Hollywood Mysteries: “Lost”. Are you %#$&ing Kidding Me? Pt. 4

For “LOST” fans, Season Six was the promised land. All would be revealed.

Over the years we had been taken on a journey that included two survivable plane crashes, a fake plane crash, a crashed plane full of heroin, polar bears, baby kidnappers, ghosts, visions, world saving buttons, a cloud of noisy smoke that kills people, cursed numbers, miraculous healing, a phantom “sickness”, a real sickness that kills pregnant women, impossibly linked people, ageless people, a crazy French woman, an ancient four toed statue foot, torture, an inescapable island, a brainwashing chamber, time travel, an ancient wheel device that teleports the island and/or causes time space disruptions, a seeming resurrection, a couple of real resurrections, a magic cabin, a magic temple, this weird device that pinpoints the island with a pendulum, nukes, nerve gas, mysterious jungle gypsies, mysterious science organizations, you %$&#ing name it, this show threw all kinds of crazy shit at us. My list doesn’t even cover everything.

And now it had 18 episodes to explain itself once and for all.

We had been promised answers, and I wanted nothing less.

Now, I wasn’t being unreasonable. I knew that over the years, “LOST” had thrown a lot of shit up against the wall, seeing if it would stick. I wasn’t expecting an answer to every single loose strand and every minor detail like some obsessive fans seemed to be. When they showed a preview scene at Comic-Con in 2009 where Hurley (always the voice of the fan on the show) asks what happened to Shannon’s inhaler, a bit of minutiae leftover from season 1, I realized what they were trying to say. Listen. We’re not going to go over the previous seasons with a fine tooth comb in order to ensure there are no questions that could possibly be asked which we haven’t answered.

There are some things that are so small, they don’t deserve revisiting.

Yet I expected, and not unfairly, the answers to the five biggest questions they had remaining. It wasn’t unreasonable. This show rose to prominence and enjoyed its lofty place in the pop culture echelon based on these questions. It was only right that they resolve them. On top of which, I expected them to resolve outstanding character issues and put the characters in places where we “knew what happened to them”, but I expect that of every TV show series finale. Answering the five big questions was something unique to “LOST”.

  • WHAT WERE THE NUMBERS?
  • WHAT WAS THE SMOKE MONSTER?
  • WHO WERE JACOB AND “THE MAN IN BLACK”? WHAT WERE THEY DOING?
  • HOW WERE THESE CASTAWAYS RELATED/CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER? HOW ARE THEY CONNECTED TO THE ISLAND?
  • WHAT WAS THE ISLAND? WHY WAS IT SO… SPECIAL?

Each of these questions had been a prominent aspect of “LOST” for years (Well, except for “Jacob and the Man in Black”, who were revealed in later seasons, but were obviously crucial to the story). These were NOT nit picking. These were not fan service. These were integral elements to the ongoing narrative that fans deserved resolution to. NOT answering them would be akin to having a murder mystery movie without revealing the killer. AMC’s “The Killing” did that earlier this year and angry mobs with pitchforks and torches almost formed.

Having these questions impending made watching Season Six was one of the most unique experiences in TV history, and not necessarily in a good way. I’ve watched plenty of shows now where I’ve known it was the show’s final season, and I wondered where they would leave the characters, what would happen at the end, etc. But “LOST” was different. It was like having a pile of work on your desk that you know about how long it will take you. Except here, the work was all of “LOST”’s unanswered questions. At a certain point, you’re looking at the pile and thinking. “Uh oh, I don’t have enough time to do all this work. Some of it isn’t going to get done…” Panic starts to set in, but the work doesn’t go away. In fact, even this late in the game you’re getting NEW work. (Even as late as the beginning of Season 6, Lost was introducing new characters and new mysteries). Then there’s that dreaded moment where you realize… “I’m gonna have to work OT.”

Except, with “LOST”, there was no OT.

So what did you do? You had to lower your expectations. They weren’t going to get it done in time.

If you don’t believe me that “LOST” left about a thousand unanswered questions, watch this priceless video. “LOST” fans – if you haven’t seen this yet, this is MUST SEE stuff.

But I didn’t care about the zillions of minute details anymore. Like watching a football team that’s three touchdowns behind in the 4th quarter, yet refuses to go into the hurry up offense, I knew that there was no way “LOST” was going to have enough time. The only questions I cared about now were the Big Five. I felt they were part of the core of the show, and it was impossible that the show would NOT answer them.

Here’s how “LOST” fared in resolving the biggest questions it had set out for itself.

WHAT WERE THE NUMBERS?

