RPowell (rpowell) wrote,

"LOST": A Retrospective

I wrote this article on the "LOST" series finale, (6.17-6.18) "The End" and the series as a whole:

”LOST”: A Retrospective

Two days have passed since ABC aired the series finale of ”LOST”. I have been reading a great deal of articles and Internet posts praising both (6.17-6.18) “The End” and the series as a whole. And there have been Internet posts that have criticized both. I have to say that my opinion stands somewhere in between.

I will not deny that I have enjoyed ”LOST”, since I first began to watch the series during the fall of 2005. I realize that the series had premiered a year earlier, but I had ignored its first season. While watching Season Two on television, I rented the Season One DVD box set from Netflix and watched it at the same time. I became hooked on the show. I cannot deny it. However, by the time episodes like (2.13) “The Long Con” and (2.14) “One of Them” aired, I began to wonder if ”LOST” was really just as good as I had originally assumed.

Then my opinion of the series took a nosedive during early Season Three – the period in which three of the major characters; Jack Shephard, Kate Austen and James “Sawyer” Ford; found themselves prisoners of the island’s inhabitants, the Others. Frankly, I thought it was a poorly conceived story arc. For the next two or three seasons, I found myself flip-flopping on my opinion of the series. After the Season Four finale, (4.13-4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” aired, I realized that I would never consider ”LOST” to be a perfect or near perfect series. In fact, I would never even consider it to be one of my top ten (10) favorite television series of all time.

As for ”The End”, it was not bad as far as finales go. There seemed to be plenty of action, poignant moments and excellent acting. I even found myself crying during scenes in the Sideways dimension that featured James "Sawyer" Ford and Juliet Burke’s reunion, along with the reunion between Sayid Jarrah and Shannon Rutherford. And at first, I even found myself about to cry when many of the Oceanic Flight 815 passengers had their afterlife reunion in that church. But when I realized that certain characters were missing in that scene, my tears ceased. Rather fast.

What happened to Michael Dawson and his son, Walt Lloyd? According to the episode, (6.12) “Everybody Loves Hugo”, Michael’s soul remained stuck on the island, because he thought he was in Purgatory for his actions. Unfortunately, producers Damon Lindehof and Carlton Cuse have made it clear that the island was not Purgatory. According to Wikipedia site, Michael’s soul remained stuck on the island, because he had died there. So had Boone Carlyle, Shannon Rutherford, Juliet Burke, Ana-Lucia Cortez, Libby Smith, Mr. Eko, Charlie Pace and even the series lead, Jack Shephard. Sayid Jarrah, Jin Kwon and Sun Paik had all died aboard Charles Widmore’s submarine, not far from the island. Hell, they were a lot closer to the island than Michael, when he died aboard the freighter, the S.S. Kahana. Yet all of them, aside from Mr. Eko, were seen that church in the afterlife. There was no sign of Michael. Some fans claimed that Michael was being punished for murdering Ana-Lucia Cortez and Libby Smith. Yet Charlie, Sawyer, Kate Austen, Juliet, Sayid, John Locke, and Mr. Eko have all been guilty of murder. Both Shannon and Jack were guilty of attempting to murder fellow castaway, Locke. Why were they not punished? Sun, Jin, Sayid and Hurley have all forgiven Michael. Why was he still being punished? Some fans claimed that Michael had not moved on. ”There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” claimed otherwise. Michael seemed to finally be at peace with himself and his upcoming death, due to his actions aboard the freighter. And where was Walt? Some fans claimed that the actor who had portrayed him, Malcolm David Kelley, was too old and too tall to portray him. In the afterlife church? Why not? They were in the fucking afterlife! There was no need for Walt to look like the same 10 year-old that he was during the series’ first season.

And where were Ana-Lucia Cortez and Mr. Eko? Why were they not in that church scene? Both had made connections with the other Losties. They had certainly made connections with Bernard Nadler and Libby, who were in that final scene. What happened to them? Fans of ”LOST” know that Mr. Eko was killed by the Man In Black aka the Smoke Monster in (3.05) “The Cost of Living”. Why? Apparently, Mr. Eko had failed to express any remorse for his more questionable actions. This made no sense to me, considering that Eko had expressed remorse and guilt over the death of his brother, Yemi. He had also expressed remorse for killing two of the Others during the castaways’ first night on the island, when the Others tried to kidnapped. I believe that Cuse and Lindehof needed a quick excuse to kill Eko, because the actor portraying him - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – had asked to be written out of the series in order to deal with his parents’ deaths. Ana-Lucia experienced two epiphanies about herself in Season Two. In (2.16) “The Whole Truth”, she said the following to Sayid before apologizing to him for the accidental killing of Shannon Rutherford:

”Yeah, I can't sleep. People don't like me. I tried to get them to most of my life. I guess I just gave up a while back. I mean, I am what I am. But you -- you've got a good reason to hate me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I did.”

