Friday, June 18, 2010

Congratulations! You are the Smoke Monster.

A few weeks ago, I, like (almost) every other smart and interesting person in the world (my Dad, for example, is smart and interesting, but doesn't watch LOST for some unknown reason), was glued to my TV, having wave after wave of emotional nausea as the series finale of LOST was aired. The next day, I posted my thoughts in a Facebook note, and I'm including that note on this blog. Keep in mind that a lot of the things I wrote here evolved over the next couple of weeks as I got to talk with a lot of brilliant people about it and I got to spend more time with my own thoughts. But most of what I was thinking when I wrote this hasn't changed.

(May 24, 2010)

Welcome to my thoughts on the LOST finale! There are million of them, so I've tried to prioritize here. I don't need to mention all the wonderful, sad, moving, hilarious things from last night's extravaganza. You all saw it, so just know that I loved those moments, too! So here are the thoughts I've had since last night that I'm finally able to attempt to articulate.

**First of all, let me get this out of the way:

Dear Shannon Haters,

Please give it up. Yes, we all know how much you hate Shannon. Yes, Shannon was annoying. But they key word there is "was." Shannon is eligible for island redemption, just like everyone else. I never saw Shannon as a passing whim for Sayid, or as something to fill the hole left by Nadia. You'll notice that Sayid chose to be with Shannon (Immediately!) in a world where Nadia is still alive, in the same city, in an unhappy marriage! This is not a mistake. I always believed in the love between Sayid and Shannon. In fact, one of the most heartwrenching moments in all of Lost, for me, was the moment when Shannon died in Sayid's arms. Shannon learned to love on the island, and she and Sayid helped each other. Sayid was really changed by that relationship. It wasn't a one-way street. I am apparently the only person in the world who thinks this, but I thought the sideways awakening of Shannon and Sayid was absolutely beautiful.

**Okay, moving on (forward, not sideways):

Who cares what happened in the last fifteen minutes of the show (though I'll get to that soon), when we had that gorgeous, perfect last minute? I have been thinking for awhile now that the last shot of this show would be Jack's closing eye (That's about the only prediction I had, so I'm proud of it!) and the addition of Vincent was perfect. It not only brought things full circle for the series (the bamboo, the dog, the eye), but Jack didn't die alone! Dog lovers the world over rejoiced in that moment and, if you don't think sweet Vincent lying beside Jack counts as "not dying alone," you make me sad. Then there was the lovely "ping" instead of the "BONG!" as the LOST logo filled the screen for the last time. So lovely. I just sat in my chair, stunned. And I'm so grateful to ABC for giving us actual credits, with music and scenes from the island. I was shocked enough; going straight from that moment to a Bud Light commercial or something would have been traumatic. Speaking of commercials:

The Target commercials! Those of you who know me well know how much I freaking adore Target. As if I needed another reason, those commercials were the best! I never watch commercials when I watch TV, but I had to last night (there was no way I was waiting until an hour end so I could FF the commercials for a 2.5 hour episode), so the Target commercials were a great addition. Did anyone else feel like you were watching the SuperBowl? That being said, having to watch commercials absolutely enraged me. I would pause the TV, then go out on my balcony, where I would be so confused to see people in the courtyard below, grilling ribs. Don't they know what night it is? What's wrong with these people?

