The end! The end of Fringe, with Matthew J. Brady! The end of Lost of Zeb L. West! The end of Grey's Anatomy, with Tim O'Neil! The end of 24, with Tucker! And a regular episode of Breaking Bad. With Sean Witzke!Lost – “The End”
Zeb L. West
Well, here we are. At the end of all things. Just you…me…the cast…and 13.5 million viewers all tuned in for the answer to… something! Some vague and indescribable rationalization that will satiate six long seasons of explanatory deprivation!
I polled my most trusted, die-hard, Lost-watching friends, and they were literally unanimous in their lack of a single unified question that needed answering!
Some were DYING to know: “What, in the fuck, was the polar bear? And why do I have the vague sense that they already explained it to me?”
Others could not live another moment without knowing: “Why did that statue have four toes?! And why, in God’s holy name, am I convinced that it is significant?”
And still more were chomping at the bit to know: “Why do they call Hugo ‘Hurley’? What kind of inaccurate nickname is that? It’s like the Richard/Dick paradigm! Might as well call a Becky ‘Deb’! There MUST be a connection to the numbers…”
I can still remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Boyle teaching us that it’s a total cop-out to end a story with ‘…and I realized it was all a dream!’ But somehow Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse believe they’re smarter than Mrs. Boyle… as if somehow that third grade rule did not apply to their clever ‘flash-sideways’ plot device!
If the entire flash-sideways plot was only a pre-death flash in Jack’s mind, then why the hell were we watching all of those other characters? Just because they planted a clue to it with his re-occurring neck-bleeding doesn’t justify the fact that we had to sit through whole episodes of other characters being visited by little-blue-fairy Desmond!
I mean, what were we watching that for if it was all happening in Jack’s mind? Was he having some kind of third-person omniscient dream about what all of his friends would have done if they hadn’t been to the island and their lives were slightly different? How they would all be leading happy but empty lives where they never met their soul-mates (except for the few who remained single at the end? Locke? Boone? Vincent?) And what was that thin little antagonism between Desmond and Eloise Hawking about? Where she wants to stop him from waking up figments of Jack’s imagination? Like, what does this hypothetical have to do with ANYTHING?! All the writers have been saying in interviews lately is that they only feel obligated to answer what the flash-sidewayses were all about, and sadly, that’s all they (barely) accomplished. Or worse, since the whole six-season story ends within Jack’s little pre-death fantasy dream, we’re left confused about what happened in the ‘real’ story.
Okay sure, maybe Christian Shepherd (the irony of whose name is not Lost on flash-sideways Kate har-dee-har-harr /barf) alludes to the fact that they’re all somehow participating in this belabored alternate reality as a way of spiritually reaching out to one another from beyond the death that some of them haven’t yet experienced! …But that still doesn’t mean that it matters! What does it mean that Ben and Locke have a heart-to-heart outside the church if it’s all inside of Jack’s mind? Who cares about Boone at this point? Or worse, Sayid and Shannon! (The mere thought makes me genuflect in horror) And why in God’s name should Boone and Hurley be buddy-buddy at this point? Hell, Sun’s flashback to an ultrasound (while receiving an ultrasound) serves about as much narrative value as a sentimental recap episode of Three’s Company where Jack (Tripper) remembers Chrissy/Cindy/Terri doing something stupid.
And that right there is the trick of Lost’s final episode! The transition was not from action to exposition, but from exposition to sentimentality! Many folks shed a good tear for the passage of their tv character friends, but that’s not to be confused with the catharsis of a well-told story. It’s hard to say good-bye to characters you’ve spent six years with! It’s hard to say good-bye to a weekly tv-watching ritual! Or the precious water-cooler hypotheorizing that follows! Hard to say good-bye to EVERY SINGLE love story we’ve invested in! Not a single one survived, unless you suspect (as I do) that Miles and Lapidus were MADE for one another.
So did I enjoy watching the whole enchilada? Fuck yes I did! And writing these rants about the last two seasons has really improved my engagement in the story and its many plot failings!
