That’s the one thing you really need to take away from last night’s finale of Lost, super appropriately entitled “The End.” Your favorite TV show is going to end some day (and it was probably yesterday), but not just that, your friendships may end some day. Your relationships. Your circumstances will change. You will have amazing journeys in your life, but even that, some day, will come to an end.
To me, what the finale did was, in a lot of ways, a truly amazing feat. It gave everyone resolution, not just all the characters, but the audience as well. Everyone got what they wanted, whether they realized they wanted it or not. And they definitely got what they needed. And creators/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were certainly honest about something heading into this last episode about what you should be expecting from it, and that was an answer to just one question: “What is the Sideways world?”
Cause this seems to be an episode that, if initial internet reaction is to be believed, has been just about 90% hated. I’m okay with that, but also… not. It only confirms for me further that Lost is our Seinfeld this decade, so of course the ending was despised (and, in that regard, were the 90s about “nothing” and the 00s about “everything?”). But I think it’s a shame that people didn’t like and/or didn’t get the ending. One person on twitter said something to the effect last night of “the finale made me feel like the previous six years were nothing but rape now.” I think that’s a bit strong, but there’s also a meta-answer to that in there somewhere. More on that in a second too.
First things first: This was a wacky, crazy, amazing, beautiful, tragic, mystifying sci fi show about polar bears on a magical island, time travel, synchronicity, esoteric theorizing, faith and hope and both the depths and heights of the human condition. But it was first a show about the characters. I’m sure the producers would have loved to have tackled time travel and paradox theories in the first season, but they couldn’t. No one would’ve watched it, so they got smart and they put the characters first. The show didn’t always succeed, there were some pacing issues here and there, and of course some answers we’d still love to possess (like who was shooting at our heroes on those outriggers in season 5?), but has any show ever came and succeeded as hard as this one?
From episode to episode, you weren’t just watching the show to see answers to questions, you were watching the show to see where the characters went next, and what would happen to them. You cared about that. Sure, the crazy shit going on the island was wonderful, and really, it was a mystery show. But a mystery show with characters at it’s heart. And the mystery aspects only strengthened the human element to all of this.
But for the people who say, “but this is just a TV show!” perhaps don’t understand why we tell ourselves stories. Or why we do TV, or how rare it is for it to actually work out this well. And a mystery is nothing but a story, and that’s what Lost was: a TV show about stories. And it’s a show that asks you to do a little bit of thinking.
On Island last night: Jack is the new Jacob. He’s got to find Desmond, who’s the key to everything, either sinking the Island or it’s salvation. The Locke-ness Monster is also after Desmond, firmly believing that he’ll be the key to putting this Island on the bottom of the ocean. Desmond’s been rescued by Rose and Bernard, and he’s all too happy to go with Locke (to save Rose and Bernard).
On their way to the Source, Locke, Ben, and Desmond encounter Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, and Kate. Jack and Locke have a truly sassy showdown and, classically, have a difference of opinion. They both want to go to the Source, and both want to lower Desmond into it to do what he has to. They just think the other’s wrong.
I’m not going to go recap every single moment here, but eventually Locke and Jack work together to lower Desmond down into the cavernous room below the waterfall which is the Source of the Light. The Man In Black seems so eager, in some ways, to be Locke, to fit into a dichotomy with Jack like Locke, and Jack puts him in his place. And at the bottom of the waterfall, Desmond finds what is essentially a cork and when he pulls it out, the Light goes away. The “goodness” seeps away and is replaced by something darker, more red…
And I’ve said this before, but one of the things I’ve always loved about Lost is that there are answers for everything. You may never get them, but it’s there somewhere. When you look at the room where the Source was, it’s so clearly designed by someone. And all of those skeletons! Memento mori, yes, but… There’s a story there. Probably quite a few, in fact. You’ll never know what it is. That’s up to you. You decide what it is. And if you don’t want to think up some heavy, almost scientific and fantastical reasoning, then the show never really stops you from saying…
From there we get some truly great moments: The Man In Black is corporeal again, a real human. Jack was wrong, and the Man In Black makes a move for the cliffs by where Jacob’s cave was and where the Man In Black has a boat waiting. And that’ll be the scene of Jack and Locke’s final battle there, in the rain, with Jack orchestrating a truly impressive flying punch, and getting his ass handed to him. It wouldn’t be any kind of finale to this show if Jack wasn’t having the stuffing beat out of both his body and his spirit. The Man In Black’s knife finds Jack’s gut and later nicks his neck and we see those same scars and cuts that have been plaguing Jack in the Sideways universe…
Meanwhile, Richard Alpert and Miles are making their way to Hyrda Island, still thinking they need to blow up the Ajira plane and along the way, they find something we’ve all wanted to see again: FRANK LAPIDUS.
