Because I know how they feel. Only I was on the other side. I'm not Damon Lindelof or Carlton Cuse (well, Damon took a job from me once, but that's another story altogether...) and since they were the ones who actually wrote the series with that divisive finale, they had to take a lot of shit. I, while not writing the episode, had written about the series for six years, and for some reason ended up in the position of the Show's Defender, like anyone else in our quiet minority who actually loved the end of Lost but were outvoiced by those who hated it.
Now, everyone who's a creative type at all is the same when it comes to criticism: you can praise us all you want, but say one negative thing and we'll remember that FOREVER. It's why trolls exist on the internet, because we thin-skinned "artists" can't handle it, and crumble, and respond to you on Twitter or in the comments, and then you end up with more notoriety than the positive people. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse received a ton of praise for the ending... but they'll never remember that. They'll remember the nastiness, the hatred, that proprietary feeling fans had over Lost and how Damon came in and shat all over it with an ending they found unsatisfying.
So when Breaking Bad ended and, as I said in my blog post, avoided the divisiveness that Lost, The Sopranos, and even Dexter created in their endings, I knew I wasn't going to have to defend the show this time, that other people would be really happy with the ending, too. Vince Gilligan has been held aloft and carried on the shoulders of many of the same people who stomped all over Damon and Carlton for their ending.
But I loved the end of Lost. So much so that when I posted on Facebook that Six Feet Under needs to step aside because there's a new all-time best finale in town, many people messaged and emailed me to say, "You mean... BETTER THAN LOST, NIKKI?!"
Hm. Well, I was closer to Lost. I was more invested in it. From beginning to end, Breaking Bad was a more consistently written show, but Gilligan wasn't meeting a 22-episode mandate. It's much easier to craft perfection in a first season when working with seven episodes, and not 23 like Lost had to do. There were things that had to be achieved in the Breaking Bad finale, things fans wanted, and Gilligan managed to make most people happy; Walt won, and he lost. Yet there are those who dislike the finale because he won, and those who dislike it because he lost.
Similarly, fans demanded that Lost do a number of things, chief among them is answer every single question that has ever been raised by the show. And they didn't do that. At least, not overtly. I wrote a 22,000-word defence of the Lost finale in my last book, and answered most of the questions fans said weren't answered. But maybe that was the problem: it became a little too subtle. For those of us who'd invested hours each week in studying every aspect of this show, it might have been satisfying, but for the majority of the viewers, it was a head-scratcher.
As someone who loved it, I can say that the Lost finale reached into my soul, made me weep with joy, caused lack of sleep over the next few days, and affected me emotionally more than any other show has ever done, before or since. I have never stopped defending it. I've never once said, "Well, yeah, you're right," because I believe in that ending wholeheartedly. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, was just... perfect. It was quiet, it wasn't the best episode of the series (see "Ozymandias" for that one), but it did what a finale is supposed to do. It wrapped things up, it gave us hope that life would still go on, and created a world that was encapsulated within the episodes of the series.
Damon Lindelof has finally spoken out and released an essay that was supposed to be on the finale of Breaking Bad, but instead turned into a piece talking about how watching the end of that show reminded him of how people reacted to the end of his show:
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.
It's a poignant and sad piece, mostly because, as I said above, he spends the entire piece talking about those who hated it, and barely mentions those of us who loved it. Why would he? We feel the same way he does, and it's the haters who affected him so deeply. I know he'll be treated negatively for this piece (I mean, it's not like we live in an age of the confessional, right? Oh... wait...) and he'll be forced to face it all again, but I'm glad he wrote it.
But Damon, I really wish you'd realize that beyond those who loudly hated it is a group of us who loved it. And that image of Jack, on his back, looking up into the sky, satisfied that he'd done his bit for the world but will now die of a wound to his lower right-hand side? Um... do you think perhaps that image has become so iconic that it was also the final shot of this other finale that you loved so much?
All we needed in that meth lab was a dog and some bamboo.
Breaking Bad will go down in history as one of the greatest finales of all time. And Lost will go down in half the history books as the worst, and the other half as one of the best. Maybe there's something to be said for being controversial.
And how about this: discussing perfect pilots the other day, a friend of mine and I concluded that Lost had the best pilot, bar none, of any show we can think of. Breaking Bad's doesn't even come close. In fact, I watched the pilot of Breaking Bad and didn't watch another episode for another year. And then all of season 1 that followed Lost (remember... that's 23 episodes; Breaking Bad is in season 3 before it hits its 23rd episode) was near perfect. For many people, Lost didn't stick the landing, and that's all that matters. I loved it.
Is Breaking Bad the better finale? Yes, because it satisfied more people, and that's a finale's main goal. Is it my favourite finale? No... that one still belongs to Lost.