Monday, May 24, 2010

Last thoughts on LOST and storytelling

Okay, so if you haven't seen the finale of LOST yet, do not read any further. There WILL BE SPOILERS ahead.

>>>>SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT<<<<

Don't say I didn't warn ya.

So, why not add my thoughts to the gazillions already trending on Twitter and the webverse? Everybody with a blog has an opinion, so here is mine.

I don't know what I think. Yet. And that is the beauty of LOST, both in its final episode, "The End," and in the series itself. LOST has given us the kind of storytelling that is the ultimate of interactive TV: it made us think. How many series can you say that about? Not many.

It made us talk. It made us gather in groups and debate philosophy, and time travel, and physics, and good vs. evil, and and... It drove us to the Internet in search of others who had to know. It divided and conquered and united and rose above. Sometimes it soared, and sometimes it stumbled mightily, reaching out its hand to stretch for the brass ring, and having fallen, still arose with that ring clutched in its fingers.

It was epic. And now it is over, and I must admit it: I feel a little bit LOST myself.

I'm a storyteller at heart, and this was storytelling at its best. When it all comes down to it, isn't that what being part of the community of humans is all about? From the days of the caveman sitting around a flickering fire, relating the hunting tales of the day to the hushed and gathering crowd, to the present day, we all still enjoy a great story, well-told, with plenty of action, food for thought, and memorable characters, and that's what LOST gave us.

So my thoughts on exactly what happened in the finale? I'm still digesting, as I said. I haven't figured out if I liked the end, because I haven't figured out if I understand the end. I can honestly say, however, I've never watched a television show that made me toss and turn at night and wonder, "What does it all mean?" I've read books that have done that, sure, but the idiot "boob tube"? Never.

And of course, those who said the island was a kind of purgatory were sort of right, but I think the purgatory was the place they had all created to find each other, not the island itself. Until they did, they couldn't find each other--so they were, in fact, waiting, which is what purgatory is all about: it's not Hell, but a place to wait while one, as Ben Linus put it, "works some things out."

Which is why, I suppose, Ben didn't move on with the rest. He had a lot of things to work out still, to put it mildly, and even though he was the island's villain, he was so well-motivated most of the time that we still rooted for him to have his happy ending. Or at least the possibility of one.

I was a bit bewildered that Sayid's sideways character's true love was not his wife, Nadia, but Shannon. Frankly, the fact that Sayid sold his soul to the MIB to be with his wife again would have made me think otherwise. 

And I think some mixed messages were sent as a nod to political correctness with "Christian Shepard" ("Seriously?" Kate asked about the name) standing in a church in front of a stained glass window which ecumenically touted the religions of the world behind him while telling Jack he was dead. I know the producers probably didn't want to offend by trying to say any particular version of what happens after people go into "the light" is the only one, but it seemed a bit pat, a jarring note that reminded me of the end of BOOK OF ELI, another story that made me think and which I loved.

Still, nothing was so moving to me as seeing Sawyer and Juliet together again. The moment when he held her and said, "I got you, baby," made sitting through an entire season without her worth it. I loved Juliet, and felt her absence keenly throughout the season, both hers and Desmond's Penny. I wish we had gotten to spend more time with them.

So, anyway, those are some of my thoughts. If you have any, feel free to comment below. I'd like to hear your take. Did you like the finale? Hate it? Feeling ambivalent? Or, just feeling LOST, like me? And if you made it this far, I'll give away two $10 gift certificates to Amazon.com to two people who comment on this post by 5/27/10.

TJB





20 comments:

Jane said...

I like the finale and I think I will learn to love the finale as soon as I watch it again and figure out what happened. All I know for certain is that they all died and I was happy that they went on to some afterlife together(except for the bad guys.) One of my favorite scenes is when Hurley becomes the new Jacob and Jack gives him the water to complete the "transfer."

TJ Bennett said...

There were a lot of biblical allegories in that whole water transfer thing, don't you think? Water is a frequent motif in Christian mythology. It signified, I think, a baptism more than any magical mumbo-jumbo--the volunteer had to be willing to drink it in order for it to work, so it was the willingness, and not the beverage, that made it special.

