The final episode of Lost last week was seriously suspenseful. I thought it was a great cap to the season, but there wasn't enough resolution. After hopping on a few message boards, it seemed others were not at all happy with the finale. Most complained that none of the show's big questions were answered (what's down the hatch, what's up with those numbers, etc.), which seemed valid. Their grievances got me to think about the secret behind a suspense series -- the balance of opening and closing questions.
In regards to Lost, quite a few critics are wary about the show's ability to adequately answer the open questions. With so many big questions still up in the air, it leaves a lot of room for disappointment. More importantly, viewers will not be strung along forever. I'm happy to be a good audience member, oohing, aahing and hiding behind pillows when necessary, but if I don't find out more about the Others in the show soon, I'm gonna get bored. If I weren't lazy, I'd look at the +/- of questions that were opened and closed over the first season, but I'm willing to guess we're clearly in the positive.
Compare this show to 24, another highly successful suspense series. 24 manages to keep me on the edge of my seat every week for the last four season. Despite this, I'm able to let go for the summer even though Jack's status is less certain than ever before. As you might guess, I'm able to do this because most of the big questions this season were answered. Granted, the show is designed differently than Lost, which makes it easier to provide closure, but 24 manages their +/- differential much better.
For me, the key is opening big questions that don't require waiting until the end of the season. At the beginning of this season of 24, we were introduced to an Arab family who were the biggest focus of the show. Still, the entire family was gone before the midway point of the season. I don't think Lost does enough of that, which is why there were such high expectations for the season finale. Twenty-four hours of television is a lot and I think it's reasonable to expect some closure throughout the season.
The final factor in Lost's unfulfilling final episode was their guaranteed spot in next year's line-up. If the producers weren't sure if they'd have jobs next fall, there would have been more pressure to lower the +/-.
In the end, I'm going to give the show the benefit of the doubt. They've only finished one season and hopefully have many more to improve the balance. Of course, if I don't know what's down that hatch in the first few episodes of the next season, I ain't gonna be happy.