Lost review: ‘What They Died For’

Ben Linus
Benjamin Linus: liar, manipulator, killer … and one of the possible heroes of the island? We will see.

Spoilers follow for Lost’s “What They Died For.”

We are in the final leg of the final chapter, folks. “What They Died For” nicely sets up the series finale of Lost in pure Lostian fashion. Which is to say: It answers a number of questions, but maintains a level of mystery and suspense by not giving away the game and setting up one last mystery. It unleashes a final cut-to-black revelation that will have you pondering its exact meaning. Smokey wants to destroy the island, and use Desmond to do it? Whoa. How? Why?

But until the finale (tomorrow, as I hastily prepare this surface-scratching review), we have a few conclusions supplied here.

We know who the replacement for Jacob will be (at least it sure seems like we do).

We know whose side Widmore was actually on (at least it sure seems like we know).

More characters are snuffed out (though I’m not necessrily counting Richard among them), meaning the endgame’s avenues of possible travel are reduced in number. At least one old score is settled, and the episode’s biggest character question seems to be: Just how much of a villain is Benjamin Linus? He’s a liar and deceiver of epic proportions, no doubt, and yet he’s a real wild card. His role in the finale may very well be to bring Smokey down while pretending to be his ally.

After “Dr. Linus,” where we really seemed to get a window into this guy’s soul, watching him here carry out the ultimate crime of opportunity — killing Widmore — was shocking while at the same time making perfect sense. This was a score that absolutely needed to be settled, and even if Widmore may have seen the light and returned to the island to do the right thing, that doesn’t erase the past and all the horrible things that happened after Widmore sent that nutjob Keamy and his mercs to the island on that freighter.

Michael Emerson has been one of the great treasures unearthed by Lost, and it was great to see Ben in full-on liar-and-killer mode here. You can never be completely sure what this guy is going to do from moment to moment, and yet because of how the character is written and performed, his actions make a demented sort of sense from his point of view. Even as he does terrible things, you find yourself sympathizing with Ben. (Look no further than the sideways timeline of this episode, where the goodness and kindness of this man, under different circumstances, is beyond evident.)

Ben’s alliance with Smokey is in keeping with Ben’s arc, too. Here’s a man who has always wanted to be head honcho of the island, and Smokey’s deal essentially gives him that opportunity. It will be interesting to see if what happens in the finale — which seems to be heading toward a major war between the proxy forces of Jacob and MIB — will ultimately come down to a choice by Ben, and what that choice will mean for everyone involved. For now, Ben and Smokey may be allies, but I’m not sure I see that lasting.

The underlying theme of “What They Died For” is choice. Jacob, as seen last week in “Across the Sea,” was never given a real choice. His “mother” presented him the illusion of a choice that was actually the ultimate coerced non-choice. So, Jacob, who is resurrected here long enough to supply the remaining candidates with the information they need about why they have been through everything they have on this island, and why and from whom it needs to be protected, explains that someone will have to stand up and choose to take Jacob’s place.

As hinted at weeks ago by Sayid just before he exploded, it’s going to be Jack. That is presuming, of course, Jack survives the coming war and the twists and turns of the finale don’t put everything that’s on the table here up for grabs yet again (which, let’s face it, is always a possibility on Lost). If it does end up being Jack, then it’s been a heck of a journey for this man, who started the series as the hero before becoming a knee-jerk-responder who made as many bad decisions as good ones, the turned into a passive element and a broken man.

Then, of course, there’s the sideways timeline. I enjoyed the hell out of seeing Desmond putting the Flight 815 band back together, like this was some sort of Lost version of The Blues Brothers. One common criticism of this season (and a feeling that I couldn’t shake myself at times), was that the writers seemed to take an awfully long time setting up all of the characters in the sideways timeline. But you see here that all of that laid groundwork was necessary and pays off here. The pieces are being moved quickly into place now by Desmond, his master plan, and all of his recruited allies.

To do what, I have no idea. Will the sideways timeline be erased, altered, combined with the island timeline in some way? Will memories or awareness cross over into the island timeline, or vice versa? Or will both timelines survive in some way? How will this all tie in with the final battle for the island and Smokey’s plan to use Desmond to destroy it?

Should be one hell of a mind-bending finale.

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15 comments on this post

Jammer
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 2:45 pm (UTC -6)

I didn’t even get into the various roles of other characters in the sideways timeline, most notably, Locke.

Please discuss.

David
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 8:18 pm (UTC -6)

This was a slight bit more interesting and entertaining than last week about a 2.5 star average episode maybe a hair above average–mostly just set up and getting everyone into place but LOST used to do that with a bit more panache than here. Still not as exciting as the first act of previous 3 part finales for the show but not bad just not riveting which has pretty much been the case all season long.

The fallout from the deaths of Jin/Sun:appropriate reactions from all the cast–necessary scene but it just did not resonate. I wasn’t emotionally invested like I should have. This series just doesn’t spend enough time on this kind of stuff. It is treated like just one plot point in sea of plot points and not given its own adequate spotlight like you would expect in a traditional drama–these days it is all about cramming as much into an hour as possible. A regular LOST episode each week feels like it has at least 1.5 hours worth if not 2 of material. I’m not complaining since that is the format and style but it makes it hard to really get into it when it just is a slight glance.

Things picked up a bit with Miles/Ben/Richard running into the lone survivors from the assault on hydra–Widmore and Zoe. This looked interesting since this is the first time Ben learns Widmore, his mortal enemy, had succeeded in returning to the island since he was exiled in ’92 and the last time both had come face-to-face in the flashforward in The “Shape of Things to Come”. This is also the first time since Ben made an attempt on Penny’s life the two have had any interaction.

