LOST Recap: Series Finale: “The End”

25 05 2010

Wow, and I thought that “Across The Sea” was polarizing!  Coming in, there had to be some expectation that the finale would not be all things to all people.  We even discussed it here on this blog…it’s hard to stick the landing on a series finale.  In fact, it’s almost impossible…I can’t think of a single show I’ve watched that has pulled it off.  And even now, I think I can put LOST on that list of shows that didn’t quite pull off the ending.  But I might be getting a bit ahead of myself with that.  For this entry, I’m going to do my darnedest to separate the commentary and critique from the analysis.  What I want to do here is to share my thoughts and interpretations of what we saw on-screen.  And in a separate entry (one that I originally said I’d write in June but don’t think I can wait until then), I’ll comment on the series as a whole, and how the finale delivered in the grand scheme of the show’s overall structure.

So for now, let me get into the typical review, and see if I can share any insights with you that you haven’t potentially already seen somewhere else…

“The End”

I almost don’t need to comment on the multiple meanings here: the end of the show, the end of Jack’s journey, the end of the Smoke Monster, the end of this realm of existence…it’s all relevant.  You probably figured all of that out already, but I thought I’d mention it just in case.

“Christian Shephard?  Seriously?”

When you hear a quote like this at the start of the finale, it’s not too hard to think that the writers had something to the effect of the ending planned all along.  The Season 1 character was well-named for his role in the finale, as well as him being the catalyst for bringing Jack to the island.

“That Locke-smoke thing wants to put it out?”

There’s something that happened in the last few episodes of the show that wasn’t immediately evident to me until I did some re-watches.  Those of you that have been paying close attention to detail may have realized that Smokey’s motives seem to have changed in the show’s last few hours.  Wasn’t it that he wanted nothing more than to get off the island?  What’s up with him now wanting to put out the light in the cave?  Well, I think the answer is twofold, and they also may not be mutually exclusive.

First off, it may be that Smokey’s motives changed once he talked to Widmore and realized that he could potentially use Desmond as a way to disrupt the island’s light source.  Up until that point, it’s possible that Smokey didn’t think he could put out the light, and chose escape instead.  Alternately, it could be that he was looking to put out the light all along, thinking that was the only way to get off the island.  He could have believed that he had to kill all of the candidates first because if he didn’t, they’d potentially become Jacob’s successor and try to stop him.  It’s certainly possible that both are true, and that he was trying to kill the candidates so that they couldn’t protect the light in Jacob’s absence, and then he’d be free to put it out, sink the island, and leave.

“We built this place in ’75, and lived here a couple of years…and then the sky lit up again.”

Rose and Bernard cautiously eyeball Locke

In case you were curious, Rose gives a good explanation here as to why she and Bernard have made it to 2007 and not aged 30 years as you might expect.  It seems as though they time-shifted to island-present after Jughead went off, just like Jack, Kate, Juliet, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley, and Jin.  If we make the assumption that Jacob is the one flashing people around through the different timelines (and you’d think he is based upon his “They’re coming” line last season), then he knew that he needed Rose and Bernard to get Desmond out of the well.  This way, they wouldn’t be headed to the cave of light until Jack was crowned the new Jacob and had a chance to intercept him along the way.

“I think I just realized I wanna live.”

Richard realizes he's no longer immortal

One of the messages we appear to get in the finale is that the mythology of the island is unimportant in a relative sense.  But despite that, we’re given insight into the fact that it seems as though Richard’s immortality dissapated along with Jacob’s ashes.  Although it appears as though the “rules” move from one island protector to the next, any specific supernatural abilities “wear off” once the protector who issued them no longer has a physical presence on the island.  Jacob’s gone; so is Richard’s ability to live forever.

“Jacob being who he is, I expected to be a little more surprised…you’re sort of the obvious choice, don’t you think?”

Yeah, I know that we get the follow-up answer to this later in the episode (great prediction, DDay!), but I can’t help but to comment that the writers didn’t stop giving us little clues to what they had in store, even when it was in the same episode.  For those of you that are regulars and are looking forward to my higher level assessment of the finale and how it fits in the series overall, this is something you want to file away in your memory banks.  I’ll be coming back to that point in my next entry.

“This doesn’t matter you know.  Him destroying the island; you destroying him…it doesn’t matter.”

To me, the conversation between Desmond and Jack just prior to Desmond being lowered into the light is the most important conversation of the finale, and perhaps the series itself.  This seemingly simple conversation is the key to everything the showrunners want us to think and believe about the entire run of the show.  As we reach a conclusion to the on-island story, we’re being told by a character “in the know” (otherwise known as “Johnny The Explainer” as described by Damon and Carlton) that the outcome of the battle is irrelevant.  Jack insists that it is…that he’s been down the road of trying to find a short-cut back to a happy ending, and there is none.  He believes that every action is important, and that you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities you have in front of you.

