Odds are people will be torn by Lost’s series finale. People likely went into the episode with expectations on how Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse would bring this landmark show to a close and they clearly were not worried about irritating anybody with their ending. For them, this finale was emotional and spiritual; the ending went beyond plot points, beyond smoke monsters and caves filled with an eerie golden light, beyond the Dharma Initiative and the Others. The finale was an opportunity to remind everybody what made “Lost” so great in the first place: the characters. A show is only as good as the acting and the writing, and “The End” brought us a beautiful amalgamation of these two elements. We were given powerful scenes lined with emotion, some great action sequences, incredible special effects that dwarf much of what’s on television right now and an ending that should leave people talking for months. Regardless of what you may think of the finale, Lindelof and Cuse got it right, even if it’s not exactly what we expected it to be.
“Lost” spent its two and a half hour finale not necessarily answering every question (in fact, I’m not sure if they answered a single one) but instead brought us closure to some of our favorite characters and brought the story of their time on the Island to a close. It wasn’t perfect, and there were certainly flaws sprawled throughout, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most powerful episodes of television that I’ve ever seen. The raw emotion that was presented to us through the acting brought me back to Season 1, when we were first getting to know these characters. Getting to see them reunite after spending so much time apart made me happier than I would be if they had explained to me everything about Jacob and the Man in Black. Jacob and the Man in Black were introduced late in the show; everybody else has been here since the start and have become surrogate friends and family for most of us who have watched the show since the beginning. It only makes sense that the show would end with a reunion of these men and women.
As for the specifics in the episode, things moved fast for awhile and eventually tapered off as the alternate universe was finally explained to us. On the Island, Locke and Ben find Desmond hiding with Rose and Bernard (raise your hands if you cheered obnoxiously when you saw them… I know I did). For any Vincent fans out there that thought it was a travesty that we went multiple seasons without seeing or hearing from our favorite Island dog, he makes an appearance throughout the episode, including the scene with Rose and Bernard. Desmond agrees to go with Locke and do what he wants so he can avoid having Rose and Bernard’s blood on his hands. Meanwhile Jack, Hurley, Sawyer and Kate realize that they need to go to the cave of light near the bamboo field that Jacob told them about. Jack explains that Locke and Desmond are likely going to the same place and that this will be the place where they finally face off. On the other side of the Island, Miles and Richard come across Lapidus, who is miraculously alive, and together, they attempt to get the plane up and running. This all happens within the first fifteen minutes, and with two hours and fifteen minutes remaining, the episode kicked into its highest gear and didn’t look back.
Attempting to explain the plot would be a disaster, as it’s completely secondary to the character development that the writers focus on. Sure, there’s an epic and long overdue Jack and Locke fight, and there’s some unbearable tense moments involving the Island and the mysterious cave of light at its heart. However, the alternate universe was the heart of this episode, and as the characters slowly began to awaken from their blindness, we were given some of the show’s greatest emotional moments. I’ve only cried during one movie or television show (I’m not ashamed to admit that it was The Green Mile.. I mean, if you didn’t feel an inkling of sadness when they strapped John Coffey into the electric chair, I declare that you have no soul), but watching Charlie and Claire, Sawyer and Juliet and Jack and Kate reunite brought an undeniable weight to my eyelids and an uncomfortable itchy feeling to my throat; these are clear signs of tears waiting to escape. “Lost” has always been an emotional show, but the writers were brave to ignore the audience’s need for answers to pointless mythological questions and focus on explaining to us what these characters all lived and died for.
And I must admit, what a glorious life these characters lived throughout six years. We got to see the return of a lot of familiar faces, and also got to see some vastly under-used characters get the screen-time they deserved. Frank Lapidus, who was supposedly dead at the end of “The Candidate,” returned to help fix the plane, providing plenty of his sarcastic and cynical lines to keep the others motivated. Miles and Richard, despite not being given much to do, had a few interesting moments. Richard learns that without the power of the Island, he no longer has the power of immortality. The scene where Miles finds his first gray hair was funny yet profound at the same time. And who can forget Miles’ line near the end of the episode: “ I don’t believe in a lot of things… but I do believe in duct tape.” Oh Miles… you may have just been the freighter’s version of Sawyer, but you made us laugh until our stomach hurt. Rose and Bernard brought their usual homeliness, and seeing Elizabeth Mitchell back in the Juliet role instead of her Erica character in “V” was refreshing (nothing against “V,” but her character is staler then popcorn found in deep in the abyss of my couch).
The biggest complaint that I’ve heard about the finale and about the show as a whole was the lack of answers. I do admit that the writers put the plot and the show’s mythology ahead of its characters for awhile in the middle seasons, which was a giant “long con” to us, the audience, to quote a phrase from Mr. James Ford. The first season introduced to us an Island full of strangers who slowly realize that they need each other to survive, and that even in their past lives, they were helping each other without realizing it. The show lost that sense of camaraderie somewhere in the middle, and thankfully, the show-runners reminded us of how great these men and women were for six years. In the finale, Jack and Locke had a conversation as they lowered Desmond into the cave. Locke chuckles to himself and asks Jack if the situation reminded him of the days when they were trying to get in and out of the Hatch. Jack's face remains grim as he says the following:
"You're not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face, but you're nothing like him. Turns out he was right about most everything. I just wish I could have told him that while he was still alive."
