A year ago tonight, “Lost” ended with a two and a half hour finale that some found brilliant, some found maddening, and others fell somewhere in between. I definitely was one of the in-betweeners, trending more towards the good than the bad. I loved the emotional reunions, Jack and Smokey’s final duel, Jack passing the torch to Hurley and some other story and character moments while being largely frustrated with both the revelation of what the sideways universe was and the lack of answers from the series as a whole. I wrote a review that night, then another one a few weeks later that nudged even more towards the positive while still not being pleased about all the time spent on the sideways, the Temple, etc. At the time, I wondered whether my opinion would change in a few months, or years, noting that I still thought about the similarly-contentious “The Sopranos” finale the way I did the night it aired.
And re-reading those reviews, and thinking on “The End,” my opinions are mostly unchanged. But in another way, I feel even more positive about both the finale and the series as a whole than I did 365 days ago.
The 2010-11 TV season ends on Wednesday night, and it hasn’t been an especially good one, at least not in terms of new shows and for the most part not in terms of dramas. It was an uninspiring crop of freshman shows, borne out by the fact that so few of the rookies are coming back next season. (As Linda Holmes pointed out on Twitter, between ABC, NBC and FOX, only one new show that debuted last fall is returning for next season: FOX’s “Raising Hope.” And even that might not be returning if FOX had waited a little longer to make the decision and saw how the numbers were going.)
So anyone who was hoping for some new series to come in and immediately fill that spot “Lost” filled in the universe was sorely let down by this group of mostly lame newbies – and perhaps especially by the “Lost”-esque – but in all of the bad ways – “The Event,” which ends its unfortunate run tonight. “The Event,” like so many other “Lost” wannabes over the last six years, was all sizzle and no steak: paper-thin characters involved in a shell game of a plot largely devoted to keeping viewers on the hook as long as possible.
And I know that’s the reputation “Lost” had at times, and I know that it’s easy for the people who hated the finale – who felt they were entitled to more answers than Darlton were willing or able to provide – to believe that was the case. But while “Lost” generated a lot of attention and passion from its mysteries, the show had a whole lot more to offer than that. It had action and suspense and spectacle the likes of which “The Event,” “FlashForward,” and “Threshold” (to name three of the wannabes) on their best day couldn’t come close to. It had great characters, like John Locke, Ben Linus, Hugo Reyes, Desmond Hume and Sayid Jarrah (to name just a few).
Setting the mysteries and the oblique clues and frustrating answers aside, “Lost” mattered. “Lost” was grand and tragic and funny and exciting and a show that felt not quite like anything that had been tried before – and, based on where its ratings were by the end, and the struggles of all the shows to imitate it, one that may be unlike anything we ever see in the future.
Again, if you were mostly in it to find out who was in the other outrigger shooting at Sawyer, or why Walt was special, or if you were seeking a more complicated explanation for the many strange properties of the island beyond “there’s a weird glow-y pool of light that looks like it belongs in an ’80s movie with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone,” then I can understand the feeling of betrayal that came with “The End.” But I look at the state of TV now – and the future of network TV in particular – and I worry that it’ll be a long time before we get another network drama that’s both this ambitious and, far more often than not, this well-executed.
“Lost” screwed up at times. (During seasons two and three, many times.) But it went for it. And I would rather have the memories of how I felt when the polar bear came charging at Sawyer, or when Jack told Kate they had to go back, or when Sawyer told Juliet “I got ya, baby” (twice!) far more than I’d want to get rid of whatever frustrations I felt with the polar bear cage episodes, or Dogen and Lennon, or finding out that Desmond didn’t have quite the plan we all thought he did.
Like Christian Shepard told me to, I’ve been able to let go of most of the anger and reflect on the good times.
But I’m curious about the rest of you: one year later, how are you feeling about “The End” of “Lost” as we knew it?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org