May 23rd, 2010
“There are no shortcuts, no do-overs – what happened, happened. All of this matters.”
[For more of my thoughts on “The End,” check out my analysis of the critical response to the episode, which expands on some of the points I raise here while bringing up arguments that I didn’t get to.]
I don’t know where to begin.
I know how I feel about “The End” because I have notes which capture my intense emotional responses to the action onscreen. I also know many of the points I want to make about the episode as a whole, and how it fits into the sixth season, and how it works with the remainder of the series. In fact, I could probably write every other part of this review but the first sentence, and I’d probably be able to fill it in just fine after the fact.
However, that would be dishonest: it would make you think that I, the moment I sat down at my desk after the finale finished airing, knew precisely the topic sentence which would boil this finale down, the words that would unearth its secrets and solve its mysteries. I may know the things I want to say, and I may have my opinions about the quality of this finale, but I don’t know what I can really say to get it all started.
As the quote above indicates, and as I believe the finale embodied, there are no do-overs: what happened, happened, which is why you’re reading a short meandering consideration rather than a definitive statement. “The End” lacks any definitive statements: we learn nothing about what the island really is, we get no new information about the Dharma Initiative or any of the people involved, and the episode leans towards spiritual conclusiveness rather than any resolution of the series narrative. Lost doesn’t try to end in a way which closes off its plot holes or pieces together its own meandering qualities, but rather creates an episode that says the journey was worthwhile, that the time these characters spent with each other and the time we spent with these characters was all worth it.
And for all of the questions that we may still have – and trust me, I think all of us still have questions – I firmly believe that the quality of this series finale and the overall quality of the series simply cannot be among them. Beautiful and heartwrenching, “The End” captures more than any other series finale I’ve watched the sum total of the series’ experience, awakening in viewers the same power of recall which pulls together half of the series’ narrative.
Lost was more than our experience, featuring a complex plot which goes beyond those powerful and emotional moments so lovingly punctuated by Michael Giacchino’s stirring music, but I feel “The End” paid respect to the series that’s been: it may have taken shortcuts, and it may have prioritized certain questions differently than some viewers, but at no point did it feel like the series was making that argument that what we saw tonight was the only thing that mattered.
All of this matters, for better or for worse, and by wearing its heart and soul on its sleeve Lost has gone out the same way it came in: presenting a very big world with some very big ideas through the eye(s) of those who live their lives within it.
In some ways, “The End” is like cheating. When I chose the above quote, as I note in the introduction, I knew that the “no shortcuts” point was sort of glaring in its inaccuracy. What is the Flash Sideways but a shortcut, a way to be able to bring the entire cast together at the end of the series to provide emotional payoffs regardless of whether the characters were alive or dead? The Sideways storyline has always felt like a chance for the show to revisit things that we were missing in the current storyline: it gave us a chance to see a version of Claire who hasn’t morphed into Rousseau, or a version of John Locke who remains John Locke. It gave us, as an audience, moments that could serve as a fitting goodbye for characters we knew had already had their goodbyes earlier in the series.
I’m still sort of stumbling over the function of it all: the way Christian explained it to Jack, it sounds as if this really was a form of heavenly purgatory that was somehow engineered by these characters’ spirits in an effort to give them this final moment together. This is, as I’m sure many will note, a completely spiritual conclusion to a series that often has its finest moments when grounded in reality. We’ve spent the season wondering how the Flash Sideways came to be: was it Jughead that created this alternate reality, or was it some sort of manifestation of the Man in Black’s promises to the people he brings into his camp? Instead, it turns out that it was always something positive: what was “wrong” about their world was not so much that it was evil or some form of prison, but rather that they hadn’t yet remembered. It wasn’t just a pre-heaven/hell class reunion, but rather a sort of “This is Your Life (without the Island)” designed to place it all into perspective.
It raises the interesting question of whether or not you want a series finale to feel “designed” to be a series finale, especially since it sort of blurs the line between what we’re seeing and what was “created.” This case is especially unique, as the Flash Sideways serves the same function for the characters as it does for the audience, each of us experiencing it as a way to look back on the past and reflect on what has come before. The problem is that, while we may be able to accept this now, the Flash Sideways were dropped into the narrative with no explanation, which meant we spent the entire season focused on why they were happening: that it was because Lindelof and Cuse knew it would result in a more effective emotional conclusion to the series where they could pay homage the show’s entire journey isn’t necessarily the answer people were looking for, as it takes the show out of its own universe and calls attention to design of the season. If you think about the way this finale was designed from a distance, ignoring for a second the effectiveness of the episode, you could say that it seems convenient or even contrived.
However, I’ll be honest: I don’t care. I said going into the finale that I had absolutely no expectations as it relates to the show’s mythology, and I stand by this statement. Lindelof and Cuse confirmed in “The End” that the Flash Sideways structure was designed to highlight character and theme, the two most important part of this series for me personally. It was not as if they tried to use the Flash Sideways structure to tie up loose ends in the mythology, which to me would have been far more problematic; instead, they told the viewers that in the end their point of interest is the characters who lived these lives and the experiences they had. The episode goes out on Jack’s eye closing as he dies, and so we quite literally leave the island as we entered it. Some characters died before that point, and some lived for many years after, but our story (the story of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and their journey on the island) ends on the island after a finale which gave the characters and the audience time to reflect on the past six seasons.
It wouldn’t have worked, however, if the “awakenings” had not been executed to near perfection. At first, I was ready to complain that everyone seemed to wake up with positive feelings: Jin and Sun, for example, should be more sad over their tragic deaths than happy, especially when you consider that they abandoned their daughter behind them, so why didn’t they “wake up” resenting the fate which led them to this point? It’s convenient for the show, as we would much rather see Jin and Sun smiling happily as a confused Juliet commends them for their quick study of English, but the sense of distance from the events from earlier in the season just doesn’t make sense. If the show had designed this entire structure to be able to create these moments of realization and then not delivered, I think we’ve be having a very different discussion right now.
However, I thought the show did a much better job with the other awakenings, capturing the weight of the island’s events within their emotions. When Juliet “wakes up,” her response is overpowering, less a happy realization of love and more the weight of a challenging life experience pouring out of her all at once. And when Ben comes to his own realizations, he isn’t ready to join everyone else: the sheer weight of the terrible things that he did to those people is too great for him to look past so quickly, and he needs more time to process than others may need (plus, of course, more time to spend with Alex, the daughter who he saw die in front of his eyes). It’s moments like that which kept it from seeming too tidy, allowing the Sideways narrative to evolve beyong a “love conquers all” sort of fairy tale which erased the past six seasons of dramatic turmoil. It helped that “love” was not simply defined. When Desmond and Hurley achieved their own awakenings in earlier episodes, it was through connections with the people they loved in the romantic sense, fitting for their characters but perhaps a bit reductive. It’s not that I don’t believe in love (as my review of “Happily Ever After” veered fairly close to proclaiming if I remember correctly) so much as that I want love to be something more than just romance. So I was ecstatic that John Locke’s emotional awakening was the result of regaining his ability to walk, and that Kate’s awakening was the result of Aaron rather than Jack.
And while I think the show reached a bit too far back with Shannon and Sayid to make much of a connection, the various scenes of awakening for the show’s other characters had me on the verge of tears as a general rule. This was particularly the case for the absolutely unfair combination of Kate, Claire and Charlie which was just a constant barrage of emotions that I don’t think anyone can really handle (and which was tremendously well-played by Evangeline Lilly in particular, who had a marvelous episode as a whole). When you think about the scene in retrospect after the conclusion, you realize that it is Claire experiencing the birth of her son all over again, and Kate remembering her experience raising Aaron on her own, and Charlie getting to return to the woman he loved and the boy who was like his own son. And for us as an audience, it’s about being able to see Charlie and Claire back together again, and seeing Kate finally reunite Mother and Daughter like she wanted, and just experiencing something that we had given up hope of ever seeing “in the real world.” I don’t really care about the logistics of these scenes so long as they send me rushing back into the series’ past to relive moments like Charlie’s death or Aaron’s birth, so I was incredibly moved by this scene and Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion in particular.
This is all well and good, but what really makes the Sideways conclusion something more than just a narrative device is the idea these characters are not the same people we saw on the island. When Kate and Claire wake up, they have lived longer than Charlie, so they may well have been able to see Aaron grow up and lived long lives as friends. When Hurley and Ben meet outside of the church, they talk about the time they spent as the island’s No. 1 and No. 2, time that we haven’t seen and that has an indeterminate ending. It keeps this from feeling like a reality show reunion special, where the people come back to revisit the last thirteen weeks of interpersonal mayhem: instead, they’re there to reflect on a particular point in their lives where they were together, a point in their life’s that regardless of their lifespan has stuck with them in a powerful – and, considering the nature of the Flash Sideways, spiritual – fashion.
Some viewers may be frustrated that this only creates new mysteries, and that we don’t know what happened to the six people on the Ajira plane heading for the mainland or whether Rose and Bernard ever decided to move back home, or any of the details about the island’s past which only tangentially involves these characters. And in some ways, the Sideways stories dropped the remainder of the characters too quickly: we don’t know what happened to Miles, or whether Charlotte and Daniel Faraday were able to move on, or what happens to poor David Shepard when his parents have moved on without him. It gives you the sense that some of what we saw in both narratives didn’t actually matter, that there are parts of each story which we spent a considerable amount of time with that in the end amount to window-dressing more than true content.
