Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Last Lost

Scattered thoughts about the last episode of my favorite show:

I’m not partaking in any Lost finale festivities. That, like much of the show itself, may be more a result of circumstance than design.

However, I will be soon drinking two different beers that are labeled Island Lager. This is most likely a coincidence, I’m guessing, though it may be a meaningful one.

I haven’t yet begun watching, though the six hours of Lost and Lost-related programming have already started. I’m hoping to skip through commercials, despite the fact that the show has ably demonstrated the dangers of time travel.

It’s also worth mentioning that several of the people I might have watched the finale with are opting out in favor of attending a show of Future Islands, a band whose name seems especially appropriate for tonight. Their song “Follow You” is good, though the attached video is rather pukey.

In a sense, it’s fitting that I’d be tackling the last Lost solo, as that’s how my relationship with the show began. Back in 2005, I bought myself Christmas presents in the form of two first season DVDs of critically acclaimed shows: Veronica Mars and Lost. Both have gone on to figure prominently into my life, the conversations I have with friends and this blog’s underlying theme of my personal interaction with popular culture. I watched the pilots for both shows late on December 26, in the darkness of my parents’ living room. Once I realized Veronica Mars was filmed in San Diego and was set in a thinly veiled version of San Diego, I knew that I’d be trekking through that series with one other special person with whom it would resonate. With Lost, however, it’s largely been my thing, accompanied at points by a motley crew of other fans, naysayers and mehsayers. Over the course of the show, those fellow Lost-watchers dropped off, stopped caring or moved away, and it always ended with me continuing to watch, cheering the show during its triumphs and apologizing for it when it stumbled. I’m not in my parents’ living room tonight, but if I turn the lights down low, I can imagine I am and that I like everything else on the show traveled full circle.

Though I love the show, I’m glad it’s ending, both because I don’t know if I could deal with another year of intrigue and questions-that-follow-questions. A more diehard fan might say that I should instead be glad that it’s ending on a higher note than similar cult favorite shows such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files and the aforementioned show about the teen detective. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit glad that my mental energies would be focused elsewhere.

Maybe I am a Lost apologist and maybe what I’m going to say next is proof of that, but I don’t actually expect all that much from tonight’s episode. It’s been an amazing ride, as clichéd as that sounds, and I learned long ago that every question won’t be answered by the time the credits roll. Why should it? Nothing about Lost has ever suggested that the little universe it’s created is one where everything makes sense, where the cause-and-effect relationships are always clear. Perhaps that’s the aspect of this often surreal and unreal show that’s most like real life.

For example, I don’t care why the numbers are cursed.

On the other hand, I still I wish I knew more about Libby.

Another reason I don’t have high expectations about what should happen tonight: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke and Hurley were never my favorite characters. I tend to root for the underdogs and the underdogs’ underdogs. Most of storylines revolving around the characters I liked best have been resolved to one extent or another.

Case in point: Though the episode “Exposé” couldn’t have had less to do with the overall plot, it managed to be both entertaining and an interesting way to respond to viewers concerns about the show’s direction.

Those who feel that they’re owed something by people who have delivered such a phenomenal show for six years for free should reexamine their approach to being an audience member. Viewing a TV show produced over the span of years is inherently different than, say, watching a movie or reading a novel. People who can’t accept that may want to stop watching TV altogether, if only to avoid future frustration and heartache when a show is cancelled, an actor prematurely leaves a show or when producers bow to the will of network executives or demanding audiences.

I’d suggest Lost not only as a good example of how the TV series as a medium has advantages over books (despite that books allow the reader’s imagination more freedom) and movies (despite that movies have higher budgets and are therefore theoretically capable of more in a shorter amount of time). The story that Lost told could never have been told in the same way via a different format — and in the best possible way.

In a parallel universe, this show would have been cancelled years ago, just as so many others I’ve loved have been. I’m glad that we’ve gotten this far.

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