Tag Archives: The End

Lydia, Legacy, and the End of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Today, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ended its 100-episode run, bringing to a close Hank Green and Bernie Su’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Having seen positive impressions of the series on Twitter, I included the first episode in my screening of webseries for my Intro to Television class, which of course meant watching it myself before assigning it. Watching the first episode turned into the first twenty, and then the next twenty, and then I was caught up in time for the last half-dozen or so episodes that have been released this month.

I consider the show to be a tremendous accomplishment, and I am sad to see it go: while I will admit that I would have found only 6-10 minutes of the show each week to be somewhat frustrating, and believe that my binge viewing highlighted many of the show’s achievements, I also missed the opportunity to “live” The Lizzie Bennet Diaries with other viewers. As someone who writes episodic television reviews, I believe in the value of discourse in shaping how we experience texts; as I’ve been following members of the creative team on Tumblr, or the official show Twitter account, and talking with other viewers on my Twitter feed about the most recent episodes, I can’t help but wish I’d have been able to spend the last fifty weeks within that space.

Perhaps it’s fitting, though. It calls attention to one of the primary takeaways from the Lizzie Bennet experience, which is the degree to which engagement is a sliding scale within an online space. Some people followed the canonical Twitter accounts, Facebook updates, and spinoff webseries that coincided with the 100 episodes of the main series; other people followed some of the transmedia components; other people simply watched the main videos—as I mostly did for my own viewing, at least initially—and let the rest be the rest. This isn’t revelatory, nor unexpected: the show’s writers/producers have been upfront that they’re creating a story they know will be consumed in different ways by different people. It nonetheless bears repeating, however, as the show reaches its conclusion: as viewers say goodbye to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, what precisely they’re saying goodbye to may vary depending on their individual experience, to a degree that one doesn’t see with a normal television series (or a “normal” webseries, for that matter, although suggesting there’s a “normal” for a form so comparatively new and experimental may be misguided).

Which brings me to “The End,” the final episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries story, and a decision that the creative team has suggested came early on: despite the fact that Pride and Prejudice is centered around the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ends on Lizzie, her sister Lydia, and her best friend Charlotte.

Writer Jay Bushman, asked on Tumblr when they decided that Darcy’s swan song would be Episode 99, “Future Talk,” responded that

“since we spent the first 59 episodes on her relationships with people other than Darcy, it would feel pretty lousy if the show ended with her only focused on him without any recognition of all the other people in her life who are so important — and all the other relationships that make our version of this story different than all the others.”

It’s a compelling argument, and I did a literal—yes, actually literal—fist pump when I finished “Future Talk” and saw from the preview for “The End” that Darcy was absent. It reflects conversations I’ve had about how the show’s characterization of Lydia was its biggest accomplishment, and its most substantial “addition” to the Pride and Prejudice story as far as adaptation goes. I had skipped Lydia’s videos on my first viewing of the series, but was told by fellow academic Kathryn VanArendonk to go back and discover what I had missed, and I was immensely glad I did. Lydia’s story is heartbreaking, and powerful, and demonstrates the power of transmedia as a storytelling tool better than any other part of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

And I’m afraid that, despite her presence in “The End,” that Lydia will not endure as the legacy of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in the way I desire.

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Top 10 Episodes of 2010: “The End” (Lost)

“The End”

Aired: March 23rd, 2010

[Cultural Learnings' Top 10 Episodes of 2010 are in no particular order, and are purely subjective - for more information, and the complete list as it goes up, click here.]

Last year, in making a similar list, I put Battlestar Galactica’s “Daybreak” on it, and as one would expect it proved somewhat divisive. The fact of the matter is that I loved the poetry of the BSG finale while acknowledging some of its shortcuts, and in many ways the controversy surrounding it only made it more likely to find its way onto a list like this one; my investment becomes stronger when I feel as if there is a groundswell to reject the finale entirely based largely on principles of television viewership which I don’t entirely understand. This is not to say that I start a crusade to change their minds, but rather that I become very interested in discovering where they’re coming from.

It’s almost scary how much of a carbon copy the reaction to “The End” has been for me. Last week, when Dan Harmon snuck in a dig at Lost’s sense of “payoff” in the Community Christmas episode, watching my Twitter feed’s reaction was a microcosm of larger opinions: some laughed along, the joke confirming their pre-existing dismissal of Lost’s conclusion, while others became legitimately angry at the off-hand dig. Personally, I laughed, but only because I don’t feel as if I am particularly defensive of “The End” (even if I totally understand why some people are).

I loved “The End,” which should be obvious considering that it’s on this list, but I love the fact that people hated it perhaps even more. I think that Lost, as a television series, will be remembered not so much for its story but for how its story was told; as a fan, this disappoints me, but as a critic and scholar it makes the series’ legacy far more important to the future of television. “The End” was a finale that was never going to please everyone, and so Lindelof and Cuse’s decision to not even bother trying was admirable, reckless, and ultimately one of the most affecting episodes of television of the past year.