However, isn’t that what life is like? There are things in our lives that we are part of which don’t define us, elements which influence us in some way but are part of a larger story in which we are, in fact, only tangentially involved. If this is the afterlife for these characters, isn’t it logical that they wouldn’t be thinking about the Dharma Initiative when they’re reflecting back on a life lived? It’s also part of the extensive meta-narrative running throughout the sixth season, as the Sideways conclusion functions as an argument that we should treat this television show like we would treat a life. That may seem a bit strange, but it works because Lindelof and Cuse do not make the argument that everyone would treat it the same way: Jack acts in death as he did in life, struggling to believe in his reawakening until the moment he touches his father’s coffin, while a character like Faraday is so wrapped up in numbers and figures that he can’t truly tap into the emotions he once felt for Charlotte. There will be some viewers like Jack who don’t want to believe, and some viewers like Faraday so caught up in the logistics of it all that the emotion was lost on them, but no single event or experience will affect all people the same way, whether it’s a life lived or the time spent watching a serialized television series.
I’ll talk a bit more about the Sideways conclusion towards the end of the review, but I want to turn my attention to the island activities, which were less controversial but caught up in similar dialogues over the balance of characters and mystery. Considering that the Flash Sideways were ultimately not helpful in terms of solving the island’s mysteries, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that the island storyline took on a heavy slant towards character that I was personally really happy with. The show eventually delivered some major action sequences, but early on it simply let the characters interact with one another: the first scene where Jack and the Man in Black confront one another is rife with great dialogue, showing that tension does not have to be defined through violence. It reminded me of “Through the Looking Glass,” in those moments before Jack’s vicious attack on Ben, so it was fitting that “The End” would head in a similar direction with Jack and Locke’s amazing battle on the Cliffside. That running punch was one of the finest actbreaks I’ve seen in my entire life, but it worked so well because their conflict had been established on non-violent terms earlier in the episode. It also worked because it felt like the ending of a six-season-long argument, which has now been placed as the latest chapter in a centuries-long rivalry. It was a punch filled with history, and the ensuing battle felt like more than just this season’s storyline being resolved: we can’t help but see that shot of John Locke, dead on the cliffside, and try to wrap our heads around the strange journey that got us to this point.
No, I don’t know what precisely happened when Desmond pulled the plug out of the sink, nor do I really know what happened when Jack put it back in. All I know is that it created a bunch of earthquakes and tree uprootings which were more or less just barriers to make it more difficult for the Ajira Six to escape the island (and which in some cases disappeared magically, as we never saw Ben get out from under the tree). However, I thought the island story did a better job of wrapping up its characters than I had anticipated: even when we had the Flash Sideways coming together in such a powerful fashion, I was still moved by Jack and Kate’s final moments together, just as I enjoyed Jack and Sawyer sharing one final salutation. I still responded to Hurley dealing with Jack’s death even when I knew he was “alive” in some sense of the word, and I was still really excited to see Lapidus (as I predicted) alive and well. There was a risk that the island would feel as if it was the plot half of this equation while the Sideways storylines filled in the characters, but in some cases it allowed characters to have two endings, packing double the emotional punch in the process.
This is especially true for Jack Shepard, and Matthew Fox deserves a lot of the credit for that. I’ve written a fair bit already this season about the ways in which Season Six’s legacy may be the rehabilitation of Jack as a character, but his sacrifice in this episode combined with his reluctance to “wake up” and “move on” was a really beautiful story that Fox stepped up to the plate for. I might not have bought some of the decisions that Jack made, or at least not the logic behind them, were it not for the work the season has done at building up Jack’s sense of confidence. These were not informed decisions so much as they were confident decisions: just as it was important that Jack chose to perform surgery on Ben or that Desmond chose to go with the Man in Black when he threatened Rose and Bernard, Jack chose to be the protector of the island. And with that sense of choice comes a sense of control, the control that Jacob was so anxious about that he refused to let people leave the island lest he lose it entirely. Jack knew when to give control up to someone else, and he knew when to take things into his own hands, which made it that much more poignant that he struggled with controlling his visions of the past within the Sideways storyline. The episode captured the duality of leadership and turmoil that has defined the character from the outset, and feels like a fitting end to his character in a way that I would never have anticipated a season ago.
The island story was told more through moments than through major plot developments: you have the great moment where Richard Alpert discovers he’s going grey, or the to-the-death exasperation of Lapidus, or the pleasure of seeing Rose, Bernard and Vincent again. You also have small moments that tie into previous stories, like Kate telling Jack that “nothing is irreversible” (which I believe Locke said to Jack in “LA X”), or the Man in Black being the first to predict the oncoming storm (which was one of John Locke’s weird island powers early in the series). You have Miles fixing the plane’s hydraulics with duct tape (“I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape”), or Ben being willing to go down with the island should that be his fate. We didn’t get to see the “final” moments for these characters in their normal lives, but we got enough small moments that it felt a fitting conclusion to our time on the island. And similarly, the Flash Sideways had many small moments as well, like Hurley testing to see if the tranq gun would wake up Sayid or Boone complaining about how tough it was to get Shannon to Los Angeles, providing another sense of symmetry to the two stories as they converged (in a fashion).
That brings us to the important question of the evening, in terms of our satisfaction with this as a series finale and as an ending to the season. I think I’ll tackle the second question first, as it’s somewhat more complicated. We’ve been wondering all season whether or not earlier episodes would play differently (read: better) if they were viewed in the context of our knowledge that the Flash Sideways were *Insert Explanation Here* but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s not as if we were seeing emotional conclusions in those episodes that we had no context for: it was simply that the characters were meandering their way towards these conclusions, and nothing within those episodes has been given any sort of deeper meaning. Outside of the residual emotions from the finale making earlier episodes more poignant, there isn’t anything that makes Kate and Claire’s rendezvous in “What Kate Does” anything more than circumstantial, or something which keeps Jin and Sun’s story from seeming pretty rote at the end of the day. The two worlds did eventually converge in a way, but it wasn’t a conclusion which rewrote anything which came before: normally, I’d say this was a good thing (and said as much above), but I do think that it means that we spent a large chunk of this season setting up this single emotional moment.
Now, to the season’s credit, it worked some other stories in there to keep things slightly balanced: Richard, Desmond, Hurley, and Ben all had their emotional moments in earlier episodes, and even Locke got to have his moments with Helen independent of this particular conclusion. Still, though, a lot of the other characters were (in some cases forcibly) held back until the finale, which contributed to the lack of momentum in the Flash Sideways until the point where Desmond stepped in, and nothing we saw here necessarily changes that. There is pleasure to be found in putting the pieces together, of seeing things fall into place, but it didn’t end up feeling particularly surprising, and as much as those emotional conclusions worked they didn’t necessarily make material from earlier this season any more interesting.
It keeps me from saying that Season 6 was actually one of the show’s strongest seasons; however, I’d say that “The End” (along with a host of episodes from the season including the characters listed above) was one of the series’ strongest episodes. It’s for this reason, the individual strength of the episode, that I’m willing to say it’s (for me) the perfect series finale. It is not, to be clear, a perfect episode: I think that it, like “Across the Sea,” went so far in one direction with the spirituality and metaphor that it risked shoving aside those viewers interested in mythological questions, but I think even its flaws perfectly capture the last six seasons of television. The one constant through all of the show’s seasons is the consideration of character, investigations of what makes these people tick and how they come to terms with their surroundings. From “Stranger in a Strange Land” to “The Constant, from “Expose” to “Greatest Hits,” the show was interested in who these people were, who these people are, and who these people eventually want to be. By presenting an episode where we see who these people became, and how they reflected back on their own experience, it forces us to consider their entire lives and how they were affected by the time we spent with them on the island.
The Flash Sideways may not have come together well enough to pull together the sixth season, but the lack of “new” plot developments that the show was burdened with in the finale (due to the intense focus on recall over revelation) allowed it to feel like the perfect end to the journey as a whole. As a fan of this show and its characters, I found “The End” to be extremely emotional in a way that you don’t necessarily get in plot-heavy finales; I may find the mythology interesting, but I don’t feel like it is capable of moving me, and while there are forensic elements to Lost’s fandom which were perhaps ignored here I think that’s a necessary sacrifice. The problem with Lost is that “how” and “why” became conflated, the latter somehow dependent on the former for the sake of tying in with the polar bears, donkey wheels and mystical forces at work. But once it all happens, is the “how” really that relevant? If this story is going to end with these characters having escaped/died on/protected/sacrificed for the island, then isn’t “why” the more interesting question independent from logistics, and isn’t that question more about individual characters than it is about the forces which manipulated them?
