Lost: It Goes On and On, it’s Heaven and Hell
Sing me a song, you’re a singer
Do me a wrong, you’re a bringer of evil
The devil is never a maker
The less that you give, you’re a taker
So it’s on and on and on, it’s heaven and hell, oh well
So, after six seasons, Lost has come to a close. The show’s finale left me conflicted in opinion and somewhat confused.
Spoilers abound. If you’re reading this, you shouldn’t care, but I don’t wanna hear any bitching.
The lover of life’s not a sinner
The ending is just a beginning
The closer you get to the meaning
The sooner you’ll know that you’re dreaming
So it’s on and on and on, oh it’s on and on and on
It goes on and on and on, heaven and hell
I can tell, fool, fool!
Lost’s biggest problem has always been one of “internal consistency” (if you click that link, I’ll see you in a couple hours). The writers were very good at introducing the mysterious as if it were normal. Sometimes, these things would eventually be explained, but most often they would simply be forgotten or be slain with retcon.
Here are some examples:
Early in the first season, the castaways discover a cave. Inside the cave they find two skeletons: one male, one female. Jack, a spinal surgeon, estimates that the bodies have been there for close to 60 years, based on the decomposition of their clothing and the bones. Who could they be? A mystery is born!
Eventually, the aspect of time travel becomes important, and the possible identities of the couple becomes an exciting question, especially given that, at one point, several characters find themselves stuck in the 1950s.
(My favorite theory was that Jack was mistaken: the bodies were only about 30 years old, and they were Rose and Bernard, who disappeared in the 1970s.)
Well if it seems to be real, it’s illusion
For every moment of truth, there’s confusion in life
Love can be seen as the answer, but nobody bleeds for the dancer
And it’s on and on, on and on and on….
However, it was revealed that the bodies were Jacob’s “mother” and his brother (the Man in Black). And that they were buried in the cave over two thousand years ago. Why over two thousand years? Because Jacob and the MiB were Roman (they spoke Latin) and their “mother” was Greek. That pegs them as being from around 100 BC.
Okay, sure. Maybe Jack sucks at forensics and was off by a couple years. But that means that the island people had superhuman abilities for making textiles. On their looms. Out of palm leaves. The clothes didn’t rot inside of a damp cave on a tropical island over the course of 2,000 years.
The producers said “well, Jack just sucks at forensics”. They should have just handwaved it (“the Island did it”).
There are a ton of things like this, both large and small. CollegeHumor has a really good rundown of unanswered questions. After watching their video, I came to realize that there was only one correct explanation for the entire show that was internally consistent:
Everyone died instantly in the crash and all events are post-mortem hallucinations.
The entire show becomes an extended version of Jacob’s Ladder, wherein the protagonist is actually dead, and the entire film consists of him learning to be able to “move on” from his body.
They kind of went there anyway: the entire “Sideverse” – fully 1/12th of the entire series – ended up being a kind of purgatory-style hallucination. They were all waiting to get into Heaven, I guess, or something like that.
The official line is that “everything on the island was real; everything in the Sideverse is not”. That’s a fucking cheap cop-out, I think. The only way this works for me is if the entire Sideverse happens entirely in Jack’s mind as he lays dying in the bamboo forest.
(That scene worked really well for me, by the way, especially the bookending technique of his eyes closing.)
That said, we’re still left with the whole “consistency” problem. There are enough glitches that it feels like dream logic, which fits cleanly into the logic of a dying hallucination.
Let’s set aside the idea of trying to “explain” everything, though, and just go to the meat of what my real problem is:
The ending kind of sucked.
It felt to me like the writers and showrunners had developed maybe five different possible endings for the series, any one which might have been satisfying and powerful. But they couldn’t decide on which one to use, so they just jammed elements from each one into the mix.
Say you have five flavors of ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mint chocolate chip, and pumpkin spice. Any one of these by themselves will be delicious. Some of them can be combined (choco-vanilla, vanilla-strawberry, even choco-vanilla-strawberry) and taste good, too.
However, mixing all five together results in a kind of schizophrenic slop.
They say that lifes a carousel
Spinning fast, you’ve got to ride it well
The world is full of kings and queens
Who blind your eyes and steal your dreams
It’s heaven and hell, oh well
To be honest, 95% of my problems with the final season could be solved by simply deleting all of the sideverse. All of it. If you cut that out, the end of the story works great:
1) Pulling the “cork” will end the world. It won’t be the Smoke Monster that kills everyone, though: the world will just fall apart, starting with the Island. Smokey has it only half-right.
2) Removing the cork makes everyone mortal – the Smoke Monster, Jack, Jacob, Hurley, Desmond, Richard. So shooting SmokeyLocke will kill him (and it does – I actually loved that bit, especially since SmokeyLocke clearly didn’t expect that wrinkle).
3) Jack sacrifices himself to replace the cork.
4) Hurley is the New Boss (not the same as the Old Boss)
5) The world continues; Jack dies in the bamboo; roll credits.
I’d have been happy with just that.
It doesn’t matter, though. I really enjoyed the entire series; what I’m left with is a Sopranos style “fade to black” ending that I’ll end up talking about over beers for many years, and for that I’m thankful.
And they’ll tell you black is really white
The moon is just the sun at night
And when you walk in golden halls
You get to keep the gold that falls
Its heaven and hell, oh no!