Did I start writing these columns to drain all of the enjoyment out of the series for anyone who genuinely liked it? Fuck no I didn’t! And if you’re still diggin it and want to call me a dipshit in the comments, I say speed the plow! We’ll always have season 1, which was truly awesome television!
And in case you think me callous, here’s what I CAN give them credit for: maintaining a shred of ambiguity! At least they preserved some of the mystery they worked so hard to cultivate. As much as they started to blitzkrieg us with late-game exposition, even going so far as to BREAK THEIR OWN STORYTELLING CONVENTION (the flash sideways) to give us more flashbacks (which, by the way, don’t really explain ANYTHING if they are not the actual origin story – guess we need an origin story for Jacob’s mother now too! And an origin story for the island-protector before her!) Boiling it all down to some frustratingly concrete explanation would have cheapened the whole experience. Because, as I wrote before, this has always been about mystery, not puzzle! (https://www.factualopinion.com/the_factual_opinion/2010/03/television-of-the-weak-a-freak-show-from-sunup-to-sundown.html). When I heard they were adding an extra half-hour to the already two-hour finale, I figured it was because their epic explanation had bloated so large, it couldn’t be contained within 120 minutes! (Did I give them credit for anything in there? I hope I did..)
1. The smoke monster deserved better.
2. A friend said it was much better than the random-ass ending of Battlestar Galactica, and I must agree.
3. Another friend said that the seasons after J.J. Abrams had clearly left the show (2-6) were a lot like the West Wing seasons after Sorkin left the show.
4. Afterlife in a church? Why? What was the Dharma initiative?
5. Bunch of vaguebooking at the end about ‘letting go’ and ‘moving on’ and ‘let’s go find out’ and ‘well, there is no “now”, here’!? New Age balderdash I say!
6. It was pretty progressive to have us grow attached to a torturer from the Iraqi Republican Guard! (And have him fall in love with a girl who belonged on the O.C.!)
7. Can’t believe they killed off Tina Fey’s character so fast!
8. I woulda been happy to see Walt, even if he’s grown to be a linebacker over the years.
9. Goodbye psychotic/psychedelic Dharma map that appeared once we stopped punching in the numbers and the blast door came down! (I heard there was a puzzle you could buy that had a picture of it – God bless you hardcores who bought that puzzle and lovingly put together every senseless piece!)
10. Goodbye John Locke’s knife!
11. Goodbye Richard Alpert’s guy-liner!
12. Goodbye ‘Freckles’ (even though I feel like I never saw em!)
13. Goodbye Jacob, you extreme plot device which to this day confounds me!
14. How the fuck did Jack end up back out of the leprechaun hole? I don’t know! Were we taken back to the beginning of the season after Juliet rock-tapped the H-bomb? I don’t really know! Jack looked like he was in the same spot as the beginning of the season, but he still had the gut wound that killed him, so who the funkenstein knows?!
15. I’m glad Hurley was our savior, because he was the only one who was pure at heart J
And last, but not least! I’m happy to announce the winner of the contest is TIM O’NEIL with the following prediction:
“Years from now the Lost season sets are gonna be in the 2/$15 bin at Target and anyone who picks them up is going to consider taking the plunge before remembering their friend from work told them once that the show sort of petered out in the end and wasn't worth the trouble.”
Farewell my fellow Lost fans! It’s been a pleasure J
Fringe - "Over There, Part Two"
Matthew J. Brady
Does this second half of the Fringe season finale even need discussion (for that matter, does any episode of the damn show)? Probably not, but I soldier on nonetheless, determined, for some reason, to try to wrangle some enjoyment out of this show. This one is okay, although most all the interesting alternate universe stuff made it into the first part, aside from an Olivia-on-Olivia fight scene and the much-ballyhooed-around-the-comics-internet alternate DC comics covers (https://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2010/05/21/geoff-johns-and-hank-kanalz-on-last-night’s-fringe-alternate-universe-covers/) (which are barely noticeable in the background as Peter muses that the differences between universes are subtle; he's obviously not a comics fan or he would be busting a nut over the amazing sight before him). There's also a pretty obvious ending twist/cliffhanger, especially since it calls back to the "evil replacement" plot of the beginning of the season, but it's not a bad way to end the season. No, the annoying thing here is a plot that was a bit too thin to be stretched out over two episodes, leaving us with annoying bickering between Walter and a barely able to enunciate Leonard Nimoy, who does little more than act as a deus ex machina to keep the show from ending. Thanks to his selflessness, I'm sure we'll be back to the same old plots about people with exploding skin or something before we know it, barely remembering that there's a reality-threatening evil high-tech army a vibrational barrier away. Yay?
