'Lost': It only ends once
I've been dreading writing this entry for about...oh, six months now. I guess you could say I've felt "Lost" when trying to think about what to say here when the time finally came to pack things up in this neck of the woods. When Darlton kept mentioning how they didn't want the series finale to define the entire experience of the show for viewers, I semi-scoffed at their words. Now? I completely and utterly understand. This is the last entry here on the blog, ending my tenure here after nearly three years.
I started in October 2007, and have written at least 4 articles a week ever since. Here's the first line I ever wrote here: "Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the first of many, and I do mean many, posts dedicated to your favorite show and mine, 'Lost'." No kidding. By my rough calculation, I've written well over 600 entries about the show since starting. And here we are at the last one. The end, as it were.
So I thought I'd do a final "Course Corrections" in my last time out, since that was one of my favorite concepts in my time with the blog. Having the chance to look back at episodes in the cold light of day really brought out a lot of new insight during Season 6, and certainly allowed me to play with a lot of ideas without having the burden of spending an entire entry dealing with them. So what better way to try and sum up an impossibly big show and the mountain of material that it inspired me to produce?
Here we go. Once more unto the beach...
If I had any advice to someone who either wants to go back and watch the show as a whole at some point in the future, or even someone that wants to finally see what all the fuss is about, it's this: Follow Hurley. You need a guide to cut through the complexity of the show as well as a moral compass amongst the various shades of shady people in the world of "Lost," and there's no better compass than Hugo.
A lot of the post-show debate has centered around the fact that the show gave us questions without providing enough compelling answers. Obviously, mileage varies on how many questions you personally wanted to have answered. But if I could give a secondary bit of advice to anyone approaching the show for the first time at some point in the future: Don't read a single freakin' thing that anyone associated with the show has to say about it. I'm serious. I've argued this point several times over the last half of the last season, but I'll make it again: Darlton steered the course of my favorite show of all time, but didn't do themselves any favors when speaking publicly about the show. When people talk about being promised answers, they are talking as much, if not more, about interviews given by the showrunners as to elements within the show itself.
I don't agree with a lot of Emily Nussbaum's overall impressions of "Lost," but I think her assessment of the double-edged sword of fan interaction is pretty spot-on. She paints Darlton in a less flattering light than I think is fair, but her overall thesis is pretty darn strong all the same. I've praised "Lost" for taking advantage of things like HDTV, DVRs, and the wikification of the internet in telling its story. Unfortunately, with great technological power comes great responsibility...and a great chance for vicious blowback as well. I don't think it would have been possible for Darlton to stay quiet during their six-year run with the show, but I am very curious to see how a new fan coming to the show reacts to the overall series without the experience of scouring websites, magazines, and message boards for more than a half decade interpreting sound bites as gospel, only to find out they were either misdirections, misinterpretations, or simply ideas spoken in good faith that were lost in translation when it came time to put ideas into action onscreen. My personal impression is that no one will be as mad as the maddest fans are right now, but hey, I've been wrong plenty of times before.
Semi-related to the meta-nature of analysis that seeped into every more-than-casual fan of the show's overall view of the show: I think "White Rabbit" gives us the two core elements of the series within just a few minutes of each other: Christian's empty casket and Jack's famous "live together, die alone" speech. The latter speaks to the core ethos of the show: for better or worse, the show used science fiction as essentially ornament to a very simple, very humanist message. By living together, these people literally did not die alone: they met in the place they collectively created. The Island, The Dharma Initiative, and the smoke monster all played backdrop to this drama. Important, extremely cool, wholly original backdrop, but backdrop all the same.
And this gets me to the message of Christian's empty coffin: by series end, we STILL haven't found his body. I LOVED this, but the reasons I love it may speak to why so maybe people disliked the finale (and, by retroactive extension, the show as a whole). I loved this fact because it spoke most plainly to the notion that in "Lost," just as in life, there are certain problems that have no answer. I'm not a fan of "Across the Sea," but Mother's notions of certain answers begetting only more questions isn't off-base when it comes to certain elements of the show. That doesn't mean it's not really fun and cool to think about donkey wheels and Room 23 and Walt's psychic powers, but answering them all was never the point. If "Lost" were a mystery show first, and a character show second, this would be a faulty way to conduct a show. Since it was the other way around, it didn't ultimately bother me.
A few weeks ago, there was an attempt on Twitter to sum up "Lost" in 140 characters or less. Some people tried to sum up the plot of the show in that short space (bad idea). Others tried to sum up its philosophy (interesting, but difficult). My entry? "Where are we? Who are we? Why are we?" I keep thinking of The Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" when trying to apply the show's message to my own life. "And you may say to yourself/How do I work this?" That line's equally applicable to trying to hold down a job as it is to holding down a button in a geodesic dome. Why "Lost" ultimately worked for me is because it didn't try to solve the mystery of Alvar Hanso but tried to solve the mystery of what makes a life worth living. That's an insanely hokey concept to some, and certainly not the concept a lot of "Lost" fans thought they were signing up for, but once revealed, made my heart very, very happy.
