What makes Lost appointment television?
It's the twists. There are plenty of other reasons why Lost is a great show — the character development has always been exceptional; the dialogue, editing, and direction is among the best on the tube; and the actors are towering giants of pretending to live on a deserted island for 100+ days.
But the twists… man, the twists are what grabs ya. They clutch your throat, throw you down on the couch, and force you to spend your Thursday nights at home watching ABC.
The flip side of the twists, of course, is the answers… and that's where Lost has, in the past, failed to deliver. This season, we have finally started to see some notable blanks filled in, and we've gotten some sense of the scope and dimensions of the fictional world we're watching unfold.
Maybe that's why the two-hour season four finale, "There's No Place Like Home," felt like the least electrifying installment of the series to date — if ya get too many answers, ya start to miss the twists.
It's a tricky balance, walking the fine line between showing too much and not showing enough. There have been moments as a Lost fan where I was ready to throw my shoe at the TV I was so frustrated with the paltry question-to-answer ratio. Every mystery seemed to beget twelve other mysteries; nothing was ever explained.
Finally, around the end of season three, the writers seemed to get the picture, and appeared ready to start telling us what was actually going on. That season three finale was a minor masterpiece of television; it wrapped up so many plots, tied off a number of loose ends, and still left us with some massive questions. Some of these included the fate of the Losties after the island and the story of the Man in the Coffin. The total package had mad momentum and kept me glued to the very edge of my seat.
The season four finale also answers a number of questions, ties up loose ends, and brings to a close a number of the season-long (and in some cases, series-long) plots we've been following. The freighter goes kaboom, and we see how Jin meets his untimely demise. The whole time-travel issue is no longer a theory; it's a fact. Desmond is reunited once and for all with his beloved Penelope. The Oceanic Six get home. We know why they're lying. Locke is the Man in the Coffin.
The only trouble is that laying out all those answers appeared almost matter-of-fact as the two-hour finale unspooled. It's incredibly rare that I've been able to predict where Lost is going to take us in its frantic, twisted roller-coaster ride of a plot; yet last night, I probably could have outlined the two hours of finale during the first commercial break and done pretty well in my forecast.
But none of that would have mattered, really, if I felt like the action itself was gripping. For whatever reason, a number of the plot threads landed with a dull thud in our living room. About the only consistently engaging chunk of the finale for me was the Ben/Locke/Orchid Station plotline, especially when Ben kills Kearny even though he's dooming the freighter and its passengers to certain destruction. It's a remarkably edgy moment for a show known for edgy moments, and it plunges Ben Linus into an even deeper shade of grey.
Maybe knowing who would live and who would die (for the most part) dulled the episode's revelations as well. The Oceanic Six (plus a few) were solidly established going into last night's episode; barring some last-minute über-twist, these characters (if no one else) would survive to the end. It sorta undercut the series' typical anything goes, anyone can die tone.
We're also not left with much to chew on all summer. Mostly, I'm curious to hear what's happened on the island since the Oceanic Six left. Heck, for that matter, where the frak did the island go? To the past? The future? The moon? And of course, how did Locke get off the island, and what has happened to him since? There's also of course the lingering Jacob/Claire mystery, and the immortality of that creepy dude Richard who looks like Rod Serling. (In fact, I think he plays Rod Serling in that Twilight Zone ride at Disney but don't quote me on that.)
What I seek from Lost, more than anything else, is to be forced to sit bolt upright in my chair several times an episode, stunned that they actually went there. The season four finale didn't make me bolt much, if at all, and so I was disappointed. However, if there's one thing I've learned from sixty-plus years of television, it's that any show with a time-traveling island is bound to keep the surprises coming, even if they have to stop and explain stuff sometimes.Powered by Sidelines