‘Lost’: Emmy nomination analysis and a look back at ‘The End’

I’ve not written a word about “Lost” since my last article about it over at Zap2it, but with today’s Emmy Awards nominations, coupled with a recent rewatch of the series finale, I’m going to try and gather up a few thoughts about today’s announcements…

Best Drama: I think, given the divisive nature of the final season of the show, this nomination reflects on the show as a whole, not necessarily Season 6 in particular. I think this season justifies the nomination, but I can see an analogy to all the Oscar nominations for “Return of the King,” which represented as much the entire trilogy as much as the final installment of the “Lord of the Rings” saga. Will it actually win? I’m not sure I actually care: what worked about the show for me will not be increased or decreased by what transpires at the ceremony. But if the show winning Best Drama for both its first and final seasons cajoles future generations to give it more of a look than they normally would, then bring on the trophy!

800px-5×12_bottled_water.pngTerry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson: Can’t complain. I think, like last year, that Emerson had less to do and less time to shine than in Seasons 2-4. (Essentially, he shone in “LA X,” “Dr. Linus,” and “The End” primarily, with Ben sprinkled into the mix throughout most and largely forgotten after his character-centric ep midseason.) The inside track has to go to O’Quinn, however. Both are previous winners of the Supporting Actor Award, and I’d be happy to see either win, but O’Quinn’s dual performance this year was never less than compelling, and quite often heartbreaking.

Matthew Fox: A completely (but completely happy) surprise. In writing about his own personal rewatch of “The End,” Alan Sepinwall wondered if the show consciously engineered his hate towards the character of Jack in the middle part of the series just to give the good doctor’s ascendance more weight. I think he’s partly right: I always looked at Jack as seeing himself the hero in his own drama, the Luke Skywalker of the Island if you will. Problem was, he didn’t realize that his version of the Ewok dance (calling the freighter) was actually the end of the second trilogy, not the first. However, I will say that the show struggled to make Jack compelling while dragging him down into the proverbial mire, so Sepinwall’s loathing of the character took on a different life than I believe the writers intended. But nevertheless, the man who tried to fix everything succeeded by accepting his limitations: an act than ironically freed him to do more than even he thought possible.

Jack Bender: Back in the day, I was a pretty big Phish fan. And while the band only had a four-person roster, many hardcore fans considered their concert lighting designer Chris Kuroda to be the unofficial fifth member of the band. Bender is the Kuroda to Darlton’s Phish, a comparison I’m pretty sure has never been made before. Go me! And, you know, stuff. But seeing him recognized is not only appropriate but necessary. So much of what fans love about “Lost” stems from his influence, both apparent and invisible. The same goes for…

Michael Giacchino: One more “Star Wars” comparison for the road: it’s easy to find people with differing opinions on the movies, but hard to find many that will dismiss its score. Just as Bender shaped our sense of “Lost” by helping to translate written word to the visual medium, Giacchino took the show’s emotional heart and gave it a voice for us all to hear. I’ve set aside a decent chunk of change in the hopes that one day someone releases the full series score. All of this brings me to….

“The End,” again: My wife asked me to keep this episode on our DVR, to have around when she felt up to watching it again. I’d watched bits and pieces of it (especially the last 15 minutes) in the immediate aftermath, but hadn’t looked at it until this past Wednesday. The on-Island action works about 10% less the second time around (it’s mechanical in the ways that most season finales of “Lost”  are), but the sideways world action works approximately 15 times better when you understand what’s going on. I have a sneaking suspicion a full-season rewatch wouldn’t yield such a return, but as a stand-alone episode, it works like f#cking gangbusters.

When I read Sepinwall’s take, I drifted into the comments section, where I was reminded of just why I was ready to walk away from the show so readily at the end of my run over at Zap2it’s Guide to Lost. At some point, “debating” the show turned into “shouting at one another about the show” after “The End” aired, with the episode transforming an already divided crowd into something akin to bitter enemies. Ironic, for a show that espoused a world view of living together or dying alone.

