Exposition and the journey of the hero(s) always dance in a tense tango of the imagination. They are symbiotic, one cannot live without the other and expect to capture the audience. This is the painful dichotomy of fiction. LOST, is the ultimate example of how this belief stands true. You can say what you want, but the truth hurts and you best be on the right side of it.
LOST Transcends Medium
While it is true that LOST maybe a television show, with the advancement of DVD, it is quite possible to devour it in much the same way one would devour a book. While it is true that some may have viewed it over the course of six years, others may have viewed over three months, so to apply a rigid set of expectations on one group of people on behalf of another, is irrational at best. LOST is a story, whether it was a television show, radio presentation, movie or book, the truth of fiction remains the same. LOST, first and foremost in an epic (which is how we ought to view such a grand show with a clear hero set on a particular journey), so the audience is only relevant in so much as we’re the one being told. There is no consideration for how the audience should want something to evolve, that’s naive post-modernism at best. The author of the epic or story, writes what he wants to write, to convey something that hopefully becomes applicable or allegorical. In the case of LOST, the End was the completion of a story Damon and Carlton wanted to write and see themselves. Tolkien did not write for anyone but himself, and its only this selfish-generation that feels it should be entitled to influence and author’s work. LOST was a show that may have been written in the process of publication, but then again, so was Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. In both of those cases, the audiences would send letters to their respective authors with questions and demands, much in the same way Damon and Carlton would interact with fans via conventions and podcasts. Medium means nothing more than aesthetic and mechanics, don’t be fooled. LOST is as much a novel as Lord of the Rings.
LOST is about the Characters, Everything Else is Progress
To argue that LOST is not a complete story is to say Lord of the Rings is not a complete story. Lost had a beginning, middle and clear end. The story was about how these characters played a role in the history of the island. It was never about who built the temple, what the true nature of the numbers were (though they were somewhat explained in the LOST ARG, but how would I, a simple man, know that?). Yes, the Dharma Initiative played a part in the story, but it was only ever to serve the progress of the characters’ development. The Hatch was crucial to the plot, explained, the Others, crucial to the plot point, explained, the freighter and Charles Widmore, explained, the struggle between Jacob and MIB, explained. Where it failed was to give answers to questions like: was is the magic box that made Locke’s Father appear? Who was the first protector / creator of the island? What was the Island’s History? But failed to give a complete story? That’s a bit much and insulting to the writers. We saw the beginning of these characters on the island and we saw the end, all those tiny crooks and pieces that are still a mystery, well they are unessential to what happened with these characters.
Across the Sea Aired When it Needed to Air
Upon first seeing the episode entitled Across the Sea, I felt a bit rotted, I had built an entire experience out of what I thought they were going to reveal and then suddenly they weren’t telling us how the Island came about or what happened between the MIBs transformation and the arrival of 815. But two things came to mind on reflection of the End: First, Ab Aeterno fills in some of the finer details of island history in the interim. Second, Across the Sea was meant to tell us two things: Why the MIB needed to be stopped and motivation for Jacob’s hand in the lives of Oceanic 815 which is later told in “What they Died For”. Furthermore we learn why the island needs to be protected and what the consequences are if it isn’t. How mother arrived, her story, is not the story of the survivors, it’s not what is at stake. Why the Egyptians came and who finally installed the Donkey Wheel, its not important to the lives of our characters and their progression in the story. Least I remind the viewer that the Donkey Wheel was explained, and conjecture can be made on how it effects the island – via the season finale of Season 4.
J.J. Abrams Brilliance in Using the Mystery Box
J.J. Abrams’ mystery box metaphor used to explain fiction is not harsh, or bullish. It’s a system of storytelling in which it stimulates the viewer to play apart in the story. The mysteries are designed to link the audience with the world of fiction happening around them. Good story telling never gives you what you want, it tells you what the characters need and how they overcome the challenges facing them. To think the story is about you is ridiculous and slightly self-absorbed. I have never read a book twice that told me everything I wanted to know…the same of anything. If an author knows an answer yet withholds it from his audience, he has every right too. In Star Wars: Episode I, Qui-Gon explains the force to a young Anakin Skywalker…it was cool to have that explained, but ultimately, it diminished the mystery of the Force and turned it into a rational, scientific, mechanical organism that seemed to loose its attraction in the story line. It is only the those who lack imagination that refuse to play with the mystery and allow it to take hold. The person who hates mystery closes their mind to possibilities. I’m sure if I wanted to be lazy I could allow the author to tell me everything I wanted to know, but then why get involved in a story at all if it’ll just be hand fed to me. We seem to be under the generational delusion that we are entitled to a reward in art, art is transformative, not deductive. It’s not science spinning out a flashy answer every time we ask – which in most cases ends up being wrong.
LOST wrestled with the notion that good storytelling relies both on exposition and developing characters setting out a journey to give them what they need instead of what they want. The finale did just that. When the characters first set out on the adventure, they were broken, lonely people that wanted stupid things in life…by the end they found what they needed, each other. The story itself made sense of that fact that being special, or a special character, is nothing and means nothing, what’s important is that a character gains what they need.
If you were drawn to LOST because of the sci-fi, mythological aspects of the show, and failed to connect with anything else, well I feel sorry for you. You missed out on a greater adventure that took place before your eyes. It is becoming evident that the finale has polarized fans which I think can be split up into two camps…those who enjoy mindless sci-fi and mythology – in which case watch Star Wars – and those who understand that the essence of LOST is not about the crazy things that happened, but how the characters grew because of the crazy things.
As for developing a 7th season based on the mythology…two words…poor ratings. There’s a reason why LOTR is the second bestselling book of the 20th Century and the Sillmirllion is…well…no where close.