SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the episode airing May 23, don't read this.
(And yes, I realize it's just a television show, and despite all evidence to the contrary, I have not entirely lost my sense of perspective.)
A girl walks into a pizza place.
(Wait, bear with me--this is actually a Lost post. If the Lost writers can get all allegorical, then so can I. Anyway, I find that all life's great truths can be most effectively communicated with the help of pepperoni.)
So the girl is hungry for pizza and she goes, quite sensibly, to the pizza shop. She even takes her friends, because they all want pizza too.
She knows she's found the pizza place, because there's a giant sign on the window that says "PIZZA PLACE." Vintage pizza pans hang along the walls. It smells like pizza. There's little glass containers of parmesan cheese on the red-checkered tablecloth. There is pizza being delivered to the tables all around our girl. She reads the menu, full of choices of the best toppings. She orders, sits down, and her mouth begins to water for the pizza she knows is coming soon--it must be, because the restaurant around her is giving her every indication that this will happen.
Her waiter (named Luigi) approaches the table, a tray high above his head. (Oh, she's hungry! She can almost taste that pizza!) The waiter leans over and presents the tray. "Your order," he says, in an Italian accent.
SURPRISE! In front of her is a heaping plate of Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Now, our girl likes Moo Goo Gai Pan--she eats it all the time, in fact. But tonight she wanted pizza, so she went to a pizza shop. When she complains to the owners about the order mix-up, she's told that their food is their art, and sometimes the moment artistically requires some Moo Goo Gai Pan. If our girl can't understand that, they say, then she must be terribly unsophisticated and unartistic.
My friends, what you and I got served in the Lost finale was a heaping plate of Moo Goo Gai Pan. It was tasty and somewhat satisfying, but you know what? I was there for pizza.
Most of the Lost fans I know were prepared (even happily willing) to have the overwhelming majority of questions left unanswered. We had faith that the writers would leave us enough crumbs that we could connect the dots on our own, and I, for one, looked forward to that process. It would've been nice to know how Walt killed birds, how Libby got her boat, etc., but it became very clear some time ago that the writers had no intention of answering these mysteries, either by deliberate artistic design, or because they written themselves too far in over their own heads. No worries. The characters and plot, even with their flaws, were riveting.
The giant story arc that took place over six years gave us every indication that the mysteries we saw all mattered. Who was Widmore? How far is Eloise in on things, and how did she appear to Desmond in Season 3? Why was Richard chosen? How is Desmond immune to electromagnetism? These things are fundamental, and they matter inexorably to the plot.
But in the last 15 minutes of the the finale, the Lost writers suddenly asked us to buy a different plot altogether:
A bunch of conflicted people encounter a mysterious island. Some get there out of scientific interest. Some crash there on a plane. Some are forced there. Some choose to go there. Some get off, others don't. A whole lot of stuff happened there in excruciating, minute detail, and you thought it was important, but guess what? The polar bears and donkey wheels and glowing caves and slave ships and numbers meant not a blessed thing in and of themselves. What mattered is that these complicated people became friends and learned to live together so they wouldn't die alone. So they all eventually do die, some on the Island, some shortly after the Island, some decades after the Island, and they spend a little time in purgatory to sort out their remaining issues. When they're done, they meet up and hug a lot in a church. Then they go to the afterlife. The end.
Clever and creative? Maybe. A cop-out when the mystery got too thick? Probably. But tacked on to the end of six years of a different a plot altogether? It was...well, it was a big plate of Moo Goo Gai Pan, when I felt like I had every reasonable reason to expect pizza.
The producers and writers (and even some fans) now indicate that if I were, perhaps, enlightened enough I could just (to quote John and Jack and Christian), "let go."
I'll counter that with another Lost quote: I believe that the writers "changed the rules". They wrote a specific, plot-driven and character-driven series, and they pulled a switcheroo at the end, telling us that "oops, no, never mind, it was actually only character-driven". And that's just not okay.
As disappointed as I am in the ending, I can't deny that the finale provided us some gratifying moments that almost--almost--make it all okay:
- The moments of "awakening" between the characters were heartwarming and brilliantly played. When Charlie saw Claire, my heart skipped a beat. When Sawyer and Juliet reunited at the vending machine, it skipped a dozen. Those were fantastic moments.
- The evolution of Hurley was complete: He was confident, satisfied, and this was fantastic for those of us who have pulled for him for so long. And he brought the one-liners in this episode.
- Kate has spent much of this series looking a little pathetic, drifting around from Sawyer to Jack, seeming to want them to define her. I loved, loved, loved that her moment of "awakening" occurred not when she encountered Jack or Sawyer, but when she first laid eyes on Aaron. He was her love. Motherhood defined her. It was a very satisfying resolution for her character.
- And Jack Shepherd? Well, he was faithful to the end. He never wavered in doing what had to be done, driven by (and satisfied by) an unflinching sense of duty. (Pssst, if you are a single girl reading this? Farradays and Sayids are complicated and intriguing. Desmonds make you feel all swoony. Sawyers look great in jeans. But you know what? Find yourself a Jack, girlfriends, and marry him.)
- The last scene, with Jack closing his eye, was absolutely beautiful.
I'm sad to bring this post to a close--blogging Lost has been a wildly enjoyable ride, and I've so enjoyed hashing it over with you each week. It's tempting to let my disappointment color the whole viewing experience, but I refuse to do so. Those were six years (or perhaps five-and-three-quarters years!) of fantastic television. The destination may be a disappointment, but the journey was fantastic. Thanks for coming along.
I can't wait to hear your thoughts--quite honestly, I would be tickled pink to hear a perspective that would radically change my mind! For the last time, if you're blogging Lost at your place, feel free to leave a link below. This list will close to new links in a few days, to keep away the spammers.