LOST Theories - DarkUFO

Critical analysis of The End by Jacob's Creek

I’m gonna start out by stating that I was a dedicated Lost fan for five long years, and genuinely loved it because I believed it was the best-written show on television. I love good writing (as I am a writer) and love television, but too rarely find the two together. I have watched every episode (except The End) at least twice, and some episodes 5 or 6 times. So it’s with heavy heart that I express my feelings on the finale. If you loved it and can’t stand to hear others criticise then brace yourself, because this is going to be scathing (and long). But you’ll probably be surprised to find most of my complaints aren’t the same as what you’ve heard elsewhere. The ‘answers’ thing is a problem for me, but only as a part of a larger problem.

It was the worst ending possible, because it was simply badly written (more on this later). The denouement of the plot was just like a by-the-numbers action movie ending - complete with vague and inconsistent character motivations, the obvious hero obviously giving his life to obviously save the day, the guy getting the girl, last minute lucky escapes and lame one-liners. Spare me. Some characters got satisfying resolutions, others just flew off into the sunset. There are lot of things I’d like to know about the lives of my beloved Losties, that we will never be told. It shouldn’t have just come down to who stays and who goes, we went through that a couple of years ago. Unlike in other season finales, the on-island events gave no answers to the literally dozens of remaining questions, gave no surprising twists and exciting reveals - no 'aha!' moments.

But the flash-sideways was the big disappointment / betrayal. It DID NOT resolve the characters, any more than it resolved the mysteries. There, I said it, and I'm gonna say it again - It DID NOT resolve the character's stories. They all eventually died – but we coulda figured that out for ourselves. Oh, and they all went to heaven. If that’s what you believe then you don’t need a TV show to reaffirm it, it just goes without saying. And if you don’t believe that then it’s hard to swallow. The flash-sideways served no purpose. There was no pattern or logical reason behind the forms their limbo lives took. They weren't wish fulfillment, they weren't self-punishment, they weren't linked by any pattern or theme or moral, they were just weird distorted retreads of their real lives and the events we saw them go through on the island, just like a dream.

Most of the characters did not learn valuable lessons about their lives, and could not because they didn’t even remember who they were until nearly the end. Losing your memory and getting it back again is not character development, and there is no reason why these people suddenly remembering their lives would magically resolve all their issues. If their experiences from on the island resolved their issues, then their stories were already resolved and we didn’t need to rehash everything the way we did. It was a monumental waste of time, and didn’t even make sense.

Why was Ji Yeon unborn? Why was Aaron a baby? Why were some people there and others not? Why is it some people were with the ones they loved and others weren’t? Remember how Juliette’s final message to Sawyer was ‘it worked’, and that this turned out to be something she said in Limbo as she had her awakening? This implies that that was when her consciousness passed over into limbo. Not just her memories, her consciousness, because it was a two-way exchange – her living self perceived things from limbo as she passed over. So before Limbo-Juliette had her moment of realisation, she wasn’t really Juliette. Which means that should be true of all the characters. Which means for most of the season we were watching fantasy constructs of the characters we knew – not the characters themselves with missing memories, not parallel timeline versions of them, just illusions. Not only is this unsatisfying, it doesn’t make sense. If none of the characters were really there, if none of them were really themselves, why did they and the fantasy world exist before the real characters entered limbo?

We were shown reunions for every couple that spent time on the island. I at first found it quite moving – until I realised that only island couples reunited, whether they were each other’s true loves or not (no Sayid and Nadia, no Locke and Helen) and we were going to get this schmaltzy rubbish for most of the episode, with one gratuitous reunion scene after another accompanied by romance-movie music and cheesy montages. Eugh. It was all too easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all, but a even cursory analysis reveals that what really moved me was the manipulative directing, rather than the story. Combine this sappy nonsense with the unsatisfying resolutions for the characters on the island and there’s very little left to enjoy.

