May 25, 2010

"Watch J.J. Abrams Say 'Lost' Is Not About That Thing It Turned Out to Sort of Be About."

"We're sure in the weeks to come, there will be lots of discussion about the distinctions between 'purgatory' and 'heaven,' and 'the afterlife' and 'being dead,' and 'misleading information' and 'flash sideways is not the island,' and 'when did the Lost creators actually know how the show was going to end' and 'why didn't Darlton care at all about the show's mythology?!' — but in the instant aftermath of the finale, it seems that something sort of like purgatory, insofar as purgatory is a place full of dead people, did in fact have something to do with this here series called Lost."

Hey, you know what would really be funny? After we really die, if we find ourselves somewhere and we're talking about the distinctions between "purgatory" and "heaven," and "the afterlife" and "being dead," and somebody says "Deja vu! This is like exactly the same conversation I had after the last episode of Lost."


Moose said...

That ending sucked ass.

Pastafarian said...

I watched this series, and it had a few things to recommend it (Evangeline Lily), but it was clear from the start that they were making this shit up as they went along. And when you're doing that, you'll be hard-pressed in the end to tie everything together in the end.

Now, from my interpretation, Abrams wasn't lying here when he said that the island wasn't purgatory or limbo, because it turns out (idiotically enough) that the island was real, and the flash-sideways was purgatory.

Yes, that's right, the island, that can't be found by the outside world, large enough to crash a jet liner and have survivors (and large enough for one to take off without an air strip), with polar bears and DARMA and living dead people, was real. And the perfectly plausible and realistic flash-sideways was ethereal.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. But again, that's about all you could expect from such a series, written as they went along.

Pastafarian said...

Perhaps some of you more literate Althouse commenters could concoct some alternate endings for me. I'll choose from among them, and the best one I'll commit to memory; and for me, that's how the series will end.

Please include several scenes with Evangeline Lily, inexplicably in a bikini.

Comrade X said...

I don't think he was lying, I just think 3rd acts have never been his strong suit.

reader_iam said...

Am I the only Althouse commenter who's never seen a single episode of "Lost"? No great statement in that, and certainly no externally directed judgment. I just flat out never got around to it early on, and then I thought I'd wait until I caught up from the beginning somehow, but then I never did and I got too far behind. Now it's ended and I'm clueless except for references other people make to the show. This is also true of "24" (I saw part of one episode once, I think, at my in-laws house). And "Mad Men" (though I realize that one's ongoing, still--right?).

Sometimes I wonder where the hell the last several years of my life have gone, at least culturally speaking. But it seems I'm too lost to catch up, now, which bothers me (and I think the being bothered part may be bothering me, too).

Night2night said...

I think the ending was emotionally satisfying (it resonated with me). Plot mythology? Well after all, it's a story and not "A Brief History of Time". I can't conceive of an ending which would satisfactorily address all the disparate incidents shown over 6 years and satisfy everyone. I think it worked as a piece of art and continues to work as people continue to talk about it.

Now as to "sucking ass", well I think you should post a picture of your television during this incident.

Ann Althouse said...

I was interested in Lost when I read about it before it started. I TiVo'd and watched part of the first episode and then decided it wasn't for me. I didn't like the actors. They were too good-looking to have convincingly have all been on one plane (unless it was a charter plane to a models convention). I thought it would be too hard to keep track of who they all were, and it would look too much like an afternoon soap opera.

halojones-fan said...

An ex-girlfriend was super-crazy into LOST. She was also super-crazy into X-Files. And it seems to me that both of those shows wound up being victims of their own popularity--in that the writers just threw a bunch of red herrings into the mix, thinking "haha, we'll just put this crazy weird stuff in as a gag, nobody will take it seriously, lol polar bears I mean come on now". Six months later: "Oh shit, guys, they took it seriously and the only reason they're watching the show now is that they want us to explain it!"

PS the ex-girlfriend actually turned out to just be super-crazy in general, but that's a different story altogether.

JAL said...

purgatory? heaven? dead? alive? Waaaayy too much ambiguity to be satisfyng.

