I have been a huge supporter of ABC’s Lost this season. I’ve been the one to try and bolster hope in some of the people I’ve shared the show with at work during those times when it seemed nothing was being answered, when it seemed that the secrecy was just going to go on and on and we’d never get a satisfying answer. I felt certain the show wouldn’t let us down . . . until tonight, the season finale. And now I’m feeling rather foolish because this finale was one of the biggest TV letdowns I’ve ever experienced.
For the past few weeks, the creators of the show have been promising a “Who shot JR” type of ending – not who got shot, but something that big that would keep us in suspense all summer long. And while there were a few interesting diversions along the way, most of this two hour episode tonight was devoid of anything that pushed the story forward. I kept nervously watching the clock as the minutes ticked down, certain that whatever big event that would leave us all in suspense was about to be sprung upon us at some unexpected moment. Would it be the secret of what’s in the hatch? Would it be whatever was beeping on the makeshift radar of the cobbled-together raft? It was both – and neither.
Locke blows the hatch, despite Hurley’s desperate pleas not to because, as only he knows, his lottery numbers are inscribed on the side, and he knows those numbers are bad news. We jump back to the raft at this point, but I’ll get to that in a moment. All this time I’ve been reading people’s predictions of what was inside that hatch, and every time someone said, “It’ll be a passage into something inside the island,” I, and others who responded on message boards, scoffed – this was way too simple of a solution. No – instead there would be an answer of some sort inside there – we’d see something of significance that would make the last 9 months of faithfully watching worthwhile. So when Locke and Jack shove the destroyed door aside, the camera peers up at the two from inside, then slowly descends, what do we see? A shaft with a ladder. A shaft with a ladder? That’s it?
It’s not that I’m impatient – I’m not. I’m perfectly happy to let this show go on being mysterious forever. I’d rather them keep coming up with logical weirdness week after week and never getting a good, solid answer. But when they decide it’s time to offer something up, it needs to be something substantial. The build-up to the reveal tonight has been tremendous – they’ve really made it seem like this was going to be something huge. And then it wasn’t. I expected something truly mindblowing, like the ending to “Numbers.” In that episode, Hurley’s backstory is revealed and we find out he’s a lottery winner who has been plagued with bad luck since he hit it big. Hurley is always fine, but as we quickly see, those around him suffer, and he comes to believe that he is bad luck. As the show winds down, we see the hatch, uncovered by Locke and Boone, sitting alone in the jungle. The camera closes in on the hatch and we see something truly spinetinglingly shocking: each of Hurley’s lottery numbers, etched, perfectly rendered, into the metal of the hatch. It was an incredible TV moment, the likes of which I’ve never seen before, and which set us up for a season finale that should have been even bigger.
Back on the raft, Jin, gun-toting Sawyer, Michael, and his (unknown to everyone on the island) weirdly psychic son Walt are eagerly watching a blip on the radar screen and struggle with the decision of whether to use the one and only flare they have – not knowing if the radar is picking up anything worthwhile or not. As the blip moves quickly toward the outer edges of the radar screen, the flare is launched . . . and the blip begins to move back toward them. This is it – this is the big reveal, the big moment that will shock us and leave us talking all summer. Something incredible is going to happen here, something amazing, and, perhaps as had been hinted at by the show’s creators, we will get to see a glimpse of the mysterious, noisy “creature” that has been occasionally stalking the island’s new inhabitants. In the dark of the night, a magnificent, blinding light suddenly shines, illuminating the raft. As it comes closer, we see that it’s a boat – a gas powered boat – and it appears that, somehow, everyone’s been saved. But when the boat comes closer, we get a glimpse of who is onboard and find that it’s . . . hillbillies?
Hillbillies? Island-dwelling hillbillies, complete with the back-woods hick accent and everything, and it turns out they want Walt. A scuffle ensues and it appears that Sawyer is shot – perhaps – and dives into the water, with Jin quickly following. This is, of course, an assumption – we don’t really see what happens, but there is a gunshot, and Sawyer winds up in the water immediately following that. Perhaps Sawyer fired and fell – we simply don’t know. What we do know for sure is that, despite Michael’s efforts, Walt is carried off by boating hillbillies.
And this is when we see that hatch again, and you really expect something big to happen, so imagine the response when all we see is a ladder. It’s a tremendous letdown, it’s a simple solution that many, including me, had come upon long ago and had dismissed as far too simple. But that’s what it is. A ladder . . . and some hillbillies.
After all the build-up, hints, and talk, Lost finds me at a loss for once. I’m simply utterly baffled and disappointed. How can a show build up such tremendous momentum and then lose it all so quickly? It’s easy – blow your steam far too early in the season and then try, desperately, to keep people involved. “Numbers” could have been – and maybe should have been – the season finale, at least in terms of intensity. “Exodus,” tonight’s (and last week’s – it was part 1 of 2) episode, simply didn’t have enough momentum to finish off the right way, in a way that was keeping in the spirit of the show so far. Instead of something satisfying, we got hillbillies. Lost has a lot of work to do next season, but it’s not work on the story – it’s repairing the damaging disappointment of tonight’s “big” finale.