Why We Have To Go Back
MAJOR SPOILERS HEREIN. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. PUSH THE BUTTON IF YOU WANT TO MOVE FORWARD.
This is 40 beat me to it. God dammit, Apatow.
That was all I could think of after I walked out of Judd Apatow’s latest cinematic effort. That sonofabitch, whether he intended to or not, beat me to the punch in articulating the beauty of LOST. As my friend Michael Arbeiter writes in his fantastic article, “How ‘This is 40’ Proves That the ‘Lost’ Finale Was Perfect” (analyzing the placement of the series in the film as a major plot point for the daughter character Sadie), “We will always be wanting for answers, certainties, a semblance of meaning. But what we can, and should, direct our attention to is the importance of the people around us. The love we feel for them, the substance they have brought to our lives. Each relationship we have is unique, and for better or for worse, a contributing factor to who we are. The people around us are what matter most, and that is what Lost, and its newest supporting camper Sadie, understand.”*
For those who have sided with Team Jacob for the past two years, for those who appreciated what Damon, Carlton, and company were going for with their beautiful (if flawed) final season, this analysis of the series (which Apatow managed to contextualize in his film) has acted as a polemic for us. For myself, there have always been very specific reasons I loved LOST, flaws and all—reasons I have never felt shame about defending even as the camp who HATED the finale continued to give me gruff since May 2010.
And the thing is, I never blamed the other side one bit for hating it. Never. How could I? LOST, above all, demands an extremely personal viewing relationship. You cannot simply play it in the background while you surf the internet or make dinner. No, you must be paying attention to every frame, every nuance of performance, every hint, and every clue. You are enthralled in the mystery, emotionally enraptured by the character drama.
And when Jack closed his eye for the last time two years ago, if you didn’t feel that the show adequately resolved itself to YOUR expectations… well, of course you were going to be pissed. See, LOST was unlike any other show that came before it (and I honestly believe there won’t be another like it for a long time). And for those who were let down the finale, they felt intimately betrayed.. almost like being stabbed by a brother, (brotha).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up and ask one very, very important question (I know you’re already saying, ‘GOD DAMMIT, ZACH. NO MORE MYSTERIES! WE WANT THE ANSWERS THE SHOW NEVER GAVE US!’).
What was LOST?
I’m not being cute or facetious. Quite literally, what was this show? A Lord of The Flies-esque island drama? An emotionally driven character study of flawed and broken people attempting to let go of their past sins and mistakes? Mythology driven science-fiction featuring smoke monsters, time travel, and a hippie scientific community trying to save the world? Romance? Comedy? Action-Adventure?
At it’s best, when LOST was firing on all cylinders, it was a marriage of all these elements. However, as the series progressed and the end game became more apparent, a divide grew amongst fans. And that divide pretty much dictated how you felt about the series finale and the ending to the show in general. If you were still watching by the end because you wanted to feel the catharsis of these characters finally achieving their destiny and learning to let go of their past lives, then the finale probably worked for you. Hell, you probably cried.
If, however, you felt the show (especially in it’s middle seasons) built up this incredibly dense mythology and that the finale did not do service in reconciling all the island mysteries, then you were probably let down. Making no bones about it, the island itself sort of feels like an after thought at times in the finale, especially after Jack defeats The Man In Black. Maybe you wanted one last explanation of island magic. After all, The Island was introduced as a character in and of itself in the first season (it’s telling that I can’t write it out without capitalizing its’ name). I’m sure, for many, the fact that this ‘sideways’ universe was, in a way, granted more importance than the island in the last episode did not sit well.
For me, however, that’s part of the beauty of the finale and the series as a whole. As Jacob tells the remaining Candidates, Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and Hurley in the series’ penultimate episode, What They Died For, ‘You were all flawed. I chose you because you were like me. You were all alone. You were all looking for something that you couldn’t find out there. I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.’
They needed the island, but by greater extension, they needed each other. The Flash-Sideways, this reality they willed into existence so they wouldn’t have to die alone, is a reflection of ‘the most important part of their lives’ — the time these people spent together on the island. If it weren’t for the island, these people never would have met one another.
And if they never met each other, they would have never been redeemed through the shared community they found. They would have died alone.
So what’s the purpose of this retrospective rewatch of the series? For starters, I have not watched LOST from beginning to end in succession through the lens of the series finale. Fair warning, this retrospective is not for the uninitiated, as I’m sure you’ve gathered from the numerous spoilers in this entry. No, this is for the people who have already weathered the series. What I’m going to attempt to do is contextualize every episode through the final season and last episode. If the Flash-Sideways universe is a reflection of the experiences the characters’ shared on the island, perhaps I can shed greater light on why I felt that it was a perfect coda for the show by going back to the beginning.
For those who loved and have continued to love the show, this retrospective will hope to provide even greater understanding of the series. For those who hated and have continued to hate the show… I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m not saying your opinion is wrong. But if you want to take another look at the series from another point of view, this is your chance. Who knows? Perhaps you will enjoy it more in seeing this mosaic of a show in its proper perspective.
As I wrote earlier, LOST demands a very personal viewing relationship. And if you know me, you know how personal of a relationship I have with this show (only thing that comes close to rivaling it is Boy Meets World). Do I think it is as great of an accomplishment as say, The Wire or Mad Men? No. Those are simply greater works of television. But LOST was MY show.
And to tell you the truth, I’m kind of scared as hell to revisit the series.
I watched the show at a very specific time in my life when I really needed it. I too felt lost as Jack or Sawyer or Locke or Sayid as I came out of my adolescence and came into college. I had very low self-esteem and did not know where I fit it in the world amongst people. LOST provided me an array of characters all paralyzed by their past, all unable or unwilling to let go. From The Pilot, this is what grabbed me. It was these people, these characters. I was scared alongside them when something popped out of the jungle. I laughed alongside them when Hurley built a golf course. I cried with Shannon when Boone died. I rejoiced with Desmond when he finally made contact with Penny. I shared Jack’s pain and anguish when he felt he HAD to go back… even if he didn’t fully understand why quite yet.
I’m not saying LOST erased all the baggage I carried with me over the years. As much as I love storytelling and film and television, I’m not naïve enough to think that one particular work can reconcile all your problems. It certainly helped me though some difficult times though. It felt like the show was especially made for me, as I’m sure many others who watched felt the show was especially made for them.
And that’s why I’m afraid to rewatch it all. What if it doesn’t hold up? What if some of the storylines that were already flawed and kind of pointless the first time around only stick out further this time? What if it does not have the same magic and the same emotion? What if I had built it up to be something greater than it ever deserved to be?
These are questions I’m concerned with. But like Jack Shephard by the end of the series and John Locke before him, I have faith. I have faith that the show will hold up and that, by rewatching it through the lens of the finale, will only become more emotionally rich and rewarding. I will be viewing the incredible Pilot episode today and should have a write-up done by tonight. A little Christmas present for all you LOST fans out there.
And so, I leave you with a quote from the finale, The End. I want you to remember this quote. I want it to be ingrained in your mind as you read or watch along. It is a quote through which I will be analyzing every episode, scene, beat, and line of dialogue from here on out. It is, in a way, another polemic— a mission statement of how to watch the series:
“This is the place that you all made together, so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life, was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you… To remember and to let go.”
Time to let go.
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