The Last 15 Minutes: There seems to be a lot of controversy about the ending, as expected. Some loved it, some hated it, some are so confused that it's like they're refusing to acknowledge it happened. I have refused to read anything other than facebook status updates, with the exception of one blog, Nikki Stafford's. I'll read Doc Jensen's when it's up, but I've just been hanging out with my own thoughts so far. I spent much of the night (until I finally fell asleep and, I'm pretty sure, had Lost-infused dreams) processing, processed all day today while I was teaching (my class discussions on "Lord of the Flies" were REALLY interesting today!), and I'm still processing. But, for me, it boils down to this: The Island was real. Sideways world is a holding cell for revelation. After revelation, you get to spend the ever-afterlife with the ones you love. What could be better? I am among those who liked the ending. Did I want answers? Of course I did! But, as a graduate student of literature, I am more than accustomed to having to interpret and not have things handed to me. For that, I thank Lost, for giving me a great, huge, excellent text to examine for a long time! It's like a giant project that I'm really excited to dig into. The idea that the writers left things open to interpretation, to all faiths, all religions, all belief systems or non-belief systems, was a beautiful thing. Think of how much it would have sucked for us to be handed a neatly-wrapped box of answers. Everyone would have hated the answers! (I agree with Nikki Stafford, who is right in her assertion that what I can make up in my brain is better than what they could have shown me.) And this is a show that is beyond handing answers to the audience. Besides, most of my lingering questions have to do with the Dharma Initiative. What were they up to? I still want to know. But the great thing about Lost is how much it leaves for you to learn or to speculate, or both. For example,though I live with my scientist boyfriend who gets asked lots of questions, by me, about science stuff on the show, I now have even more questions about electromagnetism. Luckily, light reading around here consists of books titled things like "Principles of Quantum Mechanics," to name one I'm looking at right now. So there's lots of science for me to ask him to explain, especially concerning the cave, the light, and the big stopper. Having a live-in scientist is great for things like this. After all, he was the one who said, after he had stopped watching the series (he gave up in season 3, but that's mostly due to the demands of computational physical chemistry), "Did they just call that guy Farraday?" and then he explained the name to me. I've always loved this show for that, and the last episode isn't going to stop that at all. If anything, the last episode gave me more things to think about and, if I didn't enjoy thinking, I wouldn't do what I do. So, yeah. Terrific! I mean, I'm still in love with Jacob reading "Everything That Rises Must Converge."

Kate + Jack = LOVE. IT. This is an interesting thing. I have always been pretty neutral about Kate, but I've always liked Sawyer more than Jack. He was just a better character, I thought. Therefore, I probably would have leaned Skater, if I had to lean. I also always disliked Juliet. There wasn't any particular reason for this, but she really got on my nerves. I can't explain why. So when she and Sawyer got together, I hated it. It seem unrealistic to me (you know, because Lost is so realistic) and unbelievable and I really didn't like them together, until. . .Juliet fell down the A-bomb hole. Sawyer in that scene, and the scenes that followed, was positively heartbreaking. So when Juliet and Sawyer had their awakening together, I cried. I was so happy! It was beautiful. As for Kate and Jack, I always thought Kate and Sawyer had something great, but that it wasn't the kind of true, soul-wrenching love that she could have with Jack. The thing is, I don't think they really had that love yet until the final season. Then I believed it. So I was very pleased with the way things ended up in sideways world. Jack and Kate's kiss on the cliff on the island was also really powerful and I was moved by it. I could sum it up by saying that I cried during every single awakening in the finale. Charlie and Claire? Wonderful! Hurley and Charlie? Even better! The whole thing was amazing. But you already know that; you saw it.

Don't you think Bernard and Rose were probably the very first people in sideways world to be enlightened? I think they were the whole time, in the plane and everything. Rose even told Jack, "You can let go now." I love them so much!

Did anyone else think the blood in Flocke's mouth looked a lot like the orange in John Locke's mouth from season one? I did!

Here's a tiny question that I found a bit unsettling: What's up with poor David, Jack's sideways son? I know he served a purpose in sideways world, but does anyone else find it sad that he isn't a real person? He doesn't even exist.He's just wandering around with his teenage angst and his piano-playing, serving to help his fake dad make the move to the afterlife. So is he really a non-person? Everyone else is sideways world was a real person at some point. Was David never real? How sad. . .

