Monday, May 24, 2010

A Non-"Lost" Fan Watches the "Lost" Finale

ABC's "Lost" had its series finale last night, which the network parlayed into a five-and-a-half hour event, comprised of the actual finale, a two-hour preshow recap, and an hour with Jimmy Kimmel interviewing the show's cast and creators to wrap up the evening on a lighter note. Long time "Lost" fans were no doubt thrilled at all the hype and attention, but the buildup was meant to draw in the curious casual watchers that had stopped watching the show at some point over the last six years. Or in my case, those watchers who just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I've seen maybe two or three other episodes of "Lost," usually season premiers or finales with gung-ho friends. I've been around enough die-hard "Lost" loyalists to identify most of the characters are on sight. I also had a good idea of the major plot developments in the early seasons, but I've completely lost track of the show since roughly the end of season three. So I appreciated having the recap - I caught the second half of it after "60 Minutes." I'm not sure how enjoyable the finale would have been for me without it, since I was unfamiliar with the concept of the "flash-sideways," didn't know who some of the major players like Desmond and Jacob were, and hadn't learned about half of the major deaths. I got a kick out of spotting actors who I hadn't realized were part of the cast, such as Emilie De Ravin and Nestor Carbonell, as well as guest stars like Fisher Stevens and Allison Janney.

With all these caveats in mind, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the finale. I didn't have much invested in the show, but Jack and Hurley and the other castaways have been part of the popular media landscape for a good long while now, so I got some real satisfaction seeing how their stories ultimately played out. If there were any big answers that unlocked the show's much-ballyhooed mythology, they went right over my head. As far as I could tell, the story offered no concrete explanations for how or why the island functioned as it did, but kept the focus on immediate crises faced by the remaining survivors. There were two plots running in parallel throughout, one in the original "Lost" universe, where a much-reduced cast fought for control of the island, and one in the "flash-sideways" universe where all the characters were still alive and trying to reconnect with each other in Los Angeles.

The island plot gave us all the action and excitement, with the island threatening to sink into the ocean, attempts to repair an aircraft for a final escape attempt, and our major protagonist and antagonist locked in mortal combat at the show's climax. The Los Angeles plot was for the emotional resolutions, seeing reunions and reconciliations for characters who never got them in the other universe. The two narratives were obviously connected somehow, but only at the very end was it made explicit what the "flash-sideways" universe was, one of the few big answers that the finale provided. And though there were loose ends everywhere and much left unsaid, the end of "Lost" was very good about conveying a sense of finality. Evil was defeated, people died, people lived, and the creators were saying their goodbyes to the characters as they spotlighted each of them one last time.

There was a heavy spiritual component in the last hour, similar to the themes that emerged toward the end of "Battlestar Galactica." A character named Christian Shepherd turns up as all the characters congregate in a church for the final act. The "flash-sideways" apparently operate much the same as the world of AMC's recent version of "The Prisoner," where The Village was a sort of intangible mental sanctuary for troubled souls. Thus, "Lost" continues the trend of recent popular science-fiction that prefers looking inward at the mysteries of the human mind and soul, rather than at hard science concepts we traditionally associate with science-fiction. It was all a dream, but a collective dream with its own impenetrable logic and consequences. "Trust me, I know. All of this matters," Jack told Desmond at one point. Acceptance of the mystery trumped explaining it. Fair enough.

The only major issue I had was that much of the cast from the earlier seasons was noticeably missing. Surely in two-and-a-half hours, there was room for some acknowledgment of those who had fallen by the wayside. The big reunion scenes would have been the perfect place for cameos by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Harold Perrineau, and other former members of the cast. Harold Perrineau showed up for the Jimmy Kimmel show reunion, which made the absence of his character look all the more egregious. Of course, the circumstances behind decisions like this are never clear, so I'm not inclined to dwell on them.

I'll be liveblogging the "24" finale tonight, and then there's just the "American Idol" sendoff for Simon Cowell on Wednesday, and that wraps up my TV season. It all seems to have gone by much quicker this year. All the finales I really cared about, like "Ugly Betty" and "Dollhouse," aired much earlier in the winter and spring. Or maybe it's because I've cut down so much on the amount of live programming I watch, and I'm still catching up with several shows, it doesn't feel like anything is really ending.

For the "Lost" obsessives, though, I'm sure the fun is just beginning - now that the show is over, they can really start taking it apart to figure out what the hell was going on.

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