Damon Lindelof on Why 'Breaking Bad's' Finale Let Him Say Goodbye to 'Lost' (Guest Column)
The transcendent ending of Vince Gilligan's drama inspires another showrunner to stop defending his own finale, writing: "I'm done. I'm out."
This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I was interested in writing a morning-after response to the Breaking Bad finale. I immediately said yes. I did this for two reasons. One of them I was aware of, the other I was not.
The one I was aware of is pretty rudimentary: I am a huge fan of Breaking Bad and have been a zealot of its Church of Awesomeness for years. It's spectacular TV -- spectacular storytelling -- and I am lucky to have borne witness to it. The opportunity to sing the show's praises one last time was not one I could possibly pass up.
And here's what I was not aware of but am now.
All story is reflective, designed to illuminate its own characters and the themes surrounding them. When a show is as brilliant as Breaking Bad, it's not just about the people we're watching, it's about those watching them. About us. In other words, the better the show, the deeper it forces you to look at yourself. On Sunday night, I took a good long look at myself, and this is what I found staring back …
I agreed to write this piece because I am deeply and unhealthily obsessed with finding ways to revisit the Lost finale and the maddening hurricane of shit that has followed it.
And this morning? I am Walter White. Arrogant. Conceited. Selfish. Entitled. Looking for ways to blame everything and everyone but myself, even though it is perfectly clear the situation I find myself in is of my own making. And here's the worst part: I'm still naive enough to believe I can attain some level of redemption.
Earlier drafts of this piece were a love letter to Breaking Bad. The show was a masterpiece. I listed the reasons why. We all know what they are. The finale? Fantastic. Not a false beat. The scene between Walt and Skyler was as profound as it was satisfying -- and watching Walt run his hand through his sleeping daughter's hair, fully aware that he couldn't do the same to the woman he (once? still?) loved as she stood silently behind him quite literally broke my heart.
Jesse lived. Walt died. All happened as it should have. And that would have been the piece you would have read had I finished it. But …
In the comments section of the piece I did not write, the following sentiment would have been echoed dozens of times over: "What the f--- do you know because you f---ed up Lost?!?" How do I know this? Well, for starters, my Twitter feed was pretty much a unanimous run of, "Did you see that, Lindelof? That's how you end a show."
Three years later, it appears that it is not just enough to love Breaking Bad's finale. You also have to hate ours. Yeah, I know. Waaaaaah for me. I should go cry into my barrels full of money. But I swear to you, I'm not looking for empathy. I'm just looking for a way to stop. And I can't.
Alcoholics are smart enough to not walk into a bar. My bar is Twitter. It's Comic-Con. It's anytime someone asks me to write an article even casually relating to Lost.
And what do I do? I jump at the opportunity to acknowledge how many people were dissatisfied with how it ended. I try to be self-deprecating and witty when I do this, but that's an elaborate (or obvious?) defense mechanism to let people know I'm fully aware of the elephant in the room and I'm perfectly fine with it sitting down on my face and shitting all over me.
And this is how pathetic I've become -- I'm using an opportunity to put Breaking Bad into the pantheon of best shows ever (where it undeniably belongs) to narcissistically whine about the perceived shortcomings of my own work.
God, I hate myself. But isn't that what's expected of me? Don't I have to do that? Is it possible for me to ever comment on anything I love without cheekily winking at the audience and saying, "But what do I know -- after all, I ruined Lost?"
It does bear mentioning that not everyone feels this way. There are fans who actually love the way Lost ended. And I can feel the abuse they've taken for having what has become a wildly unpopular opinion, which only makes me love them more. Unfortunately, these kind souls are vastly overwhelmed by, well, less kind souls. So now what?
I'm sick of myself for continuing to beat this particular drum, so I can't imagine how sick of it you are. If it's unpleasant and exhausting for me to keep defending the Lost finale, aren't you getting tired of hating it? And so … I, like Walter White, want out. To be free. And to grant you the same.
I'd like to make a pact, you and me. And here's your part: You acknowledge that I know how you feel about the ending of Lost. I got it. I heard you. I will think about your dissatisfaction always and forever. It will stay with me until I lie there on my back dying, camera pulling slowly upward whether it be a solitary dog or an entire SWAT team that comes to my side as I breathe my last breath.
And here's my part: I will finally stop talking about it. I'm not doing this because I feel entitled or above it -- I'm doing it because I accept that I will not change hearts nor minds. I will not convince you they weren't dead the whole time, nor resent you for believing they were despite my infinite declarations otherwise.
Let this be our pact. And I'll just have to trust you on this -- I don't have Badger and Skinny Pete pointing lasers at your chests to keep you honest. And the truth is, there's no way everyone is going to read, let alone agree with this deal.
But I'm going to keep my part. I'm done. I'm out. Just one last thing before I go …
I stand by the Lost finale. It's the story that we wanted to tell, and we told it. No excuses. No apologies. I look back on it as fondly as I look back on the process of writing the whole show. And while I'll always care what you think, I can't be a slave to it anymore. Here's why:
I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really … I was alive.