The Lost Finale (spoilers)

Lost was a show that drove me nuts. For every moment I loved about Lost, there was another moment I couldn't stand. The bad moments drove me insane, because I really wanted to like the show, I really wanted it to be good all the time.

And now it's over, gone in a really long, heavily commercialized flash. I really liked the finale and, ultimately, liked the show more often than not.

Dan Brown Syndrome

These days, mainstream storytelling is ruled by the likes of Dan Brown, James Cameron, and Brian Bendis. Characters are vehicles to service plot, and plot is manipulated to create suspense. Stories are no longer organic and the strings of the great and powerful Oz are always present. These are the days of high concepts and no character.
Unfortunately, Lost had to play this game. It followed the formula of ridiculous, obvious, and often time unnecessary cliffhangers at the end of every episodes, and sometimes at the end of every act. It loaded itself up with plot twists and complications in an effort to keep those millions of viewers coming back, often times to the detriment of its characters, of things like logical and natural dialogue.
But, thankfully, the show was able to do multiple things at once. Yes, it indulged in melodrama and mystery, but while no one was looking, it snuck in something more: heart. While some chose to focus on Easter eggs and mysteries, others longed for the day when Sun and Jin would be reunited, when Claire would get to see Aaron, or when Desmond would finally return to Penny.
And all the while, Lost made mainstream television audiences think it was okay to watch a show about mysticism, spirits, and time travel.
Speaking of which...

Suck It, Nerds

You could probably hear the collective cheer of nerds all over the world when the final season of Lost premiered. After dining on a steady diet of time travel, we were now given that delicacy known as the alternate timeline. At long last, all of our non-nerdy friends were turning to us with questions and we, after a lifetime of comic books and sci-fi novels, had the answers. The bomb had gone off, of course, and had split time in two, one continuing on with the story at hand, one in a world where the plane never crashed.
But such a move would have placed Lost in a corner, would have defined it as more sci-fi than anything else.
We noticed the problems, of course. The pasts of the characters in each timeline didn't always match up exactly. And then, in the finale, Sun and Jin remember the island...and they remember things that happened after the bomb supposedly went off.
We were wrong.
This wasn't science fiction, it was metaphysics -- it was metafiction.
Because the alternate timeline wasn't an alternate timeline at all, it was purgatory. Yes, the idea that the island was purgatory had been floated around since the show started, and had been dismissed. The island was real. In fact, in the finale, the island was the only thing that was real; it was the other storyline that wasn't.
As if to underscore that the last six years really happened, we were given the imaginary story everyone was worried about, but we were given it as a separate entity all together.

The Unhappy Happy Ending

It's that separate entity, that apparent purgatory, that made the finale work. Why? Because it wasn't really the ending, even if it really happened.
How do you support the claim that the purgatory storyline really happened? How do you support the claim that it didn't? Regardless of where you stand, it happens in the afterlife, so the reality is that it's not the climax, it's the coda.
To a certain extent, the coda obscures the climax, but there's a reason why the final scene is Jack dying -- because that's real, that's the reality. In the end, none of these characters got happy endings, and only a few of them even have the potential of happy endings. But, really, how good can the future be for the six people who actually escaped?

What Questions?

It would be impossible to talk about the end of Lost and not mention the fact that they left a lot of questions unanswered. And on this point I'm going to give them credit for their continued complications and plot twists. The show created so many questions that none of them became central to the show. No single question led to an answer that would solve the show. No single question was brought up every single episode until it took control of the show. Rather intelligently, the writers flooded the show with twists and turns until the twists and turns no longer mattered. Would answers be nice? Sure, but none of them determined the fate of the show -- none of them determined the direction of the show which is why, personally, didn't feel like I was cheated out of everything.

I'm looking forward to watching the show again. The middle seasons feel even less essential to me than they did when I watched them, but in the end it was all about create texture for what was to come. And the fact that they were able to do that on network television is just amazing -- and I doubt we'll see anything like it for a long time.