This episode was directed by Rian Johnson, who's artistic voice has largely been tainted by the fact that every idea he has had is overshadowed by the voices of other people. Brick owes a whole lot to Hammet, Chandler, and Polanski; Brothers Bloom is a decent little con man movie buried under every tic that he could steal from better directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson. Its fitting that the opening of his recalls both the first scene of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and the lingering flies-as-symbol-for-mental-corruption device David Cronenberg used in The Fly. The fly buzzes around, Walt goes overboard trying to kill it, putting Jesse in danger, delaying production, falling about a story and braining himself. In both filmic instances, the fly was a much larger symbol than just an annoyance to the characters. The Fly is a good metaphor for the series, how Walt's obsession eventually becomes Jesse's - that his willingness to become completely amoral pays off on Jesse's head a thousand fold. The only way I see Jesse's life ending is violently, and in the very near future, probably getting thrown in a refrigerator truck with a whole mess of Gus' chicken.
This is a holding pattern episode, the kind that come right before the real shit goes down on tv seasons like this - the last 2 episodes of shows like these are usually bloodbaths. Or at the very least, they are massive game changers like Mad Men's s3 finale was. Breaking Bad seems to be following that formula, even though the Hank vs. the Twins episode would have been a season-ending-cliffhanger on any other tv show. This episode is a two-man show, Walt and Jesse talking to each other as they make meth, recalling "4 Days Out" from last season. Walt is losing it, over his family again, and expressing it with his perfectionist tendencies without realizing. Last time it was the dry rot in his house representing his fear of his cancer surgery, this time its a fly representing his collapsing relationship wth Skylar.
Walt wishes he'd died, he wishes he hadn't let Jane die. The real drama of the episode is two monologues - one where Walt comes very close to admitting he watched Jane die, and ends up telling Jesse that he spoke to Jane's father the night she died. It's tense, but it's also heartbreaking. Walt think he's "missed his moment" and now he's just stuck here. In remission, doing reprehensible things with no noble purpose anymore. He's stuck in the now, where he realizes he can't get to be a hero from where he's found himself standing.
Jesse betrays how much he cares about Walt too - or at least worries about him. He talks about the discovery channel a lot, first in pretty direct metaphors about how he feels they're getting screwed for money by Gus (talking about how the head Hyena forces the other to kiss his ass, literally). Then ebola. Then possums, and then how one got into his Aunt's how when he was kid. Then about how his aunt went insane, still thinking it was in there, and how her going crazy was cancer metastizing in her brain.
It's an emotional workout between Walt and Jesse, going through them fighting each other, patronizing each other, confessing, and eventually treating each other with more love than they want to admit they have for one another. Walt tells Jesse he's been to his oncologist and he's still in remission (to him, thats the problem), but that creates a bigger problem, one thats been coming up more and more this season - Walt is losing it, with a suicide attempt last week and now this, it's only going to get worse.
24 "2:00PM - 4:00PM"
There was one priceless moment of ridiculous nonsense before the lights went off, a scene where Jack pressed a gun to the head of Reed Diamond before ordering the soon-to-die sucker to suture up an abdominal knife wound, but otherwise, this was the worst season finale the show has ever had. (Even the James Cromwell season included the destruction of an oil rig and the blinding of Rickey Schroeder.) This one consisted of Jack losing a fight, crying, and failing to kill anybody, multiple scenes where President 42nd Street changed her mind (again!) and lots and lots of Freddie Prinze Jr grunting. Sure, there was the expected moment when Charles Logan put a bullet through his skull after testing the gun on Reed Diamond's face, and yes, that part was absolutely wonderful, but otherwise, these two hours were the exact opposite of whatever note anyone wanted the show to go out on. (And no Aaron Pierce to boot!)