Sayid eventually forgave her. But he never forgave the Others for harassing Ana-Lucia and the surviving Tail Section passengers during their first 48 days on the island. And in (2.20) “Two For the Road”, Ben tried to escape by killing Ana-Lucia. Locke came to her rescue. Then Ana set out to retaliate by killing Ben herself. She even went as far as to seduce Sawyer – the Lostaways’ “sheriff” - in order to acquire a pistol. In the end, Ana-Lucia realized that she had enough of indulging in her penchant for vindictive behavior:

” He tried to kill me today, so I wanted him dead. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even kill him. I looked at him and he -- I can't do this anymore.”

This is more than some of the other regular characters have ever achieved as far as development goes – and that includes Charlie, Sawyer, Locke and Shannon. At least Charlie had sacrificed himself to warn his fellow castaways about the threat from the S.S. Kahuna. And Shannon received some kind of reassurance from Sayid that she was not worthless. But Locke was in a state of despair when Ben murdered him in (5.07) "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham". And Sawyer has never acknowledged or expressed remorse for any of his crimes, mistakes or personal flaws. And yet, viewers were led to believe that these two were ready for the afterlife inside that church. But according to Sideways Desmond in (6.16) “What They Died For”, Ana-Lucia “was not ready”. The two producers gave a reason why:

Lindelof: Well, all we can say is that in "Happily Ever After," when Desmond confronted Eloise Hawking and he wanted to know why she wouldn't reveal to him why Penny's name was on this guest list, she said to him that he should stop asking these questions, because he wasn't ready. So that was the other time we heard that word. Ready for what exactly...?

Cuse: It's meant to be an intriguing clue that you are right to be pondering.

In other words, they really had no clear reason why Ana-Lucia was not ready to get over her baggage. They had ignored her epiphanies in episodes like ”The Whole Truth” and ”Two For the Road” FOR NOTHING. The ironic thing about this whole matter is that Ana-Lucia, Mr. Eko and Michael were all condemned in the afterlife, either because of their crimes or in the case of Ana-Lucia, her unpopularity with the fans. Other ”LOST” characters who were flawed or had committed terrible crimes managed to evade this fate. Apparently, Cuse and Lindehof were never really interested in allowing the major characters to face the consequences of their flaws or crimes – unless said character failed to live up to the image of the ideal female or were black men.

This vague form of storytelling has plagued the series for a long time. One example of this centered on a con job that Sawyer had pulled on Jack, John Locke and the rest of the castaways for control of the guns in Season Two’s (2.13) “The Long Con” with Charlie’s help – an act that led to Charlie physically attacking Sun. Why did he do this? Because Jack had invaded his tent to take a bottle of aspirin that Sawyer had pilfered not long after the plane crash. And where did this storyline go? Both Sun and Jin discovered that Sawyer and Charlie had been behind her attack in Season Three. Charlie apologized and Sun slapped Sawyer in retaliation. In other words, this storyline went no where.

Season Three also featured a storyline that I had briefly mentioned earlier – Jack, Kate and Sawyer’s captivity by the Others. This particular storyline began with three incidents in three different episodes – Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by the Others in Season One’s (1.24-1.25) “Exodus: Part Two”; the capture of the Others’ leader, Ben Linus in Season Two’s (2.14) “One of Them”; and the Others’ capture of the three castaways and Hugo Reyes in (2.23-2.24) “Live Together, Die Alone”. For thirteen to fourteen episodes of Season Three, viewers had to endure a very convoluted storyline that centered around Ben Linus’ attempts to coerce Jack into operating on his spinal tumor. Both Lindehof and Cuse were asked why they had created this storyline in the first place. People have pointed out that Ben could have easily offered the castaways food and transportation off the island in exchange for Jack performing the surgery within days of Oceanic Flight 815’s crash. Lindehof and Cuse admitted this, but claimed they included the storyline to add one more mystery to the series’ storyline. When I had read this, I found myself both astonished and somewhat disgusted.

And I have never understood how the Man in Black became a mortal in "The End". How was that possible? His own body was placed inside one of the island's caves by Jacob. And his essence never took possession of John Locke's body, following the return of the latter to the island. His essence only assumed the dead man's form. The discovery of the real Locke's body in (5.16-5.17) "The Incident" made that perfectly clear. There was no way he should have become mortal in Locke's form, when Jack and Desmond uncorked the island's energy (or whatever the hell it was). I suspect this particular plot arc may have been an example of contrived writing in order to extend the finale's running time.

