Now that it’s been a week and the furor has died down somewhat, I thought I would weigh in on what went wrong with the Lost series finale. If you haven’t seen it yet, be warned there may be spoilers below. In my view, the writers took what could have been the best television series of all time and messed it up royally, but the problems started a few seasons ago and can’t be pinned solely on the finale (although the finale was pretty hokey). I think the writers missed the freighter (ha ha, just a little Lost trivia humor for you there) in the following three ways:
1) They lost the point of the character relationships.
Much was made in early seasons of the coincidences of how the main characters interacted with each other before the crash without knowing it. I think the writers should have focused on how the CRASH was what gave those relationships significance. The characters encountered tons of random people in their lives, but what gives the relationships with the other Losties meaning is their shared experience of the crash and life on the island. It was fine to make us wonder what those coincidences meant, but it would have been more satisfying to show at the end that their only meaning was found in the later relationships developed between the passengers. By bringing in the stupid sideways flashes in the last season, the writers tried to give us pat closure for those relationships rather than letting them rest on the strength of the previous island narrative.
2. They lost control of the island mythology.
Here’s the thing: we all accepted that there was some mythology to the island from the first season. I don’t think anyone really expected each and every mystery to be completely spelled out and diagrammed in the finale. However, it would not have killed the writers to wrap a few things up. I think the problem is that the mythology kind of got away from the writers in later seasons. The thing about sci fi elements is that you MUST preserve some level of reality in order for the audience to be satisfied with it. You can have a smoke monster and polar bears and electromagnetism that causes time travel, but you need to provide at least a glimmer of an idea that those mean something. I think things started breaking down when the writers let Jacob be a real person instead of an idea. That’s where they lost the chance to provide a rational explanation for the mythology and veered too far to the ridiculous. By the time we got to the glowing cave that stops up evil it was just a farce. I think the strongest narratives leave tension between the unexplainable and the explainable – I think we would have more closure if we were left with a glimpse of how the weird happenings on the island could be explained. THEN it would have been worth it to go back and watch all six seasons and exclaim “Oh! Now I get that!” As it stands, there is no incentive to watch the series again, because you already know the writers are going to cop out.
3. They lost the point of the tension between faith and reason.
I liked how the series initially set out to show the clash between faith and science/reason, and I think the writers were trying to end the show with an emphasis on faith by not answering any questions and putting in a bunch of quasi-religious hocus pocus about people being in limbo after they die until they find their friends and realize they are dead (note to Christians who act like Lost is an allegory for Christianity: you may want to reconsider) but I think the writers wound up having a skewed definition of faith. Faith is not the absence of science and reason. Faith is the presence of hope grounded in truth, the belief that things happen for a reason. I was utterly disappointed with this theme. Instead of giving us a thoughtful exploration of the tension between faith and reason, the writers gave us a situation where there was not even a remote scientific explanation, and absolutely no justification for faith in the supernatural-esque elements of the show.
In short, although I loved the cast and the literary references and Sawyer’s one liners and the first five seasons of Lost, I think they messed it up toward the end (if only I had been consulted!). And this, in case you’re wondering, is why I more often prefer books to television.
If you watched Lost, what was your take?