I expected Widmore, Eloise, Hanso, Dharma to have played more of a role this season. Widmore was just a distant mysterious figure in season 4 but with season 5 he became much more interesting and this season just wasted him. We had barely scratched the surface last season. It now looks like Eloise won’t be making any more appearances either.

We’ll never learn why Widmore wanted Ben to take Alex as a child and kill her? Was he acting on his own or Jacob ordering it? Ben in “Cabin Fever” said Widmore ordered the Purge but why? Surely after the Incidnt in 77 that would have been more than enough reason to slaughter them? Did Richard befriend Ben at the behest of Jacob or acting on his own? Last season when he told Widmore he was taking injured Ben to the Temple to be cured he said Jacob said so but Richard’s expression didn’t exactly suggest that was true. What did Sawyer whisper to Richard in “La Fleur” to convince him to back down with Dharma? Why did Dharma build the village on top of the ruins? So I guess the whole summoning with the water drain was all Smokey’s idea to Ben in “Dead is Dead” but offscreen as part of his elaborate ruse.

See I wanted this stuff cleared up a bit. We never learned who was the Man who was in charge of the Lamp Post and finding the island? Or what the US military was doing on the island in the 50s? Was it to them just a proving ground for nukes? What about Alvar Hanso? Dharma? Ann Arbor mentioned last season? Why did they demand Paul’s body last season after Amy’s run in and shotting of Others?

Also Ben’s attitude change I could buy with regards to Widmore given how he always held him responsible for Alex’s death but why so willing to kill everyone else?

I also can say I’m not that excited to find out about who alt Jack’s baby mamma is who we should meet next week at the recital.

Richard buried Alex. I guess he was the one who buried Karl and Rousseau following Keamey’s attack on them in Season 4–I always wondered about that when Miles came across that spot back in season 4–Keamey didn’t strike me as the type to take the time to give his victims a proper burial.

One of the questions I had was answered about how Widmore was able to find the island after failing so many times before. I had a feeling he was either working with Jacob or Smokey–turns out it was Jacob who visited him like Ilana and allowed him to return to the island and be able to locate it. So he saw this coming for some time. I can definitely buy this is a case of strange bedfellows having shared interests–in this case stopping Smokey who supposedly threatens all life on the planet.

I wonder if Smokey killed Richard. Richard can be killed just not by his own hand. If so, chalk it up as another abrupt blink of an eye death along with Zoe and Widmore–characters are being treated like Plot Cannon Fodder these days by the writers but who killed those people Sawyer ran arcoss in “Recon”? Widmore? Was Zoe lying?

Locke sure recovered quickly after his hit and run returning to teaching so soon. Maybe more time has passed than I thought.

Really interesting scene with the four survivors and Jacob. Like the way Jacob was a substitute for the writers. I really expected “Across the Sea” and this episode to clear things up because all season Jacob’s plan and his motives have been at best murky and the whole exposition scene tonight just made things muddier than clarifying anything I thought.

The way Jacob made it sound was that it really didn’t matter who was the Protector–Kate was marked off but that really didn’t matter-“you want the job it is yours”. So it seems like this whole social experiment to weed out people was pointless. If there is no criteria which seems to be the case just look at how Jacob got the job then he didn’t need to bring everyone here and he could have saved Jin/Sun and everyone else that died. I bought him staying out of things as he was portrayed as a detached observer only concerned with a replacement and if you failed whatever test he was using to mark you off the list he didn’t care what happened to you but this episode seems to rewrite him as more emotionally involved and if so he should have intervened like with stopping the detonation on the sub like he did with the TNT at Black Rock. It seems the rules are extremely abitrary. It also wasn’t clear how a Protector quits. If you are an immortal you can always be the Protector. The impression I got from Jacob and Mother was they were tired of being Protectors and just wanted to die.

But it was totally consistent that Jack would spare everyone else in the group the difficult decision to become Protector and volunteer himself. And going back to season one with his refrain of Live Together, Die Alone I definitely see the remaining survivors staying with him as his form of the Others. Also Jack always struggled with saving everybody and now as Protector he has the weight of all life on his shoulders.

Jack is the New Protector like I said last week so new Others the rest of the survivors. The Light hasn’t gone out like some thought had happened last week. The New Protector must protect it from Smokey. This paves the way for us to finally see the Light Cave in all its glory next season. Continuity from last week with the way Jack became the protector but still don’t like the hocus-pocus aspect of it–it is not technobabble but magicbabble.

There is Ana Lucia making nothing more than a cameo. I enjoyed seeing Mira Furlan again and not as a stark raving mad woman but instead someone capable of being nice to Ben rather than carting him around on a leash.All the alternate players are coming together.

Last bit of set-up. Des failsafe? How? How is this going to work. Are we going to learn about the ancient civilization, who built everything here. Will we get an Ilana/Jacob history lesson following up on his visit to her depicted in season finale last year or do we just fill it in ourselves as just one more person he contracts shit out to?

I’ve said it a thousand times–if writers like Ron Moore, Tim Kring or Lindeloff/Cuse don’t want to be saddled with a complicated mythology there is a simple solution–do not include it. Just do their pure character-driven show.

L/C want to say that this show is a story about the 815 passengers but the mysteries, questions, mythology was a significant focus of the series and as a viewer if I’m led to believe that the writers are giving it a 100% and it isn’t there as a MacGuffin and I spend time on it it better go somewhere…..and it did up to a point–Seasons 3-5 was heavily Plot/Mythology. You can’t watch those episodes and not see a ton of nothing but exposition, character reactions, twists, cliffhangers, dovetailing threads, insight into Widmore, Ben, Eloise, Dharma, freighter folk, Temples, time travel, timelines, history of when Juliet came or the Purge occurred or when Ben was born or the name of the Dharma sub or seeing backs of statues or islands disappearing or wheels being turned or how do they become the Oceanic Six or what is Michael up to on the freighter etc etc etc.