There were other storylines and characters that went nowhere:

*Libby Smith – one of the Tail Section passengers that survived the crash. She had a brief romance with Hurley in mid-Season Two, before Michael killed her in ”Two For the Road”. Libby was the only regular character in the entire series that never had a centric episode. Never. She did appear in one of Hurley’s centric episodes - (2.18) “Dave” - as a fellow patient at the Santa Rosa Mental Institution. If one thinks about it, Libby mainly served as Hurley’s dream girl/love interest. And the sad thing is that nearly five years after her character was introduced, nothing much is known about her. In fact, the only reason she ended up in that afterlife church was due to her role as Hurley’s girlfriend.

* (5.04) “The Little Prince” outrigger attacks – In this particular episode, castaways Sawyer, Juliet, Locke, Miles, Daniel and Charlotte were traveling by water to the island’s Orchid Station when someone or a group of unknown people began shooting at them. Considering that they had been traveling through time, many fans wondered if the identities of the attackers would be revealed in Season Six. They never were. Cuse and Lindehof made it clear that some of the series’ mysteries would remain unanswered. This turned out to be another example of sloppy writing.

*Claire Littleton’s abandonment of her son Aaron in (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home” - The series never gave a clear answer as to why Claire had abandoned Aaron, following Martin Keamy’s attack upon Otherton in (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”. Viewers know that the Man in Black – in the guise of Claire and Jack’s father, Christian Shephard, had lured her into the jungle, and later told her that the Others had taken Aaron. But why did she abandon him? The series never gave a clear answer.

*The Others Test Walt Lloyd – Why did the Others kidnap Walt? How did they even know he was special? Jacob could have never told Ben. The latter had not been in contact with Jacob. Others spy Ethan Rom could not have known. None of the other castaways were aware of Walt’s abilities, except for Locke. The Others spy, Ethan Rom, seemed more interested in Claire's pregnant state. And Walt never displayed an overt example of his abilities. So, how did Ben find out about Walt? What tests did Walt have to indure as a captive of the Others?

*The Tail Section Passengers Kidnappings - Why did the Others take most of the Tail Section passengers in (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”? Why did they take Oceanic flight attendant Cindy Chandler?

*Cindy Chandler’s Whereabouts – What happened to Cindy and the two Tail Section kids under her care – Zach and Emma? Had they been killed by Charles Widmore’s mortar attack of the main island in (6.13) “The Last Recruit”? Or had they been among the survivors that scattered into the jungle? Did Hurley and Ben ever find them?

I could go on about the numerous mysteries that plagued the series. However, ”LOST” was also plagued by other problems. For a series that is an Emmy winner and highly regarded by television viewers and critics, it possessed a good deal of bad writing. Aside from my complaints about the church scene in ”The End”, I can think of a few:

*Daniel Faraday’s Accent - Why did Daniel have an American accent? He had lived in England as a child, attended Oxford University and both of his parents (Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore) were English.

*Kate Austen – I feel sorry for Evangeline Lilly. Her character, fugitive Kate Austen, has been plagued by a great deal of bad writing during the series’ six season. Mediocre and questionable episodes like (1.12) “Whatever the Case May Be”, (3.06) “I Do”, ”The Little Prince”, (3.15) “Left Behind” and especially (4.04) “Eggtown” marred her character development. Her criminal trial featured in ”Eggtown” was probably her worst storyline. In fact, I would call it a travesty in legal fiction. Her lie about being Aaron Littleton’s mother struck me as inconceivable. And the fact that Oceanic Airlines and the authorities actually bought it struck me as even more idiotic, considering there was no way Kate could have been six months pregnant when she boarded Flight 815 in Australia. The Australian law enforcement and airport security cameras could have easily disputed her lie. But Cuse and Lindehof led many viewers to believe that such a stupid lie was actually plausible.

*Jack Shephard’s Tattoos – One of the worst episodes of the series, (3.09) “Stranger in a Strange Land”, revealed Jack Shephard’s trip to Thailand following his divorce. In the episode, he acquired a tattoo from his lover, a local Thai woman named Achara. One, I never understood why she wrote the tattoo in Chinese, instead of Thai. And why did Cuse and Lindehof include this horrible episode in the first place?

*Jack’s Appendicitis – What was the purpose of Jack suffering from a sudden case of appendicitis in ”Something Nice Back Home”? Many fans had focused heavily upon Rose Nadler’s hint that Jack was being punished for trying to get off the island. But when one considers Jacob’s comments in (6.16) "What They Died For" that the castaways always had a choice to stay or leave the island, the idea of Jack being “punished” did not make any sense. So, what was the purpose behind the case of appendicitis?

