Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Lost Series Finale Causes the Show to Stink

First, let me just say that I've been a fan of Lost for six years until they wrapped it up with one of the worst series finales in the history of television. It's so bad that it drags what was an excellent show down in any evaluation. So, my opinion is one of massive disappointment and not out of any desire to deny my inner geek. Second, for the last two weeks, I've been examining the web for various interpretations of the series finale, "The End" and the consensus for the meaning of the show is 1) Sideways World is kind of a purgatory; and 2) the Island was real. I'm going to talk about why the series finale, "The End" was absolutely terrible, then defend the critics of the show against the zealots, people I call Rabid Losties. The Rabid Losties have arguments that you will see on the web over and over. But let's talk about the problems with the show in this segment called,

1. The Emperor Has No Clothes. If you remember the tale of the emperor's new clothes, it was a tale of a snobby emperor who hires a tailor to make him a new set of clothes. Unknown to the emperor, the tailor is a con man who devises the new suit with nothing. He convinces the emperor that only enlightened people can see the clothes. The emperor puts on the new suit and walks around in the public only to be embarrassed by a child who says, "The Emperor isn't wearing anything at all." "The End" is the suit of nothing, a con job.

a. No Questions Were Answered. Okay, they answered some minor questions but these were before the series finale. You found out that real Locke was dead and fake Locke was the Smoke Monster. But the big questions were not answered. What was the Dharma Initiative looking for? Why did pressing the buttons keep the electromagnetism in check? Why was the Man in Black transformed into the Smoke Monster and why wasn't Jack transformed? How did Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley survive the nuclear blast? And on and on....

But the biggest question was never answered. Charlie in the pilot asks, "Guys, where are we?" That question should be rephrased to, "What is the Island? If show creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had answered this question even in broad terms, the series finale may have been great. But no. This question was cast aside so we could waste time in Sideways World. In fact they had plenty of time to answer this question in season six.

Why is this question so important to the show? It's similar to the Star Trek Original Series episode, "Shore Leave." In that show bizarre things happen to the crew on a planet, like appearances out of nowhere of old girlfriends, giant rabbits, knights in armor etc. Now if that show ended without telling you why that stuff was happening you would have disaster in story telling. No conclusion. Fortunately, we're told the planet is an amusement park. The big hook in Lost is that our castaways have crashed on mysterious island. Weird things happen. And they don't explain it to you at anytime. That's not a resolution. It's just lazy writing because you could throw anything at the audience and have no responsibility to explain it. For example, on Jimmy Kimmel's wrap up show, Terry O'Quinn reveals that during season five, he did not know he was the Smoke Monster. Significant, because you must give the actor the motivation to play the part even if his motivation is supposed to be hidden. Watch his comment.

Now, I know in the sixth season episode, "Ab Aeterno" Jacob says the Island is like a cork in a bottle holding evil from the world. And we know the Man in Black aka Smoke Monster is evil and wants to leave the Island. But there's no explanation why his departure is so detrimental to the world. No explanation how Man in Black became Smoke Monster by entering the cave with the light or why Jack doesn't become a Smoke Monster when he entered the cave. There's no explanation how the castaways survive a nuclear blast, how Locke is cured of his paralysis, etc. Now, if the Island were a different plane of existence in Hindu terms, then I can accept all the bizarre stuff without explanation but according to Michael Emerson on G4's "Attack of the Show" he says the Island was real.

If they don't give you much of any answers, why should we care? The answer to this question is that you shouldn't. There's no purpose. I know I don't care anymore.

b. The "Sideways" World. This was the biggest con job of all of television. And it actually goes back further with all the science fiction ideas hinted through seasons one through six. Electromagnetism. Wormholes. Time travel. You see at the end of season five, Juliet detonates the nuclear bomb in 1977 to blow up the Island so the castaways never crash on it in 2004, that's assuming you can change the future rather than create an alternate timeline. But all that cool science fiction stuff were just a bunch of red herrings.

We flash to 2007? Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Juliet are still alive though Juliet is clinging to life. After Juliet dies, her ghost tells Miles that the plan to reboot the future worked. There is a flash sideways where the castaways are on the plane and it safely lands in Los Angeles. This Sideways World is actually a better place for some of the castaways. Jack reconciles with his son and is content. Ben finds redemption as a history teacher. John seems is happy and engaged to Helen. (Katey Sagal)

Is this like the film Star Trek (2009), where they've created an alternate timeline? Will our castaways remember the other timeline on the Island like Guinan in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Yesterday's Enterprise?" Nope. IT'S A BIG CON JOB. THE WRITERS HAVE PSYCHED YOU OUT. Sideways World is kind of a purgatory.

