Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My wife and I started watching Lost (and, if you don’t know what Lost is, you might as well skip this post, because it’ll put you right to sleep) on DVD not long after the first season ended—another great recommendation from our son, Cody, who rarely steers us wrong—and we were instantly addicted.  We’ve been loyal, enthusiastic viewers ever since.  Okay, so the third season—which rambled, wandered, stumbled and fell with alarming frequency—seriously tested that loyalty (all together class:  Nikki and Paulo):  I was pretty much ready to wash my hands of the show until the season-closing flash forward blew my mind apart and made me a born-again Lostie.  (I’m not sure if my wife would say the same, but she’s still right there with me every week, mainlining the latest episode.)  And now, as Jacob said to Hurley in last night’s episode, “We’re very close to the end.” 

I waited, with no small measure of excitement, for this final season of Lost to begin, anticipating an epic finale that would solidify the show’s reputation as one of the most memorable and daring one hour dramas in television history—but so far I’ve found this final chapter hugely frustrating.  Don’t get me wrong:  with the exception of last week’s Jacob/Man-in-Black origin story (which may have been the worst hour of Lost since the aforementioned Nikki and Paulo:  it came perilously close to totally jumping the shark), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode.  The writing, the directing, the performances—especially Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson, whose Ben-centric episode earlier in the season was a series highlight—have been superb.  So why—with the two and a half hour finale just days away—do I feel like I’m headed for a massive disappointment?

The answer isn’t in the individual components of the show—which, as noted, have been uniformly excellent—but in the overall direction of the story.  For years now I thought I was watching a series part soap opera/part Rod Serling/part Philip K. Dick.  A mind-bending, heart-wrenching journey into strange metaphysical, and metaphorical, territory.  An exploration of the nature of reality, and humanity, with a group of memorable, multi-dimensional characters as our guides.  I still care about those characters—perhaps more deeply than one should care about fictional people—but what I haven’t cared for is watching the show go from PKD to Stephen King, from Twilight Zone to Star Wars.  (Fans of King and Lucas, please don’t storm the cyber-castle.  I’m not knocking either of these creative titans, just noting that they seem wildly out of place on the Island.)  How did a show that spent a good part of its run exploring psychic, spiritual and psychological subtleties—in a broad, bold pulp-culture context—get boiled down to “We’ve got to kill the Big Bad Smoke Monster before he destroys the world”?  Haven’t we seen this kind of bombastic Battle Against Ancient Evil a thousand times before?  (As my son pointed out to me, the Man-in-Black—who wasn’t even introduced until the end of last season—is now the show’s central character.  Think about it:  If MIB was being played by anyone but O'Quinn—if Smokey wasn’t inhabiting the body of one of the show’s most beloved characters—would you even care?)

And yet...  

One thing that I’ve absolutely loved this season, the element that’s kept me consistently intrigued and excited, is the so-called Sideways World, the parallel universe where our characters are playing out their lives in unexpected—and often deeply-moving—ways.  The Sideways saga of Desmond, the Bodhisattva, urging his illusion-bound friends to awaken from the dream they take to be reality, is firmly anchored in the show’s metaphysical traditions; it’s also a story guaranteed to delight the acolytes of Dick and Serling.  (I suspect Meher Baba would have gotten a kick out of it, too.)  I’m hoping that, when the Sideways World and the Island collide this Sunday, as they inevitably will, Lost’s enormously-talented writer-producers, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, will pull the rug out from under the audience, stuff several dozen sticks of dynamite in our heads and blow our minds all over gain.  Most of all, I’m hoping for a finale that will leave me feeling emotionally and intellectually satisfied.  No, they don’t have to answer every question—in fact, they shouldn’t—but I want to be moved and exhilarated, left with the same sense of awe and jaw-dropped wonder that the series began with.  (Is that asking too much?  Probably.  But Lost has always demanded much of its audience; it’s only fair that we demand as much from Lost.)

Even if Cuse and Lindelof fail miserably, it won’t change the fact that this oddball story about a plane crash on a mysterious island has brought me inordinate amounts of joy for six years (joy and, yes, head-scratching, too; but a little head-scratching is good for the soul):  It really is a ground-breaking classic.  The proof for me lies in the fact that every week, after we’ve digested the show, Cody and I—like two well-practiced surgeons—slice and dice the patient:  trading theories, pondering the turns of character, analyzing the broader Meaning Of It All.  Just this morning I was talking to a friend and we must have spent forty minutes dissecting the series, speculating on how the ending will play out.  

