A dedication to the final season of Lost
To quote the wise prophet Rafiki from the gospel according to The Lion King: ”It is time.” (With two small kids, Disney movie quotes come very easy and quickly to me.) We have finally arrived at the end of Lost. Tonight. A two-hour premiere, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., on ABC. I really want it to be all kinds of great. I’m nervous that it won’t be. There’s no rational reason for my nervousness. Lost has never failed to keep me enthralled and engaged for all of its five seasons…with the exception of the first part of season 3. And you know, even then it had me. Last season was my favorite season after season 2, and last May’s finale, with its Jacob/Man In Black reveal and Jughead cliffhanger, is tied with ”Through The Looking Glass” for my fave Lost season finale. I have great respect for Messrs. Cuse and Lindelof and their writing staff. I admire the cast and the Hawaii crew, led by director Jack Bender. This group has a proven track record of excellence. There should be no reason to be nervous, the claims of the Fine Brothers to the contrary.
Still, I am anxious. Because when you want something to be really, really good, you naturally find yourself worrying that it could be very, very disappointing. And when you start worrying about that, you start doing things to protect yourself. Like adopting a cynical posture, a sudden jadedness. There’s no way they’re going to pull this off. All those mysteries they have to answer? Forget it. Besides, they were probably just making it up as they went along anyway. Or conversely, a posture of tempered enthusiasm, a disinvestment of caring. Must modulate expectations! Must become less of a fan! Must tell everyone, ”It’s only a TV show!”
I don’t want to watch the final season of Lost from the point of view of managing possible disappointment. And so my season 6 ambition: to be a clear-eyed fan, counting on the best from Lost, capable of judging it fairly and graciously, committed to viewing without the defenses of cool cynicism, arrogant presumptuousness, or muted passion. More than anything, I want to see the story Lost wants to show me, not look for the story I want it to be or think it should be. That’s why I’m letting go of my expectations — and my theories. Hence, why I declared last week’s ”Two Damned Shephards” theory my ”Final Theory of Lost.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not done analyzing and speculating and wondering aloud where the story may lead. But my formulating intricate, predictive theories about the true nature of Lost mythology are over. It’s time to shut down that part of my brain and fully engage the story that the producers are now ready to finally reveal to us in all its for-better-or-worse glory. And anyway, it’s not like I was ever truly trying to solve Lost. Okay, maybe I was — but that was a stupid pursuit, and not one I’ve wanted to succeed at. I’ve only ever wanted to express my gonzo fandom for a show that has so captured and colonized my imagination — and also reflect back your passion and possession, too.
And so I greet the last season of Lost with an open mind and unguarded heart. If by season’s end I am disappointed, I hope I have come to that disappointment fairly. And if I’m left with goosebumps — ditto. More than anything, I hope this season can be fun — 16 weeks of goofy, geeky, thrilling, moving pop-arty bliss. I am excited to take the journey with you. Nervous, but excited.
Invocation concluded. Now will you please rise and join me in the singing of our national Fan-them.
NEXT PAGE: The scoop about the return of ”Totally Lost” and the Doc’s recaps — and the debut of ”Lost Talk” on Twitter!
About the first episode of ”Totally Lost,” my first recap, and ”Lost Talk” on Twitter
You are just a few page clicks away from the season premiere of ”Totally Lost,” the weekly Web show that I host with Dan Snierson throughout the Lost season. You will find new episodes posted every Tuesday morning, barring any unforeseen psychic terrorism by a certain tiny, talking toy pig whose name I refuse to say and whose Facebook page I refuse to visit, especially since it forces me to confront the fact that he has freakin’ 3,022 friends, a fact I happen to know because I…don’t…visit his page? (D’oh!) The ”Totally Lost” season premiere includes guest appearances by four people of major consequence to the Lostverse and also includes five meaty teases for tonight’s premiere. It also includes a look at Doc Jensen as you’ve never seen before, and you will never, ever want to see again. Warning: This episode contains language and images that are truly unacceptable for younger viewers. And my Mom. Or really anyone who knows me and doesn’t want to be embarrassed the next time they’re seen with me in public. You think I’m overhyping this? Friends, I couldn’t be underwarning you MORE. It’s one of those things that seemed like such a good idea at the time…. But hey, anything for a laugh, right? And besides: I chalk it up to the greater good of destroying the false idol of my vanity. So: brace yourself.
