This column deals with the finale of Lost. If you haven't watched it yet. Don't read this!
Everything was going so smoothly. We were headed for an epic finish the likes of which have rarely if ever been seen. Then, inexplicably, the rug was pulled out from under us. Suddenly, decisions and choices that once seemed defensible no longer made any sense at all. Suddenly, the ball was knocked loose, and the score tilted the wrong way.
No, I'm not talking about Painter-gate. I'm talking about the series finale of Lost.
Let me make some things clear:
I didn't need all my questions answered. I'm fine with the writers choices to focus on resolving the emotional story lines rather than the 'technical ones'. Most of the last episode of Lost was complete incredible. Unfortunately, like the Colts' perfect season, that last episode was 15 minutes too long.
Here's my laundry list of complaints:
The Island turned out to be a McGuffin. A McGuffin is an object everyone fights over that means nothing (the Lost Ark, the Holy Grail, the Crystal Skull). For three seasons, the Island was a character. It had a will. It had a plan. Somewhere along the way, the writers turned the Island into a man named Jacob. So at the end, when Jack descends to the heart of the Island, there's nothing there but a giant cork of sorts. I'm sorry, but that violates the promise of the whole show. The Island contains the Light? What the eff is the light? Why does that matter? By refusing to tell us why the Island matters they cheapened everything that was sacrificed for it.
The 'real' timeline made no sense. They had to answer why what happened happened when Juliet set off the bomb at the end of last season. Nothing that happened in episode one of this final season made any sense. Things have to happen for a reason. It's fine to turn the story into an allegory about finding people and what life is all about, but the events have to follow an internal logic. They provided none. Juliet sets off a nuke. They all should have died. Having them inexplicably thrown 20 years into the future to do battle with Smokey for a season makes no sense at all. There may be a way to answer that question, but it has to be provided.
The explanation for the "alternate now" does not match the reality they showed. The alternate now was the result of Juliet setting off the bomb. We know this because the Island is clearly under water. As a literary device it clearly sets up the denouement for the characters' lives. Christian describes the "alternate now" (or was it just the church?) as 'a place you made together'. Ok, so the alternate functions as a sort of 'pre-heaven' or (ironically) purgatory? Then why is Keamy there to get shot by Sayid? Why is Aaron in the church as a baby still? The events of the season simply don't match up with that explanation.
The "Alternate Now" ends up being meaningless. I suppose you could say that the alternate now was a valid timeline, and by entering the church they are choosing to leave it as a kind of ascension, but that's pretty strained. Let's say that everything Christian refered to ONLY means the church. The church is the meeting place, the place they created. So what does that mean for Jack's poor son? Both his parents are about to teleport away to some kind of afterlife. Jack has no son, so says John Locke. That relationship meant nothing. That character meant nothing. Then why did we waste an episode on it? Nothing that happened in that timeline mattered. It all just served as an excuse to set up the amazing 'revelation' scenes (which were all incredible). You don't create a timeline and then have it not matter at all. That's cheating at best.
All the answers didn't have to be revealed, but there had to BE answers. I despise Agatha Christie books. Why? Because the clues are meaningless. The mystery is always solved using some completely external data and nothing revealed in the plot matters. Everything is a red herring. That's a waste of time. Lost had some great suspense, dialogue, and human drama. It was crappy mythology. I left that final episode feeling not like the writers chose not to answer questions, but rather like they had never bothered to think up answers at all. It cheapened the world they had built. Why did Libby give Desmond money to buy a boat to sail around the world? In the end, it ends up just being a freaky coincidence. That's lame and a waste of time.
Desmond's actions made no sense. Why was he waking everyone up in the Alternate now? He clearly didn't need to. He beat the snot out of Ben to wake him up. Why? Ben didn't even go into the church? Desmond and Penny should have been able to just go on their own. Some characters stayed and others left, but there was no rhyme or reason to it.
Basically, I was enraptured with the episode right up until Christian Shepherd started speaking. Had he just said nothing I would have been happier. No explanations at all would have been superior to the nonsense he was spouting. I could have lived with a 'you figure it out for yourself' kind of artsy silent film ending. Anything would have been better than the "Curtis Painter drops back for the pass and we all know that whatever happens it won't be good" schlock. If that was the ending/message they wanted, then that's fine. The screw up wasn't in the finale it was in the previous episodes that set it up. The coaches should have been a lot more clear about what kind of game they were playing before they got our expectations all revved up.
Again, understand that I felt that show was just minutes away from nailing the ending. Merging the two time lines in a way that made sense and made both important was the last step, but they fumbled the ball, and it started bouncing the wrong way. I don't want to hear about how beautiful the message was. I get the images and the symbolism and all of it. In the end though, instead of explaining why one timeline happened, they left it so that neither one made any sense at all.
I love so many of the themes of Christian's Shephered's final speech. Community, eternity, reality, belonging...they are powerful ideas and images. Unfortunately, they are more powerful when placed in the context of a cohesive, logical world. Even one filled with Magic Islands and Smoke Monsters.
Allegory is fine. Mythology is better.