Two Views on the Lost Finale

As a cluttered, jumbled season concludes, Lost appears to be going back to the future.

JEFF ELDRIDGE: Lost is like adulthood. With age comes responsibility and confusion. It’s possible to have so many people around that it’s a relief when they cut loose. One day you’re foraging with Anna Lucia and Libby, and the next they’re shot dead by Michael. Just when you think you really know Michael, he’s gone in a boat explosion. Your friends’ parents can be annoyingly active forces, whether it’s trying to Facebook-friend you or shooting their grown child. The professions are dog-eat-dog: trying to climb the career ladder from number-typing hatch supervisor to tribal secular shaman, or making partner, or elevating yourself from one-hit wonder pop star to messianic save-the-baby hero.

It’s hard finding enough time follow everybody and their issues, much less keep track of your own responsibilities. Time travel seems like an attractive problem-solving choice, but as Marty McFly taught us almost a quarter-century ago, it’s not. It complicates the shit out of everything, for sure, and the excitement of seeing what your parents were like at your age burns off pretty fast, what with their killing you and turning Kurtz over electromagnetism. Everyone likes to kick it with attractive French people and greet World War II soldiers (Greatest Generation) and bury an H-bomb, but wasn’t life already satisfying and complicated enough?

As important as it is to take the long view with Lost, it’s time for some hard questions. Such as: If you drop more than 100 feet to the bottom of a pit, wouldn’t you smash apart? If giant metal flies through the air at a level of force several times more intense than caused by an MRI, aren’t the odds of dismemberment high? Why does Jacob seem like an Eddie Bauer model?

Lost has often played games with time (be my constant; ageless Richard Alpert) but only as satisfying and discrete tangents. This season was more Back to the Future II than Back to the Future – arbitrary, confusing and once the initial excitement wore off, a clattering, desperate mess. From the season’s opening sequence, it seemed probable that Miles was Dr. Chang’s son, a conclusion that was briefly exciting before Mother Faraday surfaced (more at place in a Harry Potter movie than Lost) along with Little Ben, Baby Charlotte, Biff and Mayor Goldie Wilson.

As the season was going along, none of this was humming. The show’s atmosphere of impending doom — its steady menace, its slower-paced reflectiveness — was replaced by a conventional plot-driven sci-fi fantasy. This was tolerable (if deflating) until late in the season, when the writers tossed out the show’s previous rules. One of the longstanding principles was that as the characters moved through time, there was nothing they could do that would affect the future. Then, abruptly, in Episode 14, Daniel Faraday announced that ambiguously defined “variables” could, in fact, change the future. This plot development opened the door to end-of-season antics that culminated with the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. More critically, any late-in-the-game rule change is a writing crime, especially in a show like Lost, where the writers have asked the audience to suspend disbelief and grant them the benefit of the doubt for so long and about so much.

Season 5 drew to a close with a double-Locke’d cliffhanger, murder by unreciprocated love (Eddie Bauer models should be wary of Ben) and an experiment about whether a nuclear explosion, when combined with electromagentism, can immediately rapture people to LAX. As the revelations and antics unfolded in a way reminiscent of Clue the movie, it all seemed beside the point. Who cares what’s happening in the show when someone else could go back in time and fix it anyway?

OK, yeah, that was absurd, but I’m keeping the faith.

TED BERG: I also found much of the fifth season of Lost disappointing, but still, while reading your post I found myself thinking, “No, Jeff — we still don’t know if they can change the future! Faraday might have been wrong!”

The catch to a labyrinthine plot like Lost‘s is that it requires, as I wrote at the season’s outset, some faith in the writers. Season 5 tested that faith in a big way, so much so that I briefly considered that it could be some sort of meta-project, like perhaps we were being tested just as Locke and Jack have been in the show.

What reminded me otherwise, though, were the failures in other aspects of the show beyond plot. The dialogue — never the show’s strong point — bordered on soap-opera ridiculousness at times. For the first time in the program’s run, there were some pretty major continuity errors. And I don’t even want to discuss some of the CGI.

Still, I’ve now watched the absurd season finale twice; such is the dedication that the show seems to demand by its nature, and such are my expectations for the end of the series. I’ve invested so much at this point, spent so much time watching and rewatching the show and trying to decipher its riddles with friends, that I really need to assume it will end in a satisfying way and assure that my hours have not been wasted.

It’s another test of faith. And when I start thinking about it enough, some of the more haphazard plot elements from the finale were foreshadowed at some point or another: If Jacob’s enemy is somehow the black smoke, then we already know he can inhabit dead bodies on the island, as he has with Yemi, Christian and Alex. So maybe that explains why the others are so particular about their funeral rituals. There’s something there, right?

I don’t know, but I suppose it’s an endorsement of the series to say I’m still excited to find out if there is. The final episode did nothing to assuage my fears that it will end poorly, but apparently it was not bad enough to make me swear off the series entirely. I wish it would return to something more like the show I became attached to in the first place, but like most fans of the show, I’m just too attached to do anything about it if it doesn’t.

I don’t even care if it’s good anymore. I just need to find out what happens.

Oh and yeah, Jacob was quite pretty for an 1850s-era demigod, or whatever the hell he is. But who did you expect was bringing all the hot people to the island in the first place? Some hideous leper? C’mon. The god guy was pretty clearly going to be hot.

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