Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Pray for us now, and in the 6 long seasons of our death . . ."


I can’t imagine LOST fans are happy about this ending: UPDATED 5/24.

It turns out the Lost fans are split. Many believe the poetry and beauty of the series finale, particularly the emotional connection to the core characters through the use of flashbacks, outweighs the numerous plot points that were never resolved, the mysteries galore that didn’t go anywhere. And they are satisfied.

Others felt that the six seasons between the pilot and the finale were wasted, since there were not enough smart, imaginative answers to the “whys” that were the raison d’etre of much of the week to week journey for the viewers.

And, a subsection of the annoyed and the miffed felt that the spiritual end was a complete cop out.

I was surprised myself by the spiritual turn (although the signature image for the finales was a “Last Supper” graphic). The writers had displayed some real creativity in opening up the story beyond the confines of the island itself. And that I thought was a nice metaphor in itself: if you get trapped on an island (of any kind), keep using your heart and your mind to expand your world however you can.

And yet, when it came time to end the series, the writer “retreated” into the classic realm of the afterlife---purgatory, being greeted by loved ones, going into the great white light---instead of creating a completely unique other idea.

And so we see a statue of Christ Redeemer (arms outstretched) on church grounds, and when Jack finally enters the sacristy, we see a stained glass window representing Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, and Islam. The church is heaven’s waiting room, and the 815 survivors and others gather there in order to meet up together. In one subtle twist, it became clear that they did not die in the pilot. Everyone died when you saw them over the 6 seasons, and the survivors who got off could have led long lives. But they all meet up at the church where Jack’s father’s funeral was to be to greet Jack when he finally sacrifices himself on the island. (The end of Titanic is what people are comparing it to.)

On the Day of Pentecost

It happened that the finale was aired on the Feast of Pentecost, a solemnity in the Christian Church when the Holy Spirit descended. It was also Confirmation Sunday in my parish, and singing to accompany the teens making this sacrament was extremely moving.

It also happened that Andrew Sullivan has been running many threads lately about the afterlife. On May 16 he posted “What Do Atheists Think of Death” and “At the Hour of Their Death,” readers sharing stories of loved ones final moments. Some RL moments of spirituality amid the Lost hype.

So Lost didn’t answer the multiple mysteries it raised, but it brought to television a very respectful pondering of the greatest mystery that faces us all, tv watcher and not, atheist and believer. It showed one character die and offered an idea of what that next phase of the journey may be like.

And having Vincent (the dog) come out of nowhere to be with Jack as he dies was an embrace of humanity that pretty much everyone can connect to. “I once was lost, but now am found.”

Great discussion, as always, at Alan Sepinwall's new digs at HitFix, and Lance Mannion has some thoughts.


Tim Footman said...

Why are TV fans (in particular) but devotees of all narrative art forms so obsessed with tidying up loose ends? Why do they need their “why?”s answered? One reason I love the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro is that he dares to leave things hanging, unresolved. If the reader needs to impose a neat ending, go ahead, do it yourself. As such, he's one of the few true realists writing today.

M.A.Peel said...

Tim, I think it's because some people turn to art for a relief they don't get in RL, for a bastion from the chaos of life. They want order and resolution, maybe even some transcendence. But some people don't really want realism in their art.

Linkmeister said...

Tim, we've been conditioned by all the material we've read in the past, too. "Lost" was initially presented as an adventure tale with mysteries attached. Think of the shape most mystery stories take: at the end the cops/detective/whomever explains (in great detail -- Hercule Poirot; Nero Wolfe; Sherlock Holmes or lesser detail -- most police procedurals) "How he/she came to the answer."

I think we long-time viewers of "Lost" expected that (and, in my case, quickly came around to the idea that I wasn't going to get all the answers, but that was OK, as I discovered I cared more about the characters anyway), and those who didn't get the answers were militantly angry. I wonder if a poll were taken at the three-day distance we have now if they'd still be so upset.

M.A.Peel said...

Linkmeister, I like the question of the immediate reaction vs. the considered assessment. For me the classic example is the Seinfeld finale. I HATED it that night, as did most fans. A friend summed it up as '9 years of loyalty betrayed in one night.' When I saw it again years later, I thought it was pretty good.