“The End” is not the end of Lost’s impact on popular culture: people will be dissecting this finale all week, and the show’s legacy will be discussed for the next decade in both critical and academic circles (I’ll be responsible for some of that longevity in both). However, it is the end for these characters: this is not the last note for the show’s mysteries, but it is the final note for Jack and Kate, Sawyer and Juliet, Hurley and Ben, Locke and Sayid, and everyone else. And while it may push the show too far into the spiritual for some, and it may avoid answering tough questions and instead ask how these characters will reflect on their time on the island upon their death, in doing so it gives those of us who have become attached to these characters an opportunity to say goodbye without necessarily having to worry about smoke monsters and ancient statues. It was a bittersweet feeling perfectly captured in that final scene, as we see Jack walking through the place where he woke up in the “Pilot,” and then smile with Jack as Vincent emerges from the bamboo to lay beside him, and experience that rush of nostalgia coupled with the sense of loss. Lost ends how it was supposed to begin, with Jack dying and leaving behind an island with an uncertain future, and the poetry in that is meant to connect with our experience of watching the show more than with any of the island’s mysteries.
I said above that I didn’t know where to begin, and in some ways I don’t know where to end either: various other critics are currently writing their own reviews, and I’ll be considering the finale in greater detail probably all throughout this week, so it’s not like this is my final word about the the episode. However, I’ll make this one final note: Jack asks his father, as he realizes that he has died and that he is experiencing something beyond the normal plane of human existence, “where are we now?” It’s a callback to Charlie’s question of “Where are we?” in the “Pilot,” but it also reintroduces this idea of place which is so important to these characters. The show started as a meditation on being stranded and the ways in which that isolation in a particularly hostile location challenges traditional human dynamics. However, as the show evolved, that sense of place became complicated by time travel and later the mythological qualities of the island, and the simplicity of the original premise became something far more complex (and, in some ways, more interesting).
However, it’s fitting that Jack is still interested in the question of “Where,” especially since “how and “why” are usually considered more important. Sometimes what matters most is our immediate surroundings, just as sometimes what matters most in an episode of television is the experience of watching it rather than dissecting or discussing it. While Lost is a show that has been incredibly valuable to consider from the perspective of critical analysis or elaborate mythology, “The End” is more about where it transported viewers than the reviews or the theoretical dissections. I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t analyze the episode, but rather that while watching it I don’t think I was in that mindset: if you were to ask me “where” I was while watching Lost’s series finale, it would be “in the moment,” as lame as it sounds. Even while taking notes, and even while sitting through dozens of commercial, I always felt like the show had complete control of where I was in its narrative and what I was experiencing.
As someone who has admittedly kept the faith all along, this was a tremendous way to experience the end of an amazing series, although I’d imagine those who have wandered off in the past or who “lost faith” were likely in a different place than I was – however, in the spirit of the series and the wonderful critical culture surrounding Lost, I look forward to meeting on common ground in the weeks, months and years ahead to discuss the ways we experienced this television “event.”
- The show threw me for a loop when they included all of the returning actors in the “Starring” category rather than “Guest Starring,” so the spoilers came faster than I had anticipated.
- In terms of who was missing, Michael and Walt seemed like the obvious omissions, along with Mr. Eko – would the show simply argue that they also weren’t “ready” (like Ana Lucia, or Faraday), or is that too easy?
- The show did a fine job hinting at some larger stories: I loved the indication that Eloise has been resisting “letting go” for a long time in order to spend more time with the son she mistreated and eventually murdered in life. Her story has always been tragic and complex, so to see the character using this afterlife as a chance to “make up for lost time” and so fearful of Desmond taking Faraday away was a neat touch, and I wish we could have gotten a similar scene for Widmore. They were two real “characters” central to the island’s history, so I do think we could have done with more of them.
- I think using Christian to “wake up” Jack brought things full circle nicely, but I do wonder if the “risen from the dead” element to Christian’s appearance didn’t take the Flash Sideways storyline that one step too far.
- I noted it a few times above, but Michael Giacchino will win an Emmy for this episode if there is any justice in the world. While some part of me feels like Bear McCreary is due (and he did some fine work on Human Target this year), Giacchino is so dialed into these characters’ emotional arcs that the scenes simply would not have worked without his music. That final scene was emotional with just the characters, but imagining that sequence with generic pop music instead of his music makes me wonder what would have happened if Lost had debuted to smaller ratings and ABC had tried to take greater control over its creative elements.
- I really enjoyed the symmetry of Hurley trying to tell Sayid that he isn’t inherently evil and that he’s a good person in the Sideways story while Jack and Ben have to tell Hurley that he’s the person who should be in charge of the island.
- Jack’s smile at the end was one of many moments of awareness that Jack showed towards the end of the episode: “I guess I’ll see you in another life, brutha” was another.
- Who does John-Pyper Ferguson know at Lost to get a gig in the finale? It’s not like he’s a no-name actor (at least not in my TV circles), so he seemed a strange choice to be playing the Oceanic coffin deliverer.
106 responses to “Series Finale: Lost – “The End””
So it looks like the people who thought Lost was about the afterlife in Season 1 were on the right track. I think that the writers changed what they were doing after the show became so popular and so many people guessed the afterlife/purgatory angle. The writers always said that they made the story they wanted to tell and I think this version of the afterlife was the story they set out to tell originally.
I thought the finale on its own worked perfectly and it provided decent resolutions to most of the characters’ arcs. But it did leave the mythology in more of a broken mess than it left Smokey.
But it wasn’t “about the afterlife” – only the sideways world was the afterlife and that wasn’t introduced until this season.
What happened happened.
It was about samsara, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, and the “sideways” world was not the afterlife, but a reincarnation. Hence, their waking up and letting go was symbolic of enlightenment. Freed from the cycle of samsara, they were granted the reward of nirvana. Except for Ben, who chose to remain on Earth as a bodhisattva!
That’s one interpretation. There’s a reason they didn’t spell that out (or anything else, for that matter) – the fun is in believing in our own personal pet theories 🙂
To paraphrase the movie “Mac”—
“There are two interpretations, my interpretation and the right one, and they’re both the same!” 😉
What I tried to say was that I think the writers originally meant for the Island to be the afterlife/purgatory and then changed it up after their early success.
Myles – take a look at the film “What Dreams May Come” – the passage through Paradise and Damnation to find one’s soulmate, salvation, and redemption echoes the Lost finale perfectly (even if the film itself isn’t half as good as Lost was).
Gut reaction: I loved it.
Granted, it bordered on being extra-cheesy at points; the “aha!” moments after Claire giving birth just seemed kind of procedural, and that candy bar scene felt a bit like the writers going “okay, we HAVE to resolve this” instead of emerging as a genuine, borderline-realistic moment. It was a Meet Cute in a long line of Meet Cutes in this episode.
The benefit concert managed to have an impact without being overstated. I was worried that Faraday would play the piano and everyone would be somehow transported “through the magical power of music” to wherever they needed to go – thankfully, it didn’t happen. Charlie looked ridiculous with eyeliner, though.
Vincent’s appearance at the end had me go “you’re kidding me”, but the closing shot was so poetic and powerful that it mostly negated any suspicions of forced fan-fist-pump moments. (There’s something to be said for Mo Ryan’s comment about white men taking precedence this season – the penultimate image we get is a man with man’s best friend. A golden retriever, no less.)
Overall, an outstanding end to an amazing show.
Maureen Ryan’s critique makes little sense in relation to the finale. Actually, it made little sense anyway, the show has always been diverse, but Locke, Jack, Charlie (with Desmond and Ben replacing him in importance later), Kate, and Sawyer — all white, and only one woman — were always the center of the show.
As for the final season: The sideways was as diverse or more so than the series, a hispanic gentleman is the new guardian (with a white, male underling), an Asian guy fixed the plane (with an assist from another hispanic guy), a woman killed Mr. Evil, and every big awakening except Locke’s involved a man and a woman, and the main pre-finale emotional resonance dealt with the reunification of Jin and Sun as well as their and Sayid’s deaths.
Large round of applause. It was totally worth the 6 years. We can debate plot all day long and the ‘Heaven Sideways,’ but The End worked on a character level, which is what the show set out to acheive. Plus, it gave us TONS of great emotional moments, even if the way they gave them was a bit iffy.
What was the best part of the 6th season? It was cyclical. The End not only gave us a bunch of familiar moments, both visual and otherwise, but it wrapped up the characters perfectly.
Jack’s purpose in life was to fix things. What’s his ending? He fixes the leak of evil by plugging it up, thereby letting his friends get home. He dies in the same spot where he first woke up, a changed man. By the end of the series, he has let go. Granted, it took him going to heaven and doing stuff there to let go of everything, but it was done.
Why was Jack’s job so important? Let’s look at Claire as an example.
Claire boarded Oceanic Flight 815 to give her child up for adoption because she was scared, and didn’t think she could be a mother. In the end, Kate helps Claire, telling her the fear is normal, and told her she would be a great mom. Claire, through her stay on the Island, is now fixed.
Some people were fixed through death (Sun & Jin), and some were fixed by doing what they loved to do most (Hurley, by helping people), but they were all fixed due to the island, as people and of their own free will. This is the whole reason for their journey. This is what we have been witness to for the past 6 years. And in my mind at least, it was completely worth it.
Amen. I’ve been struggling, but thanks for this, because it helped me realize how I was feeling, and why. Thanks, Jeremy L.!
I think I’m one of the five people alive who have, “What Dreams May Come” on their ‘must force everyone to watch’ list LOL.
