May 2010

In order to decipher LOST, it is essential to understand two things, what makes JJ Abrams tick and some theological symbolism. Addressing the former, there is no better example of this than the TED talk that he did about The Mystery Box:

The second part in understanding the seemingly esoteric series is understanding who is paying the bills – in this case ABC / Disney. Like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it is fun to draw upon the canon of esoterica and mysticism to seemingly substantiate the boundless pathways to intrigue necessitated by a weekly one-hour high-budget drama based on anything outside the run-of-the-mill police procedural, teen coming-of-age drama or Yuppie comedy. That does not mean that it is any deeper than the respective minds of its viewers.

All of which is not to say that I disliked the show. Read my previous post about season 6 episode 16 to get a better idea of why I loved the series as much as I did, and then read the following as to why I don’t think it is much more than that:

On a Facebook thread dated March 24th, 2010 I wrote:

I told you in season one it was Purgatory.

The quick reply was:

The producers debunked the “purgatory” theory a few years ago. Sorry, it’s not that simple.

So I felt I needed to extrapolate my theory:

“ABC loves doing shows that are just Biblical parables – I wondered if they might manage to escape that pattern with Lost, but given how close this is seeming to the whole afterlife concept, I would be really amazed if they can escape its gravity and pull off something way more quantum. Nonetheless, I loved the episode last night – for sheer production value alone. And yeah Jacob and Smokey, Hugo the medium, Ricardus – wonderfully metaphysical and all those Mcguffins about the Devil! Can’t wait to see how this ends up having nothing to do with a biblical afterlife.

Granted the Egyptian references are ubiquitous as are all other manner of esoterica – good stuff to draw from in building a canon of mythological symbolism to take us down the rabbit hole, but in the end, whether or not it is literally a retelling of Job, it is about sitting in limbo (not the kind populated by unborn babies, but, well purgatory) and asking whether or not we can transcend our fate and find absolution.

Christiany co-opted everything before it anyway, so the Egyptian thing doesn’t throw that off course. (The Virgin Mary is mentioned more in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.) In fact the very horned image of the devil that we know is the product of the battle between Templars who may have bastardized the name of of Islam’s prophet into Baphomet (so as to disempower its influence, it was literally demonized).

The Devil is the figure who was short-changed and cast out of Heaven and whose function is to tempt you away from certainty. “Think you are ready? Need anything? Can I help you with something” the Devil asks. If you concede that you in fact require a favor, or help from the Devil then he will grant it but you will be in his debt and unprepared for the Kingdom of Heaven. Smokey has always been this way (and although Jacob may appear to do this, he never makes such offers and in fact is totally loathe to intervene lest he become devil-like). “If you let him (Flocke) talk to you, then it is already too late.”

See where I am going with this? Doesn’t matter what you call it – it is still a parable about purgatory in the biblical sense.”

I kinda wrote a book about this – it is called True and Selfish Prophets. Two sequences from the book remind me of this whole ordeal, the first having to do with the epiphany that regardless of what we argue, what matters is not what we find inside the box of answers, but that we are walking there together, and second that – despite what the reality, the Truth may be – it is ultimately inaccessible to us: we can only experience its effects as processed by our particular form of awareness/consciousness/sense-making. Beyond that, we have that big placeholder word we have named Faith.

I think it is only fair, however, to point out that the value of the subject matter in LOST became greater than the sum of its parts in no small way due to the input of the cast and their performances, the highly active fan base and the questions it posed to the creators and the people behind the scenes that put the show together; there was an incredible vitality to the end product that ultimately led to many questions and emotional quandaries for which the writers simply couldn’t be accountable. The show outgrew its concept and will stand the test of time, in my estimation, as one of the great television storytelling events.

At its best, LOST’s final episode summoned one of my favorite and most underrated films: Final Approach. It also took the avant-garde trapdoor from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and I guess The Sixth Sense. Interestingly, 2001 was a major inspiration for the ending of The Sopranos, a parallel in ambiguity that Lost’s producers were quick to parody on the special episode of Jimmy Kimmel that followed their final episode.

I refrain from addressing specific plot points and story lines out of respect to those who are just now discovering the series or haven’t completed the final season. But I would love to get into them with you. See my invitation below.

So long, LOST, and thank for all the fish, which is another way of saying, thanks for giving us a new opportunity to consider ourselves, what we are doing, and what it all means from something like outside the box, one more time.

I would love to discuss salient points with you further – feel free to post your comments, reactions, questions and challenges in the comments section of this post.

Lost Season 6 Episode 16 - What They Died For

Lost - The candidates before Jacob

NOTE: The following should be spoiler-free. It may not be recommended for devout followers who haven’t yet seen the episode, but I really have taken measures to avoid giving anything away.

I am going to be uncharacteristically emotive and offer little insight for the typical Culturepin post, but I really needed to capture and share the amazing feeling of buoyancy after watching tonight’s episode of Lost – “What They Died For.”

It is not only for the relief in having bold answers at last, or for the myriad connections and subtexts provided. I have debated, opined and otherwise pontificated at length on some of the social media platforms I frequent, only with friends, and never at any great length publicly, so I will not go into my take on what the mythology, story arcs or implications of ABC’s hugely successful epic series ultimately means. There are so many sites that have squeezed every last drop of possibility out of the material.

I just really wanted to take a moment, as the series comes to a close, to commend the people who made the show on what they have accomplished; to engage us in a fascinating, captivating, thrilling, mesmerizing story often quite literally around a campfire (albeit one we see on the television screen, an electronic campfire in itself) in a way that at least I haven’t felt since my grandfather used to put me to sleep with bedside tales culled from Greek mythology.

Tonight’s episode was beautifully acted (Terry O’Quinn was simply incredible, as were Mark Pellegrino, Michael Emerson, Henry Ian Cusick and even Evangeline Lilly – all completely adept at harlequin-type vacillations in motive and emotional structure) beautifully lit (Ben Linus’ hellfire orange glow in the secret room while talking with Flocke, or the ethereal tonality of the prisoners in the paddy wagon as Desmond makes his offer) and brilliantly scored by Michael Giacchino. The makeup was excellent, and the sound design as meticulous as ever.

I had the rare opportunity to work with a bunch of the crew from Lost last summer 2009 while acting in an independent film called One Kine Day in Kailua. The crew was on hiatus and so many of them took on the job and I was able to get to know the people who work diligently behind the scenes on those details that we might often overlook – the grips, the costumers, the makeup team.

Many shows take time, even seasons, to catch their stride, but Lost seemed to be quite well formed right out of the gate. Most of the characters already felt well rounded, and though admittedly the actors were getting to know the characters even as they were getting to know one another within the world of the play, it felt unusually present. But now, six years later, and on the eve of its death, the whole is reaching new heights.

Now don’t be fooled into thinking that I am uncritical or not skeptical about many points concerning the series let alone this last season. There have been stronger and weaker episodes, certainly. But every so often I would take a step back and simply marvel at the scope of what was being accomplished and presented within 47 minutes of television entertainment on a weekly basis. And then, there were times, like at the end of tonight’s show in particular, where I realized I hadn’t taken a breath in minutes. As the show ended I was completely in awe. I felt my body tingling, my heart thumping, and this strange sort of euphoria at the end of an incredible tale.

I am certain my buzz will dull considerably with time, and so again, I wanted simply to catalog this amazing feeling of excitement for posterity, because what I just witnessed was nothing short of a wonder, a gift.

Thanks guys.

Post your reaction to this episode or the ideas above in the comments section.