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“Lost” conclusion full of highs, lows and crushing disappointments

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: Like too many people, I stayed up late last night putting the finishing touches on six seasons of “Lost.”

Needless to say this column is loaded with spoilers, so bookmark it and come back after you have watched all 150 minutes of “The End.”

I’m not a TV critic. I’m a “Lost” fan. Have been since the riveting pilot. And as such, I felt let down by the sixth season (which the writers clearly had not figured out) but rewarded by the show, as a whole. “Lost” followers seem to have been broken down into two camps over the years: those obsessed with the myriad of mysteries, and those enamored with the characters.

I was a bit of both. The gooey moments in “Lost” usually struck the right chords with me, whether it was seeing teddy bear Hurley reunite with true love Libby in the controversial “sideways” world (even though this largely irrelevant “sideways” world ended up being the series deepest disappointment once all of the cards were on the table), or having Jim and Sun reunite for the umpteenth time. And the series finale had several of those moments. Some forced (Shannon and Sayid cute meet following a bar fight?), some authentically moving (Claire’s second childbirth, with Kate and Charlie in tow).

But I also wanted concrete answers to some of the island’s most intriguing mysteries. Yet the series creators, and team of writers, couldn’t stop creating more questions as they haphazardly doled out possibilities. Some are crucial to our understanding of the show we dedicated years of our lives to. For instance, why was Smokey suddenly mortal once Desmond performed a hard reboot by unplugging the island? And what, in the depths of that light-encasing cave, caused Man In Black to turn into Smokey in the first place?

Doesn’t matter. Very little of it mattered, in the grand scheme of things. The infertility on the island? Didn’t matter. That dark spirit in the cabin asking for Locke’s assistance? Didn’t matter. Walt’s location? Doesn’t matter. And forget about all of the “sideways” existences we puzzled over for the bulk of season six, because none of them mattered. Sawyer as a cop? Doesn’t matter. Kate on the lam once again? Doesn’t matter. Sayid in jail for defending his brother? Really doesn’t matter.

My disappointment, right now, boils down to the “sideways” storyline, which was a colossal failure. Not a misstep. An outright failure. The explanation given by the writers, that it was a purgatory for the souls of the castaways waiting to move on to the afterlife, negates everything we watched in season six with one broad sweep. Those who waited to see how the storyline would connect to the island events had to be blindsided by the realization that there was no connection, no link between worlds. That would be overthinking the situation, and perhaps attaching too much logic (and hope) to a storyline the show just wanted to erase away.

And for a show that hung its hat on tying loose ends together, the ending chosen by “Lost” shepherds Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof was disappointingly vague. It wasn’t quite a, “That’s it?” moment, because the show, as a whole, offered too much to simply dismiss it after one episode. But the potential of the conclusion carried such weight, and the actual conclusion offered was light as a feather.

Oh, and having the castaways stumble upon a floating Lapidas was laughably bad, by any show’s standards.

So today, we eulogize “Lost,” and other, better writers are putting their thoughts online. I suggest you check out Alan Sepinwall’s column at HitFix, and Robert Bianco’s 4-star rave in USA Today nicely defends the show’s emotional moments.

Me? I question the destination but thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Some of the show’s gambles paid off in spades. The flash-forward, in particular, was genius. Some did not. Leaving Kate and Sawyer in cages for half a season was a drag. In hindsight, I kind of want to remember “Lost” for five great seasons, chalking this final season up as a creative muddle that might have concluded as the show’s writers wanted, but didn’t quite pan out the way its fans had hoped.

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • May 24, 2010 | Permalink |

    Yes, it was frustrating. The ending basically encapsulated the whole series in the same plot as an old tv drama I once remember watching about a cruise ship that keeps going through the fog…until the passengers realize everyone is dead and it’s taking them to heaven (ooo, spooky).

