Fond farewell: ‘Lost’ (TV review)

On Tuesday morning, television is going to look a lot worse than it does right now. On Sunday, we’ll say farewell to “Lost,” and on Monday, “10 Things I Hate About You,” “24” and “Law & Order” will bow out.

We haven’t reached the “put your TV out with the trash” stage; at least a half-dozen very good shows will be returning next fall. Still, there’s no question that these four departing series will leave a void that needs to be filled, either by new or existing shows.

Here are my final thoughts.

“Lost” (8 p.m. Central Sunday on ABC, two-and-a-half hours)

On air: 2004-10, six seasons

Why it was great: Scenes of people trekking through the jungle for some important purpose. Sawyer having nicknames for everyone. Getting people to talk about great literature from the past every time one of the characters picked up a book.

“Lost” always gave us something to think about, starting with “What would it be like to be stranded on an island?” That was a compelling enough premise, but starting with Charlie’s famous utterance (“Guys, where are we?”), the mythology only got richer. “Lost” has always held my attention, even when I’ve complained about it.

Seasonal breakdown: The first is the best. Seasons 2-4 drifted away from the point before Season 5 got back on track by exploring the Dharma Initiative. Runner-up status for best season is the current one because of its Alterna-World, which I think will pay off in the finale.

Best character: Claire Littleton. Her Australian accent is cute. I would’ve said John Locke, but then they killed him off in the middle of his arc.

Possible heirs: “Fringe” obviously leads the pack. It’s got an alternate world (with alternate versions of the characters), a rich backstory about rival factions hoping to harness technology, characters in need of redemption … basically, it’s “Lost” in the concrete jungle rather than the Hawaiian jungle and with weird science instead of weird mysticism. Also, NBC’s upcoming “The Event” is a serial about a guy uncovering a mystery, but it doesn’t have “Lost’s” supernatural edge.

Share your thoughts on “Lost” in the comment thread, and check out my upcoming posts on the three Monday finales.

Comments

John Hansen's GravatarThe finale was fairly satisfying, but not too surprising. As Another Matt predicted, it was mostly an action episode wrapping up the UnLocke vs. Good Guys storyline.

It didn’t explain the AlternaWorld in a clear-cut way. It was revealed to be not real (Jack never had a son, and he was never married to Juliet). It was also revealed to be real (Christian tells Jack that everything that ever happened to him was real).

But don’t rack your brain too much over it; the writers never intended to explain it anyway. “Lost” was kind of like “The X-Files” in the sense that the writers never intended to explain everything, or even have it make sense. They just wanted to hold your attention as long as possible and give you hope that it would all tie together.

If I was a TV writer, I would never be able to write like that, because I’m not good at deception. And I wonder if it would be possible to make a show with a journey as complex and compelling as “Lost” and “The X-Files” yet have everything make sense. But, as I said, I give “Lost” credit for holding my attention; a lot of shows don’t even do that.

One of the earliest and most popular guesses for “what it all means” was that they all died in the plane crash and the island is purgatory before they go on to heaven. And indeed, that was exactly the case. One could argue that “Lost” consists of a first episode (plane crash and death) and a last episode (going to heaven after dying) and that purgatory was where everyone learned what was important in life (love and friendship). As Jack said, “If we can’t learn to live together, we’re going to die alone.”

So what of the Dharma Initiative and the Numbers and Jacob and the MIB? Well, I suppose it was as real as everything else in the series, but while it’s easy to say, “OK, the characters learning about love and friendship is meaningful,” I have to dismiss the major plot points as filler.

Think about these now-pointless questions: “Who are the Tailies?” “Who are the Others?” “Who are the Oceanic Six?” At the time, those questions seemed thin, and now it’s clear that they indeed were not important. Or think about Eko’s storyline. Or Nikki and Paulo’s. Or Michael and Walt’s? Did those episodes have any importance to the overall story? No, not particularly.

That’s why “Lost” doesn’t deserve to rate among the best series of all time. The truly great series don’t have 90 percent of episodes be meaningless filler, even if it is meaningless filler that is well made.

I’m not sorry I watched “Lost,” but I am sorry that it was never as good as the hype suggested it was. That “Lost” that was always drooled over by Entertainment Weekly and online theorists and those “Isn’t ‘Lost’ great?” specials that ABC regularly ran — now that was the show I wanted to watch.

So let’s not say, “There will never be another show like ‘Lost.’ ” Instead, let’s hope that “Lost” will inspire someone to make a show as good as “Lost” was supposed to be.

# Posted By John Hansen | 5/24/10 4:01 AM

Another Matt's GravatarWhoa whoa whoa.

