Friday, May 28, 2010

Drama Initiative

So, having now had basically a week to rewatch "The Finale" and chew it over, I've come to some conclusions - the first being that emoticons and digital alliterations like "j/k" and "rimshot!" are more vital than I'd given them credit for being since, evidently, if you post something tongue-in-cheek and don't use them people will take it as a personal affront and get all pissy about it. ;)

Secondly, I've been reminded of the necessity, when reacting to the ultimate revelations of a mystery that was predicated on misdirection, of seperating "I didn't like the answer" reactions from "I don't think the answer works" reactions, since they're two different things: One may legitimately feel that Norman Bates' "mother" being Norman's alternate-personality was a "stupid" ending, but I don't know that anyone can seriously say that it's not a well-executed buildup/gotcha story, just for one example. So I'll seperate this (somewhat lengthy) business out accordingly:


Thusly, I'm compelled to stipulate right off the bat that at least 90% of my "not liking" the ending of this series is based on the fact that the "misdirection"/background-noise stuff was more compelling to me than what's ultimately presented as the "main" story. At some point, "Lost" zigged, and I'm all about the zag. In other words, I was watching the wrong show.

It'll be no surprise to anyone who knows me, and probably not to folks who "know" this blog either, that the LEAST interesting thing in the world to me is human drama. Drama, I stress, not in the sense of character-oriented narrative but in the sense of drama as-pronounced with an extra "a" - Da...RAMA!!!! I mean love-triangles and strained relationships and daddy/mommy issues... basically what I'd broadly group under "Soap Opera Bullshit." I care about MY relationships and, by extension and to varying degrees, the relationships of my friends and loved-ones, naturally. But the Da...RAMA!!!! of people I don't know? Not a lick, for the most part - this is why I save all that money not buying Us Magazine - and the Da...RAMA!!!! of fictional people even less save for those instances where A.) it's exceptionally well-written and/or B.) there isn't anything more interesting (i.e. ANYTHING) in the story.

In general, concepts, ideas, objects, questions, "things" are of greater interest to me than Da-RAMA!!!!, though ideally it's for the best when the two can co-exist - i.e. a rampaging monster is more interesting when I give a damn about who is and isn't getting squished by it. But given the choice between one or the other, Da-RAMA!!!! will lose every time. I'm aware that this is the textbook antisocial-nerd-scifi-fan reaction to the world - "ray-guns and spaceships beat the real world," etc. - and I'm okay with that. I don't necessarily see it as a significant flaw, just a difference in perspective.

So, essentially, the "problem" here is MOSTLY with me, not with the show. "Lost" was ultimately a shell-game of misdirections, with the ultimate misdirection being that it pretended to be a science-fiction/fantasy show about concepts, ideas and "things" and then slowly revealing that it was "really" about the Da-RAMA!!!! of it's characters and the Power of Friendship. I got "into" it because, at first (and then for a while longer) it appeared to me to be a show about a mysterious island, mad scientists, time travel, supernatural creatures, ancient civilizations, etc; and all that was compelling enough for me to "put up with" the characters - most of whom were only intermittently interesting - and their unfolding issues.

I became progressively less interested when it transitioned from seeming to be "about" science fiction to seeming to be "about" an ongoing battle between two godlike beings of light and darkness (how trite can you get, honestly?), and less interested than that when it became abundantly clear that this was heading for a "what really matters is eachother" wrapup; but I stuck it out because MAYBE there'd still be an interesting mythology to be culled from all this. As we now know, that's not what happened; and the lion's share of my dissapointment is strictly on me: I liked what "Lost" was pretending to be more than what it "really" was, and stubbornly stuck around long past the point when that had become clear. If I feel my time was wasted, I have only myself to blame.


All that having been said, going back and actually watching the thing in the knowledge of what was really going on... I'm still thoroughly unconvinced that it's a good ending even on it's own merits. It's not "bad," necessarily - even though my nature largely prevents me from giving much of a damn about estranged fathers or love triangles when there's a monster made of smoke running around, the characters are uniformly well-written and it's all quite exciting when it needs to be. My issue would mostly be with the very, very end of things.

