I’m sure the writers believe they gave us the ultimate tying up of the loose ends in the finale of one of television’s most remarkable series. But like dozens of episodes along the path that brought us to this point, their answers simply create more questions.
But after a juncture a couple of years ago when I decided to “let go,” as the finale’s theme described, I have thoroughly enjoyed one of the most satisfying yet frustrating, eloquent yet senseless, inspiring yet maddening shows ever.
I know people who bailed when things just got too ridiculous, and I understand. But for those of us who found a way to keep caring, the two-and-a-half-hour finale was an emotional payoff for the ages.
So The Big Question is answered: They were all dead. The island was indeed some kind of purgatory, a staging ground before the permanent afterlife. But whether I’m just slow or part of millions of people with the same worthy questions, here we go:
Which was the “real” reality? If it was the plane crash, and that crash killed everybody, then there was no enormous shared experience that Jack’s father said was the most important part of his life, the part he spent with all of the other characters.
If the reality was the one where the plane landed safely, then these folks hardly know each other, except for the happenstance meetings that were the subject of this past season. In that case, why are they all dead?
There’s probably an answer to that, and the highest compliment I can pay to this show is that it was so good I don’t care.
All I know is that the plot lines, the relationships, the conflicts and resolutions I invested in for six seasons all came together in a church where everyone enjoyed the reunions we all wanted to see and then went off to-- well, they didn’t really say. But it’s hard to imagine a more religious-looking final few moments.
Another testament to the skill of the writing, and the acting-- through all the gut-wrenching moments of loss this year, particularly the underwater deaths of Jin and Sun, any viewer knew that every character had a living counterpart in that alternate universe where things went differently.
(Quick aside: I ran into Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Jin, in Denver at Barack Obama’s stadium acceptance speech in 2008. He let me annoy him or a good five minutes of Lost talk, which made him so likeable to me that I am prepared to forgive him for being so horribly wrong politically.)
So now it’s done. And that is good. They could not string us along for more torturous twists, and thank God no one is talking about a movie as they are for “24,” which limps to the small-screen finish line Monday night.
What we are left with is not TV’s best show or it’s highest-rated, but surely one of its most memorable. The iconic memories of “Lost” are carried on the strength of its scripts, the beauty of its photography and most of all by the strength of its indelible characters, triumphs of both writing and acting.
Matthew Fox’s Jack grew from shallow action hero to a deep, thoughtful and sympathetic figure. Paired with Evangeline Lilly’s Kate, they made for a fine focal couple at the show’s end.
But it is the surrounding cast that wound up putting in some of the finest work of TV’s past decade, many because they had to portray characters who were bouncing between heroes and villains, because of the plot’s head-snapping twists or because they were different people in the alternate universes.
The most lasting example is Michael Emerson’s Ben, who seemed to go through ten transformations a season since his arrival in 2006. But the most sublime is Terry O’Quinn’s Locke. Has any character leapt from heroic to evil (and back) so fast and with such skill?
Sprinkled throughout the deep and impenetrable story lines of the “Lost” years are other performances that will not fade: Dominic Monaghan’s Charlie, Henry Ian Cusick’s Desmond, Elizabeth Mitchell’s Juliet.
But two actors deserve special mention before we “let go” of Lost as a phenomenon: Jorge Garcia’s Hurley is one, and the other is a cast member who grew from pretty boy to sufficiently interesting to a joy to watch: Josh Holloway’s Sawyer, who was very nearly comic relief in the early going. But then his story (and the trademark flashbacks surrounding it) grew meatier, and in this last season, his story of love and loss became one of the most visceral of this show or any show.
So J.J. Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof have given us a rich but perplexing gift as writers of a story that is not just uncommon but unique-- and in a world where so much of TV and the rest of pop culture is so mind-numbingly predictable, I am grateful.
Sure, I mocked the promos for years-- the ones for intermittent episodes that promised to “answer all of your questions.” Even in the end, our questions aren’t answered. But we’ve been treated to a superbly shot, superbly acted, superbly written journey that proved well worth the exhaustion of staying on the ride.