The character stuff is there but in a secondary way. It was about advancing plot, getting people into place. And with the brilliant way they did so in the last three seasons pulling together a myriad of seemingly disconnected pieces from four seasons and tying them together in surprising but in hindsight very plausible ways. I mean they even addressed how Dharma located the island and I thought that would never be addressed so it gave me hope the writers would continue like they had been to continue to check off questions *they* raised and continue to have stuff be tied off in the elegant style of S3-5.

So if they want to do character stuff I’m not certain this was the best venue for it. With so much going on LoST never really had the opportunity to give depth to a lot of things character-wise. We got a tiny sliver but not the kind of development that a series with fewer characters and storylines would get.

Sun/Jin’s deaths had no build up, their deaths were plot points as was Sayid’s. What character arc did Claire have or Sayid? Apparently according to L/C the whole point of evil Sayid was to say if he is told he is a good guy he is.
What was so riveting about Kate? Jin? Hurley? this season.

S3-5 demonstrated how you could go about addressing questions in interesting and natural ways that are an organic outgrowth of the story being told. I don’t see why this couldn’t happen here. I’d rather have focused on these other things than what we got this season with the boring alternate flashes and the drawn out scenes week after week of Smokey assembling his team or the dull time at the Temple with the most boring Others we’ve ever encountered

And as far as building to a big conflict–the way the build up has been handled by L/C this season hasn’t been very exciting or graceful. They just stumbled into the finale with the idea Smokey is going to destroy the island. Compare that to how it was handled with the excitement in season four surrounding the Six leaving and the assault on the island by Keamey’s commandos. Or season five with all the chaos falling around them.

I thought this season’s crisis/threat has been a little underwhelming and hasn’t really delivered on convincing me of the high epic stakes despite the suggestion that all life and the very planet itself hangs in the balance. There is just a lack of urgency, tension, suspense to all of the proceedings-it has been a little lethargic truthfully. In the past the first act always ratcheted things up to a fever pitch of excitement but this one just sort of leisurely strolls into the 2 hour finale in a very low-key way. It is odd.

The writers just kept upping the stakes and outdoing themselves over the last 3 previous seasons that I just expected something more. This season just sorta stumbled towards it and then dropped it in our laps. I personally liked the idea of Smokey being the Big Bad of the Final Season. The series over the course of its run kept taking us up the food chain until we came to the head honchos in Jacob and Smokey. I loved how it was revealed MIB was actually “Locke” and then they take it one step further with MIB being Smokey who turns out wasn’t some mindless guard dog of the island but a sentient being who was actually once a human being.

The problem I had was he was built up as Evil Incarnate and except for the first few episodes this season and the season finale last year he hasn’t actually felt that way despite all the carnage. I remember those sinister expressions in the last few episodes of season 5 and it sent a chill up my spine when Ilana’s friend told Frank “something more terrifying than what is in this box. Yes he slaughtered many but it didn’t resonate to me the way the writers wanted.

And that is their right to do–tell the story they want as writers and as a viewer it is my right to criticize or take issue with it. I’m saying I think season 6 could have been better and part of it has to do with the fact that instead of the drawn out storyline we got we could have been treated to another season that pulls together pieces and continued folding things into one another until it all led to the Big Moment 6 years in the making–whatever that is to be.

As writers though don’t let your grasp exceed your reach storywise to where you have all these unused pieces of the story just piled over in the corner and you do nothing with them. In this instance, the story got away from L/C.

I expect when questions are raised they are answered especially when they do have a track record of doing so–just look at S3-5 and what they did answer. So I expected them to continue on that trajectory by adding more questions/mysteries this year and then answering them as the season went on and finish tying up and unifyng everything. They didn’t. How it colors my view of the series overall I probably won’t know for some time as some distance happens between the series ending and the time when I go back and revisit the series.

I didn’t find this season all that well-polished or organized. It seemed to just stumble towards the end.

Don’t blame me for expecting sooooo much more–blame L/C whose high standards of brilliance in S3-5 raised the bar for me as a tv viewer in what I should now expect out of television. This season of LOST was better than just about everything else on tv but it wasn’t as good as it should have been. They got lazy and dropped the ball. Same thing happened after season one of Heroes with Tim Kring. Or seasons 1 and first half of 2 with BSG and Moore. It would seem shows of this ilk burn very very bright but burn out quickly. Although LOST managed to stay on top longer than the other two in terms of quality and having a better final season.

another dangling thread–In season 5 after joining up with DHARMA Jin was assigned the task of mapping out a grid search pattern by Sawyer to locate the other survivors that had traveled through time with them but had not made it to the creek. In fact that was how Jin ran across Jack, Hurley and Kate in “316” yet nothing came of it. I guess we are to assume they were assimilated by the Others or killed but some mention of their fates would have been nice.

AlsoI also forgot to add that in last season’s finale Ilana posed the question to Richard–“What lies in the shadow of the statue?” and his response in Latin–Ille qui nos omnes servabit which means He who shall protect us. Well Richard never could have known personally what lies in the shadow of the statue because his arrival led to the statue’s destruction for the most part so who told him? Jacob? I guess shadow of the statue is broad enough you could argue it is the shadow cast by the remaining portion of it. Anyways I wonder if next week we will see what that means. Is Jack the one who will protect the world from Smokey? And what does lie in the shadow mean? his grave? I figured this season we would see the statue in a flashback where the sun would cast a shadow and voila we’d understand. If it isn’t addressed there is yet another dangling mystery or I guess the writers could argue it was just a code with that answer and has no significant meaning which would be a letdown in my opinion.

