INT. A SEMI-URBAN RESIDENCE – NIGHT
SUBTITLE: DOWNINGTOWN, PA, MAY 23, 2010
A small living room with red walls, crowded with friends and neighbors. Detritus of snack consumption litters the surfaces and the neighboring kitchen. Eleven adults and one teenager stare transfixed at a forty-inch TV, responding to its images intermittently with frantic muted screams, bright peals of laughter, and awed silences. The room’s temperature is elevated from the abundance of company and conjecture. The tension is palpable…
This was the scene in my living room on the momentous occasion that was the Lost finale. To my mother’s observations, it was charming – reminiscent, even, of a traditional TV night in the 50’s. I could not have dreamed a happier, more fitting end to this show, and I am forever thankful for the amazing people who shared it with me (both in the room and across the miles).
The best thing about watching Lost – and the reason I am now spoiled for the rest of what TV has to offer these days – is that it was never passive entertainment. Lost challenged viewers from the beginning to take active participation in its adventure. From the philosophical name-dropping (John Locke, Desmond Hume, Edmund Burke) to the purposeful literary and cultural references (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Everything that Rises Must Converge, “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by the Mamas and the Papas), Lost provided a weekly Easter egg hunt that actively contributed to the enjoyment of the story. It was never about spoon-feeding an hour’s worth of diversion to the masses. It was an intellectual and spiritual roller coaster best experienced with active investment and in the company of friends. How fitting.
A good story provides insight into its characters; a great one provides insight into ourselves, and Lost was a great story. Here’s where I begin moving on to specifics, so I beg anyone who has not watched – or completed watching – not to read further, because everyone should see it with a blank slate. All others, onward and upward!
I don’t necessarily have a load of particularly unique insights to offer, but I can affirm that I love the finale, and by extension, I love what it did for the entire previous 120 episodes. I went down the rabbit hole maybe a bit farther than some so I was always on board with reading the cited books and researching the scientific theories. That was fun for me, yet I am immensely gratified that the resolution was an emotional and spiritual one.
I understand the island and all of its adventures to be real (in the sense that they were a true experience of the characters’ and not a dream or a part of purgatory). It was their life, and it represents ours in many ways. Our deserted islands and survival situations and smoke monsters manifest differently, but we do battle evil and it may often look more gray than black. Overall, what Lost showed us was a world where what happens – anywhere on the timeline – is not what defines us. Instead, it only matters that we take a stand, and that we do it in community. I love that.
As for the controversy that the sideways world has been, I can only say I love that, too. It comes to us again in the form of non-passive story-telling that requires imagination to resolve fully. Is it really a Purgatory-esque place? Could it be a creation in imaginary time initiated by the nuclear bomb? Does it really matter? I think the overarching message is that we need each other – even when we’re struggling over foreign terrain and sabotaging each other or bleeding all over each other’s clothes. There is immeasurable value in community, and a life of perfect choices but no kinship is no life at all. What is heaven with no one to meet you there? “Live together, die alone.”
I also see a more temporal analogy in the whole of Jack’s story. Season one was kind of like being born – everything is new, there’s blood and violence and confusion. You have to find sustenance and get your bearings. Season two is learning that there are actually others – “sides” in life, and they are opposing. You have to figure out who, if any of them, is trustworthy. Season three is the beginning of receiving messages from the different sides, messages in particular about yourself and your destiny. In season four, you make a mistake. It’s out of the best intentions possible, of course, but your mistake has consequences and others are hurting because of you. Season five consists of trying to fix it, or even better, to take it back completely. It is a scramble to erase everything and make it right. Then there is season six, where you learn that erasure is not the answer; redemption is. Whatever happened, happened, and that can be redeemed into ultimate peace and reconciliation.
I could be reaching, but that’s what I hear.
I would have liked to know why the island had baby troubles. I still hope that the creators will eventually publish a book that lists the Easter eggs and what was meant by them (there have been so many theories, I want to know what the original inspiration was). These are primarily issues of curiosity, though.
My favorite characters overall didn’t change too much. Halfway through, they were Locke, Desmond, and Ben; by the end, I had added Jack. Locke and Ben are my cautionary tales, and Desmond and Jack are where I hope to land. All of them had father issues, of course, as have I. Locke and Ben – in their desperation to feel important and powerful – ended up following the voice of darkness by mistake. The only real reason for this seems to be that it told them what they wanted to hear. Jack and Desmond had to go a long way to find their peace, but they both ultimately finished the job and were heroes in the end. May it be so with me.
I will miss Lost the way we mourn any ending. I had my first pang of sadness as I was looking at the TV listings for next year and realized that I would never see it there again. As much as I have loved the show (and pray that it will be a standard all new ones will follow), I will miss far more the little community that formed every week around it. Here’s to the next adventure that brings us together!
Or, “See you in another life, brotha’…”