Two island-based shows have disappeared. One for the season; and one for, well, ever. Recently, reality game show Survivor ended its 20th season (which was dubbed Heroes vs. Villains; pitting past winners and losers together), and the fictional, labyrinthine Lost concluded its 6 season run. Each show has represented a huge portion of my viewing time…time devoted to figuring out their particular mysteries and motivations. Survivor caused me to pick apart player’s strategies and, as usual, the show’s exemplary use of editing (which has mastered the art of deception), has continually kept me guessing as to where allegiances lie. In the case of Lost, I eagerly awaited the finale, hoping that the myriad of questions I had were going to be answered. That all the theorizing, plot-dissecting, and character analysis would lead to an intellectually satisfying conclusion. In both cases, I found that each show ended in surprising, yet heavily flawed ways.
For me, the highlights of the past Survivor season revolved around the antics of smarmy “millionaire” Russell Hantz, who plowed through the game like a tenacious pit-bull; his massive ego inflating with every double-cross and perceived backstab. Russell has learned (twice!) that being a conniving and two-faced douchebag is not the proper way to garner jury votes. Ultimately, Russell’s downfall has been his arrogance and overly-sensitive nature. Prompting intense hatred from his fellow survivors, Russell has been burned by the oft-mentioned “social game.” Unlike 1st season winner Richard Hatch (who sparked the ire of the other contestants through his churlish ways…and who tested their resolve, and ours, by parading around in all his chubby, hairy, and pixilated-assed glory), nobody has respected Russell’s aggressive style of play. And, while I would not go so far as to say that he is the best player to ever participate in the game (he has yet to win), he is certainly the most entertaining. Also, he seems to be the only person to ever watch Survivor and apply his knowledge to the game. After all, he has found numerous hidden immunity idols without any clues and has figured out that making teammates miserable is a worthwhile tactic that can work to control and manipulate.
Overall, I was disappointed that Russell, once again, was denied a win (although he did walk away with 100,000 bucks due to viewer votes). Unfortunately for him, jury votes determine who gets the grand prize, and all the jury members did little to hide their vehement loathing of the way he carried himself. Instead, he and Parvati (perhaps the best Survivor player ever…she has won once already and frequently dominated immunity challenges this season), made the unwise decision to keep Sandra Diaz-Twine along for the final three. When all was said and done, Sandra was the lesser of three evils and her “under the radar,” go-with-the-flow style of play was less infuriating (in the eyes of the jury), than Russell or Parvati’s. And, despite Sandra’s win (she has become the first person to win Survivor twice, so it could be argued that she, truly, is the best to play the game); she nonetheless is a weak competitor in challenges and seems to completely avoid any type of strategy to get further. Frequently, she gave up (much like the lethargic and uninterested Colby Donaldson…what happened to this guy?), and was able to stick around through no fault of her own. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and she was some kind of subtle genius. After all, she’s the fucking millionaire and I’m still stuck working in a peanut factory.
While Survivor continues to amble along, Lost has closed up shop for good. I have shared my obsessive affinity for the show several times (I have listened to podcasts, scoured websites for information, and have frequently penned Slash fiction about Jack and Hurley…Jack is a “power top” while Hurley is the “bear” of the relationship). Anyway, I have alternately been dreading and anxiously anticipating the series finale ever since the lockdown date was revealed.
Tons of journalists and bloggers have already written about the last episode of Lost; so I figured I might as well throw my hat into the ring too. After much rumination, I have concluded that the finale was emotionally satisfying, yet intellectually vacant. Basically, I was happy to see the character’s ride off into the sunset (especially the “real” John Locke), but from a story standpoint, and a mental standpoint, I was left unsatisfied. Essentially, the finale answered questions pertaining to season 6, while ignoring most of the questions from the previous seasons.
From what I can gather, this is what happened in the finale:
Everybody who crash landed on the island is dead. The flash-sideways conceit was limbo; a construct by the Oceanic survivors to reconnect in the afterlife in order to move on. And Jack, the one who saved everyone by bringing the “light” back to the magical wishing well, was the last one to accept the knowledge of his passing. For better or for worse, this last season was primarily a slow-burn leading to the whole limbo/purgatory reveal.
Now, do I feel cheated? Do I feel betrayed? Do I feel like I wasted six years of my life obsessing over a show that, upon retrospect, was mostly comprised of red herrings? To a certain extent I would say “yes.” The finale did not tie up every loose end and it did not even bother to address most of the questions that it posed. I do think it is a cop-out to justify these concerns by stating that the island is magical…and that’s why weird shit goes down (which is what I have taken away from the show). All of these vagaries have fueled my interest in Lost ever since I began watching it, and the whole fun of the show has revolved around theorizing and picking up on minute details…deconstructing symbols, analyzing motifs, making connections between characters and plot points. All of that shit, all of that analyzing, has been exhilarating and infuriating all at once. And to render all of this moot by completely bypassing any kind of revelations does feel like a lazy, half-assed move.
Then again, am I an idiot for devoting all this time to a show that, in the end, decided to kick me in the balls?
When all is said and done, I choose to not feel like a chump and want to remember the show for what it did right, not what it ultimately did wrong. I have repeatedly heard people talk about how the importance is the journey, not the destination. And while that cliché makes me want to choke myself, I can’t help but agree with it. Why? Because I view the end of the show like I view the end of any relationship. Who the hell wants to remember the bad times? Take away the good memories and move the fuck on. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to remember all those podcasts, all those moments patrolling Lost-centric websites, and all those times I rewatched episodes to gather hidden meanings that, I guess, were not of any significance…and I am going to move the fuck on.
I’m sure all of these opinions will radically change in a week or so. Or maybe they won’t. Who the hell knows? What I do know is that Lost changed my viewpoint of hour-long, drama-based network television shows. It enabled me to be an active viewer instead of a passive one. It required attention. It posited a deep mythology that caught my imagination. It was hokey, intense, smart, dumb, character-based, storyline-based, surprising, well-written, well-acted, infuriating, spellbinding, inspiring, funny, boring, and batshit crazy all at once. It left me craving every new episode and it made every hiatus drag on like a goddamn eternity.
But the finale was not perfect. And I’m positive that no finale would have been wholly satisfying. People tend to bitch and moan about everything, no matter how all-inclusive something strives to be. Had I wished that more answers were given? Of course. But, in The End, I did get wrapped up in the plights of the characters and, I must admit, my mangina quivered ever so slightly when everybody congregated in the church. Did I believe that Sayid and Shannon were that connected to each other? No. But for every Sayid/Shannon moment, there was a Locke/Ben moment that righted the ship. The finale was bittersweet and touching…logic be damned. And while I was concerned about past questions throughout the majority of the show, by the time Jack closed his eyes to die, my emotions had overtaken my brain and I momentarily forgot about why Walt was so special, or about why children could not be born on the island, or about the importance of Aaron, or about…well, just about every fucking odd occurrence that happened throughout the course of each season.
In those final moments, none of these questions mattered.
Upon retrospect though…
Listen to a podcast where my friends and I get drunk and repeat things over and over again about the Lost finale: http://www.planettobor.com/podcast/