I don’t know how to feel about the finale; on the one hand it was quite possibly the single most beautiful piece of television I’ve ever seen, on the other I kind of feel like all of the flashsideways scenes were a bit of wasted time.
I’ll have to let it simmer for a couple of days.
I was thinking of the same movie during it, the only thing that confused me was to me the only people who should have been in the church at the end were the ones who had left the island (by death or plane), but like Hurley for example, I wasnt sure why he was in the church if he was on the island still.
It’s like Christian Shepherd (as Kate said… “Really?”) said: some died before, some died long after (Take the “You were a good Number 2 / Number 1” exchange as an example) – what mattered most was that for these people – their time on the island and their relationships with each other was the most important thing to consider.
Finding each other (and in doing so, understanding their importance to each other, and the true gravity of their experiences) allowed them to move on – just as (in “What Dreams May Come”) Chris finding Annie allowed them to begin life anew.
Alan Sepinwall said at the beginning of the season that watching all of Season Six together would help it make sense – and in my opinion – the idea of the Sideways as Death was both earned and justified.
Just one last thing I thought of before I pass out – to continue the WDMC parallel – for each of these characters – if they could create their own afterlife, then how would they?
It only makes sense that in an ideal world, Sawyer would be on the side of the righteous – reacting in an exactly opposite fashion to his parents’ murder has he did in life.
Kate never would have murdered her father.
John Locke may still have been physically paralyzed, but emotionally he was able-bodied as a marathon runner. He not only had Helen’s love, but also his father’s (as a side bonus, Anthony Cooper suffered a physical paralysis far greater than Locke himself ever did).
Of course Jack would have a son (and, going by the show’s own internal logic, it couldn’t have been with Kate, lest Jack “wake up” before he was ready.).
Even Ben Linus was able to create an ideal afterlife for himself – a life free from the need for power and glory – contentment in a simple life and the unabashed adoration of Alex Rousseau.
Following up on your thoughts about Sawyer: there were people questioning how Jack could find Anthony Cooper so easily while Sawyer had been looking for him for so long with no success. It seems trivial, but it makes sense now: killing Cooper was traumatic for Sawyer. He didn’t really want to relive it. So in his version of the afterlife, he’s still hunting, but he’ll never find him.
Yes, the “sideways” world was not happening at the same time as the island events.
It took place after all the characters had died: even Hurly and Ben, who for all we know may have lived on the island for 1,000 years before another guardian was found and these two eventually died.
As Jack’s father said: “some of these people died before you; other died LONG after you did.”
It’s okay that the characters reached the afterlife at different times. They all had their own issues to work out separately before they could deal with each other.
It’s not okay if Libby had to remain in a mental hospital for 1,000 years waiting for Hurley to die and reveal that she was not mentally ill.
There was no “now” (to quote Christian), meaning that time was a completely irrelevant notion in that Flash Sideways realm. There was no “waiting” per se.
Then what is Ben “waiting” for? He should acknowledge that he will forgive himself, because he already has, and accept Heaven or acknowledge that he never will (does) and accept Hell.
It’s not Heaven that makes time irrelevant, it’s having all the time you need. To quote John Wheeler, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once”. Or, to quote the Xena episode of The Simpsons: “A wizard did it”.
Of course, most of us care more about the characters than the “answers”. But the show gave us an answer which reveals that most of the show was irrelevant. We care about the characters because we accept their journey; we accept their journey because we care about the characters. Everything else was a distraction.
“We care about the characters because we accept their journey; we accept their journey because we care about the characters. Everything else was a distraction.”
Exactly so. That’s why I tend to get very frustrated with viewers (I won’t call them fans) who demanded answers, at any point, of this show. It seems to me that people are not getting it if they’re expecting the show ever to do the work for them–or, more aptly, to acknowledge that “answers” were the work at all.
The mythology was interesting, and finding Easter eggs and otherwise connecting dots was fun, but it was a diversion from the real story–these people and their relationships with one another.
Yes, Myles, I agree that the whole Sideways structure does seem contrived to give us this highly satisfying resolution for our characters, but I don’t care, either. What an amazing ride, and what a beautiful place at which we arrived.
I think Ben is waiting because his own struggles with the past are greater than the others, and he wants to hold onto Alex for a bit longer (just as Eloise is so concerned about losing Faraday, having herself “figured it out” in regards to the function of the story).
I’m with Dan that there is no “time” per se, but I do think that some characters want to (and perhaps need to) remain in this place for longer than others.
For me The End was emotionally satisfying until it actually ended. I think I might have been happier if Desmond had been right and pulling the stone ended that reality and caused the characters to live happily in the alternate one.
The Purgatory ending works too. Maybe Heaven is a better place for happy endings. The more I think about it the more I am okay with it. But it does leave me with questions (something I never really worried about before). What is the purpose of the island? Why didn’t entering the cave turn Jack, Ben, Desmond and Hurley into smoke monsters?
I disagree with the people who predicted rewatching the entire series knowing the ending would be an illuminating experience. I enjoyed the experience but I have no desire to see it again. Those who do may find that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
I assume that entering the cave didn’t change Jack, Ben, and Desmond because of Desmond’s resistance to electromagnetism. That’s why they needed him in order to get down there (maybe he absorbed it?).
I was wondering the same thing. The woman specifically said never ever go into the cave area, so desmond made sense he had been exposed and survived electromagnetism before…but really what was it that she, they, Hurley and Ben end up protecting they could of at least told us that.
Sorry but if Sayid was going to get whoever he wanted in the end it was Nadia his great love not Shannon.
How was it that Desmond, Hurley and others communicated knowingly in the flashsideways, and thought it kind of cruel that Hurley didn’t get a totally happy ending in real time/island time. See all the good he would of done, if the flashsideways were their own wishes creations, some make perfect sense others not, James becoming cop yes, Kate still running from the law, Would Desmond have really chosen in his sideways to be the right hand of Widmore? I cried so hard, heck I am still crying off and on about this show ending, talk about needing a life. However some of this stuff still doesn’t work.
Hurley did get a happy ending. Libby was in the church at the end.
There were some scenes in earlier episodes where Eloise indicated that the Flash Sideways give the characters something they wanted: Jack gets a son, Desmond gets Widmore’s approval, Hurley gets his luck, Faraday gets to follow his musical passion, etc.
It makes me wonder whether their function was like one final test so the characters could put it all into perspective. It’s not Purgatory, exactly, but it’s like a holding room where the characters need to realize what’s missing in their life.
So the finale season was based on “What Dreams May Come”? Blegh, I hated that movie.
Having said that, I’m mostly fine with what they got. Darlton said that show was the show was about the characters, and produced and wrote season six accordingly. So we did get some nice character moments, and a nice end to their arcs. And those weren’t too bad.
But that emphasis on the character arcs in general, and the flash(-sideways? -forwards? -afterlives?) specifically did leave the mythology in “a mess”. It seems to that they could have spent more time and energy tying up the mythology ends. We didn’t need to know the exact nature of the Island’s power (it’s electro-magic!), but we did need to know more. I call Darlton out on this point.
I’m not convinced we do need to know more. I, for example, don’t need to know more about the mythology. Would I like to? Sure. But need? Certainly not.
They’ve provided plenty of mythology to chew on. Explaining things any more concretely would kill the fun of speculating about their meaning.
time for speculation is over it was fun, a driving force for some, caring about the characters another force that drove us to watching t.v. on wednesdays…….Come on who the original woman protecting island was, where came from, protecting what that all men have a little of but always want more.
Killing off all the temple people…..guess they didn’t fit in the church, the others were not wrapped up well for people that had years in the story telling too.
Great, great initial thoughts. Been thinking about this episode now for over 3 hours and absolutely LOVED it.
To put it beautifully:
“Beautiful and heartwrenching, “The End” captures more than any other series finale I’ve watched the sum total of the series’ experience, awakening in viewers the same power of recall which pulls together half of the series’ narrative.”
LOST has ended. It has been amazing experience, one that I feel truly blessed to be a part of. It has been so much more than just a TV show, it has been a journey. One that I can say wholeheartedly without a doubt was worth it. When the episode ended I was confused. I felt so many emotions at once that I felt emotionless. I was unsure, in a state of confusion. Not confused what happened on screen, but at my response to it. Now that a few hours have passed and it has begun to sink in I must say it was brilliant. A pitch perfect ending to what was the most well done, risk taking series I’ve ever seen.
I should began by explaining my title, a play off of the famous line Jack spoke early on in the first season. The actual quote is “live together, die alone” although in light of the finale it turns out that the turth is we live alone, but die together. The flash-sideways actually being an “after-flash” is a twist I didn’t expect. I would not have imagined purgatory to actually be the answer. Though in reviewing everything about the formerly titled “sideways” world it makes sense. Each character had exactly what they thought they wanted in life. It was an agglomeration of everything “perfect”, and yet something was still missing. In the attempt to build a “perfect” life each character lost the thing they cared for most.