Now, let's put this to bed right now, before I sign off for good here. There's no "right" way to view the show as a whole. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but if you've been reading the comments here over the years, you know that's not a universally held belief. People that think I'm "justifying" the show through false praise because 1) I spent 2.5 years writing this blog or 2) have some desire to keep my standing in the "media elite" are dead wrong. Consequently, people that say that fans who didn't like the finale simply "didn't get it" are also wrong. (It's totally possible to understand the finale and not like it. In fact, this happened. A lot.) Both viewpoints are reductive, assume bad faith, and don't help anyone get any closer to an understanding of the show. They are just playground insults hurled anonymously behind a keyboard.
In my mind, "Lost" ultimately gave an answer (though certainly not THE answer, since that's impossible) to the questions I posed in my Twitter exercise. The show started with an interesting, but ultimately meaningless question: Where are we? Now, it's only meaningless in that the backdrop on the show was exciting and cinematic and supernatural but ultimately an interesting context in which human drama could play out. From there, it moved on to a more important query: Who are we? By exploiting stereotypes and hinting at greater connections between these people, the show was consciously commenting on our fractured world, more connected than ever yet simultaneously more isolated. (Just take a gander at a crowded subway, with people packed to the gills yet all focused on their PDAs, iPhones, and other electronic accessories.) Finally, Season 6 moved onto the most important question: Why are we? In other word: what's the impetus to get out of bed in the morning? It's to share experiences with the people we might have otherwise ignored, acknowledging life's finite nature but choosing to see that as a feature, not a bug. Doing so enables us to actually live, not merely survive.
"Lost" answered those three questions to my immense satisfaction, which is why I can say goodbye to the show on extremely positive and grateful terms.
Speaking of being grateful, I have to give thanks to everyone here at Zap2it who gave me this opportunity in the first place. Andy Greiser brought me on in the summer of 2007 to recap a show called "Hidden Palms," a CW soap so bad it burned off its final two episodes on July 4th. From there, I recapped a few more shows, and Brill Bundy asked if I wanted to run the "Lost" blog that fall. And when she said "run" it, she meant it. I've basically been left completely alone to run things as I saw fit, never was asked to write something I didn't believe, and overall received amazing technical, moral, and friendly support from the whole crew at Zap2it.
Next up: I want to thank you, loyal and passionate readers, for all your comments and support over the years. You've ensured that I've never slacked, always keeping me on my toes and giving as much, if not more, food for thought than the show itself. It means more than you can know that you let my thoughts on the show be part of your overall "Lost" experience. Through your eyeballs and indulgence, you let me write not only analysis but "Lost"-inspired musicals and Bai Ling takedowns and a host of other silliness that helped make this site more than your run-of-the-mill blog about the show. You've allowed me to take the blog seriously without actually taking myself too seriously, so thank you for letting me be me.
But mostly, I have to give thanks to my wife, Diana. For almost three years, she's supported me both professionally (acting as my copyeditor for most of the entries you've read) and mentally (being kind enough to let me do what I love, even though it's meant many a homebound night in which one of us goes to bed long after the other). Everything I write, I write hoping that she likes it. To say she's my constant doesn't do her enough justice. We're both looking forward to some time away from writing for me.
Which brings us to the question I often get asked: "What are you going to do now that the show's over?" Usually this is followed by, "Are you going to be OK?" And I have to laugh, because yes, I'll be pretty fantastic. Writing this blog has been a labor of love, but it has been a labor. Wordwise, I've produced something close to the length of the "Harry Potter" series, all about one show. I think it's amazing that a show could produce so much non-repetitive thought, but trust me, I feel how much I've been writing. Both in terms of the length of time writing about "Lost," coupled with the fact that this is and has always been a job I do after my actual 9-5 daytime job, and you could say I'm looking forward to a break.
But luckily, I'm happy to announce this will not be the end of my time writing about television here at Zap2it. I can't say exactly what will be happening just now, but know that I will be contributing heavily about all things television starting a little later this year. We're still hashing out all the details, but I promise to come back supercharged and ready to talk about the best the medium has to offer. I'm looking forward to flexing my mental muscles for you in the near future. To stay up with the latest, make sure to follow me on Twitter. If you're not into Twitter, well, just keep your eyes peeled here at Zap2it. See you in another life, bruthas and sistas.
Photo credit: ABC