Not a lot of television can stimulate the mind like that, let alone inspire that level of passion.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis



  1. Completely off topic, I know, but I don't know where else to ask, and I'm not a "Lostie", and don't plan on being one...sorry... Have you read David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, and what did you think of it? Hope all is going well, have fun!

  2. I liked the first several episodes of LOST, and then for reasons lost in the mists of time, I stopped watching before it turned into a habit.

    Whenever I hear people talking about how agonizing LOST can be, I smile to myself and think, "Well, glad I haven't been caught up in that for nearly a decade."

    But this week I feel a sense of, well, LOSS, for not being a LOST fan. The electric anticipation that fans are bringing into this finale doesn't come around that often. Seeing that brings back memories of series finales for shows I was invested in, like the buildup I felt going into the finale of QUANTUM LEAP or ST:TNG.

    Ah, "All Good Things..."


  3. Any chance abadazud will make it to iBooks or kindle ?
    Lost is really good too

  4. I'm one of the Lost viewers thats never gotten tired of the show. Sure, I think it was season 3 were things were a bit slow, but it was still a ton better, imo, than most shows on television.

    Also, I liked the Jacob/Man-In-Black episode. I'm not sure why so many people seem to not like it. I thought it was quite good. The Richard episode & the Jacob/Man In Black episode are two of my favorite episodes this season (the Ben episode was excellent too). Finally, some answers.

    I did enjoy the last episode. Although, I was expecting more to happen. It was basically just set up for the big finale.

    I have to admit that I have high hopes for the finale. I hope it doesn't disappoint me. I don't think it will. The only endings that would diappoint me: a Sopronos/Angel ending where things just STOP (ugh) or Its All A Dream. I could see the Lost writers doing a Dark Tower sort of ending and I might be ok with that (though it does seem a bit predictable).

    In any case, I just hope its a great series finale. I don't want it to have a bad finale like the X-Files.

    Am I worried? I guess a little bit. Though, mostly, I'm excited about Sunday night. I think its going to be great.

  5. LOST is one of those shows that's perfect for DVD viewing, David. Pick up the first season and start all over again...I bet you'll be hooked. Warts and all, it's a unique and memorable ride.

  6. I remember being hugely disappointed in the X-FILES finale, Daniel; but, as time has passed, it really hasn't affected my love of the show. (Truth is, without X-FILES I don't think we'd have LOST or FRINGE.)

    LOST, which plays more like a televised novel, has more to lose with a botched finale. That said, they'd have to do something spectacularly awful to negate the years of superb storytelling that preceded it. And I don't think that's going to happen. Will it disappoint? Very possibly. But -- to paraphrase what you said -- a disappointing episode of LOST is still better than most of what's on television.

    But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for two and a half hours of greatness on Sunday night.

  7. No chance for ABADAZAD as an e-book right now, Anonymous. But I'd certainly love to see that happen.

  8. I'll have to do that. Looks like the previous seasons of LOST are on instant Netflix right now.

    I'm thinking about getting Season 1 of FRINGE, first, as I'll be closer to the ground floor.

    So what series finales are your favorites and least favorites, JMD?


  9. My daughter -- who just jumped aboard the LOST wagon this season -- has been devouring the past seasons on Netflix, David. She's still got a long way to go, but she's got an enough of a background now to appreciate the current season.

    I thought the series finale of NEXT GENERATION was incredibly satisfying (moreso than most of the Next Gen movies that followed). And the finale of my beloved BOSTON LEGAL was...if not perfect, then darn close to it.

    I'll never forget the utterly weird finale of ST. ELSEWHERE, where the entire series was revealed to be a fantasy in the mind of an autistic child. That would have been bizarre for a sci-fi show...but a hospital drama?

    And, even though I wasn't a regular watcher of NEWHART, the finale -- where we discover that the entire series was a dream dreamed by Newhart's character from his PREVIOUS show, was brilliant. I could mention others -- MARY TYLER MOORE'S wonderful final show springs to mind -- but if I don't stop now, I'll be at this all day!

  10. Agreed on TNG finale. Loved most of the movies, but "All Good Things..." was more in keeping with the tone of the series and probably left it at a better place than NEMESIS (and I say that as someone who enjoyed NEMESIS).

    I loved both the CHEERS and FRASIER send-offs, and they functioned as nice bookends. It was nice to see Frasier Crane get a second chance at a new beginning.

