FYI, this article could also go by, “Previously on Lost.” I’m going to talk about “What They Died For,” but I also want to talk about what we watched for. Not just this episode, but for six darn years. I’m probably going to delve into some of that predictable but ancillary stuff like, “When Lost started, Barack Hussein Obama was just a Madrassa-educated Marxist with Kenyan citizenship; now he’s President of the United States!” and I guess I just did, but there’s probably some less ridiculous, truer, more poignant time-lines to draw up. I’m probably going to lob around some favorite moments, lines, things like that. I will inevitably forget some of yours and render myself irrelevant to your interest (the trick is I waited until now to do it — hopefully this is not also true of the finale). If my Lost articles weren’t before, this particular one could end up tipping into journal entry status. But hey, why put “Blog” in the title and not use it? I’ll also try to mention some this-es and thats concerning the “Lost Live!” event that went down on UCLA campus last week, which I was 1) lucky enough, and 2) credit-card-limit-distant-enough to attend.
The hunches and feelings I most recollect about the episode shake out like so: I felt that if you didn’t much care for “Across the Sea,” you’d much prefer “Died.” It had a hankering for our main cast, for the current plot, and it picked up immediately from and was driven by the deaths of Sun, Jin, Sayid and Lapidus(?), where the heart of the audience was left beating broken. It wasn’t tangled up in strange faces and cryptic myth so-called-”explained” in just as cryptic (to some) metaphor. In many ways, to those that felt “Across The Sea” was not, “Died” was Lost again.
So I’m going to pick another fight and say it wasn’t my favorite. I did love the sideways stuff, which was exciting and strangely comic — comic like watching gerbils run for dear life on wheels stuck in place in cages un-openable. In this case, enlightened and a little loony though brazenly confident Desmond is watching the rest of the characters, all unawares they’re the gerbils on wheels and cages they don’t even recognize. Such is the story of the sideways and, throwing the long ball again here, our own lives if we’re not careful. Monotony can be no substitute for momentum. But I was all about the sideways. Hurley’s calling out of Ana Lucia, the jail break itself, still working backwards here, Desmond’s turning himself in. Benjamin Linus teetering toward the “Last Tango in Paris” with crazy french femme Danielle Russo, now a sideways widowed housewife. It was great stuff, but hell if I know where it’s going besides a concert.
Theory bump, if you will: this concert will be the ultimate “I’m sorry, do I know you from somewhere? Do you come here often?” event when, in some moment, everyone is going to realize they know everyone from another life, where upscale concerts at museums are substituted for death and murder and monsters and cage sex. Ultimately, everyone will decide, as bad as it sounds — and as fulfilling as it feels, in the immortal words of Tina Fey, they “want to go to there.” I’m not sure at what pace the series finale will run, but in two and a half hours, it is conceivable that the following could happen: We all kind of glossed over it a few weeks back, when sideways Locke revealed he lost use of his legs in a plane crash — a plane he was piloting. Expect him to get his legs back early in “The End.” In my hopes, I’m expecting Locke to hop a plane that’ll then get Amelia Earhart-ed to the other reality where he can island it up. I just realized this is pretty much impossible and more of my journal-y “I <3 Locke” musings, but I just don’t know what they’re going to do with this multiple reality thing within a few hours.
What I fear, but what is perhaps more likely, is that the Lost we’ve watched will function as the Lost that was, and that the sideways reality will function as the Lost that will be. The old reality is where Smokey and his evil tendencies will be trapped away for forever and ever. Think about it. This year, over there, we’ve never actually seen “across the sea.” This island could just be a construct, Jacob’s own gambit, a prison for Smokey to be housed, for the right candidate to warden at least as far as lock-up. It seems “the rules” would prevent Jacob from actually carrying out this sentencing. Then, when Jack realizes he’s basically dead, the silver lining will be that he’s actually just fine, along with everyone else, in a world where they never had to have the island but where they still have what they always really needed — each other — and Jack will decide that’s all good. I just don’t know if that’s all good with me. I’ve spouted this Smokey detention theory stuff before this year, and I’ve said the following many times since February: The sideways, as it was very effectively this week, is fantastic “what if” but a really tough to reconcile “what is.”
The finale’s biggest hurdle, in terms of plot resolution, is solving this conundrum, and the quality of this season, and at least in some ways of Lost on the whole, will hinge on this. There’s this term in screenwriting I’ve heard before called “writing yourself out of a hole.” It’s great for conceptualizing, much more difficult for execution. Imagine a movie trailer that just shows all the water on the Earth has disappeared over night. Gripping, right? But what’s the plot of this movie? And where and how did the water go? What explanations can be equally satisfying, titillating as the concept? This has always been the fundamental tug-of-war between “Lost: the creative team” and “Lost: the fans.” But the sideways story arch is the deepest point of Lost‘s story hole.
