Thursday, February 6, 2014

Getting Lost in My Mind

An island means isolation, which means that the factors that remain are amplified. So it is in Lost.

I remembered hearing about this show in high school, so when it went onto Netflix, I added it to my Instant Queue (before this became My List) out of vague curiosity. I think it was after that that I started watching Once Upon a Time, whose creators, you will recall, worked on Lost. Since I knew that they borrowed some of the Lost format for Once, I started to get more curious and began watching the six season show in March or April of last year.

My start was slow. For a while, I didn't like the show much. As you know, I'm not a big fan of watching violence, and since everything is essentially appearing out of context in the beginning of the series, I was having trouble seeing the point to all the fighting and dying and such. Every so often, curiosity and suspense would lead me to watch a few episodes; but overall I would leave long gaps in between. Months passed. I watched other shows more often than this one. I didn't feel connected to the characters, and my disinterest was not enough to overcome my desire to know the secrets of the island.

And then something changed. I moved into season three, and I started getting invested in the characters. It's like everything was different. Enough time had passed for the characters and for me that I cared what happened to them because of what I knew about them in the past and in the present, and enough information had been revealed that I only grew more curious about what else there was to find out. And that's how this show worked: with every new answer you were given, a new question also came. That made it all very exciting to think about and to try and unravel.

By this point, I was starting to like Charlie and Claire, Sawyer and Kate, Desmond, and Sun. Then came along my new favorite character, Daniel. Season three drew me in, and season four may have been my favorite. Season five began with those wonderful time shifts: whereas before we had to deal with separating the past from the present, now we also had to separate out the future. Seeing the plasticity of time brought everything to yet another level. And by this time, you begin to realize that everything you see has a point, even if it is only to illustrate a certain detail about a person's character.

But with the mixed up timeline, the slowly released information, and all of that, I went into season six expecting answers. If a show ends simply because the station doesn't renew it, lack of answers can be forgiven. But if they know it's ending, it has to come to a good end. And so all through this the last season, I was wondering how it was all going to end. I was waiting for answers. With episodes like "Ab Aeterno," I thought I was finally getting them. I enjoyed "Across the Sea" and wondered how they would tie everything in that episode into everything we had seen in all the other episodes. I thought that since the series finale was long, it would cover quite a bit of ground.

And then I watched that much-debated episode. That is, I didn't know it was much-debated until after I'd finished it. There was so much hugging in this episode--I thought that maybe it would have been okay for people who hadn't raced through the second half of the series like I had. But then I began to wonder why the hugging had taken the place of the answers. The more I pondered, the more disappointed I became. All the while this show lasted, we were led to believe that there were many answers to be discovered. We learned some, like what the black smoke was (although did we really learn what the thing was that was the black smoke?), but others were simply ignored. Everything that we thought would be important was suddenly tossed aside in favor of a generic love-is-friendship atmosphere. Wait, what? I was initially not interested in this show because of the violence, and then it ends in a blaze of gooey hugging? And why the church? I've certainly nothing against churches (just ask where I am Sunday mornings), but why bother to include a church if it's a generic, overly-obvious all-denominations church with a stereotypical, over-used white light? Why?

The thing is, I was expecting the ending of this show to be more along the lines of what "Across the Sea" could have led to. I was expecting an ending more like the tone A Series of Unfortunate Events ends on. That's also a series where I had no idea how it would end, and its final book (like Lost's final episode) was likewise simply called The End. I was expecting more of that other-worldly, mythological atmosphere, accompanied with an ending for some of our characters and perhaps a beginning for others. At one point, I was expecting Alex and Carl to be the surviving young couple, like Cosette and Marius in Les Mis. I also thought that maybe Aaron might be the one to act as the next generation; that would explain the never-explained thing about pregnancies on the island.

But instead we ended up with half an ending. We never really saw most of the characters leave the island, and we didn't really get to see what happened to all of them. We just got to see them reconnect in an alternative universe, in-between world after death. The theme, I suppose, became about how we all have the choice to react to our circumstances. You can react with good or with bad (I don't care if that is grammatically incorrect). And the times when you react with good will, ultimately, be the most important ones. But, really? Is that what we, as an audience, were trying to discover while watching this show? I feel like it could have had this theme--if it had been handled a little differently toward the end. I wanted to see Hugo and Ben on the island, what happened to everyone who got off the island on the plane, and have some further way of connecting all the little things we knew about the island.

At the same time, it's as if the ending didn't really matter. Just as what mattered for the characters was the time they spent together on the island, what mattered for us as the audience was the time we spent learning about this group of people and guessing what was coming next. This puzzle of a show was fun times to try and unpuzzle. If the final picture wasn't exactly what I expected, that doesn't change the fact that a puzzle show with good production values is quite nice to come across. Now will you help my mind find its way back to Earth?

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