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Robo-James Time Machine: Lost Finale Rewatch

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This is the end of Robo-James’ Time Machine Week, but Flesh-James still has another week on vacation. So I’m going to set up next week’s robo-posts by setting the Time Machine back a mere few months: to May 23, the date of Lost‘s finale. Next week, the complete Lost series DVD set comes out, and this seems as good a time as any to go back, with a few months’ distance, and see what you all think of the finale, and season 6, and Lost generally now. So Monday begins Lost Rewatch Week: every day, I’ll post a discussion question about Lost, especially its ending.

I rewatched “The End” a couple weeks ago on TiVo. I’ve also embedded the Hulu version above, though I don’t know if (with the DVD coming out) it will still be available at the time of posting to non-Hulu Plus subscribers, or at all. If not—why surely you did as I did and kept a recording on your DVR for posterity, right? Right?

In any case: I’m preparing for vacation as I type and am not up to organizing my new thoughts into an overarching review. But after the jump, some of my second-watch impressions, in no particular order:

* In general, on second viewing I find that I like the finale itself more, and season 6–particularly the Flash Sideways–less. As an episode in itself, “The End” has probably the strongest moments of season 6, especially the last hour, including Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion at the candy machine, Jack and Smokey’s mutual-death struggle and the fantastic reverse echo of the pilot’s opening minutes in Jack’s death scene. (And yes, the church scne, though I wish they’d skimmed off one layer of Vaseline on it–but I’ll save that for later.) But the Sideways, in retrospect, seems a construct simply to (1) continue the pattern of having a Flash-Something, (2) throw out red herrings to keep people from figuring it out before the finale, (3) give us a little something for everyone (if you want the dark ending, you have the Island, if you want the happy ending, you have the Sideways).

* This is almost sacrilege to say, but I wish they had dialed back the use of Michael Giacchino’s score here. Musically, it’s excellent as usual, but the repeated swelling of poignant music at every single touchstone scene–each goodbye, each flashback to Island life–is oversaucing, and in some cases I think it actually undermines the emotion of scenes that would have been more striking scored quietly, or not at all. (I’m thinking Jack’s handoff of power to Hurley, for instance.)

* The plug at the bottom of the Magic Drain: it’s absolutely ridiculous, yes. (And raises more questions: who possibly made it, if anyone, and how, since the light fries most mortals?) But I actually like Lost’s commitment to an idea that the Island’s machinery have to involve actual physical things—a wheel, a plug—rather than some shimmering force alone.

* I liked Matthew Fox’s performance in the finale first time out, but I loved it the second time; the layers to his performance are impressive throughout, even in the Sideways. (Actually especially in the Sideways. I love how Jack reacts differently from the other characters to learning his “life” was not real. He doesn’t go all dopey-eyed with bliss. He fights it, he’s saddened, on some level he does not want to believe it’s true. It made me wish, in fact, that the writers had explored this possibility with more characters other than Eloise.) His battle with Smokey is more epic each time I see it, as are his dying moments (they feel truly Lostian, rather than, well, like season 6), his realization that his wound is fatal–everything really. Fox’s Emmy nomination here is more than just a gold watch.

* The concert, on the other hand, is just as painful to watch the second time out. It’s sort of a metaphor for the whole season 6 flash-sideways. It makes sense mechanically: it gets the two musical characters in one place together and, though them, joins everyone else for a curtain call. It just doesn’t work musically.

* I wonder (and the DVD-set epilogue confirmed this for me) whether Cuselof didn’t drop the ball with Ben this final season. Here was one of the show’s most fascinating creations (maybe the most, period), a man with a journey, charisma and a complex nature–and except for some nice Sideways work, he basically becomes luggage. After showing us his ability to evolve and surprise us over several seasons, he doesn’t really change, and worse, he never really acts (as opposed to reacting, not in the thespian sense). Here was a character who had the potential for a kind of Darth Vader redemption–or for that matter, a dramatic surrender to his weaker nature–but instead we get nothing. I wonder if this was intentional, in that “The End” seemed to be driven toward returning everything to focus mainly on first-season characters (even Shannon!), but if so, that was a mistake.

* As for Smokey’s end—I continue to think that the turn to emphasize Jacob and the MIB just never drew me in. But (and maybe this should have been obvious the first time) I did think there was a real elegance to his ending, in that it was precisely getting what he wanted (extinguishing the light) that doomed him (by rendering him mortal). It’s surprising, but I think fitting, that he spent those hundreds of years brooding on the Island without ever completely understanding the force that made and undid him.

* Speaking of which, I know some viewers thought that Kate’s shooting Smokey at the end of the battle was an anticlimax, but I think it was more in the spirit of the series than Jack killing him singlehanded. Lost was a show about community (indeed, another criticism of the finale was that it took an ensemble show and ended it as thought it were mainly Jack’s story). If there was any overarching theme of the series it was Live Together, Die Alone; it’s only appropriate that no one could take out the smoke monster alone, either.

* And as for the church scene… OK, that’s going to take more than a paragraph, so I’ll save it for Monday.

Those of you who’ve rewatched since May 23, what re your second impressions? Let us know, and come back for one last Lost Discussion Group next week.