Anyone who didn’t catch Breaking Bad or Lost last night should stop. Now. Don’t read this at all. Please, I don’t want to be held responsible for shattering your fragile little world’s when I tell you that, in the end, the glow at the Heart of the Island was really Walt and Pinkman’s meth lab…oops. Got my wires crossed! But seriously, you’ve been warned.
So Lost is over. For me personally the ending was satisfying, but the reason is because, as the days leading up to this most epic of television events ticked by I realized that I had next to zero emotional attachment to the show. Several years ago I ripped through season one on DVD then made no effort to stay up to date until this last January when I watched seasons 2-5 all in one month. I gave myself no time to allow these characters and their stories to soak in. All I wanted to do was be there, with a group of friends every week, to see it all come to a close. Don’t read that as me not enjoying the show. Quite the opposite. I loved the shit out of Desmond and the hatch. I loved Farraday and the time travel stuff. Ben was a great villain. And as I sped to the last checkpoint before season 6 began I expected to get more of the same science fiction stuff I was liking so much as I essentially browsed through Lost in 9 hour chunks. This final season, however, was a departure in a lot of ways from what I personally liked about the show and my plan to start caring about the characters once I was watching them one hour a week completely fell apart. This season never hooked me in the way that I imagine the previous two would have if I hadn’t treated them like homework. But I made my peace with that fairly early on and so, when the show ended last night, I found satisfying closure on a season of a show I had fun watching, but I doubt I would have been as happy with it had I been there, every week, from day one.
Given the overtly spiritual 180 the show did from its batshit sci-fi, the ending seemed very fitting even if a bit predictable–predictable in the sense that some aspect of the characters’ reality was in fact a world after death. It felt a lot like the ending of The Chronicles of Narnia, though it’s been a while since I’ve read The Last Battle, but I remember it having a similar twist ending. But again, this season wasn’t really the Lost I had planned on–or really wanted–to see. Had they kept up with the science fiction stuff this ending probably would have been received as a big “fuck you” to the fans, but since Lost tended to re-write its own rule book each season it’s ending manages to work. Compare that to the ending of Battlestar Galactica, which shared a lot of themes and ideas with Lost, the most obvious being the crazy, long haired dudes from the UK. With BSG, it was bad enough that by season 3 the characters had all started acting erratically, but when it became obvious that the final five Cylons were picked out of a hat at random, things just got silly. Peppered with a few awesome moments, BSG’s last season more or less boiled down to a great, action-y first half and a slow, muddled conclusion where Starbuck is, essentially, an angel. And that just made me mad.
Why do I bring this up? I bring it up because, again, both shows had a lot in common, in this case faith and spirituality. But whereas Lost would change a bit every season so that the writers could explore new, otherwise impossible ideas, BSG didn’t. By kicking off it’s last season with Jacob, the Man in Black, a couple of different factions of Jacob worshipers and all of the very heavy good vs. evil religious-y stuff, it sort of holds our hand as we eased into a world where an ending such as the sideways world is actually a place before heaven. BSG had no basis for it’s explanation/inference of what Starbuck was when she came back. Sure Baltar saw an imaginary Six for four years, but they also played him as being potentially crazy for a while. Sure the Cylons had always spoken of a singular, higher being. But when you have a show where it is perfectly normal to see a dead person come back because they were, in fact, just one of many copies of a robot who looked like a person, it’s a bit hard to swallow. Plus BSG was never subtle unless it was a red herring like the lost Cylon model who fans immediately clung to as an explanation for Starbuck’s return, a hypothesis that got so out of hand that one of the show’s creators had to break his rule of not chiming in on fan theories and put a stop to it before it unofficially became official.
But back to Lost: I never really wanted to now what the Island was. I was always more interested in why the characters were there so I’m good with no explanation on that end. I needed a reason as to why Starbuck was back. I didn’t need to know what the glowing cave was or what uncorking it did. The way I see it is that the characters never knew and once the few of them who were left got off the Island for good, they were never going to look back and try and figure it all out. It would have seemed trite to spell it all out for them (and us). So yeah, it was cool. I enjoyed it all to an extent, but I really sort of wish I had gotten on board earlier. It was undoubtedly a TV event and one that it would have been cool to get really riled up for one way or the other.
Meanwhile, one of Breaking Bad’s best episodes silently sneaks around in the shadows of a phenomenon. In one hour, all set in one room with only two characters ever speaking, it packed more emotional punch than I was prepared for. While I thought it was touching to see Sawyer and Juliet “wake up” in the sideways world I nearly fucking wept when Walter poured his exhausted heart out to Jesse about when it would have been perfect for him to die of his cancer. And when Walt comes within inches of confessing to Jesse that he just stood by and watched Jane die…that was powerful television. But again, it’s a matter of how that television is watched. I’ve watched Breaking Bad every Sunday since the first episode. The moments that made this episode so powerful were years in the making as opposed to days or hours. I get a week to stew over what these characters have done and wonder what will happen next as opposed to just selecting the next chunk of episodes instantly off of a queue (bless and damn you, Netflix!)
I don’t even know what I’m getting at anymore (for the record, I went out after that last paragraph and played Magic for an hour or so, so my train of thought just completely derailed). I guess what I’m trying to say is last this: last night was a huge night for television because a show I had a casual emotional interest in ended it’s six season run with a two and a half hour finale that was more satisfying than the two and a half hour finale of a show I cared much more about all while a show I like even more than the both of them combined times infinite had one of it’s best, most emotionally exposing, German engineered to perfection in terms of writing episodes where almost NOTHING physically happened and probably next to no one watched it, myself included.