just saw. But when the final episode aired on Sunday I not only literally slapped myself upside the head in the final ten minutes but I found myself wishing that there was some pond nearby where I could ritualistically turn my non-alcoholic beer into pure everclear. So I retreated from the message boards and tried to rejoin the rest of humanity. But the taste it left in my mouth was so putrid that I figured the only way to find any peace would be to chime in with my opinion. However late or unwelcome that opinion might be.
Part 2: The battle lines have been drawn.
So for the past week I have noticed that the LOST debate camps have been extremely polarized in their opinions about the final episode. I don’t blame them. Some of those opinions include but are not limited to:
-I got it and I thought it was very moving and spiritual. They did the characters justice.
-I hated it. They didn’t answer most of the questions that they raised over the course of six seasons.
-I loved the first two hours but it kind of unraveled at the end. Overall, I am very satisfied with the series as a whole.
-I’m confused. So were they all dead in the alternate universe and on the island? Or just in the alternate universe. Was it an alternate universe? What was that? Heaven? Purgatory? The Matrix?
Part 3: You are all kind of right and wrong at the same time.
Although that last question is pretty stupid. Yes they were all dead in the flash sideways and yes the island was real. But did anything that happened to them on the island really matter? Uhh, apparently not.
So there are some major elements to the finale that not only invalidates the entire season but also cheapens the ultimate mission statement of the series.
-The on island battle makes no sense in the final episode. What they are fighting for, what needs to be protected and why the man in black cannot leave is never made clear.
All season long we were taken on a philosophical journey exploring the nature of good vs. evil and the widespread implications of one triumphing over the other. It had been explained to us that the island was a hub or scale in which these two forces resided and how their influence affected the world at large. There was also a great deal of emphasis put on the fact that the most important function of the island was to contain evil implying that universal concepts like good and evil were two constants that could be kept in check but never destroyed. However, the scales could always tip in favor of one over the other which would adversely affect the nature of the universe. Jacob and MIB were the embodiment of these two constants. And everything that happened on the island was all part of an elaborate bet, or game as it were.
But I am still unclear about some of the rules of this game. So Smokey tried to kill everyone on the sub by getting them to kill one another. As he stood on the dock he seemed to just know that his plan wasn’t entirely successful which would imply that if he had been entirely successful he would just instinctually know that he could now leave. Ok. So later on he corners Widmore and he finds out that Desmond is “a measure of last resort”. Ok. He then meets up with Jack and company and instead of killing everyone else who is no longer a candidate like he should have just for the hell of it, he instead decides to have a conversation where he learns that Jack not only does not want to stop him but plans to kill him. And that how he is going to do that is a surprise. Boy that sounds awfully suspect.
Shouldn’t Smokey have figured out by this point that using Desmond to do exactly what Jacob intended him to be might be detrimental to his goal of leaving and perhaps even his life with what Jack told him? Was destroying the island a necessary rule for Smokey to leave or was he just doing it because that would be icing on the cake? I am going to have to go with the latter since not too long ago he tried to have Sayid off Desmond. I guess being two thousand years old doesn’t make you any less of an idiot.
Anyhow, so Desmond takes a ride down the golden shower and in a truly inspired shout out to IT specialists everywhere he unplugs the island power chord. Much to Smokey’s surprise and dismay he is rendered mortal. This leads to his second moment of baffling idiocy. He pulls an Allison Janney and bashes Jack in the head with a rock. But instead of finishing him off he books his ass out of there leaving Jack even more pissed off than when they entered the cave together. So they both end up on the cliffs in the middle of a sudden and short-lived hurricane and duke it out to the death. Flocke delivers Jack a mortal blow but Kate saves the day so that Jack can Shepard Flocke right off of the cliff to his death. Haha, see what I did there?
But now I am confused. Why does Jack need to stay behind and reboot the island? Why doesn’t he just leave and allow it to be swallowed in the sea? Because the end of the island is the end of everything everywhere stupid. If that were true then why does Jack tell everyone that if he fails they need to be on that plane and far away from the island? If he fails doesn’t that mean that the entire world is completely screwed? And what about the monster? Doesn’t he need a replacement?