And if Richard is dead and dead is dead then we never learned what Richard was suppose to do next according to Ilana via Jacob–get killed by Smokey?!?.

It is ending when it should. An argument I think could be made that it didn’t need 18 episodes this season.

I enjoyed it a great deal over the years but it was a shadow of itself this season. And that is what is so disappointing instead of the way they dragged everything out with essentially filler with all the back and forth between the various groups and locations of the main island and hydra island they could have used those episodes to address these much more interesting issues–

It was just a bunch of scurrying about like mice–Sayid swims to hydra, sayid swims back, Smokey harrasses Sun, Sun hits her head, Sawyer goes to the village, Kate goes with Jin to find him, Jin gets captured by Claire, Sawyer joins Smokey’s camp, Jack goes to Lighthouse with Hurley, Jack & Hurley join up with Ilana’ group, Ilana explodes, Widmore and Smokey stare down each other, Zoe’s group grabs Jin, Smokey throws Des down a well, Sawyer plans to steal the sub and double cross everybody, Claire wants to kill Kate, now they want to hold hands, Sayid is bloodthirsty but not really because he was told he is good so of course that means he is good and then goes Boom!, Jack jumps off a boat, becomes friends with Smokey and saves his life–dumb, Jack non chalantly ditches Claire, Hurley acts like an idiot and blows up the Black Rock etc etc.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it reminds me of and then it dons on me seasons 2/3 of HEROES where it pretends like all of these little things are going to add up to something more but never does. It is just a bunch of random stuff happening to fill a season of tv. The detonation of Jughead in hindsight was a bad idea as it seems to have altered the course of LOST’s writing and transported Elizabeth Mitchell to a crappy tv show in the process. 😆

we never did really get a very good explanation of Claire’s odd behavior–she acted “off” in “Cabin Fever” but she clearly wasn’t like Sayid who died and came back “evil”. I guess they want to argue she went mad in the jungle being isolated but she wasn’t since Smokey was with her some of that time. Then she just seems to snap out of it. I didn’t buy it. It was like the writers had something possibly in mind but then it never went anywhere. They just dropped it.

Then we spent all that time at the Temple and we still don’t know how “Dead is Dead” yet Sayid is alive or why Jacob wanted him to survive or how it messed with Sayid’s good/bad levels . And tying back to this why did Smokey grab Rousseau’s husband and drag him down to temple? Or why he was dragging John back in S1–back then thought maybe John had done something to piss off the island but now that he isn’t an agent of the island what was he going to do? He couldn’t kill him and take his form that would be breaking the RULES

Go back and watch season 4 or 5 and that is what season six should have been like–tons of revelations, fast pace, intriguing mysteries, urgency to the narrative, tying off dangling threads and building to a fever-pitch culminating in an epic payoff. So instead of building on what they had developed in S3-5 they just decided to drag out the season, just burning off episodes to kill time mostly until the series finale. They mismanaged their storytelling and those 13 or so episodes were kinda wasted. This was the 6th and final Act of what has essentially been a 6 ACT Story. This should have been the year they peaked–this should have been their crowning achievement.

I think LOST is the best series to come out of the last decade and one of my all time favorites but that doesn’t change the fact that I really wanted this final season to knock it out of the park. The writers kept outdoing themselves in S3-5 and then to just sort of half-heartedly ride the final season out was surprising and disappointing. It is like seeing a student who has done A+ work before and is capable of so much more just not apply themselves. Maybe they were burnt out from such a sustained period of high creative output heading into this season?

Litg
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 8:05 am (UTC -6)

David,

Reading your entry, I think what may be happening with you is what happened with a lot of people. Once you get invested in certain questions being answered and certain plot points turning out certain ways then when the answers start arriving (or not arriving) you are bound to be at least somewhat disappointed when they aren’t what you expected.

You claim Season 6 has been disappointing. I don’t think it’s been their best season (season 5 wins those honors for me) but I do think that it’s been true to Lost, both in its strengths and its weaknesses. To expect a 5 year old show to finally give up all its idiosyncrasies and become perfection in the final season is, I think, unrealistic. Lost is, this season, what it’s always been, alternately brilliant and frustrating by turns.

One thing I learned while watching BSG heading into the finale was that I shouldn’t have any expectations as to specific events happening specific ways. I’ll be watching Lost tonight the same way. If the show ends in a way that’s true to the characters and to the feel of the show, then I’ll be happy. I was fortunate in that the few guesses I had coming into this season, that MiB and Smokey were one in the same, and that there would need to be a replacement for Jacob and that it would, for a time anyway, be Jack, have both come true. Now I’m trying to think as little on what’s coming as possible, and to just enjoy the ride, and the show, for what it is.

Lizard
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 8:37 am (UTC -6)

@David

I agree with a lot of the things you mention; especially about how BSG, Heroes, and Lost were all stellar during the beginning, and then wandered off track towards the end. Lost is definitely a better show than the others, but this season is missing something. Don’t get me wrong: I have enjoyed this season immensely. It’s like what you said, there are just too many questions and story threads that were not dealt with.

Hopefully though the finale will be THE ultimate ending. I have high hopes, but then I read somewhere that following the show, Jimmy Kimmel will have the writers on and they will show alternate endings. wtf? why would they need alternate endings? That kind of makes me wonder about the confidence the writers have in the ending they chose.

oh well. we will find out soon enough. Maybe they will answer all your questions above?

