"Lost" in Translation: The End of the End

The father, the son and the holy hottie

In the end there were no fireworks. No yelling and screaming. No fingers in the chest nor recitations of missed ballgames, withering slights, alcoholic screw-ups or Oedipal murderousness. The surface anger melted and all that remained – in the sheer white light outside the Unitarian church – was a father and son sobbing happily in one another’s arms.

Their friends sat in the pews, unbloodied and unbowed. And, finally, together.

The island, with its heroes, villains, monsters and constant life-threatening struggles, was less a literal place than a stage for a greater emotional battle: a thrill-ride version of psychotherapy:, where the patient is made to confront, engage and then move beyond the obsessions and weaknesses that have defined his/her life.

Everyone’s answer is different. For Jack it was accepting surrender; for Hurley it regaining self-confidence; for Miles it had something to do with discovering his faith in duct tape.

What matters is that what once were lost are now found. And what was “Lost” is now a memory. A long series of memories, actually, packed with action and adventure and dark humor, but also yearning and heartbreak and frustration and all the stuff of human exerpience. But no matter the blood and bombs and bad-ass thugs and monsters and on and on, the source of all that white light  came from within the characters themselves.

The mythology, as cool and confusing as it could be, was exactly like the cool, confusing mythology we all weave for ourselves: A Hollywood-style animation of the internal drama flickering behind all of our eyes.

Are you ready to move on? That’s always the question. And for most of us, pretty much most of the time, the answer is emphatic: Helll, no. Thus psychotherapy, if you’re a secular urban mod with health care and/or expendable cash. College kids can take philosophy classes, and engage in dorm room bickerfests about reality. Everyone else gets religion, or worst case, primetime tv. And just in case you wanted to wrap it all up in one tidy package, these last six years have also given us “Lost.”

A simplified version of the bigger versions, of course. But also free(ish) and pretty to look at, and way more often than not, some lovely combination of thoughtful, mysterious, action-packed and hilarious.

So much to love, hate, watch and debate over the years. But as we hit the final moments yesteday – in the church with all the central characters (but no Mr. Eko! Where the hell was Mr. Eko!?! Or Michael? Or Walt? Or Aaron?), the stained glass-of-many-religious-symbols and the sheer white light outside, was that specific answers to specific plot points weren’t the point of the story. Like every mythological story (see also: the Bible, political speeches, etc) they were parables about bigger problems and bigger ideals. Animations of the spiritual pursuit that gives meaning to everything else that happens in our lives

Everyone has unanswered questions. Why the Egyptian statue? What did it mean for your sideways life in L.A. if you got killed on the island? What did it mean for your island life if you got killed in L.A.? (wither the mortal soul of Keamy?) Was the island purgatory? Or was purgatory actually in the sideways world in L.A.?

You could debate all these questions, and about 100 more, for the rest of eternity. You could branch off into different faiths and sub-faiths, you could create philosophical schools and vast cultures based on your reading of the “Lost” mythology. It’d be ridiculous, but anything plus about a millennium can seem to add up to that much. Then you could take up arms and try to wipe out all the heathens who took up with the other faiths.

For now the “Lost” world will just divide into different critical camps, write reviews, post on the internet, and etc. But the root impulse – the reading of liturgy, the interpretation, the delineation of right, wrong and arguable – follows in the grand tradition of all faith-based reasoning. Is it ridiculous to take a tv show so seriously? Certainly. But wait a thousand years and. . .

I loved the ending, myself. I was always in for the internal story, anyway. For me the action itself mattered way less than the way it was reflected in the characters’ eyes – or, more accurately, how it sprang from the characters’ internal conflicts, flaws and aspirations. I may not have understood exactly where that big stone bathtub plug came from, or why the Man in Black got smoke-ified in there, while Jack emerged alive, only to fall victim to the gash in his side (did anyone miss the stigmata reference?) and then to die, happily, in the same bamboo jungle where he arose at the start of the series, determined to face down the smoke and flames and fix everything and everyone in his path.

Now the time for action had gone. He had finally fixed something within himself, and with his friends safely airborne, a sweet dog at his side he could rest. The journey was over.

"Lost" in Translation: Cry Me a River, "Lost" Maniacs

Don’t leave the island without it!