In an ideal world Sawyer would use his con skills to be on the right side of the law, Charlie would be a well-known rockstar, Desmond would have the approval of Widmore, Hurley would have good luck Dogen would be with his son, Jack would have a son, Ben would have the admiration of Alex, Roussea would have Alex, Kate wouldn’t have actually committed the crime of killing her father, Claire would have made it to LA to meet the parents who were planning on adopting Aaron, Penny would be the child separated from Widmore, and Faraday would be the musician he always wanted to rather than the scientist his mother forced him to.
The after-flash is quite clearly a world created by the castaways themselves as Christian tells Jack. It explains directly why we didn’t see certain characters such as Richard, who in his world would be away with Isabella rather than with our LOSTies. At first this whole idea felt as a cheat, a waste having spent half the season there for it just be a world where everyone died. But upon reflection it is very well done, that I actually don’t feel cheated as I found the after-flash to actually be the most interesting part of the season. I found myself over time much more interested in how things were connecting there rather than the good vs evil fight that was stirring up on the island.
And that is where the finale does it’s best work. The island is pushed to secondary, the way it should be. Yes we see more of the inner workings of the island with the literal cork that kept the island together (I simply thought Jacob was just being metaphorical in “Ab Aterno”). Yes people will be pissed we don’t more about the island, as the finale did very little actually answer questions about it. But it’s something I’m ok with. I would have loved to get more on the time travel aspect of the island, as I find that the one confusing part in the series. Time travel appeared to be something that was at the heart of the series when season five occurred, yet now that everything is over it was merely a one shot storyline that didn’t account for all that much in the long run. But I never felt the need to learn what the island is, and it’s annoying to me the people that want to know that. No answer is going to be satisfying because there really is no answer. What is the island? It’s an island that has special electromagnetic powers that make it an outlier in this world. That’s the only explanation that could be given without disappointing. The island is an island and to me that is fine.
Though I will admit more explanation on Smokey and Jacob would have been nice as in the end we really know little to understand them. We get them as characters, but considering one is a being of smoke and the other has the ability to make people live forever I would have enjoyed a somewhat explanation. The way the passing of Jacob’s power has been presented has to me come off as nothing but a fake ritual. When Jack gives Hurley the water to drink and says “now you’re like me”, it plays as if it’s merely for show. The same feeling came off when Jacob passed it on to Jack, as if they are both just repeating the ritual they saw the previous guardian due to them. It appears as if there are no real powers being passed, yet we know that Jacob does indeed have powers. I wonder if Hurley really was given the powers in the ritual or not as Jack didn’t give the water a blessing as Jacob did.
I was a little disappointed to see the lack of Smokey in the episode overall, in fact we didn’t see him in smoke monster form once. He was only seen in Locke’s body. I found his death to be a little anti-climatic in that he’d been set up as this great villian all season long and a monster throughout the whole series yet he went down pretty easy. Yes he was in a “human” (not sure if that’s the right term) state when he died, but still I expected more from him. He didn’t do much other than get Desmond go down into the heart of the island and remove the white stone cork, but that wasn’t much of a feat as Jack participated in that just as much. The biggest unanswered and fairly important mythology question in the finale was why exactly was Man In Black turned into a Smoke Monster when he went into the heart of the island, yet Desmond and Jack both didn’t? Was it simply because MIB was “different”, being more of an evil nature; yet in “Across The Sea” it showed he wasn’t really all that evil to begin with. But in the end I’ll just accept it and try to purge that question out of my head as the finale revealed for once and for all LOST is not a show about mythology or really even good verus evil as this season set up so much, but instead it is about love and relationships.
The series has always been built around it’s characters and their connections with each other, and the finale really hit that home. It’s characters were front and center, especially Jack Shephard who with the finale has been solidified as the most crucial character in LOST. LOST is the story of many heroes and their journey to redemption, but none more so than Jack Shephard. Throughout his life Jack always tried to fix things yet it never seemed to work. He fixed his future wife’s legs, but he couldn’t fix their marriage soon after. He brought Charlie back from a near death experience, but he couldn’t save him eventually. He tried to save the castaways misery with the Jughead bomb, but it failed turning out to be a dud as we know officially know and killed Juliet and many others in the process (*). But in the end Jack was able to fix things. He saved the island from destruction and through that saved the world if Jacob and other’s words are to be true. Right before Jack died he was able to finally fix things, which is apart of why the finale worked so much. Everything about Jack was poetic. His story arch is among the best in not only television but in modern fiction. He began arrogant and determined to save everyone out of his own selfish need, became addicted to pills and obsessed with returning to the island realizing his life had no meaning, got back and became passive refusing to partake in crucial events such as saving little Ben’s life, took action in blowing up Jughead in an attempt to end his depressions, became a willing follower after it’s failure afraid to be in charge again, all until he realizes his true destiny in life to follow in Jacob’s footsteps, to be a leader not out of arrogance but because it was his destiny. He started as a man of science, but he died a man of faith.
And what a perfect death that was. A beautiful and well crafted last few minutes as the series came to a close. Jack dying, staggering across the bamboo forrest as in the after-flash he greets all his former friends, ready to pass on to the next life, only now ready to move on and let go. Vincent appearing next to him in the forrest and it was clear the last shot was indeed something planned from the very beginning. Jack falls down, in the same spot the series began. He lies there, seeing the Ajira flight take off above finally rescuing his friends like he promised long ago. Jack closes his eye, in perfect parallel to the show’s opening shot. And then cut to black with the LOST title card, and with that television’s greatest epic ends.
*I’m gonna go ahead and say that Jughead not blowing the island up is proof that in LOST time travel you can’t change things; what’s done is done. This means that the Jughead explosion was actually involved in creating the incident itself meaning Jack and such were the ones to help cause the event that would lead to their crash. Thank you LOST for using the proper timeline theory. Though we may not have learned how or why time travel occurred, at least we finally know which time travel theory the show runs on.
You are an amazing writer first of all you and the blog writer both had me tearing up again with your descriptions…wow you guys are amazing, sorry Lost is over just because I will miss this blog, I sooo loved coming here after Lost to see what you thought.
The above jughead explosion doesn’t take into consideration that Juliette says “It worked” if it fits I am sorry I don’t understand it.
I think Juliet said “it worked” because as she reached death she began to see the flashsideways, hence her saying we’ll get coffee. From her perspective it appeared as if it did work, when it was really just a look into the afterlife. Many characters on LOST have had a clam before their death (Charlie, Jin and Sun) and it’s possible they saw a glimpse of their flashsideways.
Actually, the “It worked” was just a reference to what she said to Sawyer in the flash sideways that we all misinterpreted. She said “It worked” referring to unplugging and then plugging in the candy machine for Sawyer.
That could’ve been a very fitting eulogy for Jack.
“Who does John-Pyper Ferguson know at Lost to get a gig in the finale?”
Carlton Cuse, from when both worked on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
Ah, thank you – I figured it had to be a connection, and you saved me the IMDB investigation.
I loved the ending. It didn’t give me everything I wanted, but it did give me everything I needed.
Didn’t quite work for me. Everything up until the final 30 minutes or so worked. I was so into what the alternative timeline people were doing. Where they were “headed” etc. The awakenings were really emotional and they just worked… then it was all about purgatory. It was about moving on to some afterlife? It was just a little too cliche for me. I was really hoping for either more sci-fi or no mythology whatsoever. It was pure character up until that point and I was loving it. Then they had to go and make it all useless by having them move on? So Sun having a baby is meaningless? Does the baby go to “heaven”? I think for me “spirituality” is a such a loaded word that I generally can’t accept it in my entertainment.
I am probably making zero sense. So many thoughts going through my head. Should probably sleep on it.
as the blog writer writes above the Sun/Jin awakening kind of happy doesn’t make sense, feeling closer to one another perhaps but really there should of been some sadness…I think Juliettes awakening with a jarring feeling something like that would of made sense that Sun/Jin missed out on their childs life.
Myles, an excellent take!
I’ve been pondering my own feelings on the episode since it ended… with a somewhat fuzzy brain since I got up at 6 in the morning here in Spain to participate in the international live broadcast.
My emotions are still reeling. There could have been more questions answered, but I am emotionally satisfied with the end of the characters’ journey. (Although you’re right in their stretching a bit far back to place Sayid with Shannon instead of Nadia)
I’ll definitely have to watch it again since I think there was a glitch in the transmission and I might have missed a scene, and I look forward to reading your further thoughts on this episode, season, series.
All good things must come to an end, right? Qué pena!
Great write-up and analysis.
To answer one question you ask: we’re told explicitly earlier in the season that Michael’s soul (or whatever) is trapped on the island forever–one of the chorus of whispering voices we’ve heard since the first season, and which we’re finally told represent all the souls doomed to wander the island forever because of the wrongs they committed during their time there.
Presumably Ben ended up living and working in his Number 2 position long enough to off-set some of that debt (although I’m guessing not all of it–at least not to his own satisfaction–since he ends up not “moving on” with everybody else just yet).
Michael I think could of been freed by Hurley and we all know Hurley would of gladly freed Michael…would his ending of been with this group? I doubt it, but it would of been with Walt..
Great words, Myles.
I especially like your take that the flash-sideways are a kind meta-commentary on the series as a whole–they serve to teach us how to “read” or experience the series just as they teach the characters the importance of their time on the island. Thus the meaning lies in their relationships and their memories of how those relationships were formed.
