Let me just say that I think trying to put a show like Lost into some kind of grand perspective is something of a fool’s errand. Roughly 12 hours after the final curtain dropped on what can easily be described as the most ambitious network television show of all time, I remain steadfast in my defense of its true meaning. I’m going to do my best to highlight exactly what this means to me. “The End” was not a perfect episode of television, but I would argue that it set very clear goals for itself and achieved them in spades.
“Trust me, I know. All of this matters.”
The show’s rabid fan base remains at odds over whether “The End” represents a wonderful confluence of story and character, punctuating a tremendous six-year journey, or an illogically preachy cop-out on the level of the Star Wars prequels. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but I think the show gave very clear hints as to what its true agenda was. Do you think it’s an accident that The Monster, the central weird mystery of the narrative from the outset, was defeated with a full hour of show left? At the risk of sounding repetitive, the show, for me, has always been about moments like this. And this. And also, most importantly, this. It’s a show about people in a mess, and how they help each other deal with it. Even if “dealing with it” comes to mean that, at some point, you can’t really deal with it at all.
The main goal of the sixth and final season, settling up the connection between the Island timeline and the Sideways timeline, paid off admirably. While many people surmised that the Sideways world represented a sort of afterlife for the castaways after they had been offed in the Island timeline, the real brilliance of the reveal lies in the fact that all the characters were existing in this manufactured reality because it is what they all chose for themselves.
When the finale was over, the first thing I felt was…small. I felt completely overwhelmed by the nature of birth, existence, death and what comes after. The exchange that really hammered home the vastness of the arc was the one between Hurley and Ben outside the church, where the big guy commended the conflicted über-Other about his performance as his second-in-command when Hurley was tasked with protecting the Island. How long were they there? What sort of adventures did they get into? Did they get Desmond home to Penny and Charlie? (I like to think so) To whom did Hurley eventually pass on the burden of protecting Cork Island?
I ask these questions not out of frustration, but out of complete and total fascination. The only thing we know for sure is what happened to Jack. We don’t know what sort of existences the castaways went on to lead, if they were sublime or miserable or mundane or everything in between. One thing remains clear: No matter what happened to everyone after Jack’s eye closed, completing the Lost loop, they so treasured the time they spent together that they saw fit to rally together in the great beyond.
What I’m talking about thus far here is what the entirety of the series means to me. Again, I don’t know if I can quite put all the words together to make you understand, but I’ll get back to this. Let’s divert for a second to break down some specifics about “The End.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”
And so marked Hurley’s last Star Wars reference, portent of the Island disaster to come. Ultimately, I’m of the opinion that the more fulfilling story of “The End” was undoubtedly the Sideways portion, specifically in regards to everyone gaining consciousness of their past life on the Island. Each one of these vignettes, Sun and Jin, Sayid and Shannon, Charlie, Claire, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, Juliet and finally, Jack, each carried their own weight and significance depending on how close you you’ve allowed yourself to become to these characters. I tweeted during the show that I could deal with a finale that was comprised simply of all these moments. After a while, you could even see them coming a few miles down the road, but that did nothing to soften the emotional sledgehammer with which they hit you.
The nature of this sideways afterlife says a lot about the characters. Even though they were all long dead by the time we saw them pop up in the alternate version of the 815 timeline, they did not all move on to a peaceful in-between existence. If we’re to believe Christian when he said that this was “a place they made,” then the circumstances that each character found themselves in says a lot about what they feel they deserve for themselves. For instance, it makes sense that Sayid would doom himself to an existence where he has to watch his one true love in an unhappy marriage with his own brother from afar. That is, until he realized what was really important to him–namely, Shannon, and more specifically, the time that they shared together.
If I was forced to pick a favorite, I actually think I would go with the Kwons, if only because it was shown in such a way that it wasn’t immediately clear to us whether they both saw “the light”, as it were.
On the Island, the stakes have never been higher, which is saying an awful lot for this show. I’ll be honest, the fast-paced frenetic final battle between the castaways and the Monster, while throughly entertaining, only served to accentuate my feeling that the show’s bread and butter lies squarely on the other side of the divide. That said, the battle between Jack and UnLocke on the cliffs in the middle of a monsoon was prodigious.
At some point though, and maybe this is my only criticism of the final endgame, all of the castaways’ efforts to save themselves and escape were ultimately of little significance, since death would ultimately lead to the sideways world anyway.
Then again, I suppose that may be the point. Did you notice the sense of calm and resolution that all of the “awoken” castaways seemed to carry with them? Part of me wonders if even Jacob knew what they were all eventually ticketed for. He seemed obsessed with finding a successor and proving to MiB that man was essentially good, these philosophical platitudes that once seemed so important now seem like something of an afterthought when you realize that Lost was building to something more holistic and life-affirming than anything I could have ever conceived.
Which leads us back to the central debate over what you expect from the show. Some of you probably feel like you are owed more, perhaps you even feel duped. It’s at that point that I can only say that I’m sorry for you. The show has clearly come to mean different things to different people and if you have criticisms of “The End” or the series as a whole, it’s unlikely that I could refute them. But, having contemplated this for some time now, I can safely say, with confidence, that this show has given me a gift for which I’m eternally grateful.
And really, that’s all I have for right now. This is the kind of show that doesn’t leave you, and I suspect I probably haven’t written my last bit about it. I may feel different about this finale and this show a week from now, a year from now, 20 years from now. But, for right now, I believe I’ve said all I can. I look forward to all your thoughts.
See you in another life, brotha.