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Monday, May 24, 2010

TV Watch: Lost, The End



WTF was that?

The Lost season finale was a boon to one subset of fans: those really, really curious about whether Kate was in love with Jack. For everyone else, it was at best a nod and wave goodbye from the characters people have watched for six years.

For anyone hoping for a decent conclusion to the storyline, though: you were out of luck.

I'm going to save the LA X stuff until the end - because it really was somewhat meaningless based on Christian's final speech. Emotional? Yes. But meaningless.

Obviously massive spoilers follow. Pretty much a blow by blow.

If you remove the LA X portions, you aren't left with much and most of it doesn't make any real sense. And I don't mean "doesn't make any real sense" as in "they didn't fully explain X was Y" I mean "doesn't make any real sense" like the way old bad television serials are put together.

We start with Sawyer inexplicably, but conveniently, figuring out that SmokeLocke needs Desmond - even though Widmore really described Desmond as a "failsafe". In one of those mystical Lost moments, Sawyer manages to run to point A on the island, have a conversation with someone, and get back to point B while another group was making their way to point C.

Remember back in like Season Two when everyone was trying to figure out how The Others got around the island so fast and easy? Simple: it's called convenient writing. For those scoring at home, convenient writing is not good writing.

Jack, having been at this protector thing for all of about ten minutes, decides the best thing to do is ... whatever SmokeLocke wants to do. So they lower Desmond into the light, where he sees some kind of underground temple with the skeletons of other people who went to the light, but did not become Smoke Monsters but perhaps died in some slave labor effort to build this undergrou...

Wait. What? What the... underground temple? OK, so Desmond has a "immunity to the unique electro..." whatever, we know he won't die. Who the hell is down in the crazy light building temples? Find out next time on Lost? Uh, no. Ignore the fact that Mother Dearest suggested anyone going near the light would suffer a fate worse than death - which would seem to make construction pretty hard, why exactly would "life, death and rebirth" need a sun pool? The entire underground temple was nothing but a place for Desmond and Jack to futz around - making no sense whatever with anything we've shown before.

So after Desmond pulls the plug, the island starts to self-destruct. In frustration with his poor job performance, Jack starts to beat Locke to death. And he can, because SmokeLocke is now corporeal. Why? Don't ask! Seriously! Why are you asking questions? What show do you think this is after all?

SmokeLocke beats Jack unconscious with a rock and runs away to his secret boat. While Jack naps, a tree falls on Ben who then explains his escape plan while he has nothing better to do. Jack wakes back up to nothing but mud and rain ... and still manages to hunt down SmokeLocke before he can get away. How? Don't ask! What the hell is with all these questions? The island did it, ok?

SmokeLocke beats Jack with a knife, but then Kate shoots him! How did she know where they were? Or manage to get there in time while she was helping save Ben? Who knows! Why would you still care? She got a funny line! Go Kate!

As soon as SmokeLocke is fatally wounded by a commercial break, the rain stops (Why? Seriously stop with the questions). Also, Ben is saved. Yay! Jack, Hurley and Ben run off to fix that thing that we don't even know what is while everyone else escapes.

Jack saves Desmond, plugs island, dies. Hurley and Ben don't. Everyone else gets off the island.

Then there was a puppy. Yay! Puppy!

And that was a wrap, people. Did you expect some great reveal when Desmond went to the light? Yeah, sorry. Or some great climatic battle between SmokeLocke and everyone else? Uh, no. Not really. Or maybe some really great ending to this whole candidate thing? Happens off screen between Hurley and Ben. Maybe they would have showed it - but they really, really had a lot of ads to get through.

Look, I had lowered my bar considerably for the finale. I didn't expect any complicated solution which explain everything ... or even most things. I expected one more layer of the onion pulled back which just brought everything together: the rules, the candidates, the island, etc. Leave some of it to faith, fine, but at least put a bow on it. At least try to tie things into a knot. The on-island events of the finale were a complete mess and simply not good writing. As someone who thought that bouncing theories around and paying attention to detail was part of what made this show great - it became quite clear that the producers did not have any great story arc. The island was the distraction, the show was really just playing around with the backstories.

Here is the great failure of the finale: you would enjoy the show more the less attention you paid. The message was: don't ask questions - just watch love conquer all and be happy about it.

So yeah, on LA X: so instead of an alternate reality, LA X was just a waiting room for some of the people on the island after they died. They might not be dead yet during the main story, but that doesn't matter. Which is why the LA X events are completely meaningless - they aren't actually related to the story. LA X was all epilogue, from the very beginning, and very strange structure wise since you haven't actually finished telling the story. At best you could say "Jacob did everything he did so that the gang could go to heaven" - which, fine, whatever. Except that it doesn't fit anything else from the rest of the show.

When I said that I thought LA X would survive so that the writers could have an out for a happy ending - I had no idea how far they would take it. This ending was pure fan service, watching characters fall back in love and leave in a warm white light. It demonstrates none of the aspects that made the first season great - including reasonable character development. Many fans probably enjoyed watching what amounted to a clip show followed by a curtain call ... but that doesn't make it good storytelling. The story deserved more.

OK, this has been too long as it is. Honestly, this episode and the show doesn't get any better if you try to analyze it. It only gets worse.

I still enjoyed the show in general, but I mark this finale my least favorite of any show I've watched.


Unknown said...

Smoke Locke is now corpeal (and maybe also Jack gets stabbed and is dying): The island's light is what caused these powers. It is also what chains the two to the island. Also giving credence to this is the fact that Richard grew his first grey hair.