I was also tickled that the bottom of the Mystical Glowy Cave had an actual plug/cork. It was one of those cheeky Darlton moments where you can imagine them saying, “See? We already told you what the island is. It’s a bottle of wine! You pull out the cork and bad things happen!”
I also loved all of the winks at the audience provided in the island storyline. I can’t recall specific examples without rewatching, but there were several comments from characters where I realized that they were commenting on the show itself or the fan culture surrounding it. Loved it.
What’s really interesting to me about the final scenes is the ambiguity left in what created the alt.
Christain says something like, “you all made it”.
It seems to me that the incident, and perhaps hurley’s stewardship of the island (his new rules), could have contrived to build this waiting-room for specific consciousnesses. For the light in each individual character before they were ready to join THE light (exotic matter), we’ve seen so many times before in the flashes (“life, death, rebirth”=the human experience of time).
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The ending reminded me the book Five People You meet in Heaven.
Loved the analysis. One of the most in-depth and honest reviews I’ve read.
Glad you all liked it. I really didn’t. I wanted more revelation and less emotional boohoo. But ok. We’re all allowed to have our own opinion, right?
That being said, I think that the idea of everyone being in the afterlife really sucked, too. Desmond wanted Locke to “let go”. I thought he might have been the smoke monster in the alternative reality after having freed himself. But nope.
So, to conclude: it felt like one big disappointment here.
Nice analysis. I don’t agree with your conclusion (that this was the perfect series finale) but I can appreciate your points.
My main problem with this finish is not that it doesn’t address the minutiae of the series but that it doesn’t even touch the basic big questions such as what the island is or why it was important (or necessary) to protect it.
This season made a point of raising the stakes of what the Losties are fighting for (queue the wine bottle metaphor) but then doesn’t bother to pay it off.
Why even bother with using a whole episode to set up Jacob v. Man-in-Black when, in the end, it has no bearing on the conclusion?
If the show never meant to discuss the meaning of the Losties struggle in the greater world then it was dirty pool for them to evoke the greater world as their reason for battling.
“My main problem with this finish is not that it doesn’t address the minutiae of the series but that it doesn’t even touch the basic big questions such as what the island is or why it was important (or necessary) to protect it.”
I’ve been having a debate on this exact point with my husband since the series concluded last night. My position is that the island is critically important to the *characters* and within that world, but not to the *story* of Lost. Ultimately, what’s important about the island is simply that it was important to them. We don’t need to know its mysteries to understand how the island shaped our characters.
My husband disagrees pretty strenuously; neither of us will ever convince the other. I think what’s *really* interesting now that the ride that was Lost is finally over is the way the conversation/ argument is falling exactly into the Jack/Locke paradigm. Some people just *need* to know; others trust. I am not a person of faith in the traditional sense, but I am more comfortable with loose ends than neatly tied knots.
I can see that point but I see the island as more than just a massive MacGuffin, it was a character, perhaps THE character of the show, and yet after seasons setting up the island the prime mover of the series (“the island isn’t done with us yet, etc.”) , they just let it dangle.
When did Lost morph into being all about the characters and never about the mysteries? The mysteries of the island have always driven the story (the Others, the hatch, the statue, Jughead, Widmore) yet they were all abandoned.
Sure, it was nice to get a satisfying coda to the characters but why couldn’t they devote a part of 2.5 hours to the other side of the equation as well?
Regarding the Jacob and Man in Black episode…
Fans demanded an explanation of Jacob and his brother on the Island. There would have been a hurricane of backlash if the producers left out this part of the story.
As I try to explain below, perhaps the adventures on the Island were less about Good verus Evil and cosmic threats to the Earth, and more about atonement for past deeds and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others.
I’m not tapped into the Lost fandom but I don’t think the show put that episode out there to stem some sort of backlash.
The atonement angle you mention works much better BEFORE that show than after. Because, before that, I think people were quite willing to buy into Jacob and MiB as quasi-spiritual entities. After, they’re reduced to men, men with powers to be sure, but only men. It reminded me of Star Wars reducing the Force to midi-chlorians…
Of course, before that there’s the Richard episode in which Jacob explicitly puts the island in the context of a good versus evil conflict via the wine jug metaphor.
“Across the Sea” entirely exists to create realistic expectations for the finale: by “reducing” (as you note) Jack and MiB to such simple forms, it makes sure viewers don’t go into the finale expecting something completely different.
It didn’t keep there from being backlash, but I think the “Across the Sea” was very deliberate in its storytelling in a way which was designed to align viewers ahead of the real conclusion.
See, I think it did the opposite. I would have been fine with the conflict being of a personal nature, ie. the island (and by extension Jacob and MiB) testing the Losties for their own rehabilitation. However, after The Richard Episode and Across the Sea, this was clearly removed from the table and replaced with a global context. I don’t think the expectations were reduced. I think they were ratcheted up. Now the conflict was not just these particular people, it was eternal. Now the conflict was not just for these particular people, it was for the world.
I loved it. I still have questions, of course, but it wrapped things up very nicely, emotionally, for me.
I have a question about the closing credits though…it shows a plane wreckage. Is that supposed to be Lapidus’ Ajira flight that perhaps ended up crashing? And the bodies on the beach (covered in a blanket) are Kate, Sawyer, Lapidus, Miles and Richard?
Or is it just an image of the original Oceanic crash?
I had questions about the images during the final credits as well (see below). I did not definitively see bodies covered in cloth, but I suppose they could be there.
My feeling is this is the Oceanic plane, not the Ajira plane.
If you watch the second shot of the wreckage, on the bottom of the shot, near the left, you will see bodies on the beach lined up and covered.
I looked at it again this morning, and I could see colored blankets or clothing, but couldn’t discern bodies. Perhaps I will look again.
Whatever the case, this looks to me like the aftermath of Oceanic 815.
Has anyone gone back yet to the first couple of eps and compared the wreckage of 815 (sans people, of course) to the final scene? It would be highly unlikely that two planes would crash identically, so that might be a clue regarding what wreckage we see at the end.
My reading of the finale is to believe Christian, that it all happened and everything is real, meaning that the characters lived and died in a variety of ways on and off the island, all coming together when they were ready to leave. I like that.
But I certainly don’t think there’s a definitive answer, and I’d be kind of disappointed if Damon and Carlton ever gave us one.
Hmmm… I’m kind of inclined to think it was the Ajira plane…mostly because of the emotional impact it has on me thinking it was the Ajira plane and that it never made it off the island. If I think it’s the original Oceanic flight, it doesn’t quite have the same zing, emotionally, than thinking it was the Ajira plane. I’m a feeler, not a thinker ; )
If it’s the Ajira plane, that’s a severely dark ending, don’t you think?
I looked at it again and it’s POSSIBLE the fuselage was burned as if to cremate the bodies, but it could just be a result of burning jet fuel.
I don’t see bodies (sorry), just cloth in various spots, but it certainly looks like people were at the crash site, perhaps survivors, or perhaps rescuers. Those final shots are enigmatic and will be discussed for days, no doubt.
It may be interesting to note those shots were likely filmed during the first season, when the Oceanic wreckage was on the beach for the first few episodes.
I didn’t actually see the scene last night (it wasn’t aired in Canada), but having watched it online: that’s the Oceanic plane. It’s just a little moment of serenity remembering where the show began and nothing more – bet on it.
Okay. Y’all (Jughead, Susan & Myles) have convinced me to turn from my dark and twisty conclusion. I am going with it being the Oceanic debris as well.
Strangely, nobody here has mentioned another interpretation of the finale: All of the characters actually died in the Oceanic crash. The Island was a “purgatory” or whatever you want to call it, and was outside our “real” world. Of course, this poses plot complications, as in how Ben, Charlotte, etc. seemed to have an actual life on the Island before the crash… unless they aren’t part of our reality at all.
The idea here is all of the people on the plane died in the crash, but were tested on by God (Jacob, the Eye of the Island, or whatever) on a different plane of existence (represented by the Island), helped each other with their various issues, and were then allowed to move on – first to the Sideways world, where their “souls” could all join together, before moving into the Light.
My guess is the writers may have changed directions mid-series if the Island was “real” or not, OR they want to leave it up to indvidual interpretation – meaning some people will consider the Island as real, some consider it a transitional stage to the afterlife. Both could be valid. Also, during the first season, many viewers recognized the island as purgatory, so the writers made a few adjustments.
Perhaps further evidence the characters died when the plane crashed (or shortly thereafter) are the shots of the beach during the final credits. The plane wreckage is there, but the survivors are not. It appears there are footprints in the sand, but no camp, and the fuselage where the dead bodies were burned is intact. What does this mean?
You’re entitled to your interpretation, but what I’m taking from this show is that what happened on the Island was all real. It was life, it was their lives, it was the most important part of their lives. And that’s always what the creators intended it to be.
Go back and listen to Christian Shepard – everything that happened to them happened. The island was not purgatory.
Yes, everything that happened to them was real in the sense that it happened, even the Sideways storylines, which weren’t “real” in the sense they were not happening on Earth in our reality – they were a creation of the survivors so they could find one another. This doesn’t eliminate the possibility the survivors experienced physical death at the time of the crash and the Island was the first step to the Light.
