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ABC's "Lost" Finale: Death, Be Rather Proud
May 23, 2010  | By David Bianculli
 
lost-top.jpg[Bianculli here: In addition to this review, which was posted after the finale, listen for Monday's Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR, for another analysis from me. I liked it, both times.]

The ending of ABC's Lost, whatever it turned out to be, wasn't going to be able to please all of the people all of the time. But even with an unsettling core "explanation" and some frustrating unanswered questions, Sunday's 2.5-hour finale was one entertaining movie-length wrap-up...

It should go without saying that if you haven't seen the Lost finale yet, save this column and return when you have. It should also go without saying -- but I'll say it anyway -- that if you didn't watch this in real time, you missed one of the last times broadcast TV will be serving up such a treat to a sizable, attentive mass audience.

And now, to some quick, final points:

lost-sawyer-juliet.jpg

While Desmond, and then Jack, were in the subterranean cave trying to plug the island's hole and stop/restart its life force, writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were busy trying to plug plot holes. And overall, they did a very good job, providing viewers with satisfying off-island, memory-triggered reunions of Sawyer and Juliet, Sayid and Shannon, Sun and Jin, Desmond and Penny, Claire and Charlie, and so on.

Overlooked, though, were Walt and his dad. And internal logic was overlooked a bit, too: On the island, Desmond agreed to let evil Locke capture him in exchange for sparing the lives of Bernard and Rose. But if Bernard knew their fates already, why would it matter?

The big reveal, flirting dangerously close to Twilight Zone territory, is that everyone was dead already. But the subtext -- that everyone was happier, and happily reunited, in the "sideways" world -- was a prism through which the show, like its characters, found redemption. And when Jack died, and why, all turned out to be very important.

lost-jack-bamboo-dog.jpg

The most satisfying parts of the finale included these:

Essentially rewinding the premiere episode's opening images so that the ending of the finale presented them, more or less, in reverse. The first image in the pilot episode was a close-up of Jack's eye opening, after which the camera zoomed above to show him in the cane field, and suddenly met by a dog. In the finale, the dog was there, and the cane field, as Jack collapsed to the ground, having saved the island but suffering mortal wounds.

lost-closed-eye.jpg

And the last shot being Jack's eye closing -- for a series finale, that was a literal sense of closure.

Of course, referring to the start of the premiere at the end of the finale won't always please people, either: That was how Seinfeld ended. But Lost, in its final hours, had plenty of playful, clever touches. (My favorite: the sideways-world birthday bash which most of the characters attended, mostly because the banquet tables had some very familiar numbers on them. Claire and Desmond, for example, were seated at table 23.)

The general tendency, after a show this complicated says goodbye, is to pick it apart and complain about every untied plot thread, every final inconsistency, every forgotten character. But I'd rather just thank Lost for the ride, and for providing such unforgettable characters and performances, and presenting a series of such originality.

lost-dads-final-advice.jpg

It's been 20 years since ABC's Twin Peaks, which lost its way and never even ended, yet we still think of that show very fondly --- and should. And my guess, my prediction, is that in 20 years from now, we'll be remembering and revering Lost just as affectionately.

Don't be annoyed, in the end, by the inconsistencies and unresolved mysteries. Just follow the final advice of Jack's father, as Jack realized his own quest was over, and the two of them were equally dead:

"Remember. And let go."

 

11 Comments

 

MS said:

Actually, I'm glad the big reveal wasn't that everyone died in the plane crash and the island was purgatory, but that, as Christian told Jack, that they had in death been united in the place they had created to be in together as they were at the most important stage in their lives. In other words, to me the alternate timeline (or if you want to call it that, the flash sideways) was that place they had created. The crash and everything in that line was real. Christian told Jack that some had died before Jack, and some long after. The events and people on the island had been the most important in their lives to all of them as well as to Jack.

The major weirdness in that view is Juliette telling Miles after she died that "it worked." Their assumption at the time was that if the bomb "worked" the crash would never have occurred. Also unclear to me how Aaron could be born again and Sun and Jin were still expecting their daughter. It was good to see Hugo so happy and confident. Was Ben in a coma since he said he'd "stay here for a while"?