I didn't care for the ending either, because I have no idea what happened. And not because I wasn't watching. But it has occurred to me since Sunday that the writers didn't know what happened either.

I knew there would be loose ends, but this was a "what just happened here?" ending with no answers at all. Except Jack died. (WHEN did he die?) Everyone else is up for grabs.

I remember reading somewhere recently that the writers looked at a variety of endings which have been used before (it was a dream, blah, blah, blah...) but decided against them. (?) Really?

I do think it was a cool series.

Except for the end.

(24 ended more satisfyingly.)

Night2night said...

It was just fun and intellectually ambitious at the same time (which was also fun). With character names like John Locke, Danielle Rousseau, Eleanor Hawkings, Edmund Burke and Anthony Cooper and some of the plot lines it became apparent the show's writers had more than a passing familiarity with philosophers of the English enlightenment period (which was really appropriate considering their reservations on the capability of rational discourse to displace human nature). A large part of that show was just unusual for commercial TV in that you could talk about it on multiple levels. In the end, the show's producers ended it with a vignette which basically concluded the meaning of the main character's lives could best be found in their relationships with each other. I'm okay with that too.

JAL said...

"Endings" are interesting.

Both LOST and 24 knew they were ending. (The story lines in 24 are easier to "end.")

Some series end in the middle of their stories. The decision to end Invasion came fairly late, I think, and so that show got cut with the alien guy walking out of the ocean holding the mortally wounded pregnant chickie ... and ........

So there was no ending.

Some shows don't need endings because there isn't anything to "end."

Jack dying to save the island and others wasn't a problem. The flash-sideways were interesting in that they provided a sci-fi feel, but I don't think these guys know how to do sci-fi and they couldn't sort them out ... so was the flash- sideways purgatory?

Pasta might be right. But I am left with 6 people flying away. Or not. And 1 guy needing to get off the island. Or not.

The rest of the stuff I can just leave laying around and it doesn't bother me. (Wait! Do Claire's and the Kwons' kids exist? Or not?)

But it is time to move on into The Light. (When I saw the stained glass windows included all the religious faith symbols I had a clue.)

Oh yeah -- you know they planned originally on killing Jack off in the pilot?

Maybe they did.

Scott M said...

I didn't get past the third episode of the first season of "Lost" for one very good reason. I thought they were doing a new take on, "Land Of The Lost"...(you know, that movie that Will Farrel butchered). When it became apparent it wasn't, I sort of lost interest and didn't go back. Besides, possibly one of the best dramas in recent television history was just getting started, ie, BSG.

Given what I know about BSG, and the Matrix trilogy for that matter, I have no problem whatsoever believing the writers initially had some nebulous concept of where they were going without having a clue how to get there. Then, it sort of took on a life of its own and the writers, at multiple points given the lifespan of this series, felt like they had written themselves into a corner.

WV - "unche" What a nightclub sounds outside through poorly sealed plate glass...unche, unche, unche, unche

Night2night said...

Back in school I had Edward Said as an English lit instructor. His theory of literature criticism was we should interpret texts purely on the basis of what was written rather than what our sensibilities would have us project into the work (we were talking specifically about Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and modern criticism).

Adopting that approach with "Lost", I'll assume the flash sideways was some type of afterlife way station (Christian's speech to Jack would seem to confirm that). I'll also assume all the characters in the flash sideways did not die at the same time (Ben and Hurley's comments to each other outside the church seemed to suggest some type of custodianship of the island following Jack's death). I think most of JAL's questions on the finale can be given reasonable answers(i.e. Lost reasonable) using this approach.

Scott M said...


...everyone on the island was a Cylon.

Night2night said...

I loved SiFi's BSG, but there the finale did disappoint me.

Scott M said...


The obligatory Iraqi soldier faced off against the obligatory racist redneck pretty much ended it for me. I might be wrong about this, as I cared pretty much nothing about it, but it looked like the character that played the redneck backfired on whoever thought that up. Didn't the character and actor become something of a sex symbol?

Night2night said...

The obligatory Iraqi soldier was a guy who tortured people. He was capable of doing bad things and came to accept that role as it always seemed to be what people needed from him. In the end he realized it was a choice.