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Lost – “The New Man in Charge” Epilogue Review

“The New Man in Charge”

August 6th, 2010

“The New Man in Charge” is entirely unnecessary.

There is absolutely no creative justification for this epilogue to ABC’s Lost, which will appear on the Season Six and Complete Collection DVD sets releasing August 24th, unless we admit outright that fan desires play a prominent role in the creative process. Of the three non-commercial functions of this epilogue, which I’ll get into below the jump for the sake of avoiding even the slightest spoilers for those wanting to remain pure, only one feels as if it comes from an honest creative place: the others, meanwhile, seek to answer unresolved issues in the eyes of fans rather than unexplored ideas in the eyes of the writers.

I have no intention of spoiling the epilogue, as it isn’t “out in the wild” through legal means and I don’t want to make ABC angry with me,  but I do want to talk about it in a bit more detail after the jump if only to try to understand its existence.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Official Ballot Miscellany

Official Ballot Miscellany

June 4th, 2010

Earlier this evening, Emmy voting officially began; this isn’t particularly important to us non-voters, but it does mean that the official ballots were released (PDFs: Performers, Writing, Directing), which means that we know who submitted their names for Emmy contention and can thus make our predictions accordingly. In some cases, this simply confirms our earlier submissions regarding particularly categories, while in other cases it throws our expectations for a loop as frontrunners or contenders don’t end up submitting at all.

For example, Cherry Jones (who last year won for her work on 24) chose not to submit her name for contention this year, a decision which seems somewhat bizarre and is currently being speculatively explained by her unhappiness with her character’s direction in the show’s final season. It completely changes the anatomy of that race, removing a potential frontrunner and clearing the way for some new contenders (or, perhaps, another actress from Grey’s Anatomy). Either way, it’s a real shakeup, so it makes this period particularly interesting.

I will speak a bit about some surprising omissions and inclusions in the categories I’ve already covered this week, but I want to focus on the categories that I haven’t discussed yet, including the guest acting categories, writing, and direction, which are some interesting races this year.

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Talking Lost with TV on the Internet and The /Filmcast

Talking Lost with TV on the Internet and The /Filmcast

May 29th, 2010

I’ve written a lot about Lost this week, but if you’re still interested in hearing more discussion about the series finale and the series as a whole I took part in a couple of podcasts on Thursday that might make for some nice weekend listening for those so inclined.

First, I was one of many guests on TV on the Internet’s special Lost episode, which collected a bunch of people who write and tweet about Lost to discuss the finale (including hosts Todd VanDerWerff and Libby Hill, Jason Mittell, Zack Handlen, Daniel T. Walters, Chris Dole, and myself). For the most part, we all liked it, which means that the episode was more of a discussion of the finale and the series as a whole than it was a deconstruction or a dissection. It was a podcast with some really intelligent voices, and it resulted in some cogent discussion on the final season, the characters and their journeys, as well as the cultural impact of the series on both television in general and in our own lives.

TV on the Internet, Episode 37: Lost [Media Elites]

I think both discussions are equally interesting, but the special /Filmcast bonus Lost episode is definitely a bit more dynamic due to both its free-for-all format and the presence of more diverse opinions relating to the finale and the series as a whole. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the episode an outright debate, but /Filmcast hosts Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley raise some legitimate concerns with the series which Katey Rich and I work to reconcile with our own enjoyment of the series. The result, at least for me, is an honest and frank discussion which in its confrontation gets to the heart of the ways in which viewers experienced Lost and its finale, and I think anyone listening would find some part of their voice within the arguments being made.

The /Filmcast Bonus Ep. – Lost Series Finale and Wrap-up [/Film]

I want to thank Todd and Devindra for both inviting me to the respective parties and doing a fantastic job in their capacities as moderator/host/whatever you’d choose to call it, and I truly recommend that those who are still contending with their feelings over the Lost finale give these shows a listen (although perhaps spread out a bit, since both are about two hours long and I can speak from experience that four hours of Lost podcasts in a single day is a bit overwhelming).

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Lost the Morning After: Critics face “The End”

Lost the Morning After: Critics face “The End”

May 24th, 2010

Writing about the end of a television show is a lot like writing about the end of a war. When a war comes to a close, people want to know the facts of how it came to an end, and they want to understand the legacy that it will leave behind, and the same goes for a television show: people want to “understand” the ending, and they want to see the “big picture” in order to evaluate the series as a whole.

However, for critics who have been reviewing the series episode-by-episode, this is a greater challenge than I think people realize. It isn’t that we don’t have opinions about “The End” in terms of where it fits into Lost’s big picture or how its ending concludes the series’ long-term storylines, but rather that we have been in the trenches, so to speak, for years of our lives. Noel Murray likened writing about Lost weekly to “reports from the field…recording immediate impressions,” but now we’re forced to combine the immediacy of our response to the finale with this desire for closure, both within the viewing audience and within our own expectations. These critics are the embedded reporters, people who have dedicated so much of their time to cataloging their immediate responses that channeling that energy towards the end of the series seems like a different and in some cases counter-intuitive experience.