Sideways out and everything else we’ve ever known and watched in. When it comes to the rest of our characters, even my beloved Locke, and the island and all that stuff, I’ve come to an epiphany after debating last week’s episode at length. Lost does not want us to come to a knowing; it wants us to come to an understanding. This is the difference between knowing a fact and “getting” a concept. You can either pass a test by knowing the numerical value of light speed (186,000 miles per second) or by being able to explain what light speed is. Isn’t the idea of light and its properties and implications far more engrossing? In this way, almost everything on Lost has two sets of answers. Back to light, what “is” the light in the cave? Empirically, I cannot tell you. But what “is” the light in the cave? Life. Quoting the O.G. Obi Wan Kenobi, “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Or something like that.
We cannot “know,” I suppose, what the numbers are, though there are reasonable inferences (The Valenzetti Equation), but we can understand them generally. This is not to excuse answers — concrete ones. I would still like a firmer explanation on why the all lady dinosaurs of Jurassic Park had an easier time makin’ babies than the attractive genetically equipped and desirably tanned castaways did on the Island. But, in general, we should accept the answers that cause us to understand rather than the answers we can memorize. Understanding, I would argue, takes root in something emotional — the gut, the id, knowledge is intellectual, the IQ… When it comes to entertainment, particularly one like Lost, I know which one I prefer, and I think I know which one Lost is leading us to. Take it from Einstein: “Knowledge is limited, but imagination encircles the world.”
I don’t know what Lost will look like when we’re finished unwrapping it Sunday night, but I like that it will then be ours to play with. Not open-ended but subject to some interpretation. Ideally, Lost will be a gift that, in some way, will keep on giving. This might mean that Lost will imply “answers” rather than…you know, answer them, and doing this right will be hella tricky. But I’m betting on being satisfied. At least with character, island mythology stuff — the sideways spin off show? Eh. Who knows. At least it only lasts for one season.
Oh, I haven’t talked about anything important yet, have I? Sorry. What actually happened in this episode? Well, Charles Widmore got shot dead, for one thing. Again, I was a little disappointed here. I can connect the dots to fully hash out Widmore’s back-story, but I was tired and was hoping Lost would do it for me. I realize this sort of flies in the face of my last paragraph, but if we’re talking characters, I think we need facts, not philosophical musings. Richard got straight-up Smokey owned. I think we’ll be seeing more of him, though. Speaking of Smokey, Widmore did whisper some sweet nothings in his ears — answers! I can only imagine that the volume will be turned up on this conversation in the finale. Ben, who seemed so redeemed a few episodes ago, is now telling Smokey that he’ll kill whoever and already dropped Widmore, making a threatening comment about Penny.
I think Ben is gaming Smokey a bit, though. He obviously isn’t Widmore’s biggest cheerleader, but I find it hard to believe he’s going to ride Smokey’s cloud “Never Ending Story”-style and do an island drive-by shooting of all our other heroes. Remember, Ben had the chance to kill Penny already and couldn’t do it. I think he’s just talking a big game for Smokey, only to throw it once he gets on the field. As a technical note, Terry O’Quinn’s performance this week was stellar. His play as Smokey at his most determined and dangerous oozed evil and a tense aura but somehow, at the same time, a wicked charm. The devil at his most tempting.
And then, of course, there’s the big deal, where concrete character answers sat down around a campfire with nebulous island constructs and sang “Kumbaya.” Jack Shepard, as it stands right now, is our winning candidate. In one of the series’s most revelatory scenes, Jacob’s ghost got cozy with Jack, Kate and Sawyer around a fire of his own burning ashes. When they flamed out, he said he’d never be seen again. If I’m remembering correctly, he told them why he brought them to the island. When they called him out for “ruining” their lives, he corrected them — they were alone, broken, yes — lost. Crashing on the island wasn’t getting stranded; it was getting drafted to a higher calling — a redemptive, commutative experience. But now Jacob said someone had to — well should — rise to the call of taking his place. Importantly, Jacob gave them all a choice, including Kate, and it was surprising and somehow comforting to know everyone — names crossed out or not — had a shot at the gig.
