‘Lost’ is officially over. Forever. I’m still trying to come to terms with that. The loss of this series leaves a huge void in my TV-watching life. Immediately after finale episode ‘The End’ aired, I left a quick post with my initial impressions, and promised to follow up with more thoughts in a few days. It’s taken me a full week to get there. Sorry about that. Partly, the delay was due to my being very busy last week. Partly, I needed the time to process everything that happened and to sort out my feelings about it. (Spoilers to follow.)
In the meantime, I’ve read a lot of other peoples’ thoughts on the finale. The Internets have been ablaze with fanboy rage that not every single one of the show’s mysteries was conclusively answered and tied up in a neat little bow. That’s to be expected. There is literally nothing that the producers of the show could have done that would satisfy every viewer. Further, I don’t think it was ever their obligation to even try. They clearly ended the show on their own terms. They prioritized the things they felt needed to be prioritized, answered the questions that they felt needed to be answered, and left ambiguous the mysteries that they felt should remain ambiguous. Even if I may not necessarily agree with every one of their decisions, I think I understand why they made those decisions. As I said previously, I found the finale pretty satisfying overall. With a little time to think about it, I feel that way even more so.
For those of you who haven’t already found it on your own, I recommend Noel Murray’s excellent summary of the episode over at The AV Club. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his opinions either, but it’s a very thorough and well-reasoned analysis. The fact that he had it published the very next morning after the episode aired leaves me a little in awe. Either he somehow managed to see the tightly-guarded finale in advance (How??!!), or he stayed up all night writing the piece. Personally, I like sleep.
Let’s clear one thing up right away. A number of complainers seem to be under the impression that the final scene in the episode means that all of the characters died in the plane crash and have been dead all along. That is simply not the case. Honestly, I think the episode makes this perfectly clear. Everything that happened on the island really happened. The characters were alive the whole time. The Oceanic Six really left the island, returned to the mainland for a few years, and then went back to the island again. At the end of this episode, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, Miles, and Lapidus escaped the island on the Ajira plane. They will presumably reach the mainland and live out the rest of their lives.
Only the Flash Sideways reality was a form of purgatory where all of the characters met up again after they each died. It’s perhaps not “Purgatory” in the Catholic dogma sense, but at the very least in the generic sense of being a waiting area where people have to come to terms with their lives and their sins before moving on to the next phase of the afterlife. Because time has no meaning there, some of these characters died earlier (Jin, Sun, Sayid, Juliet, Libby, etc.), some died during the events of the finale (Jack), and some will die in the future (Kate, Sawyer, etc.). Because Hurley and Ben stayed behind on the island to become its new protectors, they may even have lived on hundreds if not thousands of years. When Hurley sees Ben again outside the church, he tells him, “You were a great Number Two.” And Ben replies, “You were a great Number One.” These two have a long history together after the events of the finale that we haven’t seen. Likewise, Kate tells Jack how much she missed him, which implies that she went on and lived a full life without him after he died.
In one way of thinking, the Flash Sideways was really a flash forward. Really, really forward, to the end of everybody’s lives. As I see it, this Sideways reality was a gift from the island, or possibly from Jacob. In either case, it’s a recompense for the way that they were each used by the island to play out the game between Jacob and Man in Black. The island stole the lives that they might have had. The Sideways is the gift of seeing what those lives might have been. It also allows them to reconnect, to eventually remember everything they shared, and to move on.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I have mixed feelings about the whole purgatory thing. On the one hand, it makes logical sense, and is consistent with everything we’ve seen in the Flash Sideways storyline. I feel like I should have figured it out earlier. That’s perhaps the genius of it, that it’s so obvious and yet so completely unexpected at the same time. On the other hand, it feels like a cheat. The producers have long denied speculation that the island was a purgatory and that the characters were dead. Technically, that’s true… about the island. But not about the Flash Sideways, wink wink. That one’s the purgatory, ha ha, fooled you.
I’ve got to say it, I also find the afterlife angle to be a little cheesy. I’m not even sure why that is. I’ve faithfully followed the show as it delved into all manner of outrageous fantasy concepts like time travel, supernatural god-like beings, and eternal life. And yet the afterlife just seems a step too far.
I still hold the Season 2 finale, in which the Swan hatch imploded and the sky turned purple, as the high-water mark of the show’s ability to wrap up a season with a gigantic mind-screw. Season 3, which unveiled the revelation of the flash forwards, wasn’t far behind. I was expecting something really mind-bending along those lines for the series finale. But that isn’t what we got. The purgatory revelation is relatively sedate in comparison. It’s not an Oh my god, what just happened?! It’s more of an Oh, I get it now. Huh.
Nevertheless, the ending does tie together most of the season’s (and the show’s) storylines in a coherent, conclusive manner. It may not answer every mystery, but it does answer some big ones. More importantly, it provides emotional closure for the characters.