Folks, in a nutshell, this is what the finale is trying to tell us.  And, as much as the two opinions seem to be diametrically opposed, I also think they’re trying to tell us that both viewpoints are true.  As the episode comes to a close, Jack’s actions based upon the beliefs he conveys in this conversation are shown to be noble; that his opinions that “all of this matters” is what ends up saving the day and allowing everyone else to survive.  But at the same time, Desmond’s stance is also correct: what happened within the context of the island’s multiple face-offs is secondary to the experience that Jack has afterwards.  This is the profound duality of meaning that the writers want to impart to us, both within the episode and series, as well as within your personal life.  And make no mistake: this show, and especially the finale, is a commentary on life, and a perspective therein the writers want you to see.  I’m coming dangerously close to speaking to some of the items I’ll touch on as a retrospective of the series, but I wanted to make sure all of you understood the higher level game the writers are playing here.  They’ve thrown their cards on the table and are showing you their hand.  They are making a social commentary, and how much you like the episode, and even the series overall, likely depends on how willing you are to accept the message they’re trying to send.  That’s all I’ll get into regarding that now, but I’ll have more on this conversation and its place in LOST lore in my next entry.

“Dude, it was worth it.”

I’ve been avoiding discussing much of the flash-sideways events up to this point, mostly because the final scene of the flash-sideways is the only one that really matters.  But I also wanted to wait to comment on the individual flash-sideways as a whole until you had the right frame of reference regarding Desmond and Jack’s conversation.  The writers have a very clear dual purpose with these remembrances in the flash-sideways.  Yes, it’s a key for the characters to achieve enlightenment for what awaits them at the end of the episode.  But it’s just as much about you as it is about that.  The writers know you’re watching with the fact that it’s the finale in your head.  Each of the flash-sideways remembrances is an attempt to elicit an emotional response from you, as much as it is about the advancement of the plot.  It’s a beautifully designed literary construct, and clearly a reason why some folks think the finale was so brilliant.  I won’t give you my take on it just yet, but I wanted to point it out for anyone that may have missed the direct connection.  I imagine that how much you enjoyed the finale is greatly tied to just how much these scenes resonated with you on an emotional level.

“Looks like you were wrong too.”

The Man in Black realizes he's not invulnerable

The scene where Jack is able to give Locke a bloody lip speaks to two pieces of island mythology, for those of you still keeping score.  First, it indicates that Jacob knew all along what was going to happen.  Why he didn’t put these events in motion himself is somewhat unclear…perhaps he needed Jack to convince Desmond that he could go into the cave despite it dovetailing with what Smokey wanted…perhaps he didn’t have the heart to kill his own brother after turning him into the Smoke Monster.  But what is incredibly clear is that with the light drained, every single thing that we know about the island is “off”.  The “rules” of the game are no longer in effect (in other words, the combatants can kill each other), the mystical power that turned MIB into the Smoke Monster is nullified, and I imagine that everything else (like the healing properties of the island) are all out of play as well.  Jacob knew that Desmond’s actions would both allow the LOSTies the opportunity to kill MIB, as well as put the entire island in a vulnerable position.  After 2,000 years of battling Smokey, it was a gamble he was willing to take.

“I thought I made it clear that you were to stop this.”

The conversation between Desmond and Eloise at the concert is very interesting, and gives us a couple of secondary clues to some of the rules and fates of others as it applies to the flash-sideways.  First of all, it’s clear that Eloise is just as enlightened as Desmond.  However, for some reason, she is choosing to stay behind, much like Ben does later in the episode.  I would imagine it’s because she’s still wracked with guilt over her decision to set her own son up for death in order to keep the island path intact.  But even more importantly, it explains why Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, and others were not in the church for the final scene.  Desmond says that Faraday’s fate is “not with me”, but instead, with someone else.  I don’t think that we’re meant to infer that Faraday and the others that interacted with our LOSTies *won’t* be enlightened and move into the next phase, but rather that they are going to do so with another group of individuals…ones that are more meaningful and special to those within their own circle.

“I saved you a bullet!”