And then, after allowing the glorious revelation of the Lost season premiere to cleanse and heal your ”Totally Lost”-injured eyes and mind, come back here tomorrow morning for what I’m sure will be an epic recap of the two-hour opus…provided I am done with it. As of this writing, I still haven’t seen the premiere, so I’m sure the business of crunching its mysteries and drama will be an up-all-night affair. My brain will already be running slow due to the fact that I had to wake up at 4 a.m. this morning to cover the announcement of Oscar nominations. (Go Star Trek! Go Up! Go Inglourious Basterds!) So tomorrow’s recap could be a catastrophically incoherent affair — or rather, more incoherent than usual. Will I rise to the challenge? What a cliffhanger!
Finally, as many of you know, I’m on Twitter: @EWDocJensen. Beginning tomorrow at 3 p.m. Eastern/12 p.m. Pacific, I’ll be available for public consultation on the Lost premiere. Have a question or theory? Tweet it, and I’ll do my best respond. My ambition is to do this every Wednesday during Lost season. And if you have a better name for it than ”Lost Talk,” please pitch it! Also, I’m committed to being better about reader mail this season. So send your theories or burning questions about the premiere to email@example.com and we’ll do a mail bag round-up next week.
NEXT PAGE: EW’s Justice League of Lost fans convene to talk season 6
A meeting of EW Lost experts to discuss hopes and dreams of the final season
As it happens, I am not the only one here at EW who digs Lost and has written about it. We are legion! There’s Dan Snierson, of course. There’s also Jennifer Armstrong, who wrote the very first piece about Lost for the magazine, wayyy back in the 2004-05 Fall TV Preview, and who also wrote our start-of-season 2 cover story and reported on Lost‘s controversial season 3 decision to kill Mr. Eko. There’s Whitney Pastorek, whose knowledge of and passion for music, The X-Files, and exactly 119 other things I bow to, and who handled the Lost recap back in season 1. Her hilarious way with words and sharp insight were very tough acts to follow. And then there is Adam B. Vary, who is a very smart young man who enjoys being very smart about almost everything, from Harry Potter to American Idol to Bioshock. He also knows a lot about fonts. He’s filled in for me in the past on the Lost recap, and also filled in for Dan last season on ”Totally Lost” in that one episode where Dan fell into a coma. (”The ‘Walkabout’ of ‘Totally Lost”’ — The New York Times) I decided to assemble this proverbial Justice League of Lost fans to discuss expectations for season 6. They rose to the challenge, producing much food for thought for y’all. One note before we begin: my friends have a thing for nicknames. So you know: ”J’Arms” = Jennifer. ”Whittlz” = Whitney. ”The Beav” = Adam. I’d make fun of these names, but then again, I’m the guy who goes by…
DOC: What does Lost need to do in season 6 for you to deem it a creative success?
WHITNEY: Arrive at a conclusion that satisfies me both intellectually and emotionally, and lets at least a few of these characters (many of whom I am genuinely fond of) ride off into the sunset. Basically, I need Lost to end good.
ADAM: Which characters, Whittlz? I’m personally preparing to sob when they bring Sun and Jin back together. AND THEY BETTER.
WHITNEY: Oh, don’t make me choose. (Mostly Vincent.)
ADAM: On a macro scale, of course, I think it needs to bring a profound feeling of resolution — not resolve everything, but definitely deliver a Big, Satisfying Finish. No meta cut to black, no gimmicky last-minute twists, and it’s gotta go light on the convoluted expositionary final plot points — I’m thinking about all the tricky wand lore stuff that kinda muddied up the end of Harry Potter. Of course, it’s Lost, so it’s gonna be a mind-squeeze no matter what, but I really want to care, deeply, profoundly, about what is happening in these final episodes much more than I want to puzzle out what it is that actually happened. That said, on a micro scale, it’s also gotta answer some big questions. Who’s Smokey? Who’s Jacob? Who’s Richard Alpert? Why was John Locke so special, or why did everyone keep telling him he was special? What IS the Island? There are other big questions that I want answered that I can’t quite think of right now, but there are also many not-so-big questions that I’m okay with leaving a mystery. But people gotta feel like they know what’s what and care about it at the same time. Also, Sawyer needs to keep his shirt off more often.