Was it Answered? NO.

The “Numbers” had been alluded to ever since season one. I find it ridiculous that they were entered into without an exit plan – That no one knew how to explain them before they began to use them prominently. In the end, the furthest the numbers were “explained” was they were shown to be “compass bearings”, if you will, for Jacob’s magic spyglass. Turn to one of the numbers, and it would show you a Lostie. In turn, he scrawled that number down on a cave wall, presumably to be able to keep track of which compas bearing showed which candidate. And to use that list of candidates as “to do list” of sorts – crossing off candidates once they failed to prove themselves worthy. One could argue though, that that was just an extension of “the Curse”… they did go through quite a bit of suffering as a result of being “selected”. Also, it certainly doesn’t “explain” anything.

How does that trigger events in the real world when the numbers are used in sequence?

Grrrr.

WHAT WAS THE SMOKE MONSTER?

Was it answered? Not really.

In the final season we learned that “Smokey” could shape change into human form, that it used to be Jacob’s brother, and that it was evil. So evil in fact that it could never ever get off of the island or it would be the end of the world (Although it had been living on the island for centuries and it wasn’t the end of the island, so…). The “Man In Black” was changed into the smoke monster when his brother beat him down and tossed him into the glowing cave. The big billowing noisy cloud came rushing out right after.

But WHY? HOW? What were its limitations? How did it happen? WHY did it happen? This ANSWER wasn’t even an answer at all… it was just another mystery. We learned its “origin story”, but it left so many questions behind that it felt as if we never learned anything at all.

HOW WERE THESE CASTAWAYS RELATED/CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER? HOW ARE THEY CONNECTED TO THE ISLAND?

Was it answered? YES.

Of all the questions I had going in, season six probably addressed this one the most fully. The Losties had been selected by Jacob in order to be candidates for his replacement as protector of the island. They were each personally selected by him at one point in time in their lives. Whatever magic mojo he has manifested itself in their lives in order to lead each of them to flight Oceanic 815, and eventually, the Island. It makes sense that this would cause their paths to cross, or nearly cross in a variety of ways.

If the show had done a better job (a much better job) of answering “What was the Island”, and the sub question “Why does it need protecting”, I’d have been fine with this answer.

WHO WERE JACOB AND “THE MAN IN BLACK”? WHAT WERE THEY DOING?

Was it answered? Poorly.

This question was answered, but the answers we got were just plain silly. The main answer was that they were brothers who had lived on the island for centuries. They were kept alive by the unexplained magic of the Island. One was the Island’s “protector,” the other was the black smoke monster. Neither one of them actually really knew what the Island was. So eventually even once all the curtains were pulled back, once all the layers were peeled, NO ONE knew what the ultimate answer to this show was. Meanwhile these two were locked in a poorly defined struggle – with unexplained rules – in order to keep the Smoke Monster/Man in Black from leaving the Island. Because he/it was evil and it would spread.

How? Why? What would the result be?

*SIGH*

WHAT WAS THE ISLAND? WHY WAS IT SO… SPECIAL?

Was it answered? In the most ridiculous way imaginable.

You could argue that this question was NOT answered, as the mysterious glowing stream in the cave was never explained or conjectured upon or guessed at or anything of that of that nature whatsoever. What we were given was the fact that the island was home to a cave containing a glowing pool, which a stream poured into.

The source of all life? The gateway to Hell? A tear in the universe? A cesspool filled with luminescent bio-organisms? Who knows? No one said anything.

All we do know is that there’s a “plug” in the middle of this pool within the cave. If you unplug the plug and the water goes into the ground, the island starts to have earthquakes and things are BAD. Kind of like a naturally occuring reactor core. Lose the coolant, and you get a meltdown. Plus if you get in the water, you will be turned into a black noisy cloud of smoke that can take the form of other people, but will be evil… Oh, but not in all cases. If you have unique electromagnetic properties, or if you’re Jack, you’ll just die – no smoke monster transformation necessary.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I was pissed.

Of the five big questions I had of “LOST”, only one was answered well. Of the remaining four, three were answered poorly – if I were a Creative Writing professor, I’d have flunked them – and one wasn’t answered at all. In other words, they didn’t just fail to stick the landing, they faceplanted worse than the gymnast chick in “Final Destination 5”.

I wasn’t alone in my opinion. The internet exploded with discontent. It was comparable to the backlash surrounding the final episode of “The Sopranos”. “LOST” fans seemed to divide into two camps like the Hatfields and McCoys. On the one hand were folks like me, who were livid that after so many years of giving us television blue balls, “LOST”’s final payoff was dogshit. The other camp bought wholeheartedly into the Kool-Aid that Lindeloff and Cuse were passing out, and were satisfied with their explanation that “LOST” was never about the mysteries anyways. It wasn’t about the Island, it was about the characters.

