L O S T WITH AS I LAY DYING’S NICK HIPA: THIS IS THE END!
Throughout the course of L O S T’s sixth and final season, my guest-column writing approach has been (somewhat) consistently this:
– Step 1: Watch the episode
– Step 2: Ponder, reflect, dissect, and overanalyze everything presented in the then-current episode as much as is in my capacity to
– Step 3: Ponder, reflect, dissect, and overanalyze how the concepts presented fit in the grand scheme of the L O S T story
– Step 4: Lurk amongst my favorite L O S T-related sites to see what my fellow nerds are thinking. Filter through to find thoughts that challenge or reinforce my own, then ponder, reflect, dissect, and overanalyze as per usual.
– Step 5: Share my current understandings and questions with you here to hopefully strengthen the former and minimize the latter.
This weekly process was my best attempts at keeping myself (and hopefully a lot of you) pumped up and interested in what would happen next. The end was coming, the end was nigh, and the end has happened. The completely obvious and appropriate question now is: how do you feel about it? Personally – in a somewhat frustrating but true-to-form manner with regards to how I’ve felt about this show historically – I don’t quite know how I feel.
That’s not to say I’m completely lost with how it all unfolded, but more so I’ve jumped violently from one end of my reactive spectrum to the other so frequently that reaching a definite love or hate verdict is proving to be more challenging than I expected. This shouldn’t be difficult by any means, especially since watching and getting into L O S T was a hobby at most; but the fact of the matter is that I spent a noticeable portion of my existence getting into the show, so I do care about what exactly it was that I got out of it.
Over six seasons there were 121 episodes of L O S T, each running an hour (including commercials), that I subjected myself to at least once. To be extremely conservative, for each hour I watched of the show, I spent a cumulative hour reading recaps, thoughts, and theories. Conservatively still, I would say with this final season (18 episodes) I spent an additional three hours studying up more and writing this column. 121 hours of watching plus 121 hours of supplemental pondering and 54 hours of writing leaves me with 296 hours of my life invested into the show; approximately 12.3 full days of my life. If I were to include conversations and reruns into the equation, I’m probably looking at two whole weeks. Why, then, did myself and millions of others (probably some of you) devote so much of our invaluable time on this earth to watching a single television show?
…because it was really, really good.
L O S T took an insanely diverse yet relatable group of people (our main characters), put them through a traumatic experience (plane crash), and left them in a trying environment (the Island) to coexist with one another. As the show progressed, each and every one of our main Losties was given a centric episode revealing the details of their past (via flashbacks), personalities (via present Island interaction), and the role that they would play in the Island’s microcosmic society. Interesting characters roughing it and trying to get along on an undiscovered island wasn’t all the show had to offer, however, and right off the bat we were introduced to what would become the show’s momentous, compelling, and driving-force: mystery!
This Island, it turned out, was occupied by a pilot-eating monster. From there, the mysteries unraveled gratuitously as we learned of a violent indigenous population (The Others), mystical healing properties (Locke’s un-paralysis, Sun’s pregnancy, Rose’s healing from cancer, etc.), cursed numbers (040815162342), science experiments (polar bears), science stations (the hatch), a scientific community (Dharma/Others), a powerful chain of command (Jacob > Richard > Ben > Everyone), unexplainable occurrences (pregnancy difficulties, whispers, apparitions, etc.), unexplainable landmarks (Black Rock, Four-Toed statue), and the deadly black smoke. There was an enigmatic quality about virtually everything from the show’s inception, which ultimately resulted in us all getting hooked.