At the same time, as I said last week, Jacob was very aware of his mistakes and was hoping one of these people could correct them. Jack, a converted man of science, stepped up. After saying, last week, that the fusion of Jacob and his brother would be the ideal island protector, Jack seemed like the best choice for the job. Sawyer made a great quip about Jack’s God complex. And Hurley got to give a sigh of relief — good for those in the audience that would have wanted him to be the island’s protector. Don’t worry, Hugo fans — he didn’t wanna. But don’t be surprised if Lost pulls a bait-and-switch in the finale. I think it’s entirely possible and maybe even likely that Jack will be passing off his duties to the real Locke in the finale, wrapping up, in a way, what has been one of the driving forces of this show — the conflict between these two men. After all, there’s no defined term on the island protector job.
As for my critiques of this scene: I think I had some problems with it that people had with “Across the Sea.” It felt a little stilted for me, the dialogue felt a little off, the performances maybe likewise. There was thrill in the moment, as some characters noted in the episode — it very much felt like the end. But for me, it was like approaching the finish-line of a marathon and having it look a little different than you’d imagined. One reason I’ve always loved Lost is their ability to handle exposition and explanation in interesting and compelling ways. I felt the whole campfire bit wasn’t handled quite as well. It was more architect at the end of Matrix 2 to me than whatever Lost usually is. I could feel differently on re-watching. Regardless, this was an important scene that shouldn’t have left much to interpretation, so maybe this was the best way for it to play out.
Am I missing anything? Desmond was called a “fail-safe.” That was cool. Smokey seems convinced he can get Des to help him blow up the island. I wouldn’t take that bet. Smokey seems compelled to destroy the island. Maybe he will. It is down periscope in the sideways world, after all, but again I can’t quite figure the sideways-y stuff. By the way, it’s easy to quote Einstein saying knowledge is limited when your own knowledge is so limited. But hey, I brought up light speed too! Light speed! And I totally linked you to a fancy equation. Also, my futon smells of rich mahogany.
That was our episode. Now let’s talk about the show I saw, a.k.a. “Lost Live.” It was pretty great. Everyone from the kid that played young Ben to Matthew Abbadon to Des and Penny to Daniel Faraday to Pierre Chang to Hurley, Sawyer and Ben were there and on stage. People screamed “WAAAAAAAALLLT!” when Walt came out. People screamed “WAAAAAAAAALLLT!” when Michael came out. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were in good form in their introductions, saying Ian Somerhalder “wasn’t attractive at all,” that Desmond “wasn’t that important and probably not in the finale,” and they teased they’d reveal the Man In Black’s real name: “Titus Welliver!”, which is, of course, the actor’s real name.
The phrase “it’s hard to imagine the show without them” was repeated more times than one could count, but it didn’t make it less true. Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) seemed to get the best reception when he took the stage, but people equally flipped for some of the side but more embraced characters, like Richard (Nestor Carbonell). Before the actor introductions, an ABC suit read a letter from George Lucas aloud that lauded the show and made jokes about starting something with no clear ending and then adding daddy issues (“or homages,” he said) and stealing from other entertainments to tie it all up. After the letter, Damon and Carlton took the stage, and Damon apologized for all the bad things he said about the prequels. Laughs. The producers’ quips didn’t just land on the actors they introduced. Before bringing out Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), Carlton told Damon to button the top button on his shirt. Great stuff.
After the producers rolled the actors out and then off stage, the curtains went up and a symphony sat at the ready. Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino, already in the upper echelon of film composers, conducted the orchestra through six Lost themes to slide-shows and film clips. Beats any Lost fans would recognize were played out that recalled moments of romance, danger, adventure and intrigue on the island. Actors came out between certain songs to read letters from 815 crash survivors that were never highlighted in the show. The highlight of these was Michael Emerson, the actor behind the cunning and slippery Ben Linus, reading Neal Frogurt’s letter to his grandmother.
The crowd roared in cheers and applause when Emerson came out, only to die down and then get rowdy all over again before the dude even said a word. Emerson is so good, he somehow hammed it up without saying a word. Making a gesture, he drew out our pent-up anticipation just by standing there, only to have us beg for him to do anything, anything! It was a real testament to how these characters connect with the viewers. Musical high points included “The Oceanic Six,” “The Tangled Web” (the most recent theme from the show that plays for Jacob and the M.I.B.), and “Parting Words.” I’d expect to hear bits of “Parting Words” in the finale, as it’s arguably the best piece of Lost music composed over the six-year run. It originally played over the season 1 finale’s raft sequence — check it.
After “Parting Words,” M.G. left the stage only to come back out in a Dharma jumpsuit with the job “COMPOSER” emblazoned on it. He talked about his emotional journey with the show and how his first live performance was in the very same hall in 2004 for his score from The Incredibles. In a lot of ways, for those involved in Lost, it seems to have worked out in a cyclical, symmetrical way, as the show itself might.
