I started getting into LOST back in the summer of 2006, in the middle of the second season, so I ended up watching the first and second seasons simultaneously. My resulting desperation after the second season’s cliffhanger finale almost killed me. I was hooked forever.
Never the rabid fanatic, I sometimes took a season-long hiatus and then caught up in a week online. (Hulu is one of man’s sublimest inventions.) During those days when I’d watch four to five episodes at a time, LOST was my world. I cared more about what was happening to those characters than I did about pretty much anything. And I would frequently proclaim, as often as the subject arose, that LOST was the best drama on television, possibly the best ever created.
Admittedly, there were some problems. When Abrams and his buddies started the show, they intended it to be about four or five seasons long. But during the second season, ABC decided the show was too popular to let end. Adios, five-season cap. What happens to a show with a pre-determined story arc that loses its set length? Stuff starts to unravel. Storylines and ideas pop up that don’t fit into the grand scheme. Why not, if the show will never end? Thus began the dark age of LOST, when it no longer really knew where it was going. The third and fourth seasons made a lot of people very angry, which ultimately motivated the network to rethink and give it a new, six-season limit.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The point is, LOST has had some difficulty with cohesion, which, for a show like that, is nothing short of torturous for its viewership. The possibility that all those mysteries won’t ever get tied up or explained is a frightful contemplation. I’ve talked to a staggering number of people who sourly admit they gave up on the show halfway through.
But fans like me held fast with hope. The writers were too good to fail. The way I saw it, the show had proven its genius enough times to leave me with the confidence that its writers would wrap it up in a manner both unexpected and satisfying.
Well, was it?
Sunday night was the series finale. The final episode ever of a show that ran for over half the decade and made television history. I watched it in real-time (for the first time since last season’s incredible finale) on an HD projector, with a bunch of enthusiastic fans who were just as dedicated to respectful silence as I was, and snacks converted into DHARMA food supplies. It was an event.
The sixth season had been very good. Each episode had that precipitous momentum that suggests a desperately longed-for culmination, and a lot of questions were answered. But not enough. The finale, I hoped, would finally bring everything together. But in retrospect, even the last episode’s two-and-a-half hour length could never be enough time to answer all of my questions. My hope was unreasonable. At the conclusion of the final, apocalyptic episode of one of the most incredible television shows ever created, I was left cerebrally unsatisfied.
But I was emotionally satisfied. The finale (and indeed the entire sixth season) honed in on the most important elements of the show — the biggest story arcs and all of the most important characters — and worked out resolutions for them. And it did so beautifully. All of the emotional investment we had in these profound characters finally paid off.
Nothing in this accursed world is perfect. Under that disclaimer, LOST is still, even with all of its frustrating problems, one of the most impressive and powerful shows ever produced. The writing was nearly always brilliant, and the acting was superb; it was lushly designed, beautifully shot, and expertly edited. But above all, the characters gave the show its incredible strength. Their consistency, depth, and dimension were perhaps unprecedented. Their actions and choices were at once surprising and fitting. Their relationships were just as rough and wonderful as real human relationships always are. I cared about them deeply, which is the true mark of only the best fiction.
In short, I imagine I’ll go back to this show often. Because, even with its numerous flaws and frustrations, it earned my love and respect. It may not have answered enough questions, or adequately resolved its many complicated mysteries, but it was still worth every hour I put into it. Because ultimately, the point of the show wasn’t plot twists and mysteries, it was the exploration of love and hate, community and isolation, strength and weakness, corruption and redemption. It was about the depth of human need, suffering, and joy. It was about the stuff that matters.