I’ll admit to enjoying the series finale of Lost. It had action. It had drama. I teared up over a few of the reunions, and was on the edge of my seat for that cliff-side climax. Were there some clunky moments? Sure. I thought Sayid’s reunion with Shannon seemed forced. I also have no way to account for Penny’s appearance in the church at the end, except that she’s there as Desmond’s prom date. And the producers’ over-insistence that we knew Jack’s dad’s name was “Christian Shephard” wandered dangerously into the realm of medieval allegory. Though it wasn’t perfect, I did find it a satisfying way to end the series.
That view may put me in the minority. Some of the folks over at Salon and Slate are frothing at the mouth over the final episode. They, too, point out some of the inconsistencies of that episode, but what I think has got them really worked up is that it wasn’t about “answering questions” about the Lost mythology; it was about closure. I have a feeling that the same people who hated Lost‘s final episode are the same sorts who disliked the way the Harry Potter series ended. In both instances, what mattered in the end wasn’t power or struggle, nor was it the mythology of a fantasy universe (as if that matters, people), but instead about relationships, connections, and choices. In other words, the way the series ended brought everything back to the ground — literally, with Jack lying there in the bamboo grove as he did in the first frame of the first episode — but also figuratively, in that it took “a bunch of weird shit that happened to these broken people” and tried to make it meaningful for those of us who live in this world.
Admittedly, the writers could have done a much better job setting all this up. Anyone who got to the end of the last Harry Potter book and thought, “that’s it? It’s all about family? WTF?” just wasn’t paying attention. That’s where things were always headed from the very first page of the first book. Lost, on the other hand, got lost (heh) plenty of times along the way. We could blame this on sloppy writing, but I think it also has to do with the fact that the series didn’t have an expiration date from the beginning, and the writers were under pressure to keep the mystery alive as long as they could. That made them write their way into corners and dead ends that were impossible to wriggle out of. Plenty of things had to go unexplained, I suspect, because there may have been no way to put it all together into a coherent whole. (Note to TV execs: next time you green-light a series like Lost or Battestar Galactica or X-Files, please agree in advance when to end the show. That way, the writers can craft a meaningful arc, instead of mucking around in the middle seasons.)
Am I upset, though, that Lost never really explained things like what the deal was with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42? Not really, but I can see why some would feel that way. That reaction, though, has me wondering what explanation could have been satisfying. It’s like that moment in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when the computer built to explain “life, the universe, and everything” spits out the cosmically (and comically) disappointing answer: “42”. The question “what do the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 mean?” seems equally absurd to me. What kind of answer would help? I tend to agree with Lost producer-writer Damon Lindelof when he says that “explaining something mystical demystifies it.” The whole “midi-chlorian” explanation of “The Force” in Star Wars (Episode I) didn’t make it more meaningful for me; in fact, it cheapened the whole franchise. Where Yoda had been an ungrammatical-but-spiritually-profound Buddha figure, Qui-Gon Jinn seemed more like a smarmy rep for a pharmaceutical company. Any explanation of Lost‘s 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, or any of its other remaining mysteries, would have been just as silly.