Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The End of Lost, and why the sixth season missed the sci-fi mark

I am a rather contrary person, but I am also quite the conformist on occasion, which is why I write groundbreaking, earthshaking posts that generally go something like “HEY YALL DID YOU KNOW THAT CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, CHEESECAKE IS DELICIOUS?” or maybe “HEY YALL I DON’T LIKE CLEANING AND HOUSEHOLD CHORES, I KNOW WEIRD RIGHT?”

So I’m not exactly sure how to react to the Lost finale after watching it yesterday morning.

I liked it. I did. But tentatively, problematically.

I reacted well to it, like I reacted well to Across the Sea. There were plenty of problems, but like that episode, I felt like it gave me a better idea of the nature of the show and its ideas and what it’s trying to get across.

I liked it much better than Across the Sea in many ways. While Across the Sea was a bit of a rush job as far as “developing the island as a character”, this was a coda for characters who were already extremely well-developed.

That’s what The End really did well. It banked on the viewer’s strong emotional ties to these characters: it made us remember how wonderful Jin and Sun and Rose and Bernard and even Jack and Kate are, made us remember that a big part of the reason we’d cared about this show for so long was the characters: well-developed, well-articulated, three-dimensional. The acting was also exceptional: I’m not usually a huge fan of Evangeline Lilly’s acting skills, but even she gave her character’s end gravity and meaning. In a show that consistently punished, tortured, killed its characters with rewards few and far between, it gave us something unexpected in its conclusion: their happiness in their death, their redemption through their trials. It showed us what they died for in a way the penultimate episode could not. Seeing these characters find understanding and happiness was incredibly powerful after six years, and it made the conclusion much more pleasant and satisfying. I cried several times, but not bitterly or out of sadness.


I have no problem with big, epic, science fiction shows ending up being about religion, like BSG and now Lost. Science, to me, is about religion. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been that good at understanding either. But life, growing, changing, nature, are wonders to me. Creation and science are fact, but the facts are constantly shifting, truth is constantly changing with our knowledge. The universe is not something we can intimately understand.

Thus, I did not mind the focus on faith and religion in this episode or these season. Faith has always been a strong current in the show. It’s mixed with science to create grand mystery and suspense, and when the plotting and pacing are good (as they were in this final episode, it can be magnificent).

But science was mostly abandoned this season, in favor of magic and religion. And that’s not living up to the show – it’s lazy fucking writing.

I had reserved judgment on the “magic everywhere in this bitch” aspect of the season. And now, I feel cheated.

Magic, as I hope I illustrated above, is not mutually exclusive with science. The light, the energy, the magic, the heart, works to a certain degree as a motif - flashes of light are a frequent punctuation on the show, and energy is a basic concept in science. But the show does not develop the energy/light/force as the scientific property behind many plot points on the show. Instead, it chooses to focus on developing a side world that ultimately does not exist. That’s wasteful writing, and it’s unnecessary.

A more productive tack to take, in my opinion, would have been to start developing the island as a character early on in the season, placing Ab Aeterno and Across The Sea early on in the season. Some of the weaker episodes (in particular Sayid’s, the Kwon’s, Kate’s, and Sawyer’s) should have instead been devoted to seeing more of the history of the island and developing how the energy affects the inhabitants, and defining the parameters of the protector’s guidance of the island. In this way, the show could have answered a lot of central questions: questions they built up and promptly abandoned. If you’re reading it, you know what they are. For me, I think that it would be easy to explain:

-the island’s past, particularly with regard to all of the Roman and Egyptian imagery and mythology

-conception and pregnancy [Particularly here – I would have loved to see more Alison Janney in different situations because I love her]

-fucking magnets, how do they work

-time and how it shifts

-the smoke and the nature of MiB

The problem with the construction of this season is that they did not trust the viewer enough. I do not dislike the idea of the sideways as purgatory. But they worked too hard to build it up when they really didn't need to in order to give these characters resolution. But I do dislike that they created a demand and an anticipation for specific aspects of the show, and actively chose to avoid answering those questions.

Further reading:
this ain't livin

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