One of the central themes in Lost has been the struggle between faith and reason. By last night’s series finale, it was clear that faith had won; that, as Jack said, “John Locke was right”. The clear subtext, though, was that anyone who’d had faith in the writers to pull together whatever new gimmicks they’d introduced this season with all the gimmicks from seasons past into a satisfactory conclusion was proven right, too. The flashsidewayses, of all things, gave “The End” an emotional resonance it might not have otherwise possessed. That doesn’t mean it was the right device with which to draw the show to a close. It didn’t redeem season six. But it did redeem the entire series.
Last night proved a far more emotional experience than I’d anticipated, even before the episode had begun: just the recap, which in previous years I’d never even have watched, had me close to tears. Months of impatience and disappointment ended in a warm nostalgia, like attending the living funeral of an old friend who does nothing but make you crazy. All of season six has been a particularly emotional experience; the dramatic missteps I’ve highlighted in this column over the last several months felt less like artistic failures than personal insults. Lost inspired years of devotion, not only for the one hour each week it was on television but for the subsequent workdays spent trolling Lostpedia and the commentsphere. It was a personal investment; like Jacob told the Losties last week, “you needed this place as much as it needed you.” And so all the carping on the way this season unfolded—all the narrative stalling, all the stakes-less plot lines—has been with Love. The way parents just wants the best for their kids.
Wait, isn’t that kind of a strong metaphor? But such is the level of passion Lost inspired, and why even just seeing the producer-approved recap of the last six years—notice the elision of the Tailies?—fully exploited my emotional readiness to maximum effect. I willingly gave myself to Lost last night and, without condescension or (too much) manipulation, it rewarded that openness, that eagerness to give. It gave back.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was that the producers didn’t just kill everyone off—at least, no one that wasn’t the embodiment of pure evil. “The End,” like “LA X,” was really an episode about resurrections: for starters, Lapidus was discovered bobbing on submarine wreckage, Richard was found alive (and graying!). (And they were together on, gulp, an outrigger, which had me nervous—is that an Ajira water bottle!?!—until it didn’t.) But most of the characters from the show’s run who have died—with a few exceptions, like all the black people—turned up alive in the flashsideways, where Desmond, the cosmic awakener, and his band of devotees realizationed our heroes one-by-one to their pasts and the loves with which they were filled. The acting, across the board, was startlingly good, each performer nailing the only moments-long transition from the humdrummery of their presents to the effusive, emotional richness of their sudden awarenesses. Even Shannon, a character whom I never liked and whose relationship with Sayid was never less than implausible, had me in tears the moment she said her true love’s name.
The flashsidewayses were never a bad device inherently; they were just grossly mishandled. Once the stakes finally became clear—if we could believe Desmond—they turned out to be tremendously moving. Kate and Jack’s “I love you” on-island goodbye was touching and all, but it had nothing on each’s parallel-reality, emotional-memory recall. By the time Juliet dropped the long-awaited suggestion that she and Sawyer “go Dutch,” I hardly had any tears left to shed. Giving each set of in-love characters a Greatest Hits reel of flooding memories was the perfect way to end the show: it was an honest send-off without doing a straight-up clip show.
Then there was the on-island action. It turns out the island is not only a cork in a figurative sense, as Jacob explained several episodes ago, but also, literally, a cork is jammed into it, one that blocks evil from pouring out of the island’s volcanino, it’s very own Hellmouth. (The Egyptian carvings on the cork would suggest that their presence predated Jacob’s, and then that the smoke monster’s possession of the Man in Black’s body was not his first corporeal possession, making the Allison Janney-as-Smokette theory more likely.) Uncorking it took away everyone’s special powers, a very Heroes-esque move: Smokey was vulnerable to headshots, Jack to stabbings, Richard to the distinguishing effects of aging. Oh, and the Island began to crumble into the sea. But Jack got the cork back in, turning the light back on and saving the island before he crawled off to die in the bamboo.
The producers have long said they always knew what the show’s final shot would be, and in hindsight it seems so beautifully obvious: an eye closing, of course! And a full-circle with the show’s beginning: Jack and Vincent, together in the bamboo fields, the difference being that, this time, a plane was taking off instead of crashing. Hurley was in charge, which makes sense since he’s the only original Lostie who hadn’t killed someone or destroyed his relationships with his loved-ones. And, touchingly, Ben would be his “Richard”.
What happened in the flashsidewayses was a little trickier: apparently that world was a sort of Heaven (though not a heaven exactly) that they had all “created” to be together in death before finding the strength to “move on”. (It was touching that Lost included one final round of slow motion hugging before concluding.) Of course, that’s been the one problem plaguing every character since the very first episode: an inability to let go, to move forward. And as fans it has been our problem, too. Though they left us with a million questions, the producers let us go last night in as satisfying a way possible for this stage in the game. “The End” was as good as “The End” could possibly have been. And now we can all, finally, put Lost behind us. For a while, at least.