The redneck was a conman who didn't appear to be to good at it. His true desire was to find the conman who had killed his parents.

As with most Lost characters they had tragic flaws, but were capable of redeeming themselves.

Brian said...

Don't talk about the ending! You're going to spoil it! I recorded it and still haven't watched it yet. I mean, it's not like I could NOT go to Althouse, you know.

k*thy said...

Night2night, I'd agree with your approach and some of your conclusions. I've also read (somewhere in the last couple days) that the island was redemption and guarded the gateway to Hell. This fits pretty well with the sideways waystation.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

They were too good-looking to have convincingly have all been on one plane

They weren't all that hot. Unless you like middle aged bald guys or overweight lottery winners.

Anyway, I enjoyed the finale despite the fact that it disappointed me. Maybe watching it was some kind of flash sideways in my own personal TV heaven and hell.

knox said...

Comparisons to X-Files are apt. The reason we stopped watching Lost after the first few episodes of Season 2 was: "We've already watched a show that just kept adding more questions and never answered any!"

At least with the X-Files, the individual episodes rarely were concerned with the "conspiracy" ... they were self-contained plots for the most part.

But I felt like the writers of Lost were (already! in season 2!) lazy and jerking me around. 'bye.

(I did think Abrams' Star Trek reprise was very well done, especially the way it was crafted to allow him to start the series over from scratch.)

JAL said...

Night2night --

I believe the whole thing is this -- sideways, backwards, upside down, crashed, Oceania Six saved, Others, Dharma -- everyone on the Oceanic plane got killed on the plane on Day One. Probably Minute One.

There is / was no island.

It's all a "purgatory" experience, if that.

Schoolisout said...

I think the end of the 5th season would have been better end. Juliet saying 'It workded' and that's it, everybody happy. 6th season has been a crap from the beginning. The end is correct but what happens with the thread of the previous seasons? If you watch the first and the last season all fits, what happens with Darma, the constant, the trips in the time, the island indeed? I feel deceived...

Fred4Pres said...

The creators of the show get around the purgatory theme, by claiming you do not know how long it took to have that church scene with Jack. That it just means all the primary characters are dead, so that is why it can take place and they move en masse to that next "plane" of existance.

To me it was weaker than the Sopranos ending (at least that was suspenseful) and more akin to the last Seinfeld.

Pastafarian said...

JAL -- no, the writers gave pretty clear indications that the island was reality. Hugo and Linus reminiscing outside the church about years that went by after Jack's death; Christian Shepard's explanation at the end, when he states that not everyone died at once, some died sooner, some later, but they all waited around for one another.

That would have been a more logical explanation, everyone dying in the first crash. But then who is Linus, and Alpert, and half of the other characters? People who were killed on the ground?

Jesus, I watch too much television. But at least it wasn't "Dancing with the Stars" or "American Idol".

Christy said...

I loved the finale, right up until the last 15 minutes. I cried when Hurley was acknowledged as the new Keeper; the perfect ending. Seeing Desmond and Penny together made me happy.

Still, for me Lost was a grown up version of "Where's Waldo?" That last 15 minutes did have a classic Lost moment when we spied, in the ecumenical chapel, Ganesha, god of auspicious beginnings and many other attributes central to the Lost story.

I spent 6 seasons wishing Jack had been killed in the crash. Why did they wait to the last season to make him bearable.

Sorry Pasta, I never liked Kate unless she was stripping the shirt off Sawyer.

I was also happy when the obligatory Iraqi soldier was stripped of his shirt.

Jimmy Kimmel hosted most of the central cast for a
late Sunday night. They did several skits with alternate endings - from The Soprano's, The Bob Newhart Show....

Night2night said...

Well this may be the wrong blog for this, but I really loved what the folks associated with the show created; maybe not every week, but there were some great moments for a really far-fetched television drama. Best reviews I've seen (on average) have been Doc Jensen's recaps on the Entertainment Weekly site (not so much for mythological score keeping, more for the pregnant possibility of a line of questioning).

'Lost' finale recap, part two: Step into the light Totally 'Lost' Recap

Anthony said...

