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Television: Thoughts on Lost’s finale

Lost

Ever breaking convention, the Lost logo image just didn't fit into my standard 425x90 header size.

In a show that has spent six years spinning mystery after mystery and answering questions with new, stranger questions the ideal resolution would be a strong ending that ties everything up in a neat little bow. Lost didn’t have that.

It was clear quite a few episodes from the end that that wasn’t what Lost was heading towards though. An episode dedicated to the apparently ageless Richard, who it had been hinted had come to the island on the crashed Black Rock ship, told us that he… had come to the island on the crashed Black Rock ship after his wife died and obtained immortality by telling Jacob he wanted to live forever. No ritual, no explanation, just, “Now that I can do.”

Likewise, we knew Jacob and the Man in Black had been locked in a long battle on the island because the Man in Black wanted to leave, but neither was allowed to directly hurt the other. An episode dedicated to their history told us that… the origins of the conflict came about because the Man in Black wanted to leave the island and they weren’t allowed to hurt one another because their mother “made it” so they could never hurt eachother. That was the entire reason, with no explanation for how it works or how their mother received those powers.

The Island was ultimately revealed to be a place with a plug in some water in a cave that gave out lots of light, light that was part of the energy that flows through all life, and it’s that that people like Jacob need to protect. The Smoke Monster was Jacob’s brother, thrown into the pit of light by Jacob and somehow transformed. That lack of an explanation for what exactly the monster was means that right from the first season when it was first introduced the writers had no idea what it actually was, it was just mysterious and cool.

But if the mystery was ultimately unsatisfying the show had much better resolutions for the characters. The final season spent a lot of time in the “flashsideways” universe, what seemed to be at alternate timeline looking at how their lives would have played out had the plane not crashed on the island. There was evidence to point to it not being real though, with people being on the plane who weren’t and others missing who should have been, and as the season progressed it was clear that each character was living a different life to the one they should have been.

In this timeline each character kept running into others, making it all seem like fanfiction, but was all explained in the final minutes of the show by it being an afterlife waiting area of sorts (which was a common prediction for what the entire island was), a construct made from the minds of all the main characters while they waited to awaken and move on, and for me that really justified the flash sideways after being mildly annoyed by them throughout. In prior seasons we’ve seen flashbacks explain their past and tell us more about the characters, while in the flashsideways we were seeing how each character would have liked elements of their lives to be. Sawyer using his pain to become a cop instead of a con man, Jack having a family (though still haunted by his dead father), Desmond having a good relationship with Widmore, and so on. In the end everyone was reunited with their loved ones and they all moved on together, with a few notable absences of characters not yet ready to move on (Ben and Michael chief among them).

Then, of course, there was the island storyline itself. The reduced cast, completely stripped of extras by this point, were further whittled down with the deaths of Sun, Jin and Sayid just episodes from the finale in one dramatic swoop.   In the end the Man in Black died without ever leaving the island, Jack became the new Jacob but suffered a mortal injury fighting Locke, saving the island, allowing his friends to escape and passing the role of protector onto Hurley, who stayed on the island with Ben while Miles, Lapetus, Richard, Claire, Kate and Sawyer escaped on a plane. The only ambiguous fate was that of Desmond, who survived but didn’t leave with the others, essentially stranding him on the island away from Penny and his son, but with the potential for Hurley and Ben to find a way home for him.

So as far as the mystery was concerned I was ultimately disappointed, as it just seemed to confirm what seemed clear midway through the series, that even the writers didn’t know the answers. Back then the show did not have an end date and it was starting to feel like the writers weren’t sure what to do to keep the mysteries flowing, suggesting they were mostly making it up as they went along, and the ‘magic light’ resolution and the ultimate dependence on faith over answers fits in with that. Lack of answers aside, I look back on Lost fondly for the character arcs, the storytelling and the way it always held my interest, even if I’m very glad it’s over.

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