ZOË RICE: The final two and a half hours of Lost were both better and more disappointing than I expected. The ride was jam-packed with action and emotion. Awesome fight scenes, hugs and smiles, jumping off cliffs, tears tears tears. A few unexpected twists, a few much-hoped for explanations that just wouldn’t come. In the end it turns out that the show was about “Live together, die alone, but then live together again, except for the living part.”
“See you in another life, brutha.” Oh Desmond, how prophetic you are! Indeed, what happened happened. Our characters carried around their baggage, endured their trials, died too soon or after long lives, and then finally in this finale, let go. Emotionally, I feel fulfilled. The characters’ psychological arcs found resolution. The fact that this happened only after death isn’t as much my cup of tea, but I’m willing to accept it. My first gut reaction was literally to exhale “Oh, no” upon hearing Christian reveal what our “flash sideways” universe was all about. I had been looking forward to some cosmic-slash-electromagnetic-slash-island magic-slash-time space continuum science-fictiony resolution to unite the two worlds we’ve experienced this season, but I wouldn’t get that ending. Instead, the show continued with this season’s extra-spiritual slant and let our characters rest not only in peace but in the happiness they wished they’d had in life. Emotionally satisfying, yes. Intellectually, not as much.
Both Ted and I seem to have been dazzled by the more science-fiction mysteries of Lost, and alas those were the ones we would not see resolved. We won’t know why certain characters see or talk to the dead, why Aaron was prophesized to be so important, what the hell was supposed to happen to the rest of the world when that light thing went out, or countless other questions that have built up over the years and even past weeks. If I can accept that the flash sideways world is some kind of afterlife crash therapy session, then I can not accept that all the island’s many mysteries stem from a bright light. I confess I’m angry at the light. Of all the answers–of all the ways to explain the island’s importance–all we get is some generic yellow glow? That we learn nothing at all about? Except that hypothetically if it goes out, really bad things happen? Well, it did go out. And the island shook and crumbled a bit. Big deal. What else was happening? If this was the light of life and souls and love and everyone we care about, why did none of the non-Smokey characters seem any different once it was extinguished? Protect a light. That’s it. Jack, die for it. Hurley, devote your life to it. We’re not going to tell you why–just look, see how bright it is? Not enough for me.
I definitely appreciated the Hurley-as-protector twist, and I like that he seems able to do things differently than Jacob did. I so wish we could see Hurley and Ben as the island’s Jacob and Richard. Can there at least be webisodes? They’d so be the hottest thing out there. But should we now assume that Hurley doesn’t age? How did he drink the water without Jack first saying the spell-thing and still become “like” Jack? And how did Jack go down to the light and not become like Smokey? Obviously there are more questions now, and obviously they’ll remain just that. But I enjoy imagining the Hurley and Ben show. I enjoy imagining what Richard will think of the twenty-first century once he gets more time to explore it. The gray hair was a great moment, even if Richard doesn’t get to be a part of the afterlife party. Maybe his spirit is off galavanting with Michael.
Upon my first viewing of the closing credits, I was once again miffed. All that plane wreckage on the beach there. What’s that about? After all that “the island was the most important time of all your lives” flash sideways business, are the writers trying to tell us that in fact the plane just crashed and everyone died? And the island was another alternate reality lived out in post-death space time? I can’t believe that’s true. And in fact upon second viewing I noticed the footprints in the sand by the wreckage. So is that view of the wreckage on the beach (where has it been all this time?) what the island looks like after all the Losties are gone? Just the remnants of their crash left like the Black Rock as a marker of who came before? If so, the image would have been more impactful if I could remember ever having seen it before. For me it just became another confusing element that will never have an answer.
I am at peace with the end of Lost. I didn’t get the ending I wanted, but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by what happened in flash sideways land. These broken souls–chosen because they were like Jacob, flawed and spiritually lost–finally let go. Only together could they become the people they’d always wanted to be–perhaps that they were meant to be. Is that ending enough for me to call the finale a success? I can’t say that it is. I’m never gonna like that friggin’ light. But for many Lost fans, the act of watching this show was a communal experience. We discussed it, went to message boards, wrote blogs, shared our thoughts and feelings and hopes and disappointments. Lost was not a show to watch alone, and I think if that’s its only legacy then its creators will be satisfied.
TED BERG: So that’s it then, huh? No more Lost.
Now we know the FlashSideways timeline was some sort of vague purgatory, some way for all our favorite castaways to find each other in death so they could move onto some next step together. Something that’s not called Heaven, but certainly is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. But don’t worry, it’s not exclusively Christian heaven — the church’s stain-glass windows feature symbols from nearly every popular religion.
What we don’t know are answers to so, so many of the questions that bothered us throughout the series: Why can Hurley and Miles talk to dead people? Why can Walt kill birds with his mind? Why was Horace Goodspeed building Jacob’s cabin? For that matter, what the hell was Jacob’s cabin, if he actually lived in the bottom of the foot statue? Who built that statue, anyhow, and why? Why can’t women have children on the Island? How did the first person find the Island?
I could continue forever. Every question only begets another question, like Jacob’s mom said.
So the show, as I predicted last week, failed to come to any satisfying conclusions on either the philosophical or scientific mysteries that drove the plot throughout the first five seasons. It provided a really entertaining series finale, for sure. I didn’t even notice it took two and a half hours, and I didn’t want it to end when it did.
And I guess I’m not as disappointed as I thought I’d be because I already grew jaded by all the good vs. evil nonsense that dominated the sixth season. I remember, a few years ago, worrying that I would somehow die before I found out what happened on Lost. I still didn’t want to die last week, but not really for that reason. I guess it makes the end a little more bearable to know it all ended pretty poorly.
There are lessons here for TV makers, I think: If you start a longform mystery, know how it ends. It doesn’t seem that difficult, but since it’s a pretty common problem in novels, too, I suppose a lot of creators are content to meander through a plot and devise the ending when they feel it’s time. That’s bullshit, though. I’m a sucker for authorial control, and it seemed like the last season of Lost just sort of spun out on its own, off towards nebulous mysticism, way far away from the realm of ever making any sense.
Still, I don’t regret all the hours I spent watching and contemplating the show. Earlier today I compared the program to a dream: emotional, random, confusing, and, of course, chock full of naked hot people. And though so dreams almost never conclude in some neat way, the insight they provide and emotions they evoke are no less real. Lost made me think about a whole lot of things — philosophies, science, even metaphysics — I probably wouldn’t have thought about if I never saw the show. And so I should be thankful for that, even if there’s absolutely no way Shannon is Sayid’s soul mate.