A normal episode of LOST that just barely nudged the master plot forward was a lot for me to wrap my mind around each week. Concluding the series with a super-sized episode that wrapped up six years of storylines takes a lot of mental digestion. It’s easy to judge the LOST finale purely as an episode of television– it was terrific. The episode was full of humor, heart, thrills, and chills – it was probably among the series’ best. From a storytelling perspective, the episode did feel a little rushed and overcrowded towards the end, but that certainly didn’t blunt the impact of anything.
Where evaluating the episode gets tricky is when you look at it as the capstone to a sprawling, digressive, and epic series that didn’t always seem to know where it was going. It was refreshing that the pre-show series recap didn’t shy away from the many mysteries that were raised and abandoned over the years. By not trying to answer every lingering question, the writers did stay true to delivering a satisfying conclusion for the characters, even though that certainly won’t be enough to satisfy every fan.
One of my gripes with the season-long flash-sideways conceit is that it was never clear to me that anything that happened in the flash-sideways timeline mattered. At one point in the finale, Desmond tells Jack that nothing they do on the Island matters because they will all go to a better place. With the way the episode shakes out, it’s not clear whether Desmond was right or not, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
On the Island, the stakes are laid out pretty quickly: Team Jack and Team Faux-Locke are both looking for Desmond. It turns out Rose and Bernard (with an assist from Vincent) had rescued Desmond from the well, violating their rule against getting involved in the Island’s drama. Since this is LOST and breaking any rule usually ends badly, Faux-Locke promptly shows up and abducts Desmond at knife-point. Thankfully, Rose and Bernard (and Vincent, who was always the only guaranteed survivor) survive the encounter, and Faux-Locke, Desmond, and (a no longer murder-happy) Ben go off in search of adventure.
This trio promptly meets up with Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and Hurley. Gun play ensues before an uneasy truce is called. Jack and faux Locke both have the same plan – to take Desmond to the magic glowing cave and send him inside. Faux Locke thinks this will destroy the Island. Jack thinks this will allow him to kill faux Locke. Turns out they’re both right.
Meanwhile, Miles and Richard are still determined to carry out Operation Blow Up The Ajira Plane, so they grab a boat and head out to Hydra Island to blow it up. On their way there, they find Lapidus bobbing around in the water offshore. Turns out it takes more than an exploding submarine to kill Lapidus. So now it’s Operation Fly The Plane Off The Island. After much MacGyvering, those three (as well as Sawyer, Kate, and Claire) fly off the Island. It’s a rousing moment on-screen, but as Desmond alludes to– does anything that happens on the Island matter?
So apparently the whole point of having a magic cave that only Desmond could enter was so that the LOST team could recreate the iconic Locke-and-Jack-peering-down-the-hatch moment at the end of Season 1. Once again, it’s Desmond and crazy electromagnetic energy at the bottom of a mysterious subterranean passage.
At the base of the cave we see the light and the water that the Man in Black intended to channel all those years ago. In the middle of a golden pool is a glowing rock. Desmond puts two and two together regarding his purpose here and uses his electromagnetic super powers to wade out to the rock, which he pulls loose from of a hole at the bottom of the pool. The golden light goes out, the water dries up, and the Island begins to shake apart. Feel free to draw your cork and bottle parallels here.
Faux-Locke gloats that he was right and Jack was wrong, but the first of many face punches shows that Faux-Locke is now vulnerable to attack. Lots of punching and stabbing ensues, with Jack getting the worst of it. Fortunately for Jack, Kate turns up to shoot Faux-Locke in a timely fashion, so Jack’s able to be all, “cliff kick!” killing Faux-Locke, though not yet saving the Island.
This is where the episode began to feel a little overcrowded and rushed to me, as some of the on-Island characters split up for the final time. Jack and Kate’s big romantic moment was an eye-roller for me, mainly because I feel like the writers treated it like the central romance on the show that everyone cared about, when most of us are just tired of it. What was a better moment for me was Jack now passing on the role of Island Protector to Hurley (wish I hadn’t given up on that theory so soon), followed by Hurley asking Ben to help him with the job. Ben has done some despicable things on the show, but giving him a moment where he got all he ever really wanted felt right.
Jack swaps places with Desmond at the bottom of the cave, then goes on to replace the rock in the pool, restoring the light and making the water flow again. It isn’t clear how he gets out of the cave, but he does make it back to the bamboo forest where it all began, where he collapses and dies – his eye closing in a reversal of the show’s first image.
So did anything that happened on the Island matter? For that matter, did Juliet blowing up the Hydrogen Bomb do anything but move the characters forward in time? If the flash-sideways was just some sort of purgatory state, how long were they stuck in it? If some of the people died before Jack and some of them died afterwards, why did they all come together at this time and remember their lives so they could move on?
Okay, I’ll try and avoid just spitting out unresolved questions for awhile and just focus on what actually happened in the flash-sideways at the end. Essentially, the flash-sideways sequence was a long string of remembrances as Jin and Sun remember the Island (and English!) and separated lovers like Charlie and Claire, Juliet and Sawyer, and Sayid and… Shannon (?!) were reunited.
For the most part, these reunions served as extended fan service – who wouldn’t want to see Jack heal Locke, Hurley shoot Charlie with a tranquilizer dart, or Kate help Claire deliver Aaron again. The point was for each of them to wake up, with Jack being the final, crucial element to the climactic reunion.
There’s an interesting moment where Hurley and Ben allude to their continued history on the Island, which muddies the chronological waters considerably, but also lets the audience know that the story of the Island continued after all of these familiar characters died or left it. Can we retroactively get rid of a bunch of Kate episodes and show Hurley and Ben running the Island, please?
I was worried that it would be Kate who would jolt Jack fully back to reality, but instead it was his father’s empty coffin, followed by the appearance of Christian Shephard himself. Christian is no longer a smoke monster, now he’s an EXPOSITION MONSTER as he explains that all his friends are gathered together so they can “move on”, presumably to an even more awesome after-life together.
So that was LOST. There are mysteries that we’ll never have all the answers to, and in the end I’m pretty okay with that. I’ve heard people complain that the happy afterlife ending was a cop-out, but it provides closure on all the major characters, which is more important to me (and I suspect the show’s writers) than getting all Encyclopedia Brown on us at the end.
I’ll miss watching (and writing about) LOST, and will probably be frustrated when I revisit the show and am reacquainted with the numerous dead-end mysteries, but LOST ended the way most of the episodes do – the reunion scene moved from the beach to a church, all the characters exchanging hugs, not lost, but together.
Editor’s note: I would just like to take a moment to thank our resident LOST expert Doug on the amazing job that’s he’s done with these LOST Analysis articles. They took a lot of free time and hard work to put together and have easily become the most anticipated feature we run here at The Geek Generation. I personally couldn’t wait to read Doug’s article every week and I know that there are many fans out there who did the same. I ask that if you are one of these fans, please leave a kind word in the comments below so that Doug will know just how much we appreciate his efforts.
P.S. Since we’re not quite ready to fully let go of LOST just yet, Doug and I will be recording a special podcast looking back on the finale and series as a whole. We hope you’ll tune in.