Even when Jacob used wine with Richard, that, too, had lots of Christian symbolism in it. Not that I think the LOST story was a Christian allegory, by any means; just one of the many sources from which the writers drew, but boy, did that make it interesting.

TJB

Jane said...

I do agree the finale was full of religious symbolism, like the various Dharma symbols we've seen throughout the episodes. I definitely need to see the finale again to see what I might have missed or just get a better understanding of everything that happened.

DianeT said...

I dunno, I never saw what was so fantastic about LOST. I caught a couple episodes here and there, but it didn't capture my attention. However, I have read up on the episodes and just have one big burning question:
How the heck did Polar Bears get on a Tropical Island?!?!? And How did they survive the climate change???
Aparently no one answered that question in the last episode.

Charlene Sands said...

Hi TJ - I've been so... disappointed in the finale, that I haven't said a word. Now, I'm talking. The ending was a total cop-out, much like Bobby's Dream season, on Dallas, only this time I invested 6 years of my life!

Don't get me wrong, what I LOVED about Lost for all those seasons, was the characters. I mean, they were great, interesting souls, each different and unique in their own way. The Jack, Kate, Sawyer triangle was the best I've seen on TV. Sun and Jin's storylines were fascinating. Hurley, love that guy. I could go on.
So they did THAT right and that's why I kept tuning in, year after year.
But really? They're DEAD? GEE, now that's a novel ending. I prayed it wasn't so, like five season's ago. The writers wouldn't be that cliche.

What about Darma Initiative? Jacob? The Others who stole children? The bears? Why did Jacob's brother turn into the black smoke in the waters, when Desmond and Jack didn't? What about the hatch? And pushing the button and electromagnetism?

I'm sorry to say that while the writers did great with characterizations, they really missed the boat, pardon the pun, with the plot lines. And lack of explanation.

So for me, it was a total cop-out and I was really disappointed and saddened by the ending. The only good thing, was seeing all the oldies come back, like Charlie and Penny. I guess, being a romance writer I wanted my HAPPY ENDING.

Now, aren't you sorry you asked? :)

TJ Bennett said...

Not at all, Charlene. :-) Everyone has a right to her own opinion. I do admit to being disappointed that all the questions weren't answered, but I think I'm a bit more tolerant of ambiguity in terms of the writing. There was no way the authors could have planned for every contingency, so some of it was obviously made up as they went along. And dropped when it didn't serve their overall purpose. I wish they had also thought of something other than all the characters were dead, too, but I loved that they got to be together one last time (Juliet! Sawyer! Sun and Jin!). I think they needed another season to answer all the questions, but they decided not to do that, so there you are.

I didn't invest six years, so maybe that's why I can tolerate more as well. I jumped on the LOST bandwagon late in the game and gorged myself on all five seasons on DVD within a period of just a few months. So, for me, the time investment wasn't so much. I loved it from the start, and felt that, like a relationship that has highs and lows but eventually comes to an end, I can look back on it fondly and remember the good times, not just the bad.

DianeT, unfortunately LOST wasn't one of those shows you can just pick up on here and there. It was a complete narrative arc with its own culture and lingo. Much of the nuances would have flown right by you if you didn't understand the concepts from the get-go. We learned a few seasons ago that the polar bears were brought to the island by the Dharma Initiative folks and kept in cages, but later got loose, probably when all the Dharma folks were mass murdered by The Others, led by Ben, their erstwhile leader. The bears roamed the island with the wild boars.

You might feel differently about the show if you saw it from the pilot episode, which frankly was some of the most dramatic, suspenseful, thrilling television I've ever seen. I was actually scared while I was watching it, because it was nervewracking, driven, and way too realistic. I'm a white-knuckle flier, and I could see myself as one of those plane crash victims only too well. From there on in, I was hooked.

TJB

TJB

Jennifer Mathis said...

I haven't ever watched it seemed like it could be confusing so I passed.

meandi09@yahoo.com

Candace said...

