Mysteries Of The Unknown, Volume XVI: Unhappy Fanboys

*** WARNING: Spoilers for LOST and BSG to follow. You have been warned!!!! ***


Like many of you, I spent my Sunday evening in front of my TV, looking for some closure after six years of Lost. Like many of you, I had my theories as to what in the hell was going on, and I’d heard from several sources that the end of this great show wouldn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Actually, I was furious. I’ve since calmed down, but I still think the ending to Lost wasn’t good enough. I mean, sure, it wasn’t as catastrophically stupid as the Battlestar Galactica finale. I can admit that a goodly portion of the reason I didn’t care for the LOST finale was that I wanted it to resolve itself differently than it did. I loved the time-travel stuff in the previous season, and I had every reason to think the whole nuclear bomb thing spawned a separate timeline in which awesome events would occur allowing the people in the “real” timeline to eventually prevail through a final payoff of their previous nuclear option. It didn’t. Not my favorite option, but I can live with that.

Here’s what does bother me.

Imagine that you are running a D&D campaign. The adventure revolves around solving some big mystery, and every clue the players uncover seems to raise several new questions. Your players love this stuff, and they keep asking you to do more of this. This goes on for years, and is one of the most beloved campaigns your group has ever known. Many of the larger secrets of the story you’ve been weaving all these years have yet to be fully revealed, and your players all have theories. Eventually, you decide to end the campaign. You end the current story arc, explain vaguely a couple of the campaign’s mysteries, and then suddenly all the PCs are in Valhalla giving each other hugs. I imagine at least a 72% chance that you will be stoned to death via hurled dice.

Call me crazy, but if one of the primary means by which you engage your audience is by coming up with freaky inexplicable crap to keep them wondering, you had damn well better do a good job explaining what you’ve been causing all their poor neurons to needlessly fire about by the time the series ends. Instead, we got a wrapup of the current story arc, an explanation of all the weird crap that ever happened in the form of “well, that’s how Jacob ran things”, and ten minutes of violins and group hugs designed to make my wife cry. When you end this kind of series like they just ended Lost, it no longer matters whether they had any idea what they were doing from the start. You never find out. Did they end it this way to keep people asking questions? Maybe. But that’s not a very nice thing to do to your fans who have been dying for any shred of information since the beginning.

The sad thing is, had this been just another season finale, I probably wouldn’t have my knickers in a twist. I enjoyed all the Jacob vs. Smokey and picking a new protector stuff. I thought Hurley was a cool pick for the new guy, and Ben perhaps the most interesting choice of his #2 available. I even sort of like wondering if Jack turns into a smoke monster. In fact, I liked pretty much everything except for the “alternate reality actually being Purgatory” bit. That was the final twist of the knife to me. They told us the island wasn’t Purgatory, and they told the truth. That was just evil. That made me think that somewhere in California, the producers of Lost are in an underground bunker filled with money – laughing at all of us.

Photo cc 1995 Jeff Kubina

Comments

  1. Shilling says:

    So, the explanation for the entire show was “A wizard did it”?

  2. I have to disagree with you. Respectfully.

    Your opinion is valid –> I think a large camp of LOST fans were looking to see some of the mystery really peeled back and explained in some meaningful manner (meaningful as towards the mystery anyways).

    However, I thought the side reality as limbo was perfect — these characters experienced something they can never not recall. They are bonded by these events, and I thought the finale did a good job focusing on concluding character arcs.

    Jack sacrifices, Hurley gains responisbilty, and so on and so forth.

    I think the remaining mystery is detailing when people died. For example, Locke never really walked off the island. He was killed by Ben. His alternate reality was him dead the whole time right? Things like this I find worth debating.

    I am losing my point; I understand your dissatisfaction with the ‘twist’ – but I am not sure as invovled of a program could end any other way.

  3. @The Last Rogue: I didn’t care for the side-reality-limbo bit, but I can live with it. What I wanted explained are longstanding things like “why couldn’t anybody get pregnant on the island” and “why was Hurley unlucky” and “what is the deal with the effing numbers”.
    .-= Vanir´s last blog ..Mysteries Of The Unknown, Volume XVI: Unhappy Fanboys =-.

  4. Bleh, I have yet to watch a second episode.

    Should I?

    -Tourq
    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Add Flavor to the Bard =-.

  5. Tourq: That depends, if you’re of the attitude that you won’t like it then there are definitely things to not like. However, I feel that every season was excellent with the exception of mid-to-late 2nd season and early-to-mid 3rd season where things were a bit shakey and some episodes were very bland. That said, I’ve heard a lot of people say the same about the middle of BSG but my wife and I watched it on DVD and being able to watch 2-3 episodes at a time we never really noticed the slower episodes because we didn’t have a full week or more to stew on them and took the series more as a whole and not dragged out. I can see the same thing being true for the slower parts of Lost, on DVD they may not stand out that much.

