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‘Lost’ will leave loose ends, so why watch?

Life is like being on the island — we don't know why we're here, we don't really know what to do, but we still search for answers. And we often fail, even with the best intentions in mind.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

“Lost’s” madness is apparent. Anyone who watches knows, because if you watch “Lost,” you really watch “Lost.” You can’t take a break. You can't just ask one of your friends what happened last week.

The insanity that is “Lost” knows no bounds. To overhear a “Lost” conversation between fans is to hear seemingly sane humans speak excitedly of time travel and multiple universes and biblical themes and the significance of a book cover spied in the background of one scene for one second.

Show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have worked viewers into such a lather that disappointment is inevitable. The Smoke Monster can’t hold a candle to the conglomerated fan monster lurking about on the interwebs. Over six seasons, the two men have sprinkled little bread-crumb trails leading fans to philosophies and theories that may or may not have anything to do with what is actually happening on “Lost.” As such, many fans assume that the mysteries will be solved by the end of this final season.

They are wrong. Mysteries will not be solved. Answers will not be given. And that's just fine.

At its basest level, “Lost” is about life. The island is a microcosm of our everyday existence. For instance, the situation Kate finds herself in is far-fetched (not a lot of us are on the run for killing our stepdads), but the feeling of not knowing anything, of being entirely confused, of struggling with meaning, of searching for answers to unknowable questions, is universal. Life is like being on the island — we don't know why we're here, we don't really know what to do, but we still search for answers. And we often fail, even with the best intentions in mind.

Isn't that journey enough? Do “Lost” fans need all these enigmatic strands of loose story to ultimately make sense? Hasn't the ride itself been worth it? The show is a curious thing. It's an engrossing piece of entertainment even when it makes no sense to the viewer. Clearly, this defies logic. Since comprehension of the plot is not integral to the viewing experience, a sticky problem emerges: Why the hell are we watching “Lost” in the first place?

If you don't buy into the “‘Lost’ is about life” idea, then what have you got? The mysteries certainly have a hold on us, but with those mysteries come frustration. Even the most rabid fans complain regularly about the lack of answers and explanations, and the lack of plot cohesion.

If it's just about the unraveling of grand mysteries, wouldn't the faithful be fed up by now? I suppose the question is moot, because “Lost” fans aren't fed up, despite the complaints. To me, it means that there's something else at work that has kept us so invested for six years.

I say it’s the characters. That's why we care. Sure, the mythology plays a part and the mysteries keep us intrigued, but that's not enough. “Lost” is the only series ever where your opinion of the characters affects your outlook on the series as a whole. The fundamental question of “Lost” is this: Are you a person of faith or are you a person of science? Not only does your answer to that question inform your outlook on the characters and the decisions they make, it also likely informs your stance on how the show will end. Either you believe “Lost” will answer all of your questions, or you believe the questions are largely irrelevant. The Lockes choose knowing. The Jacks choose not knowing.

What happens in the next few months leading up to the finale will be interesting. A fan revolt is not out of the question, for reasons I've discussed. Anyone who assumes (or hopes) that every answer will be revealed and every ongoing mystery will be solved is gravely mistaken. There are too many loose strands, too many plot holes to be plugged.

Personally, I don't care anymore whether or not Cuse and Lindelof had everything planned out from the beginning. I don't care if a Unifying Theory of “Lost” ever materializes. The journey has been well worth the time I've invested. The genius of “Lost” is in the subconscious hold it has on its viewers.

There are myriad ways to ingest the show, and whatever reasons fans give for their loyalty are valid. My only hope is that once the dust is settled and the final chapter written, people who have remained on board for all six seasons resist the urge to whine about unsolved riddles.

Great television is great television, regardless of how it all ends.

Oscar Dahl is a writer in Seattle.