The lack of answers would not have been all that important to me, except that the show bombarded us with clues and questions and seemingly interconnected subplotsthroughout its run. Leaving most of these plot threads dangling is not only sloppy writing, but retrospectively turns intriguing mysteries into red herrings and plot holes. Damon and Carlton have stated that they think it would be bad to explain things ‘down to the last midichlorian’, citing Star Wars fan’s disappointment with that element of the prequels. But that ignores the difference between Lost and Star Wars. Star Wars was an action scifi fantasy adventure. Lost was a character-based Science fiction mystery. If George Lucas had spent six movies concentrating on the science fiction elements of his world and building up the mystery of how the Jedis could move things and control minds, we would have wanted those midichlorians. Because saying, ‘it’s the force’ would not have been a satisfying explanation. If you build up a complex and seemingly innovative mystery story, you need to give answers, and those answers need to be a bit more detailed, original and/or convincing than – ‘it’s magic!’. They gave very straightforward fantasy answers, and it just didn’t work. A mystery built up for this long either needs a brilliantly rich and detailed fantasy mythology behind it, or a concrete, believable, scientific explanation.

Which cuts to the quick of a wider problem of season 6: the show suddenly transformed from science fiction mystery to fantasy based religious allegory. I was left with the same affronted feeling I get when a Jehovah’s witness turns up and won’t go away, or a street preacher yells at me about how I’m gonna go to hell. Except in this case the ‘preacher’ has spent six years spinning me an interesting mystery yarn about science fiction concepts, only to twist it into a condescending parable at the last minute. I feel like I’ve been conned into paying attention to a story that had no other purpose than to convert me, and that’s not a good feeling.

Thematically, I guess the ending fitted the show. But that is not the same thing as it actually working on a thematic level. It touched on the long standing themes of letting go, dead is dead, live together or die alone, the long con and - perhaps most blatantly - science vs faith, but didn’t address these themes in a way that respected the story, characters or viewers. I get it, I DO, they’re telling us to let go. But let go of what? Our expectations? Our desire to see a story told well and promises kept? I don’t think these are unreasonable things to want. For the writers to suddenly latch onto the minor theme of ‘letting go’ when they want the viewers to accept a lazy ending reeks of manipulation.

Faith WON, hands down – science didn’t even get acknowledged. Think about the implicit message behind the writers refusing to give rational answers to the mysteries, or even mention science after five years of making LOST look like a science fiction series: ‘there are no rational answers – but never mind there’s heaven, and that’s more important’. If the writers felt the need to express this view they’re entitled to do so, but the way they did it is galling and offensive to anyone who sat through this show expecting their FAITH in the writers to be rewarded. This finale wasn’t about faith generally, it says you cannot put your faith in reason, in promises, in the hope for closure, or in people, only in The Light. The Light that you will share with your loved ones – but only those that helped you to keep The Light alive. The writers sacrificed good storytelling to spring a surprise religious agenda. And before anyone says 'ah, but that church was multi-denominational' I should point out that I don't mean the agenda of one specific religion but rather an agenda to push general religious ideas. If they'd wanted to have a scene about heaven at the end I wouldn't have much cared (other than thinking it cheesy) but sacrificing so much screentime and plot to do this was inexcusable.

They wanted to play it safe and concentrated more on delivering a message than on the plot and characters. This is one of the cardinal sins of writing, one of many rules that they broke.

1. Do not end a story with all the characters dying. This is a lazy ending, and creates a disconnect between plot and resolution – ANY story can end with ‘they all died and (possibly) went to heaven’. What makes LOST’s approach especially bad is saying that everyone died eventually. We know! It doesn’t take a quantum physicist to figure that one out.

2. Do not resolve any part of your story, aside from minor tangent scenes used for psychological insight, with ‘it was all a dream/illusion’. This is also a lazy solution and renders everything that comes beforehand meaningless. In fact, don’t resort to any resolution that negates chunks of the narrative, characterisation, or plot structure of your story.

3. Stories should have a narrative, where events follow on from each other and develop organically. A series of unconnected events is not a story. With the Flash-sideways turning out to be limbo, the last couple of seasons of LOST are reduced to a sequence of unconnected events. The Losties get stranded in the past and blow up a bomb. This does nothing to the timeline. Then they get teleported back to the present. Then they fight the MIB. Then eventually, after they’ve all died, they meet up in limbo to go to heaven together. That is not a narrative, because there is no causality between the events.

4. Do not use religious concepts to resolve your story unless your story is about religion. Even then, you might want to come up with an original approach. Religious concepts are the oldest literary conceits that exist. Writers have been ripping them off since literally before time began (that is, recorded time). They are more widely used than the techniques of Shakespeare, and thus have produced even more cliché’s . I can now count five science fiction series that have suddenly resorted to religious concepts to resolve the story at the last minute, most of them resulting in endings that are very much alike

5. If your story has a message or moral, don’t make your point at the expense of characters and plot. Themes exist to service and enhance the story, not the other way around. Even if your story is meant as high art, and the symbolism and meaning are vitally important, neglecting the plot and characters will lead to sloppy storytelling that will undermine your themes.