As the end of “Lost” approaches every previously-accepted point of the show’s fact, history and fancy seem to pirouette, somersault and get blown to smithereens.

Sayid – dead. Sun and Jin – dead. Lapidus – vanished and presumed….well, your guess is as good as mine. Hurley – weeping uncontrollably. Alt-Locke – revealed as the loving son of a vegged-out Anthony Cooper, wracked by guilt because he crashed the plane that not only shattered his own spine, but destroyed the life of his beloved old man. Leaving the bald boy so wrought by guilt he won’t even consider Alt-Jack’s offer of a near-surefire cure for his paralysis.

Did I mention that this post might include some spoilers from last night’s episode? Maybe I should have noted that earlier.

Questions are answered, stories resolved. Satisfying or not, an ending always means the foreclosing of options. The collapse of some possibilities in favor of others. Which leads just as inevitably to disappointment and outrage. It’s like the show’s creators have pillaged your imagination, kicking apart your dreams and contradicting your own sense of logic and reality.

No surprise then to turn on the Twitter this morning and see some of my favorite tweeters (James Poniewozik; Tim Carvell) already engaged in a what-if-the-ending sucks-does-it-wreck-the-whole-series exchange.

Which reminds me of why I think series conclusions, particularly in long serialized shows full of myth and mystery, will always be roundly loathed. And why the final answers to “Lost” shouldn’t matter that much to anyone, anyway. . . .

1. The show’s mythology is just that: a groovy overlay of narrative to draw viewers from episode to episode. OMG, the island is capable of anything – polar bears; meandering spirits; antagonists behind every palm tree; monsters, instant healing and more. The easiest question – what the hell are these things and where did they come from? – is way less important than the realization that it’s nothing more (or less) than an animation of our own internal consciousness. I’m not sure what you think about at 3:15 a.m. when you can’t sleep and your skin seems to chafe against your bones, but when I close my eyes it’s all monsters, torches and the ghost of every disaster I ever created, accidentally or not.

2. Ordinarily I kick the crap out of anyone who tries to tell me that the journey matters more than the destination (consider every airline flight you’ve ever suffered) but in “Lost”‘s case, it’s actually true. No matter how the show ends what I (and you?) will remember through the years will almost certainly be the revelations about the characters’ origins: the headwaters of guilt, grief and anger that put them on the island in the first place. Why and how they’re “lost” on the island can’t come close to competing with the revelation that they were all spiritually “lost” even before they got there. Because eventually 3:15 a.m. comes calling for all of us, and isn’t it awful how you can by safe in bed in your comfy 1st World home and still see nothing but jungle, torches, bears and whispering spirits?

3. Consider Locke, in new Smokey form and original alt-Locke recipe, and his perpetually fraught relationship with air travel. Even his hollowed out shell can’t seem to get off the ground, now that you mention it. I’m hesitant to toss in a reference to Icarus right here, but no matter how you slice him he sure does want to get closer to the sun. And when he falls (from Oceanic 815; from his daddy’s apartment window; from his own airplane with daddy in the co-pilot’s chair) he smacks the earth pretty hard. Too bad Smokey-Locke’s only apparent way off the island is yet another airplane, eh? Situations change, but the essential character and flaws of a human soul hold true. (see also: the endless blackness of Tony Soprano’s soul, as animated so brilliantly by the wonderful, yet despised, cut to black at the end of “The Sopranos”‘s finale).

4. Notice when the about-to-be-blowed-up Sayid told Jack that he is “it”? If that’s not a clue about the essential roles control and heroics (no matter the cost) play at the heart of his character – even when he’s determined to move past them – then I’ll have something else to feel awful about the next time 3:15 a.m. rolls around.

5. No amount of C-4 can liquify the impact Sayid made when we realized – at the height of the Iraq war, you’ll recall – how his story was such an evocative micro-portrait of the amorality of war, and the way larger powers play so fast and loose with the lives and spirits residing under their influence. On a human level the paradoxes seem endless. Sayid, after all, was made into an Iraqi torturer despite his conscience. And even when his warring was done his conscience dictated that he take up torturing again to restore justice somewhere else. How could he reconcile these two irreconcilable facets of his character? He couldn’t, so eventually his only option was to go boom.

