‘LOST’: The Mourning After

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And the screen went suddenly black, right after Jerry Seinfeld woke up from his six-season dream and danced off the soundstage with Phylicia Rashad…

 Photo by ABC

It’s something like 11pm on May 23rd, 2010, and LOST is finally, officially over. The Sideways world was Purgatory. Sort of. And everyone’s Desmond-induced “awakenings” were really just a means of getting them to “cross over” to the Great Beyond. Maybe? At the very least Richard got a gray hair early in the episode — that definitely happened. (I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this show!) I have no idea whether I like this finale or not, but know that I don’t absolutely hate it. Establishing a baseline is important for any kind of critical analysis.

…It’s now one year later, a new era, and with the emotional dust long-since settled and all the apologists having taken their specific talents to Fringe, the time feels right to really ask (free of anything to do with the goddamn lighthouse): “What the hell was it all about?”

LOST is a TV drama that probably did as much to shape the collegiate lives of DJ Steve, myself, and countless numbers of our friends as any “real” course of study (LOST of course asked us: “what IS real?”) in the last seven years. And it was, basically, an academic exercise: steeped in foundational Western literature and philosophy, equal measures eloquence and bullshit, and actual HOMEWORK assignments, LOST was nothing more than the big-budget sci-fi version of a huge freshman seminar. Or more appropriately, the stoned common room debate to follow. Think about it: talking late into the night and early morning about the nature of insanity, the probability of tropical island polar bears. Is it any huge surprise that LOST featured a giant smoke monster?

Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse found a mainstream, weirdly popular outlet for all those BIG QUESTIONS; a donkey-wheeled vessel in which they could float metaphysics, religion, and countless other “dry” topics without the aid (or detriment) of a lecture hall podium. Not that they always succeeded. Often ideas bogged down the drama, or vice versa — rare was the episode that managed to handle both with proper balance. But for sheer ambition, LOST did something very few shows before or directly after have done, or even tried to do: it actively stimulated discussion.

Much of that discussion, for me anyway, found its mooring in Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff “Doc” Jensen, whose weekly recaps were some combination synopsis, apology, metaphysical rumination, and revival meeting. The very DEFINITION of navel-gazing? Absolutely. But also, on reflection, an utterly indispensable component of the LOST experience. Even now — just one year after the show’s end — it seems impossible to separate an episode from the commentary that followed.

THAT, more than the philosopher name-dropping or DHARMA weirdness or “oh shit, dude!” moments is what to me will always define the show’s legacy. LOST wasn’t nearly as coherent an endeavor as its producers would have you believe…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

…but it made the effort to stimulate intelligent conversation, to court engagement when so many programs are content simply to be on, that its significance to popular culture — or screw it, culture STRAIGHT UP — cannot be overstated. For the way it dragged television headlong into the Internet era, LOST might be the most important show of the last decade.

I find it ironic, then, that the night of the finale (a night where I was on the island where ‘LOST’ was filmed!) my Internet connection cut out. Here I am, bursting after what felt like 8 hours of television to a) check in on everyone’s reactions and b) craft the perfect status update, and my ability to communicate — the fundamental appeal of LOST and, you know, humankind — was hopelessly gone. Trapped. On the Island. Poetic justice for countless unsolicited emails I’d sent referencing “Jungian shadow creatures”? Or a reminder that LOST without the chance to talk about LOST is…almost a lost cause.

As to the actual series finale — and not the impossible-to-shake feelings about the series as a whole —  even one year later, “The End” remains an episode that sends my critical abilities into a tailspin. It was satisfying…but also not. I’m okay with the Walt mystery never being explained…but it still bugs the shit out of me. On Monday, May 24th, 2010, The Internet seemed to agree. Depending on who you asked, LOST‘s final episode was:

GOOD
‘Lost’ finale recap, part one: And In The End… | EW.com
“The End” | Lost | TV Club | The A.V. Club

BAD
The Lost Finale Was Incredibly Dumb – Gawker
‘Lost’ concludes – LATimes.com

A MIXED BAG
Lost – The End: See you in the other life, brother – HitFix.com
Lost S06E18: Series Finale. R.I.P. | Videogum

Opinions everywhere!

Here’s the thing: There are works of popular entertainment so deeply tied to events or periods in our lives that offering a simplistic “this sucked” or “this rocked” review is really sort of beside the point. For six years, LOST meant something to the people that watched it. And it will continue to mean something for years to come.

…Even in the wake of a cop-out EVERYONE GOES TO HEAVEN ending.

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