Hunt down Smoke Locke: Jack knows that he's trying to leave the island, and has a boat.

Kate and the others catchup: Ben reminds them that Smoke Locke has a boat

Rain stops: Felt like symbolic writing to let you know for sure he's really dead this time.

Light Temple: The island is older than their mother (and maybe even the one before her), and one does not know the exact properties it had before its current state, but that's also me giving them a freebe. Jack didn't go down there until he had island powers, and Desmond needed his resistance to to unplug it. Smokey became smokey in that fountain of youth combined with super electromagnetism.

Unknown said...

Let me try my best at why this failed in as few words as possible.

Lost has always had some mystery, but mysteries require oddities that pique our interest. There was none of that here. Just unexplained events, and those are not mysteries -- they are frustrating.

Lost has always had some menace driving the characters. There was none of that here. The most tension here was when he threatened Rose and her husband. End of story.

Lost has always found unique ways to make two stories at different times and places connect in a way that felt clever. There wasn't any good storytelling here and there sure as hell wasn't anything clever.

I'm glad it's over.

(Amusingly apt random characters to verify myself or this comment: "getenclu" which sounds like "get a clue" in German.)

Josh said...

Even by comic book logic, if the light created the Smoke Monster and the light went away - then the Smoke Monster goes away. Becoming flesh and blood? Not precedented in the series. They just made it up so they could setup a fight scene.

According to the series: dead is dead. Unless the writers decide otherwise. Then you get to come back in someone else body.

Or in other words: they never really explained the Smoke Monster - so they get to do whatever they want.

As for Jack and Kate hunting down SmokeLocke - we can't ignore the fact that the only other character on the island who knows where that point was Sawyer and the only character who knew where the boat was SmokeLocke. Jack and Kate showing up there was a total hail mary.

As for the Light Temple - so before the magic EM field, someone built something. With a plug. For some reason. Same rules apply - if you aren't going to bother explaining this part of the story, nothing is really stopping you from just continually making stuff up.

For my part, they don't get extra credit points for introducing brand new things which begs even more explanation. And as for the rain, they certainly don't get points for having read Fitzgerald.

Josh said...

@jvm: That got me as well, especially compared to past finales (see last episode's review). I expected an explosive showdown between good and evil. I got a rock, and a knife and a bullet.

Steve said...

Actually we don't know whether Kate is really in love with Jack. I mean Jack got a flash from an empty wood coffin, and Kate got her flash from Claire's naughty bits. So in the end, we don't even know that :)

I could largely deal with the "we're all dead" explanation if it actually made some kind of coherent sense within the storyline. There's all sorts of inconsistencies and things that simply don't make sense.

I think my biggest problem is that all the rules of the island ultimately turn out to be complete bullshit. Jacob and SmokeLocke can't kill eachother just because. And SmokeLocke can't kill the candidates even when they aren't candidates anymore. And then Jack resets the rules by having Desmond yank the cork, but then after the cork is back in the rules are.... what exactly? Hurley worries about whether people can get off the island, but Ben says Hurley can set the rules but clearly Hurley has no idea how to set the rules and if he can, then Jack could, and so why didn't he?


It's a big pile of bullshit to make for convenience to the writers. If this was star trek the rules would be tachyons instead, but at least in star trek they made tachyons internally consistent. Tachyons might due something unexpected but they didn't suddenly stop doing something they did before, etc.

That's what annoys me. It's not being mysterious it's hiding the fact that you have no idea what you're doing and you're making it up as you go along. I look very forward to NOT watching the next JJ Abrams TV experiment because I don't feel like being jerked around again.

Josh said...

What I think is really sad is that I no longer feel I can recommend this show to others. Everything after the first two seasons feels like nonsense to me now, which is really a shame.

Steve said...

Yeah I got the same feeling about BSG after seeing the finale. I loved that show and it was really well done. And then they made that last episode and left such a bad taste in my mouth.

Go watch Babylon 5 instead. It's the exact opposite of the rest of these. It started off pretty weak but it finished really strongly. It was all internally consistent and really interesting.

Unknown said...

@Josh: Agreed. I commented to my wife over dinner last night that I felt the creators would pay the price for this ending because it greatly diminishes the value of having the entire series available on disc or through a streaming service.

Granted, there may be individual episodes people really enjoy -- this is what we've been doing with the X-Files now that the entire series is on Netflix -- but watching the entire thing now sounds like (even more of) a colossal waste of time.

Josh said...

I wish Lost had a Buffy Musical Episode. To explain: I loved Buffy until the last season, and in my head the show ended with the musical episode. I can shove that dissonance into my brain and be OK with it.

Lost had some brilliant episodes. The second epi? With Locke? Completely awesome. Even this season, I think the Richard episode was incredibly strong writing. But because of the structure, where the writers would simply swap one question out for three more - you don't get the excellent onion peel effect of a well done mystery show ... you get a big tangled bundle of yarn.

So I don't know where anyone would point at that piece of that yarn and be like, you can stop watching now - it might not be perfect, but it is complete enough.

Maybe stopping at just season one but ... guh. Just guh. Doesn't seem worth it. Not recommended.

Steve said...

Yeah even BSG had that moment. It was great up until about the last two minutes of the final episode. If you shut off the TV right at that moment then you're good to go. If you keep watching: RUINED

Josh said...

Yeah, somewhere in my mind I edited the BSG finale with an explosive race into the sun.