And eventually the Man In Black finds what all humans eventually find: death. At the hands of Kate, no less. And now Sawyer and Kate have to get moving, to get to the Hydra island to meet Lapidus and Miles and Richard Alpert (who may start aging and live out the rest of his life?) and take off while there’s still ground to take off from. But first… Kate has to say goodbye to Jack.
And then, back at what used to be the Source, Jack has to transfer his powers and duties and responsibilities. And as much as Hurley believed in Jack, so does Jack believe in Hurley. And as much as Jack being the protector of the Island made sense, it makes even more sense for Hurleybro to have this job. And for Jack to do something else for the Island: to become it’s fixer, because after what Desmond has done, what the Island needs now is a Doctor.
And Jack goes down into that cave and he pulls up Desmond – I kept wanting him to say “You’ve got to lift it up,” but he didn’t, and it was okay – and tells him to go home and be with his wife and kid and live his life. And Jack put the cork back into the Island (was that Hell leaking out, as Jacob originally said?). And it took everything out of him. And watching it took everything out of me.
It was amazing seeing Jack be wrong again, then finally being right in a way that really mattered. And now the Island has new God/messianic figure, one with a proclivity for saying “Dude,” and who makes copious references to Star Wars.
But let’s go back to the Sideways world… It was brilliant in a lot of ways, which I find myself so surprised saying because it was one of the things I looked forward to the least this past season. It kept seeming like the “Wouldn’t it be nice?” world and it was. Everyone went to the concert and then everyone found their true love or their true purpose and in doing so, they remembered who they were.
All except Jack, who resisted because… well, there’s a lot of interpretations there. For a man who spent most of this past season trying to kill himself in some way, shape, or form, perhaps he’s the man who most clung to life?
All of those beautiful moments: Locke’s rebirth after his legs worked again. Sawyer and Juliet at the vending machine and their lovely call back to “LA X” with “Want to get coffee some time?” Hell, just the fact that Juliet was back at all was amazing to me, as she literally lit up my TV screen, easily glowing as bright as the light at the heart of the Island. And Kate finding Jack, remembering who she was because of him. “That’s not how you know me.” I like that Jack was probably Kate’s true love, but she wasn’t his (something we’ve been saying here for a while now). No, Jack probably couldn’t have allowed himself to really feel that, not when he was so tightly wound, so strong lost in his own past…
And then there’s the very end and Jack finds his father. He’s not in the coffin. He’s there, standing before, with love in his eye, and he explains. And Jack understands. He’s dead. Everyone in the Sideways world is dead. It’s a kind of purgatory, or rather, a sort of limbo, a holding place, if you will, that they’ve all created together in their collective unconscious, united by the amazing things they did on the Island, and a place for them to maybe work on their karma and to find a balance missing in their lives before they move into the afterlife.
I mentioned before how similar Lost was to The Invisibles, and this is exactly how The Invisibles ends: At the end of the world, no one dies, but instead enters the Supercontext, a place created by their collective unconscious in which they can find a balance and be happy. It also puts forth the notion that the ultimate ending, the one that is more possibly than we usually realize, is one in which everyone gets exactly what they want. We love Buddhist ideas here in the West. We also love An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge and The Third Policeman and Jacob’s Ladder, yes.
It’s kind of funny to watch the internet reaction in that regard. “It’s a rip off of Jacob’s Ladder!” some cry out. Or, “They totally stole that from An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge!” I love seeing the way people skew there. Those who know of Jacob’s Ladder don’t know of The Third Policeman or haven’t ever heard the name Ambrose Bierce. Or Alan Moore’s Superman tale, “For The Man Who Has Everything.” But… It all fits. It all works. It’s all beautiful, and just another piece in the puzzle.
