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?
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?
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.
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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.
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.