BLOG Last Call For Lost and Ashes

Two shows finished in the last seven days. Blogger Alastair Stuart compares Lost and Ashes To Ashes [WARNING: CONTAINS BIG SPOILERS!]

WARNING: ASSUMES YOU'VE SEEN THE END OF LOST AND THE END OF ASHES TO ASHES - SPOILERS!

Lost and Ashes To Ashes

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In the space of the last week two iconic TV shows have not only ended but ended in the same place: Purgatory. For Ashes To Ashes, Purgatory was 1980s London, filled with good suits, awful hair and the palpable sense of gleeful doom that pervaded the period. The Happy Hunting Grounds of the Met, presided over by DCI Gene Hunt, were grim, filled with violence and horror and, somehow, still strangely attractive - even friendly.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Lost closed with the reveal that the "sideways universe" stories, apparently caused by Jack and co detonating the nuclear bomb at the end of the last season, was, in fact, Purgatory - a representation of 2004 Los Angeles created by all their minds in which each of them gradually came together, remembered who they had been, who they had loved and what they had done and then, finally, were able to move on. The same idea, in essence, presented in two entirely different ways.

So why was one so much more well received than the other? The Ashes To Ashes finale, whilst garnering some snotty reviews, has been largely embraced by fans, even without a return from DI Sam Tyler. In contrast, Lost has been pilloried up and down and left and right as journalists and fans unite to criticise the sudden left turn of the back 15 minutes, the apparent overwriting of the last six years of continuity and the clear implication the entire series was a dream and they've been dead all along.

Well, some of the problem with the Lost finale stems from the fact that the show, in the end, focussed on the characters. It was always a series about small scale, personal stories unfolding against a vast canvas and that vast canvas, for better or worse, is done the moment Jack's eye closes in what is a truly beautiful, symmetrical final shot. The good news is though that, as Christian Shepard makes fairly clear in the final scene, everything on the island happened. Sawyer dragged himself back to redemption, Jin and Sun found each other and died together, Charlie laid down his life to warn Desmond about who the boat was really from and Hurley genuinely was that nice. Each one of these people, heroes and villains, rationalists and visionaries finds themselves tied together through bonds that can never be undone, survivors in the most literal sense. Iconic as the line is, "live together, die alone" is only two thirds of the truth. Perhaps it should read "live together, die alone, move on together."

This is the crux of the problem many people had with the Lost finale: that, in the end, the epic canvas was reduced to a man putting a plug of rock back into the ground, slowly dying and being rewarded by spending eternity with the last friends on Earth he expected to make. Those friendships and the ways they changed each person involved were what the show was truly about and the only thing that remained constant through the exploration of the Others, the truth about the Dharma Initiative, the time travel and the final, controversial revelations about both Jacob and the Smoke Monster. In the end, Lost fell victim to it's own success for some people, became so mired in its intricate, layered continuity that it became almost impossible to get to the heart of the story, a heart which never changed; the survivors themselves.

Ashes To Ashes approached Purgatory differently, almost as a Valhalla for police officers. The revelations were no less Earth-shaking but, somehow, seemed smaller, more pragmatic for being set on this side of the Atlantic. The fact that Gene Hunt was a dead young man obsessed with Gary Cooper and with enough will to drag himself back to a version of life is, in the end, as irrelevant as the circumstances of Chris, Shaz and Ray's death or Alex's struggle to return to her daughter. They're all dead, but unlike the Oceanic 815 survivors, they all end the show with a pretty good idea of how they got there as well as the closure they need to move on. There's a touching logic to their world; close a big case, go to the pub, get promoted and move on to a better which is oddly reassuring. No one gets left behind, everyone gets a second chance.

What really unites the two shows though is how oddly reassuring their endings are. The two casts respectively feature a police officer who's committed murder, another who passed information to a known criminal, a con man and murderer, an escaped fugitive and a desperate visionary whose dead body is ridden by the embodiment of evil. Almost all of them do awful things, almost all of them make horrible mistakes and each of them, without exception, gets at least within sight of redemption. None of them have it easy but all of them, in the end, get to move on to something else, something better. Like the man says, they all get to be heroes, just for one day and if they can manage it, surely we can too.

So if you find yourself standing in a pub, with David Bowie playing and a smiling bartender asking what you'll have, don't worry. Just get them in for the police officers arguing about crisps in the corner and the group of American tourists and listen to their stories. It's worth it, all the way to the end.

This is a personal article by Alasdair Stuart, one of our site contributors. Your thoughts on Lost and Ashes are welcome as always, in the comment thread below or on our forum .