    I hated the QUANTUM LEAP finale at the time, but have since come to see it as GENIUS.

    Never made it to the X-FILES finish and never looked back. It was ground-breaking and brilliant, but ultimately lost focus.

    The ST. ELSEWHERE thing sounds trippy. I'm all for it, but I can only imagine how fans reacted. I've grown less conservative about these things as I've gotten older (re: QUANTUM LEAP), though I'd probably have freaked if I'd been watching it at the time.

    You're right--it would be easy to do this all day.

    I'll shut up now!


  11. I have a vague memory of watching the QUANTUM LEAP finale, but don't recall much about it. The thing about ST. ELSEWHERE is that no one had ever done anything like that before. Totally weird, invalidated everything that came before it...and yet bizarrely memorable.

  12. If you ever have a spare hour, you should watch the QUANTUM LEAP finale again. I think that's on instant Netflix, too, though I couldn't say for sure. It had been such a formulaic drama up to that point. There's nothing wrong with that--there's generally sound logic behind formulas. The ending seemed to come out of left field at the time, but in retrospect, it was in keeping with the philosophy of the show.

    I can't help but wonder if all ST. ELSEWHERE's claims to fame would be eclipsed by ER if it wasn't for that finale.

    I find it fascinating to think how the DVD/Netflix culture (much like trade paperbacks) has changed the way we look at these things.

    At the end of the day, it's still more fun to take part in these things while they're happening.

    Then it's a story AND an event.



  13. ST. ELSEWHERE was a terrific show -- one of my favorites of that era. I don't know if the ending burnished its reputation or tarnished it.

    I agree that certain shows are better enjoyed as they happen. Even my son -- who doesn't own a TV and always watches LOST on his computer -- will be in front of a television on Sunday, watching in real time. That said, there are certain shows -- 30 ROCK comes to mind -- that I rarely, if ever, watch in real time. The vast majority of episodes I've seen have either been on DVD or Hulu.

  14. See, I have a few friends who are LOST fans, and I have a feeling that come Monday I'm going to feel like I missed Halley's Comet. :)

    But I'll check it out on DVD, and a good story is ultimately a good story in any format. I love that there's Netflix, TIVO, DVD and the like to catch up with things. The problem these days isn't that quality entertainment is scarce, but that there's so many options.

    And that ain't a bad problem to have.


  15. In the past year or so, I started changing my approach to 'disappointment'. It's been tremendously challenging and beneficial to own my responsibility for my own contentment. This has led to me coming out of a movie, discussing it with the people who watched it with me, and soon getting to a 'Were we watching the same movie?' state.

    I know that as a LOST viewer, the series up to now has illuminated and opened doors into my boundary walls, and I'm expanding due to exploring what's beyond the doorways. I know that I will enjoy the LOST finale immensly, as its own ending will force me to stop waiting on it to show me the next thing. I hope to take my own next step towards the Great Mysterious and my own answers rather than sitting around with vague complaints about the LOST finale's limitations, not being able to find my thumb, and having an aching butt.

    As a creative being, I'm learning to create rather than simply consume.

    And J.M., your creative works have contributed sparks to my growth/expansion/destruction processes or this post would not be at this location. Thanks.

    the Journey continues...

  16. As problems go, it's one of the best, David.

  17. Well said, Tim. Especially the part about creating, rather than consuming. Still, I think we, as an audience, having invested years of our lives in the show, can't help but have expectations...and have every right to be disappointed if we feel the writers have blown it.

    In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Some would say no. But Story is so very important to us all -- think about how much time we all spend ingesting books, TV, films, songs (a wonderfully concise form of storytelling). We need shared stories as a way to reflect, enhance, challenge and deepen our own personal stories. (In the end, we're all just characters in a story, aren't we?) So how can we help but take it least when a story touches us the way LOST has touched so many people.

    We'll see in a few years if this LOST-obsession was just a blip on the pop-culture radar, or if it's going to stick to the bones.

    And, Tim, I'm very glad, and very grateful, that my work has -- in whatever way -- "contributed sparks" to your life. That's one of the main reasons I write: to share that spark. May your own stories do the same.

  18. I totally agree about the X-Files. I still enjoy the early episodes of X-Files (Seasons 1-5) a lot.

    Quantum Leap had an amazing finale, imo. One of the best!

    Oh and I agree about the Next Generation finale. It was great. I did enjoy Star Trek: First Contact & Generations, but I think your right about the finale being better than the movies.

