Jack, Chad: We're very close to the end … of a niche television genre. Heroes and Flash Forward have been canceled. The Nine got the ax a few years ago. With Lost nearing its finale, it appears a certain flavor of TV show—in which strangers thrown together by fate are forced to solve a supernatural puzzle—has met its demise. (At least until some clever producer rediscovers and revives the formula a decade or two from now.)
These shows all seem to wow viewers straight out of the gate but gradually fall from favor as their central riddles come under more scrutiny. It's tough to string an audience along after launching a front-loaded premise—doling out clues, raising new questions, sustaining wonder. Viewers get antsy. They demand concrete answers. And the answers are, by their very nature, disappointing.
What's that old adage? Everything begins in mystery and ends in politics. After Sunday's Lost finale airs, viewers will point out dozens upon dozens of unresolved plot holes, inconsistencies, and contradictions. They will argue with one another. They will curse Lost's writers. It will become clear that those writers were not, in fact, privy to the ancient secrets of the universe.
Here's what I'm more interested in pondering as Sunday approaches: What was Lost—as a unified piece of narrative art—really trying to say? What message did it ultimately hope to convey over the course of these six long seasons? Put another way: When we stop being lost, what have we found? By way of an answer, I'll offer a prediction.
We already know that Jack has volunteered to replace Jacob as guardian of the island. My guess is that Ben will take over for Smokey, inheriting his powers and becoming the island's new force of darkness. Ben and Jack will be nemeses, and the balance of power ("the duality of man; the Jungian thing, sir") will seemingly be intact for another eternity. It will appear that this is a war with no beginning and no end. Until …
Desmond—the constant, the measure of last resort—breaks the cycle. He's gathering everyone on the mainland. He's asking them to trust him and to "let go." I think he'll somehow find a way to make the island and its strife disappear forever.
The moral of the story? Maybe it's that we should always question dogma. Jacob's (manipulative, murderous) mother gave him the island guardian job before she died, and now that Jacob's dying, he's passing the job on to Jack. It's the way it's always been done around here. But what if it's misguided? The threats about what will happen if Smokey leaves or the light goes out have always been vague and have never been proven. Perhaps they're real—but do Jacob and Jack know for sure? What if the guardian in fact does more harm than good?
Or perhaps the message will be that we should all find meaning in one another, instead of in some mystical riddle. (A swipe at religion? An affirmation of personal agency? A meta-critique of fans who take the show waaaay too seriously?) The Losties on the mainland are reuniting, helping one another in ways big and small, offering one another guidance and comfort. Could it be that all they need is love?
Jacob explains that he picked the candidates because they were "alone" and "looking for something." But in the course of coming to the island and banding together to survive, these solitary souls have joined together. They've found the inner strength and sense of purpose they'd been searching for. They are no longer … lost. And it seems to me they should share the goal that the Smoke Monster articulated in the closing line of last night's episode: "I'm gonna destroy the island."
Amen to that. The stupid hunk of sand has been nothing but trouble.
TV Club readers: If you're in New York City this Sunday, join us for a live viewing party at 92Ytribecawith writers Chadwick Matlin and Seth Stevenson, editor Juliet Lapidos, and a large television screen. Click here for more information.