Adam
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 9:50 am (UTC -6)

From the previous episodes, I had come to the conclusion that there was going to be this great convergence of the different parties (Jack’s, Ben’s, Widmore’s, and Smokey’s) where all hell was going to break loose. Thus the killing of Widmore in such undramatic fashion was a disappointment. Widmore had always represented an intelligent, ruthless, scheming character who was a solid match for Ben. This episode made him look like a bumbling idiot, who apparently never had a good, or perhaps any, plan once he got to the Island.

No one seems to be mentioning Ben wanting to keep a two way radio, while Miles gets the other. Ben always has a backup plan (and backup plans of the backups) so it will be interesting to see how his scheming plays out. Smokey had told him that he could have the Island, but then later tells Ben that he is going to destroy the Island. Doesn’t that take away any incentive for Ben to help Smokey?

The only way that the final will truly payoff for me is if there is some form of highly emotional tragedy (think Shakespeare).

David
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 1:00 pm (UTC -6)

@Litg

You said “You claim Season 6 has been disappointing. I don’t think it’s been their best season (season 5 wins those honors for me) but I do think that it’s been true to Lost, both in its strengths and its weaknesses. To expect a 5 year old show to finally give up all its idiosyncrasies and become perfection in the final season is, I think, unrealistic. Lost is, this season, what it’s always been, alternately brilliant and frustrating by turns.”

Yes, LOST had a frustrating patch in S2 and portions of S3. YOu had to get used to the way answers weren’t immediate and the writers even freely admit they were stalling. But a great deal of that issue was taken care of when they got an end date and could map everything out. S3 really marked a turnaround around “Not in Portland” at the start of ’07. The writers took a cue from Heroes season one which was receiving all sorts of praise for how it tackled the same kind of format and made it less frustrating. So we got nice little tighter volumes each season that raised questions for half of the season and then answered most of them by the end. And seasons 4 and 5 continued that. So I expected that would be the same format used here in the final season. Instead they just went back to that stalling mode and treating stuff like filler. Why I don’t know. If any season would have been about covering a lot of ground like there was no tomorrow it would be this one as the grains of sand run out. So I would say the alternating brilliance and frustration characterized the earlier seasons not the ones where the writers seemed to have discovered a newfound purpose in their writing and never looked back.

I was reflecting on other swan songs of other series I have watched and thought I would share….

Heroes had only one great season–season one. Unlike LOST that was more of a self-contained standalone season where almost all the questions raised were answered that year–there was four or five that weren’t and were meant to be carried over to the following season and one big one meant to span the series–the explosive rift Isaac repeatedly painted–but for the most part it stood on its own. So you can sort of separate it out from the others–Lost is more of a Whole and you can’t so easily separate stuff out anymore than you can a baked cake once all the ingredients have been mixed and cooked. And as Kring originally intended the character arcs wrapped up in satisfying ways in season one. And that is probably why the Heroes characters didn’t do much since then because their arcs the way Kring wanted were complete and didn’t see them being around 3 years later. Heroes is also interesting in the way that most series have an awkward beginning as it tries to find itself, a strong middle consistent run, then comes off the rails at the end. But it had a brilliant first season then just got progressively worse–it burned very bright but burned out quickly. So I can actually just think of Heroes as running one season.

The XFiles had started coming off the rails in season 6 got progressively worse and made the mythology more and more convoluted and incoherent that I just gave up trying to make sense of it. It didn’t help that they got rid of Duchovny in the last two seasons and in the final season reduced Gillian’s role to basically a cameo. It also had a bad series finale. But since the mythology was only the focus of season premieres, Feb sweeps or season finales and the bulk of the show was episodic I can still enjoy it despite the myth being messed up. Lost, on the otherhand, is so interconnected and everything ties into eveything else that one bad misstep can poison to a certain degree everything it is feeding into. We are obviously going to have pieces of the puzzle never filled in that are just going to be voids when you go back and rewatch it because those answers or flashbacks you thought were coming never do i.e. the shitload of questions I’ve posted over and over in the last few episode threads. But is that going to be enough to undermine to a degree all the other stuff it did do right–like the character moments, twists, cliffhangers, reveals, build up etc. I don’t know. LOST is this big complicated show that is never cut-and-dry so why should my final verdict be any less conflicted and complex.

BSG had an uneven final season I thought–the plot mythology was unsatisfyingly wrapped up but amazingly it had a great finale. In fact, I see some similiarities to LOST’s final season(although I think LOST had a better overall more consistent final season so far than BSG but BSG did have higher highs than LOST with “The Oath”, “No Exit”, “Daybreak” for instance–LOST really has only had “Ab Aeterno”) where it felt the writers were stalling and dragging everything out until the series finale. Like BSG, we keep waiting for answers as the number of hours left to possibly address the outstanding questions dwindle and then cross our fingers that maybe the writers can pull it altogether and only need 2 hours to do so. BSG couldn’t, over the last few episodes suggest to me LOST might not either.

BSG’s final season didn’t really build up to the series finale–it felt more like a standalone sendoff like VOY’s Endgame or TNG’s AGT where the season didn’t build to it–it just had a manufactured crisis devised in order to have something the finale could center around and Moore pretty much confirmed it in an interview after “Daybreak” aired. LOST feels that way too. It doesn’t feel like series or even the season has built up slowly and methodically to this series finale–it feels like a standalone story. It doesn’t feel like “There’s NO place Like HOme” for instance where the entire season centered around this and everything was building to it. Part of that is how they pretty much sidelined mysteries for this season and stumbled around so of course they’ll just stumble into this.

