Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Review: Lost 6.17: The End

If you haven't seen this episode, then do not for the love of God try to read this review. Not only will a lot of what I'm saying not make a lot of sense, but I'll also be spoiling a hell of a lot, because I've got a lot to get off my chest.
The series does end with some beautiful cinematic symmetry.
Lost - Season Six, Episode Seventeen - The End
Written 17/3/13
"You can let go now."

I'm not going to sit here and say that I spent six years waiting for this finale. This isn't exactly an Ashes To Ashes thing we have going on here - I only started watching/keeping up with Lost while the fifth season was just finishing. I had never seen John Locke in his original body, I've still never seen the Swan station and yet I was really fascinated by the depths that I felt the show could go to with not just its characterisations but its ideas. It's often said that there are two types of fans of Lost - those invested in the characters, and those invested in the concepts at hand. I've always been more of the latter type of the viewer, and I shouldn't really have been so surprised at the fact that the finale wasn't really something that catered to my tastes.
     At its heart, the finale is one of the most straightforward scripts that the show's ever produced. Hero goes with bad guy, does something dangerous, hero kills bad guy, sacrifices himself to reverse said something dangerous and then everyone meets up in the afterlife and lives happily ever after. That's it. No twists, no turns. Well, not many. Even the nature of the Flash-sideways as an afterlife is obvious come Happily Ever After for those paying significant attention. I have problems with both the main island plot of the finale and with the Flash-sideways, so I'll be covering them separately just to probe the depths of why I feel that this finale is fundamentally disappointing.

Main Island
The Heart of the Island is a shitting cork in the ground.
Let's start with the Heart of the Island and such. So after spending the season desperate to leave the Island, and asserting that he needs the candidates to be dead to do that, The Man In Black changes tack and decides to use Desmond to destroy the Island. He aims to do this by... by pulling a Styrofoam cork out of the ground. This somehow causes the Island to start sinking into the ground, but it also has the unfortunate side-effect of rendering both Jack and MIB mortal, allowing Jack and Kate to beat the crap out of him before shooting him and kicking him off a cliff. Jack then sacrifices himself by saving Desmond and putting the cork back in, dying in the bamboo groves just as everyone else (besides Hurley and Ben, who've stayed behind to do the Jacob job, and an unfortunate Desmond) flies away on the Ajira plane.
     Simple plot holes tear this plot apart. Aside from the obvious disappointment of all of the show's mystery and wonder being reduced to a fucking cork in the ground, we also have the baffling decisions made by MIB. This couldn't have been his original plan - he tried to have Desmond killed a couple of episodes back, you remember. And the only reason Desmond was on the Island was because Jacob's last failsafe was to use him to sink the Island in order to kill MIB and stop him from leaving for good. MIB's complex reasons for being the man he is are shuffled aside for blind cackling villainy as he decides to destroy the Island, with no way of getting off it. It really just doesn't make any sense, and it's frankly insulting that the final conflict between the two sides was handled with such lack of coherence.
MIB falls to his death.
     So that's the logical, "where are my answers" part of me thoroughly annoyed. And then there's the little bit of me that likes the characters, and we have to look at what happens here. There's so much time spent in the island plot fussing around Jack, the MIB and silly corks that the long history of the show barely gets a mention. There are a few sentences of consideration of Kate and Claire's relationship, but mostly it just gets turned into several long action scenes with far too little sense behind them. Hurley becoming the new Protector wasn't a surprise, and it was nice to see his character vindicated in that that it is, as well as allowing Ben the position of power he so craved in a way that allowed him to make up for his transgressions.
     But the common argument in defence of the finale was that it was supposed to be the conclusion of all the character arcs and so there wasn't much room for dramatic funtimes. And that can be said of Jack, whose movement from man of science to man of faith, however much it irks me to see, is clear and concise throughout the series and through this finale. Goody for him. The rest of the characters can apparently settle for the half-assed character resolutions provided by the Flash-Sideways verse, whereas in the actual timeline we're left with a vague, "flying off into the sunset" ending for the majority and a "how the fuck do I get off this island" ending for Desmond. (Not that that's any different from the rest of the series, really.)