6. Also on the go-boom list: “Lost” itself. But no matter how things end on May 23rd the real story has already been told. If you really watched the show I hope and trust it was because you could sense how the show had seen into you. That’s the series’ significance, that’s what matters. May 23rd could add another layer of magic, or maybe it’ll be just one more in a chain of way-more-engaging-than-usual primetime TV. Seems like a no-lose to me, particularly since the real battle for your tv-watching soul was fought and won way back in season 1.

Hello, Dr. Nick!: Deep "Lost" Analysis – Still Smokeyin'

Dave’s not here!

By Nick Gorini
In a break from form, I feel the need to start off this post by issuing this week’s Stupid Award to yours truly. Why? Well, I spent last week telling everyone and their brother that ‘The Last Recruit,’ this week’s episode of ‘Lost’, was going to possible be an absolute bloodbath of Eli Roth-like proportions.
My Intel and my Spidey Sense were WAY off.
Consider this my formal mea culpa: For getting caught up in being the first with the gossip scoop, for paying more attention to what the internets were saying (I mean, they never lie, right?) and less to the pulse of the story, for not being diligent in my fact-checking, and for being gullible, I have won this week’s Stupid Award!
Was I confused, living in an alternate timeline? Was I manipulated and swayed by the Smoke Monster? Did Jacob steer me in this misguided direction to teach me a larger lesson? Was it because the episode cryptically appeared on the date of 4/20, Man?
I bring up 4/20 for a couple of reasons: The Losties crashed on a tropical island, looking much like Hawaii. Tropical islands (like Hawaii) are typically known for growing certain types of plants that have a known, enthusiastic following. Let’s put it this way – I imagine Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson might even have vacation homes near Hydra Station (hydroponics is a popular topic of discussion with this subculture).
With this information in mind, I ask you, why the hell didn’t Jacob try having a toke with Smokey? His name is Smokey, after all. Why didn’t Smokey try growing some weed in a quiet, fern-covered patch of his back yard, next to the chicken coop? While I don’t believe in any chemical cure-all (this is Lost – resolution has to come from within), can you imagine how different our storyline would be if Smokey had the occasional, well, smoke?
For all his troubles and eternal enslavement, all Jacob offered Smokey was half a carafe of table wine (back in Alpert’s episode). I’d be pissed, too. Give me something a little stronger. Of course, you don’t have to be Catholic to know that what Jacob offered Smokey wasn’t really wine; it was something much stronger. Smokey knew that, too, which is why he smashed that sacrament and faith into shards littering the hallowed ground.
Perhaps that’s what Jacob wanted for Smokey. To not ply himself with narcotic, to not be complacent and trapped. After all, ‘It only ends once. Everything before that is progress.’ Maybe Jacob wants this escalation, maybe Jacob needs this chaos to help save Smokey. To help save his soul. To help Smokey embrace his destiny. Wonder what that could be?…
By the way, have I mentioned that I still haven’t stopped thinking about ‘Ab Aeterno’?
This week’s Aye, Caramba! moments…and more….after the jump:

Locke and Ben in the ambulance on the way to the ER. Locke is awake, alert and remembers his penning wedding to Peg Bundy, er, Helen. He’s still in there, folks.

Sun recognizing Locke on the way into the hospital. But maybe she remembered Terry O’Quinn from ‘The Stepfather’. He was real creepy in that one, too.

In what seemed a weak stretch, Kate threatens overly-flirtatious Sawyer with the knowledge that he went to Australia for nebulous reasons. Didn’t buy that logic, but I did believe her when she said she didn’t kill anyone. Wonder what the real story is.

Of course Miles and Sawyer are the cops to catch Sayid. Nice touch, tripping Sayid with a garden hose to capture him. However, the real Sayid would’ve been able to snap Sawyer’s neck like a matchstick.

Desmond ‘bumping’ into Claire and getting her to a lawyer’s office (“Hi, Ilana! Glad to see you in one piece!). Question: Did Desmond know that Claire and Jack were going to meet at that moment, or was that an event that Desmond had no previous knowledge of, but once it happened, got affirmation that his puzzle pieces are coming together?

The brief exchange between Nadia and Sayid set the stage nicely for one of the best scenes of the evening: Sayid and Desmond at the well. Can Desmond’s reminder of love redeem our favorite undead assassin? Well, if Ben can suddenly be a good guy, why not?
Ohhh! Ohhh! Zoe has missiles now!! WOW!! Somebody please kill off Zoe now. Bland acting, tepid character, bad lines… What’s not to hate?

