I first started watching Lost during my freshmen year of college at the beginning of season 2. While I regret the decision now, I simply dove right into the show and got through by asking the people I watched it with questions every step of the way (which is why nobody will ever convince me to watch a show out of order again). I didn’t watch all of season one until later, and part of me isn’t entirely sure if I’ve actually seen every episode of the initial season (even though I can name all of them due to my proficiency in this Sporcle quiz, and know the details of all of them because of lostpedia.com). For me, Lost began as a simple replacement for the only other show that I had watched on a weekly basis before it (Alias).
Lost introduced me to all of the possibilities that exist when television is done well. After become enthralled with Lost, I quickly became so fascinated by the medium that in my past five years of television watching I have seen at least one season of roughly 25 scripted television shows. I became intrigued not only by the stories of the survivors of Oceanic 815, but by the Dillon Panthers (Friday Night Lights); the Bluths (Arrested Development) and the Cohens (The OC); the employees of Dunder-Mifflin (The Office) and Sterling-Cooper (Mad Men); and even the citizens of Baltimore (The Wire) among other groups of characters that have been some of the best that television can offer. During this time I became a fan of television, a critic of television, and a writer that loves to reference television shows with any possible simile or comparison I can muster.
Of all these shows, however, Lost has always been different. It is the only show that makes me look forward to each episode not only for what I will watch on screen; but for all of the reviews, theories, and observations I’ll read from other critics and fans. The show has created a community of fans that (while possibly watching the show alone) are living together on blogs and message boards all over the internet. It is the only show that can create endless email exchanges between friends each week, and the only show where the fun that comes from discussing episodes rivals the fun that comes from watching them.
Lost is more than just a television program, but a medium-transcending epic that is one of the few shows that (despite being a crazy science fiction extravaganza) begs its viewers to ask questions about their own lives. It is a glorious piece of pop-philosophy that asks questions of science vs. faith, fate vs. free will, how our actions impact each other’s lives, and the sheer power of working together as a community. Its characters might have been based out of archetypes, but these archetypes make them infinitely more relatable than Don Draper, Jimmy McNulty, or Jack Donaghy could ever be, even though the later live in settings that are infinitely more realistic than a tropical island that has polar bears and a smoke monster.
This season, Lost took the drastic narrative change of introducing a new timeline in which the plane did not crash and our characters landed in Los Angeles. While we view a world in which characters lives are completely different, it has definitely forced viewers (at least me) to ask questions of our own lives. “What if I didn’t make this choice in my life?” is the biggest question that viewers should be taking out of this season. When I watch the episodes on my two-by-one inch iPod screen I can usually see my reflection over, behind, and within the episode (like many characters have seen their reflections in mirrors this season); and I can’t help but think about my own sideways world where I’m working public relations in Chicago or New York, was in the stadium when ND again lost to USC, and never had the experience of scuba diving at night during a thunderstorm (which, by the way, is terrifyingly awesome).
As we prepare to watch the finale, these are questions I have thought about. I don’t really care why the Others had trouble making babies, or why Libby was in the mental institution, or why Sun didn’t travel through time with the other members of the Oceanic Six (although I can now make a reasonable guess about that one). When I think about the show more, I realize that this is because over the past six seasons I (like Jack) have become something of a man of faith. I don’t care about the answers and explanations to the little things, but I have faith that we’ll get the answers that we need; just like I have faith that when the time comes, I’ll figure out what I’m supposed to do in my own life.
The men of science out there crave these answers, but what they never think about is that they don’t even have answers to the most important things in their own lives. I don’t know why I was assigned to live in O’Neill Hall 407 five years ago and I don’t know why I was chosen to work in my current position in China (although I can make a reasonable guess about that one). Like life, Lost isn’t a puzzle that can be solved if only we are given a couple more pieces; but it is a mystery that might not be easily solved at all.*
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cared about these questions in the past (and will probably care about them again when I rewatch the show a few years from now), but with the series finale upon us, all I really care about is what happens to the characters that I’ve grown to love (and yes, occasionally dream about) over the course of the past six seasons. And when it comes to these characters, I honestly have no idea what is going to happen to them in the final 105 minutes of the show.
Of course I have some ideas:
I think Jack’s ex-wife in the sideways is Juliet, and Sawyer will meet her at the concert and remember everything. I think this scene is going to be juxtaposed with Juliet mortally shooting Sawyer in an outrigger. I think Claire let Desmond out of the well after she realized how evil Locke is. I don’t think Richard is dead. I think Desmond is definitely going to say, “See you in another life brotha.” I think Miles is going to blow up something with his backpack of C-4, and I think he is going to do this after Ben radios him with the walkie-talkies they both have. I think Ben is only following Locke so that Locke doesn’t kill him, and that Ben will ultimately sacrifice himself to save the island.
I think that the end of the series was alluded to in the season 5 finale when the Man in Black and Jacob were introduced to the audience on the beach and said:
Man in Black: They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
Jacob: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.
But I think that people who believe that this scene is going to happen again with Jack and Locke (or any other combination of characters) are thinking too much about how cool that might be and how little sense that would actually make. I believe the key to the ending isn’t what the Man in Black said, but it’s what Jacob said. The cycle they are referring to isn’t going to repeat itself because everything that has happened up until this point in the history of the island and the history of the show has been progress towards The End (the title of Sunday’s finale).
“It only ends once,” Jacob said; and we are now 105 minutes away from that ending he was referring to, and I don’t care if whatever I think is going to happen, actually happens. I don’t care if any of the questions I once had are actually answered. All I care about is that I enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed the show thus far. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best show (tied with The Wire) that has ever aired, and while I know I’m going to miss it; I also know that it’s time to let go.
I hope we all enjoy it, because there’s no going back now.
*For more on puzzles and mysteries, I highly recommend this piece by Malcolm Gladwell which I unfortunately couldn’t adequately reference in this essay.