I’m not interested in converting anyone that thought the finale served as a cheap stunt that ignored all the mysteries raised by the show. I completely understand that some people watched the show to learn about the hatches and the temples and the energy and the history of the Island. I was one of those people. For years, I blogged about possible back connections, made up entire histories, and created enough theories to fill more than a few novels to sit on the shelf in the Swan Hatch. “The End” showed me that I had looked at the show more closely than I should have, but rather than feel cheated, I felt elated.

theend.pngHere’s my sense: that future generations of “Lost” viewers, whether they start watching now or in 20 years from the start, will worry less about the intricacies of the blast door map and Walt’s disappearance from the plot a lot less than we did as viewers of the show as it aired over at 6-year period. Not saying they will have a better or worse experience, but it will certainly be different. And I will wager that what people are most angry about being absent from “The End” stems not from what the show promised but what Damon and Carlton inadvertently (or advertently, if that’s even a word) in podcasts, interviews, and various other promotional aspects of the show.

That’s not to dismiss all loose ends out of hand, wash them away Pontius Pilate-style, ad slip into a nice white light. But I keep thinking about Charlie’s tattoo of John Lennon’s lyric from “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which said “Living is easy with eyes closed.” The next line? “Misunderstanding all you see.” The Lostaways were surrounded by items and images and edifices and people all the time, but looking at them and seeing them were two different things. Thus, the creation of a multitude of mysteries on this Island that were never solved wasn’t so much a bug of “Lost” as a feature. To quote another line by Lennon: “Life is what happens to you/While you’re busy making other plans.”

Earlier, I referenced the “live together, die alone” line, which came from Season 1’s “White Rabbit.” In many ways, the show gave us the end (or “The End”, really) right then and there. Just to ram the point home, the finale gave us a second iteration of one of the show’s iconic images: Christian’s empty coffin. It’s in a way a codex for the variety of dangling mysteries in the show. It says, “There are some things we can never, or will never, know.” If you want your art to provide answers, “Lost” may have let you down. But to me, the show answered the most central mystery of all: why are any of us here on this planet?

I’m not sure I would have been satisfied had the show given me a breakdown of who built the statue but ignored the main moral purpose of its universe. The former answers something specific inherent only to that show’s universe; the latter offers a world view that promotes discussion and contains applicability to the world in which I live. I’m pretty sure that “Lost” didn’t offer up their version of life as THE purpose, but it’s certainly a touching, generous, and above all inclusive one. You might have found it hokey; I found it impossibly moving.

For those that state the explanation of the sideways world negates any impact of anything that happened before any of them died, I would argue that the sideways world could ONLY be created by the sum total of overall actions taken from the time Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island and the time Ajira 316 finally left (accounting of course for all the time travel included from the perspective of those involved). And more importantly, the actions in that time were not done under the hope that doing so would somehow “reward” them when all was said and done. The fact that they created a timeless space to reconnect derived from their selflessness and compassion for each other, not from the desire to defeat death.

In other words: the situations in which these people found themselves were less important than how these people treated each other within it. That type of ethos is an applicable to a mysterious Island with a glowy, gooey cave center as it does to people trying to make a living all around us. We shouldn’t need to be removed from society and placed on a remote island to rediscover our common connections to one other. Luckily, we had a show do that for us for six seasons. And I’d like to think I’m a better person because of it.

11 Comments

  1. Posted July 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Well put, Ryan. I look forward to doing my own re-watch at some point, though I don’t know if it’ll be of “The End,” the whole of Season Six, or the whole series. But I definitely want to do it after the “Darlton betrayed us!” chatter dies down. And I think it will, honestly. Already, when I see tidbits about LOST and its finish in print, they tend to be fairly positive. The “that sucked and don’t you dare say it didn’t” crowd haven’t totally seized control of the discussion.

  2. Amanda from mi
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Well said!

  3. Scott G.
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Ryan. Good stuff as always.

    Reading this right now was important for me, because I’m an English teacher and I just read “Lord of the Flies” to prepare to teach it somewhere down the line. I think the ethos of the LOST universe you describe is the exact opposite of the one advanced by Golding in LOTF. It hadn’t quite crystallized in that way before now, so thanks. I hope it goes without saying: I much prefer the LOST take on humanity, and our connectedness.

  4. David Z
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Reading this made me realize how much I miss reading your columns over at Zap2it. I look forward to the future work you alluded to in your final entry, but I fear there will never be another show topic as engaging and interesting as LOST. LOST is like The Whammer in The Natural - best there was, best there is, best there ever will be.

  5. OldDarth
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Eloquent as always Ryan. Totally agree with this entire article.

    Bender and Giacchino did stellar work over the series run. Giacchino’s work on, ‘The End,’ is simply astounding. I hope the score for that episode alone is released in its entirety.

