Friday, May 21, 2010

"Lost," in translation

The hissing roar of a jet engine crescendos. An eye snaps open. A well-dressed man sits up, runs through clacking bamboo, spills out onto a beach, only to find…

A television show that might well have called itself Unsolved Mysteries.

Yes, wouldn’t it have been nice to have Robert Stack walking along the beach in his trenchcoat, making his way among dazed and confused passengers (i.e. viewers) of Oceanic 815, explaining it all to us with that calming, halting voice of his? Instead, we got Rod Serling tag-teaming with David Lynch as they read from The Most Confounding Philosophers of the Enlightenment—starting with John Locke and working their way through Hume, Rousseau, and Carlyle.

So, here we are, six Lost seasons later holding a tangle of threads in our hands, hoping against hope that they’ll all be tied into one big loop by the time the last sentimental drop has been wrung from our tear-ducts during this Sunday’s series finale. The Big-Event episode will end with either the symphonic bang of Tchaikovsky cannons or the whimper of ten million disappointed fans.

I’m voting for the latter, but hoping for the former.

My wife and I have been with the show from the first frame, when Jack Shephard’s startled eye popped open, and we’ll be there at the end when (I’m guessing) Michael Giacchino’s score will fill our home theater system with swelling saccharine violins. What started with the tease of a polar bear on a tropical island will ultimately collapse in a rushed attempt to explain why every third character was named for an 18th-century Scottish philosopher; or how the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 actually symbolize the chasm between free will and fate; or how if you play “You All Everybody” backwards you’ll discover that Paul is alive and well…on the Other side of the island.

As for me, the only question I want answered is: “Why, oh why, did you kill off my favorite character, Mr. Eko?”

There have been high moments (the aforementioned polar bear, the first big-reveal of John Locke’s wheelchair, that Double Indemnity episode with Nikki and Paulo) and there have been low (Jack’s beard, cage-sex, Season 6 in its entirety). Through it all, we’ve hung in there—waiting for Mr. Eko to emerge from the jungle riding on the back of a polar bear.

Truthfully, I can’t really complain about a series that interspersed the boar hunts and dynamited pirate ships with scenes of characters…reading. Dare I even mention that my heart skipped several beats when I saw Jacob turning the pages of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge? Okay, the producers valued the book for its title more than its content. But still, Flannery Frickin’ O’Connor on prime-time television? I thought I’d died and got unstuck in time.

Literary thrills aside, Lost has ultimately become like the spouse stricken with cancer: you love them dearly, you hate to see them in so much pain, and you’ll both be relieved when the end finally comes. Sad, but relieved.

This Sunday, All (or Most, or Nothing) will be revealed. I’m only slightly comforted by the fact that in this interview, series gurus Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof claim they’re not going to pull a Sopranos on us:
I think one of the really brilliant things about The Sopranos [finale] as a storyteller is the artistry of it...Basically David Chase said: I'm going to take away from you the first feeling, which is that feeling of "The show's over. How do I feel about that?" -- and he replaced it with "What just happened? Did my cable go out? I'm a little surprised by this." So the idea that the show ended so abruptly, as opposed to, we moved out of the diner and he played the emotion of, ah, this is the final shot of The Sopranos -- this is what it is.
We did the exact opposite. We leaned into the emotion.
 Cue Mr. Giacchino and his violins.

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