Lost Finale Review, Take Two: What About the Storylines?

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My TV Fanatic colleague, M.L. House, stayed up half the night and wrote an in-depth, interesting review of the Lost series finale. I recommend all readers check it out and I agree with many of his takes on various characters and developments.

But this is final episode ever of Lost! It requires multiple critiques from multiple points of view. That's why I must chime in and that's why I must focus my negative review on storyline inconsistencies from season six.

Let me start by saying: I'm not an answers guy. I've been hooked on Lost ever since the pilot due to the incredibly layered characters created by the show. I tuned in to the finale interested in their journey above all else. My problem with the final 10 minutes and the resolution of the Sideways World is not that it ignored certain aspects of Lost mythology (I don't care who Alvar Hanso is, do you?).

It's that it had nothing to do with the plot of season six.

Yes, on a grand scale, everything we witnessed on the island mattered. The actions and decisions by these survivors helped them arrive in an after-life community that allowed them to "remember and let go," as Christian put it. They can move on now. Relationships formed and lessons learned have made it possible for Jack and company to see the light. I can get behind that overall message. I believe in it.

Sawyer

But the final season sold us a battle between good and evil. It seemed awfully ambitious, but Lost set up a scenario in which the individual journeys of these characters would play a role in an ongoing struggle between humanity's light and dark sides, as represented by Jacob and The Man in Black (MIB). In this sense, the castaways mattered above all else... but we were also invested in the mythology that played out each week.

Now, though? All that feels like a waste. Think about a couple specific storylines that got us to the finale, and then ponder their resolutions:

  • MIB is pure evil. He cannot get off the island or else all will perish. This storyline came to an end when MIB was made human and gunned down by Kate. Would mankind truly have ceased to exist if he got off the island? We'll never know, and we never really had any basis for believing it would, considering the Sideways World was in existence this whole time and made it obvious that something existed outside of life on the island.
  • Desmond is special. Was he, really? In the Sideways World, it was actually Charlie that pushed Desmond toward enlightenment. On the island, we were led to believe that Desmond would hold the key toward stopping MIB. But he was lowered randomly into the light cave, and didn't actually know what to do. His actions didn't save anyone at all.

These were major focuses of season six. Do you feel like they had a point, though? Or were they just plot devices meant to kill time until everyone could assemble at the church?

Clearly, an ending that brings up issues such as the after-life will be left open-ended and full of mystery. That's fine. That's not my issue. I simply take exception to the fact that Lost baited us with a sixth season dichotomy between Jacob and MIB... and then switched it up at the end to essentially say: taken as a whole, events mattered. But individually? Eh, don't worry about what Eloise Hawking's role in the Sideways World meant.

There's a difference between mythology and storytelling. I was happy to not know many details of the former; but any quality TV show must first and foremost tell stories each week in which viewers are invested. Lost accomplished this, but it failed to pay them off.

Looking back on the season, I now feel duped by stories that didn't go anywhere. Take David Shepard, for example. He wasn't even real. The show made us care about a relationship that didn't exist, just to get us to Jack's eventual revelation.

It's too easy to say the show was all about its characters all along, as the producers and many fans (myself included) have done, and, therefore, an ending that focused on their grand journey paid off six seasons perfectly well.

That's as much of a narrow-minded cop-out as those that believed only a list of answers would bring the show to a satisfactory conclusion. There is a middle ground, or at least there should be. I wasn't going into the finale hoping for tiny bits of island mythology to be revealed. But I was going in expecting my investment in specific storylines (Jacob, MIB, Desmond) to be made worthwhile.

I left it with a message about community and love and relationships and letting go. But also with this nagging complaint: Does a positive, emotional message make up for a season's worth of dead-end storytelling?

I say no.

Review

Editor Rating: 2.0 / 5.0
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    Did anyone else feel like the finale only explained the sideways universe, but nothing else at all?!!

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    Okay- thanks to everyone who answered some of my questions. I have more, why was the island so special? Why did it cure Locke of his paralysis, and the other women (cant think of name) of her cancer? Why couldn't women have babies on it? Oh and why didn't Ben want to go with them? HAHA if someone would answer one of these questions it would be awesome!

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    o my god , what a horoble ending!!! they are all dead

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    I have figured it out. We will see more of LOST. They left the window open for more. We will see what happened during the days of HUGO and BEN as protectors of the island! We will see how things turn out off the island with our real survivors who escaped on the ajira plane as Jack died.

