To me it still feels like it was only yesterday that Lost finished its six year run and the stories of Jack, Kate, Sawyer et al were wrapped up in a controversial ball of spiritual peace. The truth is we are now just weeks away from the 5th anniversary of the ending that was more divisive than anything in recent memory.
I sat up with friends to watch the finale as it aired around the world at the same time. For us in the UK that meant waking up at around 5am to see the last 90 minutes play out, wondering if we’d get all the answers and ultimately being told it was never about the mystery, but instead the lives of these people; who they were, how they changed and what their time together meant for each of their eternal souls.
Fortunately I was not one of the ones left reeling with rage as the credits rolled. As a TV and movie fan who has always placed the importance of character over the merits of a concept, conceit or complex twist, I felt that the ending gave me the closure I was looking for. Admittedly I thought season six as a whole was far too bloated and could have been resolved in half the number of episodes. But then I don’t work for ABC and I’m not looking to cash in on as much screen-time as possible.
What really wound me up in the weeks that followed (and to some extent, the criticisms that continue to this day) was the wounding that many viewers felt by not having certain questions answered, and the subsequent accusations that the writers were ‘making it up as they went along’. I mean, come on, no shit Sherlock, of course they were. If you were given a green-light to write and film a series pilot, based on little more than a paragraph logline, with only weeks to write, cast, location scout and complete said pilot, do you then think that in the ensuing time you could also craft a six season eighty hour master plan with existential, sci-fi, historical and religious underpinnings interlocking more than fifteen main characters? I think not.
Of course the problem came from suggestions made by showrunner Damon Lindelof that indeed there was such a ‘bible’ which was being stringently followed by the writing staff to guide their every keystroke. But what Lindelof meant was that the CHARACTERS were fully mapped. The back stories had been meticulously combed over and had given the team of producers a vision through which to project the strange happenings, all the while grounding them in the human relationships they had developed.
To me that seemed obvious. For others it only added to the frustration.
Recently one of the show’s writers, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who was there for the first two seasons, posted a fantastic essay on his experience with the show. The focus of this essay is whether or not they were making it all up on the spot, and what it was really like to be part of a team that created one of the most iconic pieces of television ever.
You can read the essay HERE, and I recommend you do so. Not only will it give you a few more answers, but it also reveals, much like Lost, how important it is to understand the human element of any production.