I thought it was a strong finale, especially considering the level of scrutiny it would face and the guarantee that some people would walk away mad. While that doesn’t seem to be the case for either of us, we have surprisingly different views on what exactly happened.

I guess some of it might be left to interpretation, but I’m certain the flash-sideways world was purgatory and the island was all real. Christian told Jack near the end that some people died before him, some long after him but the alterna-world was the place they all made to meet up before moving on, which they did because they were together for the most important part of each others’ lives, ie: their time on the island.

None of the main characters died in the initial plane crash. Everything that happened, happened. The alterna-world was the one that was not real.

For Jack, whose life and death on the island served as nice bookends for the series, his stint in the alternate timeline began the moment he died at the end of this episode. In that sense, the flash-sideways have really been a flash forward that started whenever each of the characters died (and that was different for everybody.)

Kate, Sawyer, Frank, Miles and Richard all really escaped. When they eventually died, which could have been years later, that is when they entered the sideways universe/purgatory.

Also, I think you’re being kind of harsh in your general discussion of the entire series, but your opinion has been about the same for a while now. I have to say, if I thought it ended how you thought it ended, with the island-as-purgatory thing, I would have been more upset than you seem to be.

I’ll have more to say soon, but I had to clear that up. Check back.

# Posted By Another Matt | 5/24/10 10:37 AM

John Hansen's GravatarI get it now. That makes more sense, and it makes it a more satisfying ending and makes me respect the writers a bit more. I got thrown off by Christian’s “Everything that ever happened to you was real,” making me think both worlds were equally real. I guess he meant both worlds were real to the person experiencing them. Mainly, though, I was just not paying as close of attention as I should have been and then I wrote the blog comment too quickly after the end of the episode.

As you noted, “Lost” was bookended by Jack. No one else really got to complete their journey, at least not in a satisfying way. The most notable disappointment to me is Locke. He’s a guy with horrible luck, he’s frustrated with life, the island gives him hope, then the island kills him, and to rub salt in the wound, the MIB uses his face as that of the villain. In purgatory he seems happy, but I’m not sure why; he totally got screwed over by life.

Basically, everyone was a flawed person, but the island brought them together to work as a team and look out for each other; we might’ve been hoping for more than that, but really, they probably did give us enough. I didn’t really want to watch a bunch of episodes about Kate getting her life together anyway.

I think the biggest flaw of Season 6 was that they killed off Locke (for some reason which I can’t remember) and then had this vague idea of the MIB sometimes being all-powerful and sometimes being human (Kate’s bullets bounce off of him, but later Jack hurts him and kills him in a knife fight). They thought, “We’ll just use Terry O’Quinn in this role, and it’ll work because he’s an amazing actor.”

Well, no, it didn’t quite work. It would’ve been more satisfying to have the real Locke and the real Jack having their debate up until the end.

Too many of “Lost’s” character arcs were internal. For example, Ben decides he’s a going to be a good guy in the final episode. Just last week, that wasn’t the case; he was saying, “Who do we kill next?” (That’s not to say I wanted more Ben episodes, though.)

Matt, do you think in the purgatory world they should’ve had all the characters leading better lives? For example, Kate? Since it was a world of their own making — collectively in all of their heads — should they have made it more of a positive experience for everybody? It seems like Kate and Charlie in particular were in rough shape even though this was a world of their own making.

I’m having trouble grasping how this was a world they all made and yet none of them knew they created it (Christian and Desmond and Hurley figured it out first, and then went about the work of informing the rest of them). And why did some people have better purgatory lives (Sawyer goes from conman to detective) and others stayed the same (Kate’s a criminal, Charlie is a depressed druggie)?

I feel bad about being hard on “Lost,” but I guess I just prefer shows where the serial narrative all makes solid sense, and then the deeper meaning can be gleaned by digging deeper. “Lost” is a show where you had to spend a lot of time just figuring out what was happening — what the rules of the game were, so to speak — and then once you had that figured out, you could see if you actually liked it. I’m not saying I’m against shows that try to be mysterious and mystical, but I am saying “Lost” didn’t totally pull it off. I admire them for trying, though.

I guess “Lost” is ending at the right time. For a while now, they’ve struggled to make the island seem threatening and dramatic; even the Altera-World was a bit of a repeat of what we already knew (Kate as a criminal, for example). They probably had three solid seasons of story stretched over six. Still, at least it’s not going nine seasons and really stretching things out. I think this is a rare case where even the most serious fans will say, “Yes, the story has been told, and it should end.”

# Posted By John Hansen | 5/24/10 1:41 PM