I've been thinking about finding a forum to discuss LOST a bit to pick up on some things I've missed. I've watched LOST from the very first episode and my husband and I have had many conversations trying to figure out how everything works.
I'm like you about the last episode. I still feel a little LOST. It's certainly a show that makes you think, and like you that's one reason why I like it so much. But I've been thinking so hard trying to figure everything out that my head hurts!
I'm not sure how I feel about them all being dead. It feels wrong for some reason, partly because when exactly did they die? That bothers me. BUT I'm very glad they are all with their loved ones. And I really loved when they all got the memories back and remembered each other. It made me tear up. Especially Sawyer and Juliet and Claire and Charlie.
This is one series I'll have to rewatch the entire thing to piece everything together, but I'm sure it will never answer ALL the questions.
candace_redinger(at)yahoo(dot)com

DianeT said...

Oh I watched the pilot episode, TJ and all I could think of was, "It's a 3 Hour Tour on a very bad acid trip"
Personally, I never thought it would go past the first season.
It's like they panicked and started throwing stuff into the storyline at random, without thinking how Absurd some of their ideas are.
*chuckles* It reminded me a lot of Gilligans Island meets As the World Turns.

Kerrelyn Sparks said...

Great discussion! Thank you, TJ! I have loved LOST from the beginning. As a writer, it was the ultimate in character study. Loved the different POVs and all the twists and turns. I grew to love the characters so much, that it didn't really bother me that some plot lines (like the Dharma initiative) sorta fizzled out. I thought it was brilliant that they showed the pilot again the night before the ending, for they really did return to their roots with the smoke monster and learning to get along with each other. I cried like a baby when Sawyer and Juliet got back together, and Charlie and Claire. Doing the childbirth scene again was genius. In the end, I still loved it all. Their love for each other brought them all back together-- love is more powerful than death.

Margay said...

TJ, very nicely done. Like you, I have been an avid fan of Lost from the very beginning when my older daughter first said, "Let's watch this show." From the first eye opening to the closing at the end, I have been glued to my set, following this show when it jumped time (both in the show and the tv schedule) and trying, right along with the characters, to get answers.

Yes, it stumbled sometimes, but that was part of its beauty because, really, who among us hasn't? So Lost became like a friend. A friend that had good intentions, that made mistakes, that dusted itself off and got back up again, and ultimately remained loyal not just to us but to itself.

Lost is a lot like life. Some questions will be answered, but not everything will be tied up in a neat little bow when it's our time to go. There will always be questions. Personally, I'm okay with that. Maybe we're not supposed to know everything at the end. I'm fine with the way it ended, the way it left things open to interpretation because - guess what? - even in the end, Lost is getting us to do what it always has and what it probably will for a long time to come.

It's getting us to think. And not just to think, but to discuss, to interact, to question. And isn't that the ultimate goal of any of us who write for a living? And it also got people to read with its library of books interspersed throughout the series, another laudable accomplishment.

So hats off to Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and JJ Abrams and the wise people at ABC who decided to give this show a chance. It has been one heck of a terrific ride and I thank you for many years of thought provoking entertainment, the likes of which we may never see again. Long live Lost.

Margay

Virginia said...

I have never watched the show, it just didn't seem to be something I would enjoy!

TJ Bennett said...

Kerry, Margay,

It's so cool to see folks who have really engaged with the show. Even when you're mad about the missteps, it's like being mad at your siblings: you still love them, even when they are behaving like idiots!

I think those of you who have never really had the chance to get into the show should give it a second try. There is no substitute for watching it yourself all the way through. I know when I tried to explain it to others, it sounded so far-fetched and outrageous, people would just roll their eyes. Smoke Monster? Time travel? Four toed Eygptian statues and a temple in the middle of a jungle guarded by a man who doesn't age? Polar bears on a tropical island? I know, I know. But the beauty of all this craziness was that the characters IN the story had the same reaction we OUTSIDE the story did, making us identify with them, right to the "Everyman" character of Hugo, the overweight schlub who wins the lottery and promptly crash lands on an island where money has no value. Every character in the show had difficulty believing what was happening around them, and Hugo was the voice of the viewer. "Dude," he'd say. "Seriously?" LOL!

Anyway, keep those comments coming, folks. The gift cards are up for grabs until Thursday.

TJB

DianeT said...

