I remember the first time I saw you, Lost.
By then I’d already heard about you. I’d read an article here and there, hear one of your writers talking to Teri Gross on NPR. I have to admit, I stalked you a little bit, before introducing myself. I wanted to know more about you, before I let you get close to me.
The word was, you were in the process of completely redefining what a television show could be, and that’s the truth.
Lacking DVR technology at the time, it was too late to start watching you then, but you were pretty easy to avoid. You hadn’t swept the country like a superflu virus yet, and so all I had to do was stay off your website, and stay off ABC – not too hard.
Then at Christmas, I bought the whole season on DVD, and over break, my wife and three kids and I all sat down, and watched the first four hours, culminating in an unbelievably moving song about starting over, sins getting washed away, and I’ll just shoot you straight here. I was literally moved to tears.
Yes, and we powered through that first season in a matter of days, twenty hours of television, fumbling with DVDs and slapping in the next one before we even put the last one away. We were exhilarated by the constant sensation of swinging our heads around to stare at each other when something crazy would happen, and saying, “WHAT??”
And when it was over, we freaked out like a bunch of crackheads run dry. And we had to wait a year for another fix.
The feeling was – anything could happen, and that was not something we were accustomed to, on television. Usually, on television, you knew approximately what was going to happen by looking at the clock. If Monk thought he knew how the librarian was murdered, and the show was only half over, then Monk didn’t really know yet. And if there were ten minutes left, then he was about to figure it out.
If Raymond Who Everyone Loves lied to his wife about being sick, and he was really going golfing, you could bet your ass she’d walk in the house just as he was coming in wearing his clubs over his shoulder, and funny pants.
In Lost, the standard formula didn’t apply. A monster could show up, even though so far, the show had been viscerally realistic. A polar bear could run out of the jungle. A math teacher could suddenly, and very simply, explode.
It was like meeting someone new when all you were used to was romantic stagnation, someone exciting who made you laugh and gasp with surprise and feel alive. Those first couple of years – and I’m dead serious here – were simply magical.
If you were a woman, Lost, I’d have left my wife for you, and if you were a man, she’d have left me. No question, and both of us would have understood.
After a while, though, unpredictability and moments of jaw-dropping confusion became the formula. Defying the formula, was the formula. Pretty soon, we were getting a little nervous that there wasn’t anything behind the charm and good looks. Because if all of these crazy plot twists actually fit together in one piece, then this was a work of art, but there was a growing concern among us, that they didn’t fit together, and that would be better described as a pile.
Like any relationship that seems too good to be true, I started thinking, maybe you’d been full of crap this whole time, and that we were hopelessly blind to it all.
We broke up a couple of times. When Sawyer and Kate spent a few weeks in polar bear cages, we had a little bit of a falling out. And what you did to Billy Dee Williams – not cool, we declared. But I stuck by you when the time travel started, stood right there while a bunch of people bailed. I stuck around, but I harbored my secret fears.
Evidence was showing up that, although you swore you knew where you were going with this, that maybe you really didn’t. That maybe this was a soap opera with the biggest budget in soap opera history. That this was an Ashton Kutcher movie, and we were the wealthy girl you’d charmed with your lies, and that the whole thing was going to come crashing down pretty soon, and who was going to get hurt, Lost?
We were, that’s who. And so I really hope this last episode is the heartwarming scene where Ashton Kutcher demonstrates that he’s learned what love’s all about, and that he’s ready to grow up and try it for real. Trust me, if you do, I’ll swoon.
See, I couldn’t stay mad at you. You’d call me at one o’clock in the morning, sounding tipsy, and I’d always let you come over even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, and pretty soon, we’d be right back where we started, locked screen-to-eye, my mouth hanging open, whispering astonished swear words in the dark.
I have to tell you, I’m pretty alarmed at what you think it means to explain what’s going on here.
For instance, Jacob has magic ashes that burn and bring him back to life. That’s pretty handy, since he needed to explain to everyone what was going on, now that the Smoke Monster was kicking so much ass, but you know what would have been handier than that really contrived plot device?
Showing up on day one, at the airplane wreckage, going, “Hey, you guys, come here, I need to talk to you about a magic Island Light.”
Yes, yes, I know. He had to test them. It had to do with the game. The magic game which you don’t really explain. Sigh.
Also, I would have preferred “crashed alien space ship” as an explanation for the energy pocket, for the island itself. I would have preferred, well, practically any explanation at all.
Instead, what I’ve got so far is, the Island has always been here, and it symbolizes the struggle between good and evil, and where’d Jacob and the Man in Black come from?
They came from their mom, and don’t ask any more questions, because only stupid, dense people keep asking questions.
Really, really, not crazy about that, Lost. I’m all for symbolism, but I’m of the school of thought that symbolism should run parallel to the story, not that symbolism should be used as a heavy plaster, to patch enormous holes in the plot.