And I said that the ending to this episode was perfect for everyone, right? Cause it is. On one hand, for those of you who wouldn’t want to see your characters get an amazing resolution in the Sideways universe, you have real Island endings: Jack dies. Hurley and Ben will now run the Island. They won’t do things the same, they won’t continue the patterns they’ve inherited. Kate and Sawyer and Claire and Miles and Richard Alpert and Frank Lapidus will fly away to safety. Jack will go to his resting place, to the spot between the bamboo trees where he first awoke on the Island and he’ll watch his friends’ plane fly away overhead and Vincent will come and keep him company in his last resting place…
And the Sideways world negates none of that. Not a single thing, nor does it betray the interest you’ve developed in this show over the years, and it shouldn’t harm the connection you’ve made with it. It just shouldn’t.
As Christian (loved Kate’s line: “Christian Shephard? Really?”) said, “Everyone dies.” Some of the people in that church died before Jack and some died after. And it makes clear that everything was real. Whatever happened, happened. But they came back together at the end, and remember how we were talking about how time didn’t seem to make sense in the Sideways world? Well, that’s because, there is no time there. There is no now. And when they’re ready and they’ve accepted who they are and who they were, they’ll move on. And those who aren’t ready yet, like Ben or Faraday or Ana Lucia, they won’t go yet. They’ll stay behind and work out what they need to and then, as Lord Of The Rings put it, then they can “sail west.” They can go to the Gray Havens.
In fact, they really should’ve filmed that Jimmy Kimmel special in a church just to echo those last moments with everyone together. I don’t really like Jimmy Kimmel, but the special was interesting, especially watching it pretty near after the beautiful, almost immaculate ending of the episode, when you’re still in shock, still coping.
Right after the end of the episode I went back to watch the beginning of “LA X” and… it works nicely, in my opinion. Jack looks out the window of Oceanic 815 and then looks around the interior of the plane almost as if he’s startled to be back there, struggling to recognize something. The plane hits turbulence and he clings to the arm rest for dear life and it’s broken by Rose’s gentle voice, telling him it’s okay, and that “you can let go now.” It’s so pointed and beautiful when you watch it with new eyes.
And of course the Island is sunk in the Sideways world because in that existence, it’s out of everyone’s mind. They’ve sunk together.
And we can argue about when the happy Sideways reality begins, of course. It’s Jack’s story, of course, so it probably ends the moment Jack closes his eye and that Ajira 316 plane flying overhead could also be metaphorically his Oceanic 815 of his dreams, and Jack’s closing his eyes, going to his final sleep, perchance to dream, a dream of flying. But it all depends on your read: Maybe the Sideways world really did start when Juliet beat the hell out of Jughead at the bottom of that shaft. Or maybe that explosion just used the electromagnetic time travel energy of the Island to send them back to the present. Maybe in your view, Oceanic 815 crashed and everyone died and… Maybe the Sideways world only existed in Jack’s head alone, his final dream of a better life… Whatever way you look at it, you choose your own level of meaning and understanding.
“We should get coffee sometime.” Michael Giacchino. Jack Bender. The actors, every single one of them, not just in the finale but always. “I may not believe in a lot of things, but I believe in duct tape.” The fact that we got as little Boone as possible. How Kate looked in that dress. The idea of Hurley and Ben running the Island together. The fact that the Source is fed from two different streams. That flying punch! The weird shots of the castaways’ beach on the Island, featuring the wreckage of Oceanic 815, (an insert by the good folks at the American Broadcast Network) but devoid of people, reminiscent of the ending of Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a pilot.” All those amazing awakenings and FLASHBACKgasms. The fact that you even have to relook at the episode titles of this past season with new meaning (“LA X” no longer refers to just another universe, but a crossroads of sorts). All of the episodes really, referenced tonight (“The Long Con”) or not (Just think about “Enter 77” now). The idea of Aaron with two moms (that’s a spin off that is literally dying to happen). Hurley saying to Sayid, “You can’t let other people tell you who you are,” because, well, we all play parts and roles. “I’ll see you in another life, brotha!” There’s so many things that we could be talking about, so many great things…
Watching the finale last night, I kept my eye half on twitter during the commercials and it was interesting seeing people saying a lot about how the finale was a love letter to itself and spent a lot of time self referencing. And I agree. And I think it worked beautifully. For a sci fi show about characters and people, I think the end is about us. We’ve all got to come together on this one, and accept it and appreciate it, and then it’s time to move on…
And in that vein, because I don’t want to philosophize on Lost alone (nor would I want to push that button alone), so I asked some of my fellow Counterforcers to weigh in and I want to share with you what they had to say, and then, despite everything happened in “The End,” the very last thing I want to say about this show is exactly the same, not changed at all, and I’ll share that with you, but first…
I could have watched a dozen more “awakening” moments in the sideways world, they were just perfect TV.
