5/24/10

LOST Finale: The Morning After and 10 Unanswered Questions

Well, here we are. LOST is officially over. Like most fans, I'm left a little stunned by the finale. A little touched emotionally, in a good way, at having to say goodbye to some great characters and a historically significant show.

I'm also extremely frustrated.

What frustrates me the most? The fact that the writers (Lindelof and Cuse and many others that worked on the show) have prepared for my frustration. They're ready to shirk it off. For weeks they've been giving interviews and saying they wouldn't answer questions when the finale was over because they wanted the show to speak for itself.

Well, the show didn't speak for itself.

It was vague. Vagueity vague vague vaguerino. Vagueinstein. I'm sure they'll say that was the plan, to keep it open to interpretation. Let me tell you, a little of that goes a long way. I have six years worth of questions, six years worth of stakes in the story and the characters that are going to go forever unexplained. Not just because they weren't answered on the show, but because the writers are going to refuse to answer them. Probably in an effort to make people feel stupid. Maybe in an effort to save face.

Last night's finale was, "You just didn't get it." the episode. I can hear it coming now. Well writers, that's a lovely way to give the middle finger to an audience that sponsored your salary for six years, that cared about the characters you created. The very LEAST you can do is explain yourself if you can't explain the story.

But I did "get it". I got what the writers wanted me to get. Which was not much of anything except an overarching theme. I understand the character arcs, how they grew as people and why over the series. How they changed. Central themes. Relationships.

Here are some things I don't get...




1. What exactly WERE those huge world-ending stakes that everyone was facing if Locke/the man in black were to get off the island? We were only told that it would be bad, oh so very BAD, over and over again. But no reason was ever given.

I guess that was supposed to be enough. But as an audience, we've been through a lot with LOST. We deserved to have the basic motivation for at least the last season revealed. What was the feared risk? The unleashing of hell? The metaphysical clash of a spiritual being with real people? What, what, what?

2. Who were Jacob/the man in black/their mother? Why were they different than the other people on the island? What made them God-like or Gods? What exactly happened to the man in black that left him as a giant smoke cloud when he re-emerged from the light?

I understand the basic concept of it, Jacob shouldn't have killed him, people can't go into the light and come back, I get all that...but WHY?

3. What exactly was the light, for that matter? We assume hell or reality or the afterlife? We get the basic premise, but WHAT exactly was it? A glowing red light and a smoke machine are not enough to satiate viewers after six years of mystery. What did Jack uncork? Seismic pressure that would crumble the world? Satan himself? Hell?

4. What was with the four-toed statue? Was it one of the many civilizations we are supposed to assume has come and gone on the island? Was it another iteration of humanity itself? Why was Jacob living at it's base?

5. Where was Walt in the church? And for that matter, Michael shouldn't have been the only one condemned to the island. A lot of other people in that church committed far more heinous crimes than killing to keep their child alive. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Michael got a RAW DEAL.

Also, where were the tailies? Where were the others?

The rules were not set up clearly enough for the audience to understand why that specific selection of people made it, while others didn't. I guess we were supposed to be so sad and moved that we wouldn't notice. Well, I noticed.

Characters in the show were disposable, seemingly due to outside reasons that we all heard about in the press (several of the tailies misbehaving on Hawaii and then being mysteriously killed in the show, Nicki and Paolo being unpopular). That says something to me about the fact that we as viewers were set up to believe that everything was for a reason, but really, not so much.

6. The flash sideways, real or not? When did reality cease and "Oh, we're all dead and we don't know it" begin? Was there any point to the Oceanic Six making off the island "alive"? Was there any point to anything happening on the island other than for people to remember that they were dead?

What kind of a false reality/extension of purgatory has working airlines and hospitals and concerts and police stations? I'm sure smarter people will have understood a timeline here, but I haven't figured it out. So please, someone explain when the dead-ness began.

7. The numbers, the intertwining of everyone in the island pre-plane crash. Coincidence? Also something I don't understand? What are we supposed to understand was the reason that everyone seemingly knew each other ahead of time and why did the numbers that connected them/haunted Hurley matter? Are we to believe that every human being is connected as such and we're just too busy with the minutiae of our daily lives to notice?

8. The island itself...real or not real? Was the science team dead or alive? Was it an actual physical place or simply a spiritual one? Was it a real place with spiritual significance, perhaps? All six years we were lead to believe that the island was a metaphysical Jurassic Park, a place where anything could happen. A place real people could find. Yet it was also mysteriously hidden through space and time with a dangerous electromagnetic core and it was possible to move it to somewhere or somewhen, via giant wheel.

Soooo...was that just a cool premise that the writers came up with and they had no idea how to make it concrete or explain it?

Because let me tell you, one of the reasons I watched was specifically because of the mystery of the island. That was the main draw outside of the interesting characters, whether the writers will admit it or not, it was the mystery. And mysteries provide answers. Imagine Sherlock Holmes being like, "You know what? It doesn't really matter how this person died. Let's just meditate on the fact that he did and it brought Watson and I together and all religions are true, I guess."

In that case, you can probably just forget about answers. Because the writers are just too darn smart to give them to you and beside that, they don't "matter".

I know I'm mid-tantrum as is, but allow me another moment: As a viewer, I feel punished. The inference, for me, was that all of these references meant something. The character names, the books they were reading, the religious symbolism, all of it was supposed to come together to MEAN something.

