Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lost Needs Translation

Several members of my household are fans of Lost, the six-year television series that ended last week on ABC. A complicated multi-year story line requires a commitment to watch every week, a commitment I was unable to keep. After the second season I’d occasionally try to watch a few minutes of an episode, but quickly became, er, lost and quit.

The final episode was as comprehensible to me as a lecture in quantum mechanics. As I watched it with the family, I tried to fit Lost into one of the following templates: alternative universe, afterlife (heaven / hell / purgatory) , time travel paradox, dying man’s life-flashing-before-his eyes, and that last refuge of the impoverished imagination--everything was a dream. But the aficionados assured me that none of those explanations fully explained what was going on.

Don’t get me wrong, as a past follower of Eli Stone, Life on Mars, Star Trek: Voyager, Harry Potter, and Battlestar Galactica—all of which took years to reveal their central mysteries--I’m in no position to mock anyone else’s viewing obsessions. On my own cost-benefit scale this time the investment wasn’t worth the payoff.

But I could have miscalculated. If it turns out that future entertainments pay overt or subtle homage to Lost, if Lost has a lasting effect on pop culture--one clue will be if colleges start offering for-credit courses on the subject--then I’ll watch the full series on Netflix or iTunes just to keep plugged in.

Some contrasting reviews:

Negative: the finale was so disturbing because it disrespected the writers' own story.

Positive (comparing Lost, “24”, and Law and Order, all of which ended last week): To put all of these now-retired series in critical perspective, "Lost" is the qualitative winner, the series that will be admired and remembered for its reach. "24" will be remembered as a great idea gone hopelessly, cartoonishly wrong. And "Law & Order" won't have to be remembered at all. Some variation of it, rightly or wrongly, will still be on television.

Very Positive: Overall I thought it was the best final episode of a series I have seen, with close competition from The Sopranos.

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