That's partly to be expected. 24 is on its way to a feature film incarnation, the show had run out of characters to kill off that would have resonated in any measurable way, it wasn't like Jack was going to bite it, and the crew were at least halfway through production on this dumb season when they found out they wouldn't be returning for more. Last week's episode was a rare gift, a callback to the days when a normal conversation in an office building could be interrupted by a surprise gunship attack, or Aaron Pierce could shot the fuel tanks on a flamethrower and blow up three lanes of a Los Angeles highway. There wasn't enough gas left in the show, this season's plot, the only choice was to exit through the back.
That's what they did, in their own silly fashion. Freddie, Chloe & Arlo, staring at a floor-to-ceiling drone image of Jack. He looks up in the sky and said goodbye.
He can't hear you, but say it anyway:
I must apologize for being dead wrong. You see, I thought I had it all figured out. Shows like Grey's aren't exactly rocket science, after all. It's a prime-time soap with occasional pretensions towards medical drama, although the latter definitely only exists to support and reflect the narrative priorities of the former. So if you watch enough of the show, enough to get a pretty good feel for what exactly is going on and how it unfolds, you feel like you can predict it with some accuracy.
Heading into the season finale, I was dead sure that a few things were going to happen: first, that Callie was going to get together with Mark, since both of their ticking-biological-clock storylines seemed to be converging nicely; second, Lexie would finally formalize her relationship with Karev (they had been coasting along as informal "friends with benefits" for too long); third, and this was the clincher, Derek Shepherd (McDreamy) was going to "cheat" on his "wife," the show's namesake Meredith Grey. Now that last one requires a bit of explanation: although Meredith and McDreamy have been married since last season's finale, they were never actually married - in the general chaos of O'Malley's death and Izzie's near death, they didn't make it to the chapel, but instead opted for a cutesy fake marriage ceremony in the hospital locker room, writing their vows on a Post-It note and acting as if they were married in fact.
Now, you don't have to be Charles Dickens to know that this kind of twist, while "cute" and romantic, is essentially a dramatic IOU: Post-It marriages aren't real marriages, and somewhere down the line you knew full well that the writers were going to exploit this discrepancy. It's worth pointing out that it's in McDreamy's character to be periodically unfaithful: the show's first major storyline hinged on him cheating on his then-wife Addison Montgomery with Meredith Grey - they divorced, Addison got her own spin-off, Private Practice, and the execrable phrase Mer-Der entered the cultural lexicon. The show had used Shepherd's tendency towards infidelity as a cornerstone of the drama in the earliest seasons. As this current season drew to a close, the writers even established two possible lust objects for his temptation: a spunky hospital lawyer who appeared a few episodes back in order to council Shepherd through a difficult deposition (more on that later), and a useless new resident - April - whose mooning infatuation with Shepherd has been a running joke for the previous handful of episodes. All of the pieces were in place for a dynamite finale. Shepherd's new position as Chief of Surgery was stressful, and the demands of his job were putting increasing strain on his relationship with Meredith - something had to give, and the revelation of infidelity would send shockwaves throughout the entire hospital.
Except - that's not what happened at all. This is what happened:
Shit got serious real damn fast.
Remember that deposition I mentioned a few sentences back? Well, the deposition involved a man whose wife had died while being treated at Seattle Grace. She suffered a massive hemorrhage and subsequently lost all brain functions, and she had previously signed a DNR which the doctors followed with due diligence. The problem is that the woman's husband wasn't particularly happy about this, and refused to accept that the doctors had done everything necessary to resuscitate his wife. So first he tried to sue. When that didn't work so well, he came to the hospital with a gun.
