Hit the jump for my thoughts on the series finale of Lost. Obviously, there will be loads of spoilers so consider yourself alerted to common sense.
“The End” was a lot to take in. I will say that the convergence of the two realities was sound both in narrative and in theme. Whether that ending was fulfilling or not is the question. I can tear up pretty easily at TV and movies because I’m a big sap. But I didn’t feel particularly uplifted by this episode although there were moments here and there that got me. I suppose it ultimately comes down to whether or not you thought that the characters earned their emotions that came with their “awakening” in the alternate reality.
First off, here’s how I interpreted Christian’s explanation: the alternate reality wasn’t “what if Oceanic 815 hadn’t crashed?” or even “what if Jacob had never entered their lives?” It was a reality forged by a group of people brought together by fate but who forged their own destiny. And I like that concept. But the execution presented something different.
Lost was about how we are the choices we make. The finale seemed to come to the conclusion that we are the choices someone else made. Even if these alternate-universe figures were created by the actions of those on the island and their alternate universe-selves did experience the lives of the primary-universe characters, it feels like a cheat. A big argument over this finale will be whether or not you think the alternate-universe characters earned their happiness. I don’t feel like they did. The characters in the alternate universe (which I guess we can just call “purgatory” at this point because for all intents and purposes, that’s what it was), were given the benefits of the lives lived by those on the island. It’s why I felt everything that was happening on the island tonight to be immediate and gripping whereas everything off-island felt like what we wanted as an audience. We wanted to see Ben apologize to Locke and have Locke forgive him. We wanted to see everyone be happy.
I also don’t like the idea that our actions are a test and that if we do good things, then we’ll be reunited with everyone we love and we can have all the sky-cake* we want. The flash-backs and flash-forwards informed how we live our lives in the present. The flash-sideways turned out to be how we live our afterlives. That may work down at the Heaven Spaceship** at the launch pad at the Church of Non-Denominational. I didn’t feel like the narrative cheated and I think that while they muddled through at times, Lindelof and Cuse kept the story from spiraling out of control. But in using that control to provide a happy ending, I felt that the characters had been cheated.
Some will feel that the finale negates the entire series. I don’t think it does. In fact, I think that part of what makes the ending so wishy-washy is that it wants the best of both worlds. The island timeline really did happen and the events in purgatory won’t change that. But season six was a wash. It kept the characters separate for too long, squandered time on silly elements like the events at the Temple, and could be clunky when it was trying to provide long-awaited answers to burning questions. Doing character-centric episodes turned out not only to be a waste of time since the purgatory characters were simply products of their past selves, but the flash-sideways didn’t deliver offer intriguing point in the first place. Obviously, if we made different choices, our lives would be different as a result. The finale showed that those choices didn’t matter anyway because they were negated by life on the island.
Life (and death) on the island is what mattered. Every moment of emotional resonance came from those events. While I was particularly incensed that the show decided to turn Desmond into a “weapon” (i.e. plot device) rather than keep him as the character with doubts, desires, fears, etc that we all loved, almost everything on the island worked for me (although Kate killing Locke and following it up with a one-liner slightly deflated the culmination of the Smoke Monster’s death). I made it a point never to have a confident prediction on what would happen on Lost, but I hoped that the final shot would be a close-up of an eye closing and I was happy that’s what we got. They earned that moment. Now imagine if that moment wasn’t from six seasons worth of story, but from a half-hour recap. That’s what I felt happened with the purgatory characters.
You won’t find me calling people stupid for liking this finale. There were parts I liked very much (Lapidus lives!). I can understand how someone would like this conclusion. More than anything, I would just like to thank everyone involved with the show for a singular television experience. I’ve enjoyed sitting down to watch every episode since the pilot aired in September 2004, even if I didn’t enjoy every episode. The show may be over, but I look forward to returning to the island and making the journey again when the box set comes out in August.
*Patton Oswalt, My Weakness Is Strong
**I took “Heaven Starship” from The Goods