I believe that the journey is just as important as the destination, as is reflected in one of my favorite quotes by author J.R.R. Tolkein. Sit back and enjoy as I wander through life, keeping in mind that Not All Who Wander Are Lost!

Monday, May 24, 2010

'The End' of LOST

Six years. Growing from age 12 to age 18. The last year of middle school, all of high school, and the start of college. 2004 to 2010. The complete journey of LOST, from beginning to end.

LOST has been called many things: baffling, emotional, mysterious, a game-changer for the television industry, intelligent, frustrating, magnificent, epic. Last night, the show ended with the powerful two and a half hour finale entitled, simply. "The End."

Right now, I'm sitting here, with Michael Giacchino's incredible soundtrack playing, trying to find the words to voice some of my many thoughts about the end of the show and the finale episode itself. I'm doing so before talking to any other fans, other than my family; before reading theories and opinions; before discussing it, or even giving it much space. These thoughts are raw and, to give them justice, will have *spoilers* -- but anyone who cares will have seen the episode by now anyway. 

Before I dig in, you should know what kind of LOST fan I am. I don't read 40 blogs and listen to 10 podcasts after each episode. I don't read every book that is hidden in the show, or have dozens of theories that I am 100% positive will come true. I do watch every episode, obviously, many of them multiple times. I spend time thinking about the show. I regularly read (and gain most of my insight) from who I consider the LOST guru, Entertainment Weekly columnist "Doc" Jeff Jensen (and his partner from Totally Lost, Dan Snierson). I consider Doc Jensen's theories, am blown away by his research, and bow down to his knowledge of the show. I can't wait to read his recap of the finale. 

But mostly, I am [or, after last night, I suppose I should say was, *sniff*] along for the journey.

I have experienced something very much like last night before, when the seventh Harry Potter book came out. There's a feeling of excitement mixed with dread when you face the final chapter of a magnificent story: excitement at seeing it all come together, at learning the ending; and dread at saying goodbye to a world and set of characters that you love. There's a morning-after feel of "now what?" -- a feeling of not being able to put that Deathly Hallows book on your bookshelf; at not being able to delete LOST from your DVR queue, because it means admitting that it's over.

I'll be interested to see how LOST "ages." How will it be remembered? Will future generations watch it? Much like Harry Potter, I get the sense that watching it, with it finished, won't be the same as watching it over the past six years. Half the fun was how it kept us guessing and discussing, reaching for Wikipedia and online forums as we try to guess what will happen next. Of course, unlike Harry Potter, LOST has many more loose threads. There's more to discuss and guess at. But it won't be the same without the weekly new material. I know that someday (probably soon), I'll want to sit down and re-watch the show from its beginning, considering it from different angles now that the ending is out in the world. But, despite a re-watch marathon, it's over. 

Many people can tell you that LOST was special, maybe even unique. They'll list the ways it changed television. They'll marvel at the way it wasn't "dumbed-down for its audience, but instead, it reached out to the "nerd herd" and challenged us to discuss philosophy, history, literature... to ask about the significance of the Watership Down book Sawyer was reading, or question the meaning behind a character named after the philosopher John Locke. They'll tell you that it was a heavily serialized show (try just watching one episode if you've never seen it and you'll be lost within minutes), in a time of easy to follow shows like CSI. They'll tell you that setting an end date for a popular show had never been done (side-note: I seriously hope networks learn from this, and both stop canceling good shows too early, or running once-good shows into the ground).

I'm one of these people. Being part of the LOST phenomenon is to know something that broke precedents, that hadn't been done, and that may not be done ever again. 

Now I have that out of the way, let me just say something general about the finale episode: What an emotional two and a half hours!! I cry easily when I'm invested in a show and its characters, and the finale had me tearing up almost constantly. Both the second-to-last scene, with everyone reunited in the church, and the plot-device of the characters "remembering" their past, flashing around past seasons of the show, and all the joyful, tearful hugging and kissing of loved ones... instant tearjerker for me. More than that, though, I thought it was a simply brilliant way of ending the show, of paying homage to all the events and characters of the past, of saying goodbye.

I just sat down to watch the last 10 minutes of the finale again, so that's what I want to talk about next: the end of The End. I'm not sure where I expected the show to go in its last few minutes, but this wasn't it. As I sat in tears last night, watching Jack return to the bamboo forest that started it all, seeing the show in the tree, Vincent, and finally seeing Jack's eye close in direct reversal of the opening shot, there was one thought in my blown-away mind: Wow. I knew the show was built in a pattern where seasons 1 and 6 mirrored each other, 2/5, 3/4, but I just didn't see such a beautiful final scene coming. Bravo.

Going back before the absolute end, there are the scenes what I still must call the "Sideways" reality, in the church, that struck me as incredibly significant. I love the way that LOST has turned into a spiritual show that is not religious (there's a big difference between those two ideas). The setting of that key final scene, with crosses next to menorahs, and Virgin Mary's on the shelf with the Buddha -- and especially the stained glass window with all the major religions represented, lighting up the whole room -- was somehow just so beautiful to me. I am a firm believer that creative individuals have the opportunity to change the world, and I love that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse took this time to show that all religions have at their core a basic faith. LOST has long been known for breaking racial boundaries with its international casting, and I think it's great that the writers took it one step further with this inclusive setting.

As for the content of the final scene, I'm still turning the conversation between Jack and Christian over in my mind. I like the idea that these characters were reunited in death -- no matter when they died -- because it brings the show back to its relationship-driven roots. Yes, there are polar bears and smoke monsters, but this show comes down to the people, and this ending reflected that completely.

I could go on and on, but instead, let me finish (for now) by saying, I don't know how I wanted LOST to end, so I can't hold up last night's episode and say "yes, that's what I wanted to see." I don't know how others wanted it to end, or if the fanbase is happy with last night's episode -- I'll be setting out soon into the depths of the internet to find out. The ending is what it is. It's out there in the world, Darlton are on radio silence, that's it, it's done.

I'm happy with the ending. I'm still pondering its significance, but I don't feel disappointed or that I would have had it another way. In the words of the show itself: Whatever happened, happened.