I wondered back in season 4 how they would top letting the Six leave the island and return to their lives–well the answer was they couldn’t. I was excited about the S1 finale, the S3 finale, the S4 finle and the S5 finale but tonite with the series finale I shouldn’t have the indifferent attitude I do and I fault the writers for not knocking it out of the park this year.

TNG had a weak final season but AGT is still to this day the best series finale in tv history followed by MASH and BSG.

Prison Break had a great final season but a weak finale. ENT had a good final season but it really wasn’t intended to necessarily be the final season so I’m not sure it is fair to include it here although TATV was middling–I don’t hate it the way so many do.

So as it stands now DS9 is the only series I’ve watched so far that managed to not only have a good final season but also a good finale. It started off a little rocky but it did so much better in the second half–doing a little bit of everything well–touching on elements from all over the series, letting us spend some good quality time with the characters one last time before launching into the final stretch, bringing back old faces one last time(compare this to the ham-fisted attempts by the writers to do this with all the pointless namedropping and brief cameos of old dead faces), giving us a tightly written exciting epic Final Chapter and a series finale that did more things right than wrong with a heaping dose of emotion, excitement. So I guess I should say kudos to Behr!

LOST should have been as tightly focused and built up to a fever pitch paying off in the finale but they sort of just walked into it with very little fanfare beyond the artificial kind done by much more effective promos and ads–sadly the ads jazzed me more than the episodes themselves over the last few weeks.

Like I mentioned a few weeks ago I enjoyed the series but judging it isn’t going to be easy and I might not ultimately know how I feel about it until a few years from now once I get some distance. It had so many good episodes, such a long running streak of consistency in the middle years, lots of great isolated moments, lots of wonderful twists, lots of inventive mysteries, OMG moments, striking memorable visuals and visual reveals and S3-5 built well on things however since LOST has always been a Six act massive Story/Mystery you kinda realize that build-up and suspense and non-answers will get you so far eventually time comes for payoff and if we use the one hour mystery analogy for LOST the series you have to say that its last 15 minutes of payoff so far has been rather underwhelming and not the equal to the build-up and work done in the middle seasons. So that is going to color things to a degree.

It just seemed like they were poised at the end of season 5 to take everything set up and pulled together that extra mile this year and build on those successes instead they reverted back to the malaise of the early weaker seasons of the show.

I’m not happy more wasn’t done with Dharma, Eloise was noteably absent, the Sayid arc was mishandled, Widmore was brought in this season and didn’t do much and in this episode they just pretty much rushed it to wrap it up, the Claire/Kate stuff went nowhere, Jacob and Smokey’s origin story was disappointing, the muddle of Jacob and Smokey and their motivations sucked etc so that hurts. So it will ultimately be a mixed bag I think. Best show this decade? Yes. Could it have really much so much better? Yes. Will a weak final season ruin it? NO. So even as the end credits roll tonight I think it will be a while before feeling comfortable on passing judgment on the series and quite possibly even the series finale itself.

methane
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 4:23 pm (UTC -6)

I too am wondering about Miles’ role. Did he get any information from Ben’s daughter when they passed her grave?

Overall, I’m fairly happy with the episode. The characters rang true.

Doesn’t mean I’m not somewhat disappointed it seems we’ll never get more information into the motivations of the Dharma initiative or Widmore. Will we find out why women suddenly couldn’t safely have children after the incident? I’m not as interested in the ‘magic’, just who was behind it and why?

“So, Jacob, who is resurrected here long enough to supply the remaining candidates with the information they need about why they have been through everything they have on this island, and why and from whom it needs to be protected”

Well, he says from whom, but he’s really vague about the ‘why’. We just know bad stuff could happen.

“I have high hopes, but then I read somewhere that following the show, Jimmy Kimmel will have the writers on and they will show alternate endings. wtf? why would they need alternate endings? That kind of makes me wonder about the confidence the writers have in the ending they chose.”

I believe these are endings they filmed in order to throw off people who leak information to the press. Just like they filmed several people in the coffin for the season finale a few years ago, they probably filmed different scenes to throw off reporters; they’re more likely to get a false scene leaked than the real one.

David
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 6:42 pm (UTC -6)

@methane

“Will we find out why women suddenly couldn’t safely have children after the incident? I’m not as interested in the ‘magic’, just who was behind it and why?”

I think the Incident is what caused the infertility. The were having kids up until then. It was never definitive that was it but I think we are suppose to conclude that.

“So, Jacob, who is resurrected here long enough to supply the remaining candidates with the information they need about why they have been through everything they have on this island, and why and from whom it needs to be protected”

Yeah Jacob and Smokey were pretty disappointing. They were built up to be so much more and their Plans and Motivations have been sketchy and not all that well thought in my opinion.

Matrix
Sunday, May 23, 2010, 8:22 pm (UTC -6)

At this point I think I’d really much rather a flash-sideways storyline to continue (imagine if THAT’S how season 1 had started!), as I don’t really care that much what happens in the main story anymore. And that’s saying something considering that I once thought the flash-sideways were a waste of time since they took precious time away from the “real” storyline. I remember reading somewhere that they’d said the flashes would stop altogether mid-season, but then i forget they do post false statements as well, so whatever.
Sure the show deviated from where I thought it would go so that’s my fault, but even when I used to think about what might happen I would be blown away by what they would show me. Jack taking up the cause is such a foregone conclusion that I thought they’d be someway that we’d be proven wrong and he’d say, you know what fuck it. Pick someone else. Let sawyer do it or hurley, who seems to have a strange connection to the island. And Jack’s talk with sawyer could’ve had something else there, just not only so simple as blame Locke. Blame jack for not checking his bloody backpack and blame sawyer because yes he did fuck it up. They made their choices and they have to deal with it! And I really don’t have much stomach for the monster destroying the world concept because it’s so vague and the “i’m gonna destroy the island” just had me roll my eyes. I really liked him when he was just a security system.
I really enjoyed Lost up until about the part where you find out John Locke was still in the coffin. At that point I realised that the show wasn’t being defined by the characters that we’d watched for years and John Locke wasn’t changed by the island, but you are watching someone else walking around in his skin and for me it somehow feels less powerful than letting the losties own ideologies of what the island stand for clash.