*Miles Straume – Do not get me wrong. I have always liked the character of Miles. I have also enjoyed actor Ken Leung’s acting style. But looking back on Miles’ character arc, I realized that Cuse, Lindehof and their staff of writers have never really done anything with him, since his debut in (4.02) “Confirmed Dead”. One episode, (5.13) "Some Like It Hoth" revealed that he was the son of Dr. Pierre Chang, one of the Dharma Initiative scientists and had been born on the island. His ability to sense and communicate with the dead could have allowed the writers to use him as a means for Claire to remember how she had left Aaron behind in ”Something Nice Back Home”. But this potential use for Miles’ character was never utilized. It is a miracle that he had survived long enough to finally leave the island in the finale. Considering that he had managed to form close ties with both Sawyer and Hurley, I never understood why his character did not appear in that final church scene in the afterlife.

*Penny Widmore and Nadia Jazeem in the Afterlife – Why was Penny in that church scene in ”The End”? She had no close ties with any of the Losties, aside from Desmond. Yet, she was there. However, Nadia Jazeem, who was the love of Sayid Jarrah’s life, was not in the church scene. Why?

If I must be frank, ”LOST” has too many flaws – bad characterizations and hanging plotlines – for me to write about in detail. Judging from the article so far, one would think that I have nothing but contempt for the series. I assure you, I do not. ”LOST” had its virtues. One of those virtues turned out to be the cast of actors – regular, supporting or otherwise - that have appeared on the show. Superb performances by the likes of Matthew Fox (who has portrayed one of the most complex leading men in television history), Terry O’Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Michael Emerson, Harold Perrineau, Yunjin Kim, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Daniel Dae Kim and Dominic Monaghan really made this series worth watching. Actors such as Josh Holloway, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Grace, Naveen Andrews, Michelle Rodriguez, Jorge Garcia, John Terry and Ken Leung also gave pretty good performances. I must admit that I had held a low opinion of Evangeline Lilly’s acting skills for several years. But I feel that she has done an excellent job of improving her skills – especially during the last two seasons. But the performances that really stood out for me belonged to Matthew Fox in episodes such as (1.11) “All Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”, ”Through the Looking Glass”, ”Something Nice Back Home”, ”The Last Recruit” and ”The End”; Terry O’Quinn in (1.04) “Walkabout”, (2.17) “Lockdown”, ”The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” and (6.06) “Sundown”; Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in (2.10) “The 23rd Psalms”; Michelle Rodriguez in ”The Other 48 Days” and "The Whole Truth"; Elizabeth Mitchell in ”(3.07) “Not in Portland”, (3.16) “One of Us” and (5.08) “La Fleur”; Josh Holloway in ”La Fleur”; Harold Perrineau in ”Exodus: Part II” and (4.08) “Meet Kevin Johnson”; Yunjin Kim in (1.06) “House of the Rising Sun”, (3.18) “D.O.C.”, ”There’s No Place Like Home, Part II" and (6.14) "The Candidate"; and Daniel Dae Kim in "House of the Rising Sun", (1.17) ". . . In Translation", "The Whole Truth", (5.05) "This Place Is Death" and "The Candidate".

And there were story arcs that I found very impressive – the introduction of the Tail Section survivors in early Season Two, especially in the ”The Other 48 Days” episode; the last five or six episodes of Season Three that led to Jack’s contact of Naomi’s colleagues aboard the Kahuna; Season One’s first eight episodes – excluding (1.07) “The Moth”; the last nine or ten episodes of Season Four; and the adventures of Sawyer, Juliet, Locke and other time traveling survivors on the island in Season Five. I wish I could include ”The End”, but as I had made clear, I have mixed views of that episode. The only finales I really enjoyed were Season One’s ”Exodus” and Season Three’s ”Through the Looking Glass”, which I especially found outstanding.

In the end, I guess I can say that I had enjoyed the six seasons of ”LOST”. Do I consider it to be a cultural phenomenon? Of course. Regardless of my personal opinion of the series, I cannot deny that. Was it a good television series? Yes. It was basically an interesting series with an original premise and a cast of talented actors. Would I consider it to be an outstanding series . . . or view it as one of the best in television series? No. Not on your life. Despite its virtues, ”LOST” has too many flaws. There is not a single television series I would consider flawless. But as I had previously stated, ”LOST” has too many flaws for me to ever consider it as great. The next time Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof decide to create a television series with continuing story lines, I would suggest that they acquire a few lessons from the likes of J. Michael Straczynski, Joss Whedon and Matthew Weiner on how to create and write such a series. They truly need those lessons.
Tags: adetokumboh m'cormack, adewale akinnuoye-agbaje, alan dale, disney, dominic monaghan, elizabeth mitchell, evangeline lilly, harold perrineau, j.j. abrams, jorge garcia, josh holloway, ken leung, l. scott caldwell, lost, m.c. gainey, maggie grace, matthew fox, michael emerson, michelle rodriguez, mira furlan, naveen andrews, nestor carbonell, rebecca mader, television, terry o'quinn, zuleikha robinson
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