People missing from the church at the end: It's pretty clear that this is Jack's journey. As Christian told him, everyone there was integral to Jack's journey or is closely linked to someone who was integral to Jack's journey. I know the people trapped on the island were the whispers, but I don't think they're there anymore. I mean, we already know that Hurley is the new Jacob and he gets to make new rules (Hooray! Jacob's rules were lame and kind of mean.) so I'm assuming he and Ben did away with this trapping-folks-on-the-island business. I don't see Hurley keeping Michael around like that. Plus, the island is a place for redemption and we know that Michael was driven solely by his love for his son. I'm solid in my belief that Michael was allowed to awaken in his own sideways holding room and move forward, with Walt. The other big missing person for me was Daniel Farraday and I love the hinted explanation at why he wasn't there. Sideways world is where Eloise gets to be with her son, where she hasn't unknowingly murdered him, where he doesn't have a destiny other than to be loved and happy and play piano and wear hats. Notice that Desmond said something to Eloise to the effect of "Take him with me?" and then he said he wasn't going to do that. I'm latching onto the "with me" part of that. Daniel isn't going where everyone else is. Daniel is a part of his own sideways world, and that world includes Eloise. Somewhere in another church room, Daniel might awaken and then end up with his mother, with Miles, and with Charlotte, of course, This is what I mean by the beauty of this interpretive ending. Other reunions! Gorgeous! My number one for Person I Most Want to See Have a Sideways World Afterlife-Bound Reunion? Mr. Eko! (Thank you, Nikki, for your mention of him, as well. I love your idea that the childhood soccer game was his sideways world.) Aside from gracing my window in my office and telling students, "You live in a world where righteousness and evil seem very far apart, but that is not the real world," Mr. Eko was probably my favorite Lost character and embodies so many of what I think are the main ideas of Lost: Love, loss, redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice, faith, etc. I'm making up a church scene for grown-up Mr. Eko in my head right now. Trust me; it's really good. As for another one, Ben says he's going to stay in sideways world for awhile. I think this is because he needs his own journey. Sure, he's a big part of the world of Jack and everyone else, which is why he shows up outside the church. (What would we do without that amazing scene between him and John? Chills everywhere!) But Ben's journey isn't over. We know he serves as Hurley's Number 2, but he also needs those connections to be rebuilt in sideways world. And at some point, I'm sure he'll be in the church with Alex and Rousseau and maybe even Jacob or the MIB. I mean, now that someone else has taken over, those two are only human, right? And they're the biggest part of Ben's journey. I have long loved Ben and rooted for Ben and seen the good in Ben, so I was pleased by the ending that suggested that Ben's journey isn't over, that he was great at being number 2, and that he is eventually going to have one of these great church reunions of his own and then he'll move on, most likely with his daughter, who will finally get to understand him and forgive him. So beautiful.

The Light: We know that there is a little bit of the Light inside all of us. We know that the Light can produce murderous, horrifying evil. We know that the Light can also save the world.Those of you who know the kind of work I know have to know that I have been EATING. THIS. UP. from the moment John Locke showed Walt the two pieces: one light and one dark. It's all about the capacity for every human to have goodness and evil. (See again my all-time favorite Mr. Eko quote.) There is the capacity for all of us to do harm and to do good and, as made evident by the characters of this series, no one is completely evil and no one is completely good. Not even the MIB. I can't be the only one who saw the good in him, can I? Why does the Light have to be all bottled up in a cave? That I don't know, but I'll put forth my very early idea. The Light, the Heart of the Island, the Soul, whatever you want to call it, sort of has to be protected from itself. We don't know what would happen if the big stopper were removed and not replaced, but we've been told that everyone in the world would die. Since the beginning of that idea, I've been yelling, "The Island is a Hellmouth!" But it's not a hellmouth. It's the anti-Hellmouth. Or it's an everything-mouth. Honestly, I just don't even know that Jacob knew what would happen. Perhaps it's just that the MIB, after leaving the cave in his big puff of smokey Big Badness, was so evil that he would leave the island and destroy everything else just because he could? Perhaps he would kill everyone the candidates cared about because he hates them? I don't know. Luckily, there are a lot of ideas and papers in here for me! Hooray!

So here are some of my top unanswered questions that remain and what I think about them at this point. (This is all, of course, completely subject to change after more contemplation, research, and discussion. But here are some preliminary thoughts for now.)

4) Waaaaaaaaaalt!: I'm filing Walt in the category of "special." The Others apparently didn't even know he was special when they took him. The Others just like to kidnap children. After all, they had already taken the children from the tail section of the plane and Ben says Walt was hard to handle. Walt is special, like Hurley and Miles are special. walt's feeling can make birds commit glass door suicide. Miles hears dead people. Hurley sees dead people. It's all related to death, but it's all very valuable on the island. Walt didn't get to make much of a contribution with his special abilities, but he was a child. Maybe he just hadn't recognized that he was special yet? The Island (and Jacob?) draw in special people for a reason. Desmond is another special person, even before he turned the failsafe key. So there really isn't any lingering mystery about Walt for me. was Walt special? Of course! Was he a candidate? I don't know. I want to get a better look at that cave. Was his last name different from Michael's? Does anyone know this already? If so, please holla. Either way, I'm at peace with the Walt situation.

