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May 17, 2010

Lost: It's About The Journey, Not The Answers

Lost is finally, sadly, coming to the end. I have loved almost every minute of it.

However I'm a little bit worried about other viewer's obsession with answers. S06E15 was unfortunately some kind of response to this, and consequently one of the weakest of any episode of Lost. Instead of leaving the Smoke Monster and Jacob as unexplained mysteries, puppet masters pulling the strings of our heroes, the episode tried to explain everything. Even though the episode itself knew that it couldn't explain everything, a character said (something like) "the more answers I give you the more questions you will ask." Exactly. Sometimes there are no answers.

When I studied physics it seemed that the answer was always just around the corner: you'll cover that in your A levels, you'll do that in your degree. When I finally reached my PhD I realised that there weren't really any answers, there were models that could be used to make predictions, but no definitive truth.

Lost is like that and shouldn't pretend otherwise. The joy of Lost has been following the journey of our heroes, of seeing the changes in Sawyer and Kate and Jack, of seeing them fall in love and self destruct and fight to live, of seeing what could have been in the alternative universe. The joy has been loving those characters and everything they've been through. I don't care about answers, I don't want answers, The Island is a plot device to tell the real story, the human story.

So whilst I enjoyed the story of why The Man In Black so desperately wants to leave The Island, I didn't like the rest of the episode. For the first time it felt like Lost was talking down to us and it was completely necessary.

Hopefully the final two episodes will not wimp out and try and explain everything. But even if they do, the final three episodes don't affect the joy I've had from the other 118. It's about the journey.


I'd like *Some* answers, and I'd like them to make *some* degree of sense, unlike that terrible, terrible finale of Galactica, coming on the heels of that terrible, terrible season of Galactica. I'm even willing to allow a massive ammount of retconning, but ultimately I just want it to make sense, you know? I'm willing to look the other way on the minor points if they promise not to make me feel like an idiot for devoting myself to the thing for six years.

Really, though, at this point the thing I'm most interested in is what their *original* direction and plan for the show was, since it's pretty apparent they ended up detouring from that pretty quickly.

That's a valid point, but I don't think it applies universally. For instance, I think the ending of Battlestar Galactica was awful enough to pretty much ruin the entire series for me. Conversely, the ending of Babylon 5 - an anticlimax coming at the end of their weakest season - was merely disappointing, but didn't really detract from all the enjoyment I'd gotten from the previous four years. I can overlook the fairly awful endings to every season of the new Dr. Who becuase it's Dr. Who - it's just endlessly fun and great, and you can dance to it, and if it skips a beat now and again, who cares?

But in some shows, the ending is more important than in others. I think, in general, the more serialized a show is, the less episodic, then the conclusion needs to be a bit more solid then if it's just Star Trek or Captain Scarlet or whatever. If lost had ended in the second or third season, before it became one big continuing story, it wouldn't have affected me as much as if they have a bad ending now.

That's not to say I expect a bad ending, just that I have hopes, and that makes me vulnerable.

If I were to attempt to quantify it, I think probably it has something to do with a story being based around mysteries. A detective story has to have a logical, solid conclusion in order to be satisfying, you can't just say "A wizard did it." Galactica built itself around a whole bunch of mysteries that they didn't have a clue in their illiterate hads how to resolve, and in the end they did the "Wizard" thing, and it was infuriating. X-files did the same thing, only in their case it was strangled by its own incoherence, so they didn't need a wizard. Lost has likewise been based around a whole bunch of mysteries, and while I'm content not knowing what was up with Mister Eko, or which Quon was a candidate, or how Smokey McLocke appeared to Jack off the island in season 4, I *would* like some broad, logical-ish over-arching resolution to the major mysteries that is satisfying. And I'm not even too terribly worried, in fact, I think we've gotten most of that in the last three or four episodes.

And you are right: since much of this show was character study, and I like the characters, even if it's the worst ending in the history of television - worse than The Sopranos and Seinfeld combined! - the show would still have more value to me than Galactica left me with.

But then, Lost could hold me down and punch me in the nads for an hour, and it still wouldn't be nearly as bad as that show ended up being, now would it?

You'd be surprised how many people try to argue with me about that. I can only hope five or ten years down the road, cooler heads will prevail, people will come to their senses, and DVD sales will suffer.

I do like Caprica, though. To my surprise.

It's 11:37 here in the 'States, and I have to say I'm very pleased. Both the journey and the destination were well worth the trip.

I hope all of you in the UK like it as much as I did.

I have seen the destination too based ona 5am showing this morning on sattelite tv. I enjoyed it and am fairly happy with the end.

No spoilers for those who are still in the journey.