Firstly, I'm sorry, but I don't think that even Charlie Kaufman, David Mamet and Tom Stoppard locked in a room together with three typewriters and unlimited funding for three solid years could possibly make an ending where the assembled cast are led through the doors of a Magical Church into "The Light" by a character literally named Christian Shephard (yes I know they lampshaded it, it's STILL awful) "work" straight-faced in 2010. That's not just bad, that's insultingly bad. And ditto the stained-glass window version of a "COEXIST" bumper-sticker in the background, too.

According to a link ( offered by a commentor to a fellow who indentifies themself as a "Lost" writer, the show was "always" about science versus faith... and "faith won," cementing my feeling that I had definately been watching the wrong show. They go on to say that the Magic Church ending was JJ Abrams plan from the start, and the main thing the subsequent writers "didn't touch," my response to which is a massive renewal of consternation over the fact that this is the JJ Abrams who's in charge of "Star Trek" for the forseeable future. The mind REELS.

Secondly... this whole big "sideways world" thing was about making these people realize that they were the most important people in eachother's lives? Why would any of them need to be TOLD that? They survived a horrible plane crash together, fought a monster together, got into gunfights, traveled through time... why should it be treated like a "revelation" that this was a big deal for them? I can understand this being the "many years later" wrapup to a show about, say... a high school football team, or the staff of a summer camp, or whatever - where "these relationships forged in that ONE brief moment in time was the key to your entire lives!" would be an incredibly poignant revelation. But as the ultimate denoument of a story depicting a group of people going through events that would be the most important and memorable moments in anyone's life is the definition of a "well, DUH!" anticlimax.

At least that's how it played out for me.


Cenobite829 said...

I find it funny that back at around season three there was a theory going around that the island was purgitory and that the actions of the survivors would be how their souls would be judged. All my friends who were fans said that the theory was wrong but the ending we were given wasn't to far off. If you think about it all the heroes were led in to heaven by the good shepard.

Drybones said...

I still disagree, but am glad you actually explained it rather than just post it in a ironic matter of fact way.

You'd be surprised at how many names like that there though, I've known people named things like "Jesus", heaven, light, and hope. I find it annoying too, but I think it worked on LOST.

You probably were watching thw wrong show since it was about characters and drama and such with some sci-fi, but not as the main focus. Good read though Bob.

Anonymous said...

I found the finale to be emotionally satisfying and mentally infuriating.

I'm inclined to agree on what the show was and what it was not. Good call.

Although, I have to add, that your analysis on the leanings of the show seems doubly correct when you take into account that even when the fantasy/sci-fi stuff happened directly TO the main characters they never talked about it. Just the DRAMA.

Did Locke ever mention to anyone (except a dying Boone) that the island healed his legs during any of the numerous times he found himself defending it's "specialness". No, why not? Oh that's right because they'd have to bring it up more often, getting in the way of...well y'know

Did we ever get a scene where Ben finds out that Sayid shot him when he was 12 and Kate and Sawyer saved him? No, why not? Oh that's right, because then they might have to have a serious discussion about the implications of time-travel.

What's weird is I still like the show and felt that I learnt something from it. It's such a potent mix of really well written characters and slapdash mythology. Kinda hard not to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't like how they ended the series just do what i did - pretend that this ( is the actual ending of lost.

underthepale said...

You know, if you'd made this post previously, you wouldn't have gotten the reaction you did. I know it would have been less "fun-NAY!" but it would have been a little more conducive to discussion, as opposed to informing people who liked the ending that they were just in denial.

After all, no amount of "j/k" is going to help if the joke isn't funny (or if you aren't actually kidding)...

Kenji said...

I am grateful for you taking the time to explain this all out thoroughly. Not only have you given (your usual) well-thought analysis of the series but you also saved me from watching (yet another) terribly, terribly, terribly, terribly, disappointing series where it's great early, peaks mid-stream, and just sucks from the end of 2/3rds of it's run until the lack-luster finale.

Manticore said...

ANYONE got an idea what anonymous was linking to up there?