LOST Finale Gets 30 More Minutes; Lindelof and Cuse Talk about Tonight’s Episode, “The Candidate,” and I Give My Two Cents

     May 4, 2010

The series finale of Lost is getting an extra 30 minutes to wind up its labyrinthine story , bringing the total finale’s total runtime (with commercials) to two-and-a-half-hours.  The Live Feed reports that the producers “have shot so much crucial material for the show’s hugely anticipated series finale that the network has agreed to extend the last episode by an extra half hour.”  This translates to about 15-20 minutes of extra story along with ten more minutes of ads for your viewing pleasure.  Monday night, producers/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse tweeted “We’re done.  Amen.”  Now let’s hope the locked finale can stay under wraps until it airs on Sunday, May 23rd.

Lindelof and Cuse also spoke to EW about tonight’s sure-to-be-controversial episode “The Candidate”.  Hit the jump to check out what they had to say; plus, I give my thoughts on the episode.

In their interview with EW, Lindelof and Cuse tried to explain some of the decisions they made with regards to tonight’s episode.  I’ll provide their explanation and followed by my rebuttal and then  finish up with my review of the episode.

One of the reasons they gave for why they killed Sayid, Jin, Sun, and Lapidus was, “Because now you know this show is willing and capable of killing anyone.”

Let me stop right there: if they wanted to make that point, they should have killed Hurley.  But they can’t risk doing that because he’s the audience surrogate.  Just like they chose not to kill off Jack in the pilot episode (his character was supposed to die and Kate was supposed to be the lead), they don’t pull that trigger because they can’t risk losing the audience completely.  It’s one thing to shake the audience, but you don’t want to lose them so completely that they’re afraid to invest in any character for fear they’ll soon be gone.  The four they offed tonight showed that they were willing to kill characters, but I’m not convinced they’re willing to kill any character.

Another reason they made these kills was to establish that Smoke-Locke is the true villain of the series.  Says Cuse: “There is no ambiguity.  He is evil and he has to be stopped.”

That’s particularly disheartening.  “Good vs. Evil struggles” are good as a premise for an action-adventure, but they make for poor culminations when the audience expects that they invested their time for a more complex payoff.  I would much rather see Smoke-Locke doing evil things but for a reason that the audience can at least understand if not condone.  Or perhaps not even “good vs. evil”, but subscribing to a particular, twisted ideology.  If he turns out to be pure malevolence, it’s going to be kind of dull.

Cuse also explains that the reason Smoke-Locke tried to take everyone out in one fell swoop is because “if he killed just one of them, everyone would know what he was up to,” which is the kind of reasoning that has me scared for the quality of the show’s finish.  The smoke monster is fast can only be stopped by pylons or black magic powder.  Are we to believe that Smoke-Locke wasn’t fast enough to run around the island offing candidates before they knew they were being hunted?   And even if they did find out, what possible defense would the remaining candidates have against the creature?

As you can probably guess, “The Candidate” never came together for me.  The biggest question is what rules determine when/how Smoke-Locke can kill the candidates?  He has the opportunity to kill them all on the Ajira flight, but then moves them away from it.  He then gets them all on the sub together and sends them in with an explosive device that will kill all of them.  I’m assuming that “Locke” can only die if he’s killed when all the other candidates are already dead.  That is to say, if he was on the plane and he blew up with all the candidates, he wouldn’t survive.  But that’s huge guesswork on my part and I don’t want to fill in the blanks for the writers.  I know Lost likes to hold its cards close to the vest, but this episode was frustrating not only in how it tricked the gang to go from one situation to another without explaining why one was preferable to Smoke-Locke, but that it then undermined whatever rule forced his ruse in the first place.

But let’s get to what this episode really did: kill characters.  We lost Sayid, who achieved his redemption through sacrifice.  We lost poor Lapidus!  It wasn’t totally unsurprising once we knew the group wasn’t flying out of there. But as a character, it was nice to have someone with the group who wasn’t a candidate but an observer.  He was swept up in the madness and it was nice to have an anchor who may not have mattered to the mythology, but was still a valuable asset to the show.

And then there was Jin and Sun.  Whoever handled the writing of these characters and their arc really screwed the pooch.  First, there was the stupidity of having Sun temporarily lose her ability to speak English.  I think that’s going to go down as one of the worst—albeit thankfully brief—things Lost did during its run.  Secondly, having that speech restored when she reunited with Jin was not only predictable, but wholly unnecessary.  Their reunion was emotional enough without showing that their love was so strong it could conquer brain damage.

But “The Candidate” cheapened the end of their story.  As wonderful as Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kin were along with the beauty of the shot of their hands parting, it was all undone by one thought: they have a kid.  For me, the scene played as, “I love you, Sun!  I love you, Jin!  Now let’s make our daughter an orphan!”  It made their deaths seem selfish rather than poetic.

Losing characters we’ve known and loved is tough and just by virtue of their deaths I felt sad that they’re dead (or at least they are in one timeline).  When Jack wept at the end of the episode, I thought, “Okay, now is an appropriate time to cry, you gigantic sissy.”  The sideways timeline stressed again that these meetings are not coincidence.  However, the relationship between Jack and Locke in the sideways timeline was underwhelming because it felt like we were headed towards an “A-ha” moment between Jack and Locke, like what Hurley and Libby experienced in “Everybody Loves Hugo.”  I suppose the larger message was that just as Locke couldn’t trust Jack in the sideways timeline, Sawyer couldn’t trust Jack in the main storyline.  Of course, I couldn’t blame Sawyer for not trusting Jack after the whole Juliet/Incident.  As to why sideways Locke couldn’t trust Jack?  It’s one of the many mysteries I still haven’t been able to solve.