Like millions of other television junkies, I bought the hype; I was reeled in by the ruthlessly compelling commercials and well-placed print ads, and on September 22, 2004, I tuned in for the premiere episode of Lost.
Lost, with its water-cooler plot-twists and world’s sexiest flight manifest quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, burning up internet chat rooms (when they were still around), blogs (they’re still around, right?) and even the print media (which at least the time of this writing is still around.)
I remember saying to myself as the pilot unfolded, “I think I’m hooked.” It happened right around the time the plane crashed, as terrifyingly visceral a scene as I’ve ever seen on the small screen, in spite of my already knowing it was coming. I wondered what would become of the survivors, how they’d turn coconuts into wine, how they’d get along or not get along. I wondered who might take of their shirt first.
And then, well before the final credits sped by, I changed the channel. Something inside me aggressively spurned the show like I’d rejected a baboon heart. It wasn’t snob’s natural aversion to the cultural zeitgeist, because even if I’d instinctively known that was coming, I’m okay with that sort of thing… most of the time, anyway. Yes, I’ve recoiled against hype before, turned my nose up at everything from No Country for Old Men to Radiohead to Pinkberry. But this was different, as I hadn’t yet been inundated with an avalanche of “OMG!!!” praise for Lost when I bailed. That would come later, of course. But when I decided to watch almost anything else, it was just me and my remote and a storyline and cast which failed to keep my attention. Not when there’s probably a cake battle on the Food Network, Lost. Not by a long shot.
So, I got my ass off the island much quicker, apparently, than anyone else who’d both starred in and watched Lost. Because like the pull that island seems to have had on those poor schmucks, so too did that show have a pull on pretty much everyone I know, pretty much everyone you know and pretty much everyone else with even the most tenuous connection to network television.
I stayed away, too, sinking my TV teeth into less befuddling fare like Psych and Flight of the Conchords and The Biggest Loser. But with the finale upon us this week, I thought I ought to give Lost one more shot. My research such as it was consisted of years of ignoring Facebook status updates friends made about the show, loud commercials I’d managed to tune out and the last 45 minutes or so of ABC’s two hour pre-game celebration before last night’s final episode. I must also confess to having not entirely paid attention to the latter, as there was a Sex & the City II cake challenge on the Food Network, and while I have also managed to avoid that particular cultural phenomenon (with much more bile), a cake-off if a cake-off, and that means Kerry Vincent is gonna be bitchy from beneath her Ren-Faire headband.
I guess a bit of Lost sunk in over the years, in spite of my efforts to keep it out. I’d heard of Locke, for example. And also something happened to that guy who used to be a Hobbit, right? What I’ve heard most about Lost since it premiered nearly six years ago was how good it was. And what I heard second-most was how goddamn confusing it was. Given I knew almost nothing about Lost, I figured I was in the right frame of mind to catch the finale. Boy, was I wrong.
Even if I hadn’t caught a bit about the alternate worlds stuff, I’d have probably worked it out pretty quickly. I might have assumed one of the two threads was some sort of dream, though once the touchy feely déjà vu flashes began happening, I’d have seen the light. (I just found out producer Damon Lindelof calls these plot devices “flash-sideways” – Thanks, Wikipedia!)
I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape
Because I haven’t actually watched the series unfold, the questions I have are fairly mundane, and for all I know they were answered ages ago. How come none of the dudes on the island have crazy hermit beards instead of seductive stubble? And while some of the castaways had sufficiently unkempt hair, most looked salon-friendly. And, at the risk of sounding indelicate, why didn’t the fat dude who says “Dude” all the time lose a little weight?
So, I watched the finale. Not all at once, of course, because like I did nearly six years ago with the pilot episode, I petered out before the finale did. I stuck it out, though, finishing it on Hulu this morning. And admittedly I’m probably a bit more confused than your average fan. Didn’t the guy from Party of Five (another show I never watched) open the series looking up from a jungle floor? Nice one!
Despite the soundtrack trying to force me into action, I didn’t feel the tension on the edge of the cliff the way a regular viewer might have. I also didn’t shed any tears when characters who’d hooked up on the island had flash-sideways walks of shame in hospitals, alleys or piano-heavy benefit concerts. But those of you who’d watched every second of every episode and are now wondering what the heck you’re gonna do with yourselves on whatever night the show regularly aired, maybe you bawled like babies. Maybe your couches are still moist with tears and sadness snot at this moment. And that is ultimately how I closed out Lost; not by hoping for loose ends to be tied up in a satisfying way, but by wondering if that’s how the fans felt about it.
Some beloved TV shows end on a sour note (I’m looking at you, Seinfeld and The Sopranos). Others, like The Shield, manage to make the inevitable seem revelatory. Still more, such as Arrested Development, fall somewhere in between, unable to say goodbye because those involved in making the show are as bewildered as those who watched it.
How was Lost for you? If you loved the show, did that bit in the church seem less mawkish than it did to a cynic like me? Did you find the tying up of loose ends satisfying and natural or rushed and convenient? Are you bummed there’s no Drive Shaft tour on the cards?
Because of all the mythological hokum, the smoke monster poppycock and the supernatural rigmarole woven through the fabric of Lost, it was already likely bound to become a televised sci-fi tent pole for years to come. The romance and intrigue and – at least what I’ve been told – humanity of the characters helped it cross out of what is often perceived as the narrow scope of that genre and into the mainstream. Lost was hugely successful, and not in retrospect like the original Star Trek series, either. Lost was a phenomenon in its present, and that’s not likely to change. And I guess I can say I was there at the beginning and end of it all, even if the middle is something of a blur.
I wanted to come away from the finale having realized the folly of having had such an itchy remote finger all those years ago. I thought I might feel inclined to start Lost from the beginning, something I could do for free on Hulu, apparently. I thought I’d want to dissect the pilot and see if there were any clues more than 100 episodes ago to point to what happened last night. Instead, I think I’m as finished with Lost as it is with the rest of us. What happened on that fictional island is no more my concern than what led those four wretched Sex & the City shrews to Morocco for their new flick. I’m free of Lost, a show which never really had me to begin with.