It dawned on me at about the 2 hour mark that, rather than wait for a big explosive end to explain everything, the writers instead were just going to willfully ignore some of the big mysteries. And I wasn’t annoyed at all. One of my favorite things about the show is speculating on the mysteries. Having those long, quasi-scientific conversations with friends about even random strangers about what something might mean on the show was half the fun. Lindelof and Cuse decided not to take that away from the fans. Sure, they could have just told us the island is a spaceship from the future and the smoke monster is evil nanotechnology, but why bother? If that’s your theory, it still holds water. This was a show that was famous for its fans’ speculation and debate; the way they left certain mysteries open to interpretation feels very much in keeping with its history.
Conrad Noir: I still don’t know what to think. I’m content with what happened but I don’t know what to feel at all. Maybe nothing, maybe so many things. What I do know was that was the most dragged out event in TV history. Did it really have to go to 11:30?
Oh yes. I believe I read somewhere that the finale was exactly 103 minutes. I would’ve killed for just an extra five more, if you know what I mean, but apparently there’s going to be an extended cut on the DVDs with 20 more minutes.
Benjamin: After the episode ended, I got up to take a leak. After that, I walked down the hall and suddenly started crying. I wasn’t happy or sad. It was like someone had reached inside me and turned all my emotional knobs up to 11. I was like Daniel Faraday, crying at the news of Flight 815 being found and not knowing why.
That’s how good the finale was.
Take a bow, Lost cast and crew, you did it.
Lola: Sometime ago I wrote a post asking whether or not I really wanted answers from LOST. I guess that Lindelof or Cuse are regular readers of Lovely Entropy because the finale contained next to no “answers.”
I watched the finale with my dad and when it ended, I turned to him and said: “What just happened?”
“What is the Dharma Initiative?” he asked me.
“I don’t know!” I yelled. “Where was Walt? WAAAALT!!!”
I think we all felt like that little necked kid in the Tootsie Roll Pop ad:
I was annoyed at first so I did what I always do when I’m annoyed by LOST: called my brother to complain while searching the internet for answers. As I was searching and complaining something dawned on me: everyone was confused and everybody wanted to talk about it. People were posting theories, they were cracking jokes or they were just outright complaining to people in the room with them, friends over the phone or outright strangers on the internet. Sure, there are people who are going to be annoyed no matter what happens, but the more I think about it the more I kind of liked the finale. It’s open-endedness gives it’s nerdy fanbase enough food for thought to last us until Terry O’Quinn & Michael Emerson’s pilot gets picked up. And not only that, but it saves us all from having to sit through anymore of the writer’s awful, half-assed answers (the whispers were dead people? Seriously LOST?). The finale, in my opinion, was genius in its laziness. The writers are happy because they don’t have to try to find answers that would appeal to everyone. The nerds are happy because they can keep talking about the show they love and ABC is happy because they made a boatload of money last night.
So, anyone have any idea what that church was about?
They can be reread time and again though, revisited, and relived. Just like your favorite song. Just like a game, if you want. It’s adaptive. You can make up your own versions for where the story ends, if you want, your own back stories, your own ideas for what happens to your favorite and least favorite characters after it fades to black.
But you know what else you can do when the story and the song and the game ends? You can start it over, you can return and begin again. You’ll see all the connections you missed, and the little moments will resonate even stronger with you…