6. Do not use a Deus Ex Machina unless it is unavoidable. This relates back to point 4, because religious events like the hand of god, divine intervention and the afterlife are automatically literal Deus Ex Machinas. Of course the Deus Ex Machina is almost essential to most science fiction and fantasy, but it should be cunningly disguised, properly explained, in some way original, an extension of the story’s core concepts and set in motion by the efforts and choices of the characters. A religious or fantasy based Deus Ex Machina is therefore not acceptable as a sudden addition to a science fiction story, especially as it’s denouement. A Deus Ex Machina should never be used to develop or resolve you r character arcs because it simply isn’t necessary.

7. If you are planning a twist ending, don’t make the twist less interesting or more conventional than what the audience is expecting.

That’s what has outraged me so much about the way Lost finished, and it’s taken me this long to realise: It was a betrayal of the craft of writing that I love so much. I watched this show for its writing, because I believed (just like poor old John Locke) that there was a purpose to it all. It made the show (seemingly) the finest example of television writing seen so far, raising the bar by an unprecedented amount. The ending of the show negates and contradicts all that, and sets scripted television back by a couple of decades. I avoid badly written shows like the plague anyway, and for such a finely scripted series to let the side down at the last minute, in a way that actually reduces the credibility of the series as a whole, is a travesty. Armed with foreknowledge of other’s mistakes (Battlestar Galactica), brilliant writing skills capable of producing genius episodes like The Incident and Through the Looking Glass, and a preset amount of time to tell the story, the writers of this show had an unprecedented opportunity to create a serialised story for television with a fully satisfying ending. There was no reason they couldn’t deliver something of exceptionally high calibre. They had ample time and opportunity to give us something more and just didn't. Similarly, there were ample questions they could have easily answered but chose not to (outrigger anyone?). It almost feels like they've been making fun of us, like this has all been a massive joke at the expense of people who want things to make sense and aren't satisfied with sugary nonsensical resolutions.

I never wanted the puzzle to be put together for me, or even to be shown the picture on the box. I just wanted, after six years of waiting, getting the puzzle by instalments, to have enough pieces to be able to put the darn thing together. Instead I have a jumbled incomplete pile of pieces, and the latest ones I’ve received seem to show a different picture to the rest.

This year all the answers (what few we got) seemed obvious, illogical, vague and contradictory, and were suddenly a simplistic fantasy rather than science fiction. Up until a third of the way through season 6 I fully believed they were gonna pull a rabbit out of their hat, because they'd done so before. There were many times when mysteries on the show had answers that were surprising, clever, satisfying and tied plot threads together. There was still a lot to resolve after season 5, but I believed they could do it. I still believe they could have done it if they'd tried hard enough. Even up until the final episode I could see plot threads coming together and believed that they could astound us one more time, with two and a half hours of twist-riddled, character driven, revelatory brilliance. Up until the end there was potential to salvage the story, but by then they just didn't care about the story. I don't think they ever cared. They've indicated that this really was how they always intended to end things. And we all thought ‘how clever, they've thought it all through’. But, as previously observed, any story could have had that ending, including a final shot that mirrored the first, and it didn't matter what happened leading up to it. So they just kept throwing up vague plot twists to keep us watching. The final 'twist' of Lost was really more of a sucker punch, and the mislead relied on them feeding us red herrings that just didn't make sense in retrospect, like the island being underwater, Sun losing the ability to speak English in the real world, Eloise saying that Desmond's actions were a violation... etc, etc.

Guys, c’mon, the emperor has no clothes on. We’ve been conned. I can’t believe so many people are content with that, to be honest – I really can’t comprehend why the people who loved this show so much aren’t up in arms about the cop-out ending they ditched us with. If you feel the need to jump to its defence then do so, but I will not agree and will probably leave this review to be my final word on the subject. I have critically analyzed the finale, and found that the more I did so the more I hated it, and the more let down I felt. I have the right to say so. Please remember this. If no-one challenges this kind of sloppiness and contempt for viewers, TV’s never going to improve.

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