Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Notes on Pop Culture: Jack Bauer's Last Hour, More on 'Lost's' 'The End' and Parenting Teens in Primetime

*Warning: Spoilers ahead from the series finales of 24 and Lost.*

Jack Bauer’s Last Hour

After spending a lot of Monday in a funk – I got teary-eyed every time I thought about that scene with Jack Shephard and Vincent the dog -- I was only too happy to move onto something else pop culture-wise, and to distract me from the acrimonious debates people were having online about the Lost series finale. (More on that below.)

The 24 finale was a nice antidote to all that weepiness. Though I’d expected Jack Bauer to die (I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be sad if that happened after his out of control killing rampage last week, complete with the silly Iron Man mask), I was surprised to see Jack receive a presidential green light to just slip away, go on the run from the law, all on his own, yet again.

It was great to see Chloe O’Brian in action, given something to do other than snarl, frown, tap away at the computer keyboard, patch people through and get irritated with the insufferable Dana Walsh. Chloe went on scene, toted a gun and, in the end, she prevailed. She stopped Jack from killing the Russian president and was able to help Jack get the truth about the Russians’ involvement in President Omar Hassan’s death out, just as President Allison Taylor’s nagging conscience finally got the best of her and she called off the hit on Jack. (I knew she had it in her. For all her bad decisions, I really liked President Taylor.)

The ex-presidential weasel Charles Logan shot himself, but didn’t quite finish the job. (Geez, the guy survived a stabbing at the hands of his ex-wife Martha and then shooting himself. Wonder if he’ll turn up in a 24 film?) And Jack Bauer got to go primal on another bad guy – biting Jason Pillar’s ear to a bloody pulp – one more time before the clock ticked down.

It was a solid capstone to the series, which has had its ups and downs after its riveting first season (I thought season five was mighty fine as well). To have attempted to concoct another season of 24, I think, would’ve watered down the brand as I think the writers had run out of ideas. However I would be an enthusiastic ticket buyer for a 24 film, which I believe could be quite successful because the entire story would be told in roughly two hours and we wouldn’t have to kill time by watching Jimmy James from News Radio being stuffed into the walls of CTU.

More on Lost’s ‘The End’

As I mentioned above, I’m still feeling quite melancholy about the fact that Lost ended with all the characters dead and stepping into the warm embrace of heaven. I continue to be haunted by that haunting final shot of Jack dying in the bamboo field, Vincent by his side, and the close-up of his eye closing.

In my finale review I observed that while I felt emotionally satisfied with the way the characters were able to achieve solace, find their lost loves and move on, I was dissatisfied with how general issues about The Island were handled, or actually weren’t handled. After six years of nurturing and building The Island’s mysteries and questions by planting Easter eggs and encouraging fan participation, to act as though those things ultimately meant nothing in the larger scheme of things, left me feeling disappointed. Critics of those who have criticized the finale for this reason have said that if you didn’t like the finale, you either are too stupid to figure it out because the answers were right there, or you’re a sci-fi geek who cares not a whit for characters because that’s what Lost was all about, characters.

To this I roll my eyes. If a person who watches my beloved Mad Men remarks that he finds the show dull and boring because nothing happens amid ridiculously lingering camera shots, I wouldn’t presume to shout at him, “You’re just saying that because you just don’t understand it. It’s brilliant, you numbskull! The answers to all of life’s questions are right there in front of you. Stop asking the world to spoon-feed you.” Sure, I’d engage him in a lively discussion and likely agree to disagree, but I wouldn’t name-call as are some of the Lost finale defenders.

Oh well. I will always love Lost. I’ll still recommend that friends who haven’t seen the series borrow my complete DVD set (yes, I’m planning on getting the final season on DVD), and encourage them to revel in the messy minutia, the literary and biblical allusions and fall in love with the delightfully flawed characters, in spite of the finale which essentially said that all that stuff we spent so much time obsessing over for six years really wasn’t all that important in “The End.” One episode isn’t going to undo all of that good stuff. Not for me anyway. So, in the vein of not taking Lost fandom so seriously, here’s the final Lost Untangled video to make you smile through your tears:

Parenting Teens in Primetime

My pop culture column for Mommy Tracked this week focuses on currently airing TV shows which portray raising teens as a “stomach-curdling, non-stop migraine of an impossible, Herculean task [which] frankly, scares me.” The shows I examined in the piece included ParenthoodModern Family, The Middle and Private Practice.

My conclusion: “I guess that the Gilmore Girls, whose picture of parent-teen relationships I’d hoped to emulate with my daughter, kind of made parenting a teen appear a tad rosier than it actually is, at least according to these new crop of shows. Not everyone’s got Rory for a kid.”

Image credit: Fox.

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