    The whole “they’re all dead” scenario was dismissed by the writers several times throughout the 6 years, so the fact they went with it is more puzzling then ever. However, the writers are also very “smirky” and if you think you think one thing…then it’s probably just the opposite…or will be if they end up doing a Season 7…

  • May 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    Agreed John.
    It was a major disappointment and trying to create all the nice vibes in the church reunion in the end couldnt save it. Yes Lost was a genius idea but somewhere along the way, it lost its own credibility becoming obvious that the writers were wandering around aimlessly for me somewhere after season 4. There is a subtle balance between how short or long a series should be to maximise its impact, this one tipped the scales way too much. 4 series for me should have been the limit. Sadly it got overcooked.
    As Sean said, so many things were left unfinished and their relevance left insignificant so it was very much a series that you jump on for the ride and but dont expect the challenges of the plot to eventually dovetail and make sense like a good conclusion could.
    Have been defending Lost to friends who lost faith with it over the past couple of seasons…cant defend this one…they were right.
    I was imagining i would be telling people in years to come about this great series that was on in the noughties…not any more !!

  • May 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    They wernt dead on the Island my freind. Even that would have made sense in a way. You know, the whole ‘moving on ‘ thing? But no, the ending and the journey were totally unrelated. Everything on the Island WAS real, but it meant so much to them, that when they eventually died they waited for each other in the afterlife so they could be together again.
    Ill say again 6 years and nothing related the the Island was explained. The only thing that was explained was the ludicrous flash sideways journey of Season 6 and the fact that the Island bought them together in the after life. Sucky!!!!

  • May 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    I welcome someone to do an alternate ending and somehow bring the three branches to a suitable ‘whole’ ending. i.e Hurley & ben now looking after the island, the others on the plane that got away and the people in the church.

  • May 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    Also what was with Ben not going in the church with the others……I presume it was because he would not go to heaven and remain a lost soul forever. After all he was quite evil all through the entire seasons.

  • May 26, 2010 | Permalink |

    I agree 100% 5 terrific seasons and if they couldn’t give us what we deserved in season 6 in 2010, then they should have postponed season 6 until they could do it right. My big questions were, what the heck is the Darma Initiative and who is Richard Alpert…really! Also, why was Penny in the church….she never set foot on the island and as far as I remember, her life was never in danger, let alone ended. Yes, I’m disappointed, yes, I think we deserved better…..I think I’ll just make up my own conclusions to what should have happened in the end.

  • June 6, 2010 | Permalink |

    I still don’ t understand why the island is so special.
    why there is a light in the middle…
    why jakob’ s fake mother protects the light…
    why jakob’s brother became a smoke and desmond and jack still the same…
    why jakob is blond and his brother is not…
    how can an island move from 1 place to an other when ben turns the big switch…
    and so on and on………. to many questions with no answers…. shame…..
    my six years have been ……”LOST”!!!!!!!!

  • June 19, 2010 | Permalink |

    “The End” was for me such a cop out. After 6 seasons of plot twists, suspense and unexplained phenomenon… all we get is a stained glass window with icons from all religions and a walk into a bright light. I was expecting something much more mysterious and thought provoking than a remake of “Highway to Heaven”. Not only were so many questions left unanswered, but the desire to seek explanations and to philosophize on their meaning was extinguished just like the light in the cave.

    Although I definitely “enjoyed the ride” the destination left me bored. I felt like a victim of a “long con”… or like I had just watched some silly YouTube prank and been “rickrolled”.

    Yes… the characters were engaging and I was moved by their finding each other again in the sideways world… but what a let down otherwise. We got served up a cheesy happy ending for everyone… and a silly plug on a volcano. Instead of wanting to watch it all again to see what clues I’d missed… I found myself bitterly regretting that I had watched the last episode which killed the idea that there ever was an answer to be found.

  • June 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    The Island was Magic Box to the writers. You know similar to that gate in Star Gate. Once you step through it you never know what happens and what rules apply. In Star Gate you don’t have to connect things together. You just don’t dial that address anymore. That’s why it works with Star Gate and that’s why it doesn’t work with Lost..

    Lost is like a huge 1000 pages long book. After you finished with it you realize there weren’t any real story after all. You don’t want to start that book over. I thought i was gonna spend this summer watching Lost again from the season 1. Not gonna happen.

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