Thursday, November 18, 2010

Letting go: An interview with "Finding Lost: Season 6" author Nikki Stafford

For most  fans of ABC's twisty sci-fi series "Lost," the show ended in May, when it aired its polarizing two-hour finale. For some fans, it might have ended a few days, or even weeks, later, when they finally stopped dissecting every minute of its final episode, trying to figure out how it meshed with the rest of the series.
For Nikki Stafford, the show didn't truly end until a few weeks ago, when "Finding Lost: Season Six" -- the final installment of her "Finding Lost" series of books -- was released.

Whereas most fans allowed themselves to stop focusing on the show after its end, Stafford simply couldn't. For her, the actual finale was followed by an intensive re-watch of the entire season, then exhaustively picking apart this final chapter of one of television's most complicated and unusual shows. "A lot of people were able to let go (of the show), but I hadn't let go -- because I couldn't," Stafford said. "It was only when I held the book that I was able to let go."
Stafford has been living with "Lost" for some time now. Not only did she write the book series, she also writes the blog "Nik at Nite," which offered week by week "Lost" recaps. When I was doing my own "Lost" recaps, her pieces were the measuring stick by which I placed my work. Nearly every week I came up short, finding a zillion great insights in her recaps that I had overlooked.
Since the show's end, Stafford has kept the blog active, writing posts about other shows (including a quasi-weekly recap of Fox's "Fringe"), as well as a regular feature called "Lostaholics Anonymous." Hmm. So maybe she hasn't totally let go of the series.
In fact, during our interview about the new book, Stafford shared many of her still-passionate opinions about the completed series, including her thoughts on the show's controversial finale. The last episode -- aptly titled "The End" -- split fans when it revealed that the "sideways" universe we'd been seeing through the final season was actual a purgatory-like place where the various "Lost"-ies could meet up after their deaths. Some fans (myself included) found that concept incredibly moving, while others found it to be a cop-out that failed to provide them with the answers they'd been seeking.
Even after months of reliving the final season, Stafford said she's still among the finale's admirers. "I adored the finale," she said. "I think this would have been a much harder book to write if I hadn't."
Stafford said she knows the religious overtones of the finale turned a lot of people off, but she felt the show's conclusion was a natural end to many of the themes that had been dealt with throughout the series' run.
"It supported what I've said since season two -- love is the key," she said. "(Since the beginning), we've seen these connections between the characters and we keep saying 'Why?' That connection has been important. Love has been important."
The finale also reflected the show's themes about the importance of self-discovery, Stafford said. "It's never been about the plane crash or people on a deserted island," she said. "These people were lost before they landed on this island and they had to find themselves."
But Stafford understands that not all share her enthusiasm for the show's ending, and that's OK with her. "It's perfectly legitimate not to like it," she said.
Aside from the finale, Stafford said she was somewhat mixed on the final season as a whole. Like a lot of people, she thought the introduction of the characters at the show's mysterious Temple offered unneeded layers of complication without a lot of payoff. "The Temple had a lot of promise that never really delivered," she said.
But, Stafford said, the season's high points were high enough to compensate for many of its short-comings. In fact, season six's "Ab Aeterno" -- which focused on the past of Jacob's ageless helpmate Richard -- remains one of her favorite episodes of the whole series, and was one of the things she most looked forward to about re-watching the final season.
"I still love that Richard Alpert episode," Stafford said."I was so blown away by it and I was so excited to watch it again. It still maintains its brillance."
With "Lost" finally (sort of) behind her, Stafford is looking for her next TV obsession. Though she has many favorites among the shows still on TV -- including the aforementioned "Fringe," AMC's "Mad Men," and HBO's freshman series "Boardwalk Empire" -- none of them is a candidate to replace "Lost."
"I don't think it's there yet," she said. "Whatever that show is, I don't think it's started yet."


Bill Scurry said...

Nice interview. Although, I have to disagree with anyone who says "Lost" isn't about a plane crash. It's about a plane crash.

humanebean said...

Thanks for giving us another opportunity to hear Nikki Stafford's thoughts on the denouement of LOST. As a passionate fan of the series, I have enjoyed reading her work for several years and continue to follow her blog regularly.

The ending to the show gave critics and fans alike the opportunity to assess the overarching themes of the show and decide for themselves whether the sum of the parts added up to more, or less, than they had anticipated and hoped. Even given the polarizing nature of the final season and the final episode in particular, I still feel that the show offers much to reflect upon and holds out the joy of discovery for new viewers to come.

With all due respect to the previous commenter, I think that what Nikki meant by her remark that it was "never about the plane crash" was that is was never JUST about a plane crash. Just as the event that serves as a catalyst for the drama in Hamlet is the murder of his father by his scheming uncle and mother, one would hardly say that the play was about the "murder of Hamlet's father". It looms over the events of the play, from the appearance of the Ghost to the climactic swordplay and poisoning - but clearly the play is about much more than that.

As was LOST. I've described it as about broken individuals, bereft of self-awareness and alienated fromm other people, marooned on an Island that holds out to them the possibilities of redemption, insight and connection.

And, oh yes, they got that way when their plane crashed. ; ]