That’s really what the finale does best. It brings the emotional journey of these characters to a rich and satisfying close. I’ve long said that this series only works as well as it does because the producers have spent so much time investing us so deeply in the characters. Because of that, we’re willing to follow the show into all manner of crazy sci-fi and fantasy tangents that the writers take us to. This refrain has been repeated a lot lately in defense of the finale, but it’s absolutely true: This show is first and foremost about the characters.
All of the finale’s best scenes were those in which the character stories paid off. These started with little moments for supporting characters – like Rose and Bernard coming back around, Richard realizing that he’s mortal again, and Charlotte recognizing Faraday at the benefit concert. I actually cheered at the revelation that Lapidus was still alive. Then, of course, we have some amazing, emotionally overwhelming scenes like Claire giving birth to Aaron while Charlie’s memories flood back to him, or Sun and Jin remembering everything. Anyone who didn’t cry when Sawyer and Juliet found each other again simply has no soul. I’ll freely admit that I bawled like a baby. Those moments hit such high peaks that they transcend any need to have every single loose end tied up. These are the real connections that needed to be made, and the finale makes them all brilliantly.
That final image, of Jack lying down to die, seeing the Ajira plane fly off to safety, and closing his eye in the exact same spot where he awoke in the pilot episode is nothing short of poetic perfection. This is absolutely the way that the show always had to end.
Some random thoughts to wrap this up:
Hurley starts the episode saying, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” That’s obviously a ‘Star Wars’ reference. I’m sure it’s also the writers’ acknowledgement of the apprehension many viewers would have going into the finale.
I’m undecided how I feel about Sayid reconnecting with Shannon. It’s nice that the writers brought that storyline back around after dropping it so abruptly a few seasons back. But the last few seasons have really hammered the point home that Nadia was Sayid’s One True Love.
Pierre Chang makes an appearance in the Flash Sideways. We never did learn why he went by so many different names in the DHARMA orientation videos. There’s a lot of story left in DHARMA after the events of the Season 5 finale.
I have to admit that I found pretty much everything to do with the interior of the Cave of Light to be kind of cheesy. First of all, everything we see in there more or less contradicts the scene in ‘Across the Sea’ where Jacob pushes MiB into the cave, and MiB immediately turns into the Smoke Monster and flies away. From what we’re shown here, he would have had to travel quite a bit into the cave and hit the pool of water around the Magic Cork before that happened. And yeah, Magic Cork, really cheesy and lame. But then, I’ve always felt that the Donkey Wheel set was also pretty cheesy and lame, so I guess this is consistent with that.
Fake Locke’s dawning awareness that putting out the island’s light also means that he’s mortal again is priceless. Terry O’Quinn is a remarkable actor to be able to play these two different characters in the same body so well.
I guess I was right the previous week when I suggested that Jack taking over from Jacob was a red herring, and that someone else would have to step in as the island’s ultimate protector.
Jack passed his responsibility on to Hurley during a time when the island’s light was out. Wouldn’t that mean that the island’s magic wouldn’t be working, and the ritual wouldn’t work? Yet it doesn’t play out that way.
Ben ultimately becomes second banana on the island to Hurley. This character’s rollercoaster journey between good and evil, back and again, is really one of the most fascinating aspects of the show.
We never did find out why Hurley is called “Hurley.”
Penny has a brief appearance at the church. It’s nice to see her, but I would’ve liked more. Does she even have a line?
I’m very surprised that Julie Bowen (as Jack’s ex, Sarah) never made an appearance in the Flash Sideways. ABC went to the trouble of flying her out to Hawaii for a special tropical episode of ‘Modern Family’ right around the time that this ‘Lost’ finale was filming. Are you telling me that was a coincidence?
Other major characters missing from the Sideways include Michael, Walt, and Mr. Eko. Actor Harold Perrineau explained Michael’s absence during the Jimmy Kimmel wrap-up special by saying that Michael was still trapped on the island as a whispering voice. That makes sense, and ties in with what Michael said during his last appearance on the show. This could also explain where Mr. Eko is, or we can just assume that he’s wandering around some other part of the Flash Sideways reality that we never happened to see.
I like our reader besch64’s theory that Walt wasn’t in the Sideways because he was only a child on the island. The island was only a pit stop in his life, not a defining moment. I can buy that. However, there are a lot of unanswered questions about Walt’s special abilities that we’ll never learn.
I’ve been thinking that Desmond visited the Flash Sideways before, during the episode where we were first introduced to Eloise Hawking. Could it be that Desmond actually died during the Swan station implosion and was revived later? If so, does that tie in with his immunity to the electromagnetic effect?
In the final analysis, yes, I would like to know more about the Numbers, Walt, the DHARMA Initiative, and what the island and its bright light really are. But I feel like the show gives us enough to piece together our own explanations for those things. When I hear people complain that the finale didn’t answer enough questions, I have to wonder exactly what essential mysteries – not nit-picking loose ends – are left unresolved. The island is a magic place with a supernatural power at its heart. Do we really need to know where it comes from? Is that actually important?
Moreover, it really upsets me when I hear people say that they don’t care about the characters and only wanted the mysteries answered. How is it even possible for anyone to watch this show for six years without becoming emotionally invested in the characters? I don’t understand that at all.