Last Lost Post Lest I Get A Lust For Another Lost List
Let me respond to Lawrence King's comment to my first Lost post this week. I won't go over the same arguments I've made before as to why Lost's final season was disapponting, but let me talk a bit about how comparatively hard it was to finish it in a satisfactory manner.
Then there's Battlestar Galactica, which was created with no clear end (I believe--in fact, it's an inescapable conclusion based on the show itself) but was nevertheless going in a certain direction--humans searching for Earth, Cylons with a "plan." Overall, even if they made it up one the fly, it was small enough (in characters, episodes and situations) that they could end with something that tied it all together, even if they didn't do it that well.
(Sorry, didn't watch Buffy or Firefly.)
But Lost was different. It's a good point that you can't ignore the ending of any show that promises big mysteries will be solved, but Lost still had certain inherent problems in its approach that would always have caused trouble. The show was big. It was an expensive show with a huge cast. And while the main action was on the Island, it really took place all over the world. It also took place all over time and even the Island story kept getting bigger.
Yes, Lost did have an ending in mind when they started. (The producers claim they did and the evidence supports them.) But it was only a vague outline for an ending, and even that could change as the show advanced. It certainly was general enough to allow for much improvising.
My guess, based on the first season and the final season, was that the creators knew there were two forces (probably brothers, almost certainly good and evil) who fought for control of the Island. They (one or both) brought the castaways to the island, who would eventually fight the final battle there, and, at the end, they'd defeat evil (represented by the smoke monster). Then, Jack, the hero, in his final moments, would see those still alive escape. That's a story that makes sense and even gives a satisfying sense of completeness.
But how do you make that go for over 100 hours? You fill it up with characters, ever more. Some fall by the wayside (because fans don't like them) and some continue and grow. But sometimes their growth stalls because you've either done all you can with them (and their backstory) and either are just doing variations or need them to serve the overall plot.
So there are numerous ways you move forward, many of which either don't go anywhere or really can't be fitted into the piece overall. (And many of which are retrofitted. I believe they knew where they were going, but even something as first-season as Adam and Eve I'm not entirely sure they knew about.)
Ultimately, though, the idea was horrible because they tried to outsmart the audience and outsmarted themselves. It turns out the altaworld is actually the afterlife (which is the mainstream intrepretation, though I fight against it because I hate it so much) where all the Losties get together and work out their problems and then move on together. This has two advantages which I guess the producer thought were so great they could ignore everything else.
One, it gave them another startling moment, in a show that is famous for them. And this was the final shock, and it's a big one. Yes, Jack and the rest are all dead. Second, it gave them a chance for a big sentimental scene, where all the characters could say goodbye (and hello) which certainly gives a sense of completeness. But even if you like these things, it sells out everything else. Nothing in this world really mattered--not Desmonds urge to wake everyone up, not even their working out their problems. What seemed to be an ingenious problem--where they characters had to figure out how to combine the two worlds--turned out to be a separate PS which said little or nothing about the main mystery on the Island. And the producer can talk about characters all they want; we may have loved the characters, but the main interest was how those characters figured into a larger story about the Island.