I mean, the idea that the monster, this elemental force could be made mortal and killed is not only a bizarrely nonsensical last minute addition to resolving the story, it’s also incredibly reductive to the theme of the final season as well as Jacob's entire agenda. First of all, just logistically, how could the monster become human again defies even the shows own internal logic. As seen in the anti-penultimate episode, his human body wasn't transformed into this entity, his soul was. His human body was dead and gone. Well some people have said, when the light went out it negated the magic that was making him the powerful demigod that he had become. Except that him becoming a mortal human version of the fake image of John Locke can only be explained by...well, magic. Otherwise I would think that he would revert to his natural state and just up and vanish like a fart in the wind.
But maybe I should just shut up about this complaint and suspend my disbelief right? Yeah I guess you would be right, if the smoke monster, just like Jacob, needed to be replaced as well. With the limited back-story that the writers provided us with we learned that these two characters started off as flawed human beings. They both had their strengths and weaknesses. They were both sympathetic and morally ambiguous. But ultimately they represented the most important choice a person can make when coming to a crossroads in their life. Taking the high road or the low road.
So what about Jacob's statement to the candidates: "You have to protect it from him.”
Why did he bring the castaways there? He seemed to imply that the primary reason was to contain the evil and protect the source. And he chose them because they were the most flawed, pathetic empty people he could find. And in bringing them there to do his handy work their lives would finally have meaning again. He never said it was about them being best friends forever. So if the battle between good and evil could be reduced to a simple fistfight, why not just draft some random devoted believer to do it and take care of the mistake he created? After killing his brother again, he could then plug the cork back in himself since the EM light doesn't seem to adversely affect whoever happens to be the current protector of the island. Or once again just make someone else do it. It seems like an incredibly selfish and elaborate two thousand yearlong setup for what was ultimately a very simple solution. If the “him” can be completely removed from the equation then what does that say about the constant imagery with regards to balance. Black and white, the scales? Anyone? Why does Jacob need to be replaced and the smoke monster does not? Especially if the island needs to be protected from the smoke monster. The idea that you can wipe out darkness completely boasts the conceit that one argument is completely right over the other. Which is an argument that I never thought the writers were arrogant enough to implicitly answer.
Which goes to what Ben said about how Jacob ran things. Great, so we are meant to believe that everything we learned from Jacob was essentially just his opinion? Shouldn’t there be some semblance of universal truth to Jacob’s ideology? I do think its pretty funny that a loveable idiot and a cunning sociopath ended up being the caretakers of the island. But wait a second…what are they protecting it from? Aren’t they, along with Desmond and some of Flocke’s runaway followers like the only ones left on the island? And isn’t finding the heart of the island only accessible to the primary caretaker? Good god, I may have an aneurysm as a result of this review. See what I mean when I say this doesn’t make any sense? It is so much more convoluted then it needed to be. And I think the reason for this is that the writers figured that glossing over the island mythology plot points would be ok as long as the characters were served well in the end.
Which brings us to the flash sideways. Why did we need to see what happened to them after they died? The simple answer is we didn't. So what was the reason for this? Well I'm afraid the answer is also extremely reductive. One, to provide the shock factor. Two, to have a reason to unite all of the original cast aways (although Penny and Desmond were not originals so I don’t understand why they were in the church) and three, apparently to learn that the only thing that matters was the time you spent with your best friends on a crazy ass island. This explanation is quite frankly a copout. As a blogger before me stated, this statement only makes sense when applied to the mundane. You don't need to be reminded that the most important days of your lives are the days where the most extraordinary things in history of mankind occurred. I didn't need this statement expanded on when it was handled better and much more succinctly by Bernard in season five where he said, "So we die. We just care about being together. That’s all that matters in the end right." If this is the mission statement of the show then they may as well have ended the series with the episode “Tricia Tanaka is Dead”, you know, the one where Hurley gets everyone together to fix the dharma van because it would make for a good morale boosting team exercise. This was arguably the most feel good episode of the series with a sweeping orchestral version of the song “Shambala” by Three Dog Night as interpreted by Michael Giacchino. This episode was funny, compelling and reinforced the theme of togetherness without hitting us over the head with a glimpse into what happens after you die.