I've always been a sucker for the separated-by-time romance, so I'm reasonably happy to believe that everyone's together even if it had to wait for them all to die.

I'm not normally a Jimmy Kimmel fan, but I really enjoyed the alternate endings and Animal House style updates at the end of his Aloha to Lost show.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 1:49 AM


Avi said:

I loved this show. But love is never enough. Like millions of viewers I guarantee that I feel the same way that they do. What drove Lost, what made the audience want to tune in week after week to watch the Kate/Jack/Sawyer love triangle, to get to know the characters, was the mystery. Coupled, the characters and the mystery make an unforgettable and addictive duo. It appears that what the writers intended, was for viewers to eventually grow past the mystery, to embrace the characters enough to forget. But I assume, me like many others feel betrayed, not because we aren't happy with the answers we got about the parallel time line, but because we hung on for so long and put so much trust into the story. It's like reading a 6 year long mystery novel and never finding out who did it. I loved the characters, we loved the characters, but we still want to find out who did it and why. It is simply not relevant at all to know that the characters will unite in the after-life. That's nice to know that they made that journey together, but this two and a half mile long episode felt more like an afterthought then an end, and I feel sick right now.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 8:54 AM


Sarah said:

First I agree with everything you said and MS I too am a sucker for separated-by-time romance and loved when everyone got back together with who they belonged. And even though I loved hating Ben and thought he deserved all those beatings I am glad that in the end he was happy to just be #2. I loved every part of the end.Second, I thought about the whole Michael and Walt thing afterwards lying in bed and came up with the scenario that Michael's soul is trapped on the island. Remember him talking to Hurley and Walt wouldn't want to spend his afterlife with these guys he would have wanted to be with his mother.

In the end all I want to say is...
That may be the most satisfying series finale I have seen in years, maybe a little sappy but it made me happy. I cried and smiled and even laughed a little. Another series that, even though we didn't know how it would end, ended the way it should.
And
Writing a eulogy for Lost is as difficult and complicated as the series itself. Lost I don't know what it was about you but you had me hooked from episode one. From the numbers to the Dharma Initiative. From the polar bear to The Others. From your first ad to the end you were a force to be reckoned with.
So here is one last hurrah to Jack,Kate,Sawyer,Sayid,Hurley, Sun,Jin,Locke,Michael,Walt,Vincent,Claire,Aaron,
Charlie,Boone,Shannon,Rose,Bernard and the rest. From flashbacks to flash sideways. From traveling in time to being back in L.A. Whether it was telling your side of the story or hanging on the beach. On the raft or in the hatch. We enjoyed your amazing adventure. Getting to know each character every week and watching every second of every minute was time worth spending.
I will miss you Lost and all those Island secrets.
So thank you to the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 you are now and forever will be a part of TV history.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 2:44 PM


Patrick said:

Well, Avi, I think that much can be inferred from the finale. Kate and Claire got off the island to raise Claire's child. The Pilot, Sawyer, Richard, and Miles (6 in all) also got off the island on the plane. Hurley and Ben remained on the island to protect it, and Desmond probably got to leave the island because Hurley could make the decisions now instead of Jacob. This occurred because Jack sacrificed himself. Why it was necessary to kill the smoke man Locke I guess we'll never know.

In the purgatory, pre-reincarnation, afterlife-ish land, time doesn't really exist so we can assume that most of the characters died at some future time after the island. I'm leaning towards purgatory because Ben chose to stay behind to work out some things.

Overall I am satisfied with the series and am glad that they tied up as many loose ends as they did. Jack's death and Hurley's take over were a little predictable, but again, I enjoyed about 4 of the 6 year ride and will go back at some point and watch it again in its entirety.

Now, I can only hope Fringe continues to develop, so I can enjoy a show with real parallel universes.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 3:37 PM


Phillip R. Crabb said:

I don't know, Dave. I think the thing I appreciated most about this series was how is kept so many allegories on so many different levels so fresh and intrinsically confounding.

I think they were so successful at this, that they ran out of time (even in 2.5 hours) to try to tie-up these mysteries with the same level of writing and 'enlightenment'.

