In Which My Hopes For The End of Lost Wind Up Deader Than Nikki & Paulo
I entered season six of Lost with enormous enthusiasm. After re-watching the first five seasons on the show, I had gained a newfound respect for the wonderful, overall tapestry of the show, and I was beyond excited to see those myriad story-threads get pulled together over the course of the final season.
That didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped.
A few days late, last night I finally had a chance to watch the series’ antepenultimate episode “Across the Sea.”
I don’t, frankly, really even know where to begin.
But looking back, I’ll remember this as the moment when I gave up my last embers of hope that the show would reach anything resembling a satisfying conclusion.
Instead of dissecting the flaws of the episode, let me direct you to this interview with the two show-runners, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, conducted by the great Alan Sepinwall (who has just started a new blog over at Hitfix.com).
I have been reading and listening to interviews with Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse for years now, and they’ve always struck me as funny, intelligent men who really knew what they were doing in charting this weird, complex show. But now their comments just make me sad.
There are two exchanges that are really worth noting. Here’s the first:
As we’ve gone into this final season and you’ve introduced new characters like Dogen and Lennon and the other Temple people, and new mysteries, there have been some people who’ve said, “Okay, they don’t have to answer all the old mysteries if they don’t want to, but it’s not fair for them to keep introducing lots of new ones at this late date.” How do you respond to that?
DL: Are there any readers who actually like the show?
Many readers like the show. I like the show. But these questions are out there.
CC: We feel that we as storytellers, basically can only approach the storytelling the way that we do, which is it felt like there was no way that we could just be answering existing questions without the show feeling didactic. There would have been no larger narrative motor. For the show to devolve into running through a checklist of answers, we would have been, honestly, crucified for that version of the show. It’s ironic that the episode that’s generating so much controversy is one in which we answered questions, but it’s not surprising to us. Between what the audience thinks they want and what they will find entertaining – we have tried ot make the show in a way that people would find it entertaining, moving engaging. To do that required having new mysteries. That’s the way we operated.
What a failure of creative imagination. OF COURSE there are ways that they could have answered fans’ questions without the show becoming didactic! They just FAILED to find any of those ways! This also speaks to a now-apparent larger problem with the show: if they had been more diligent about answering questions through the first five seasons, then fans wouldn’t be entering these final episodes with an enormous laundry list of the show’s unanswered questions (like mine!). But instead they decided to be coy and to continually withhold key pieces of information from the audience, and now that it becomes clear that we’re NEVER going to get the vast majority of that information, it causes viewers like me to turn on the show.
Here’s exchange number two:
Okay, finally, I have to ask, simply because it’s been driving me nuts for a year and a half: what’s going on with showing the other half of the outrigger shootout?
CC: The outrigger shootout is not something we’re bending around in gyrations so we can solve it. In the grand scheme of the show, that is a fairly obscure piece of the show. It is your particular obsession…
DL: …and you’re not alone in it.
CC: You’re not alone in it. And yes, it would have been great if we had had the opportunity to close the time loop. But you can’t get everything done and keeping the narrative going in a straight line. This is one of those things where we made a very conscious choice to ask, “What are the big questions? And most importantly, what are the paths of these characters? Where do they lead?” And we followed those paths and tried not to trip ourselves up getting too diverted from that. We felt that that’s the thing that’s ultimately going to make the finale work or not work. We got to the point where we made the finale we wanted to make, that was our approach, and I think it was the only approach we could take. We sat here in my office, had breakfast every day for six years, talked about the show, and we used this gut check methodology, where if we both loved something and thought it was cool, that would go in. We applied that same methodology to the finale, and that was the only way we could do it. We came up with a finale that we thought was cool, that was emotional and one we really liked. That’s the best we could do.
This exchange is referring to the scene early in season 5 in which Sawyer and co are paddling a boat around the island, when they time-jump and all of a sudden another party in a boat are shooting at them. This scene was deliberately staged so that we couldn’t see who the characters were in the other boat — the clear implication being that some-time later we’d get to see the other half of this scene. And here again it becomes apparent that the manner in which this show was created was, at essence, faulty. To create that scene without a plan for how and when you’re going to resolve it is terribly insulting to the audience. We have gotten involved in the mysteries of this show! We CARE about having answers to these questions! No one forced the show-runners to create that scene and structure it so that we were left with a deliberate mystery. They CHOSE to do that, and in so doing I feel that they took on the obligation to fans of the show to answer the questions that they, themselves, raised. (That seems a pretty reasonable and common-sense position, to me!)
There’s another point in the interview where they specifically reference Battlestar Galactica, and they are somewhat critical of the fans whose dislike of the finale adversely colored their perceptions of the over-all series. They compare this to Seinfeld, in which people who loathed the finale (like me) still were able to think highly of the series. But of course they miss the point. The Seinfeld episodes were each stand-alone stories. A bad one at the end didn’t ruin the hundreds of other perfect gems that had already been created. But shows like BSG and most ESPECIALLY Lost are continuing sagas, in which the whole run of the show is really one long, sprawling story. And if that story isn’t brought to a successful close, it DOES ruin things overall for me. Why is it worth my time to ever re-watch Lost if I KNOW that it ends without a satisfactory resolution? Why would I ever recommend the show to anyone else with that knowledge? I can watch any of a hundred Seinfeld episodes, and knowing that the finale stunk doesn’t impact in my enjoyment of that episode that I’m watching at all. But Lost isn’t a show where one would ever pick up the dvd set and flip randomly to an episode. It saddens and disappoints me that Mr. Cuse and Mr. Lindelof seem unaware of the type of show they made, and the expectations among fans that they created.