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Tom Gliatto

Tom Gliatto

Posted: May 28, 2010 04:59 PM

Yes, I Am Still Mad at LOST

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I have come down with high dudgeon fever, as unshakeable as a tropical malady, and it's all because of that damned Lost finale. Yes, I am still angry about the whole thing. I have been left behind, trapped on the island, while everyone else is paddling away on slim canoes toward the light of redemption.

What is bothering me at this point is not so much the mystical, life-in-death, death-in-life conclusion. It's the way so many fans of the show seem to have been parroting the same critical opinion. Their eyes shine with an ecstatic glassiness that concerns me. The thing that truly matters in the end, they inform me, is not the countless, crazy details that made up the Lost world, but the fate of its characters, their relationships, the sense of closure among them all.

Frankly, I don't think nearly as many people would be thinking along these lines if the show's creators, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, hadn't spent so much time talking with the press on their victory tour leading up to the broadcast. (They visited my magazine's office, but I wasn't able to attend.) Their interviews stressed that the finale was not going to resolve every Wikipedia-documented fact about the six seasons, but that the human aspect of the story would be addressed, and that this was what was most richly significant. Intentionally or not, they were laying out the talking points that have dominated the Lost debate since. Their hints were taken up by the media and blogosphere--which play a somewhat more signficant role in Lost than, say, How I Met Your Mother--and in a sense shaped the reception of the finale as much as its actual twists.

If Lost fans hadn't been so gently prepped, the show's concluding revelation probably would have been met with even more hostility--an absolute squall, I bet. Viewers might have felt it a real slap to realize that while they'd thought they bought a world-demolishing smoke monster--oh, and I did love that smoke monster--in the end they got nothing but a benign curling puff of incense in a church.

Meanwhile, those of us unhappy with the finale have been made to wonder if we're being unreasonable geeks--obsessives who see coconut trees instead of palm forests.

Look: I never expected every single detail, or even most of them, to be explained or even acknowledged. Homer is allowed to nod. I just wish he didn't say, "Night, all" and head off to bed.

What I wanted was some sense that the "sideways" narrative structure of the final season would somehow be of a piece with the often brilliant storytelling throughout the series, with its flashbacks and flashforwards and flash-somethings involving hiccups of time travel. Sure, Lost was often emotionally moving, especially given its willingness to destroy and shed characters, but it was always interesting chiefly as a meta experiment in television narrative--one of the most daring of them all in an age of brilliant, innovative plots.

The finale should have been the equivalent of that burst of illumination that ended and made sense of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Instead Jack's dead father turned into a God figure who seemed to have have been cosmetically refreshed by a mortician, a cosmetic surgeon, or whatever was in the water they drank on the island. Go figure.