My frustration then, as I’m sure is a lot of yours’, is that it turns out an absurd amount of what we were curious about meant absolutely nothing to the show’s writers. They blatantly overlooked their obvious responsibility to finish telling a story they created, and opted instead to make a statement along the lines of “nothing really matters in life besides your good buddies.” I realize this is a rash (and somewhat bitter) generalization of what the finale meant, but to have given us so much to ponder and guess at only to turn around and say it didn’t really matter anyway is – in my opinion – a discourtesy. Sure, they got around to some of what we were wondering about, but they also left out a few things that I suggest you strongly remind yourself about:
On so many levels we were all left hanging, and for that reason, I absolutely hated the finale…
Frustrated as I was for the careless disregard the show’s mysteries were given, I couldn’t help but be stirred by how the story line ultimately panned out. The introduction of the “alternate timeline” in season six was meant to clue us in on what the show was truly about: the characters. All riddles, mysteries, conflicts, trials, and tribulations on the Island were meant to merely reveal more of our characters than the normal being-stranded-on-an-island-routine could possibly allow. To clarify, I believe everything everyone experienced and went through on the Island is what happened to them while they were alive. I’ve read a few recaps of how the Island was one form of purgatory, the ALT Timeline was the next, and whatever door Christian opened after that ended up being whatever happened afterwards; but I don’t agree.
My guess is that the show’s ultimate goal was to tackle the notion of the human condition. Not a single one of us knows certainly what happens after death, nor do we have any idea how we would truly function if we were to be displaced into a place as unique as L O S T‘s Island. This gave our writers a tremendous amount of liberty to create literally unbelievable and far-fetched scenarios for the sake of experimenting with what the social and personal implications would be for fictional characters with personal characteristics a lot of us probably find all-too-familiar. Thinking about it a bit further, this is pretty much the basis for any good story isn’t it? You have one or maybe several characters who you begin to identify with based on how they live, love, think, feel, see the world, or choose not to; and they are placed in circumstances familiar or bizarre and you await to see how it unfolds.
In the case of L O S T, our believable characters ended up on an Island powered by a sort of magical light integral to the existence of all mankind, protected by an ageless being with an understandably malignant counterpart, both of whom are governed by a powerfully vague set of rules. The omniscience and power of these two beings (Jacob and Nemesis) is never explained, nor is the light source, but the point is that they are at the foundation of all that the Island’s mystery was built upon. To demand more from what was already given is to purposefully get caught in the setting of the story rather than the story itself, which is about who our Oceanic 815er’s were (as well as the miscellaneous characters already on the Island (Desmond, Ben, Juliet, etc.)) and how they existed within this extraordinary milieu.
Regarding the ALT timeline, I understand how it can be identified as “purgatory,” although I am choosing to look at exactly as the show described it – as “a place they all made together to find each other, because the most important part of life was the time spent together. A place for them to remember and to let go and to ‘move on.’” I’m glad the show never got specifically religious, with the writers opting instead to toy with notions of “whatever is next” as an alternate version of the life as it sorta was. The ultimate goal with the alternate timeline was to “move on,” as Christian put it, with moving on being our character’s ability to remember the life they came from. Remembering (as I saw it) was recognizing the indispensable relationships our characters shared with one another; their ups, downs, ins, and outs. Embracing the truly important pieces of their lives – each other – and letting go of the trivial and inconsequential is ultimately what got them to wherever they were going next. The actual relevance of the Valenzetti Equation, the electromagnetic properties of the magical light, who really built the statue of Tawaret – none of this sort of stuff mattered the least bit to our dead Losties.
If it didn’t matter to them, then maybe I should take a cue and give up on being grumpy that I wasn’t completely and thoroughly informed as to what everything absolutely meant on the Island as well… does it really matter after all? Furthermore (to try and really milk any sort of parallel or moral from this show), maybe a lot of us would be better off not demanding an answer for every single one of life’s great questions and mysteries. Sure ,we can come up with theories and believe however we choose, just as we did with this show; but in the end – when we’re in our own proverbial alternate timelines – I wonder if any of that is going to matter as much to us as the people we loved and experienced life with?
Looking at it in this light, the finale may have actually been quite good. Like I said earlier, I’m torn and can’t decide between a thumbs up or down. Now that its all done, maybe the show has proven itself remarkable in that I am able to love and hate it all at once? Regardless, the journey was most excellent and worth the time simply because I enjoyed it. Thank you all for having me and hearing me out every week. I look forward to reading your comments one last time!
We’d like to thank Nick again for sharing his thoughts on one of our favorite shows this past season! As I Lay Dying’s new album, The Powerless Rise, is out now on Metal Blade! Why not get L O S T on AILD’s MySpace page?