Listen.

Sure. Lost had cool characters. Some of them they completely wrecked (How they screwed the pooch with a character as strong as John Locke should be its own column), but others they did a great, great job with. Over the course of the shows run, they managed to cast some excellent actors and actresses and they all did fantastic work.

But character resolution is a basic, minimum requirement for ANY show that ends on its own terms. Saying something to the effect of “Our series conclusion was a success because we wrapped up all our character arcs” is like saying “We had a good baseball season because we played 162 games” or “My car is a good car because I keep filling it with gas.”

You wrapped up your character arcs? Congratu-%$#&ing-lations!

“LOST” rose to the heights it hit because of the mysteries. The imagination triggering premise. The bizarre, colorful, intriguing details that filled almost every episode. Not its characters! Even the things that WERE cool about its characters were the MYSTERIES about the characters! To leave the major mysteries of the show unresolved, poorly addressed and weakly answered was downright unconscionable. It would be like “Battlestar Gallactica” ending without revealing if they ever reached Earth. Or ‘The Shield” not resolving whether or not Vic Mackey got away with his crimes. Or “The Sopranos” not showing whether Tony Soprano lived or died. Ok, scratch that last one, but you get the point.

Listen, anybody could write a great murder mystery if you never have to reveal who the killer is or how the crime was committed.

The failure of this show is still being referenced. Just last week, the slash filmcast was using it as an example of why a revisit to the Blade Runner universe might be a bad idea (saying some questions are better left unanswered). George RR Martin took some heat recently for guaranteeing Game of Thrones would wrap up satisfactorily by saying he didn’t want the show to “pull a LOST”.

“LOST” has become synonymous with screwing up the ending.

But it didn’t have to be this way. In fact? I think they embarked on this journey with a entirely different endgame in mind, and at some point along the way, chickened out. At least, that’s what I like to believe, because the alternatives are either they had no plans at all and winged this shit up at the last minute, or they had this in mind all along and couldn’t come up with anything better over the course of six whole years. Either way it kind of sucks.

You know what I think though? I think the Losties were dead the whole time, and they just didn’t have the balls to follow through with it.

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28 thoughts on “Hollywood Mysteries: “Lost”. Are you %#$&ing Kidding Me? Pt. 4

  1. I actually don’t disagree with you here much. Heck, you didn’t even get into my biggest beef with Season Six — the whole “alternate reality” turning out just to be the afterlife. That little bit of cheesiness was not what I signed up for, especially since it took half of the season to tell that pretend story while they could have been using that time to, as you point out, give better answers to important plot elements. I was into the theme of faith vs. science, and in the end the answer was “faith is enough”… well, unless you’re Locke, which I’ll get to in a moment. And considering that Season Six essentially depended on the audience accepting answers on “faith”, you can see why the writers went that way.

    So yeah, in the end Season Six was a pretty big let-down. A couple quibbles though.

    1) I though John Locke’s character arc was great. He was a weak, gullible man that occasionally and triumphantly rose to the occasion. Because “faith” isn’t enough, no more than “science” is enough, to give you answers. Except — well, for everyone else. Yeah, Jack in the end paid the price, but he got to die saving the world because he finally found “faith”. But he had to abandon rationality at the same time, because the story required it. The abandonment of this essential struggle, Jack vs. Locke, rationality vs. faith, was THE biggest disappointment of the series for me. So yeah, I buy into the “it’s the characters, not so much the answers” Kool-Aid to a certain degree, but the botched the characters too.

    2) I think the Numbers explanation was “good enough”. By Season Six, the Numbers hadn’t really been featured for a couple years. If you check out the out-of-show games and stuff, there’s quite a thorough explanation of the Numbers; in fact, the whole reason Dharma was so interested in the Island revolved around the Numbers. But — the explanation is convoluted and stupid. I can see why they decided to leave it alone. The show’s hand-waving solution wasn’t satisfying, but it had the advantage of not boring the audience and letting the show move along.

    3) I actually liked the analogy of the island being the plug to keep the bad stuff out. That was plenty good enough for me, considering the show’s more detailed answers usually ended up being worse. Also, I’m pretty sure Jacob’s brother didn’t “become” the smoke monster… I suspect the smoke monster took the form of Jacob’s brother because he was dead. It could only take the form (and somehow the memories) of dead people. The smoke monster was an example of one of the “bad things” that the island was keeping out of the earth.