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    MATT: I like your thinking. We share most of the same thoughts.
    Just a couple of things that made me doubtful, though: 1) Desmond is special. Ok. How come he was having these visions about a future in which Jack was supposedely happy (he was obvious seeing his own purgatory/waiting-for-reunion-room future. And in there, he seemed sure that he needed to reunite everybody and make them remember - or should I say REALISE they were already dead? Did he know, then, that he was also dead? 2) I understood Kate's words to Jack ("I missed you so much") just as you did: she lived on and etc. However, whose plane wrecks were those at the end of the episode? I'd say Ajira's, since Oceanic 15's were at the other island, and as we have seen before, it was impossible to fly off of the island... so, WHAT THE HECK happened to them? I guess we'll never know...

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    To amplify my last point. Some here--including the author of this blog--are disappointed that what seemed like essential or very important storylines or character motivations were never explained or fully resolved. But isn't that what life is like--even at the end? Over time, we get glimpses of the big picture. When we do, many of the issues we treated so prominently take on a new reality; a new perspective emerges. Instead of burning questions, they become curiosities or even distractions. But for a while they served a purpose. Once that purpose is over, the yield to a higher level of consciousness and their importance fades. They become less than they once appeared. They may also become contrivances formed by ourselves or others for their own purposes. People usually keep their motivations private and they only become apparent in the fullness of time. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Not saying I have all the answes... but this speaks to me. I loved the whole series, including the finale.

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    It all seems quite simple to me. In the end, all the mythologies end up being just that--artificial constructs designed "on the run" in order for the characters (and mankind) to explain what seems complicated and unexplainable at the time certain events are experienced. MIB was believed to be the immortal essence of evil... he even believed it himself. What a surprise to him and Jack (and ultimately Kate) that in reality he was something less and not insurmountable, no matter what identity he acquired--once the myth was stripped away. But that is not to say that all that goes on about them (and us) is unimportant or unreal. In a way, both Sartre and Jesus (at least as interpreted by much of Christian teaching) are wrong. What happens in the here and now (wherever that is) does matter. Our experiences are not illusion and are not meaningless. And one does not have these experiences ONLY to serve supernatural or spiritual ends. What matters most in the end are the relationships developed between and among people. That is what is real. All else is artifice. But all serve a purpose. Your mother was right. There is, truly, a reason for everything--even if that reason is not immediately apparent. Don't worry.... when you are "ready", it will be.

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    After reading these comments and others on this site and elsewhere I wonder if the reason I really liked the finale was that I never got too into the mythology, nuance and all of that. I never posted on a forum, or really had any long discussions about the show with friends. If I had--if I had gotten absorbed on the week-to-week mysteries, got into furious online debates over Walt or the numbers or the time travel stuff, then I'd probably be let down. If you look at some (not all) of the negative comments, many inevitably speak to a particular unanswered thread in the story--why did X happen!? That doesn't make sense! And what about Z!? What the hell!! After about season 3, I gave up looking for specific answers to specific questions. To be honest, when I start thinking about the multitudes of red-herrings and aborted story lines, I start to get frustrated, but right now I'm resisting that temptation and just trying to enjoy the story for what it was--a story about people, redemption, sacrifice, love, loyalty and betrayal. Each character had a role to play, their own "flaw," and their own path to redemption. Some of the other complaints I'm seeing aren't valid or betray a lack of understanding: 1) Desmond's importance was clear--only he could remove the stone because of his EM resistance. Whether you like that or not, this point was clear. Removing the stone made fake Locke vulnerable (fake Locke's desire to destroy the world led to his own destruction). Jack's role was to put the stone back. 2) They didn't die in the plane crash. Its really maddening to read people make this statement. What happened on the Island was real. Many seem to have a problem understanding the island world (reality) and the sideways world (purgatory of sorts, for lack of a better term). This show didn't hint at this. It was explained rather clearly. Go watch the episode again. I think what people are struggling with is that the sideways purgatory was unbound by time. It wasn't happening in the future or past, since, again, it was unbound by time. I think humans have an inherent difficult with issues of time and space--its hard to wrap your head around the concept. But anytime someone tries to say "when" the sideways action was happening, they are misunderstanding. Shannon died early on, Jack died during the finale, and Hugo and Ben and Kate presumably died sometime in the future. That's why Kate said "I missed you so much" because she had probably gone on to live a full life after escaping the island. Its also why Hugo said to Ben, you were a great number 2, and Ben said, you were a great number 1, because, presumably, they lived on the island protecting it for decades, maybe even centuries after the Island action we watched in the finale.

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    I disagree that ‘David Shepard’ was an extraneous character. The relationship between Jack and David mirrored the relationship between Christian and Jack. That was a big hurdle for Jack to overcome to understand why he was the way he was, with regarding to relationships.

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    Basically all we learned is that Rose was right. All this darn running around, setting off bombs, blowing up subs, opening hatches was all pointless. Everybody dies. Everyone should come to grips with their life. Okay, true. It's a simple, universal answer. I think after six seasons, it's pretty darn boring too.