Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Last Cliffhanger: The End of LOST, Part I

Tuesday was the last day we will ever watch an episode of "LOST" and scream, "Holy shit, I can't wait for the next one!" ABC airs the final episode of "LOST" on Sunday and, barring an unexpected twist that there's a seventh season, that will be all Darlton wrote.

The art of the cliff-hanger ending involves suspense, audacity, mischief, mystery and, when you've mastered it as thoroughly as the "LOST" writers did, a giant question mark over what will happen next, how it will happen, how the story could even begin to sort itself out. Over its six seasons, "LOST" gave us some of the most enticing, brain-teasing, patience-testing conclusions in television history. Here are five of my favorite SHOW-ME-THE-NEXT-EPISODE-NOW "LOST" endings.

Jack Running Plays with Team Others ("Par Avion")
One of the great charms of "LOST" is that the writers are clearly having fun as they create, then subvert our expectations. We're invested in the characters, yes, but we're also watching for the fun of the ride. Few endings left me chuckling like that of season three's "Par Avion," in which Kate's insistence on returning to the Others' barracks to rescue Jack yields an unexpected result. Peering through the trees, she sees the notoriously stubborn leader in a game of football with Tom (aka Mr. Friendly) and a host of other Others. If that weren't odd enough, Jack's smiling and laughing! How the hell did that happen?

Not on the Plane ("Raised by Another")
The crazy French lady in the jungle had told Sayid that there were others on the island, but we didn't know how much stock to put in it because, you know, she was crazy. Then Hurley got the bright idea to complete a census and run it against Sawyer's flight manifest so that everyone would know who everyone is. But it turns out that this Ethan Rom fellow wasn't on the plane. Meanwhile, Claire thinks she's gone into labor and Charlie sent Ethan to get bring Dr. Jack back and deliver the baby. But Ethan returns all by himself, looking super-creepy in the rain. The others are real, and—for the first but not last time—they've got some kidnapping to do.

A Man Named Henry Gale ("Lockdown")
Sayid is the ultimate bad-ass, and his bad-assedness reached its pinnacle in season two. Blaming the Others for the death of Shannon, among other things, he was none to trusting of the prisoner in the hatch who claimed he landed on the island in a hot air balloon. In the epic "Lockdown," the man we now know to be Ben Linus, portrayed by the great Michael Emerson, at last convinces Locke that he is a trustworthy fellow named Henry Gale. Until Sayid shows up and delivers this awesome monologue: "We did find your balloon, Henry Gale, exactly how you described it. We also found the grave you described—your wife's grave. The grave you said you dug with your own bare hands. It was all there. Your whole story, your alibi, it was true. But still I did not believe it to be true. So I dug up that grave and found that there was not a woman inside. There was a man—a man named Henry Gale."

Which Way Are We Flashing? ("Through the Looking Glass")
"LOST's" trademark flashbacks had started to grow stale by the third season. We'd already familiarized ourselves with the main characters' hang-ups, and, with no commitment from ABC to let the series end in a timely fashion, head writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were obviously in no hurry to move the story along. Certain episodes were repetitive and the revelatory air had leaked out of the flashback's tires. Some people even suggested that the clumsily shot, scattered "Heroes" was going to surpass "LOST" in the hierarchy of serialized TV. But boy, did the end of the season prove them wrong. While "Heroes" meandered into a painfully routine ending that was only surprising for its lack of surprises, "LOST" geared up for a thrilling story arc that ended with an enticing shocker. We watched Jack bumble around drunk, bearded and thoroughly depressed in what we assumed was a flashback, even if his cell phone was suspiciously small. But holy shit! he's talking to Kate. They made it off the island? How? They have to go back? What? Hot damn.

The Fucking Nuclear Bomb Detonates ("The Incident")
Seriously, folks. No TV series has come closing to ending a season in as ballsy a manner the penultimate season of LOST concluded. Jack and company tried to execute Daniel Faraday's plan to erase their misery by detonating a nuclear bomb down the hatch in 1977, but darn, the bomb didn't go off and instead everyone was barraged with flying metal and general electromagnetic chaos, and Juliet fell to her doom. But wait, she's still alive down there, and she's gonna make that fucking bomb detonate if it's the last thing she does (and what are the odds it wouldn't be?). BOOM. Whiteness. Yes, the end logo is black-on-white instead of white-on-black. Could anything be wilder than that? Add in the episode's earlier revelation that long-living, now-dead Jacob visited several of our characters in the past and touched them in all the right places, and we've got to wonder what that touch did. Will time change, but they'll remember what happened in this timeline? Will the bomb transport them out of 1977? Or will the next season not flash back or forward, but sideways? SIDEWAYS! That's just silly. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

What are your favorites? That's what the comment section is for. (Well, that and sex-enhancing pill scams.)


gettsr said...

Great Picks sir. Of course the season finales have been properly mindblowing. I'm also a big fan of Lockdown which confirmed the badassery of Sayid. I'd also like to add these wonderfully frustrating cliffhangers:
-"Charlie your gonna die." The fantastic ending of my fave Lost ep Flashes Before Your Eyes
-"How long would it take to train an army?" Jack asks Ana Lucia at the end of The Hunting Party. I was convinced that this would lead to a war between Jack and the Others. Didn't quite happen how I thought it would though.

I can't wait to see how this will all end. And I love the fact that I have no idea what will happen.

Jeremy Mathews said...

Yeah, the "Flashes Before Your Eyes" "No matter what I do, you're gonna die, Charlie" ending is also one of my favorites. Desmond sure had his share of kickass episodes. Also: Libby in the mental institution at the end of "Dave" is a great one (even if it took them four seasons to follow up on it).

Chris Bellamy said...

Well, I have to mention one of the show's greatest "WTF!?!" moments - a moment so great that, Jeremy, Janean and I (and whoever else was watching with us that night) actually applauded when it happened. Season 4, "Cabin Fever," Locke telling us that he's supposed to "move the island." Glorious.