I like that the show handled the two separate Claire/Jack meetings with some strange, unresolved awkwardness. If the show had tried to handle either situation with some cheesy score in the background, and smiles, it would’ve been too fake, too unearned. Jack’s shock at the law office, and Claire’s barely contained bitterness on the island were the right notes to play.

The baby is fine! The baby is fine! Yes, it would’ve been really brave of the creators to go way dark, have Jin and Sun’s baby not survive the shooting. But that might have been just too heavy. Not only that, but I don’t think it would’ve worked for what the show is trying to tell us. Lost isn’t about punishing innocents/innocence. Everyone other than Walt arrived on that island with some intense inner baggage – even that smug dog, Vincent (wonder if his flashback would’ve revealed a life spent peeing on carpets, terrorizing neighbor cats and NOT fetching balls).

We knew Jack and Locke would meet on an operating table, but it was a nice touch to have it via a mirror reflecting Locke’s face at (or into) Jack’s consciousness.

So Smokey pretended to be Christian (MOST of the time – see bullet point below for some continuity issues with that statement). Oddly, I felt that Smokey was about 95% honest with Jack in their fireside chat. Right up until the end about all of the candidates needing to go back. He’s just rounding them up to make an easier kill. I also liked that look Jack had when Smokey was speaking ill of Locke – I swear Jack wanted to slap him.

Pay attention alert! As a side note, have you noticed how virulent Smokey’s hatred is whenever he speaks of Locke now? These little speeches sound an awful lot like someone beating up on themselves. It sounds more like self-disgust and shame to me.

Sawyer has some good moments this week, and momentarily, he grabbed pole position when he rounded up most of the troops to stage a coup. And he knew that Kate would force his hand in bringing Claire along.

Desmond at the well, waiting to baptize Sayid and make him a born-again loverboy. I really liked that Desmond’s approach wasn’t to refute anything Smokey promised Sayid. “What will you tell her.” Yet another great Desmond Hume scene. And no, Sayid didn’t shoot him. But did he simply walk away, or does Desmond have to wait for Lassie to come back with help?

It seems obvious that Smokey wanted Sawyer and crew to get on the boat and make it over to Widmore island. In fact, Smokey seemed awfully happy to have Jack to himself.

And don’t worry, Jack. I don’t think you really killed Juliet. After all, you two seem to have raised a fine young boy.

We finally get Jin and Sun’s reunion! The only bummer is that what should’ve been a pretty significant show moment, was overshadowed by the necessity to end on a cliffhanger and propel the plot. That was a shame.
A little trivia from a trivial mind:

Smokey really didn’t know why Sun lost her voice. That is an important point to remember.

There’s certain evidence here that Smokey has no idea about the alternate timeline. This is also extremely important (“Here come da Resurrection!”)

To a certain extent, I think as an audience,
we’ve assumed that we know as much as Desmond, but that definitely isn’t the case. Desmond knows a little more; probably not the whole enchilada, but more than we do.

Speaking of Desmond, his sailboat sure seems to be in pretty good shape after all this time. And stocked with canned goods?
Those silly writers are still messing around with those numbers! I got this bit of trivia from Lostpedia: “The first flash was John Locke’s (candidate #4); the third flash was Saywer’s (candidate #15), the fourth flash was Sayid’s (candidate #16), the fifth flash was Jack’s (candidate #23) and the last flashback was Jin and Sun’s (candidate(s) #42.” What are we counting up to, guys?

Someone tell me why Sawyer, who has used Star Wars references in his insults throughout the show, didn’t know who the hell Anakin Skywalker was? Crikey, he even used a Burt Reynold’s reference to insult Lapidus – he obviously knows his pop-culture.

This might have been a “Blooper”, but I think it was intentional: Jack and Locke’s fireside conversation was at night. But when they walked back, it was in daylight. Long conversation, or clunky symbolism?

Claire and Desmond’s elevator number? 15.

