'Lost' One Year Later: Why The Series Finale Didn't Work

TV Arts

'Lost' One Year Later: Why The Series Finale Didn't Work
by James Montgomery

Over the past year, I have had no less than a dozen conversations with  
folks about the finale of "Lost" ... the cyclical beauty of that final  
shot, the poignant symbolism of the stained glass window (it's all about  
the bardo, dude), the high-minded concepts like sacrifice and  
interconnectedness and destiny that it espoused. I have nodded and sipped  
my drink politely, listened intently, perhaps even interjected  
occasionally. But at the end of each and every one of those conversations,  
I found myself more confused than I was when it began, mostly because I  
couldn't believe anyone actually liked the way the show ended.

So, at the risk of upsetting Damon Lindelof (something that is  
surprisingly easy to do), I would like to go on record as saying that the  
finale of "Lost" was absolutely terrible. I hated it when it first aired  
and now, exactly one year later, I think I hate it even more.

Why? Well, there are several reasons...

 From the very beginning of the show, I didn't care about the characters. I  
didn't care about their pre-crash lives, or the chance encounters they may  
have had with one another before they boarded Oceanic 815. I only cared  
about solving what — I assumed — was "Lost's" central mystery: What is  
this marvelous Island? I realize this practically pre-destined me to  
despise the finale, and it probably explained why I spent the last three  
seasons of the show willing myself to keep watching, since it was becoming  
abundantly clear that "Lost" was shifting away from that mystery and  
becoming, instead, a character-driven show. But still, this is the finale.  
Answers are supposed to be provided ... especially on a show like this,  
where seemingly every minute detail was important. Or, at least the  
producers made it seem that way ... why else would they include all those  
lovingly languorous scenes of people reading books? Or spend so much time  
hyping up the nefarious power of those numbers? Or tout the magic the  
Island seemed to possess: up facts like women were unable to conceive on  
it, or that that it was able to resurrect the dead (except for Paolo and  
Nikki, or course), or that it was the centerpiece of a centuries-old  
battle between good and evil? These all seemed to be key clues. In the  
end, they weren't.

In fact, one year later, I'm still not sure what the Island was at all,  
except to say that it was home to a glowing wellspring that did, uh,  
something. Why was it able to skip through time? Why did Charles Widmore  
covet it so? Why was the Dharma Initiative even there in the first place?  
Why did only one set of co-ordinates get you off of it? Why were there  
hieroglyphics involved? What was the mysterious infection? And what was  
the deal with that eye-patch guy? I could go on and on, only I won't,  
mostly because someone already did. These threads were part of the reason  
I spent six seasons watching this show, and at the end, they were left  
frayed and flapping in the breeze.

Instead of answers, the finale gave us two-and-a-half hours of  
metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, and then wrapped things up all warm-and-fuzzy  
like (Aw, Sawyer and Juliet finally got that cup of coffee!). It was a  
decidedly un-"Lost" way to end things. When I watched it live, I remember  
getting angry — "Wait, what?!?" — a reaction I also had during the final  
moments of "The Sopranos," when the tension was building and Meadow was  
parallel parking and the Journey was blaring and then all of a sudden the  
screen went black and I thought my TiVo had accidentally shut off. Only it  
hadn't. That's the way the show ended.

And really, perhaps the reason I still dislike the finale of "Lost" has a  
lot to do with the same reasons I love the finale of "The Sopranos" so ...  
namely, because its creator, David Chase, had the guts to go with the  
obtuse, un-satisfying conclusion. That show was widely lauded as one of  
the finest American television had ever produced, and, when it all  
mattered, Chase decided to give us the most delightfully Un-American  
ending possible: No dramatic, sweeping final shot. No swelling strings.  
Just a diner and a Journey song and a jarring cut to black. Did Tony die?  
It's up to you, really. The end.

"Lost" was another show that, for a while at least, seemed to be cut from  
the same grandiose cloth. It was a twisting, complex, decided Un-American  
thing, a rapidly escalating collection of ethereal concepts and dream-like  
mysteries; it was smart TV, the kind of program that we see maybe once a  
generation. Only, when it came time to wrap the whole thing up, its  
creators chickened out, gave us the American (read: dumb) ending ... the  
gratifying, satisfying conclusion that millions were clamoring for. It  
ended exactly the same way thousands of lesser TV dramas have ended over  
the decades: easily, with a somewhat logical, misty-eyed culmination.

And yes, I realize I've just spent the better part of 800 words bitching  
about how the "Lost" finale was terrible because it didn't provide enough  
answers, but over the past 365 days, I've realized that the answers  
weren't important. In the end, I just wish the folks behind the show had  
the courage to give us the obtuse conclusion a show this big truly  
deserved. Rather than force-feed us the mawkish finish they did, it  
would've been much more satisfying if they left the ending to us. The  
Island was whatever you wanted it to be: heaven, hell, purgatory,  
something else entirely. It would've been a fitting send-off to a show  
that delighted in tweaking the television norms, and, sure, people  
would've been pissed, but that's sort of the point, really. "Lost" was a  
difficult show to watch, and compellingly so. Its finale should've been  
equally difficult. If six seasons proved anything, it's that the Island  
was a hard place ... one where happy endings seldom, if ever, occurred.  
The show deserved a similar send off. Sadly, it didn't get one.
It's over, it sucked and, with luck we'll never have to look at it again.

