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On the loss of ‘Lost’

“Lost” has concluded, and the Internet has now cracked in half as the naysayers and the yaysayers duke it out for What It All Means and whether this is the Best or the Worst Finale Ever.

My additions to this debate are of little merit. I’m already on record about how much I love the show: Nothing, just plain nothing, on TV comes close to offering the same big-ideas-per-minute ratio as “Lost,” and I’ve been fully engaged with every twist, turn and dead end since episode 1.

Now that the show is through shuttling story threads through its loom, I can say this about the finale: I am deeply satisfied.

It was perfect in its imperfection and surprisingly clear for all its ambiguity. This series resolved in the same tenor as it progressed (as always, some questions were answered as new ones were posed), and in this I find it to be an ideal period placed at the end of a long and difficult-to-diagram sentence. I push back from the table sated.

Not everyone agrees. I’ve read more than one Internet Philosopher today who asserted: “I used to love ‘Lost,’ but now I hate it hate it hate it with all the hot heat my heart can muster.” Which can’t be helped; it’s not a show for everyone, even for people who loved it for 5 seasons and 15 hours before changing their minds.

I take the long view of such things: Of all the time we’ve spent together, “Lost” and I, has it been a good and loyal friend to me? Yes, it has. And then some.

Some viewers invest so much time in a show, they think they are owed a particular resolution. But TV is a relationship proposition.  If you don’t like it, move on, the sooner the better. If you do like it — really, really like it — then be patient with it, forgive its occasional missteps, and reward it when it rewards you. As relationships go, this is a pretty sweet deal, since it is the show (and its creators) doing all the work. The rest of us just sit there.

When “Battlestar Galactica” ended, and the Internetosphere again gnashed its teeth in dissatisfaction, my counsel was the same:

Where this finale felt a tad thin, I’m happy to pat in on the back and say, “You did good. You entertained me for a long time. You’ve certainly given me more than I gave you, so go ahead — ask a mild indulgence or two of me. I’m just in the mood to grant it.”

“Lost”‘s finale might yet be dragged down by the list-keepers of the world, the people who had the pet favorite plot threads go unresolved and who Demand Satisfaction. But Linda Holmes at Monkey See, NPR’s culture blog, tries to talk these nitpickers down from their ledge:

I’m interested in bafflement and struggle and confusion about what’s the right thing to do. I’m interested in sacrifice and loss. I’m interested in devotion and loyalty and pondering other ways things might have worked out. … That’s why the most important thing to me, by far, is the human beings who are involved in this story.

I certainly hope that people who have enjoyed this show for six seasons aren’t going to retroactively decide that all their time was wasted because the finale didn’t satisfy them by answering an adequate number of questions. [The creators] are driving the bus, and you’ve got to give them the benefit of the doubt and at least give them a shot at showing you where they’ve been going all this time.

And that’s how I’m heading into Sunday’s finale. I’m leaning back in my seat, I’m relaxing, and I’m assuming that I’m in good hands, because I have been so far.

Count me in the ranks of those pleased with both the journey and the landing. Good show, “Lost.” You’ll be sorely missed.

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What once was Lost

It’s easy to find someone to trash Lost on the Interweb, such as: It’s an episodic mystery strung along over five, soon to be six, seasons. It has raised more questions than it will be able to answer. Some of its “mysteries” just feel like incomplete stories, some if its ins and outs feel contrived or just plumb drawn out.

I think these people also oppose hamburgers for being juicy and convertibles for being drafty.

Last night’s Lost (season 5, episode 11, “Whatever Happened, Happened”) is just one in a series of time travel episodes that make me want to clap my hands like a circus seal — and if you’d told me I’d one day write that line, I’d have removed your “Allowed to Talk to Me” privileges. Time travel is usually the world’s worst story bugaboo, a real logic meltdown … typically a sign of writers being out of ideas and so desperate for something Amazing To Do that they’re willing to snort any old plot device they can scrape together. “This is your brain; this is your brain on a time travel plot…

But the Lost guys know better. Not only do they stick it with a time travel story, but they keep the show my No. 1 TV highlight of the week by doing what they’ve always done. Here’s how:

1. Delivering on great character moments (that just happen to come 30 years in the past). Take Hurley. When he believes he’s changed the past, he starts examining his hands, explaining that he’s “checking to see if I’m disappearing. Back to the Future, man!” Thanks, Hugo, for keeping it real.

Hurley takes up palm reading.

Hurley takes up palm reading.

Or when Sayid, the world’s most lovable torturer, ends an episode (season 5, number 10, “He’s Our You”) by accepting his fate and shooting the bad guy — not just the bad guy, but the 12-year-old version of the bad guy. What a morally squishy moment, and a memorable one, too.

Or when that dying boy — the young Ben Linus, Lost‘s mercurial villain-instigator-puppetmaster — needs a surgeon to save his life, and the audience can see the great impending decision rolling Dr. Jack Shepherd’s way: Will he save the boy’s life or will he refuse to help? We all know Jack to be a goody-goody, so it comes as no surprise when he —oh, snap! Did he just refuse to save the life of a child? My tally of “Totally Awesome Surprising Character Moments on Lost” just got another tick mark. Which is, of course, the best tally to have.

2. Writing tight dialog. On-again, off-again, but-always-star-crossed love interest Kate seethes at the good doctor after he refuses to aid the dying boy.

Kate: I don’t like the new you. I like the old you…

Jack: You didn’t like the old me, Kate.

Or take Sawyer, the con-man with a calloused heart. He’s been living comfortably on the island for three years, before his fellow crashmates return and things go to hell: A burning VW bus rolls out the jungle and crashes into a house.

Jack: What the hell happened?

Sawyer: Three years, no burning buses. Y’all are back for one day

It's the 70s. They were burning everything.

It's the 70s. They were burning everything.

3. Confronting the Audience Suspension of Disbelief Threshold head on. The Back to the Future exchange prompts Hurley and Miles to have a clever back-and-forth about the standard conundrums of time travel stories, thus winking straight at the audience and saying “Yeah, we know these stories are usually pretty preposterous. But we know what we’re doing.”

Plus that sort of pop-culture tennis match is the hallmark of producer Brian K. Vaughn, low-culture specialist and author of some of the world’s best comics. When he joined the show, you could see his Mark of Zorro everywhere.

4. Fastforwarding narrative at the just the right moment. The episode “La Fleur” deposits our characters in the 70s. Gives them some tense conflict with the creepy hippie Dharma Initiative. Sawyer does a little fast talking and … “Three Years Later” he’s head of their security, wearing a dorky jumpsuit, barking orders to Dharma underlings. When done right, that fastforward can be surprising and tantalizing; Alias was the last show to serve it up to me, and I ate it like a lasagna noodle then, too.

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