  6. Posted July 9, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I had a similar experience rewatching the finale: the on-Island action was less compelling, and the flashsideways was much, much more. Could they have answered more questions? Absolutely. But could they answer those questions and also give us an emotionally satisfying, philosophically poignant message? I don’t think so. The instances where questions were answered this season were all fairly anticlimactic (the whispers, what happened to the statue, etc. I’m glad they left some mysteries untouched.

  7. Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff.

    You said a full season re-watch would have quite the same return as The End re-watch did in the sideways. Having watched it for a second time, I can say that personally I cared more about what was going on in the sideways (but you’re right not as much of an upgrade as the finale).

    On a related note, I’m curious as to how a full series re-watch will change any opinions you had as you go along, Noel. I can see many events that seemed extremely important at the time feeling dull a second time through.

  8. tb
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Thank u 4 this… Yes the show had some pacing issues & other things but what they did with the finale in particular & the series as a whole was pretty impressive… I’m not a tv critic… I don’t get on fan sites/web sites 2 debate my POV… I don’t watch tv with a critical eye, I react/connect 2 shows that stir something in me so I’m sure that some1 more experienced in these matters looked @ the show & saw many problems! I really enjoyed it… LOST was the 1st tv show that I was very locked into & even w/the stinkers it was impressive…. I liked hearing other people’s POV but blogs are pretty viscous now & there really is no spirit of community on some of them… Thanks 4 the article!

  9. Posted July 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  10. Gob09
    Posted July 26, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I had been thinking that your new material (concerning Mad Men) was going to be showing up on Zap2It, and was excited to read your articles again. I didn’t realize you had started your own blog until reading Mo’s Mad Men premier recap. After reading your recap for Mad Men, I was getting ready to comment there before I thought-I wonder if he has made any more posts about Lost on this blog?! I’m glad to see that you have, and it was a great write up as always. I’ve definitely bookmarked your site so I can keep up with your coverage of other shows now.

  11. Posted April 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I recently (thanks to Netflix Streaming) rewatched the entire series, and honestly, “The End” works WAAAAY better in retrospect (and I liked it when it aired initially). Some of the stuff, like Hurley encountering an obliterated Charlie and just smiiiiling, was enough to move me to tears, which didn’t happen the first time; other stuff, like Claire, Kate, and Charlie recalling each other, moved me even more than it had before. But most surprising was the character of Jack. Like Sepinwall, I came to absolutely despise him through the series, and Season 6 went a long, long way to rectifying that. However, in rewatching everything without huge breaks in between, I found myself gravitating towards him in a way I hadn’t before. He’s profoundly less annoying, I find, when one watches his entire character arc.

    In that way, the on-island action of “The End” works extraordinarily well for me the second time around. Jack isn’t the hero of the story, per se; he’s the sacrificial lamb. Kate’s story with Jack was incidental; her real story was all about redeeming herself for killing the man she loved. Sawyer, likewise, was all about redemption (and his protectiveness over Claire is simply adorable). The real hero all along was Hurley, which, watching with future knowledge, makes him even more lovable than he was throughout the series.

    What really puts me over the top, though, is the idea of Hugo standing in for the Lost audience throughout the run. Seen in that way, Hurley’s contributions to “The End” work even better. He’s elated that he gets to see Charlie again; as a fan, I was, too, when Charlie showed up at the beginning of Season 6. He grins like a schoolkid when he and Boone orchestrate the Sayid/Shannon reunion; despite my loathing of the pair early on, their reunion made me grin, too. And when Hurley took over Island Guardian duty from Jack, it was almost as if Darlton were saying, “Look, we’ve told our part of the story. You want more? Fine. We’re passing it on to you. It’s up to you, now, to determine where the story goes from here. Leave it to your imaginations.” Obviously, that’s not necessarily what Cuse or Lindelof intended, but it’s a nice little metaphor that really works for me.

    All of that contributes to my liking “The End” more and more as time has passed. I know that many were into the show for the mysteries, but I find that kind of fandom misplaced. I don’t mean to say people are wrong to like a show for reasons different from mine, but rather that the mysteries always to me were the plot of the show but not the point. To me, the best shows aren’t about what happens to the characters, but what the characters are. To that end, “The End” stands to me as one of the finest and most satisfying series finales I’ve ever watched, right up there with DS9’s “What You Leave Behind.”

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  1. […] has little in common with a show about small-town Texas football. But in rereading some of my old takes on that finale (“The End”), and checking out some of the action today on Twitter, I realized that perhaps the […]

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