Monday, May 24, 2010

Finales, Pt II

I was ready to say a lot, after tonight's final episode, about 24. I could do lists of the best non-Jack/non-Chloe characters, from Ryan Chappelle to George Mason to Habib Marwan. I could do the best plot lines, from Jack's drug addiction to the coup against David Palmer. I could even do joke lists about Kim or various nuclear catastrophes. And then, as the clock ticked down to zero, I realized I just didn't care. 24 was #7 on my list of my favorite shows of the past decade. It and Lost were my top two scripted network shows and I'd say that 24 surpasses Lost as the great network show of the last ten years, considering its cultural impact and how long it lasted. So the great show, one I lost sleep over years ago, ended and I just didn't care. I checked out emotionally years ago. But when? I think I enjoyed last season, but I don't think I was ever really fired up for it. The Graeme Bauer fiasco is the easy culprit, but I'm going to point to when they actually nuked L.A. After that, there was nothing left to worry about because they showed that even a nuclear attack didn't end up mattering that much. All those people, even poor Edgar, died for nothing.

And so we're back to the #6 show on my list; the one that was the more critically-acclaimed of the two and the one that was still pertinent at the end. The emotional difference between tonight's finale and last night's was glaring to me. So, here you go, likely the last time that I'll ever write about a show to which I devoted many a blog post and even more a thought. I like lists.

Top 5 Favorite Pieces of Lost Mythology:

  • 5. The Button: I'm talking about this mythology with the hindsight of what I think it ended up meaning in the long run. There may have been more discussed questions than these five, but these are the ones from which I take the most. We spent a number of episodes wondering if someone really did need to press a button every 108 minutes in order to save the world. Eventually, the button wasn't pressed and Desmond had to turn the fail-safe which destroyed the Swan station, exposed the island to Widmore (both Charles and Penelope), and introduced the flashes of light and potential for time travel and alternate timelines. What did it mean in the long run? I posit that the massive electromagnetic force under the Swan is similar to the light at the heart of the island and the light that I assume used to be in the temple's pool. It's why Widmore, on his return trip to the island, was looking at Jin's maps to find pockets of electromagnetic activity -- he was trying to find and control the light. If this is the case, pressing the button really did save the world. If the light were allowed to escape or it went out? Bad times.
  • 4. The Frozen Donkey Wheel: We learned that the Man in Black was involved in the theory behind the wheel and its manipulation of the water and the light to move the island. Without the wheel, we wouldn't have any of the great time travel stuff in the fifth season and we wouldn't have Locke's story off the island. The idea that the wheel needed water as well as light was the tip-off that Jack didn't finish the job by putting the cork back in the bottle, as it were, before he died, but that he also needed water.
  • 3. The DHARMA Initiative: In the long run, maybe DHARMA amounts to nothing more than the people that Jacob's and the Man in Black's mother killed or any other group of people who came to study the island. They were the representation of these number of people who were drawn to the power for our characters' story, at least. Their science helped the characters to manipulate the island's power, they brought the polar bears to the island, and they ended up having a rockin' security force. It's possible that my favorite part of the whole run of the show was when they lived with DHARMA in season five.
  • 2. Adam and Eve: A mystery that seemed curious but minor when it was first introduced very early on. The answer to who these two skeletons were ended up being the final overt mythological answer we'd get on the show and it brought everything together. Our characters went through so much pain and death and it was all because this mother didn't know how to raise her kids well. Very fitting with the back stories of the Oceanic 815 survivors.
  • 1. The Smoke Monster: Obviously, the biggest running mystery. We were first introduced to the monster early in the pilot and it became the ultimate enigma. Was it the island judging and executing those who had come to grips with their lives? Was it a security system to keep out people who threatened the island? We learned eventually that it was the spirit of a man who had mommy issues, fought with his less curious brother, and was angry about what life had given him. In the pilot, Locke talked about how backgammon is a game between light and dark and we came to learn that the story of the monster and his brother was the most important struggle and the reason that Jack and company were brought to the island.