For instance, Fake Locke/MIB...someone who spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 years on the island, a character that was developed so intensely, only to allow himself to be killed off by a single bullet that wasn't even fired by his main adversary...?

I thought that 'closure' was a little too rushed and 'simple' as compared to the complexity of the character and his story arcs...

I'm also not sure as to what Hurley had left to 'protect' after the demise of the MIB, nor the significance of Jack's Flash-sideways son being left at the concert by BOTH his Mother and Father who find other soul mates to go off to Neverland with.

It would help, I think, if I had a little more insight into when these characters actually 'died' and how long it's been a "Sixth Sense" environment...

That being said, we are all talking about it this afternoon. We all have different interpretations of what happened, and different areas of confusion. That, perhaps, is the best testament to this series, one that will certainly compel conversation, and speculation, for some time to come.

I'm glad I was around to see it on a first-run basis.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 4:58 PM


DD said:

I liked it, and believe that all the important questions were answered. Name a question that didn't get answered, double check that it didn't get answered at any point or in any minor line of dialog in the entire series, and then ask yourself if answering that question was really that important. Yeah, there probably are some technical questions that didn't get answered, but you have to keep in mind that LOST plays by the rules of sci-fi/fantasy, and not all of those kinds of questions can be answered. Rules were established early on about what can/cannot happen on the Island in comparison to the "real world," and the series continued to play by those rules.

The only questions I have left are about the history/origins of the Island itself. It has its own separate culture and history built from those who found themselves shipwrecked or stranded on the Island. The plug in the cave is particularly interesting because when Desmond pulled it out, the water in the pool drained, but it also dried up the river above the cave. Not sure how that works, but I'm fine with that.

I suspected that the sideways world was the "end timeline" shortly into the finale, but couldn't figure out how the main timeline would catch up to it. With minutes left before the end, I couldn't help voicing my question aloud as Jack asked his father the same question. Christian throws the question back to Jack, pause, and then all is revealed. It's an "oh" moment that makes total sense and satisfactorily wraps everything up. At least, it worked for me.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 7:56 PM


Avi said:

I don't think that it would be asking too much if we even got half answers to the following:

What is the Island?

Why is it important to protect it/the heart of the island?

What is the origins of the island/equipment in the cave/light?

Why did the man in black turn into the smoke monster?

What was the man in black's name?

We only got answers to the characters and not to the mystery, which is not enough for me. These questions are at the very center of the show for most people. I don't care about where the food drops came from, just throw me a small bone.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 11:40 PM


Rich said:

I was "OK" with the ending. I thought that the creators could've played more with the 'Good vs Evil' & Jack vrs MIB. But it was a 'sensible' ending.

I thought the creators were playing into the hopes and fan worship of the romances of characters a little to much. It started to become as silly as Fan Fiction by the end there. A bit too 'soggy' and sappy for a show that prided itself (especially this season) on the hard choices and consequences of action...it all wrapped up a little "Too Nicely".

It will be talked about, debated, and remembered for many decades to come (which I presume is the point) and I think I will say I enjoyed the journey far more than the destination. Plus, I'm sure someone will write fiction books about Hurley & Ben's Era of Island keeping.

The biggest problem I still have are how the "Rules" were set up for the Lighthouse, the Numbers, and Why MIB was turned into smoke to begin with...oh well, It's Over. I liked the 2 hour season finale of "Fringe" better what can I say.

Comment posted on May 24, 2010 11:56 PM


Sally W. said:

Pardon the length of my comments, but personally I'm still digesting it the series finale! So much could be said about it! (on a sidenote: I thought ABC overdid it with the commercials; I guess I can't begrudge the network for wanting to profit from the event, but they really got excessive.)

I think I liked that the series finale moved me emotionally. I felt a little teary over seeing Jack seemingly at peace, with Vincent the dog by his side at the end. After all that turmoil, perhaps it was a satisfactory ending to realize that the Sideways Universe is a waiting area before the loved ones get be together again to the next life or the next world or whatnot (fitting to whatever belief system one has) and that our castaways were able to find their own resolutions and reunite.