Take the sci-fi classic Alien. There’s very definitely a symbolic subtext there about feminine identity versus male domination. The design of the alien, for instance, is based on the phallic drawings of H.R. Giger, and they’re not just a little bit phallic. The alien is a giant, monstrous penis with a smaller penis inside him.
Giger has a ball (no pun intended) making intricate painting after intricate painting of monsters and weapons made of penises, and I’m not here to judge him. Let’s just say, I don’t think that was lost on Ridley Scott, when he made his design choices.
The alien orally penetrates its victims, implanting its offspring, which then destroy the victims’ bodies. Throughout the movie, the symbolism is clear, but here’s the good news: You don’t need the symbolism. Most people don’t even notice it.
Because the symbolism isn’t the explanation. It’s a theme, separate from the nuts-and-bolts decisions and practical circumstances that comprise the story.
Where did the alien come from? From a crashlanded ship, which crashed when the aliens overran it.
It’s not, where did the aliens come from? Oh, they symbolize male domination over women in society, so shut yer word hole.
That’s like saying, what time is it? Orange, stupid.
The symbolism is fantastic. I’m all for it.
But the story began and always has been very visceral and real. It saddens me to watch it descend into this arrogant sort of, “Oh, it’s your expectations which have failed you, not the story! Free your mind!”
When I was still really angry about the way things were going, one of your minions sent me a message in which he answered exactly one of the many, many things I needed explained. Mind you, he didn’t explain it, he just answered it.
Like if I said, “Why was the crashed ship transporting the aliens in the first place?”
And he said, “They were taking them to alien school!”
Big difference, between an answer and an explanation.
This fellow then went on to tell me that he actually knew ALL of the answers to ALL of my questions, and that he wasn’t going to waste his time telling me, because I was obviously not as intelligent as him, and it wasn’t worth his time.
That may have been the first time I’ve ever heard someone declare themselves to be intellectually superior based solely on their television-watching skills, but that’s what he said. And the thing is, I think he was serious.
But that’s just a guy who’s pretending to see the Emperor’s New Clothes, so people will think he’s awesome. He can’t see the clothes. Don’t be ridiculous.
You see, Lost, I could have sworn that I and millions of others were perfectly clear this whole time, when we kept asking you, “Are you sure you know where you’re going with this thing? You’re not just pulling shocking plotlines out of your butt, and then worrying about tying them up later?”
You kept saying, “We know exactly where we are going, and all will be revealed.”
I mean, I know you had to say that, either way. It’s like asking your kids if they ate all the potato chips – the answer’s going to be no, regardless of what happened.
I can ruin a perfectly good movie by thinking about it too much. Take Avatar. Very difficult for me to watch, since so many solutions to the plot were obvious early on. For instance, the big mine full of unobtainium or whatever, was under the natives tree city, and they had to go after that stash of it, because it was “the biggest deposit in two hundred clicks!”
Thinking, yes, you came here in spaceships, I have an idea. Land two hundred clicks that way, where the other big deposit is.
And sure, even if you really need what’s under that tree, you’re obviously willing to destroy the tree to get it. What’s with the tanks and the ground troops? You got a facility in orbit. Carpet bomb the whole area from space, be done with it. Start digging.
So maybe it’s time I follow my own advice, and decide if I’m on board or not, for this one last boat ride on Lost. Because they’ve made it pretty clear, my idea of answering questions is not their idea of answering questions.
Yes, like an emotionally abusive girlfriend who keeps cheating on me with my friends, I keep coming back to you Lost, and I feel like a chump now, as you’re leaving town for good, because all I can think about are the good times we had.
The hatch, the numbers, Benjamin Linus and Daniel Farraday. The Magic Moving Island Detecting Pendulum Room. We had some great times, for sure, you crazy, sociopathic bitch, and I wouldn’t trade ‘em for the world.
So we’ll hit the town, one last time, and I’m going to try and love you for who you are, with all of your beauty and brilliance, your mood swings and selfishness and drunken, bitchy arrogance. I’m going to remember that Raiders of the Lost Ark is still one of the greatest movies ever made, regardless of all that business with the Crystal Skulls.
And whoever’s writing you, whether you’re secretly Stephen King or exactly who’s on the box, I’m going to remember that I am absolutely nothing compared to your magnificence. The truth is, as a writer, you’re simply the biggest dude in the prison yard right now, and maybe a part of me just thought it’d be a good idea to take a swing at you, try and gain your respect.
My expectations have been lowered, my dear. Just like that old crazy girlfriend, I no longer expect you to marry me, or make me happy, or replace my mom. No, I expect you to do your thing, like Marilyn Monroe said. If I can’t handle you at your worst, then I damn sure never deserved you at your best.
I’m sorry, Lost, that I’ve been a little bit of a jerk. I’m just out of my head with remorse, that you’re leaving for good, and I’m frightened of learning that maybe you’ve been lying to me this whole time. That maybe, none of this meant anything to you, except a raft of cash.
But I’ll be there tonight, and I can pretty much guarantee, it’s going to end where it began – a grown man and his family, jaws hanging open, crying for the loss of our beloved and selfish old friend.