Lost Season 6 Final Episode: The End
There’s no getting around it. We are having a mighty tough time writing this review. Like the episode itself, our reactions to it are somewhat hard to quantify. Don’t get us wrong; that was a very enjoyable night of television, no doubt about it. We wanted big blubbery scenes and we got them in spades. No complaints on the Kleenex front.
What absolutely floored us, however, were the last 15 minutes, which left us sitting in our chairs for at least an hour after the show ended staring off into the distance and occasionally uttering a surprised “Oh,” or “Well…that happened.” Despite whatever misgivings we may have about it, that we had that kind of reaction means the ending was an entirely appropriate one for this show. Because when it was at its best, Lost could provoke the most delicious “WTF?!” reactions like nobody else could. OF COURSE Lost would end in a manner that dropped our jaws.
In the end, the credo of Lost wasn’t the oft-repeated “Live together, die alone.” It was “Live together, die together.” Or maybe “Live together, then all live happily ever after in heaven together.” But we can’t even go there. Not yet. Much like apparently all the characters in this story, we need to spend time in a fiction of our own making before we can deal with The End.
It’s possible that, like us, many of you may be having some trouble processing last night’s finale. Here’s what you need to know in order to move forward: all of that stuff? You know, that glowy, heart of the island, smoke monster, magic cork stuff? Not important. Toss it on the pile with the DHARMA Initiative and the Others. It doesn’t matter.
If you’re angry over that we can’t blame you. Should anyone ever decide to write the history of the red herring, Lost should get a couple of chapters all to itself. You see, the mysteries didn’t matter. They never really mattered. It was always about the people. The mysteries were just a way to propel the story forward, to get these characters to their natural endpoints.
Now, we didn’t go into this finale with a checklist or even any hard and fast predictions as to how it was going to go down. We just wanted to be entertained and have the story wrap up in a satisfying manner. We got that, mostly. But we’re sad to say the island side of the story got short shrift as it mainly consisted of everyone running around in multiple directions, occasionally shooting each other or throwing punches at each other until some people got off the island and some people didn’t. Oh and Smokey dies. And then Jack puts a cork in it (literally) because all that stuff about Desmond being really important turns out to have been, you guessed it, a red herring.
On the other hand, in the L.A. “timeline,” we got one ridiculously emotional scene after another. Of all the tearful reunions, it would be hard for us to pick a favorite okay we’re lying it’s Juliet and Sawyer. We were blubbering when Claire and Charlie were reunited but we absolutely LOST IT when Juliet and James fell into each other’s arms. When he half-whispered “Juliet, it’s me,” Skaters the world over cried out in despair. It was Juliet, bitches. It was ALWAYS Juliet.
But no emotional reunion could prepare us for the jaw-dropping whallop of the final scenes, which revealed that there is no “sideways timeline.” The hydrogen bomb detonated at the end of Season 5 didn’t do a thing but propel the Losties out of the ’70s and back to the present day. When James received a post-death message from Juliet that “it worked,” the writers were giving us the ultimate fakeout. How were we to know that she was referring to her method of unsticking a candy bar from a candy machine rather than altering history by setting off an atomic bomb? How were we to know that these weren’t flash sideways we were seeing all season, they were flashforwards – WAY forwards? Like, end-of-the-line, forwards? If nothing else, attention must be paid to the writers for pulling it off.
But we can’t really go any further until we really address our feelings about that ending. Our initial reactions to it were overwhelmingly negative. They’ve softened somewhat with a second viewing and we’ll go so far as to say it rather brilliantly casts the entire series in a new light, but that doesn’t’ mean we don’t have problems with it.
Our main problem is this: it’s “easy” from a writing standpoint to give all the characters in your story a happy ending when you decide the ending is going to be “and they all went to heaven in a little row boat.” ANY story can have a happy ending if you take it that far. “And then Romeo and Juliet met in heaven and were happy forever.”
And coming right on the tails of that problem is this one: if you ARE going to have a “and then they all went to heaven” ending, don’t literally depict them all going to heaven, being led by “Christian Shephard” straight out the doors of a church and into the white light. If you’re going to hit us over the head that hard, you might as well give them all wings and harps while you’re at it. We would have had a much easier time accepting this needlescratch of a plot twist if it didn’t look so Touched by an Angel cheesy.