Even though the true Locke wasn't in this scene, we still could feel his impact through Matthew Fox's acting. The pure emotion on Jack's face as he delivered this line, as if he regretted every second he didn't believe in Locke, helped us learn more about these two characters then any other line in the episode. Watching Hurley and Ben work together to save Jack reminded me of those great character moments, as did the scene where Kate attempted to convince Claire to go with them on the plane. Characters drove this finale and drove this show towards its conclusion.
That's not to say that the rest of the finale or show was sub-par. Although I was inclined to enjoy what was going on in the alternate universe more, the Island still gave us some superb scenes. The fight between Jack and Locke was messy, quick and angry, summing up their relationship in just a few short minutes. As strange and unfulfilling as the cave scenes were (honestly, the fact that there was a literal cork keeping the gates of Hell shut at the heart of the Island just seems a bit strange to me), it lead to one of Jack's most courageous moments, and his death scene on the Island was incredible. The show came around full circle as he laid down and died with Vincent at his side, the same way the series began back in 2004. While our characters' ultimate destiny remains unknown (we know that Hurley, Ben and Desmond remained on the Island, along with Rose and Bernard, while Kate, Sawyer, Richard, Miles and Lapidus all escaped on the Ajira flight, but we don't know how they lived their lives), none of those details mattered, just as none of the details of the Island matter in this particular story. The legend of the mysterious Island is a story for another show, a spin-off show that will likely never happen (unless we throw a nuclear bomb into an electromagnetic well and try to create an alternate universe where Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have an epiphany and spin-off "Lost"). This show is about these characters and how they influenced the history of the Island.
The final scene in the alternate universe is likely to be the scene that garners the most attention and will keep fans talking for months after it's air-date. In the final scene, Jack enters a church where every person he knew on the Island is waiting for him. All of them have been awakened and know that there is another reality and that the one they're currently inhabiting is not the real one. However, Jack remains the sole person who hasn't realized this. He approaches his father's coffin, places his hand on it and suddenly remembers everything about the Island, every tragic memory, and every incredible moment spent with the people he grew to know and love. He opens the coffin and finds it empty. Christian then materializes behind him and informs him that him and all of his friends here are dead, that they've been waiting for him to wake up so they can remember and eventually move on. Essentially, we learn that the alternate universe was actually not an alternate universe created by Juliet's bomb, but instead a purgatory that exists as a way for these characters who all influenced and helped one another to meet up after their death. Whether they died at the beginning of the show or seventy years after they left the Island, each of these characters eventually went to this "waiting room," where they waited until they could all move on together to a better place, whether it's heaven or some other kind of final resting place. The last shot is of the survivors (most of them anyways) paired up with their significant others and the ones that they loved as Christian opens a door that spills a brilliant white light throughout the room, and Jack's face is drowned in its glow. At the same time, the show cuts to Jack on the Island as his eye closes for the last time. The final image he sees is of his friends leaving the Island.
Whether or not you enjoyed the finale will likely hinge on whether or not you cared more about the plot or the characters. The writers made a grave mistake by introducing so many different mythological points and not delivering on any of them. There was also a lot of misdirection throughout the season, as we were lead to believe that Juliet was responsible for these flash-sideways when it turns out that her sacrifice lead to nothing but a jump forward in time. The writers also claimed that purgatory was not the correct explanation for what the Island was, and while they told the truth, using it as the ending to the show feels like a little bit of a cheap way out. My main problem, however, lays with the lack of some of the show's best characters. I'm talking about Walt and Mr. Eko. Both were written out of the show at the peak of their respective threads and in every flash-forward, flash-sideways or hallucination, these two were missing, and it's a shame they couldn't get them to come back. If this show is a character study, then the show-runners did a bad job at giving us closure with every character.
However, there are months upon months to re-watch the show and decide whether or not this was the correct ending. All I know is that "The End" tugged violently on my heartstrings and left me amazed at what I had just witnessed. The finale may have been flawed in more ways then one, but the reason why it succeeded in the long run is because it wasn't flawed in the way it finished the stories of these characters. The alternate universe turned out to be an epilogue of sorts, a way of honoring these characters' deaths by remembering why they were great people to begin with. The finale was a reminder to Lost fans that (and I quote this from multiple sources, whether it's folks on a forum or other fellow Lost aficionados) the show is "about the journey and not the destination." Fortunately, the show's journey was breath-taking, and its destination, despite troublesome to some of us, left me feeling satisfied. I'll look back on this finale and probably think of dozens of other things that I loved and a few more that I despised. That's all in the past now, and as Jacob told us, it only ends once. As Jack's eye closed for the last time on "Lost," we all must cope with the fact that we're closing the final page in the saga of one of television's greatest dramas. See you in another life, yeah?
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