Kicking Television: The “Lost” Series Finale

Lost, it bears remembering, began as a show about people. People held in solitary confinement by their demons; people deeply in need of redemption. And of each other. Last night’s series finale gave them that, finally, and it came both movingly and cleverly. It’s a tribute to the show’s creators and participants that Lost‘s story was able to end with so much emotion — on this, my hat is off.

The episode did prove, though, that Lost was a show about characters first, plot second — if at all. It’s clear that its creators were ultimately invested in its thematic arc, which laid its roots so thickly and effectively in season 1. Then, you’ll remember, things started to get complicated. The mysteries, taken one by one or together, were the means to end, or two ends, really — our heroes’ redemptions, of course, and, well, ratings. If Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have explanations for the various questions they’ve so smugly raised over the years (which they most certainly do not), the fact that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer them within the show is an undeniable fault, even if it’s not the story they wanted to tell. The island’s mysteries simply grew too big and confusing to control, so they decided in large part not to bother — which would’ve saved me dozens of hours spent trying to figure out the rules in a game as improvisatory and arbitrary as Calvinball. Ironic that Calvin and Hobbes didn’t make it onto the names of philosophers borrowed for the series, eh?

Lost‘s grave error as a saga, though, was a character flaw: by saving Jacob and his nameless brother till the very end, and telling their story all in one unsatisfying go, it missed the opportunity to give the show’s gods the same emotional resonance as its mere humans. Without that draw, much of season 6 has felt aimless, unsuspenseful; Lost has always evaded answering questions by providing ever-bigger shock and awe, but the final battle raged over the last 16 episodes has felt surprisingly enervating.

So it goes, though, and while I wish there was an explanation to so many things the show so seductively explored, it’s time to trade in theorizing for themes. That’s the game Lost came to play — and despite the a handful of fumbles, the show walked away a winner.

(One quibble: When Sawyer and Juliet have their visionary moment, the first thing out of her mouth is, we should get coffee — which Penny also said to Desmond earlier this season. Was there a Starbucks product placement I missed somewhere? Lady, this is the love of your life and that’s really your first thought?! And for the record, Penny, I live around the block and there is no coffee shop on Melrose and Sweetzer. Sigh. Like I said, guys: no rules.)

Previously: Dear John (Locke): Saying Goodbye To Lost