All I am saying, this possibility could go either way, and there are people in both camps – death by plane crash, or death after crash.
The word “Purgatory” is used loosely by a lot of people here… what I mean is the Island could be a place after death, where people go to be tested before “moving on” as Christian would put it.
Here’s another question: If the events on the Island actually happened, and Sun gave birth to a daughter, why wasn’t Ji Yeon with them in the Church in the final scene? Aaron, just a newborn on the Island, was there. Penny, who had never set foot on the Island, as far as we know, was there. Why not Ji Yeon? David Shepard was not there, but as we know, he never existed in our reality…
Lindelof and Cuse have stated over and over again that the events on the Island were happening in “real time.” They were not dead on the Island. The only time we are shown that sort of life after death that you are talking about is in the Sideways world.
Okay, if the writers actually said the survivors did not die at the time of the Oceanic crash, I will accept that. It certainly seems like a possible interpretation.
One has to suspend disbelief, of course, and accept time travel is possible on the Island, a man can live for 200 years, and an intelligent pillar of black smoke can change into human form at will. Never seen any of this myself.
This is usually stuff reserved for different worlds or dimensions…
I think Ji Yeon was there. She was in Sun’s belly.
Also, as far as the things you have to suspend disbelief for, the entire show, the world the characters live in besides the Island, is another world or dimension of a sort. Things that don’t exist here, such as talking to the dead and whatever was going on with Walt, do exist there, along with the other fantastical properties of the Island.
Regarding Sun & Jin, while it’s true that they may have seen their daughter abandoned, they also saw the story of their lives. They saw themselves fall in love, grow to disdain each other, and then rediscover their love for each other on the island. Were it not for that, their daughter wouldn’t have even been born. So despite having to be reminded of their daughter’s death, in the end their story is one of redemption and the triumph of love.
I don’t know about Walt, but it seems like at least Michael wasn’t ready. Isn’t that why he was still on the island as a Ghost/Whisper? Eko certainly seems like he would have been ready, having accepted his fate and being killed by the smoke monster.
I, too, was disappointed that we didn’t see Mr. Eko again. But apparently this was the result of an all too “real life” situation and not by design. According to E!, the actor who played Eko was offered a guest appearance on the finale, but his contract demands were too much. (Likewise, the character met a premature/unanticipated demise when the actor wanted to return home to the UK from Hawaii.) I guess for some people, the mystique of Lost is just not powerful enough. 😉
First of all, excellent review as always, Myles. I’m going to miss reading your recaps almost as much as I’ll miss the series itself. I just want to say that I absolutely loved the finale. I think you said it best when you said in your review, and I’m paraphrasing, ” ‘The End’ wasn’t a perfect episode, but it was a near perfect finale.” and I agree with that wholeheartedly. The episode did take some logical leaps (Jack finding Locke on the cliff, the plane taking off), and obviously left a huge amount of questions unanswered. I’m with you though, I don’t mind not having all the answers, in fact I kind of prefer it, it leaves us with something to puzzle over in the coming weeks, months, and years.
A few things about the flash-sideways; you mention David Shephard in your review, and I’m kind of puzzling over the whole concept of him. The way I see it, he’s just a reflection of Jack’s need to 1-up his father. In the flash-sideways, the characters have lives that really is kind of heavenly; their fundamental desires come to realization. Jack is (or at least becomes) a good father, Locke has Helen, Sun and Jin are happily together, Sayid is a good person, etc. So, David Shepherd is a product of Jack’s desires just as Helen is a product of Locke’s and Nadia is a product of Sayid’s.
Another thing about the final scene; there’s been some confusion as to why some characters (read: Michael, Walt) weren’t in the church. Michael is obviously still on the island, as explained earlier this season, which could also be the case with Eko (although I’m sure in Eko’s case it was just a logistics thing with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Christian Shephard does say something when talking to Jack that I think clarifies why some people aren’t there. He says something to the effect of “You’ve all made this place, because the time you spent together was the most important time of your lives.” This might not be true of Walt, because he probably went on to do or be part of more significant (to him, anyways) things.
And what was up with Boone? Did his revelatory moment ever happen on screen? It seemed like the implication that when he talked to Hurley in the hummer that he remembered and was in cahootz with Hurley and Desmond.
One of the reasons I really loved this episode was that it regained the majestic qualities of the series. Scope is something I think this season has really lacked. During season 1, there were often wide panoramic shots of the island’s vistas, which added a sense of majesty to the island, and strengthened it as a setting. I was very happy to see that the setting was used effectively during “The End”, in particular the panning shots of Jack’s group on the move and that gorgeous shot of Jack and Locke staring each other down, when Jack is at the top of the cliff face and Locke is at the bottom.
As noted in your review, Michael Giacchino did some damn fine work on this episode, and this season as a whole. I don’t think I need to say more.
Overall, what really floored me about this episode was the last scene. Going into this episode, my expectations were relatively low, after reading what Michael Emerson and other cast members had said about how the finale might not satisfy some fans. However, the reaction I had to the ending was as strong an emotional reaction as I’ve ever had watching television or film. What surprised me was that Mathew Fox was able to draw that reaction from me, as I’ve never been a huge Jack fan. But as he lay in the bamboo with Vincent beside him and his eye closed, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t crying my eyes out. The visual poetry along with Giacchino’s score and the fact that I knew this would be the end of what is probably my favorite television show ever gave me an emotional gut-punch. I suppose for some reason I really strongly identify with the themes of purpose and identity that tie in with Jack’s characters. I’ve had equally strong reactions to the films “Into the Wild” and “Synecdoche, NY”, which deal with similar themes.
After the episode I just sort of sat there dazed as the local news played. I think Jimmy Kimmel was just the comic relief I needed after “The End”. Kimmel’s back and forth with the cast members was fun, and Giacchino orchestrating the band was great. The “alternate endings” were pretty lame though.
After going in with mild expectations, I can now say that Lindelof, Cuse, Bender, the cast, and all involved hit a grand slam for Lost’s finale, proving that they truly are great storytellers. For me, “The End” ranks up with my favorite episodes of Lost, like “The Pilot”, “Outlaws”, “The Constant”, and “Man of Science, Man of Faith” as one of my favorite episodes of the series.
Thanks for the kind words, and the great comment. I particularly like your use of the word “majestic” – it nicely captures the sort of realist side of the series’ magic realist leanings.
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Sorry, but I felt let down. Big time.
I was expecting it — even prepared myself for it. But I held out a small glimmer of hope that six years of watching a TV show wouldn’t be all for naught. And it wasn’t, but, yeah, it mostly was.
Among the most important themes of the series was faith vs. reason — part of its Aristotelian pantheon of yes/no, light/dark musings. This was hammered home ad nauseam. But how can a story that doesn’t let its characters be smart enough to reason, to ask questions, to discover answers, do adequate justice to that ages-old pancake? (Warning: Third Policeman reference.) I didn’t need answers to everything; I’m a somewhat smart guy, I can figure stuff out. But the question Charlie raises in the pilot is still out there, flapping in the island wind: “Guys, where are we?”
Credit the writers of Lost. They were the first to create an episodic meta-narrative around a group of lost souls in search of redemption. Structurally, it was equally as impressive, with the series circling back on itself to eat its own tail, and with episodes like the Constant, which Joyce would have appreciated for its intricacy. The show was stuffed with literary, philosophical and scientific references, each with its own winking maybe/maybe-not relationship to the story.
And then it all fell apart.
Jack and Hurley chose to be the island’s protectors. What exactly were the reasons for their decisions, other than some vague sense that it was the right thing to do? Again, I don’t need long exposition — and I don’t need stupid debates within the Galactic Senate (I’m looking at you, Lucas) — but for the love of Jacob, not one character on the show ever said, “WTF is up with this island? No, seriously, WTF?”
I knew I was going to have problems with the show’s ending when some of the big “answers” were nothing more than fuzzy metaphors. (Cork, meet wine bottle.) And then all of the sly references, all of the smart structure and all of the meta-narrative quickly began to crumble and was revealed to be the hodgepodge of thrown-together ideas that it mostly likely was all along.
Was I emotionally moved by the End? Sure, it was hard not to be, especially since it used every trick in the book to tug at your heartstrings. Was I intellectually satisfied? Well, if you’ve made it this far, you already know the answer to that. I think those I most feel sorry for are the people who immersed themselves in the mythology, playing the online games, clicking around incessantly on the Hanso Foundation Web site to see that special message, enrolling in Lost University. Sorry, guys and gals, those things weren’t really important to forwarding the Lost characters’ stories. But be sure to check out the special features loaded on the series Blu-ray box set to get the complete Lost experience. (Hint: One of the video extras includes a certain name-changing scientist and his time-traveling wascally wabbit.)
And, yes, in the end, they wound up in purgatory. Ack.
Wholehearted agreement with this statement.
THANK YOU. Agreement here as well.
I think the finale was excellent storytelling of a weak story.
Bait and Switch.
