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Lost: Fantastic and Frustrating Right to the End

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Lost is a lot like life: The more you experience the less you know -- and the less you care, choosing instead to focus on enjoying simple pleasures rather than solving the maddening mysteries of it all.

That's what I took away from the Lost finale. Lord knows there was little else to hold onto by the time it was all over. Most of the characters were dead and meandering around purgatory for ages, waiting to assemble, enjoy a group hug and drift into the light? Seriously?

When the finale ended, the people with whom I watched looked around the room at each other and asked, "That's it?" They were deeply disappointed. I was, too, but I was also strangely enthusiastic. I couldn't wait to read the detailed angry reviews that would follow. Surely there would be heck to pay.

By noon the following day I was wondering if many of the television critics I admire had watched the same program. Many of them seemed to unconditionally love it. Many were deeply moved. Many of them cried. Okay, I was happy to see Sawyer and Juliet reunited at last, even if they were dead at the time. But cry? The closest I came to being moved (or surprised, really) was the final sequence in which a dying Jack was suddenly joined by the ever-faithful Vincent. Sometimes there is nothing better in life, or in Lost, than the simple peace that comes while quietly lying with a canine companion, even under the most extreme circumstances.

I understand all dogs go to heaven. So where was Vincent in the all-purpose cathedral? Did his absence mean that Walt wasn't dead yet and Vincent was waiting for his first faithful friend to pass before his own ascension? Hmmm. Scratch that. Walt would have to have been long dead because Hurley was there, right? I mean, Jacob spent thousands of years protecting the island, so I assume Hurley enjoyed similar longevity after drinking the Magic River Water of Extended Life. If so, how long were Jack and the others meandering around purgatory, anyway? Hmmm. Maybe the spiders that doomed Paulo and Nikki paralyzed Hurley and Ben and they prematurely starved to death right after Jack bought the farm. But then who was left to guard the island and its all-important Pool of Light? Hmmm. Damn thing is over and Lost is still making me go "Hmmmm."

On the upside, it's great in this post-finale period to see so many people express such passion after the end of a scripted network series. Such is the enduring power of traditional broadcast TV, even as its scrappy young competitors continue to insist otherwise.

Whether they loved it or ultimately hated it, it seems everyone who spent time with it had a strong reaction to the end of Lost. Formal columns and informal blogs are at full blaze, enhanced by thousands of compelling comments from rabid fans. Collectively, it's a beautiful thing - and very rare. Look at how quietly the once mighty 24 and the formerly magnificent Law & Order passed this week. (Much to my surprise, I thought 24 ended perfectly after an increasingly awful season. Conversely, I thought Lost ended poorly after an increasingly fascinating season.)

There's little left to say that hasn't already been said in a number of places. Still, I can't resist a few final comments and questions, because that's what the Lost experience is all about, isn't it?

Perhaps the biggest frustration I have with the final season of Lost is the marginalizing of the Eloise Hawking character. (Did the young Eloise die when the bomb went off in 1977? If so, why did so many other characters live?) She was consistently fascinating, and I had hoped that the big arc of Season 6 would focus on her, along with Desmond Hume, Daniel Faraday and Charles Widmore, another character whose story should have developed into something much bigger. Hawking seemed to understand what was happening, or what would happen, but we never really understood exactly what she knew or how she came to know it. If nothing else, Eloise and Charles connected the sprawling saga of the Dharma Initiative and the Others to the centuries-spanning Jacob-Smokey-Mother plot. I thought the convergent stories of these characters would eventually explain and enhance everything. Alas, that never happened.

Surely, there was a greater ultimate purpose for Desmond than pulling a rock out of a hole. I thought everything he was doing in the alt-timeline would somehow reset reality as the island adventurers had come to know it. How interesting it would have been if Eloise were somehow sending signals to him through one of her fantastic gizmos in the process.

As soon as we met Mother, just three weeks ago, I realized we would never get answers to all the questions we had about her, but I had hoped the show's other jumbo mystery -- that time and reality altering wheel -- would be explained in great detail. After all, when Ben turned that wheel it set in motion a sequence of events that powered the last two seasons of the series, right up to and including the finale.

What happened to Cindy and the children at the temple? Did Smokey kill them all?

Why did everyone in the all-purpose cathedral look as though they were the age they were when we saw them last? Surely some lived longer than others?

I was intrigued and disturbed by the overall dismissal of so many of the characters' children at the end. Isn't the love of a parent for her or his child the strongest bond in life? It was strange enough that when Sun and Jin died in the submarine four weeks ago that she didn't insist he swim to safety and try to get home to the baby girl he had never met. But where was Ji Yeon in the cathedral sequence? What about David, the loving son of Jack and his purgatory ex-wife Juliet? Where was Desmond and Penny's little boy, Charlie? Why wasn't Alex with Ben? (For that matter, it would have been nice to see Danielle there, too.) Oddly, Infant Aaron was there, even though the last time we saw him pre-purgatory he was approximately three years old.

Here's the greatest question of all: Was Lost at the last so disappointing that the millions of viewers who stuck with it for more than half a decade will be less willing to commit to another challenging primetime serialized program, no matter how well-produced? I certainly hope not, because while I wouldn't want to get involved with another drama that plays so fast and loose with its own internal logic, I like nothing better than getting caught up in a long-running entertainment series that tells a fantastic story over an extended period of time and comes to a satisfying conclusion. The X-Files did that. Battlestar Galactica did that. Sadly, Lost did not do that. And yet, even in hindsight, I wouldn't have missed a minute.

This column was originally published in the MediaBizBloggers section of JackMyers.com.

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