Kate takes out the Man in Black

Although the battle between Jack and Locke was fairly straightforward, there are a couple of things that are below the surface that I want to draw your attention to.  First off, it’s very fitting that Kate’s the one to pull the trigger.  Her character has largely been discounted by the online community, something the writers acknowledged with their tongue-in-cheek dialog between Sawyer and Kate when former goes to the well looking for Desmond.  Kate’s inability to resist following the group has caused issues in the past, but in this case, she saves the day.  One other minor thing to point out is the location of Locke’s fatal blow to Jack.  While everyone was likely focusing on the cut on his neck, I’d suggest that the main stab wound is just as significant.  Note that it’s right in the location of his appendectomy scar…something that he reminisces about in a prior flash-sideways sequence.  I’m sure that some re-watchers will see that as an “a-ha” moment at some point.

“I’ll see you in another life, brother.”

Another thing to lead you to believe that the writers had this whole thing planned from early on is Desmond’s line to Jack from way back in Season 2.  Jack returns the line to Desmond in their final conversation of the finale, just as a little reminder to all of us that we’ve been given this information quite some time ago.  I’m sure that there are some folks out there that think the “another life” thing is a bit of a throw-away line, but I think there are enough hints to suggest that some form of this finale was in the writers’ heads for years.  Irrespective of whether or not the finale worked for you, I think it’s only fair to give the writers the benefit of the doubt that they had a reasonably thought-out plan for how they wanted to end this show.

“I have some things that I still need to work out.  I think I’ll stay here for awhile.”

Ben decides not to move on just yet

One of the things I had wondered about coming into Season 6 was whether or not Ben was going to find redemption for what he had done.  While he was fairly duplicitous in nature, it always seemed as though he had the propensity to rise up and and become more than what he was.  I had envisioned that it might come in the form of him sacrificing himself for the greater good in some way, but what eventually happens is even better.  While he ends up staying back from joining the LOSTies in their journey to the next realm so as to work through some issues with Danielle and Alex Rousseau, his storyline of helping Hurley through his role as protector of the island is both highly redeeming and thoroughly in line with the motivation of the character.  Aside from Jack, Ben’s character arc feels the most well thought-out and satisfying of anyone on the show.  I don’t think you could have asked for a better ending if you’re a fan of Ben.

Jack makes one last trek through the island

After Jack restores the light in the cave, he’s spit out in the same position that the Man in Black was.  I’m not sure how he managed to survive it without being turned into a Smoke Monster, or having some other strange reaction, but perhaps it’s because he was the protector of the island at the moment the light came back on.  Perhaps it was that status that helped him to retain all aspects of his humanity, and head back to the same place where it all started for him.

“I’ll be waiting for you there…once you’re ready.”

Kate tells Jack she'll be there when he's ready

While this line from Kate to Jack becomes more clear after the final scene, I couldn’t help but to think that it’s also a line to us the fans.  Yes, the LOSTies are moving on to the next realm.  But I can’t help but to think that the most ambitious part of the finale was how the writers tried to frame this last scene for all of us.  I’m going to discuss this in much more detail in my final retrospective entry, but I feel as though I’d be doing this entry a bit of injustice if I didn’t at least scratch the surface here.

Over the years, LOST has tried its best to play a balancing act between those that watched the show for the characters and what would happen to them, and those that watched for the mythology and the mysterious aspects of the island.  I believe that the writers had to make a conscious decision on which aspect of the two sides would have a higher priority as the series came to a close.  I think they tried to give us a satisfying end to the mythological aspects of the island, what caused all of the crazy happenings, and bring things to a logical conclusion.  But ultimately, they chose the characters and their ultimate fate as the higher priority.  Devoting the entire final season to the flash-sideways is proof of that.  But I also think that they were very self-aware in making that decision.  And I think they knew that they would have multitudes of fans that would be upset with unanswered questions.

I believe the commentary here with Kate and Jack is a direct message to those fans.  They know that it’s tough to let go of so many unanswered questions.  They know that it’s tough to let go of this show and everything you’ve been invested in for the past 6 years.  So take your time.  Digest what you’ve seen.  Discuss the open-ended mysteries with your friends.  Re-watch episodes if you need to.  But when you’re ready to let go…when you’re ready to give up LOST and move on to that next thing…watch this last scene with us.  We’ll send you off with a proper good-bye to all of these characters that you’ve spent so much time with.  And we’ll all move on to the next thing together.

Jack discovers his fate

I’ve noticed a few odd interpretations of the final scenes today.  I don’t want to call them erroneous or wrong, but I can’t help but to try to give my interpretation of what the end meant, so as to help other get a little clarity.  First off, there needs to be a clear distinction between what happened on the island, and the flash-sideways.  They are not one in the same, and in fact, the flash-sideways clearly follows what happens on-island.  Thus, while the description Christian gives for the flash-sideways is sounds very much like Purgatory, or some waiting station before moving to the next realm, I believe that the writers went through a lot of trouble to explain that the on-island events were NOT part of that wait station.  I believe that the on-island events were intended to be “real life”, and that they only entered the flash-sideways once they died.