    • Ok. I was able to make all the pending replies faster than I thought tonight. PHEW!

      Glad to be able to get to this.

      1) Is where we disagree the most. I guess because I wanted Locke to prevail and I always thought he was a better character, better actor, better everything pretty much than Jack. Yet, I hated Locke’s arc (and his death… so for real, he got strangled in a hotel? WTF?) and I approved of Jack’s arc… well at least as much as I could, given the context.

      2) I guess you’re right. I mean, there’s not much they could actually say that would make sense, so…

      3) Is a mixed bag. You LIKE the plug in the jug? Eeesh. LOL I think it was a terrible cop out. Especially given the fact that Jacob supposedly spent his entire life on the Island and never learned a damn thing about it, except to know somehow that he can’t let the smoke monster leave.

      That said, you may have a good point about old smokey there. I would rewatch to see, but I dont want to have to smash anything LOL!

      • Oh, Locke was a GREAT character, and Terry O’Quinn is a master. But I didn’t necessarily want him to prevail. And his death was a very powerful moment in the show.

        Once it got to “the island is magic”, for me a lot of the answers didn’t matter as much anymore. The “plug in the jug” was basic, explained the stakes, and allowed the story to move on; kind of like the numbers explanation. In some ways, it was elegant. That didn’t make it satisfying for people who wanted real answers, but the show had by then dug themselves so deep that there wasn’t anyway to dig themselves out.

        So the question is, why did it go that way? I suspect in a few years will get the real story. My guess… budget and the real plan heavily involved characters who’s actors had become unavailable.

      • I actually have a part 5 that I’m going to bail on for now. Too much %$#&ing LOST, especially with so many new people coming in.

        But my theory? They started the show thinking – these people crash and die, but then they all have life issues that need to be worked out etc etc. Which to me is a fine idea.

        But then the internet a) guessed it b) announced “that BETTER NOT be what it is”, so they started trying to say… well….. what else could it be?

        I’ll post it someday, its basically my “they were dead all along” argument.

      • Why, YES. I DID get a kick out of that!

        Wowzers… that’s practically worthy of a news worth sharing blurb!

        It’s a total turn around from a TON of what they’ve been saying. I bet he feels great though, getting that off of his chest.

        Thanks for sharing that, that was required reading for Lost fans.

  2. Hi, I couldn’t get into it from the start…watched the first few episodes but it just didn’t do it for me and now I am VERY glad as I would be as frustrated as you and however many other viewers who have been let down so badly and left hanging by the producers. So a series not tied together at the end? very frustrating indeed. The numbers? my odd guess is that they could have been thrown in to help people out struggling to come up with their next weeks Lottery numbers??!! Seems like with that show..Ya never know! Immie xx

    • Immie… cool nickname, never heard that before, that’s cool.

      Anyways, yeah. I can practically gaurantee those number got played as lottery numbers completely disproportionately to other numbers across America. LOL.

      It was a good show! That’s what’s so heartbreaking. I mean, I wouldn’t “take it back” if I had the chance… but I was really really disappointed that they didn’t resolve things better.

  3. I watched the first series of Lost, but bailed at some point during series two. I decided that at the rate the mysteries were coming, they would never be able to resolve it properly.

    I had wondered since then if I’d made the right desicion (I think I caught part of one of the good series three episodes, but had missed too much to get back into what the hell was going on!). Your posts have made me realise that I definitely would have been angry if I’d invested more time in the show, and have given me a bit more insight into the parts that I did see. So thanks, it’s been fun!

    • “Series” – I’m guessing you’re British. Just popped by your blog rreal quick and now I’m thinking “yup”. LOL

      So, again, Like I said in the post above… I wouldn’t “take it back” in terms of watching it, but I was very disappointed.

      The reason I brought up the fact youre British is I believe the British TV shows model themselves differently, right? They’re not infinitely ongoing to start with… they’re given one season (or series) and it should tell a beginning to end story, right?

      In many, many ways I think thats a better way of going about it. Hope you pop back in so I can hear more….

      • Yeah, you got me – British, through and through.

        British TV shows are usually have much shorter runs than in the US – generally 6-12 episodes long. Two or three part dramas are not uncommon, so there is a lot less pressure on writers to ‘fill'; a show can take the format that fits it best. And yes, you are correct that most TV shows get one series to ‘test the waters’ and then a re-commissioned if all goes well, so there’s more pressure to be compelling a shorter time, I suppose. Whether that’s better or worse I don’t know – we have some great TV over here, but also some absolute rubbish.