    I also thought that Deep Space Nine had a great finale.

    I totally agree that Lost has a lot to lose from a bad finale. Here's hoping for a great one.

  19. Guess I'm going to have to re-watch that QUANTUM LEAP finale, Daniel, now that it's received two recommendations. As for NEXT GENERATION: I liked FIRST CONTACT quite a bit. GENERATIONS, not so much. (If you're gonna kill James T. Kirk, you'd better do it right.)

    I think we should all reconvene here on Monday to discuss the LOST finale.

  20. Glad you liked the QL finale, too, Daniel. I think it stands the test of time--good to see it stuck with audiences.

    JMD, I think GENERATIONS is underrated because it's overshadowed by the Kirk controversy. I'm not thrilled with the way Kirk went out, either. But I think it's a solid film, and Picard's angst over his legacy is deeply felt.

    I tend to allow myself a mental "out" on Kirk's big finish, anyhow. The way I see it, if the Guinan whom Picard spoke with in the Nexxus was a psychic imprint, I don't see any reason why a pyshic imprint couldn't ESCAPE the Nexxus. I have a friend who suggested the perfect send-off for Kirk would have been to have gone exploring the Nexxus, "the final frontier." I liked that idea a lot, so that's how it plays out in my mind.


  21. I came up with a similar alternate ending, David. I figured since the Nexxus was a realm of pure mind, then all they needed was a quick scene of Kirk being transported back into the Nexxus at the last moment...or, as you mention, a psychic imprint of Kirk surviving in there. Then...

    ...Kirk could become his younger self again, step onto the bridge of the Enterprise...and fly off on a whole new round of adventures...for all eternity. (Which makes more sense than hanging around a farm scrambling eggs.) That, at least, would have undercut the lame death.

    That said, I didn't care for much else in GENERATIONS, so it's not a movie that can easily redeemed in my eyes.

  22. I was even thinking that the Kirk who died could be the psychic imprint.

    The way I see it, "eggs n'eternity" Kirk is the last, tiny part of his soul that's holding him back from the ultimate adventure. The imprint's experience with Picard frees him from his attachment to the mortal plane, liberating Kirk to embrace "the final frontier"--which is, of course, anything BUT final.

    Basically, I think GENERATION's main flaw (and it's not a fatal one for me) is that it succeeds as a Next Generation film but falls flat as a Kirk story. That problem really comes to a head with the Nexxus, because while I think the writers nailed Picard's attitude, they just didn't seem to get James T. Kirk.

    If I had to guess, I'd say the writers felt weighed down by the decision to make the first film a crossover. Nimoy was right to say the film didn't need the original crew's blessing, and I'd go so far as to say some of the people involved resented the implication they did.

    That said, if they'd examined Kirk and Picard's differences it would go from an enjoyable film to a mind-blowing extravaganza. I'm down with Picard thinking the Nexxus isn't "real," but Kirk would look into the realm of pure mind and see endless possibilities.


  23. I think I'd rather see your version of GENERATIONS than the one they filmed, David.

    Happily, Captain Kirk survived somehow, changed his name to Denny Crane, moved to Boston and became a very successful lawyer (albeit one with Mad Cow Disease). And come the fall, he'll be a cranky old man on CBS. So it all worked out in the end.

  24. LOL!

    Living out one existence at a time is for lesser men than Kirk!


  25. David, from the reactions I've seen on the internet, it seems like the Quantum Leap finale is one of those episodes that you either love or hate. I think the hate mostly comes from the words: "and he never returned home". I thought it was really sad, but it did fit with the twists of the finale. It was a great ending to a really good series. (aside: though, a part of me wishes that the show had gone on after that finale. it seemed like there were some more interesting stories to tell).

    Re: Generations. I did not have a problem with Kirk's death. I guess because while I liked Kirk, he wasn't really one of my favorite characters. Now, if they had killed Spock or Mcoy that way...

    Also, I liked the Picard plotline and I liked Data's plotline. It was nice to see Brent Spiner being funny again. That said, First Contact is definitly my favorite of the TNG movies.

    My least favorite Star Trek movie of all-time? Nemisis. Man, that was AWFUL. Especially what they did to Data. So stupid imo.

    Anyway, a couple more days and its Lost time! Looking forward to it a lot. Also can't wait to see what everyone thinks of it. I hope its great.