JackBauer
Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 5:39 am (UTC -6)

I would like to see a full blown reveiw by Jammer on the finale, and maybe your thoughts on the show as a whole. I think it would be easy to write considering the topic.

Mitch
Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 2:08 pm (UTC -6)

Ditto for me, I’d very like to hear Jammer’s take on the Lost finale and a recap on the series as a whole. Much I suppose like his series recap on Voyager, DS9, Enterprise and more recently, Battlestar…. when they ended.

I can’t give a series closure until I’ve read his final words. I find Jammer’s review THE definitive one over all else out there. I’ll even settle for blog review. 🙂

Without spoiling anything, looking back, I feel like the individual episodes were fantastic and I greatly enjoyed them on their own, or a string of episodes, but the series as a whole, if you’re looking for some connection, meaning and grand scheme joining everything together…..utterly failed.

JackBauer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 3:00 pm (UTC -6)

Agreed. The final as a character piece was excellent. I was very moved by the goodbyes and the “reunions” in the afterlife. It was incredibly well done and well acted. YOu got a sense of how genuine these characters were and how much they cared for each other. Although the means of how the afterlife works was completely ignored, as well as how Desmond could translate between the two relms. But I guess is not important.

But the season failed miserably at explaining how this island worked, and why everything was the way it was. You can argue that this is a character driven show and such things are not important, but when the characters are doing everything “for the island” then some sort of “why” is kind of important. Why is the lsland this source of magic and power, why is it important to protect, why cant the smoke monster leave, how was it able to travel time and move positions. All these are important questions because its the very essence of why these characters are doing what they are doing. Desmond was “the fail safe”?!?! WTF?!?!

The Jacob thread was digustingly terrible. 5 years theyve been building up Jacob, and 6 years the smoke monster and “Across the Sea” was the best they could do? Who was “Mother” (I think she was a smoke monster too judging by how she laid waste to MIB’s men and caverns)

You know what would have been a better MIB storyline? That man turned out to be as bad as “Mother” said they were. They found “Mother” and killed her, horribly. Why? Who cares, they are bad people and they do this. So in retailiation the MIB goes to the cavern of light and turns into the smoke monster and kills all the men on the island and vows to eliminate all of mankind as revenge for the slaying of “Mother” (whom he would have had a special relationship with) Jacob seeing that this cannot be allowed traps MIB on the island and cannot permit him to leave. Jacob then brings people to the island to show MIB that man can be good. Youd have a reason why MIB is evil, an explaination for why he cannot be allowed to leave the island, and a collaboration as to why Jacob is doing what he is doing.

Ultimately Lost suffered from the same symptoms as BSG. Too much mythical nonsense/hype, with no hope to explain it.

David
Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 8:31 pm (UTC -6)

By the end of season 5 the series was poised to launch into the final season and take everything they had been developing and wrap them up by providing the final answers and pieces of the puzzle with everything building to the series Big Final Moment–6 years in the making. So like someone mentioned LOST is something that if you attempt to appreciate as a Completed Whole you are going to be disappointed. It is probably best to view it more of a series comprised of various narratives within the larger series and within them more mini-narratives.

Instead it seemed that as soon as Jughead detonated and season six premiered the writers themselves seemed to have been reset to the mentality they had in seasons 2 and portions of season 3. The tone is so different from S3-5 it is jarring. It is back to a stalling mentality, a slow pace, no answers.

The problems this year wasn’t that it was continuing in the footsteps of seasons 3- 5–in my opinion that was its biggest mistake only if it had done so it would have been brilliant–instead it was a mechanical bore that wasted 18 precious episodes. Instead of exploring DHARMA, Hanso, the ancient civilization, Ann Arbor etc–stuff the audience was interested in–they gave us characters shifting back and forth from one camp to another, from one island to another; characters as plot devices or with precious little to do(Jin Kidnapped Plot Device, Sun struck her head, Claire’s arc was as big of a mess as her hair, Sayid arc as explained by L/C was convoluted & unsatisfying); the new narrative device i.e. sideways flashes were boring; the attempts to look back at the series in its final episodes fell absolutely flat(all the old faces returning as nothing more than cameos, the gratuitous namedropping, the old sets like the cave or the cages where it felt so obviously that they were screaming to us–“Hey look remember these back in the early years”); Jacob and MIB were not provided a satisfying origin story; lots of unanswered questions leading to a feel of incompleteness when looking back at the series as a whole; no real clear Threat or Goal to frame and help drive the season as we had gotten in the previous years; no narrative urgency and most importantly the distinct feeling that the writers tried to go the traditional route in how they approached the final season the way any other drama would forgetting that LOST was its own unique animal.

That was one of the most disappointing things about Lost in season 6 and the series finale–LOST was doing such a marvelous job of keeping it together and knowing what they were doing that it wouldn’t fall apart so close to the end yet it did. I thought for sure LOST would finally be the first series to do Mythology right.