We should stop and make sure we’re all on the same page because a minimum of internet grazing shows that a lot of people are confused. To recap: everything on the island, everything we’ve been watching for 6 seasons, happened exactly as we saw it. The island was real but the sideways “timeline” we’ve been watching all season is basically purgatory for the Losties. It’s the place they all went to after they died; a meetup point before they all head off to the white light arm-in-arm because apparently they all want to go together. Jack died on the island after putting the magic cork back in the Freudian hole and the last thing he saw was the Ajira flight passing overhead with Kate, Sawyer, Miles, Frank and Richard on it. Hurley stayed on the island as its protector with Ben acting as his second in command.
We don’t know what happened to Kate or Sawyer or anyone else on that plane; just that they escaped and lived lives of an indeterminate length. When Kate put her hands on Jack’s face in the sideways world and said, her voice deep with emotion, “I have missed you so much,” it’s implied that she lived a good while after Jack died and she mourned him her whole life. We also don’t know how long Hurley remained as the island’s protector but when he compliments Ben’s tenure as his Number Two and Ben warmly and sincerely compliments Hurley for his tenure as Number One, it’s implied that they were on the job for a while at least. There are a whole host of tantalizing questions raised by these endings and we don’t mind the ambiguity a bit. Maybe Miles sold Nikki and Paolo’s diamonds and everyone on the Ajira return flight lived happily ever after off the proceeds. Maybe Kate and Sawyer hooked up again after a while. Maybe they never saw each other again. Maybe Hurley and Ben spent a thousand years on the Smoke-free Island o’ Fun. We’ll never know, but it’s fun to speculate.
Anyway, back to All Losties Go to Heaven.
We don’t want to say we completely hate the idea. Yes, it gave the writers a massive shortcut to happy endings for all, and yes, it was distressingly Hallmarkian in its depiction, but it was of a piece with the stated philosophies of the show. “I’ll see you in another life, brother.” “Live together, die alone.” And even if it’s taking a lot of effort to completely accept it, we have to salute the creators for their audaciousness.
There’s a reason we’re not talking about what happened on the island in this episode. In the end, it didn’t matter. Okay, no, that’s not quite accurate. Desmond had it wrong. It DID matter; it’s just that it wasn’t what the story was ABOUT. Yes, Desmond uncorked the island, which drained the magical pool inside Mount Doom and turned Smokey into a human, the better for Jack to beat him senseless. Then other things happened and Jack gets stabbed and he has to put the cork back in, but before he does that he makes Hurley the new Jacob (go Hurley!) and then he dies while the unlikely band of Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Lapidus, Miles and Richard finally escape the island for good.
But like we said, that wasn’t what the story was about. All of that island drama, that wasn’t what the story was EVER about, hard as that may be to accept. The plane crash and the Others and the time travel and the DHARMA initiative and even the war between Smokey and Jacob, all of those events were just a means to an end; tools to tell the story of the salvation of all of these characters. And while it ended on a distressingly unimaginative literal religious note, we don’t mean “salvation” in the strictly Christian sense. This was the story of a group of people who saved themselves and saved each other; who all went from being desperately unhappy and unloved to finding the best of themselves and the best in other people. It’s the story of how a bunch of sinners made it to heaven.
We think we’ve taken the traditional paragraph structure as far as it can go. It’s time for the bullet points. Get yourself a snack. There are a lot of them.
* We don’t think we’re going out on a limb when we say a LOT of the viewership is going to be pissed that so many questions remain unanswered. We don’t share that point of view but we honestly can’t blame anyone who does. For us, the show really was all about the characters and in the end we didn’t need to know why women couldn’t have babies on the island or why Walt was special. We needed to know how it finally, for-real ended. We have no complaints on that front. If you do have complaints, well, Namaste. We feel for ya.
* As much as we bitch about the purgatory setup, we cannot deny that because of it, we were treated to one emotionally satisfying scene after another. We’ve been through so much with these characters that all they had to do is look at each other with recognition and say each other’s names and we were bawling. Claire and Charlie, Sayid and Shannon, Jack and Kate and ohmigod child we fell out Juliet and Sawyer.
* In addition, the post-death scenario allowed characters to say deeply meaningful things that they never would have gotten the chance to in life. Ben and John Locke got one final beautiful scene together as John forgave the penitent Ben for killing him. A minute later and we got another fantastic moment between Ben and Hurley that spoke of a longstanding and respectful friendship we never got a chance to see.
