Get Lost

I don't watch LOST. That must be stated right away, right here at the start.

Oh sure, once upon a time I watched it. Back in the early days Balthazar and I found ourselves fairly obsessed. Sucked into the mystery. Back in the days when the most pressing questions were "Why are there polar bears on a tropical island?" and "Why is that little kid so special?" and "Who the hell is Ethan?" and so on. ("Why is Jack such a dick?", etc.) I admit I was curious. I like a good mystery. I don't need to be hit over the head at the end of every episode with a "Hey Stupid, here's the magic decoder ring. A scrolling list of answers to every single question you have about today's episode will now follow." But sometime around third season? Fourth? Second? I don't know - the one that heavily involved Desmond and the disaster of pushing/not pushing the damn button. That one. Well that's where I stopped watching LOST. It just became too much. Overall it required too much devotion on my part, too many headaches, and precious few (if any) answers tossed liberally into the mix as incentive to keep allowing myself to be forcibly shoved farther down the increasingly-claustrophobic rabbithole of LOST questions.

That was my choice. I am not preaching the stupidity of LOST to all you helpless fans, okay? Like it, don't like it - do your thing, man. I'm all about free will. I personally think it's pants but then again I've watched CSI for a solid decade. Quality is not the point. Personal taste clearly is.

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So no, this particular post is not about berating LOST fans for wasting their time. But as a now-outsider to the overall phenomenon I have an advantage that rabid fans do not: namely, I can see the end without emotional haze clouding my view and I can tell you that it is not going to end well for the roughly bazillion devotees who religiously dissect every single frame of every single episode for the hidden meaning behind it all.

Why do I believe this?

First, The Matrix conundrum.

The Matrix, the first one, was full of mystery and awesome and involved things that everyone (including myself) liked to dissect and analyze and theorize about. Because the second film took years to come out, we had a lot of time to fill with our pondering on the meaning of Matrix life and the symbolism of the film, etc, ad nauseum. Then The Matrix: Reloaded and, worse, The Matrix: Revolutions happened. The backlash was immense. All the characters burdened with highly symbolic names ended up doing less than nothing in the final confrontation, all the mystery was revealed to be 'big ass machines try to take out rebel camp', mind-bendy tricks gave way to bizarre dance-party rebel orgies, oh god the criticism and fallout and disappointment, it was endless. Why name a character Morpheus if he isn't going to heavily factor into dreamscape revelations in the end of days? Niobe, Persephone, Merovingian... look, let's not get into it all again. It happened. It's over. The thing about The Matrix films is that they were actually very good. The two sequels were a downhill slide into disappointment but only from a fan-based mythology point of view. They neither delivered on the promise of the first film nor enhanced the mysterious world created in the first film. They answered too much with too many things left unused. They gave answers, just not the exciting ones we were hoping for. But as stand-alone films, if one abandons the joyous anticipation built from The Matrix, they're actually very fascinating and well-made. They just weren't what we wanted. And so The Matrix proves one of the points I'm making: if you create an intricate mysterious world of questions and suggestive symbolism, whatever answers you provide will ultimately be a disappointment as nothing you come up with will match what fans imagine.

So for LOST, too many answers will prove disastrous. Answering every one of the island's mysteries, after six seasons of button-pushing and smoke monsters and Others and time travel, will thud heavily into disappointment by never being able to match the expectations of the viewers. Oh sure, LOST fans will say "I don't want everything answered, I'm okay with mystery, I just want some things explained" but they don't really mean it. If the explanation was that Jacob was descended from a wizard line, would that actually make fans happy? No. They'd cry foul and curse the magic as a cop-out. But if the explanation was that Jacob was some sort of son of God figure, would that satisfy? Likely not. Everyone would say "Oh I saw that coming, so predictable" or "Of course it has to be religious because they can't come up with the science to explain it" etc. Whatever answers the writers give won't be able to match what the fans imagine. It's The Matrix Conundrum.

On the other hand, you have my second point.
I call it The End Without Answers scenario.

Let's take Children of Men just as an example. Now that is a great film. It's tense, well-acted, maintains a unified atmosphere (whether you like a unified atmosphere of apocalyptic depression or not is another discussion entirely), and is generally well respected. But it doesn't tidily wrap everything up at the end.
Does she get to her safe haven? What happens to the baby? Why did Clive Owen have to die? What does that mean for humanity in general? Etc, etc. There is no over-arching resolution to the central conflicts of the film's world. There is only a probable outcome to the singular conflict of one or two characters. And that, my friends, is a lot like life. But it's not very satisfying. We have been trained to look for neat resolutions. Summaries. Explanations. Some of the best movies don't have those things and a bunch of people get very upset by that. No Country For Old Men is another example.
Javier Bardem's villainous character is not struck down by kharmic retribution, nor is he smitten by the hand of the law. He's in an unrelated car accident, injured (though probably not lethally), and then simply walks away. And that's it. No real justice. No real explanation. It just ends. This is a very realistic depiction of events, to my way of thinking. Life doesn't come with a tidy wrap-up. In most cases it winds through a highly unpredictable course and then just ends. Fade to black.

Will this satisfy LOST fans, though? Leaving all the thousands upon thousands of nagging questions about LOST unanswered is certainly an option open to the writers and, I daresay, a route they're more inclined to choose over one that offers a Scooby-Doo type of wrap-up. But will that satisfy? I doubt it. Introducing six seasons worth of mystery upon layered innuendo upon suggestion upon baffling development upon hint upon intrigue upon question and then not addressing any of them in a resolution sense is, really, almost irresponsible. The sheer volume of mind-bending mystery in LOST precludes it being a simple lesson in life's tendency not to be tidy a la Children of Men. Not giving any answers at all is certainly one way of maintaining the mystery but it won't make anybody happy. At worst it could result in a backlash against future mystery-style layered dramas because viewers will see them as a waste of their time investment.

The third possibility is what I call The Alice Answer.

Also known as the "it was all a dream" ending, this was more original and in tune with the overall theme of the story when Lewis Carroll did it to Alice at the end of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', but has since become the go-to ending for those who have written themselves into a corner and need an easy (or comedic, or infuriating) ending. It is a cop-out. If LOST resorts to it, it will cause riots.

My point is that in 2 episodes (or 2 1/2) LOST will have reached it's inexorable conclusion. The wheels of fate and/or time and/or the machinations of the island will have finally ground to a halt for those stranded on the island (or in a parallel timeline) and I am here to tell you that nothing revealed in those final episodes can possibly fulfill the expectations of fans at this point. Too many answers, not enough, none at all, a dream... there is nothing that can make this right. LOST is too dense, there are too many layers, too many characters, too many epic revelations expected. And I doubt it can deliver. The potential that lies in the imaginations of viewers is always going to be greater than what will ultimately be shown on TV screens.

So LOST fans? Brace yourself. Because life never ends the way you want it to.