  26. Since Kirk is my favorite TREK character, my reaction to his cheesy death was vastly different from yours, Daniel. (I actually liked his death in the beginning of the film better than the end...even though the beginning was essentially a remix of Spock's death in WRATH OF KHAN.)
    Still, as previously noted, I didn't think much of the rest of the movie, either.

    As for NEMESIS, I think it would have been seen as one of the greatest STAR TREK movies ever...if there had never been any other movies. The problem was they were (again) trying desperately to do a WRATH OF KHAN remix and all the elements in the film felt way too familiar. I remember sitting there thinking, "Haven't we seen this before? And before? And before?"

    But you addressed this to David, so let's see what he thinks.

    And...on to LOST!

  27. Hey JM, sorry, this is gonna be WAY off topic, but I'm not a "Lostie". Not even sure why this enterend my brain when it did, but I'm still curious. Did you read David Mazzucchelli's brilliant book Asterios Polyp, and if so, what did you think? (Previous comment try was from iPhone, and it bricked on me this evening, possibly why comment wouldn't work on your site before)

  28. Daniel,

    I agree that the QL finale is love/hate. I'm an expert, because I've done both! It took me some time to come to terms with the concept that Sam was never going home. But when I did make peace with that, I realized that there's something to Sam's choice. It had real consequences, and it was the right decision to make.

    I think there could be endless stories to tell after that; in fact, I eventually envisioned Sam mastering his destiny and leading other leapers in service to mankind. Taking the series to its logical conclusion, Sam would eventually correct every problem until the world was close to perfect. Or everyone was a leaper!

    Maybe we'll see QL revisited? We're getting a lot of 80s concepts these past few years, so the 90s are on deck. Wonder if Scott Bakula is on tap for a mentor role?

    FIRST CONTACT is definitely the strongest of the TNG movies.

    I remember enjoying NEMESIS, but it wasn't a particuarly memorable experience. I think you're right, JMD, they did hit a lot of the same beats. It didn't kill the film for me, but I never felt the need to revisit it, either. I have revisited "All Good Things..." on the other hand, as well as GENERATIONS and FIRST CONTACT.

    Data's final fate was a disappointment, and I hear even Brent Spiner regrets pushing for that. I prefer the vision of Data's future we got in the TNG finale. I did like the happy ending for Troi and Riker.

    NEMESIS' mediocre finish gave audiences and creators some time away from the franchise, and seeing Abrams' film, that turned out to be the best gift of all.


  29. JMD, your thoughts about LOST are perfectly in synch with mine, and your comments are far more eloquent than anything I could probably write about this brilliant show that I have watched and loved since Day One. Nonetheless, my next blog entry will be a post-finale commentary about both LOST and 24--two shows that are coming to an end, and whose passings I will mourn greatly. I hope you check it out!

    (And speaking of 24... one of its executive producers and head writers this year--probably its worst season ever--is Brannon Braga, who was also one of the writers of STAR TREK GENERATIONS. Which means he's one of the dipsh&%s who killed my beloved hero James T. Kirk. And he was also a co-creator/executive producer/head writer of ENTERPRISE. So here's a guy who's now managed to bury TWO long-running franchises!)

  30. Althugh I've heard amazing things about Mazucchelli's book, Ken, I haven't read it. Feel free to tell me more!

  31. Daniel,

    Agreed on QL.

    I enjoyed NEMESIS in spite of Data's end (which was a bad move), but I've never felt the need to revisit the film. So I remember feeling like it was a decent two hours that wasn't wasted, but still wasn't the high note I wanted the franchise to end on.


    Watched the first seven episodes of Season 1 this weekend per your recommendation.

    Great, great stuff--particuarly "Walkabout" and "The Moth."

    I couldn't help but think of Jesse Black Crow with the Locke backstory. I don't think Black Crow was as compelling or as fleshed out as Locke, mind you, but I've always liked the idea of a parapelgic who only regains the use of his legs when he becomes a vessel for mystical forces. Don't know that it's been done a lot, but the Locke story is brilliant.


  32. I thought the finale was great! I'm not sure how anybody can top that. Best series finale ever? I think so.

    Watching the Jimmy K special tomorrow. I'm interested in seeing what the other endings are, plus what the cast/crew thought about the ending.

  33. Glenn,

    Looking forward to reading your dissection of the LOST finale.


    I'm going to put up a new post re: the finale and we'll take the comments over there.


    Glad you're enjoying LOST Season One. TV doesn't get much better than that!