The journey is over, just in time for the fall TV season to begin. It took about four months – this long summer – for me to watch every episode of Lost from beginning to end (core episodes, not “specials”), all of it except the series finale for the very first time. (Okay, so I caught portions of Season 6 episodes, and I could have sworn that I had seen the pilot when it originally aired, but having watched it at the start of my marathon, I doubt my own memory, because it was nothing like what I thought I had seen six years ago.) SPOILER-laden interview follows:
Was it worth it?
Did watching the series finale before anything else ruin the show for you?
No. In fact, watching the finale and liking it very much was the only reason I was motivated to watch the whole series.
What advice would you give to newbies to the show, which you yourself once were?
You are the lucky ones. Watching the finale, and then seeing the torrent of commentary in the blogosphere, much of it negative, I realized that there is a strong counterargument to those who say that watching the series as it happened was a special experience. I have no doubt that it was special to be there as it happened. But I truly believe that watching as I did, more or less a blank slate, at the rate of an episode a day, but knowing that I could watch it whenever I wanted, never having to wait a week between episodes unless I wanted, never having to wait months between seasons at all – this is the better way to do it. I can well understand how disappointed a die-hard fan would be at not just the finale itself, but numerous other moments and aspects of the show as concluded, if they had to wait six years to see what it all was, and then, to realize that they would never understand what it all was. For me, there was no significant disappointment at any point throughout the series. There were questions, of course, and lingering ones at the end. But at the speed I went, I suppose I didn’t have time to invest myself in mysteries and mythologies that the writers and creators were ultimately unable or unwilling to explain. I think I was most sensitive to the stuff that mattered most – the characters and what they valued – which doesn’t suffer from overanalysis, as the plot obviously does.
Why were you originally skeptical of the show and its rabid fans?
In hindsight, I suppose I was skeptical of one segment of the fanbase – that which considered the show to be a mysterious wonderland where your mind would drink of their magic water and become elevated, then eat of their magic mushrooms and grow bigger than a house, before deflating down into a fuming yet liberated pile of goo. The show is clever, but it wasn’t that clever. Very little about the show was truly shocking. I remember watching part of one random episode because my brother had it on one night, on its original airing, and in the scene, a bearded wanker has just been shot by a cold she-devil of a woman, and in his agony he looks up at her – “I’m your son!” I cried out, two seconds before the wanker said it himself. I had never seen these characters and knew nothing about them. Did I have some kind of psychic moment? No. How could the scenario not be obvious? I must have seen it countless times before, or else, instinct suggested this high-probability scenario. I thought that this kind of hokum was the only reason people liked the show, and I was wrong. But there are some fans who think the tortuous enigma of the island is the chief charm of the show, and I think they’re mistaken, too.
So what is the chief charm of the show?
It mastered the art of delayed gratification. From episode to episode and season to season, I lived with these characters, these people, reveling in their adventures and their flaws, so easily did they become real to me. So it means something when, at long last, Sawyer fulfills his vow and blows away the guy who abducted Walt (and rubs it in). It means something to get to see Alex as a baby, after she’s already died. It means something to find out who Pierre Chang is after seeing all those absurd videos. And in evoking one of my personal favorite relationships on the show, it meant a lot when Locke announced that “Boone was a sacrifice that the island demanded,” the first time with confidence, the second time, a season later, with self-disgust.
What’s the one lingering question that matters most to you?
Why weren’t the whys more important? Looking at various lists of unanswered Lost questions online, I can accept that these questions don’t really need to be answered. But that doesn’t mean that both the characters and viewers should not constantly be asking why these things are, why these things happened, why they’re stuck on this island of ordeals. I don’t buy that the characters wouldn’t be curious about the mysteries of the island and why they somehow seem chosen for this peculiar agony. They would be the most curious, because they’re stuck in a place where they can’t take anything for granted. There is no excuse for letting their minds relax. And I don’t buy that we as viewers shouldn’t ask questions or wonder why. “Why” is the central question of humanity and the very essence of philosophy. To say that you shouldn’t bother to keep asking, or that the writers need not have worried themselves about these questions is to deny the philosophical groundwork that the show purports to be built on. It seems like the writers have attempted to nullify the question, “Why am I on this island?” by addressing the admittedly larger question, “Why am I here in this life?” But then, why all those little details about the island itself? It seems like an awful lot of distraction, rather than reinforcement of the importance of a life well-lived.
