** SPOILERS FOR SEASON 6 FINALE **
Lost has always been a show clinging on by its fingernails. The dramatic and thrilling commencement back in 2004 gave birth to statements like “the television event of the decade”. And Season 1 did live up to that on numerous occasions. The eeriness of the Island and the slow, methodic unfolding of the character backstories that tantalisingly hinted at being interwoven.
That was then.
From the Season 3 drudgery of Sawyer and Kate’s captivity in the polar bear cages to the descent into outright sci-fi with the arrival of time travel in season 4 & 5, Lost appeared to be sacrificing its sense to its name. And those of us who watched held out ever scanter hope that the writers had a plan, that their mindgames had reason. And that every bizarro event, Dharma-tattooed shark and giant stone statue would be explained by the end of Season 6.
Now, before I proceed let’s remind ourselves of something here: these bastards had the better part of 3 years to plan this ending. It didn’t sneak up on them like the unsuspecting Chris Carter hurtling down a tunnel full of super soldiers and black oil. Smug and self-congratulatory, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hammered away at their typewriters for over 1000 days before delivering the Season 6 finale to the US last week. Keep that in mind.
What they managed to deliver after those 1000 days was, basically, bullshit. I can’t really think of any other adjective more apt. What it lacked in resolving of the many Lost mysteries it utterly failed to deliver in any other way. It’s shocking ending was only shocking in the scale of the squander it represented. With all that budget and endless sun-drenched Hawaiian beaches and, one presumes, all the latitude anyone could ever ask for, all they could come up with was some pathetically lame quasi-religious message. They went into the light. They loved each other, and that’s all that mattered. Sorry, it’s getting hard to type on a keyboard covered in vomit.
When Ronald D. Moore ended Battlestar Galactica last year with a deux ex machina, he at least delivered *most* of the answers the show had posed in its four seasons. Yes, there were lots of things left hanging and he showed himself to be guilty of a certain amount of sloppiness in planning that show, but it was an emotive and action-packed conclusion. It made you want to rush right out and start watching from the start again.
Lost, by contrast, made me want to buy the DVD box set and use it as fuel to the fire of the stakes Lindelof and Cuse should be bound to.
The web is full of tedious attempts to try and make sense of the ending and explain how it is either (a) really beautiful and emotional, and therefore did us a service by leaving basically everything unexplained or (b) how it explained everything, provided you’re willing to accept 65 pages of invented bridging story. Well, neither of those is acceptable to someone who appreciates good storytelling. Leaving things unexplained is fine provided that lack of explanation somehow enhances the emotional or intellectual impact of the ending.
Simply not explaining stuff because you either forgot about it, it was too much of a muddle or you chose to focus on “the characters” are not good reasons. They are the lynching kind of reasons, in fact.
So what, in short, was the story of Lost. According to the show and to the desperate fans who are trying to prevent themselves committing murder or suicide, it’s this:
A bunch of people crash on a weird Island. They start hearing weird shit which eventually turns out to be a monster made of smoke. The monster’s brother, Jacob, brought all these people to the Island on purpose (amazingly working it out they only they lived when their plane crashed). But the smoke monster is even smarter than his brother as it turns out, because he has someone knock him off. So now he can leave the Island by getting one of these hapless folk to destroy the Island. In the end, he loses, is killed, and some of the hapless survive and some die. As they die they hang out in a parallel reality in which they live out an idealised version of their lives which helps them to move on.
As a story, maybe that’s ok, maybe that’s as compelling as the instructions on the back of a packet of fast-bonding adhesive. Sadly it portrays a far more coherent and clear story than what we were dished up.
What we were dished included the Dharma initiative, Charles Widmore, the “Others”, a huge four-footed statue in the ocean, an Island which was “the cork” keeping in “the wine”, “EM” energy, time travel, teleportation of Locke’s father, Benjamin Linus in the Algerian desert – and well, fuck it, at least 400 other individual items begging for cohesion and a place in the story.
To say none of this was explained would be unfair. It would also be so close to the truth that you’d forgive me that unfairness. To sit here the day after seeing the Lost finale and be in a position to shed light (if you’ll bear the pun) on almost none of these mysteries is an unforgivable failure on the part of the writers and showrunners.
So, a note to any future writers: when you finish off your masterpiece, 6-season, high-budget serial we actually expect you to answer all the major questions. Don’t have Cara Thrace vanish into thin air because you couldn’t think of how else to get rid of her. Don’t send Jack into the bat cave to put the “cork” back into the “wine decanter” and then have him appear on a rock outside and die without explaining either the wine, the decanter, the light, the water, Jack or the cave. We’re not watching your show because we care about your fucken characters. We’re watching it because we want to know how a 400 foot statue, a smoke monster and an Island that heals paraplegics makes any sense. And if you can’t work that out then perhaps your talents are better used in advertising (which is all about asking leading, impossible to answer questions) and not TV dramas.