I've been able to distill my feelings on the ending, and my feeling towards the "the show is about people" crowd. feel free to agree or disagree, it might be a long post.
Lost is NOT just about the characters. The mysteries are not unimportant. I want to make it clear that the great character moments are contingent upon the story. Han saying "I know" on Bespin is a GREAT character moment... contingent on the story. They go hand in hand. This show wasn't some mumble-core/hangout show where the characters just bounced off of each other. It wasn't a character study. It was an adventure/mystery show.
And the thing about the people who keep yapping 'It was all about the characters!' - so is almost every other damn piece of narrative. But the characters being strong/having good arcs tends to not matter if the narrative in which they live is sloppy, stupid, boring or terrible. These things go hand in hand.
If LOST wanted to be a character show they simply should have just had the people stranded on the island. No magic, no monster, no ancient temples. These characters, living together on the island, would have been able to have the same arcs of redemption, finding themselves, etc.
But when you take those characters and place them in a mystery, in a science fiction story, in a setting that is weird and intriguing, you need to have those aspects count as well.
Charlie dying is a great moment, but it's built up because we've been waiting for his death because of Desmond's time hopping and the course correcting. It's built up because he's sacrificing himself to get past the things that are keeping his friends trapped on a mysterious island. It's built up because he thinks he is fulfilling his destiny. It's built up because all the elements around the drowning were, at the time, mind-blowing expansions of the scope of the story, adding new mysterious elements.
If the hobbit had just drowned it wouldn't have been the same. These elements that made LOST what it was were the same elements that made the character moments. If the raft had been blown up by random Somali pirates and not by the mysterious Others who were intriguingly after Walt, who seemed to be special, would it have been AS good a moment?
Some might be thinking the Charlie example isn't true. You could claim his death is memorable and moving because he did it for Claire. You might claim the sci fi elements and time jumping and universe course correcting itself is the environment, the setting. It just makes the character events cooler, right? In the new Star Trek, the fathers sacrafice is memorable and amazing not because he's piloting a space ship. It's more intense because of that, but it's at its core the story of a dad saving his wife and son, right?Butsurely none of you can claim to comedown on the side of the equation that none of the rest of it mattered, and that for the last six years you've been more interested in seeing the characters get to the end of their arcs than learning what the numbers meant or any of the other zillion mysteries that propelled the story?
This whole thing about the scifi being the setting is, in my opinion, Hollywood interview bullshit I hear it every time they do a junket for a scifi movie - 'It's really about the characters, the scifi is secondary.' So tell the story without the scifi, it'll be WAY cheaper.
And it's shit on a show like LOST, where characters go out of their way to do things that don't make a lot of sense in character, simply so the scifi elements that trundle along. We can go through episode after episode where characters do things, say things, go places all because the story demands it. A show that has never been afraid to hijack the characters in service of their story doesn't deserve to suddenly say 'It was all about the characters!'
The reality is that the scifi and the characters go hand in hand. It's like saying a comedy doesn't have to be funny as long as the characters really LIVE. The character arcs aren't happening DESPITE the scifi, they're supposedly happening BECAUSE of it.
It seems like no one can deny that the Island stuff ended up as sort of a wash; that it wasn't terribly compelling and that the larger mythology sort of never added up to much. That's why all of a sudden everybody who is defending this show is acting like it's a Linklater movie from the late 80s.
The problem I have with heaven as the end game is thatthere's no tragedy anymore. Every bit of pain was an inconvenience before an eternity of happiness. That's a complete change of the perception of all that happened.
In fact, the characters who got off easiest are now the ones who died early. They get to go to heaven and be happy forever despite not really being a part of what happened on the Island.
There's a reason why most stories don't end with their hero going to Heaven.
With LOST heaven was a major aspect of the final act of the story. If the finale episode had condensed all of the lame ass purgatory stuff into the two and half hours, I would be less annoyed. But when it becomes the focus of the final season, the ending has to carry weight. It's not an epilogue anymore, it's just the ending.
But wait! Before you retort with the obvious example, LOTR's isan example of an ending that feels appropriate because the story is epic myth. I don't think that "And they were all good friends and went to Heaven together" is appropriate for LOST. I think a shit ton of references to philosophy and religion don't actually make a show ABOUT philosophy or religion. I don't think this was a show about the afterlife.
The biggest sin of the finale, for me, is that it's not part of the show. That ending is almost a 4th wall break - it's there to bring closure to the AUDIENCE, not to the characters or the show. I actually wish it had just been a 4th wall break, because that would have been easier to stomach. It's disingenuous to end THIS show on THAT note when LOST has never been about bending over for the fans, never been about making reassurances.
Finally, I hate the ending because I hate what it means. When these people came to the Island they got a second chance. That was the whole point of the flashbacks - to show what had made them who they were, and this mysterious island was going to be the place where they would try to get better, or die. But the finale posits a THIRD CHANCE. Killing Locke was GREAT. It was a ballsy move, one that was guaranteed to upset fans, one that would leave his arc at a place that was not as satisfactory as Heaven, but which worked for his story. But then in season six he gets a THIRD chance to come to grips with his dad. What was the point of all the Island crap in that case? He would ALWAYS have an eternal chance to get better in God's waiting room. There's nothing in the show that tells me that these people got a special moment in the afterlife; it seems like this is what happens to everybody.
There was a way for them to end the story where they did and have it work. They would have had to avoid shitty HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN imagery, first of all. The problem Lindelof and Cuse always had is that they never understood how to tell a story with the references they wanted to make. They just threw philosopher names in there, included references to the 8-fold path in the donkey wheel, etc etc etc, but none of it cohered or MEANT anything.
And the main problem with that is that season 6 is a different show from season 1. In almost every way, including thematically. Here's an argument I will GIVE you:
The show begins as a show about the details, the small things, mysteries and survival. As the show goes on it becomes clear that the mysteries and the details obscure the bigger more important picture. As the show goes on it becomes clear that we live the same things again and again - whether it be psychically, because of trauma, or cosmically, because of karma. The frame pulls out and by the end we come to learn that the details only confuse and obscure the truths - that we're here together, that we need to help one another and that we need to be at peace with ourselves, not with the monsters around us, to achieve the ultimate happiness.
That, on paper, is how you would argue the thematic/religious/spiritual meaning of the show. Except that isn't what the show did. Whether or not that's what they thought they were doing, Lindelof and Cuse didn't EXECUTE that within the story. The characters don't organically come to those points, the stories don't reflect that and the meanings are mentioned but never a part of the actual narrative.
LOST is a show that wasn't sunk because it was ambitious, it was sunk because it was a show whose creators couldn't pull off what they wanted to pull off. This is why people keep blabbering about the characters
- as middling talented writers/creators, Lindelof and Cuse could pull characters through trope-filled arcs (bad boy with a heart of gold! Guilty doctor with the weight of the world on his shoulders!) any day of the week. They couldn't make the story make sense, though, and they couldn't land the thematics in any way except on paper.
At the end of the day, Lost carries with it a kind of qualitative hyperbole, a respect that transcends other, frankly better shows like your Breaking Bad or your Supernatural. The ultimate irony is that once the rose colored goggle come off, people will look back and realize that Lost is not the greatest show ever made, at points it's not even a good one. This show started Empire Strikes Back and ended Revenge Of The Sith. LOST seems to be something that is worthwhile only during the ride. It can never be revisited, and that is the ultimate tragedy.