Ah the infamous "Money has no meaning" bit. LOL. Okay, I'll quit while I'm ahead.
Seriously, the concept of the series was interesting. It's just that, for me, they kept throwing things into the storyline that had me scratching my head and going, "Huh?"
There is, for me at least, a limit to my believability factor. This just went beyond those things. But I'm glad other people enjoyed the show.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Since I didn't watch the show, I have no comment to offer (so don't give me a prize!). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

cheryl c said...

I have to confess that I stopped watching LOST when the plots got too convoluted for my little brain to comprehend! ;-)

Carol Ericson said...

TJ, I also was a latecomer to Lost and watched all five seasons on hulu.com before the 6th season. I was totally hooked and loved watching one show after another like I did. Well, they were all dead in that sideways world, but everything that happened on the island, happened. It's just that they all died at different times. Who knows when Hurley and Ben died as they were the #1 and #2 of the island - could've been thousands of years after the initial crash. So I thought the ending was bittersweet - yes, they were together but they were dead. I think for Sayid/Shannon and Claire/Charlie and all the others - their time on the island together was the most significant of their lives - that's why they wanted to be together in the end, to move on with each other. Maybe Daniel and Charlotte will wait for each other too and maybe Ben will wait for his daughter. The island is what tied them together. Whew, thanks for the blog!

TJ Bennett said...

Hi, Carol! I agree that the characters all died at different times, but I don't think they made that clear enough. I think the writers tried to alleviate our distress at the fact that all our favorites were dead by having Christian (Jack's dad) say, "Everybody has to die sometime," but it was a bit of a let down even so.

Still, the reunion scenes were so moving, I forgive them! LOL!

TJB

amandawk said...

I loved the finale, but it did leave me feeling more confused. I'm sad it's over.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, TJ. I agree with much of what you've said. I'm glad I ultimately got you to watch the show. I knew that pilot would hook you :).

I missed my opportunity to talk about this after watching the last episode, partially because I wasn't sure I was ready to talk about it yet, due to my mixed emotions, and partially because I wasn't able to hook up with the one person I wanted to discuss it with :). I wasn't entirely happy because there were so many unanswered questions. but then again, the ending was so very bittersweet and made me teary-eyed more than once, so I wasn't entirely disappointed.

I guess I'm a little glad I didn't get to talk then. I just watched abc.com's last episode's Enhanced version (where the writers give us clues and connections in pop-ups at the bottom of the screen). It answered a few of the things I had suspected these last few episodes, but really, how sure can one be unless they hear it from the horses mouth :)? When the characters started experiencing their extreme pains (death) and extreme joys (deep, deep love), I knew, during the first "rememberances," that since they were reexperiencing their deaths, they must all be dead in sideways world, so they must have been at the way-station where they meet up before "moving on."

It was such a joy to watch everyone remember each other and reconnect. Superb acting all around, and Jack's refusal to acknowledge his death, until he spoke with his father, was particularly heartbreaking.

I think the island was supposed to be real. I think there was an ultimate fight between good and evil, heaven and hell (Jack and Locke, on the ridge). I think the characters on the plane, and later Desmond, went back to their lives, and died when their times came. I think Hurley and Ben together watched over the island until their deaths. I think Ben was at the church because these characters were the most important to him in life also, and I think he didn't go into the church because as he said, "He had some things he needed to work out." I think he felt he still needed to atone for his sins, so wasn't yet worthy of joining the others. On a personal level, it was the correct choice for the writers to make, because it would have thrown off the whole balance of the ending inside the church. Sayid belonged there, because ultimately, torturer that he was, he was also a redeemable and redeemed character.

I think, ultimately, I am satisfied with the ending.

The only thing I don't understand.... why did they change Kate's clothing at the end? Is one not to meet their maker wearing mile-high heels and a strapless mini?

All of the season's episodes are currently on abc.com. If you never watched the show from beginning to end, you should check it out now, as they don't often leave all the seasons available.

Note: If you get a chance, watch the Jimmie Kimmel episode Aloha to Lost, episode 865, that followed the end of the series. It is also on abc.com. There is a classic compilation of all of the slaps and punches that Ben and others have endured, and it is absolutely hilarious.

TSJ