This episode had more character juxtapositions than any previous episode. You had Jack taking orders from Sawyer, Widmore conning Sawyer, Jack’s son David giving Jack the pre-surgery pep-talk and affection Christian never gave him, helpful sideways Ben not knowing much about Locke, Smokey calling Locke a “sucker” juxtaposed with Ben calling Locke a “Believer” in a previous episode, Zoe giving Smokey a sundown deadline (just like Smokey did at the Temple), Jack saving Locke’s life at the ER vs. Smokey saving Jack’s life on the beach, Locke greeting Jack with “Nice day for a swim” – which is what Sawyer said to Juliet in the same situation, and lastly, that great boat scene with Jack and Sawyer. Jack being Locke, Sawyer being Jack, then Jack being Sawyer by jumping off the boat (like Sawyer jumping out of the chopper).

Peter mentioned this in his post – who impersonated Christian Shepherd off-island? Smokey claimed to have impersonated Christian, but Jack saw him off-island. Was it Jacob? Was it Smokey? Or by golly, was it actually Christian?
What’s on the road. A head?

I mentioned this last week, but at least one more KEY character from the past will be showing up soon. Someone who was a regular cast member. Someone “Special”.

There are still some unexplored places on this island. We will see some of these places before we’re through.
As speculated, we will soon be getting Smokey’s back story. Perhaps we’ll meet his mom, of whom he speaks quite fondly. I wonder what family photo day was like?

 “Comb your hair! Sit up straight, mister! You made a mess of those pants when you got all smoke-monstery! Stop killing the photographer! I can’t take you anywhere, young man! Why can’t you be more like your brother Jacob?”

I’m also keeping this bullet point from last week and using it again, because I think some people aren’t quite catching it: I encourage you, no, I implore you, to watch Locke and Smokey over the next two episodes. Why? Terry O’Quinn’s giving us all sorts of clues in his performance, but we’ve got to pay attention.

I ask you: Are you prepared for an ending that may not meet your needs? One that may not give you all the answers to the petty island mysteries? Or more interestingly, are you rooting for a dark, emotionally complicated ending, or hoping for a resolved, happier one? Something to think about.
Thanks for reading and watching!

"Lost" in Translation: He's a zombie and she's nuts.

They got the same greeting at David Geffen’s place…

So many stories, so many characters, multiple realities, intertwining crises. And maybe the one thing they all have in common is that no one is telling the truth, exactly. Particularly when they look you in the eye and swear to creation that everything they say is real.

And while it’s true that some people can, and do, tell a lie in pursuit of a moral end, the creation (or perpetuating) of a reality that is nothing but a hall of mirrors serves mostly to throw dirt in the air and turn everyone, good or bad, blind.

If the subject is “Lost,” which it is, I could be talking about anything now. About Sawyer reneging on his deal with MIB/Locke. About alt-Desmond tailing, and steering, alt-Claire to the meeting with the alt-Ilana, alt-Jack. About alt-Desmond’s bumper car exploits with altLocke. And on and on. About alt-Sayid’s murders of Keamey & friends; about Sayid’s non-murder of Desmond (if you don’t see the body….), and more.

But what’s really got me shaken up, after several weeks of thinking it was coming, is the news that the post-death Christian Shepard, seen so often in various stations and moods on the island, was always Smokey, animating yet another dead person’s body. Which implies that Smokey was the guy in “Jacob”‘s moveable jungle cabin; and the guy helping Locke push the wheel that sent the island spiraling back and forth in time; that Smokey was the one appearing to Jack in various places during his first L.A. sojourn….except, wait a minute. That COULDN’T have been Smokey, because that was in L.A., and guess who can’t travel over water?

So does that mean all those Smokey-seeming Christians weren’t Smokey after all?

At this pace “Lost” begins to resemble a kind of sci-fi version of Whack-A-Mole, where each successfully whacked plot twist only sends a dozen other rodents leaping out of the dirt.

I feel like Sawyer, the increasingly logical, and thus impatient, leader of the get-out-of-Dodge gang. He has no time for bullshit, and even less time for anyone still drifting through an existential crisis. See also his curt, and extremely accurate, dismissal of two longtime friends and compatriots: “Sayid’s a zombie, and Claire’s nuts.” Indeed. And when Hurley counters this with more movie logic — that Anakin Skywalker proves the perpetual possibility that anyone, even Claire, can cross back from the dark side, he is having none of it: “She lost her ticket when she tried to kill Kate.” Just so.