8) The Dharma food drop: I got nothing. (Except bad grammar.) I guess it's just pretty obvious that it was the Others from Other-ville? We know they had all kinds of stuff going on (the people in the town didn't even know about the ladies of the Looking Glass), so I'm guessing Ben was having them drop big tubs of Ranch dressing on Desmond.

15) Polar bears: Where did they come from or why did the DI bring them to island? My answer to that is: They were studying them. I don't see how the answer has to be more complicated than that.We've seen the fish biscuits. If we want it to be more complicated, I would suggest they were there because of the super cold place where the donkey wheel was or of where the donkey wheel turning sent people at some point (obviously, it was originally somewhere cold, hence Ben's huge parka. I'll also add to this a thought on the Hurley Bird. I never really cared too much about it, but I know a lot of people did, so I want to throw out the tidbit I recently learned that, on the English subtitles of the DVD, apparently the bird's screech reads, "HURLEY!" So there you go.

16) The Temple. And the people in it. And the big pool that changes color and then brings people back from the dead. I still don't know what was going on there. I need a serious three-watch (I already did a re-watch) for that. And why was Drogan in sideways world? This one makes my brain hurt. It's going on the shelf for awhile.

23) The Dharma notebooks: Again, I say, the DI was studying stuff. That's what they did. Would I still love to know what they thought the purpose was? Yes. Do I care very much right now? No. But I'll still keep thinking about it. In case you can't tell, most of my questions are about the DI. Oh, well. I'll just have to rely on the Dharma worker in my brain. Related to this is also The Quarantine. I'm guessing this was a big long con put in place to facilitate the Dharma psych studies being done all over the island (hence the notebooks). It's also possible that it was an old legend from the days of the "sickness" of the Smoke Monster turning people evil, in the style of Claire and Sayid. Of course, we know this sickness is temporary.What can save you from it? The Power of Love. (I like to throw in Back to the Future references whenever possible.)

42) The Purge: There are still some questions about the Purge, but I think we've gotten a big answer here, which is fantastic! We know that Ben was never really taking orders from Jacob; he was taking orders from the MIB. And yet the Purge seemed initiated by Richard and the Others as a way for Ben to finally join them and we know that Richard has had direct contact with Jacob. So who ordered that? Richard? Jacob? The MIB? It's an interesting question and, for now, I think the Purge may have been simultaneously ordered by Jacob AND by the MIB. We know that Jacob isn't just some fluffy kitten; look at all the pain he inflicted on his candidates. So my likely solution is that Richard got the order from Jacob, a la the OG purge from "Across the Sea" and this was Ben's initiation as leader. The Others do defer to Ben when the Purge is over, though, so maybe it was the MIB's call. But, since the Dharma Initiative folks were all about messing with the island's magic hidey-holes, I'm guessing Jacob had a hand in that.

108) The MIB's name: He doesn't need one. Because he's everyone. He's me. He's you. We're all the MIB, just waiting to either choose the light stone or the dark one, or to choose one and then swap it later for another, rinse and repeat. (That's pretty weak right now, but it's the beginnings of my ideas about a name for him, so I wanted to put it out there.) Names are very important on the island, as we know, so it has to be really significant that the MIB doesn't have one. Rather than chalk it up to him being so evil that he isn't worthy of a name or his adoptive mom was so jacked up that she didn't give him one, I choose a more contemplative approach. So congratulations! You are the smoke monster.

I know I'm missing a lot of things I wanted to say, but I'll just store it up for another installment maybe. I need more processing time, but these are the things fresh on my brain, as promised. I hope you all enjoyed the finale as much as I did. It was truly moving and definitely thought-provoking. I'm really looking forward to all the awesome discussions we're going to get to have about it soon!

I'll end with the fact that, as you most likely know, "Namaste" loosely translates to mean, "The divine light in me salutes the divine light in you." I don't even have to explain how appropriate that is.


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