Lost Finale considered, part two: Were we watching the wrong way this whole time?

Though it would seem like there isn't anything to add about Lost by now, please bear with me for a minute - I have to Let Go Before I Can Move On.

In the time since "The End" aired, I've seen reactions ranging from pure love to fury. I'd say Suzanne Merkelson's review for the Atlantic was probably the closest to mine: I thought it had some problems - and more on this in a minute - but at the same time, as two and a half hours of television, I found it entertaining enough that I didn't mind. The sideways-verse/purgatory/'waiting room" reunions and subsequent flood of memories were nicely done (the obvious best being Sawyer and Juliet sharing a candy bar). The on-Island action was powerful, too, between Jack's showdown with Smokey and his transfer of power to Hurley (and Hurley finally letting Ben feel appreciated was a nice little moment also, even if I'm pretty sure they just opened the door for "Lost: The Movie," where Hurley and Ben have to bring Desmond, Sawyer, Kate, Walt and Aaron back to the Island to face down a new evil). Now, all that said, it did drag a bit, it raised some questions that will now never get answered, it was overly sentimental, it didn't hold up very well to scrutiny and it probably wasn't quite as profound as it seemed to think it was. It was bold and ambitious, not always to its own benefit. But I was glad to have watched it when it was over.

In other words, "The End" the episode was a microcosm of Lost itself. And it would seem that in the minds of producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, a number of people had been watching the wrong way for a long time. The finale made it clear that the mythology was actually intended to serve the characters' development, and not the other way around. Speaking through Christian Shepherd, they said as much themselves during the scene in the church when Jack finally gains awareness of his status among the deceased: "The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here." It's open to debate how well they told the stories of these characters (as opposed to the story of the Island), but at the same time, they did introduce us to some memorable and entertaining people over the years.

I won't go so far as to say people are wrong to have wanted more answers, and I'd be lying if I said there wasn't anything I was still curious about (still not clear on why Sayid, Jack, Hurley, and Kate specifically time-travel-flashed back to 1977). But that said, if the finale had simply been a large informational download that came at the expense of the arcs of Hurley, Jack, Sawyer, and the rest, then I'm not sure it would have been any better. Almost every time the show actually revealed answers in the last few years - think Eloise Hawking in the pendulum room, or Jacob arranging his brother and adoptive mother in the "Adam and Eve" position - it did so in such a clumsy, on-the-nose fashion that viewers wished they'd remained in the dark. Simply put, Lost had more to lose by telling us some of the things we wanted to know.

Carrying this line of thinking a step further, it seems like a lot of well-regarded television shows and films have left a lot to the imagination; explanations that feel too blunt or wrap things up too neatly are generally frowned upon. One infamous example of the latter that was cited frequently in the lead-up to "The End" was the Star Wars prequel trilogy, in which, among other things, George Lucas offered a dumb pseudoscience-y explanation of the Force and provided Boba Fett with an unnecessary backstory. Oh, and he turned Darth Vader, one of the coolest villains ever, into a whiny little weasel. In the final episode of The X-Files, Agent Mulder learns The Truth; fans were underwhelmed. Now people are coming around to the view that the unconnected one-off "monster of the week" episodes were better than the ones about the impending alien invasion. And, of course, there was all that "God did it!" business in the finale of Battlestar Galactica. Perhaps one can argue that the problem was not that the questions were answered so much as the answers themselves were unsatisfying. But in each case, I am not sure I can come up with a conclusion that could have won with the fans. The same holds true for Lost fans, each of whom has their own favorite unsolved mystery, and a corresponding pet theory to go with it. No one answer can satisfy all of those people's desires.

And I don't think the writers copped out by not trying, either. The story they wanted to tell us only required us to know certain things. We didn't need to know, for instance, what that light was precisely to understand that bad things happened when it was extinguished. I remember when I was done watching "The End" one of my first thoughts was that it would divide Lost fans much in the same way "Made in America" divided Sopranos fans, with one side clamoring for closure and the other realizing that they had just seen the perfect resolution. And - granted, this is anecdotal - history seems to favor the latter side in that debate. And while Lost is obviously no Sopranos (it's probably not even on Buffy's level in the final analysis), I imagine the debate will play out in the same fashion. 

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