JENNIFER: Is it too much to ask for Juliet and Sawyer to somehow be together? Would that mean Sawyer would have to go fight the Vs? He could do that shirtless, and we could all be happy. Okay, barring that, it’s all about sticking the landing. Of course, I want every episode to be amazing, but I don’t care as much about individual eps as I do about whatever those final moments are going to be. It boggles my mind to think of how the writers have created this situation that’s so heightened — they have to say something deeply profound about nothing less than the meaning of life itself in order to make this thing work. Oh, and they also do have to at least nod to every single question raised during the run of the show. Because if we don’t all feel like this thing was mapped out, and it all meant something important, we’re going to feel a little Punk’d. And I don’t like gratuitous Punk’d references. Really, is there any TV series that’s ever had more riding on its final season than Lost?
WHITNEY: Your last question is a good one. The X-Files probably could’ve equaled the anticipation, had that show not totally run off the rails for the last couple of seasons. Friends, Cheers, Sex and the City — beloved lighthearted shows are much easier to wrap up, and the audience is far more forgiving when that wrap-up turns out lame. The Sopranos was on cable, so the audience pool was smaller. Twin Peaks barely resolved their first season. J-Arms, I think you’re on to something. It’s gonna be the most dramatic rose ceremony ever!
ADAM: And Whittlz, I think you’re on to something too. The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica — like child prodigies who only get accepted to state college (and I can say that ’cause I went to a state school), their final seasons just weren’t nearly as extraordinary as their first seasons, so we’d grown used to the soft sting of lowered expectations for the end of ambitious genre-y shows. But after that deadly six-episode start to season 3, Lost, miraculously, has managed to deliver on its initial promise year after year after year, so the stakes for its final episodes are that much higher. Well, I think so at least, although the show’s continued ratings drain may say otherwise.
WHITNEY: Beav, you went to state school? And I hang out with you? [shudders]
NEXT PAGE: What Dan and the Doc need from the final season to go on happily in their post Lost lives.
EW’s Lost fans talk season 6 (cont.)
DAN: Here’s what I need:
· A final season that seems to be pulling me deeper down the wormhole yet is actually illuminating a path toward enlightenment, culminating with a finale that opens my mouth wide, induces a few tears, and makes me want to call/email/text all of you immediately with my thoughts.
· To find out if these characters are going to find redemption after all of these mind-bending adventures. There can be sad endings (death, trapped in a cave for eternity) mixed in with happy endings, just let me know exactly what this journey has meant to each of these characters.
· To receive answers, of course, to the bigger sci-fi questions — island weirdness, interconnection of Flight 815 survivors, etc. — but to be left totally hanging on some small-to-medium mysteries, so I have something to ponder for the second half of my life.
ADAM: Okay, Doc, everyone else has weighed in, but what do you think Lost needs to do to make it a creative success in its final season?
DOC: First, I need to be emotionally engaged, especially by and in the final sweep of episodes. I share Dan’s view that the theme of redemption be of central importance; I would argue that it needs to be THE center of the season. To be clear, I don’t need everyone to be redeemed. In fact, I hope we get an array of riffs on the theme. Some should find redemption — but some shouldn’t. Some should fall short and break our hearts by earning damnation. And there should be points in between. Additionally, I hope there’s more tending to Big Ideas like determinism vs. free will, personal responsibility vs. communal responsibility, faith vs. reason — but just enough that I’m stimulated to think, and not so much that it comes off pretentious, pedantic, or even conclusive, because I think that’s impossible. I think exploring redemption + agitating those philosophical conundrums = the season of ”meaning” Adam was talking about. I want answers, yes. Smokey, Richard Alpert, Claire, the Egyptian motifs and Jacob in particular. But there are mysteries I DON’T need answers to, and in fact, I hope the show RESISTS giving us answers to certain questions. Like: ”What is the Island?” The problem that some are going to have, though, is that by not answering ”What is the Island?”, you’re PROBABLY not going to get answers to the questions that are actually subsets of that Island question, like Dan’s hope that they illuminate the ”why” behind ”Island weirdness.” It’s ironic for Doc Jensen to be saying this, but…I’m really good with mucho lingering ambiguity. But most of all, I want to cry. I’ve always thought: If the finale can genuinely move me to tears with the characters, it will have succeeded.
