Tuesday, 25 May 2010


I've tried to write a few words about what I found disappointing about the finale and, in some sense, the entire final season of Lost.   To me, the show appealed as a piece of science fiction, a mystery and a quirky "things aren't really as they appear" narrative along the lines of the Twilight Zone.  It wasn't, originally,  about the characters or relationships.  Note that the writers were actually going to kill off Jack in the second episode.  The show took great delight in having beloved characters die without warning.  This wasn't Brothers and Sisters or Friends.  So, I felt disappointed in the authors retreating to that storyline in the end.

I think that what distinguishes good science fiction from fairy tales and silly flights of fancy, is that good science fiction will tell a compelling and complicated but always consistent story about a state of affairs in which the laws of nature differ from ours or which may or may not be true in our world.  The good science fiction explores how those deviations from reality  explain the kinds of things that go on in the sci fi world.  Good science fiction doesn't require suspension of disbelief once you've understood and accepted the fundamental differences between our world and the sci fi world under consideration.   So in good science fiction, obligations to give or allow for compelling and reasonable explanations remain.  Lost appeared to be doing that for some time, exploring a world which didn't necessarily differ radically from the real world and in which the strange departures would make sense as we learned more about the basic differences between our world and Lost world.

Secondly, it also worked as a mystery and as a quirky "nothing is as it appears" story.  Of course, mysteries are interesting exactly insofar as they invite us to read/watch/listen along as potential clues are offered up and we simultaneously test our own ability to extract and reconstruct the data to explain the strange goings on.   A mystery isn't fun to read if the mystery can't be explained with the information that has been shared with the audience along the way.

Somewhere along the way, Lost  pulled a bait and switch.  It gave up on being a compelling mystery/sci fi story and turned it into a story about relationships and people finding happiness. The writers thumbed their noses at those of us interested in what had seemed to be a compelling and fascinating mystery involving science and  metaphysics.  After throwing out all kinds of mysteries and situations requiring explanation, it just gave up and said, "Oh yeah, we were just telling a story about people" and relationships.   The mysterious island, well, it's still mysterious and the final episode has some implausible hokum in which the island can be turned on or off with some wine-stopper like plug, less compelling or interesting than the fairy tales one might read to a four year old.  For some reason, the writers assumed instead that what viewers would care about would be mawkish, inexplicable and irrelevant reunions of people who'd already died.  As one commenter put it,

 They [writers] couldn’t have proved them [those who argued that the ending would be a big cop out]  more right if they’d had Jesus and Krishna themselves make an appearance on the island and tell Jack that, “everyone will go to a warm, lovely place that they made together to be together to remember that they were together somewhere for some reason, because that’s what people have been wasting their time for six years to find out.”

I feel as if I were reading a fascinating mystery novel in which lots of strange things happen and along the way various protagonists die only to have the book end by ignoring the obvious questions that the mystery had raised and instead telling some silly story about all the characters getting together in heaven and being really happy about seeing each other.  Any one of Jimmy Kimmel's endings would have been better.

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