Monday, May 24, 2010
On The End
Lost was the first show I remember us watching together, the first show that we both fell into all at once, mainlining five and six episodes in a night, catching up on the entire first season and the first few episodes of the second in a matter of weeks. It sounds kind of stupid and naive to admit it now, but Lost introduced me to a number of concepts I'd never really considered in depth before, including, but not limited to: Buddhism, the book (and film) Lost Horizon, C.S. Lewis*, The Stand**, Philip K. Dick, Watership Down, Mama Cass, Hume, Rousseau, B.F. Skinner, and several dozen others. Many of these were red herrings, and I knew they were red herrings, but I didn't care--the whole point of Lost, at least to me, was to lose yourself in the minutiae, to become obsessed with exploring the questions rather than presuming that the answers would unfold simply and unremarkably.
You might have heard this somewhere, but Lost ended last night. It ended without answering many key questions, and this bothered certain people, but I think it's pretty obvious at this point that those people were watching this show for the wrong reasons. I guess being a Lost apologist is a little bit like being a baseball apologist during the steroid era: You know there are things that just don't add up, and you know the game you're watching is inherently flawed, but you are there because it just feels right, because as much as you enjoy breaking down VOIP and WHIP and OPS, there is something inherently compelling about the players themselves. You do not stop watching merely because it does some silly things on occasion.
So I'm not going to apologize for apologizing for Lost, even when it stumbled (and I don't think it stumbled in the end--I think it embraced its most important elements, and earned its sentimentality, which is a rare thing). If television shows increasingly serve as touchstones for our culture, Lost may be the most important cultural artifact of the 21st century: It never compromised its underlying intelligence, and it embraced the Internet paradigm in the best possible way, and yet it never lost sight of the one lesson that every creative writing teacher since the beginning of time*** has emphasized, which is that character comes first. And if I'm being honest, I can't think of a television show that changed my very character more than this one.
*I'd read those books as a kid, but Lost made me go back and look at them again.
***Or M.F.A. programs.