What bothered you most about the finale?
Why aren’t Michael and Walt in that church? (And I’m not talking about real-world crap like contract disputes or unavailability or whatnot; I’m talking about the reality of the show world. If the writers didn’t think they belonged there, they should have explained why. If they wanted them there but couldn’t get them, they should have found a way, whether it’s showing a photograph or having one of the other characters say something relevant. Yes, it would have seemed stupid. But it’s okay for the writers to have to do something stupid. It’s not okay for them to evade an important issue and hope the viewers won’t notice or care, because then they’re acting as if the viewers are stupid. . . . The only explanation I can think of is that Walt can be assumed to have lived a good long life with experiences that hopefully outshined his time on the island, so what would he have appeared as? An old man played by some completely new actor? That would have thoroughly wrecked the atmosphere of Lost’s final moments, obviously. But throw me a bone here, Vincent. Don’t leave me hanging.)
Any other problems?
Many people have already mentioned this, but Shannon instead of Nadia? Really? Nadia would not have made sense, I acknowledge, because she wasn’t an Oceanic or otherwise connected to the island. Shannon would have made sense, but not when Nadia has been a constant presence all the way up through Season 6. Sayid didn’t just forget about her, though if the writers had known they were going to wrap it up this way, they might have preferred that she had never shown up again. Maybe Sayid and Shannon could have just been good friends in the church, without all the nuzzling.
Season 1, before all the craziness. Most great shows have some growing pains; not this one. Most of the best characters come from Season 1, and in a strange way, I’ve even become kind of jealously protective of some of them (specifically, the ones who die early in the show), in opposition to latecomers who seem to have eclipsed those early characters, with no real justification in my mind. Michael and Boone are great characters, and every time they appeared on later seasons after long absences (Michael in the flesh, Boone in flashbacks and visions), I wanted to pop open a bottle of champagne. They’re much better than, say, Juliet or Miles or simpering idiots like Daniel and Charlotte. I can’t say that I ever really liked Shannon, but the way Sayid and Boone felt about her endeared her to me. And what can I say, I actually missed Charlie after he was gone (though he went out very badly, as did most of the dead on this show, cough *Rousseau* cough). Even though I didn't necessarily like him, I liked the show better with him on it. To be sure, there was a lot of nonsense in Season 1 as well, such as the Rose character, through and through. But Kate was never as attractive a person as she was in the first season. I guess once you’re hooked, you’re hooked, but the Kate that Jack loved in Season 1 was never really to be seen again.
I don’t have a single favorite, though I can say that as much as I grew to relish in the hammy bit players (Pierre Chang, Richard Alpert) and the linchpins of the expanding island (Linus, Desmond), I always feel warmest toward the Season 1 castaways.
Least favorite character?
Old Eloise Hawking, simply because I can’t stand that smarmy Fionnula Flanagan (yes, I hate her more than Michelle Rodriguez, though miraculously, I didn’t mind Ana Lucia so much after she died and appeared briefly in fan-service flashes.)
Fond memories of Mr. Eko and Yemi?
No, people, no. These aren’t the Nigerians you’re looking for.
Best Sawyer nickname?
Frogurt. (That was just a nickname, right?)
Care to offer any fun trivia?
I knew I recognized Jeff Fahey’s name, but I didn’t realize that crusty Frank Lapidus was once the Lawnmower Man!
I kind of want to watch the whole thing over again.