His first step was to straight-up execute the hapless Dr. Reed Adamson, the fetching pixie-cut brunette who we see laying in a pool of her own blood above. Moments later Karev wanders into the room and gets a shot to the chest. He's still alive, however, and he somehow manages to crawl into a nearby elevator, where he is later discovered like this:
In case you couldn't already guess, this weren't your father's Grey's Anatomy. Meanwhile, the rest of the hospital is still blissfully unaware of the shooting rampage. It is revealed that Meredith Grey is actually pregnant. This is a horrific idea for a number of reasons. Let's begin with the understanding that Meredith Grey, as played by noted conservative activist Ellen Pompeo, is actually part-human, part cat. Please note the family resemblance:
So even as the audience is reeling from the thought of seeing Ellen Pompeo's eight wrinkled teats swollen in anticipation of her hideous brood of Dr. Moreau cat-children, we are brought back to episode's actual plot, which involves bullets and gunfire. A few people who aren't actually important cast members get stone murdered and the whole hospital gets placed on lockdown. Meredith and Yang are ignorant of what's going on for what seems like a simply absurd interval of time, before running into Shepherd who is really quite surprised that they totally ignored all the pages telling everyone that the hospital was under lockdown because there was a psycho shooter on the loose.
The thing I most enjoyed about this episode, if I can be perfectly honest, is the way it forces these main characters to confront just how self-centered and selfish they really are. The juxtaposition of the rest of the hospital cowering in abject terror of the shooter while Meredith and Yang continue their absolutely banal conversation is quite rich, most likely intentional, and a good illustration of exactly why Seattle Grace would be the worst hospital on the face of the planet in which you'd ever want to end up.
Of course the police are absolute incompetents. Even after the hospital is locked down and the hallways are clear, they somehow neglect to send the SWAT team in, which of course gives the shooter the opportunity to wander all throughout the building and have close encounters with every character and plotline. They don't actually get around to taking a shot until he's been walking around unencumbered for at least a half-hour, real time, and even though the guy gets up and walks around for another half-hour or so, they don't catch up to him until the end of the second hour. By then, he's already dead by his own hand.
The shooter's primary target is, you guessed it, Shepherd, who he believes to be personally responsible for his wife's death. When he catches up to Shepherd he almost hesitates, but then finally his balls drop and he gets down to business:
Usually on a show like this you have favorite characters whom you root for and hope to see succeed; but on Grey's, I have found that I have characters whom I root against and hope to see die. I think that Meredith and Shepherd are two of the most insufferable narcissists in the history of television, so I was really hoping they'd both get their tickets punched. I mean, come on, look at where Shepherd got shot: do you get up and walk away from a hit like that? Under any conceivable circumstances?
But he doesn't die, even though it's later established that he has a bullet lodged in his aorta. They succeed in getting him to an OR where they just happen to have a full coterie of staff ready to put him under for open-heart surgery. And of course the only surgeon who can possibly perform this miracle operation is Yang, who is still after six years just a resident. But she scrubs up and goes in . . .
And then the shooter wanders back onto the scene, apparently pissed that he didn't actually have the wherewithal to finish the job he set out to do in the first place. He holds the operating room hostage, insisting he'll shoot anyone who tries to save Shepherd's life. But just then, who should find his way to the OR but our man from Iraq, Owen Hunt!
Now, of all the people in Seattle Grace, the one person who should actually know what to do in the event of a shooting war, it's Mr. Warzone himself. And indeed, from the moment he walks into that OR, the viewer is aware of a sensation of keen anticipation. We're waiting for the inevitable moment when Operation Ginger Storm bursts free from the shackles of civilian restraint and is mentally transported back to The Shit, Deer Hunter-style, so as to deliver a merciless beating to the killer.
Or, he could just get shot in the shoulder like a punk, which is what actually happens.
Anyway, even as Shepherd is bleeding out on the table, Meredith drags Hunt to an adjoining room to remove the bullet lodged in his shoulder. And then, as if the Grand Guignol wasn't grand enough, we are treated to the spectacle of Meredith Grey suffering a miscarriage onscreen:
That is apparently the face you make when your body spontaneously aborts a fetus and the blood trickles out of your uterus and down your leg. And yes, the bit about the blood trickling down her leg really is in the episode. How could I make this shit up?
