As a big Lost dork that loves to read reactions and responses to the show, I’ve come across plenty of stuff this week (including a Scene-Stealers Top 10) discussing where the finale dropped the ball. Most are from fans who, understandably, are looking for explanations that should have been expected from the show at some point, but never came around.
But I’ll be honest, I thought the Lost finale was fantastic, and I can’t think of any better way the show’s producers could have done it. Not as thrilling as I was expecting from one of the more exciting shows around; but once I digested it over a late-night walk right after the show ended, it all made sense. Well, mostly.
I’ll start out with the end – the final sequence on the island was breathtaking (that’s not a hyperbole, I literally gasped). Almost perfectly mirroring the opening shots of the pilot, I wasn’t surprised to see Lost once again stylistically referencing itself (I don’t have enough digits to count how many episodes opened with an extreme closeup on an eye opening); but the beauty of the editing, and the overwhelming feeling of this bookending device was powerful to say the least.
It wasn’t the only stylistic throwback to previous episodes. From Locke / UnLocke lying motionless on the cliff after a fatal fall (referencing John Locke’s fall from his father’s apartment), to peering down the rabbit hole of the Glowy Cave (the same shot from Locke and Jack looking down the Hatch for the first time). I know a lot of people enjoyed the full-arc flashbacks that showed characters remembering their time on the island, but these subtle nods to the series as a whole are what took me back through the series and enjoy it as one large, encompassing story.
The episode also convincingly made Jack the hero he tried so hard to be for three years. After the character fell into a depressed funk for season upon season, one of the main things I wanted see in Season Six was Jack’s redemption, something that proved he wasn’t just a failure who was only interesting for one season. In recent episodes, the character finally came back into the position of a real leader (when he offered to become the Island’s next protector, I don’t think any of us were surprised), but he didn’t sell it until he was willing to make a sacrifice – the ultimate sacrifice – not just for his friends, but for the island. The final act covering his death, it clarified that the show was his – an ensemble piece to be sure, but one centered around him.
The season also had to sell us on the Sideways universe. Though I never had a problem with the plot device like others did, I have to admit I was pretty let down at first. But over time, I’ve come to really adore it.
I was expecting a whirlwind ending, maybe not one that would totally change the series on the whole; but something exciting that I wouldn’t see coming. Lost is just the kind of show that creates those expectations. Because the Sideways reveal wasn’t that kind of story – more contemplative in nature than a mindfuck – it invariably felt like something went wrong. But after you digest it, it really makes sense as a concluding statement for the characters.
We’ve been hearing from the show’s creators for years that the show, when it comes down to it, isn’t about the mythology or the sci-fi elements, but the people. That’s the way drama works – if you don’t have hard, conflicted personas at the center, none of the cool filler-like time-travel devices or unexplainable smoke monsters work.
But could they have sustained an interesting end with the reveal that Hurley would become the protector? I don’t think so. I like the idea, but that would have been a sort of lackluster reveal. The Sideways reveal was a way around it. It didn’t redefine the series on the whole, but it was able to put into action an idea – the Island and the people on it meant something to all of its inhabitants – that couldn’t have had as much power if someone had just said “I love these guys.” The Sideways worked as a way to end the series on a sentimental note that didn’t feel sentimental, it was a recreation and recap of the people and ideas at the center of the show.
Many have problems with the notion of a Christian influence on the idea of the characters’ “purgatory,” but I’m not bothered by it in the slightest. In fact, as an agnostic who had a pretty rough experience with Christianity, I downright loved it. Christian Shepard implicitly asserts that this purgatory is just a construct of the characters’ minds, he doesn’t even use the word “purgatory.” He’s so properly vague about what this Sideways Universe is that anyone can insert their own definition, mine being that it’s more of a narrative device to show us another side of the characters than anything else. And with the use of the Light in both the Island’s core and the Church scene, the two are connected, telling us these characters are one with the Island.
Which brings me to one of the most important keys to appreciating this ending we were given – you have to appreciate the mystery. I’m not the first person to say that the mysteries in the show are more fun to think about than to have explained, and I would have been disappointed if everything was answered. And there’s still a lot of questions to be raised in addition to what exactly the Sideways Universe was – would the world really have changed if the cork were kept open, like the Man in Black is skeptical of? Was Jacob just the product of a crazy woman? Does his faith pay off? The writer’s never take sides with faith or reason, ending the show on a note that could be taken either way.
As for more trivial mysteries, like how the Taweret statue was erected, what Claire’s psychic was talking about, what’s with Jacob’s cabin – I really don’t care. I mean, I care in that it’s fun to think about, but neither the themes nor characters are any worse or better for these smaller questions going unanswered. I even enjoy coming up with conspiracy theories for these issues – in leaving some details out, the show lives on in our heads. Either we can keep thinking about it, never coming to a totally-concluding end, or we can refer to it as something that’s already happened, and only have cold facts to refer to on Lostpedia.
I will say this – we do need an explanation for the powers many characters had, especially in the case of Walt. But any other nitpicking from fans feels unjustified. If you want to solve a mystery, go play Clue, or buy a jigsaw puzzle. Lost is a show about people and ideas. And though the mysteries were a lot of fun, the idea that the show owes you answers is misguided. The only obligation drama has is to have conflict and be interesting.
Lost was a tremendously interesting show the whole way through, even when the writers didn’t know what they were doing. Maybe you wanted more from it, but you can’t say it wasn’t always on your mind. And chances are, years from now, it still will be.