Top 5 Favorite Lost Characters: 5? I did 15 in my Wire recap, a show that was one season shorter. I could rank characters forever, but I have to stop somewhere.

  • 5. Daniel Faraday: An upset at number five, but I liked that Faraday brought answers and he significantly pushed the story forward with his Jughead theory and all that ensued from the Incident. With everything down to just the characters now (the mythological questions are essentially moot to me after how it all ended thematically), I'm fascinated by the relationship between Daniel and his mother. In the real world, she pushed him to study physics so that he could find a way to change the fact that she would kill him in the past. In the timeless sideways world, she let him play piano and refused to let him move on so that she could finally be with him. The story of Eloise and Daniel ends up being perhaps the most tragically beautiful in the show.
  • 4. Desmond Hume: He absolutely played a part in the end. The only two people who could take out that plug at the heart of the island were Des and Jack. Jack couldn't do it because he needed to be around to kill Locke once the light was out and the monster became mortal. Jacob knew what he was doing in the end. Desmond, the pure man of faith, brought us the most touching moment before the finale when he was reconnected with Penny and he drove everyone towards that church at the very end.
  • 3. Jack Shephard: I don't need to explain other than to say that there's no chance he makes this list before the last three or four episodes. TV critic Alan Sepinwall pointed out astutely that it takes a lot of guts for writers to ultimately base their show around one character and make him so unlikeable for just about everything but the very beginning and very end of the series.
  • 2. Benjamin Linus: Ben was one of the two most complicated and probably the most fun to watch. He was only supposed to be on for three episodes, but his run got extended when the actor who played Mr. Eko decided he didn't want to live in Hawaii. The producers got lucky.
  • 1. John Locke: In the end, Locke gets the edge because of his run as smoke monster and because he is as complicated as Ben in different ways. Jack was what pushed the story forward, but John was the heart of the tale in many ways. This really comes down to almost a tie for #1 for me, though. Ben and Locke played a great scene together, down to their last exchange outside of the church.

My Favorite Theories About The End: I've read just a bit today and here's one theory I buy into and one that I think I can debunk. I'm ignoring the "they were dead all long" theory because it's just not true.

  • The destruction of the island would have meant the end of the sideways world. Jeff Jensen discussed this theory on and I buy in. We know that the smoke monster was only the Man in Black's spirit, yet when Desmond drained the light and the water, Locke was able to be hurt. The theory goes that this is because, without the light, people have no souls. Jack was able to kill Locke and then, when he put the cork back in and the water refilled the pool, everything was right and essentially the possibility of spirituality returned, meaning Jack could eventually see his dead friends again and move on. When Jacob said that, if Locke escaped (which was only going to happen with the light drained), everyone they know would die, it was more on a metaphysical/afterlife level.
  • Everything is centered around Jack, including the sideways world. The main theory is that Lost is the story of Jack, specifically, his redemption and his salvation and that everything is based around only him finding peace. A side theory has it that Hurley, as Jacob, created the sideways world for Jack to thank him for the sacrifice he made. The crux of the theory is that everything in the sideways world is there to remind Jack of the people he loved. He never knew Sun's baby, so Ji Yeon doesn't exist there. Aaron was only really important to him as a baby, so Aaron is only an infant. I'm shooting it down for two reasons. The first is that I'm pretty sure (the episode hasn't been fully transcribed yet for Lostpedia; yeah, someone does that) that Christian tells Jack that "they" are moving on and that the island was the most important time in "their" life. Why would Jack's story involve so much narrative of other characters finding peace like Hurley and Libby or Jin and Sun (or anyone)? Second, I can point to two specific scenes. When Juliet dies after the Incident, she whispers to Sawyer something like, "It worked. Maybe we can grab coffee some time." In the finale, when she shows Sawyer how to rig the vending machine, she says, "It worked," has her flash of remembrance, then says, "Maybe we can grab coffee some time." If everything was focused on Jack, why would Juliet have had that premonition for her own sake?

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