By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn May 24, 2010 at 8:16AM
Q: What lies in the shadow of the statue?
A: Who cares?
So: Despite a vaguely defined climax built around thinly conceived religious convictions, despite the creators' willingness to reject six years of tantalizing theories with the storytelling equivalent of a shrug, despite the growing feeling that I've been suckered into a marketing coup when for a moment there it seemed like it was so much realer than that, "Lost" was totally worth the obsession.
ABC's sprawling island castaway drama ended its six season run last night with an epic two-and-half hour finale that hardly earned its massive running time. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the show's central masterminds, chose to evade the constant need to answer its mounting puzzles and instead focus on bringing personal catharsis to its key characters. The result was a lot of embracing, shedding tears, people finding their "constants" and cozying up as they readied themselves for a new stage of everlasting happiness. To which I say: Boo-fucking-hoo.
Hope rarely goes hand-in-hand with reason, and often defies it. For more than half a decade, much of "Lost" was predicated on that off-and-on relationship. The title referred as much to individual yearning as it did to the physical state of its protagonists. But the physical state mattered, too. We always wanted to know why -- or, rather, whys: Why does the statue have four toes, why does the island contain so much electromagnetism, why do you need a dead body to travel through time? Or maybe those whys don't matter, because hardcore "Lost" obsessives can sort them out on their own, but in that case, other important whys scream out for resolution. To avoid all of them strikes me as less a creative decision than a lazy one.
Ah, well. It was good for awhile. A long while, actually.
I started watching "Lost" in 2005 with a close group of friends, and our weekly gatherings quickly developed into a community experience. The show fit nicely into that social dynamic, so well-calculated to generate debate that it literally forced you to seek out fellow viewers and swap ideas. With the finale, the creators have wisely made it possible to keep the debate alive with loads of ambiguity, but they also work against that momentum by basically saying, "Who cares? Nothing is definite, anyway." And that's pretty lame.
The "Lost" send-off that went down at my house last night really sent the show out in style. We had brownies decorated with the mysterious numbers (4 8 15 16 23 42) that had something to do with Jacob's shortlist of Island candidates, and we had a Virgin Mary filled with "heroin" icing (a reference to the season one episode "Deux Ex Machina"). We wore "Lost"-themed T-shirts. It was a good time.
The episode itself, on the other hand, felt like a wash. I felt a sense of loss, a lack of closure. Sometimes that spoke to the otherworldly quality of the episode, but mostly it wandered around and ultimately left me unsatisfied. Lindelof and Cuse turned their backs on most of the hard science rationales that gave the show a nifty sci-fi hook and allowed loads of New Age junk to win out. And that would be just fine, if it didn't essentially devalue a hefty amount of the show's mythological dimensions, which is what interested me in the first place.
Well, that's not entirely true: The first season of "Lost" intrigued me exclusively because it presented sharply written drama sans context. Before all those backstories about Dharma and polar bears and the Others and Jacob and the Man in Black, "Lost" was essentially minimalist theater shot on the beaches of Hawaii. But then they brought the promise of larger forces at work, and with that promise came expectations that they eventually abandoned. With everyone in smiles moments before that last cut to black, "Lost" did not earn my allegiance to its good vibes. I wanted either more answers or more mystery, and received neither one of those things.
Unless you're Doc Jensen, writing about this show is pretty goddamn hard. I've tried it a few times. I never considered myself enough of a theorizer to really unravel the mysteries with any sort of effectiveness, but I always enjoyed wading through the maze. In 2007, I concluded that "Lost" was "at once subversive and slight," and stand by that assertion. But last night, with a shamefully derivative white light and not shades but literally waves of sentimentalism, "Lost" erred on the side of slightness. Subversion be damned, I guess. It's probably whispering sweet nothings on the Island for all eternity.
Now that it's all said and done, however, I can squint through my anger and see a light of my own that's worth protecting: Five years of steady commitment to a mystery that, in retrospect, I never really wanted resolved in the first place. That revelation is probably the sole lasting effect that "Lost" had on me, and I won't regret it anytime soon.
And now for some photos from last night's Lost finale at my pad:
Some alternate endings to "Lost." They're sorta funny:
One of the terrific Target ads that aired during the finale's commercial breaks: