Thursday, May 26, 2005

Unhappy Endings

Was anyone else as unsatisfied with the last episode of Lost as I was?

Don't get me wrong: it was a great 2-hours of television--compelling, exciting, and moving--and it did a really good job of weaving all the different subplots together. But I really felt cheated that the finale refused to answer any of the show's central mysteries. I know the season needs to end on a cliffhanger, because that's now a convention of this kind of show, but the finale was more about setting up next season's stories rather than resolving the ones from this season.

The finale of Veronica Mars was more my style: Veronica solved the major mystery she had been investigating all season, but the show's creators still were able to set up possible plotlines for the next season and they managed to end it all with a kind of a cliffhanger.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but, as much as I liked Lost, I'm not sure I want to sit through another season without getting an answer to the series's big questions. The problem, of course, is that once Lost provides those answers, it might very well lose its whole raison d'etre. Back in December, I wrote that for TV serials

going on too long can be just as big a problem as stopping too soon. For example, I already have my doubts whether or not the people who make Lost can really drag their plane-crash-survivors-on-a-haunted-island story on to the end of this season, let alone the next one they’re presumably hoping for. (And even though I enjoyed the first two seasons of 24, it really seems like a premise that shouldn’t have been repeated).

Well, Lost make it to the end of the season, but I still have my doubts about next season. It seems the show's creators are either going to tread water for another season or, more likely, hit the reset button and start things all over again, with only minor variations.

I'm reminded of Chekhov's rule about guns: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." If you start a TV season with a mystery, by the finale the mystery should be solved. Otherwise don't put it there. It would have been one thing if the Lost finale had solved one mystery, only to be left with a new, perhaps bigger one. But to end the season by building the suspense and then making the audience wait until season two for any resolution strikes me as a pretty cheap trick. I guess Lost is popular enough, though, that its creators feel like they can get away with it, and they're probably right.


Dave Lartigue said...

You are not alone. That was a cheap two hours.

Jeff said...

The Lost season finale had its moments, but at the end of it I was only more convinced that the writers haven't the foggiest idea where it's all headed. Everyone knows that J.J. Abrams created Alias, a show in which many of the characters have switched sides so many times as to inspire meaninglessness. What fewer people remember is that Abrams also created Felicity, which ended its four-year run with a highly improbable five-episode story arc involving...time travel.

The Lost writers should spend the summer plotting a definite direction for their show. TV viewers learned from The X-Files not to put too much faith in a show's promise that all will be revealed, and they're less likely to stick around for a second season of Lost if they're given nothing but endless teasing.

Carrie said...

I'm having the same problem with The Shield that you are having with LOST. Things that should have been tied up have been completely forgotten or just NOT taken care of over four seasons.

I'm also getting more than a little annoyed that they sell almost every other episode with the tag-line THE EPISODE THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING when nothing has ever changed.

I hate TV people sometimes.