However, they’re also the people who offer a valuable glimpse into the series’ run as a whole, both in their wide-reaching commentary and in their specific analysis of “The End” and its various mysteries and reveals. Their “reports from the field” may be over, but the final transmission will serve as a wonderful starting point for the larger discussion, so let’s take a closer look at their analysis and see how the process of historicizing Lost’s impact begins.

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Series Finale: Lost – “The End”

“The End”

May 23rd, 2010

“There are no shortcuts, no do-overs – what happened, happened. All of this matters.”

[For more of my thoughts on "The End," check out my analysis of the critical response to the episode, which expands on some of the points I raise here while bringing up arguments that I didn't get to.]

I don’t know where to begin.

I know how I feel about “The End” because I have notes which capture my intense emotional responses to the action onscreen. I also know many of the points I want to make about the episode as a whole, and how it fits into the sixth season, and how it works with the remainder of the series. In fact, I could probably write every other part of this review but the first sentence, and I’d probably be able to fill it in just fine after the fact.

However, that would be dishonest: it would make you think that I, the moment I sat down at my desk after the finale finished airing, knew precisely the topic sentence which would boil this finale down, the words that would unearth its secrets and solve its mysteries. I may know the things I want to say, and I may have my opinions about the quality of this finale, but I don’t know what I can really say to get it all started.

As the quote above indicates, and as I believe the finale embodied, there are no do-overs: what happened, happened, which is why you’re reading a short meandering consideration rather than a definitive statement. “The End” lacks any definitive statements: we learn nothing about what the island really is, we get no new information about the Dharma Initiative or any of the people involved, and the episode leans towards spiritual conclusiveness rather than any resolution of the series narrative. Lost doesn’t try to end in a way which closes off its plot holes or pieces together its own meandering qualities, but rather creates an episode that says the journey was worthwhile, that the time these characters spent with each other and the time we spent with these characters was all worth it.

And for all of the questions that we may still have – and trust me, I think all of us still have questions – I firmly believe that the quality of this series finale and the overall quality of the series simply cannot be among them. Beautiful and heartwrenching, “The End” captures more than any other series finale I’ve watched the sum total of the series’ experience, awakening in viewers the same power of recall which pulls together half of the series’ narrative.

Lost was more than our experience, featuring a complex plot which goes beyond those powerful and emotional moments so lovingly punctuated by Michael Giacchino’s stirring music, but I feel “The End” paid respect to the series that’s been: it may have taken shortcuts, and it may have prioritized certain questions differently than some viewers, but at no point did it feel like the series was making that argument that what we saw tonight was the only thing that mattered.

All of this matters, for better or for worse, and by wearing its heart and soul on its sleeve Lost has gone out the same way it came in: presenting a very big world with some very big ideas through the eye(s) of those who live their lives within it.

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The Lost Weekend: Reflections on Reviewing Lost

Reflections on Reviewing Lost

May 22nd, 2010

There are a lot of articles floating around the internet right now about Lost’s legacy (including a great one from my brother), but I don’t necessarily know if I’m prepared to contribute to them.

This comes from the fact that I’ve already written about nearly every facet of this series. Because of my recent “Television, The Aughts & I” series, I’ve written extensively about how Lost was part of my initial initiation into the world of being a television obsessive. Due to the complaints piling up even before this past season began, I already wrote my lengthy diatribe against those who believe that Lost “owes” something to its fans. Since we were also already in a list-making mood before Season Six, I’ve done my list of key episodes as well. And not only has the mysterious nature of Season 6 kept the series’ conclusion almost entirely unpredictable, but reviewing every episode along the way means that I’ve already analyzed much of the season’s narrative in great detail.

However, I feel like I’m letting the haters win if I don’t write something “broad” ahead of the finale: I’ve been arguing for weeks that the people who believe that a finale could fundamentally change their opinion of the series are a bit nuts, so to avoid writing about the series’ legacy (definitively speaking) until after the finale would be conceding defeat on that particular argument.

So, taking all of this into account, I figure the best way to write about Lost is to write about the experience of writing about Lost, which feels especially timely considering the attack on Lost criticism in Mike Hale’s New York Times piece I responded to on Thursday. I am not paid to write about Lost, nor are paid critics necessarily required to write as much about the show as they do. If we ask why myself or my fellow critics write about the show with such passion, the answer would be part reflection on the show itself, part reflection on the fan culture surrounding the show, and part reflection on the ways in which television criticism has evolved over the past six years.

Critics write about Lost for reasons beyond its popularity, just as bloggers write about Lost for reasons beyond blog stats, and their reasons offer an interesting glimpse into Lost’s legacy and an explanation for why so many of us will be burning the midnight oil long into Monday morning and still writing about the show in the months ahead.

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