Disclaimer: If you're a huge "Lost" junkie, you'll probably dislike this post. I was never a huge "Lost" fan but did take the time to keep up with plot twists and I also energetically watched the finale. Also, I will be giving away finale details so if you haven't seen it don't read this.
If you are a huge television junkie, you know about the 6 season-long TV hit Lost. With a rabid fanbase of about 19 million devoted viewers, the Lost finale was the most anticipated TV event of the year behind the Super Bowl and the Oscars. ABC was selling 30-second commercial spots for $900,000 (A decent preview of the show and the finale was done by Time's James Poniewozik). Anticipation for "Losties" was at a fever pitch for the 2 and a half hour finale. There was even a 2-hour build up to the finale. So in all, there was the opportunity to watch 4 and a half hours of Lost material on this past Sunday night. But the finale, just like the series, was ultimately a lame attempt at metaphysics and philosophy.
The Lost writers prided themselves on their serial writing, ingenious references, and philosophical underpinnings. Poniewozik called Lost "television with footnotes." Why is that? Because of all the overt references in the show to various parts of Eastern and Western philosophy and other famous literature. There were characters named John Locke and Milton, for instance. There was a man trying to find his way home to his girlfriend Penny (think Odyseus and Penelope from the Odyssey). There were consistent references to Christianity and eastern religions. There were conversations about free will and and determinism. And the overarching theme seemed to be a debate between the inherent depravity or goodness of humanity.
In the finale, we are treated to two "sideways" points of action. In one, folks are still on the island, trying to escape, and trying to prevent the man in black-turned-Locke from destroying the island. In the other world, everyone is okay and living in LA and unknown to the world of the island. This motif carried throughout the last season and one wondered whether the main characters did really escape the island or create an alternative universe.
And so, in the LA universe, what happens is that people keep getting in situations where they remember the island. The most natural thing to do after that? Find others that were on the island and help them remember it too. We are left wondering why until the final 15 minutes. Finally, the main character, Jack, has his "experience" and he heads off to his dad's funeral (when the plane crashed on the first episode, Jack was trying to take his dead father from Australia to LA in order to bury him). When he gets there, he opens the casket, and it's empty.
What happens next truly reveals the hash that is Lost. Jack's dad appears behind him, and its at that moment that Jack, the last one to realize this, realizes that he too is dead. That everyone was dead, and the LA universe was dead people land, or something. Did they all die on the island? We're not left to think that- a few others probably did escape (the airplane did take off after all in the other universe). But they all died at some time, and so we're treated to some optimistic kind of purgatory that isn't time bound. After that, the only explanation is that, "those moments on the island were the most significant time in your lives and so you were brought here for closure, so you could finally pass into the light." Weak.
The writers belie their own uncertainty through the background setting. In this funeral home as Jack talks to his father, there's stained glass right behind them. That glass contained 6 major world symbols in 6 panes. At best, I can remember a cross, a crescent, a star of David, some Bah'ai symbol, and 2 others that are failing me at the moment (probablly Buddhism and Hinduism). The subtle point seems to be, "we're all in the same boat and destined for the same thing." Weak.
And so the result of Lost becomes the postmodern smorgasbord of our day. No new commentary on philosophy. No insightful thoughts on metaphysics. The writers always fooled their audience into thinking the show was more profound than it was. All it really was was a regurgitation of their readings habits. And if two worldviews collided, so what? It's what they're reading, so they're going to dump it on you in the show. And it won't make any sense. And all they'll leave you with is some generic, vague, and cliche "walking into the light," as if all world religions say the same thing about the afterlife. By the way, they don't.
So in the end, Lost fell prey to its own medium, the television (see here for other thoughts on how TV disrupts our view of culture). In this way TV or any visual image will always fall short of the written word. Save yourself some frustration and actually read Locke, Milton, Calvin, Hobbes, or any other great philosopher.