One of the best TV series of all time came to a close last night, and unlike shows like the Sopranos that ended with a gutless, wishy-washy, open-for-interpretation cop out or Sex and the City that went the sentimental route, or countless other series that ended on a whimper, the series finale for Lost was nearly perfect.
As a storyteller, I’ve been impressed season after season at the continuity of the show despite the immense scope of the plot lines. A couple of years ago, I heard an interview with the man who was in charge of tracking all of the character interactions, who met when and how, likes and dislikes, the day in day out minutiae that many of us storytellers take for granted because we’re working on one project for a given amount of time and have a limited number of main characters. For most projects, one person can keep up with everything with a minimal amount of effort. However, Lost, with its multitude of primary characters and plethora of supporting characters spread out over a six year period, needed an archivist to keep the writers straight. That fact alone is impressive.
Another great admiration for the show was the character development. Each season, the characters grew, regressed, matured, changed allegiances, and suffered, and within the confines of the story, they were nearly always believable as true-to-life. Again, as a storyteller, I’m impressed with how the writers were able to maintain that verisimilitude over an extended period.
Probably the thing I loved most about the series was that it was smart. The creators didn’t dumb-down the show to appeal to a broader audience; they didn’t back off of planting cultural nuggets like important pieces of art or great works of literature into scenes to challenge the audience. In fact, they seemed to relish the opportunity to make the show intellectually stimulating. As a fan, I loved that.
Last night, the series finale made me cry more than once, and I’m not often moved to tears by a TV show. The scene when Jin’s memory is triggered by seeing his daughter’s ultrasound was one of the most moving moments of television I’ve ever experienced. In part, that’s because of my own memory of that first ultrasound, but also because it was so realistic to me. Each of the “awakenings” was triggered by some connection to love, and even though he never got to meet his daughter in person, his paternal love was so strong that seeing her heartbeat on the ultrasound was enough to make him whole. In terms of storytelling, that moment was sublime, and I reserve use of that word for only truly transcendental moments. To me, that scene qualifies as sublime.
The other amazingly beautiful moment occurred between Benjamin Linus and John Locke at the end of the show when Ben apologizes for all he had done. That moment of humility and penitence was sincere and moving. The fact that Ben realized he wasn’t ready to move on and needed more time to sort through his personal issues is what kept the scene from wandering into the sentimental. He was a deeply flawed character but was headed in the right direction. Locke forgiving him was an encapsulation of what all spirituality is supposed to be: forgiveness and reconciliation.
I’m sad to see the series end, but I’m glad it’s closing on such a strong note. Few TV series can claim that they ended before they grew stale and tired, but Lost can honestly make that statement.