We spent entire seasons pointing out Chekov's gun. Not only did it never fire, it flipping disappeared into the ether in a poof of smoke and I'm supposed to think that's all cool and nifty and stuff. BUT WHY WAS THERE A GUN?

I probably know the answer to that. Because this thing was a cash cow and they needed to keep it going. So the original narrative was probably scrapped at some point to keep the hit show on air. Someday, when I am a fancy writer, I am going to start stories, let them have a middle, and then give them an ending. It'll be trendy again, mayhaps.

If, on the other hand, ABC knew the plot wasn't going to culminate in something definitive, they should've said that in the very first season instead of sitting tight-lipped and giggling watching all of us try to "figure it out".

We were even told on numerous occasions, "It's not purgatory." Okay, then what was all that? Shmurgatory?

9. Here's a rhetorical question for you. *spirals into bitterness* Were we supposed to be happy knowing that, at the very least, all of the flash-sideways were for nothing? I thought everyone on the island would die but that it would be okay, because exploding the bomb fixed or jump-started the alternate reality and that everyone would get their happy ending there.

To discover that the entire last season, possibly more, wasn't real? But some of it had to be, that's why Eloise asked Desmond if he was going to take her son Daniel? So were they ghosts? Was there some intertwining with real reality/fake reality? The rules about physicality, time and space were essentially non-existent throughout the entire last season. Why bother creating a "he's not really there" son for Jack? I get that it's what Jack always wanted, so maybe that's why he was playing it out, but I think what we all want to know was, how did it work? Which the writers will probably say isn't important.

10. What was it all for? All the questions, all the distractions, the hatch, the electromagnetism, the bombs, the deaths, the violent others, the animals, the experiments, the hippies, Jacob and the man in black, what was it all for? What were the global stakes?

The writers created a huge and mysterious mythology, actual truths we thought we could sink our teeth into, and then dissolved it all into muddled scientific concepts, universalist allegory, and truly personal stories about characters we loved...but why?

What was their destiny on the island? Did they save mankind and life as we know it or did they simply have to wait to figure out if they were dead or worthy of "moving on", because it wouldn't be PC to call it heaven, I guess. I could forgive the bajillion tiny unanswered questions, albeit begrudgingly, if I knew that it was all for a larger purpose. To save the world. To keep hell at bay. But I would have to know why there's a drain hole to hell on this random island...and I guess that wasn't the point.

I want to say that I loved this show. The first season especially. But I feel burned. I gave six years of my life to viewing to this show and countless hours of conversation, not an easy feat in a life that's so busy.

I loved the actors the performances and the shots. The music and the humor and the adventure genre being on television again. There are some things that lazy writing can't take away from me, and I'll choose to cling to those. I'll also probably start to feel better as I look around and try to find the answers I so crave from others.

But I'm sincerely disappointed. I'm sure the writers already have a defense carved out for that. "Can't please them all," or maybe, "Answering your questions would only lead to more questions," or probably, "It's all symbolic and open to interpretation."

To which I say, then you FAILED as a writer.

Writing is not meant to be so convoluted and full of red herrings that in the end you walk away from the audience telling them that if they're not smart enough to figure it out, it's their problem. For all the truly incredible character-based writing on the show, the fact that the basic questions weren't answered makes me angry.

How many episodes did I watch that were actually marked for nothing, or to simply pass the time, or to follow an idea that somebody thought, "might be neat"? That's playing with your audience in a way that's cruel when you know how rabidly devoted to LOST the fans were. If they felt the whole questions thing was getting out of hand and they knew they wouldn't be able to answer them all, I would've forgiven them and kept watching. But they never let on, not until the show was almost over. They should've made statements every season about what was important and what wasn't, what ideas got away from them and which ones would be carried over. As a writer, it's just plain wrong to give people X as a reason to watch your show and then wrap it up with Y.

This may make me less intelligent than Cuse and Lindelof would like, but I like my stories to have a reason for being and I like to have the answers to the questions that I'm lead to as a viewer. Writing a TV show is a very purposeful and controlled thing, and as the writer you create all the set-ups, most of all audience expectations. If the ending was headed toward a very basic healy feely allegorical point, then that's what the show should've been full of instead of fascinating scientific and philosophical tidbits. As it stands for me, the show was basically one giant mis-direct after another.

Jacob brought them to the island because they were alone and flailing in reality. So did he kill them or really just bring them there? Was the point just to put them out of their misery, or was all their suffering along their quest for a reason?

I don't need it all wrapped up in a perfect little bow and I'm ALL for things being open to interpretation. But NOT THE CENTRAL PLOT. Aspiring writers are told very clearly that you don't tell a story if you can't explain why you're telling it, why it needs to be told, or even if you can't sum it up in a couple of sentences. You don't bring characters in to do patch jobs, you don't start plot lines or props that you aren't going to finish, and the list goes on and on. But I guess that really does make them geniuses, because I watched them break every rule and I kept on watching anyway, assuming that all the promos were telling the truth when they said the finale would explain it all or blow my mind or give me answers.

Maybe I'll start to feel better as time moves on, but for a geek like me who invests a lot into the films and television shows I choose to watch, this morning I just feel...bitter.

I honestly think that I could sit here for hours on end writing questions...