A few first spoiler-free thoughts on the final episode of Lost…
The series has had its critics. I think most of them are unfair – whatever you think about the nuts and bolts mechanics of the show, there is very little in the TV medium with such a weight of ideas. Some people seem stuck in a binary way of thinking – that there is only weighty high-brow or mass-market low-brow.
But several series coming out of the US (and maybe one or two from the UK) show that it’s possible to communicate on two different levels: a mainstream plot that touches many of the usual drama beats, and a deeper level of reflection on big issues that some viewers can ruminate over if they so wish. You can buy into one or the other, or both.
There is a great deal going on beneath the surface in Lost – more than a superficial glance would ever suggest – and the show’s creators have clearly put in some heavy thinking, all of which became apparent – again, in the background – in today’s finale.
I have said before that reviews are more about the reviewer than about the subject of the review. It’s the same with opinions on the finale of Lost (and of BSG before it). The way you view life and the world will impact on your view of the story’s ending. (And the degree of cognitive dissonance that inflicts you will mark the vehemence of your response.)
I found the ending wholly satisfying. I like stories where the creators give you all the information you need, but expect you to do some of the piecing together. Some people don’t. They get very angry if things aren’t spelled out. Nothing wrong with either response – it all depends on your psychology.
Without giving any spoilers away at this stage, the end of the six-season series appeared almost childishly simple and easy to criticise. Like every other aspect of the show, it was anything but. Everything you needed to make sense of it was there, but appreciation really depended on how much you put in.
But like all the best TV, it bears repeated viewings which only reveal new layers of meanings. It operates on three levels – what appears to be happening, what may well be happening, and a symbolic level that comments on very deep issues.
And in this it echoes another piece of classic TV art – the 60s version of The Prisoner. Here we have: a spy who has been kidnapped by powers unknown to discover what he knows; a spy who has been killed in the opening credits and is working through his life’s issues before moving on (the only reading that fully explains the final episode); and a symbolic examination of the individual’s place in society.
It’s certainly worth a deeper reflection on the relationship between Lost and the recently-finished and equally good Ashes to Ashes, and relating both of those to The Prisoner. Something is in the air, maybe.
In the end, Lost was deeply affecting. It will upset many people because it says quite firmly that all the things you thought mattered, aren’t important at all. In the end, like all the best stories, it’s about what it means to be human.