Posted by : Wendy B Saturday, 13 February 2016
I'm late to the Island. Or rather, I wasn't ready for the Island when I first tried to watch Lost. I'd caught two or three episodes back when it first aired. I distinctly remember watching the episode that revealed Mr. Eko's past. I liked it. I watched another episode much later, one featuring Locke. I liked him too.
But that damn polar bear. That damn black smoke.
I wasn't ready.
Over a decade later, and with encouragement and support of my friends (by that I mean me flailing at them and them having to relive all the pain), I discovered what it truly means to get lost.
Oh the black smoke and the polar bear and a myriad of other things are still extremely WTF about the show, but they are all cursory. They are not things to get hung up on and seek explanations for. In fact, in the year or so undertaking that this six season watch has been for me, I have carefully avoided reading almost anything about the show, and my friends kindly did not spoil me, providing over comfort and understanding and "I told you so"s when appropriate.
Actually, a few seasons in, I did read The Lost Will and Testament of Javier Grillo-Marxuach, where the Lost writer and producer of two seasons answers the simple question: did we make it up as we went along? It was a spoiler free essay that proved to be extremely enlightening and furthered my growing fascination with the show. I was already hooked by then and the insights only dug the hooks in deeper. I am amazed by how the show could so seamlessly keep itself tied together, even when some strings blew into the wind. The visual and linear consistency--even when time travel became a thing--was astounding. Yes it became convoluted and no one could have stepped into the show part way through and understood anything, but for those who watched from the beginning, it was all there, connecting and interconnecting, from small moments, to big ones, literally start to finish.
In Grillo-Marxuach's essay, he writes that the executives wanted explanations for everything, and they wanted scifi--but not too scifi. The character backstories were created to fill in the blanks around the strange occurrences on the mysterious island. But those very stories--those characters--became the heart and soul of the show--as it should be. I say again and again that good characters are what draw me into a story, and Lost had no shortage of them.
Moreover, this was a gorgeously diverse cast where the lead was the standard white guy, but he did not get to be the hero. There was no tokenism. There were no overused tropes (well, there were a few, but I'll overlook them as they weren't prominent and frequently used plot devices). Everyone had a role to play that left no room for Jack Shepard (shut up Bioware) to walk in and save the day, even though he tried hard to do so--which itself was an amazing part of the storytelling.
I finally finished the entire six seasons last month. There were a lot of tears and a lot of flails over the time, with much of it happening in that final stretch. Facebook, in its infinite oafishness, did accidentally spoil me a few episodes shy of The End when a friend shared a link warning me that the Netflix version of the final episode was 18 minutes shorter than it should be. Facebook felt the need to share other posts about Lost, one of which asked "Were they really dead the whole time?" Thanks, Facebook.
In truth, I wasn't mad, as it wasn't at all surprising. I suppose that was the source of the controversy when the finale first aired. I have not looked into it and don't really care to any more than I care to delve into the main unexplained aspects of the entire series. I like inconclusive endings and knew from the start that was what I was getting into. I am also not fond of forced happy endings for the sake of happy endings. This felt... right. It was bittersweet. An end but not quite. Happiness even in loss.
Perhaps some saw the ending as a waste of time, having watched all of that to learn it wasn't really real. But we don't know what is on the other side, and I want to believe in something sometimes. Perhaps not mysterious islands, but... something. Second chances maybe? A chance to grow and learn who we are truly meant to be? Or who we are meant to be with?
I am glad I watched Lost. Glad I watched it now when I could truly appreciate it... and then... let it go...