On May 23, 2010 one of my favorite television shows ended its six year run. For me, the airing of Lost’s finale was something akin to a religious experience. I had spent countless hours debating theories with friends and coworkers. I was emotionally invested in the characters. So when the finale began, I was filled anticipation. Finally, I would get answers.
Two and half hours later I posted the following status update:
I have VERY MIXED feelings about the Lost finale. I found the episode to be emotionally satisfying, but otherwise frustrating. Honestly, I feel kind of cheated.
And I wasn’t alone. Similar reactions flooded the internet.
Looking back nearly a year later, my feelings on Lost remain mixed. On one hand, I still love the show. For six years it enriched my life. It was a bright spot that I looked forward to, and a source of endless fascination. One of my favorite aspects of the series was the characterization. The characters and their personal journeys were fleshed out wonderfully, and ultimately made the series worthwhile.
On the other hand, the show’s creators did the unexpected. They presented us with a puzzle, but never gave the solution. In retrospect, I don’t think that the writers ever knew what the island was.
Delivering on Promises
When writing a novel, the author must deliver on promises implicitly made to the reader. When a reader picks up a mystery novel, they expect the author to reveal what really happened. If the author doesn’t deliver on this promise, the reader will feel betrayed.
Now artistically, the writer can choose not to provide an answer. But they do so at their own peril. More often than not, readers won’t take the risk of trusting them again.
As a show, Lost consistently operated on two levels: the first was characterization, and the second was mystery.
On the first level, the series finale delivered. It brought the characters full circle, and was deeply moving.
It was on the second level, mystery, that so many were left wanting. Numerous questions were raised throughout the series, and many of us watched to learn what the answers were. Between episodes we would theorize as to what was really going on. Lost was an intricate puzzle, and we were fascinated by how everything fit together.
We did get some answers, but not the one that mattered.
Where Are We?
The series pilot ended with the following line, spoken by Charlie:
Guys. Where are we?
This question was never truly answered. Sure, some details were revealed, but they didn’t go deep enough. Saying that it’s a magical place with a golden light was far from adequate. How did this island get to be so special? How can it be moved from place to place? Why can’t children be both conceived and born on the island?
None of this was properly fleshed out. You see, many of us were under the impression that Lost was in fact a puzzle. We believed that the series finale would provide a final piece which would make sense of everything. Something so profound that we could go back and watch the entire series from the beginning and see how everything fit. But alas, this was not the case.
While the part of me that watched for the characters was satisfied by the finale, the part that watched for the mystery was left woefully disappointed.
Granted, it was their artistic prerogative to not give us the answer. But honestly, I think that it was a shitty move.
The show was brilliant, and always entertained. Still, I can’t help but feel frustrated by promises that were implicitly made, and never fulfilled.
What was your reaction to the Lost finale when it first aired? Has your opinion changed since then?