'Lost' finale highest-rated episode in two years
The emotive two-and-a-half hour closer was seen by 13 million viewers and drew a 5.6 preliminary rating among adults 18-49. That's the highest-rated "Lost" episode in two years, but a softer number than one might have expected given the massive amount of anticipation and publicity leading up to the finale.
It's tough for a heavily serialized show to post big spikes once it starts to decline (and "Lost" has been gradually eroding for years). For what was essentially a decorated clip show, ABC's pre-show "Lost: The Final Journey" (11.4 million, 4.0) performed very well. The "Jimmy Kimmel Live" special on "Lost" drew 3.2 million viewers and 2 million adults 18-49, the talk show host's third-largest adult audience ever.
Reviews were all over the place (my thoughts below):
NY Times said it was a "a bit of a cop out." LA Times gave it was negative, USA Today went to the other end of the spectrum, giving it four stars out of four. Gawker said the finale was "two-and-a-half hours of slow-motion bullshittery." The Onion's AV Club disagreed, writing it was "highly effective." Maureen Ryan loved it. EW called it "refreshing."
On NBC, the "Celebrity Apprentice" (9.3 million, 3.4) finale was up 10% from last year's closer despite running against the "Lost" event. Fox's one-hour "Family Guy" finale (6.3 million, 3.1) was down 21% from last week. Finales for "Simpsons" (5.7 million, 2.5) and "Cleveland Show" (4.9 million, 2.3) also took hits from last week.
My thoughts on "Lost" finale:
Was it necessary?
Did we need to spend half the final season explaining what happened to all the characters after they died?
The problem with the flash-ultra-forwards was they arguably zapped the final season's island story of suspense and emotional impact -- when Sun and Jin perished, we didn't even know if they were really truly dead or not. In the finale we're told what's happening right now matters and there are no do-overs. Well, this was news to us, and it came pretty late. Think of how much more intense the entire final season would have been without the flashes made us question the reality and permanence of the story we were watching.
Now, perhaps the afterlife story does matter because the island is some sort of Skinner Box testing ground for Jack (moreso than living your life elsewhere), as Jimmy Kimmel suggested in the post-show, or is actually purgatory -- except the writers seem to firmly point the other direction. Basically, if the island existed in the real world (which seems to be the case from what we were told in the finale), the flashes are like something from a whole irrelevant metaphysical tale about these same characters.
At the conclusion of the show's pilot, Charlie asked the central question of
"Lost": "Guys, where are we?" That's it. That's the spine of the show: What is this place? Every mystery that came after -- every Dharma detail -- was built upon this invisible foundation that we assumed would eventually be unveiled. Those who say "the show shouldn't have to answer every question" are absolutely right. But it should answer this one because most of the show's narrative structure is built on top of it.
Yet in the finale, the big revelation was an answer to yet another in-season question ("What are the flash sideways?") rather than the central question. It's like the final season deliberately wound up so much mystery and frustration over a brand new diverting question for the express purpose of having a finale that satisfied on some level, because viewers were never going to get the meta-answer they craved.
At the end of "Lost," we did not learn what the island really was. We have details and mechanics -- a wheel, a light, a plug, a temple, and even, yes, smoke and mirrors. Like random pages from a manual to a device we will never see.
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