It's really a bad idea to introduce this concept in the last season of this show. Why? The writers should be answering many of the questions that they've heaped on the audience for the last freaking five years. Instead, they heap more questions in Sideways World. Why is Clare pregnant, if this is purgatory? For that matter why does it matter that Sun is pregnant? What makes Desmond the link between Sideways World and the Island? Why can't the castaways remember their Island life? After all, it's purgatory.

c. The Contrived Ending. Sideways World is just one big excuse to get all the characters together for one big saccharine happy ending. At the church, Jack's father explains the rules of Sideways World. Time has no meaning. So Hurley who will die after Jack can meet Jack in Sideways World. How convenient. Sideways World is a place that the castaways made together so they could find one another. Again, convenient so the writers could get everyone together in the church for the big saccharine ending. Oh by the way, where was Helen? I guess they couldn't afford Katey Sagal for this scene. It all reminds me of that scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) where Robert Downey Jr.'s character looks at the camera and states he's going to bring back dead characters from the movie to create a Hollywood happy ending. The writers are so afraid of a downer of an ending that when Jack dies on the Island, he can't even die alone. Vincent, the yellow lab, must lie down next to Jack and comfort him before he passes on.

Another problem with Sideways World is that it is now a complete departure from the science fiction elements of the show. Now, we are being hammered with New Age religious crap. it' a part of the huge jolt of plot direction from "Across the Sea" to "The End." It comes out of nowhere and is forced.

Before you say that I am just being a killjoy, I love a happy ending just as much as anyone else. But this episode was forced and illogical. It would have been better if the show was about the Island being a purgatory where the castaways must complete certain tasks to move on. The next step would be Sideways World. And after they completed tasks there, they move onto another plane of existence. This Hinduesque view of the afterlife would be in harmony with the Hindu stuff of Dharma, Namaste, etc. But no. The Island is supposed to be real. So now, Sideways World is grafted clumsily on.

2. The Emperor Strikes Back. Let's talk about the Rabid Losties attack of the critics of the show. First, let me just say that I believe that Rabid Losties are so in love with the show that they refuse to look at season six with any objectivity for the fear of realizing that they've wasted six years of their lives watchingLost. By the way, I won't insult the Rabid Losties unlike many of them on the web who insult critics of the show as being stupid. I don't think you're dumb at all, just smitten. With that, let's go over the Rabid Losties' defenses.

1. "Lost is about the characters and the Island is irrelevant." This defense is used to deflect criticism that the writers refused to answer questions about the Island. Rabid Losties will not bother answering the mysteries because they can't and won't. That's because they are so in enraptured with the show, they don't care.

Okay, I love the characters too. But the hook of the show was that the castaways crashed on the Island. This was a scary place with a monster, electromagnetic energy, polar bears, etc. Any fan of the show was interested in the Island. The characters wondered where they were. The Island was part of their lives where as Michael Emerson says they had adventures.

If it was just about the characters and the Island was irrelevant then why have an Island? You could made this into a standard drama, have the characters talk about their past lives and flashback that way. The reason there was an Island is that the Island presented the characters with the chance of redemption since many of their lives were deeply flawed. By the way, I'm not going to theorize why it's important to the Island that the castaways be redeemed since the writers didn't explain it.

2. "There's no need for answers since you bring your own interpretation to Lost". I have never seen this defense uttered until I saw Jimmy Kimmel's wrap up special. It came from actor Matthew Fox as Kimmel tries to make sense of show and the series. By the way, Kimmel's theory is very plausible. Here's the clip.

As I have said, I've been a fan of the show. So, I read what writers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof say in interviews. I have never heard them say to the audience you must bring your own interpretation to the show. For example, one of the last articles to address the mysteries was the Feb. 5, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly. The writers did not hint that you should bring your own interpretation. I mean if that's the case, then they should have announced this concept way before the finale.

But what is really the problem? Film and scripted television are not interactive mediums. We're not talking about a video game. Say you're playing Grand Theft Auto IV. If you date a girl in the game, you can use your imagination in determining the depth of the relationship. There are some parameters but it's open enough for that personal fantasy. Scripted drama does not allow that freedom. That's because you as viewer cannot affect the events in the show. The writers have total control of the parameters. They control the events. Telling an audience that they should bring their own interpretation to the drama is a total cop out. By doing so, the writer can do anything lame, leave mysteries with no resolution all under the guise that the audience should interpret it in their own way. That's just plain lazy.

3. Conclusion. Bad finales don't stop me from watching a series over. I still enjoy the X-Files seasons one through five. In film, I love Alien and Aliens but hate the other Alien movies. I can't say that I will enjoy Lost in any capacity. The way the writers treated the Island and the castaways makes it meaningless to me. If the Island is not relevant to the characters then it's not relevant to me.

One last thing. I fear for Star Trek 2. Damon Lindelof is listed as a producer. Star Trek (2009) was a fun but shallow movie. Memo to Bad Robot. Please turn the project to legitimate science fiction writers. Star Trek is not Star Wars. Star Trek has stood for great science fiction for over forty years. Respect the franchise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great analysis! The Emperor's New Clothes is an excellent analogy of how some die hards react to what was obviously a 6 year con job.

Try watching an old episode with the knowledge that they're all dead anyway and everything the characters went through seems pointless.