Like Sawyer, the logical part of my brain is getting irked by what it perceives as the intractability of this bottomless plot tangle. But the cooler part of me is still entranced by this ever-engaging, and always moving, collision of dramatic realism and dream-like surreality swirling just beneath the surface. The endless coincidences that make no literal sense, but score instantly in the viewer’s emotional understanding of the transcendent natures of the characters. Our inescapable suspicion that the more a person denies the existence of fate, the more he (or she, Mrs. Hawking) is actually trying to bend the direction of that mysterious, all-powerful force.

The more sure someone sounds, the less he actually seems to know for sure. The future is up for grabs. And when it comes to zombies and nuts, no one is beyond contention. Not the characters, not the producer/writers, not the viewers. Certainly not the ABC execs and their blood-red, ticking V’s. And don’t even ask about the “Lost” bloggers.

"Lost" in Translation: Reason to believe in the ridiculous

Ben and Sun: Some people really weren’t meant to be together

My kid has been watching “Lost” with me this year, and so when we got off one plane at LAX last week, and made our way into the international arrivals terminal enroute to another flight, he took a look around and said: “I guess this is when our flash-sideways lives begin.” Made me laugh out loud. And it also reminded me of one my favorite aspects of the series: Its ability to both acknowledge, and make light of how absurd some of its central premises are.

Perhaps the best in these moments came in this episode, “The Package,” when Sawyer confronted NotLocke/Smoke Monster in the midst of NL/SM’s preparations to rustle up a boat for his and Sayid’s trip to the Hydra island.

Sawyer: ” “Why don’t you just turn  your ass into black smoke and fly over there?”

NotLocke: “I can’t do that, James. If I could do you think I’d still be here?”

Sawyer: “Of course not.” (pause) “‘Cause That’d be ridiculous.”

Just because you can turn yourself into black smoke, among other things, and fly hither and yon and destroy everything in sight….well, obviously that doesn’t mean you can cross bodies of water to do it. I mean, duh.

But then again, what isn’t absurd in the realm of faith and hope and philosophy? It’s one thing to have dueling light/dark characters who clearly standi in for God and Satan. But to invest them with similar supernatural abilities — and the same fundamental questions on the very essence of good and evil – is the sort of highwire act you should never see in popular media. That’s Salman Rushdie territory, and last time I checked a significant percentage of the world’s population was still intent on killing him.

Maybe the consistent (and consistently angrifying) notion is that life itself is ridiculous. That grace itself — e.g., the living tomato Jack pulls out of Sun’s dead garden — is a non-sequitur, just as tragedy — e.g., alterna-Sun catching a stray bullet in the restaurant kitchen shootout, just after sinister-but-doomed Keamy told Jin ” that “some people aren’t meant to be together.”

Looked like a serious gutshot, in fact, and so the last we saw was Jin carrying her off to get help, which he may or may not find in time. Just as Island Sun has to resist Not-Locke’s invitation to take her to her still-long-lost Island husband because she just doesn’t trust the Smoke Monster inside of him.

What this all adding up to, Jin-and-Sun-wise, is an-fixable destiny of being kept apart. Just as Widmore – scheming away on the Hydra, with Tina Fey at the head of his recon group – must live tragically without his daughter…..who we now assume is tragically without Desmond, the poor Scots bastard, who has been dragged back to the island for reasons unknown.

So maybe this is the final answer at the heart of “Lost”‘s mythology: Shit happens. And then, if you’ve been touched by Jacob, you don’t die.

Another ridiculous notion: Smokey’s sense of moral righteousness, even after slaughtering the innocents in the temple: They had their chance to come with him and they didn’t take it, he tells Sun. “Those people were confused. They had been lied to.” Even the devil has God on his side.

Ridiculous notion #2: The truth, and how to tell it. Ben Linus lied about everything virtually all of the time, but once he made a promise to someone, he prided himself on keeping his word. Smokey seems to roll exactly the same way, and we heard echoes of the same my-word-is-bond business from Jacob and Widmore. Does this mean that the moral poles of humanity maintain their honor even when their acolytes don’t?

The world is devolving. War is afoot. The purest rivers are running dark, the cork may pop and darkness may poison the world. But even a dead garden can cough up a sweet, cherry-red tomato. The spark of life goes on. And like faith, life and (to a lesser extent) “Lost,” that’s either beautiful or ridiculous. Or both.