Then, after bringing out some of the directing, writing and producing talent, they screened “What They Died For.” But we’ve been there. The night wasn’t without some cool mementos. There was a program, t-shirts and posters. Most notable amongst those was a remix by artist Mike Mitchell that did the iconic “I’m With CoCo” design. With some slight remodeling, that iconic design now said “I’m With Jacob.” But I was most pumped about these “Vitamin Waters” handed out at the exits.
So where does that leave us now? We talked the episode, the show…now we talk the series, even though this column is growing so large it risks imploding on itself like a black hole.
I particularly like this excerpt from USA Today writer Robert Bianco: “One of TV’s greatest series — at any time, of any genre, on any platform — will come to its conclusion.” And then: “Lost represents the best of what broadcast television and popular entertainment can be.”
Agreed, good sir. I’m going to try to be brief so I can do a few more things in this article before wrapping it up. Lost is one of the greatest series ever, if not the greatest series ever, first because it was so deep. Thinking about references — literary, scientific, philosophical and religious — I’ve made in these articles just this season cooks my noodle (mmmm…cooked noodles). But this show would be nothing but pretentious and laborious if that’s all it was. The fact that it managed to package this depth in a story that was so good, so interesting, so compelling, so, in fact, entertaining is what’s clutch. These elements complimented and completed each other. I talked about the power of parable earlier this year, and that’s what Lost stands as.
It wasn’t purely escape — it was a moral tale that caused us to confront ideas and arguments that had the ability to reach into our own lives. Its success was that it did so in a parable so thoroughly entertaining. Lost also stands atop the heap in its success in building a community — me writing this blog, you reading it and typing your own theories, weeks after weeks of debates, years of bumping into strangers at parties only to say, “Wait! You watch Lost?!” only to lose the rest of the room to start rummaging through science and faith and theory. Thinking about how Lost has brought so many of us so close together is what makes me most sad about seeing it go. Another TV show like this will be hard to come by — one that brings us closer together even as we disagree. Part of this experience is also due to Lost‘s ingenious and inventive marketing campaign that encouraged participation at a viral level. I’ll get to that a bit more momentarily.
Lost is maybe the greatest TV show ever because it transcended TV. I’m not really a TV guy. I never invested myself so thoroughly in a show, and I doubted the merit of TV before I got on flight 815 and crashed into that fantastic, mysterious, revealing jungle with the rest of the audience. Lost has most definitely etched its place in the cultural and entertainment history books, and borders on becoming a modern mythical reference point — like Star Wars. It’s more than any individual episode; it’s the sum of the ideas and ideals those episodes espoused. But we only get to experience it for the first time this one time.
Now put on Vitamin C’s “Graduation Song” or Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” because I’m about to start the slide-show.
My season ranking (somewhat fluid, reacting off the fly here):
Season 3: I know people hate this S, but for me, the season represents a special moment — like those between where you’re just getting to know someone you’re falling for and where you actually know them. It’s the last of Lost‘s courting. It started in cages and moved to psychic time-tripping Desmond and empty rocking chairs with disembodied voices. Episodes like “The Man Behind The Curtain” and “The Brig” will always be Lost at its best to me. And where Lost erred in this season is also illustrative of the show’s relationship to its audience, Nikki and Paulo were killed in fantastic and original fashion, and the deal was struck to end the show now to maintain its integrity. This is also the last time Lost moved at its original pace — a slower, more contemplative and thorough burn before shorter seasons, writer’s strikes, and the hustle of time travel. And it was beautifully shot. It might be the show’s greenest, most striking season. Lost on the whole, for all its flaws, I loved it for its earnestness, its ambition, and most of all for when it actually hit it out of the park.
Season 2: Shocker, everybody. This was my introductory season to Lost. I came on board not after Locke’s toes wiggled on the beach, but after the hatch was opened, when the button had to be pushed, when the numbers and debates of faith ruled all. Eko appeared, and Ana Lucia and Libby were shot cold. Henry Gale became Ben Linus became one of the greatest characters on this great show. I don’t know if season 2 would hold up as much in future revisits, but I have to give props to where I came from. And the Desmond-centric finale wasn’t just the best TV that year — it was better than any movie I saw.
Season 5: Tied with 2, more or less, and will probably be better to me in the future. Season 5′s time travel antics and fate debates (“Whatever happened, happened”) are like crack to me. Or at least this is what I think crack would be like to me. Daniel Faraday ruled, nosebleeds threatened everything, flash-forwards and backwards intermixed, Jeremy Bentham got owned, and a Lost scrapbook was furled out with characters visiting past powerful moments. The finale, “The Incident,” was rocking, and episodes like “LaFleur” best illustrated how Lost can be touchy and trippy all at once, working on several effective levels.
