A LOST Opportunity

From the looks of things I’m not the only one sorely disappointed in LOST’s final episode (LGT spoilers). Now I don’t consider myself one of those annoying sci-fi fanboys who insists that everything line up in accordance with their own fan fiction, but I did consider myself a fan of the show. I liked the writing, the references, the thought and intelligence of the writers in crafting the story, and like many fans I trusted the writers in bringing the story to a logical, or at least reasonable, conclusion.

Now I freely admit I’ve watched bad TV – copious amounts of absolute drivel that LOST’s worst episode could not compare – so I’m in no place to write as a TV snob. But if I’m going to follow an extended dramatic narrative I do have expectations of coherency and consistency, which was sorely lacking in the LOST finale.

Followers of LOST know that the show deftly created and stacked mystery upon mystery with each answer only prompting more questions. To be sure, not every question deserves an answer – too much exposition isn’t a good thing either – but when you spend episodes or even entire seasons focused on a storyline you can’t just turn around and say that none of that mattered.

The cliffhanger of Season 1 and most of Season 2 involved confirmation of The Others and the kidnapping and retrieval of Walt. Who are the others? Why did they take Walt? No idea. Season 3 even focused on the Others and focused more on the fertility issues – which to be fair, even Richard called “trivialities.” Still, with that much invested in a storyline, you’d think we’d have some explanation as to its significance.

Season 3 focused on The Others and introduced Jacob’s Cabin, all seemingly dropped from the finale. Season 4’s flash forwards? Sayid killing people for Ben? Widmore’s team – or any of his motivations? Ben killing Locke and the MIB’s entire plot? The cabin? Turns out most of that didn’t matter either other than to push the plot along.

Then of course we get to the time travelling in season 5. The purpose of all of that? The time bending properties of the island? Widmore? Faraday? Eloise? Egyptian mythology? Meaningless and disposable.

The main reveal of the finale was an explanation of the “flash sideways” – but that was only introduced in the final season anyway and had no bearing on the previous 5 seasons.

It’s hardly uncommon for narratives to introduce ideas simply to move the plot, in fact such ideas are called Macguffins:

A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”. The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is. In fact, the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot.

This is all well and good for something like the suitcase in Pulp Fiction or The Maltese Falcon when there still is a coherent storyline.

I can live without know exactly what The Hurley Bird had to do with anything, but you can’t just say that entire seasons were MacGuffins and that the actions and motivations of the actors were inconsequential by design.

In contrast, recent sci-fi such as Battlestar Galactica also did not answer all questions (e.g. Starbuck), but at least there was a consistent story that was worth following. Now that I’ve seen the finale, I know that LOST never really had one to begin with. Even if we view the show as primarily about Jack’s redemption, then approximately 80% of the show could have been cut to tell the main story, and that’s just sad.

So to all friends to whom I’ve recommended LOST, I officially apologize. To those who haven’t picked it up yet and were waiting for the series finale, let me say don’t bother.

But if you’re looking for some good/horrible drivel I’ve got plenty of suggestions.

Posted in Popular Culture.
  • Yonatan Kaganoff

    This is a lesson for your to give up your TV & just read books & learn Torah.

  • Josh

    Or to let other people watch the stuff and filter it out for me first.

  • Hillel

    In fairness, there’s no shortage of seforim (I’m looking at you, kuntres dina d’garmi) that tackle very difficult and complex issues in halacha/hashkafa/philosophy and just conclude, after many chapters, that they have no idea how it works.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com Jack

    I am happy that I watched the show but also disappointed by how they handled this. It is clear now that they didn’t have a long term plan or if they did it was weak.

    They could have done much more with it than they did. It is a cop out to end it the way that they did.

  • Josh Schechter

    A list of all the unanswered questions is cleverly summed up in this great
    youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eomWspUS8B0 For me,
    the things that will always drive crazy are what the motivation of the Others
    were and why the show’s creators seem to think Ben is redeemable, when he
    had done so many evil things; it was ridiculous that any of the Oceanic
    survivors would listen to him. I’ve rewatched a few of the season 6 episodes
    since watching the finale and the finale’s explanation of the sideways universe simply doesn’t make any sense.

    All that being said, the show still had amazing production values, great characters and acting, and great stories. My favorite episodes are the last half of the 3rd season, and I suspect I’ll re-watch those dvd’s every now and then despite the show’s lack of answers.