All of this matters.
Throughout season six of Lost, fans had wondered about what they were seeing. Would our beloved characters end up in a seemingly random Sideways World, thereby negating all we'd watched for five years, rendering life on the island meaningless?
In the end, as Jack's four words above to Desmond sum up nicely: no. It mattered. What happened happened. We'd been told this many times and the final 10 minutes of this series finale explained why: everything we saw on the island was real. These were the real lives of real people with seriously real problems.
At some point, they died. We witnessed many of these deaths. Others occurred at later dates. But, in the end, the castaways could only move on to a light-filled world beyond this one if they tweaked Jack's season one advice: after-live together, or die alone.
See you in another life, brutha? How right Desmond has been all along.
The final message of Lost is an interesting one, a profound one and the mythology surrounding it will be debated among viewers for as long as the series ran. But let's start with events on the island during these two-and-a-half hours - because they were a major clusterf%$k!
Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have spent season six telling us the show is about characters, not jaw-dropping answers. We've been on board with this assessment. However, "The End" sacrificed logical, suspenseful storytelling in the name of delayed character development/resolution.
Every development on the island felt arbitrary, something cooked up by the writers as an after-thought just to get individuals in place for the series-concluding revelation. To wit:
Rose and Bernard pulled Desmond to safety?!? Jack and Locke met in a field, and the new Jacob had no actual plan? He was on board with simply hoisting Desmond down a cave and seeing what his actions produced?
We understand Jack is a man of faith now, but it wasn't clear what viewers were supposed to be waiting for as all this went down. In the past, each season's end game was clear: get into the hatch... get off the island... get back to the island... But this sort of focus was missing from this finale (heck, from the season) because Lost purposely kept us in the dark about the Sideways World.
MIB wanted to destroy the island, and we were told this was bad. Everyone would perish. But Sideways Desmond was around, enlightening folks left and right, causing on-island events to lack a sense of urgency.
Clearly, everyone was not going to die, no matter what MIB threatened or did. Almost as obviously, they'd all be awoken to their experiences on the island. The past few weeks were building to that. What would this mean in the battle of good vs. evil? Where would the characters go from there? Those were the questions on my mind during the finale, all of which were tackled in the final few minutes - but all of which also made the preceding two hours and twenty minutes feel anticlimactic.
I found myself almost bored, anxious to get everyone enlightened so we could get to the show's overarching resolution.
The Jack/Smokey climax was also just hokey. The driving rainstorm. Jack's slow-motion jump/punch. Kate's line about saving one bullet for Locke. I expect such levels of cheese from bad action movies, not iconic TV shows.
Of course, these aren't the developments fans will be debating and discussing in the hours, weeks and months to come. Did everything on the island feel sloppy and arbitrary? Yes. But it was what we learned about the characters' off-island lives that will be lighting up our Comments section below (be opinionated there, but please be respectful of each other).
The Sideways World is a form of purgatory, a place the castaways unknowingly created because they could not "move on" without one another's support and love. In order to remember and let go, they needed to be reminded of what they experienced on the island, of who they met, of how they came together.
Did Jacob help them create this world? Was that the significance of his touch? He may have been a proponent of free will, but Jacob was also fond of pushing people in a certain direction. He didn't simply bring individuals to the island to find a successor; he brought them to prove his message: It only ends once. Everything else is just progress. Viewers were led to believe he meant his struggle with his brother.
But what better way to sum up a human life? Lost concluded its ambitious run by telling us: this world is filled with mistakes and regrets, but it's all a lesson. Learn from it. Rely on other people ("I can't do it without you," Kate told Claire during the latter's labor) and strive for progress in all you do. You'll never truly know any kind of higher power, so stop focusing on it (we've seen what happens to those that do. Sorry, pals of MIB and purged Dharma folk... and, really, viewers that craved answers above all else).
Want to achieve a happy after-life? Simply love your fellow man in this life.
That was the message, but getting there required twists, turns, questions and answers. We stopped wondering a long time ago about the Dharma Initiative, or what made Walt special, or any number of issues related to mundane island facts. Instead, when faced with this new information on the Sideways World, the following inquiries, points and observations come to mind:
- What is Eloise Hawking's role in it? She didn't want Desmond to enlighten his friends... simply because she didn't want her son to move on and move away? She was made out to be all-knowing throughout Lost, but her motives were never clear.
- Same for Charles Widmore. What did he know about the island and what was his end game?
- Where did Jughead fit into all this? Did its explosion create the Sideways World? Having a specific event create it would seem to run counter to the concept that the castaways themselves created this place via their formed bond/community on the island.
- Simply amazing acting all around. Every awakening scene was played perfectly by those involved.
- On the season premiere, Rose told Jack it was okay. He could "let go." Guess he just needed about 18 more hours to come to that same conclusion.
- David Shepard doesn't actually exist, right? That's always a frustrating type of cop-out: when a show focuses on a character and then reveals this was just an imaginary plot device.
- The finale was filled with self-aware winks at the audience: Sawyer described Jack's plan as a "long con," Kate laughed at the name "Christian Shepard," Hurley might as well have been channeling Lindelof and Cuse when he responded to Sayid's questions about "rules" with the response: "Trust me."
- In the end, one could interpret the arbitrary events on the island (as outlined above) as part of a grander message about the island and/or religion itself: it's all arbitrary! Jack caught on to this when he went along with the water con for Hurley's appointment. It was a made-up ceremony, as were the rules that governed this special place. After all, who can possibly say for sure what is right and wrong when it comes to such higher powers?
- Sayid and Shannon?!? Barf! Somewhere, Nadia lovers are outraged that Sayid's enlightenment came at the hands (and lips) of this woman, as opposed to the one most of us believed was his soulmate.
- Absolutely loved the fact that Ben didn't believe he had earned a place inside the church, as well as Hurley's nod to him making a great number-two. Ben truly had done everything in the name of the island, in the name of what he thought was best for mankind. After learning that MIB played him, and watching Jack's sacrifice, he apparently started his road to redemption as soon as Hurley's asked for his assistance - but he still didn't believe that was enough to warrant him a spot with the other survivors.
This won't be my final say on the show or the episode. Not by a long shot. There's a lot to analyze, critique and praise. It's been a pleasure to have taken the Lost ride with you this season, and I'd love to hear from readers now.
Many characters on the finale said "it worked." So therein lies the question: Did the conclusion of Lost work for you?