May 27, 2010

a final, real-life spin on L O S T

Over the past few days, I've had several conversations involving the finale of the show L O S T.  Today I was able to share some perspective on it via my weekly newspaper column.

Click here to read that article: "L O S T" in Relationships

While much has been said on the topic of how the show ended, I'm more interested in the reason behind the debate it's caused.  Here's what I've been able to discern from the big picture:
  • Some people watched the show for the characters: From the "opening" scene to the final "closure," we have been the real eyes that have watched every monumental moment that occurred in the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.  Along the way we learned about "Others" on the island, and many who were off the island with a tie to what was occurring.  Throw in two more characters who made it all about good and evil and there were many people to care about and despise.

  • Some people watched the show for the mystery:  Once upon a time there was an injured pilot who got attacked by "something" that made weird noises.  Oh, and then there was a hatch in the island - what the heck?  And then "others" who stole a boy?  What about that weird cabin in the woods, or the weird whispers from invisible people, or the Dharma Initiative symbols all over the island?  Can someone please explain the numbers?

    All of these questions once were watercooler conversations, until many of those questions were answered.  Some weren't, though.  It seems that has driven a large number of people quite mad.

  • Some people watched the show for the production: Let's face it, this TV show has pulled in some of the best writing, production, and actors in all of entertainment history. What they accomplished in terms of set design on the island of Hawaii was amazing, not to mention the caliber of music that made every ordinary moment epic.  It seemed like even some of the side characters were played by quality actors who could pull off some of the toughest scenes, as if even the "everyman" character (that likely represented you or I) could carry a portion of the show as needed.

I've realized that the people who fall into one category may struggle with the people in the other categories.  For instance, someone who loves that the show has been about characters may not understand the angst of someone who wanted every question answered.  Likewise, someone who enjoyed the show purely on a production level may not understand how attached fans became to the show.

My spin...
  • What is the point of LOST: According to the producers, it's about the characters.  That's always been my spin as well.  I wouldn't say that it's only about relationships, but I would say that all the mysteries are more scenery than the point of the show.

    I know this is frustrating to people who wanted more of a tidy ending to the show, but consider life... you can argue that the people who were in your life 10 years ago who no longer are were a "waste of time" (i.e. Lost mysteries that were not answered). Or you can see how while they are not directly on your radar right now they contributed to a small or large piece of who you are and how you see life.

    For instance, Dharma may seem "useless" since it didn't play into the finale... or did it? After all, wasn't Sawyer the man he was in this final season due to what happened to him during those three years with Juliet? Are Walt's powers as important as what his disappearance did to Michael, which in turn affected the survivor's rallying to go find them, confront the Others, learn about the agenda of the Others, learn about why that agenda existed (i.e. Jacob), and so on?

    And what about the people we saw for a season but don't any more?  Was learning about Mr Ecko a waste of energy?  Or those Dharma guys last year?  How about Shannon?  And Boone?  To say they didn't matter is like saying all a plant needs to grow is a seed.  It needs foundation... soil... water... and so on.  Each character on this show has affected another, just like how the person who cut you off in traffic today and made you miss the green light affected you more profoundly than you may ever realize.

    In many cases, we should note, it took that one special moment with that one special person for it all to happen.  Kate didn't just wear a mask... she was a mask.  That is, until taking care of Aaron made her become vulnerable.  Jack, likewise, had to realize his goal of getting off the island before he realized that it wasn't what he wanted.  And so on.

    Isn't it beautiful how in every failing there is a great victory, and in every victory there is a great failing?

  • What was the point of the "flash sideways?" and the finale?:  When I watched the first episode of this season, I found myself more enlightened than confused.  While many saw two storylines being played out that didn't seem to connect, I saw the same storyline being played out in two ways that I anticipated would merge into one.  On one hand, the characters we knew were able to live out their life as if Oceanic 815 had never crashed.  In another timeline, they were still on the island.

    Or were they?

    The key was always in Juliet's death.  In her last moments before passing away, she uttered two lines of dialogue that seemed out of character for the moment.  Later in that episode we found out her last thought was "It worked."  That was our clue there that the two storylines would somehow merge.  The question for me became "how?"

    At first I wondered if it wouldn't be a sci-fi ending of sorts, with some character (Desmond or Jack) tying up the loose ends.  Soon I realized that again the key was in Juliet dying... she had a near-death vision that she thought meant things had reset.  In reality, she was entering the "afterlife" place that the flash-sideways was.

    Then there was the issue of the final scenes... somehow I knew they would have to root us back to the show's core elements - the ensemble cast and the eye of Jack Shepherd.  How fitting that they would both happen at the same time, both in the real-time era of the island and  the non-time era of the afterlife.

    Frankly, I know that ticked some people off... but
    isn't the purpose of any great show or movie to affect you in some way?  To change you?  To get you thinking about your own life versus merely solving why a hatch is on an island?

  • What about _____?: I hate to say this, but let it go.  It's a TV show, and granted... it's one that you invested up to six years of your life into.  Was the point always for you to be satisfied, or was it to be on a fictional journey that in some way played into your non-fiction life?

    Consider - how many answers have you found in life, only to realize there is so much more you need to grow into?  In the same way,
    even for all the things the characters on LOST accomplished there was still more to be done... Jack was Jacob's replacement, but then he needed Hurley; Widmore made it to the island, but didn't fulfill his purpose; Michael got Walt off the island, but their relationship dissolved; the Oceanic Six made if off the island, but needed to come back.

    The unanswered questions of this show remind us of our own lives, and that's why we cry "NOT FAIR!"  After all, entertainment is supposed to have the Hollywood ending, but this show reminded us that even when we save the world today we have to save it again tomorrow.  And ultimately we will die and someone else will have to pick up that baton.

    One day, that will all change... in the blink of an eye.

    But for now, that is the merry-go-round we are on. 

    And if you don't like it, then you know how Locke must have felt when Ben kept all the secrets; or how Ben felt when un-Locke kept all the secrets.

    Turns out the show keeps on giving, doesn't it? :)

    So you can be as stuck in the past as Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Farady, and Jin were...

    or you can remember what today's date is.

So again, I encourage you to read that article up top I wrote and consider how what you've experienced in this show has added perspective to your own life that you may currently be unaware of.

And as a final note, I do appreciate the spiritual conversations that I've been able to have through LOST.  A couple of years ago I did a sermon series on it that walked us through the book of Job, and man whose life truly embodied this scene.

But again - this show involves the everyday as well as the eternal... faith and science... redemption and injustice... battles and babies. Maybe it’s understandable why everyone is flipping out - because when mysteries stay mysteries we become keenly aware of how our own life can feel unsatisfying.

Which, as a side point - or perhaps a core point - is worth noting.  How is it that inside of us are we intuitively wired to yearn for resolution?  It's as if deep down we know that there is more than what is in front of us, even though we can't see it.

Sounds like faith.

And in the same breath, we know that there are steps to take to move forward... even though we have to figure them out in real time.

Sounds like science.

Apparently, you can embody both.

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