I haven't watched it yet, but I've read all abot what happened. I'm good with it. My sense was that they had a vague idea of the whole mythology, but then when it became popular started treating it as a potentially long-running thing. That led to gobs of weird stuff being thrown in, but then at some point decided to end it at a particular time, and it got better.

Yeah, they were all mostly attractive, but they were also infuriatingly normal. Everybody got ticked at Jack a lot, but that was because he was flawed. I got irritated at Hurley a lot because he was flawed. The ending was good that way: They all ended up at the same place by resolving their issues either in life or in the flash-sideways.

Don't care too much about answering all the island questions. It's more fun as something of a mystery. It was all about the characters, their foibles, and how they dealt with each other. The producers had a marvelous sense of sometimes ending episodes with utterly charming montages of all the characters interacting in some way. I think the ending was something like that.

jr565 said...

The ending reminded me of the movie Passengers. They die but don't know they're dead and so go on about their lives as if they were still alive and slowly but surely become reconciled to the fact that they are dead.
The thing I dind't understsand is, the father said that they built this place to meet together to reconcile. Was he referring to the church (did they build a church on the island?) or the purgatory existence? Becuase I'd think then that if that were the case they'd have a purgatory that looked like the Island since that is where they had their connections, and not in the fake world.
Or was that just Jack's death throes coming to his version of heaven, and all the meetups only happened in his mind while he was dying? As he dies the plane flies off with all the survivors. Are they going to the alternate world whrere they too will die and meet in the church. Or are they going back to the real world and not the side world. If they die in the real world do they then go to the sideways world and then meet up at the church?

Julie C said...

We watched the first season of Lost the summer after it first aired. From the first scene, we were hooked. The first episode in the series is for me one of the best I've ever seen on television. We would wait until we put the kids to bed and then watch as many episodes as we could until we finished the season.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the ending. The acting was fantastic, but for me there were so many things left unanswered that it did feel a bit random. They told us what the voices were, but didn't talk about the numbers. And what about Walt?

Penny said...

Never watched a single episode of Lost...until the finale, which I found UNUSUALLY rewarding for someone who never watched a single show before that, PLUS considered herself to be an athiest or agnostic, depending on the day.

After reading all the HORRIBLE comments from "devoted" fans, I've decided that Jesus might have had an easier time of it if he had changed his name to "Waldo", for example, or if the creators of “Lost” had merely disappeared without a “final episode”.

How would that suit all you “fans”?

magpie said...

It wasn't purgatory, which you would know if you actually watched the finale.

Lost was one of the most enjoyable and interesting series of the last decade or more. Faraday, Hume, Locke. All great characters. I'll miss it.

Fen said...

Am I the only Althouse commenter who's never seen a single episode of "Lost"?


Yet another show I'm thankful I didn't get sucked into watching.

Fen said...

Given what I know about BSG, and the Matrix trilogy for that matter, I have no problem whatsoever believing the writers initially had some nebulous concept of where they were going without having a clue how to get there. Then, it sort of took on a life of its own and the writers, at multiple points given the lifespan of this series, felt like they had written themselves into a corner.

Exactly. Its like wasting an hour of your night on a murder mystery, and the final scene reveals it was some perp that was never in show.

Methadras said...

I think the people creating lost ran afoul of creative continuity after 6 seasons and needed to find a way to bridge all of the larger questions into a tenable 6th season that people would get, if they hadn't figured out most of it already. What's funny is that the creators had said that this wasn't a heaven/hell/purgatory scenario and they are on record as saying it, but it appears that the flash sideways was a loophole in that denial. Either way, I loved the show and I loved it unfolded across 6 seasons and making people guess about the motives, the theories, the philosophies, the ideas, conspiracies, and whatnot. That's what it was about for me as a good story. It engaged me and reminded me that some things in life are like fun puzzles. Outside of the pure escapism of it all, I hope another show can supersede it in some way.

It will be a tough act to follow either way. I got the ending. I understood it to a large degree, but not until the next day did I digest it and more pieces came together did it really hit me. Great show.

cooperandy said...

If you were a "Lost" fan, you have to check out this HILARIOUS song (Dear Mr. Abrams): Just do a YouTube search under "Dear Mr. Abrams."