LOST really took the Mystery Genre to the Nth Degree–it was so labor-intensive for the viewer. And like any mystery–it has its intriguing teases, clues, puzzle pieces, major & minor mysteries. What Lost did well in those first 3 seasons is build up the mystery of those various mysteries–Dharma, the hatch, the Black Rock, Richard Alpert, the smoke monster, the statue, the Others, Jacob, the island, Ben etc. But like any mystery the time comes when you have to provide answers and explain the mysteries. Just as important as actually answering them is the answering them satisfactorily.

I thought for the most part LOST did answer a lot of the questions to my satisfaction. A lot of them we got complete answers–who were the Oceanic Six, would they find rescue, what was the statue, why didn’t richard age, what was the incident, who was richard etc. But then there were some that the writers started answering but I saw as never being truly finished and so that contributed to a feel of incompleteness with regards to the Mythology like the nature of the Smoke Monster or the mystery of Jacob’s cabin or the Dharma Initiative/Hanso. Then there were those mysteries where we did get answers but I didn’t like them i.e. who/what Jacob was, what the whispers were etc.

When I look at the series now after it is over I see my assessment of it as being as unique as the series itself. Basically the story and my opinion of it were captured in flashes. LOST was a series where you started out with one perspective of it and your satisfaction with it on its own then as new pieces were added along the way and a spin on a scene or mystery resulted you would go back and see a scene or storyline in a new light and reassess the developing story.

I’ll still remember how eerie it was when the smoke slithered across our scenes late in season one but this time I’ll know what it is and what the origin of it was and be let down. I’ll still be creeped out when the Others dressed as Deliverance rejects kidnap Walt but a little letdown by the fact that the Others were a mundane bunch just recruited to protect the island. The Hatch will still be ominous even though it turns out to be a research station. I’ll still remember how intrigued I was by the teaser in “The Incident” when we first see MIB and Jacob and remember how curious I was about their stories. But now I’ll also know answers won’t be coming or won’t be satisfying which sours things to a degree.

I know people have been arguing that it was always about the characters but honestly I always flt S1 was good for characters and building up the mysteries and atmosphere. But S3-5 were heavily centered on Plot and Mythology and since I always felt that was the series’ strong suit for me those were the best seasons of the show–fast-paced, tons of interesting revelations, twists, strong cliffhangers, continuity, action, pulling disparate threads together, ambitious epic storytelling, intriguing plot developments, compelling character dynamics among the various personalities, pain-staking attention to the details, outstanding production values, expansive cast of characters spread out all over the place, multiple locales and sets.

But yeah like I’ve mentioned over the last few weeks that when we saw that some of the survivors get off the island and find rescue it left you wondering how they could top this? What could they do to up the ante in its final season when most of us thought that that particular question would come then not smack dab in the middle of the series run. And the answer was sadly nothing.

“Theres No Place Like Home” in season four really was the series turning point in retrospect–it was the big moment that they never could outdo. Don’t get me wrong I think Season 5 was very very good and they really managed to maintain the same quality as we got in the last half of season 3 and all of season 4 but season 6–the year it really should have hit a climatic point just fizzled.

I will say that switching back to a character focus so sharply in season six and pretty much relegating the mythology and plot to the sidelines was extremely jarring. Not only because it felt dictated by the fact this was the final season so naturally they thought it is time to induce sentamentality in the audience but also because the character work was nowhere near as good or compelling as say in season one.

They had us invest in the mythology and the mysteries stringing us along with the repeated promises they had learn the lessons of other botched mythologies and everything was mapped out and just stick with them. In this final season, they acted like bored children who grew tired of playing with their mythology and just chucked it neglectfully aside and decided now they wanted to play with the characters.

L/C wanted to go back to serialized dramas’ more traditional roots–slow the pace, focus on the characters. But I had two issues with this–1) the character arcs/stories they set up for the final season were boring and not compelling for the most part and therefore insufficient to draw my attention towards them and away from the more compelling mythology and 2) it felt this was only happening because that is what they felt final seasons of shows should do.

I could care less about Jack/Kate/Sawyer. Sayid the zombie was botched. Claire’s arc was just as badly mishandled as her hair–now we know why no hairbushes–Smokey hid them so Claire’s hair would look like crap. Hurley was just annoying. I don’t give a crap about Libby/Hurley. Jin spent the season as a Kidnapped Plot Device and Sun struck her head–woo hoo major character work there!. Locke was dead. MIB and Jacob failed after started out as intriguing figures. Boone, Shannon, Michael, Ana Lucia, Eloise, Widmore made pointless cameos. Richard was a plot device, Ilana an exploding Plot device. Ben was pretty much non-existent.

The only one that had any semblance of a satisfying arc was Jack but he was made to look like an idiot more than I would have liked.

So yes the series finale had a very good idea in how to tackle the emotional side of things–these characters–both on and offscreen had become a family and had such a bond because of everything they went through that it transcended death. However, these characters were all over the place spread out for so many years that it just didn’t feel that the idea was genuine to these particular characters. If you had done something like this on BSG, DS9, TNG I would buy it–LOST not as much.

JackBauer
Saturday, June 19, 2010, 8:31 pm (UTC -6)

I agree. And ill say again, that Lost suffered from the same botched mythology as Battlestar. Too much setup, with no clue/no regard for how to finish it. I remember wanting to punch RDM after the Battlestar finale when he said something to the effect of, “this is like art, everyone should have their own interpretation” I despise that in television because that reeks like, “I dont have an effin clue what im doing” When L/C finally hit the media circuit again and explain some of this mess, they will say the same thing.

They could have made this one of the greatest shows of all time with a great ending. Every episode could have been something special with each episode tying up one loose end at a time. And the final 18 episodes could have been smashed into the final 3 or 4 episodes easily.

David Payne
Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 2:41 pm (UTC -6)

So Jammer, are you planning to review the Lost finale?

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