Aside from a few quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed Tuesday's episode giving Jacob and the Man in Black's backstory, "Across the Sea," but overall the final season of "Lost" has been an exercise in frustration.
The problem has been that, with all the attention that's been focused on the Sideways world, the action on the Island -- you know, the fantastical landmass that comprises the central mystery of the show -- has basically consisted of people walking from one area to the other, then changing their minds and going back the other way. Until a couple episodes ago, I could have explained everything that had happened on the Island this season in a couple paragraphs. Sort of a bummer when you've spent so much time wondering about the place, its nature and its history. And kind of a letdown after the marketing message for Season 6 was "ALL YOUR QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED!" and entertainment writers, based on interviews with the cast and creators of the show, were saying stuff like "the answers are going to be coming fast and furious!"
Instead, and in direct opposition to the audience expectations they were ultimately responsible for setting up, head honchos Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof decided they would spend most of the season withholding answers and adding new mysteries, then dump the answers on us at the end. They've created a situation where, even if the conclusion is intensely satisfying, which I'm kind of doubting at this point, I'll remember Season 6 as having been mostly unenjoyable.
A recent interview illustrates the problem with Cuse and Lindelof's strategy. Lindelof:
“In many ways, the season was structured as a long con on behalf of the Man In Black. Once we revealed that Locke was the Monster, we knew the audience would immediately mistrust him, and we would have to spend at least a dozen episodes of Locke trying to convince the audience that he did not have malevolent intention, that all he wanted to do was get off The Island. But everything he was doing was leading up to one moment, which was [trying to] get the candidates in one fell swoop. He knew if he killed just one of them, everyone would know what he was up to.’”
This is putting the cart before the horse. Rather than stall just so they could throw a twist at us when Locke tried to blow up the sub, I would have preferred they set out to create a final season that was satisfying and substantial from beginning to end. I think they got too cute.
(And it looks like Lindelof is starting to feel the pressure. His last two Tweets are worrying. The first is a link to Wikipedia about a theory by John Keats about the "capacity for accepting uncertainty and the unresolved," and the second, apparently in reference to "Across the Sea" having polarized online "Lost" chatterers, reads: "Wait. Polarizing is a BAD thing?")
Anyway, I started this season as a Man of Faith. Sure the writers had gotten way too clever for their own good with that time-traveling Season 5, but surely they would deliver a final season that rocked the house.
But now hard experience has made me a Man of Science. And the empirical data I've gathered over the past two seasons tells me not to get my hopes up for the final two episodes of the show. There's three and a half hours left, which boils down to about two hours and twenty minutes of actual show, minus commercials. Is that enough time to resolve this thing in a satisfactory manner, especially when next week's penultimate episode looks, judging from one of the sneak peaks, like it's going to spend more valuable time depicting people walking from part of the Island to the other? As a Man of a Science, I must say I'm dubious.
Maybe they'll just run a scroll during the credits with accompanying narration, like in a drug commercial: "The Frozen Donkey Wheel was finished by the Egyptiansthe Dharma Initiative the survivors of a 16th-century shipwreck. Mother had the strength to kill the Man in Black's people and fill in that well because she eats a diet featuring high quantities of nutrient-rich seaweed. The guy you saw for a split second in the rocking chair in the cabin that one time -- the apparition that dedicated fans took precious hours of their life to capture and post online -- that was The Most Interesting Man in the World. The conclusion of this show may cause anger, confusion and the urge to throw your television through a window. Contact a doctor if you experience unusually high blood pressure, throbbing pain directly behind your eyes or thoughts of killing the Internet."
("Thirsting for answers? Stay thirsty, 'Lost' fans.)
Plus then there's this interview with Michael Emerson (Ben) in the New York Post. The relevant excerpt:
PW: A lot of fans have wondered what the actual purpose for the flash-sideways is -- will it eventually be explained?
Michael: Yes, but they’re not going to spoon feed it to you. For me, the ending of the series required some analysis. It’s not given to you on a dish, neatly organized with a fancy bow put on the end of it. What it does have is a great soulfulness and the ending is human scale.
PW: It sounds like fans will have to do a lot of rewatching once the series finale airs.
Michael: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a possible response for some people. I have received the finale by degrees. I read the script without the secret scenes, then I read the secret scenes, then I shot the script and each time I’m thinking about "what does this mean?"
When I first read it, the ending wasn’t clear to me – but since then it’s grown more clear and I have to say, grown more satisfying the more I think about it. I expect a mixture of satisfaction and consternation amongst the viewers when it airs. But once they rewatch it, rethink about it and possibly look at the saga again, gradually they will feel like they have just read a good novel -- but you have to chew on it for a while.
Ruh-roh. So it won't be clear right away, and we may have to "chew on it for a while"? I've spent six years chewing on this show, m&$%*#f$#%^&, like a cow working that cud. That s#@% is chewed. Now you're telling me this flavorless mash is going to require more chewing? It's time to move on to the next step in the digestive process.
And we may want to rewatch the whole thing again, just to make sure we get it? Watching this show for six years, vainly mulling over mysteries we couldn't possibly fathom because we weren't given enough information -- that wasn't sufficient?
As a Man of Science, hearing this type of talk concerns me. I'm worried some test tubes and electron microscopes might get smashed if this finale doesn't deliver the goods. We'll see.