Season 1: I can’t imagine what it was like to start with this show from the beginning — to realize that you were getting more than Survivor scripted or Swiss Family Robinson for adults. Season 1, with my personal preference out the window, might just be Lost‘s greatest work. It set the tone, established the mystery, and awed with some of the greatest moments TV has ever scene. From the most expensive pilot ever produced to John Locke’s magical healing and scarred past, Season 1 of Lost is Lost. So it must be loved. But in the future, knowing everything we will and do, will season 1 play as well?
Season 4: Lost‘s worst season. It ran a sprint rather than a marathon, thanks to an already abbreviated episode order paired with the writer’s strike. We got some good characters and cool moments, but for me it never quite all coalesced. Granted, “The Constant” is far and away one of the whole show’s greatest episodes, but the motivations of the Oceanic 6, while we ultimately bought them, I never quite believed. But if the seasons of Lost were brewskies, Season 4 would still be MGD. Not exactly an imported lager out of the bottle or anything, but still the champagne of beers.
Season 6: TBD. Still too fresh. Still too much unresolved. But 6 can be appreciated for being everything Lost has ever been at its surprising, enthralling best and its “huh?”-ish worst. For every “What Kate Does” and scene in the temple, there was a “Happily Ever After.” And there was answers and mysteries, naturally. I really have enjoyed it, but I’ve got to know where it’s going. Trying to evaluate season six completely right now would be like when Vh1 began airing “I Love the 2000′s” in 2008.
Each season had its unique marketing gambits too. During season 2, commercials for the Dharma Initiative aired during Lost breaks and on other TV shows. Stunts like this grew larger and larger so eventually you could apply to work for Dharma, could check flights with Oceanic Airlines, and before season 4, you could even call Oceanic and ask about your missing family member on Oceanic Flight 815. There was also “Lost University,” where courses could be taken through the season 5 Blu-ray on Lost references. Besides that, online additional content unlocked details for viewers on everything from the history of the Black Rock to the conspiracy to the fake 815 planted in the ocean.
Lost has also given us an overflow of fantastic moments and lines. “WAAAAAAAAAALT!” “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to take the boy.” “You guys, where are we?” “I can’t say rescuing your people is exactly our…primary objective.” “Do you have any idea how much I want to kill you?” “It’s never been easy!” “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” “I’ll see you in another life, brotha.” “No matta what I do Charlie, you’re gonna die.” “Heeeeelllp Meeeeee.” “You’re not comin’, Kate!” etc., etc, etc. Not to mention anything Sawyer or Hurley’s ever said.
Speaking of which…
And the moments, they were too many. But I’m just gonna come down on this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2bclbKp1jI
Pictures are worth thousands of words, so at this point there’s really nothing left to do but watch. And there might not be effective enough words for all we’ve seen. As we finish this thing off on Sunday, I say, although you might not appreciate the comparison, that we watch the finale as if we’re going to church, not school. Look to be inspired, moved, perhaps enlightened, but don’t necessarily look to be taught, to be told answers. Lost has obeyed the first rule of entertainment fantastically — show and don’t tell.
I’d expect that to be the same in the finale. Also, be mad if the end is dumb, but don’t accuse it of being dumb if it’s not exactly what you wanted or envisioned. I’ll try to do the same. How Lost resolves might be like your ex’s new boyfriend. You’ll be predisposed to dislike the guy, but he might not actually be so bad if you give him a chance. Let’s not be spiteful with this, whatever they do. But let’s be honest.
We all have our theories and our wish-list of resolved mysteries, but I truly only want one thing from this finale — for it to be honest too. For it to be genuine and sincere. To be Lost.
I kid you not, the entire time I’ve been writing this article, some people in the mail-room have been watching Stand By Me. The credits are now rolling, and that song is now playing. So, fellow Losties, my friends, I thank you oh so much for your patience, endurance…and passing interest readers, stand by me. If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall, and the mountain should crumble to the sea, I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear, just as long as you stand, stand by me. It’s been a wild ride. I’m glad we were co-passengers. I’ll see you soon in an island-less sideways reality. I guess the only reality we’ve ever had, but I know it was improved by Lost.
Live Together, Die Alone.
ABC's 'Lost' will run forever in re-runs, ARG's, fan fiction, VOD and streaming on Netflix, Hulu and beyond...