I too am still sorting and thinking and musing. This was the perfect ending. For a different series. This series actively and aggressively courted the sci-fi/arg crowd. To deny them a sense of closure as well seems cruel, sloppy or weak. We were presented with a series so heavy with mystery and mythology, science fiction and science theory that to deny even basic answers feels irresponsible to a core group of fans. I don’t think that disappointment and frustration at the lack of some form of answers means that you didn’t “get it” or weren’t a real fan of the show. I watched for the characters and the mystery. And the mystery started before I got to know and involve myself deeper with the characters.
I don’t need full and detailed explanations to everything island related, but couldn’t some of them have been addressed!
My main impression is that the Sideways storyline was an attempt to manipulate the emotional ending with the characters to a level that almost obscured the fact that so much was left unanswered. And they did a masterful job.
SMOKE(MONSTER) & MIRRORS
The best way my tired mind can attempt to convey my feelings:
I am watching a magic show. The magician is handsome and charismatic. His assistant beautiful and alluring. They have an onstage chemistry that I’m sure continues in real life.The show has been amazingly entertaining. I am charmed, enchanted. The magician takes his assistant to the edge of the stage and proposes to her! She says yes! I am genuinely happy for them. Am I crying? He takes her by the hand and leads her upstage to that fantastic contraption they have been assembling during the show. It’s the finale! The set up for the Illusion has me at the edge of my seat. They walk off stage.
Huh!? Didn’t you kinda promise me a magic show?
I LOVE wondering “How’d they do that?”
“What the hell did they just do?” Not so much.
About your first bullet point, I forget who right now because I’ve been reading so much about Lost this morning, but the Cuselof wanted Eko in the finale, but Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted more money than they were willing to give. As for Walt, I’m assuming he’s “not ready,” and Michael, well, he’s stuck on the Island, isn’t he?
I also wanted to point out that the Sideways is NOT purgatory, even though that’s what people are calling it. Purgatory connotes some form of penance, and while that’s certainly the case with Ben and Sayid, I don’t think it applies to many of the other characters at all. Jack works out his daddy issues, but that’s not penance, either. It’s more like the Sideways world was a place (somehow) created in which these characters explore the things they couldn’t while they were alive in order to let that life go and move on to the next.
I don’t think we should be labeling the Sideways anything other than the Sideways, certainly not ‘Purgatory’ or even ‘Heaven’ (for wherever they went afterwards). It’s much more up in the air than that.
Hmm. From what you are saying, it’s as if the Island itself was Purgatory. Something the actors and writers have been telling us it WASN’T for six years…
Maybe a metaphorical Purgatory, but even then I wouldn’t use the word. I’ve always seen the Island as a place where the rules don’t apply, a place to leave your mistakes and civilization behind, rather than a place from which to pray for forgiveness (although some characters certainly were doing this). A place to create something new that we really don’t have a word for.
This is the way one can view the Lost journey:
Backstory/Flashbacks (Physical Life)
–> Oceanic 815 crash (Death)
–> The Island (Atonement/Purgatory)
–> Sideways Reality (Spiritual Rebirth)
–> The Light (Heaven/Afterlife ???)
As I argued on Twitter, for me “Purgatory” is a useful word only in that it indicates a liminal state between life and death – otherwise, the Sideways storyline is different, as the characters are rediscovering their past rather than atoning for sins or anything similar.
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I think the flash sideways has an emotional impact more than just in the final episode. I’m really glad it was there, personally, because while watching the rest of the season, it gave me hope. And especially in the episode where the submarine blows up, I really needed it. It was devastating to me to watch Sayid, Jin, and Sun die, and not know what happened to Lapidus, but being so emotionally invested in the show led to me also being glad that I would still see them in this other story, even though I didn’t know what it was, just that it wasn’t over. If the flash sideways hadn’t been there, then Jin and Sun would have died just after reuniting, which is wonderfully and tragically poetic, and never been seen again, and we would be stuck with just Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley for the climax.
In turn, that gives the final episode that much more of an impact, kind of tearing out that last bit of hope. It’s kind of cool how much effort I have to make to think about what really happened. It’s nice to see all the characters, especially to see them at peace, in the limbo before moving on, but in the end, those people did die, and if Kate, Sawyer, and Claire finally left the island, they did it without their soulmates (apparently). It’s weird to imagine what might have happened to them afterwards, and heartbreaking to think that all we saw of Locke and Jack’s lives were in this show. And man, at least Jack got a hero’s farewell, Locke was murdered after almost killing himself, and off-island at that. And then there are all the other characters I forgot about. My brain hurts.
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I think The End was the best series finale ever created and I enjoyed your review. I have to say, however, that “David Shephard” didn’t exist so it doesn’t matter what he thinks when his (not) parents moved on. Jack never had a son. The sideways world did create lots of questions, but alas it doesn’t matter. It was their sideways world – something they created for themselves until they were ready to let go of their previous lives and move on. Beautifully acted, it’s a shame that more fans didn’t come away with the feeling that they had just experienced the most tremendous 2+ hours of television ever created.
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First of all let me just say that this was a great review. Second of all even if Damon and Carlton had planned this all out for a while now, it doesn’t stop me from thinking that the only way to give the viewers the happy ending they so desperately wanted with out sacrificing the events on the island was to “create” an after life or waiting area of sorts. A place where we the viewers and the characters could see them one last time where they were happy and loved and safe. Although I know that there are many fans who did not like the fact that the series finale failed to address the many mysteries I for one believed that without the characters the mysteries simply did not matter. Some may disagree but for me Lost was never about the questions. Often when a show concludes that I really enjoyed I knew that I was going to miss the show, but that soon life would move on and the show would become a pleasant memory. However Lost ended on Sunday and I am still feeling the loss. No matter what people’s opinion’s may be I hope that like myself they were glad to have been given a chance to glimpse the lives of these characters even if it was for a short time.
Mendie, you summed up everything I think a lot of us are thinking and feeling. As I think about the finale and the entire series as a whole – which I will continue to do for months if not years! – I still have questions. Am I disappointed that they didn’t get answered? Not one bit! When I originally wrote my own “review” of the finale for my blog, I had all these questions lined up with my own possible conclusions, along with how I felt about the finale. But then I scrapped it all and just went with how I FELT. I still feel that the finale was the best 2+ hours of television we will ever experience. And that LOST is the best darned tv show. Ever.
Great review. I didn’t think the finale was outstandingly amazing, but it was good TV. I have to agree with Mendie, that the purga-limbo-alt storylines were a great way to gain a bit of closure and happiness for these characters. Prior to the show I had been terrified that there would be a plethora a deaths leaving the characters I loved with even more meaningless ends (I was actively distressed when Locke came out of surgery and said that it worked: I was terrified he was going to go all smoke monster and eat everyone in the alterverse). The sideways timeline may be ultimately meaningless beyond this emotional resolution for both the characters and the viewers, but that resolution was needed: Ben’s realisation that Alex saw him as a father was beautiful and Juliet and Sawyer’s awakening was heart-wrenching (but I’ve always been on Team Juliet).
I’m not a fan of “and then they all went to heaven”, but that’s personal preference. What I will say is that I can’t wait to get back home to discuss with my friends the concept of The Others as Old Testament Israelites on an Island and a hundred other theories. I loved the characters and I don’t need concrete answers. In the end I am a Man of Faith.
(Except…the Cabin, the Cabin. What was up with the Cabin? Please, I need to know!)
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Why does Jack’s character needed to be “rehabilitated”? I really resent the fact that most are willing to commend Matthew Fox’s performance ONLY when his character became likeable.
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[“This is especially true for Jack Shepard, and Matthew Fox deserves a lot of the credit for that. I’ve written a fair bit already this season about the ways in which Season Six’s legacy may be the rehabilitation of Jack as a character, but his sacrifice in this episode combined with his reluctance to “wake up” and “move on” was a really beautiful story that Fox stepped up to the plate for. “]
When Jack was being a douche bag in Seasons 1-5, were you impressed by Fox’s performances . . . or the character’s ambiguity and lack of ideal?
So I just finished my first full rewatching of the series since its airing, and then of course delved into all of the reviews of the finale, and while I’m not sure (this review being nearly four years old) if you still read the comments on this, I’m curious as to your impression about something. You mentioned that you thought that Christian waking up Jack was a neat way to tie up the narrative, which is true, but I also feel it was a bit of a shoehorn in that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense that he’d be moving on with the characters. He didn’t actually play any significant role during the time of the characters’ lives he describes as being so meaningful that they created a reality in order to reunite and move on together – his sum total as far as his contribution to events on the island was as a corpse that allowed the Man in Black to appear from time to time as Christian Shepherd when it suited his purpose. And while yes, his influence is obviously relevant to Jack’s behaviour as well as other important, tangential or ephemeral connections he has to various other characters and their development, I wouldn’t say it was any moreso (and possibly far less) than many other characters’, including the roster of horrible fathers that were such overwhelming motivational drivers throughout the series – from Anthony Cooper to Charles Widmore to Roger Linus and beyond. He was a fairly douchy (douchey? douchie?) guy when he was alive, and I just don’t get, on rewatching, why the guy who belittled his surgeon son (regardless of Christian’s secret pride), screwed around on his wife and fathered a child with another woman, and drank himself to death was deemed worthy of spiritual metamorphosis with the main players. Good narrative device, poor plot development would be my analysis. Thoughts?
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