I didn't quite enjoy the Jimmy Kimmel post-series finale show (some of the Q&A from that audience left much to be desired for me and the skits of alternate endings weren't that funny to me), but I liked Kimmel's use of "Aloha," as I thought that the phrase "aloha" best summed up the series finale - as a phrase known to be both "Hello" and "goodbye."

Then, after more thinking, I realize what a head-twister (not to mention heart-rending) the finale was: Jack can let go and...death is death; life is life; and what happens, happens; love is the answer; and humans are... human. I kept wondering what was the series about - science vs. faith; free will or power; whether we have choices or none at all? Or was it all of the above?

(For instance, I thought it was amusing that Jack chose to step up and succeed Jacob, when Jacob wanted to give the candidates a choice, which he did not have, because of his crazy adopted mom. Meanwhile, Hurley wasn't really given a choice, as it wasn't as if Jack, as human as he was, was going to give the job to Ben either. And, perhaps only Hurley would be so compassionate and willing to ask Ben for help and to be his "Number Two," I suppose!).

I probably would have preferred more balance between characters and plots during this last season (I could have lived without the head-scratching stuff, like the senseless deaths of Ilana) - but I'm actually more okay with not having all the mysteries resolved.

I think Cuse and Lindelof did care about their characters (at least, I felt that they did in this series finale). So, while I can't quite feel "happy" with death as the end, it is an ending and I liked watching the characters seem happy to be together again, even if it was in the afterlife, and that of itself is actually uplifting (that there's always hope, in some fashion).

I don't think the series finale worked for everyone, but it worked for me. I'm sorry that Jack's son was never "real." (well, he was real enough to Sideways Jack!). I'm pleased that Sawyer and Juliet are back together, even if it might have taken Sawyer awhile to get there. And, even Kate made her peace with Jack and Claire (in both universes). But, I am still sad about the people left behind (Walt, for instance, and the Kwons' daughter).

The series finale isn't perfect for not quite answering questions to the plots, but it captured the essence of the show, which made me feel okay and almost wanting to revisit the series all over again. It seems to me that the discussion on "Lost" will never end, even if the series itself is over.

Oh, and great acting from Matthew Fox, Michael Emerson, and Terry O'Quinn; even kudos to the rest of the cast - they held everything together!

[Great comments. Thanks! - David B.]

Comment posted on May 25, 2010 1:58 AM


Davey said:

Well, the writers had worked themselves into a corner in which a satisfactory conclusion was probably not possible: either it would all turn out to be a dream (probably Locke's under anesthesia), it would all be about parallel universes (ala Fringe), or they'd turn out to all be dead. Each option would be corny and cheap in contrast to six years of complex philosophical questions and implication.

The one they chose was probably the least bad option, but left a bad taste in my mouth. Essentially six years of mythology-building ended up just another chick flick. The mystery that kept some of us hooked turned out to be basically irrelevant, just a random backdrop for a lot of sappy Hallmark card level blubbering about "love is all you need" whining. The early years of series recalled Twin Peaks or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only to end as a particularly dispiriting episode of Oprah. Nothing was answered. What was the point of the Dharma Initiative, for example? What was the island, and its cork? Who was Jacob's and Guy in Black's mother supposed to be?

I should confess that I absolutely can't stand pseudo-"spiritual" mush when it's used to paper over intellectual failings, and to me this ending did that as shamelessly as anything I can remember.

All that said, I think the series will nonetheless go on to become a classic at the level of Twilight Zone or Twin Peaks or Buffy (although I think Buffy was smarter and, as a whole, more satisfying). That will happen because few people will remember the broken arc of the story as they see and recall the many brilliant moments the series provided. Maybe for TV, that has to be enough.

Comment posted on May 25, 2010 3:34 PM


Greg Kibitz said:

David,

Did I forget to final post my anti-Lost-ending anti-religion comment or have I as a repressed minority (a devout atheist) been censored again?

[Greg -- Anything you would have sent, I would have posted. Fire away. -- David B.]

Comment posted on May 25, 2010 4:21 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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