* The amusement etched on Sun and Jin’s face when they saw that James had imagined himself a detective was utterly priceless. As priceless as the sheer joy etched on John Locke’s face when he got the ultimate vindication, when he found out he was right all along.
*Even though we found his survival of the sub explosion a little implausible, it was great to see Lapidus do what he was meant to do and fly that damn plane home. Additionally, we knew we couldn’t leave that island without checking in on the Nadlers and Rose and Bernard did not disappoint. They still didn’t want anything to do with any of the drama. The only smart ones on that island. Hopefully, they hung out with Hurley for a couple centuries after he was put in charge. Otherwise he only had Ben and dead people to talk to.
*It seemed odd that Smokey was dispatched relatively quickly but like we said, the story wasn’t about him. It was satisfying enough just to see him die, especially because we got a return of kickass Kate, who put the bullet in him that finally stopped him. Had they made him any more important he would have taken the focus away from the main characters, and he, thankfully, turned out not to be one of them.
* As weird as the whole “corking the island” thing was, it was still a nice callback to the end of Season 1 when Jack and Locke were peering down the deep hole of the hatch. Good on Jack for sticking up for Locke: “You’re not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face.”
*How heartbreakingly cute was the expression on Hurley’s face the first time he laid eyes on Charlie in the afterlife?
* There are questions, some intriguing and some infuriating, regarding what the purgatory scenarios say about the characters involved. Why are Jin and Sun unmarried in their purgatory? Why did it guest-star Keamey? Why did Claire’s post-death scenario revolve around Aaron’s birth? Why did Jack imagine himself a son? Why did Juliet, for that matter? Why was Nadia married to Sayid’s brother? If we go with the idea that this reality was entirely created by the people inhabiting it, which is what Jack’s father said (“This is a place that you all made together so you could find each other.”), then the various characters were either punishing themselves (like Sayid) or rewarding themselves (Hurley, Jack). We have a feeling Lost geeks will be debating these questions for years to come.
* Jack and Kate’s final goodbye on the island was beautifully written and beautifully performed by the both of them. “Tell me I’m gonna see you again.” We didn’t think they could make us believe it, but by the end, their love for each other felt real and all-encompassing. Sawyer may have understood her criminal side and pushed her buttons effectively, but in the end it was Jack who challenged her and made her a better woman.
* In fact, this entire episode can serve as Matthew Fox’s Emmy reel. In an episode chock full of personal best performances, he really knocked it out of the park in every scene. Who didn’t tear up when he wept and hugged his father? Who didn’t LOSE IT when Vincent curled up next to him? And while we’re handing out the acting awards…
* “It needs to be you, Hugo.” God DAMN, Hurley! Stop making us cry! JESUS. That scene when he realized Jack intended to die and that he was the real replacement for Jacob all along was DEVASTATING. Jorge Garcia really nailed it. We are going to miss Hurley so much.
* But not as much as we’re going to miss the fabulously complex Benjamin Linus. Was Ben not ready to go to heaven because he still felt like he had sins to atone for or because he wanted to spend more time living his perfect life with Alex? We tend to think it’s a little of both. He was truly and deeply sorry for all the pain he caused and we think it was wise for the writers not to show him entering heaven at the end of it all. With all the truly shitty things he’s done, that would have been a bit much to take.
* Ending the series on Jack’s eye closing was so perfect that we’re ashamed we didn’t see it coming. A haunting and poetic way to end the story. This really was Jack’s story all along. And considering how much we HATED the guy for a good many seasons there, attention must be paid both to the writers and to Matthew Fox who turned this character around and made his final fate a tearjerker to remember.
* In the end, whether you like the way it was wrapped up or not, Lost managed to tell an engrossing story that spanned centuries, took 6 years and 120 hours of viewing time to tell, introduced you to a massive cast of characters and then filled you in on every single detail of their lives, from birth to death and beyond, and captivated us with its spiritual and yet deeply humanistic story. What initially attracted us to Lost was not the mysteries of polar bears and French distress signals; it was the idea that every person has a story and that we all go in and out of each other’s lives, sometimes over and over again, without realizing how much of an effect we have on the people around us. In the end, it’s about the connections we make and how they make us better people. On that level, we can think of no better ending than the one we got last night. Thank you, Lost. We’re going to miss you terribly but you’ve captivated us and left so much unanswered (to varying degrees of frustration) that we know we’re still going to enjoy you for years to come.
[Picture credit: ABC TV]