        Having said that, there is one genre over here that IS constantly on-going – soap operas! But that’s the same the world over, right?

      • I dont watch a lot of Soap Operas, but I do know that in actuality, the big networks have been cancelling then over here. The daytime used to be full of them, but with increased pressure from cable programing and the cheapness of talk shows the economics aren’t making as much sense anymore for the networks and they’re ending them. There’s still plenty of things the are “soapy” at night though.

        Obviously, the quality of things are still going to vary… but I like the model better. It would give shorter stories a chance to be told. Over here we’ve had this problem the past ten years or so where a show will start, you’ll start watching it, and then it will get cancelled and the fans of the show never get to see the end. It’s a real downer when that happens.

      • Good grief – I just realised how many errors there were in that last comment. Sorry about that! Hopefully what I meant was clear.

        I tend to avoid soaps too, but they are still going strong over in Britain, with a few notable exceptions that finished in the last few years.

        But as far as the main point is concerned, yes, I agree – it must be awful to have a show cancelled before the end, which would be more of a problem with long runs. Over here if something IS cancelled suddenly, it is usually broadcast until the end of the series, or not broadcast at all (which can also be disappointing.)

  4. You know what? I loved Lost. I felt a smidge of disappointment at the end. But that was only because it was over and the end was what had been talked about at the beginning. Sure there were plenty of unanswered questions, but I was expecting that. I didn’t think everything would be explained to us, and for that I’m a little bit grateful. If they were all perfectly answered we wouldn’t still be debating about Lost now. Over a year after it was finished. Good shows end and we remember them once in a while. Great shows keep us debating for years.

    • I suppose that that’s true. But I think LOST had a chance to be great in a purely good way, and by giving us a sub par set of answers, instead its great in a disappointing way.

      There’s a lot of resentment out there towards the show and it didn’t need to be that way :(

      • Very true, it’s sad to think that there are so many fans out there who considered themselves hardcore when Lost was on the air, but as the seasons rolled by they lost their passion.

        I still think the ending is open to some interpretation. You take from Lost what you want.

  5. Wow, I hear you. “Lost” really was lost – start to finish. I love that Unanswered Questions video too, immediately thought of it when I started reading your post! So true. I think dramatic licence only goes so far….and no, “Lost” creators – it doesn’t extend to 6 seasons of confusion!

  6. I LOVE LOST! … but I admit that I “gave up” a few times – stopped watching for a while and then after some time started watching again. If you let yourself run along with it, it can be very addictive but also very looong. You want to get to the end, but at the same time you don’t want it to end. I agree with you that some major questions are still not answered, but hey, the show is not called LOST for nothing right? I think the most important aspect of LOST are the characters, and they are all very well developed and compelling so yea, one of the best TV shows of all time:D

    • Yeah, I think I’d still have to give it credit somehow in that regard.

      I just haven’t been able to put my bitterness over the unanswered questions into perspective. I mean, for many years, and many GREAT episodes, LOST was fantacticly entertaining. So in the respect it should earn a spot amongst “the best”.

      But I’m still so bitter, that I can’t get past it, and I have to wonder if that shouldn’t be taken into consideration. I guess if you were able to watch and enjoy and not be concerned with the resolution of the mysteries, than yeah, easily one of the greats.

      • I was satisfied with the grand finale… it was unpredictable and unconventional like the rest of LOST, so that’s great. Some mysteries are still left hanging but I wasn’t so bothered because it’s become a tradition by now that lots of things will get thrown at you and you may not ever know what they mean. By the end of 6 seasons, I would think that people are already used to that lol. It’s part of the fun – coming up with your own answers.

        Btw, have you seen the all-new LOST thingy shown at the recent Comic Con? That was pretty hilarious…

      • I haven’t.

        But in 2009, prior to the final season, I was able to attend the “LOST” panel. It was awesome. A ton of fun. You could tell that everyone they brought was having a blast.

  7. This series was the biggest waste of time everrrrrrr…. My biggest problem was the writers saying over and over from every platform that the show was NOT based on any kind of purgatory or afterlife. That it was all actually occurring. All B.S. I’m sure it sounds like sour grapes but I will avoid any further JJ Abrams crap at all costs. A tv show has never actually made me ANGRY before or since this screw-over. K. That’s my 2 cents :)

    • I don’t think you need to worry about “sour grapes” after I post a 4 part epic bitching about it. LOL

      The captain has turned on the “Bitch at will” sign.

      I’ll help you though… I don’t think it was Abrams fault. He left early. Started it up, and handed it off.

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