Meanwhile, in another plotline, Karev (who you might remember from almost dying in the elevator) is bleeding out on the table while lLoan labors to save his life alongside Lil' Lexie. A couple episodes back Sloan realized that all of his odd behavior this season was a result of the fact that he never got over Lexie. But she was with Karev now, and as Karev lay dying on the table Karev and Lexie reaffirmed their love. Sloan, of course, remains stoic, ultimately saving the life of the man who has stolen his one true love. Which is how these things usually work on this show.
Meanwhile meanwhile, Dr. Bailey is forced to deal with another shot cast member, Dr. Charles Percy, shot in the gut but holding on to dear life with the aid of this week's bit of stunt-casting, Dr. Mandy Moore (Demi Lovato showed up a week or so back as well - best not to ask). Of course, all the elevators have been turned off and the hospital is locked down, so it's impossible to get Percy to an OR and save him, so he dies with his head in Bailey's lap, like so:
And then the show lingers on his last words:
Percy: Can you do something for me? Can you find Reed? When this is over, Can you find her? I always...I always had a crush on her. I don't think she knows.
Mary: She knows. Girls always know.
Percy: Can you tell her anyway? Can you find her and tell her I loved her. I loved her so much.
Percy: Can you tell her, you tell her I was a catch. You tell her I was a hot hot catch and she missed out on a great guy.
We already know that Reed is dead, but they don't. That's what's called" dramatic irony," and let's be frank, folks: I'm not made of stone. There was . . . something in my eye, that's all. It must be raining, but there's not a cloud in the sky.
Eventually the shooting has to stop. And the only man who can stop the slaughter is Richard Webber, the formerly-disgraced ex-chief of surgery, brought low by alcoholism and removed from his position but who is - we are conveniently informed at the beginning of the episode - six months sober. He is caught outside the hospital at the time of the shooting but somehow manages to slip the totally effective police cordon and enter the hospital, determined to track down the shooter and get to the bottom of the massacre.
Now, I'm sure Tucker is going to talk about the finale of 24 and all the brutal, gruesome shit Jack Bauer does in the course of wreaking his bloody vengeance; I'm sure there's been some cold-ass shit on that show. But honestly? I've never seen anything on network TV quite as cold as this shit right here. You might have been justified in expecting that Webber would talk the shooter down, convince him to see the error of his ways and turn himself in with some kind of illuminating moral parable. But what happens in actuality is that Webber confronts the gunman and convinces him to shoot himself.
That is apparently the face you make when you're talking a mentally deranged shooter into swallowing the barrel of his own gun:
I've lived. I've really really lived. I've failed. I've been devastated. I've been broken. I've gone to hell and back. And I've also known joy. And passion. And I've had a great love. See death for me is not justice. It's a ... end of a beautiful journey. And I'm not afraid to die. The question is, are you? A life in prison or an afterlife ... with your wife. Me or you? Your choice.
And then of course the SWAT team finally arrives, but it's too late: Richard Webber has successfully talked a man into taking his own life. I don't care where you grew up, that's pretty much the living definition of hardcore.
I see more than a little similarity between this season finale and one of the massive crossovers us comic fans have grown used to with numbing regularity. They're both intended to do the same thing: goose up interest in flagging franchises by the injection of shocks and suspense, as well as a simply massive amount of blood and guts. Are these episodes of Grey's any different from, say, the bit in Siege where the Sentry totally tears Ares in half? Not really. The only real difference is that whereas this type of audience-goosing gimmick has really worn out its welcome and ceased to be at all effective in superhero comics, it's significantly more rare to come across something as genuinely shocking as this on a TV show like Grey's Anatomy. Maybe if I paid attention to fan sites or whatever I would have had some idea going in as to just what this episode was all about, but as it is I went in completely cold and was pretty damn amazed . Grey'sis still a patently absurd medical soap opera, but for all that the folks behind it do know how to turn some very basic and predictable ingredients into something that keeps pulling me back in despite the fact that I damn well should know better. For all the inconsistency and stupidity and coincidence and straight=up sexual abuse of the suspension of disbelief on display for these two hours, it was never less than riveting.