I also know that there was a bit of confusion surrounding how Hurley or Ben or Desmond could be there if we didn’t see them die.  But Christian tells Jack that everyone dies sometime, and that some of them died before him, and some died long after (probably referring to Ben and Hurley).  But all of them came together at this moment because they are all linked spiritually.  Irrespective of when they died, they will all make the journey into the next realm together because they all had a profound impact on each others’ lives.

Jack finds his old spot and sees the results of his efforts before closing his eyes forever

Jack closes his eyes for the last time

The beauty of the symmetry in Jack’s final island scene is simply hard to ignore.  It clarifies that this story was always about Jack and his journey, closing the series with the focus on him.  It also allows for a complete arc for his character that is thoroughly satisfying.  Prior to coming to the island, this was a man struggling for a purpose.  He would consistently destroy relationships due to his uncontrollable need to fix things.  But during the course of the series, he was able to break through his personal barriers and become the man of faith that he struggled so mightily with, and ultimately, was able to fix one final issue that theoretically saved all of humanity…but at the very least, saved all of his friends.

Sorry folks, no “post-episode questions” after the finale.  It just seems so inappropriate.  But I will be back soon with my evaluation of how the finale fits into the series overall, and how I “feel” about how things ended.  To be honest, I’ve run through a ton of emotions over the last 24 hours, and I found it difficult at times to remove those from the pure analysis of the finale.  I hope this review was better for it, but I will be sure to let it all loose in my next entry, which in all likelihood, will be the last of interLOST.  I hope you’ll come back for it!

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3 responses

25 05 2010
Robert Bonamico

My money’s on a new spin off series with the Sideways Universe. They’ll call it Redemption from Purgatory, and it will center around a group of people (Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, Eloise Hawking, (Ben?)etc..) and will involve seeking redemption to move on from Purgatory. Eloise will be the villain, constantly trying to keep everyone there. Perhaps references to the Island will be made, but I imagine if this is going to be a show, they would focus on Los Angeles(what an original location for a TV series) and work in a lot of new characters.

25 05 2010
Mike P

The End

Thank you, Paul, for all your insights.

Good Night, Everyone…

27 05 2010
DDay

Pablo-as always- an incredible synopsis. Thanks for your insight.

I chose to watch the finale and just let it happen. I didn’t want to be too critical. In that vein, I really liked it. In the end, the characters won out- and the mythology and mysteries took a back seat.

Jack was indeed the hero. Sawyer ended up with Juliet AND Kate- leaving the island on the plane. The final scene with Christian and Jack was moving- plus it explained a lot of things too- most of which you touched on here.

I especially liked Linus’ end. He was one of my favorites if not my favorite character- so to see him gain real redemption from Hurley who asked for his help was moving to me. His insight into the way “Jacob ran things” was so simple and his advice to Hurley so decent, it actually made me re-think the whole thing in that instant. His decision to stay back as the others “moved on” was also poignant. The concept of purgatory was obvious here but it was effective- especially for Linus but for Hawking too.

There were many unanswered questions. That’s OK. It’s pretty clear that when the writers decided on a course for the ending 2-3 years ago, some of the plot lines they opened weren’t going to fit really neatly so they just went away. I disagree with you Pablo on one point. I don’t think the writers knew in season one or two how this would end because Desmond said “See you in another life, brother.”

Personally, I think the writers more or less threw everything out there, brilliantly making it up as they went along. I think the storylines with the Others and Dharma were dominant early as the show gained its’ footing in the ratings but once Lost was established as a hit and they decided to end it, they mapped out the spiritual ending outside of those plotlines, leaving them and a few people hanging for resolution. So many things about the show changed between midway through season three and the subsequent seasons. The numbers, the literary references, the focus on 70’s-80’s style technology, the child-bearing issues all basically ended and then the time travel and change in Locke and Jack’s characters took off. Total armchair QB, I know, but it seems that way in retrospect. One point of evidence of this was Widmore’s one sentence explanation about his freighter- “Jacob showed me the error of my ways.” and that was it. At the time, the freighter, the people on it and the conflict with Ben and the Others WAS the storyline. In any event, I loved the ending and how the story played out. They couldn’t really screw it up in my eyes and they didn’t.

ABC’s decision to show images of wreckage on the island AFTER the credits was interesting. It definitely left the impression that the whole thing was a dream of plane crash victims. That has been rejected over the last several days by Darlton.

As for “after LOST”… would there be any interest in a movie about the Hanso Foundation and or Dharma? A prequel of sorts.

In any event, I will miss this show and this blog. Thanks for taking the time to provide it.

Namaste to you all.

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