Sawyer and Juliet find one another again.
Despite me saying how easy it was to recognise the true nature of the Flash-Sideways, the 13-year-old me had absolutely no idea that we'd get dumped with a purgatory ending. Mainly because I was excited about the use of what I thought was a parallel universe plot, which would have been awesome, but also because Ashes to Ashes had ended with a similar ending two days prior and I'd basically been shattered by it. I'd always been mildly aware of some of Lost's more religious elements, but I certainly wasn't expecting the final season to turn into a biblical battle between Jesus and the Devil with a meetup in Heaven afterwards.
     I am not perhaps as angry now as I was then at the mere presence of religious themes in the finale, especially as Lost has a much greater precedent for them than Ashes To Ashes ever did. What gets me nowadays about the flash-sideways is the crazy-as-shit internalised logic. All of the problems with the sideways timeline stem from its inception - that this is an afterlife somehow created by these people. But like in Ashes To Ashes, that begs the question - what the hell is everyone else doing there? The point is clearly supposed to be that these random few people apparently have such a cosmic significance that they have ultimate control over the afterlife, which is bullshit. Don't even get me started on characters like David, who vanish from existence the moment their connecting character is awakened.
     That interpretation itself, despite being the one given by the episode, doesn't match up either. The characters are still suffering for what they did in Reality - some of the characters' lives are better, but some of them are worse as well. The idea of what makes a perfect afterlife for someone is entirely subjective, and it's not entirely clear who's been deciding which of the characters gets what. You could argue that it's all according to some Universal Morality, but that's bullshit because such a thing does not exist - especially not in a series like Lost, where moral polarity has always been lambasted by the ambiguity of the characters.
Aaron gets born. Again. As if one childbirth wasn't traumatic
     My prime example is probably Sayid. He spent his entire adult life looking for the love of his life, Nadia, who was then killed by Jacob in order to bring Sayid back, whereafter he ended up dying, being resurrected by the MIB, going crazy for a week and then turning into the good equivalent of a suicide bomber. Yet in his afterlife, he spends the vast majority of his non-awakened time suffering and having to watch Nadia marry and have children with his brother. Followed by his "soul mate" being Shannon of all people, whom he had a fling with in Season One. It doesn't match up.
     However. And here comes the smidgen of praise. There were a few moments in the flash-sideways that really did come together and act as remembrance to some of the show's past, even if they did bring up a few more logical inconsistencies. Claire giving birth to Aaron at Charlie's concert (implying that Aaron has to spend part of the afterlife in his mother's womb and must pass on as an infant), Sayid saving Shannon, and most importantly for me, Sawyer and Juliet meeting once again. Their reunion scene gives me happy tears.

"Christian Shepherd". I should have seen this coming.
Despite all that gumph, I do think that The End is entertaining, at least. Its religious elements and the logic of some of its claims are fundamentally silly and for me it was a fatally unsatisfying end to such a wildly diverse yet fascinating TV Show. While we got a lot of wonderful, heart-felt moments that did pay homage to the series' best times, we also had to suffer through a lot of bullshit and plot holes inbetween. I never expected the finale to be perfect, and I know that it couldn't have answered every question and satisfied every character. But I wish that it had been braver, said new things, taken more risks. I wish that I was disappointed by something that would later be seen as a hidden masterpiece, rather than something that was all flash at the time with very little to offer after the fact.
     But really this finale had one role in mind, and it's clear from the final scenes in the Church what that role was. Despite how patronising it may feel, the writers are giving us as the viewers a clear message - no matter how much you enjoyed watching Lost, however much you loved or hated the characters, that this was the end, and that it's important to move on without it. For those who watched this show from the beginning, I assume that that's a much more powerful message, and even if you forget all of my nitpicks, the finale manages to deliver that message with all the potency it feels that it deserves. And the ability to do that is what this awesome, awesome show will be remembered for.


NEXT WEEK: The epilogue to our tale, as we meet The New Man In Charge. (Tis gonna be a shorter article, the special is only about five minutes long. I might use the rest of that article to discuss my future with Lost on this blog.)

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