Accept it and move on. Crying about it isn't going to give you a do-over.
WTF are you talking about? The OP merely posted an article about a TV 
show in a TV newsgroup.
And it's not the only LOST retrospective to show up on the nets this
week.  Sepinwall wrote one as well.

I think it had something to do with this being the week the show ended
last year, coupled with the fact there was, what, only one or two new
scripted major networks shows from the past season that got picked up
for a second season?

RWG (by most accounts, it was pretty awful year for American TV, so
much so that a show like LOST brings back good memories for a lot of
Then again, given thinbluemime's woody for all things JJ
Abrams and 9/11, this could just be his way of ego-wanking himself in
front of an audience. 

	The past is always regarded through rose-colored glasses.
Hi Merrick,

Except when it comes to "Alias", right?  Just kidding!!  ;-)

-/< /\ />-
Well, for seasons 1 and 2..  After that there's nothing but
ire.  The same sort of ire I have for Beavis & Butthead raping Trek.
Anyone still upset about LOST should pick up the UK series, Life on Mars
then it's sequel Ashes to Ashes to see what might have been.   Not all
episodes were great by a long shot but the finale of Ashes ties both series
together with a brilliant ending.   Something LOST fans can only dream

On the surface, both are just cop dramas so may not be everyone's cup of tea
but the ending just blows away what the writers came up with for LOST.
Watched a couple of episodes of the origina LoM, but wasn't all that
impressed to be honest.  Never made me interested enough to watch the
rest of 'em.

RWG (though I did watch the American version since it was fairly easy
to do - and I love Harvey K and Mike I)
I'm not a snob about TV and won't go on about how you're missing out and
yada, yada yada.   I liked it but I can understand if someone couldn't get
in to it.  It's the ending of Ashes to Ashes, in particular, that showed the
writers had much more respect for their audience than the writers of LOST
ever did.  It's not that it was some original, never done before thing but
just the way they did it.   LOST could have done something similar but I
don't think the writers cared enough to bother or just weren't talented

I think watching shows from another country is a bit of an acquired taste.
For one thing, production values on UK shows tend to be lower.  Then you
have to see passed the UK setting and slang that often seems like a totally
different language than the english we're used to.   Plus, like I said, they
are cop shows on the surface.

I liked the American version of Mars as well but many of the episode plots
are taken directly from those of the UK scripts.  To the point of almost
being identical except for the changes due to setting in New York.
I even liked the ending of the US version a lot though it's very different
from the original.  I thought it worked well for a series that only ran one
season.   I was just happy that for once a network show was given an early
enough warning of cancellation that the writers were able to write an ending
at all.  Usually we're just left hanging..
While I thought the Mars explanation was pretty lame and hackneyed, at
least it WAS a proper ending that made sense of the strange
occurrences.  If only LOST had done the same.  It would have been much
better to argue about whether an explanation like the purgatory theory
or the axis mundi theory was lame than to have the mysteries swept
under the rug entirely in favor of some emotional distraction.
It probably seems that way for anyone who has grown up expecting O'Henry
type denouments.  That's most people who were raised on The Twilight Zone. I
didn't think it was that bad for the exact reason you state.

This is what i mean.  For a one season show, the US ending worked out fine,
I think.   For a multi-season show, it would have seemed like much more of a
cheat.   Ashes to Ashes ending isn't something original.  It's how it was
done that I enjoyed so much.  

As others have mentioned many times, LOST's problem with the purgatory
ending is people figured it out early on.   Still, they could have easily
written a variation of it and still made it much better than what they ended
up with.   As you said, they basically just ignored much of the previous
seasons.    They probably figured something like the axis mundi theory was
too esoteric for all but a few fanboys on forums to appreciate.  This is
where LOST ultimately failed, in my opinion.  They underestimated what their
audience would have accepted and basicaly wrote down to the least common
I think they also underestimated  the audience, especially with all
the brainstorming that the internet enables, ability to figure out
much of the plot, and I think their noses went way out of joint.  The
main secret to success of the procedurals is the fun in trying to
figure out who dunnit before the end, especially when I can figure out
most of the plot but then there is a little twist at the end (like the
O'Henry ending referred to above, the ironic ending).
Yes he did, and here is the link to that article:

As Spinwall notes:

The 2010-11 TV season ends on Wednesday night, and it hasn't been an  
especially good one, at least not in terms of new shows and for the most  
part not in terms of dramas. It was an uninspiring crop of freshman shows,  
borne out by the fact that so few of the rookies are coming back next  

So anyone who was hoping for some new series to come in and immediately  
fill that spot "Lost" filled in the universe was sorely let down by this  
group of mostly lame newbies - and perhaps especially by the "Lost"-esque  
- but in all of the bad ways - "The Event," which ends its unfortunate run  
tonight. "The Event," like so many other "Lost" wannabes over the last six  
years, was all sizzle and no steak: paper-thin characters involved in a  
shell game of a plot largely devoted to keeping viewers on the hook as  
long as possible.

Hi thin,

And again, in this article there is this:

"Setting the mysteries and the oblique clues and frustrating answers
aside, "Lost" mattered. "Lost" was grand and tragic and funny and
exciting and a show that felt not quite like anything that had been
tried before - and, based on where its ratings were by the end, and
the struggles of all the shows to imitate it, one that may be unlike
anything we ever see in the future."


-/< /\ />-
I am with you, brotha !
In other words, they followed the "Lost" formula perfectly.
Sorry, I would have replied sooner but I was busy reading Doc Jensen's, 7  
page, part one, 1 year anniversary recap of LOST.