NEXT PAGE: The Doc’s next question for the EW Lost gang.
EW’s Lost fans talk season 6 (cont.)
DOC: Which brings me to my second question: To what degree can Lost end ambiguously? Put another way: How important are ”answers” to the satisfaction question?
JENNIFER: The answer to that, to me, is complicated, and something we’ve been hinting at: It has to give us big answers, but not in a way that’s too pat and explain-y. It has to mean something, but I think any good ending leaves at least some room for ambiguity. I don’t want Sherlock Holmes to show up and clear it all up step-by-step. It has to seem like it all makes sense and resonates, but still leave us with stuff to think about and discuss, while also not ruining its entire legacy with a less-than-satisfying conclusion. I hope it goes beyond a cut-to-black Sopranos ending, but doesn’t tell us it was Miss Scarlet with the lead pipe in the library. In other words, I’m going to be really impressed when they pull this off. Which I have faith they will.
WHITNEY: I’ve forgotten more questions about Lost than I’ve ever bothered to ask about most shows, so I think it’s more important to me that they make good television that honors the history of the show. As someone who long ago stopped trying to keep track of everything and just started watching it like regular episodic television (Law & Order: Coconuts!), I was pretty irked when our castaways suddenly appeared to be nothing more than pawns in a cosmic slap-fight between two crabby demigods. It’s not quite on the level of ”it was all a dream inside an autistic child’s snowglobe,” but I still felt a little played. I don’t know Darlton’s master plan, but I sure hope it involves a healthy dose of self-determination for the core characters. Like Bernard and Rose choosing to sit it out, or Juliet repeatedly smacking a nuclear bomb with a rock. Which was awesome, btw.
ADAM: I pretty much agree with J’Arms on all points, but that fine line she just spelled out also feels like Lost‘s biggest Achilles heel — or Taweret’s heel, as it were. The pace at which the show doled out — or, for some, refused to dole out — the Answers is largely what drove away so many viewers, no? Viewers that ABC especially hopes will show up for the final season since they’ll finally get all those pesky questions answered, but if the show actually does answer every question, it’ll ruin the tantalizing mystery that’s so much of the show’s core appeal. I also agree with Whittlz’s discomfort with the Losties being pawns in the Man In Black and Jacob’s Eternal Struggle of the World and Life and Important Stuff, and I know Dan-in-Quotes has some other choice things to say about those guys and their placement within the Lost canon. In many ways, though, I think last year’s final episodes of Battlestar Galactica serve as a perfect model for how to, and how not to, tackle the particular problem of Answering the Questions. The biggest mysteries heading into BSG‘s final, bifurcated season — Will they get to Earth? What will it be like? Who is the Final Cylon? — were done away with pretty early on. My mind was blown. Much less awesome: The rushed and pedestrian way so many of the lingering secondary questions on BSG were addressed in the final episodes. The lessons for Lost? Get a lot of those Big Questions out of the way early; anything else you want to answer should be done dramatically (i.e., show, don’t tell); and save your Biggest Big Reveal for that last episode.
DOC: I hope the writers execute season 6 in such a way that first and foremost pleases THEMSELVES, because that will be the most interesting permutation. Then, secondarily, I hope they write the show to please ME. Then…the rest of you guys, the other fans, and whoever. Adam, the last part of your response begs the question: What are the ”biggest” answers? That’s a big difference between Lost and BSG. The final season of BSG, all of us could rattle off those essential questions. Lost…I mean, where do you begin? Where do you END? How do you size and prioritize them? What ARE the biggest questions?
ADAM: Well, some of those questions they’ve set themselves up to answer, no? Darlton have said with Smokey, every time you see him, you learn something new. And the Jacob/Man-in-Black/FLocke and Ben/Widmore struggles look to be major plot engines for the final season, so that would precipitate some big answers. But for me, the biggest question remains the one that’s the most vexing to answer, what Charlie said at the end of the pilot: ”Where are we?”
WHITNEY: Speaking for myself, and not you, Jeff, because we all know at least the last three seasons of this show have, in fact, been written specifically for YOU: Who are these people? Why are they on this Island? Why are they on this Island TOGETHER? What IS the Island? (a.k.a. ”Where are we?” Thanks for reminding me of that, Adam. And of hobbits.) What do the castaways have to accomplish before they can go home? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys? Who, if anyone, has been telling the truth? And what the f— was up with the polar bear?
