Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why I Liked LOST and Why I Liked the Ending (by nobody that matters at all)

As Jack set his hand on that coffin, I drew in my breath. I was sure he was going to open it and find himself in there. I was so afraid that Christian was going to reveal that this whole thing had been imagined by the death-freed spirit of a Jack who died in the original plane crash. But when Jack turned to his father who said that everything had been real, that everything the characters experienced actually happened, I breathed a sigh of relief. I'm not exactly sure I get all of it yet, but I feel like my time was beautifully scored, and well-spent.

I loved the ending. I know there are a lot of haters out there but I found it to be completely in line with what the series has been about since day one--characters and mysteries. I also loved the moments between characters as they were awoken to the most significant times in their lives--their on-island moments. Confession: I was surprised to find out that the ALT timeline was some sort of purgatory, a waiting room to the great dentist office in the sky... but the more I thought about it the more I liked the weight it gave to the archetypal journeys in the on-island storyline, which had always been the strongest. It made me look back on this season and appreciate how the stories ran in tandem--while admittedly as it unfolded, I was getting a little frustrated with the ALT timeline. The ending gave me a new appreciation, and it got me (just as the Sixth Sense managed to do way back when. I am not, as one of my coworkers says, a master of the obvious.)

But no matter. I really liked the ending. I really like the series. It made me cry but it made me think and it didn't leave me feeling like my interest in this series had been a joke. Damon Lindelof tweeted this on May 11th, and I think it connects most decidedly affected my final feelings about Lost. Did I want answers? Sure. There were plenty of things like the numbers, or the polar bear, or the whispers or the Dharma Initiative that I followed obsessively as I watched early seasons, hoping for answers. I got many of them. (Side note: I was even pissed as hell back when we watched Alias, a show that seemed to set up mysteries and then never answered any of them.) But the closer we got to the end of Lost, it became clear to me that providing answers to every single mystery was going to change the nature of the show. I think this is where Lost fans divide, as people do in general. Lindelof's tweet alluded to Keats' theory of "Negative Capability," which as I understand it (admittedly, from nothing more at this point than his Wikipedia reference) explores how much a person is content to remain inside the unfinished thought--the unanswered scenario. I don't think Keats was meaning that these people are content not to understand, but they are more comfortable in the space where answers are not directly provided, where several plausible explanations exist. That is my comfort zone--the realm of possibility, where I can grab the pieces and choose an interpretation, then I can debate that interpretation with anyone else who is willing to play the same game. That kind of crap lights me up like a Christmas tree.

I've said it a million times--that's why I teach English, not math. Where mathematical analysis requires the correct answer, interpretation of such things as poetry varies as widely as the people who bring their own experiences, biases, and connotations to the words. I always have students who want to know exactly what a poem was about--what did Emily Dickinson mean? She's dead; we can't ask her, so we shouldn't bother trying to find out, they say. NOT TRUE! Try! Find the meaning for yourself! For me, LOST was like an epic poem. But they didn't tell me what it means, you say. I just wasted my life. False, I'd postulate. They made you think about what it could be about, which is way more interesting than just telling you. In an age where we can Google anything and find the answer, it's much more stimulating--and laudable, and unique--to leave something to the imagination. Sure there are online databases of every word uttered in Lost, but they don't provide any more answers than the show. That last piece has to be worked out in your own mind. You are the final piece to the puzzle.

I know, I'll stop dorking out like an English teacher. Well, not yet. But the more I think about the final episode and what it means to my interpretation of everything that came before it, the more I'm inspired to think about the entire show (and, life?) on another level. "The End" was a beautiful last sentence in what was (as all literature is) a complex but flawed narrative. I've never read a perfect book, one that didn't take an unnecessary tangent from time to time or lead off in a direction I wished it hadn't; but I judge books by the sum of the total experience they bring. By that standard, Lost was amazing.

Want to read up on the last episode by some people who actually know what they're talking about? Check out this or this. Or listen to this.

Peace out, nerds.


  1. One of these days I'm gonna have to watch Lost. Everyone raves about how great it is and I think I will check it out soon! :-)

  2. I loved watching Lost, too. It's really the only show I watch, and I totally got hooked in. I liked the ending, too.