I guess what I am trying to say is that being with the ones you love and togetherness is a redundant statement to make when its been covered several times over throughout the course of the series. And anything that may have seemed interesting in the flash sideways was rendered moot by what it ultimately turned out to be. Why did we have an omniscient POV where we see the island on the bottom of the ocean? Oh, well that was just a metaphorical exploration of Jacks subconscious. But why did Penny and Desmond have to go through this masochistic purgatory construct? Weren’t they the most far removed characters from the rest of the group? Especially Penny. She hardly knew anyone in that church. It just seemed to me that all of the red herring’s introduced in the flash sideways were intended for a different explanation altogether. In the previous seasons the flashes provided us with a glimpse into the castaways character growth off island. But in the FS anything that may have seemed like character growth was just a setup for a big twist and retread of what already happened on the island. Finding each other. Great, thanks for the heavy-handed lesson in team building.
Part 4: In the end did the writers at least serve the characters well even if it came at the expense of the plot?
This is a more complicated question to tackle. But the simple answer is no. It by no means ruined the entire show for me. But consider how much damage the flash sideways ultimately did. Why do I care if anyone survives the island battle knowing where it is they ultimately end up? And even without the flash sideways, why do I care if Miles, Lapidus and Richard make it off the island? Miles and Lapidus were one-note disposable characters. And Richard’s arc was over. I could care less what they did with him. And what about Claire? What was the point of her on island character all season except to be the crazy chick who was getting ditched by her friends multiple times? And what about the island? Is it not a character whose mysterious properties directly inform the castaway’s circumstances and ultimately in doing so, their character growth? Is it just a macguffin, a plot device that doesn’t require a satisfying resolution?
Part 5: In conclusion
Where is a frozen donkey wheel when you need one? If I could go back in time to the point where team Darlton were first writing the structure for season six, I would make the following suggestions:
-Scrap the flash sideways concept and instead opt for a return to the flashback format. Only this time, instead of flashing back to the back story of our Losties you could have every flashback cover the entire two thousand year long battle between Jacob and MIB to serve as a narrative counterpoint to what is happening on the island. Just think of how much more interesting this would be. Think of how many answers with regards to the island they could cover without having to do so in an otherwise contrived way. Think about how they could also retell pivotal stories from season one through five only this time from the point of view of Jacob and the man in black. How awesome would that have been?
-Setup Sayid to be the new monster.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to do this with Sayid’s character this year? It would have covered the problem I had with the question of balance. I figured the point of Dogen’s character was merely to illustrate Sayid’s crossover to the dark side. But that was all kind of rendered pointless by his redemption at the last minute. It’s also redundant given that his redemption from darkness storyline was covered in the first two seasons when he struggled with his time having been a torturer. He is a tragic character, much like the man in black. Setting him up to replace Flocke would have had a kind of poetic symmetry to it. And given his tumultuous relationship with Ben as well as his friendship with Hurley it would have been a nice parallel to the Jacob/MIB relationship.
-Have Kate and Claire kill each other. It would have been a great dramatic irony for this to happen given the reason why Kate came back in the first place. But instead we got nothing. And more nothing with the Jack/Kate love declaration. I could care less about this character moment given that we had become so far removed from it. But they could have covered this and killed her off as well.
I could go on but I think you get my point. The final season was deeply flawed and poorly executed. But it didn’t need to be. It could have been so much more. It could have served every character well without needing to answer every minor little mystery that may have demystified the island. Instead they opted to demystify the very nature of the universe by answering the age-old question…what happens when you die? Unfortunately, this was the answer to a question that the audience never asked.
Part 1: Introduction