DAN: I would love to know how the donkey wheel works, and if I can install one on my own private island that I will buy someday. I am also curious to find out why that absolutely tantalizing Jacob/Man in Black scene — which clearly is HIGHLY significant to the overall Lost saga — wasn’t delivered to us until the end of season 5.
NEXT PAGE: Can season 6 be a ratings winner?
EW’s Lost fans talk season 6 (cont.)
DOC: Final question for now, and Adam alluded to it earlier. Do you think Lost has any hope of being watched in the final season by fans that dropped away after the first couple seasons, or is that just an ABC pipe dream? Do you think there’s really this huge body of viewers who’ve been eyeballing the show on the periphery and have been planning to jump back on here in the final season? Or from another angle: Do you think the buzz going into the season has been enough to get lapsed viewers re-intrigued about the series?
WHITNEY: I fell asleep for like 15 minutes of that one episode where Mr. Eko died, and I’m convinced that’s why I have no idea what’s going on sometimes. Or maybe I’m just slow. I’m betting it’ll see an uptick in viewers for the last couple eps (again, like The X-Files), but that will just be the lookie-loos swinging through to make sure they aren’t missing anything.
ADAM: ABC is nuttier than Patchy if they believe Lost can find its way back to the 20 million-plus viewership it had in the first two seasons. Anyone who left the show after those first few years will, I think, feel rather impossibly baffled by all the time-travel, pseudo-historical hoopdeedoo that permeates so much of the show’s storytelling now, and most likely throw up their arms all over again. But if the writers do firmly answer some big questions in the first two episodes of the season like I’ve been arguing, anyone who does return to the show will hopefully feel like, ah, yes, they really DID know what they were doing and it’s worth my sticking around to see what the Master Plan really is. And if I may totally contradict myself, I also feel pretty strongly that the writers should NOT be writing for those lapsed fans. If they want to jump back onto this moving train, more power too them, but Darlton should be charging ahead at full steam by now — no slowing things down for the stragglers.
DAN: I don’t think we need to save too many extra Dharma jumpsuits in anticipation of hordes of season 1-2 fans coming back for the final season. I would imagine that for most of them, the ship has sailed for good; they wanted faster answers way back when, and when they didn’t get them — and things got even weirder — maybe they decided to seek refuge in more ”satisfying” or less enigmatic shows. If these folks have any inclination to tune back in, my guess is they’d do it only for the finale, just to see if they can get a quick, digestible punchline. If they don’t — which they probably won’t, because we’re all hoping that the finale will deftly tie together six seasons of story, not one or two — they’ll say, ‘Okaaaaaaay, I’m glad I didn’t stick around for THAT.’ Sure, ABC would love to welcome these fans back into the fold, but that shouldn’t be the producers’ concern: They need to reward the long-haul fans who’ve remained loyal.
JENNIFER: I WANT people who dropped away to pick it up again. I really do. Because this really is my favorite show, and I think anyone who doesn’t watch is missing out on a distinctive television experience. HOWEVER. I cannot imagine coming in on this season without having watched every single episode that led up to it. The reason it’s so distinctive is that it wraps so much into every episode and has taken us on this completely crazy journey that feels absolutely possible because we’ve been with it every step of the way. Baby steps have gotten us to the point where we’re like, Sure, there could totally be a Man In Black and a Dude In White whose centuries-long battle of wills led to the crash of Flight 815, time travel loops, and smoke monsters! But could you just step in on this now? I’m not so sure. But, hey, I’d love it if people gave it a try. I do feel like the buzz is big enough to be at least a little intriguing — an assessment I base purely on the cocktail party conversations I have had of late. That, and this.
And on that (semi-abrupt) optimistic and humorous note, we bring the conversation to a close. But look for my Lost roundtable to make occasional return visits throughout the season to help us make sense the show, because I surely can’t do it by myself. Live together, die alone, you know?
I now leave you to your premiere prep. For those holding parties, I’d love to see pictures: please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org! But before you migrate away…do you dare watch the sorta-kinda NSFW season premiere of ”Totally Lost”? Juicy teasers! Special guests! Questionable humor! It’s everything you expect from us, and too much more! So…enjoy? And I’ll see you here tomorrow at the recap!