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'Lost' finale: emotional resolution

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  May 23, 2010 11:16 PM

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A lot was hazy. But one thing was clear: “Lost” did not end its six-year run with intellectual resolution. We never got a concise, specific explanation of the island – where it was, when it was, what it was. And the answer to the question of why anyone – nevermind Hurley and Ben -- would need to take care of this island remained obscure. Plus, a thousand other smaller questions (paging Walt) were left by the wayside.

Instead, the mixed episode offered an abundance of emotional resolution and vague metaphor, some of which was compelling (Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion, Jack and Desmond's farewell) and some of which was quite hokey (the cork?! the light? Locke becoming human again?).

I was left with an inkling of the island as a kind of state of purgatory or limbo, a place where each character worked out his or her issues before letting go into death. The last moments of the finale brought us full circle back to the opening moments of the series, as Jack lay on his back looking up -- but then he closed his eyes and died, now having come to terms with his responsibility complex. That the producers have said  the show was not about purgatory will, of course, be debated in the coming weeks, along with the rest of the finale.

The emotional moments came fast and furiously – and at times too automatically -- for the entire two-and-a-half hours, punctuated by action sequences and commercials. We got the warm satisfaction of the “Lost” reunion tour, as Sayid and Shannon and Boone and Charlie and Charlotte – and Vincent! – and the rest of the gang got back together. The déjà vu revelations came on in the characters like a sweet love drug, as Kate delivered Claire’s baby, as Sayid saw Shannon, as Sawyer and Juliet re-met cute by the hospital candy machine.

And when they all sat in a church at the end, ready to “move on,” it was like a flashforward to the sentimental “Lost” reunion show that will inevitably take place 10 years from now. Except, you know, they were all dead (I think). When did they die? In the pilot episode? After the explosion at the end of season 5? Only in sideways time? I'm eager to hear your theories.

Naturally, we got a full dose of cheesy “Lost” thrills in the finale, as Desmond and Jack were lowered into the golden water in a hot-tub set that was pure Disney World. The challenge on the Disney amusement ride? Put the cork in the fountain. And we got the show’s trademark self-referential humor, as Kate said, “Christian Shephard? Seriously?” The wittiest moment, though? The Target ad for smoke alarms with the smoke monster. It was kind of brilliant and kind of gross.

Despite the disappointing muddiness and unanswered questions of the finale, I still felt grateful for it. One of TV’s most compelling pieces of serial storytelling came to an end exactly when it should have – before the rigors of TV seasons stretched the narrative too, too far out of shape. Viewers and networks always want more of what they love, but the “Lost” producers resisted temptation. They picked an end date and stuck to it, and for that – as well as six years of great mystery – they deserve respect.

I need more time to process this. What did you think? Are you happy with the "Lost" producers? Or are they dead to you...?


P.S. This is Merriam-Webster's definition of Purgatory: 1 : an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification; specifically : a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven
2 : a place or state of temporary suffering or misery

P.P.S. Phrase of the morning comes from my colleague Mark Feeney, who enjoyed last night until the last 10 minutes: "It was like the senior prom of death."


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