Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

26 May, 2010

LOST Finale Post Mortem 1



As I was last Sunday night, I am still ambivalent about the series finale of LOST. My mind is still trying to comprehend that it's over. This will be the first summer in a while where I wasn't jonesing for some LOST goodness and eagerly awaiting a video at Comic Con. There used to be just so many questions and the anticipation of answers but now the moment has come and gone.

First, here's what the show got right in the finale: it didn't explain away the Island. As I wrote back in February:

With the show ending, I am really hoping that the writers don't explain the island away as an aggregation of midichlorians that we know as Atlantis or some such thing. Don't screw up like George Lucas.

The island is a stage where people's passions play out. It's where there are villains and heroes; people kill one another and they love one another. In short, the island is a generic stand-in for anywhere on earth where there are human beings because we take our logic and our emotions, our science and our faith with us wherever we may go.


We know plenty about the Island. It's, well, an island that travels along something similar to ley lines and parks itself over pockets of energy. There's a well spring of this energy/light in a cave that people protect. This energy has some fantastic properties including being able to move in space and time. This leaves open many a question such as "Why are there all these Egyptian ruins?", "Who put the cork in the well?", and so on. But we don't need to know these answers because what's important is that the Island serves as a stage for damaged sons and daughters to act out their parts in a search for redemption.

In this area, the writers get an A. I also give them high marks for the last shot of Jack's eyelid shutting. The cycle is complete. Wholly appropriate and a necessary antidote to the weird our-souls-will-all-fly-off-together happy ending. Now, although the specifics of that scene bug me a bit, I do rather like how the show ends on grand mix of religion and humanism. A soldier pierced the side of Christ just as Esau stabbed Jack and the trip to the Light or Heaven or wherever took place in a church with its omnipresent crucifix. On the other hand, Christian explains to Jack that he too is dead but what matters most is how he lived and the other people in his life. Christian says:

"This is a place that you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here. You needed all of them and they needed you."

The purgatory of the flash-sideways world and the refulgent promise of a kind of heaven may be religious in nature, but it was the bonds among the Losties which mattered as opposed to a devotion to a deity. Having one another, drawing strength from your fellow human beings – that's what counts in the end.

One disappointment related to this is Jack's wounds and how his neck would periodically bleed in the flash-sideways world. We found out that Jack was able to fend off Esau at the last minute but that the tip of the knife scratched Jack's neck. OK, we see how the wound was a reminder of Jack's life but so what? What sideways Jack thought was an appendectomy scar was really a scar from Esau mortally wounding the Island's new guardian. So why did only the scratch on the neck bleed? I know it's not particularly important but it bugs me because these wounds were essentially red herrings. They don't lead to anamnesis, "prove" anything or otherwise advance the story at all – they're just there to be mysterious.



Another gripe came to me upon seeing Christian doing his brief Virgil bit to Jack's Dante. Christian appeared many times after his death. We got confirmation that the instance of leading Jack to the cave was merely Smokey in disguise. But what about in Jacob's cabin? Appearing to Michael on the freighter? To Jack in the hospital? Smokey couldn't get back to L.A. so what the hell was that apparition? These are important, not so much in trying to understand the Island as a purgatory for souls who, as ghost Michael said, can't move on, but because it begs the question of what souls can appear to whom. If the Whispers were the collective moan of those souls, then it's a real deus ex machine to have one and only one appear to Hurley to give necessary advice. Plus, with all these souls present on the Island, why wasn't Miles have conniptions all the time? I think the whole Whispers phenomena needed more explanation because I feel like the writers just kept it as an ace in the hole for almost the entire show and just let one help out when it was necessary with no rhyme nor reason.

I feel similarly about Jacob's cabin. It's cheating to put it in there, for its inhabitant to have a major role, and to just leave it as a highly convenient enigma. Too many times help arrived essentially ex nihilo from a mysterious source. Having Michael appear to Hurley and telling him to not destroy the plane was just too much. Where was he earlier? Why didn't any other ghost help out? Presumably because it was the right time for the writers. Along these same lines, I found the last couple episodes to be disappointing because they didn't fully resolve Jacob and thusly left me with an unsatisfactory conclusion to the show's free will vs. destiny debate. Jacob spent decades undermining the free will of the candidates and, by extension, all of the passengers of Oceanic 815 via some unknown way only to turn around at the last minute and say, "Oh, by the way, you now have free will" when it came to being his replacement. That felt, to me, like a cop-out. By keeping Jacob such an enigma, it allowed the writers to avoid taking sides and to pull stuff out of their ass when needed.

Since I'm reading a book with the same title, I'll say "and another thing". Michael's soul tells Hurley that the Whispers are souls trapped in the Island purgatory who cannot move on or pass over. OK. Then we are told that the flash-sideways was also a purgatory. Are they the same? If so, why does Michael know about events on the Island whereas, say, Kate does not?

And I'm still disappointed that the show squandered the freighter people. Frank Lapidus was kept around merely to fly the plane in the last episode. Otherwise he merely stood in the background looking on as events unfolded. What a wasted opportunity.

I have to wonder if the decision to trim seasons down to 17 or 18 episodes instead of 23 or 24 is part of the problem. Perhaps the writers just didn't have enough time to tell the story. Take, for instance, the fertility problems faced by The Others. Were they real? In one sense they aren't particularly important. However, they were a prime mover for some characters. For instance, they were ostensibly the motivation for recruiting Juliet. I say this because, although her name appeared on the cave wall as a potential candidate, only viewers who went to the Net or went frame by frame would catch this. Plus Claire was abducted because she was pregnant and the whole story of pregnant women dying provided Juliet with motivation to get Sun off the Island despite her not wanting to leave Jin. In other words, mysterious fertility/pregnancy issues had a large effect upon the characters but they were simply forgotten about.

If a mystery acted as a prime mover for people's behavior, then it should have been explained. We didn't really need to know what Jacob's cabin was or why it moved but it would have been nice to know exactly what the incarnation of Christian Shepherd was that told Locke to move the Island. For a show that had so many Easter eggs and encouraged speculation, it left us short on answers that were so much fun to hypothesize about.

|| Palmer, 8:47 AM

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