    Vanir: I agree with you in many respects, except that I wasn’t furious with the finale because I was simply happy to see all of the characters together again in some fashion and able to resolve some things I never thought would be resolved. Like you, I also wish they’d touched a lot more on many of the elements introduced, though for me at first the numbers were on that list I think when they showed us the Lighthouse we found the entire origin of the numbers and a lot of the mystical abilities they have can come from the whole light/jacob/candidates deal and originates/relates to where these people were on a 360 degree circle. It’s pretty much the same as all of the answers we got in the first five seasons, something seems incredibly strange and mystical (polar bear on a tropical island) but the answer we get was mostly mundane and simple (biological research with animals outside of their native climates, then it escaped).

    A few of the things I really wanted to see are: WTF is up with the egyptian stuff on the island, my analogy for this is like if we’d gone through the first two seasons with the hatch/swan station/blast door map and other dharma stations and then NEVER seen or found anything out about the Dharma Initiative and why the built all this stuff. That’s how I feel about the egyptian things, we’ve seen all of this interesting stuff they’ve built around including a HUGE ass statue to a god of good and fertility (seemingly a tie into the lack of babies issue), but we’ve found pretty much nothing out about them. I think it would be golden to see the earliest inhabitants of the island, which I assume are the Egyptians before the Romans showed up, and see what they found on the island and what they did that caused them to build temples, statues, giant stone corks, and draw anubis talking to a smoke monster (and also create stone “vents” that the smoke monster can come out of). I think that would have led to some very interesting things and still be very much in line with what we saw in the final season.

    I also want to know who the F is still dropping Dharma supplies on the island…

  6. I agree 100%. What I’ve read is that the creators have repeatedly said during this last couple of seasons, is that “it’s not about the island, it’s about character development”. Bull – throughout this six years, I, as well as many others, formulated many theories about the inner workings of the island, and we were looking forward to seeing if we were wrong or right. While it might be interesting, for example, to watch the first season all at once, then the last season all at once – and see if the characters were different – I think that’s only half the story.

    It’s like, if you’re a kid, and you want a puppy really bad, and you and your parents spend months talking about the different breeds of dogs, and making plans, and imagining things… then come Christmas day, there’s a box under the tree that has a squeaking noise coming from it, and you open it up to discover… it’s a hamster! WTF?

  7. xerosided says:

    I have to agree with The Last Rogue that this show couldn’t possibly have ended any other way. There’s no way the producers were going to answer questions about the numbers, island pregnancies, and Hurley’s unluckiness while still weaving a great story and concluding things satisfactorily. In truth, the vague “Jacob did it” answer was the only one you were ever going to get, and if you didn’t see that coming a long time ago, and come to terms with it, then I think you and I were watching a completely different show.

    As for myself, I never enjoyed the show as much as when I stopped obsessing (or even caring!) about all the mysteries and the tiny little details and just started enjoying the story as it unfolded. I think some time around halfway through season two, I realized there was no way in hell all these separate weirdo mysteries were going to resolve neatly. I saw what the writers were doing: very masterfully ratcheting up the drama, and having fun while they did it. And as a viewer, I was having lots of fun too, so I didn’t resent them for it. Heck, the entire plot of season two was a bunch of characters standing around a computer shouting and threatening each other over whether or not to push a button. It’s absurd really, but the inclusion of all that mystery ramped up the drama and intensity to the point where it was still some of the best stuff on TV at the time. If you were expecting the meaning of life after that then I’m very sorry, because I learned then and kept relearning every season after that the producers just wanted to take you and me on a wild ride, and on that note I believe they passed with flying colors. The stories and the characters were the most important part of the show; everything else was just scenery.

    Also, I’m a sucker for pseudo-spiritual, tear-jerker endings. That’s why I loved Battlestar’s ending, too.

  8. See, the mystery of the Island, to me, doesn’t need to be revealed. That was not the story, just the setting. And, when I am sitting down to watch Legend of the Seeker, I don’t ask “but *how* does the magic work? Where does that all come from?” Likewise, when I am watching Stargate, I don’t ask about how the other races came to be, or how the whole wormgate thing works. And, as the writers have said, I also wish that after watching Star Wars, I didn’t need to ask how the Force worked. Midichlorians was a *bad* answer – a lack of an answer would have been better!

    So, on that note, I enjoyed the characters, I enjoyed the story, and I enjoy theorising as to how things worked, but answers are not (and were not promised) given. And I still loved the finale! 🙂

  9. Mike Karkabe-Olson says:

    Well said hvg3. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  10. I really hate the constant midichlorian comparison. Midichlorians didn’t suck because they were an answer, they sucked because they were a SUCKY answer.

    As far as the ending of Lost goes, the Island was way more than ‘just a setting.’ It’s what made the show so compelling. The polar bear, discovery of the hatch, seeing the statue.. these are pure setting elements.

    This post’s D&D analogy is SPOT-ON, and I wish I had more Lost-watching friends who played D&D so I could use it 🙂
    .-= zack´s last blog ..drzachary: @StevenAverett um.. seriously? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joke =-.

  11. as my brother said,
    “Next time somebody makes a show that’s all about the characters and absolutely not about a mind-bogglingly intriguing tropical island of exciting and strange mysteries, I hope they don’t feel the need to set the show on a mind-bogglingly intriguing tropical island of exciting and strange mysteries.”