One of my biggest fears in recent memory centered on whether the Lost series finale would live up to expectation. After all, like you, I’d spent incalculable hours over the last six years watching, reading about, discussing, re-watching, re-discussing, analyzing and writing about a series that defied so many television conventions that it probably entered into a genre all its own (serial, sci-fi comicbook romance we’ll call it).
I didn’t know what my expectation was exactly, and I wasn’t the kind of person who sat on the edge of my seat waiting to hear why exactly Walt was so special or why in God’s name the writers ever decided to introduce Dogen and the Temple-ites so late in the game only to kill them off. I’m a classic nitpicker, but for the Lost finale I was willing to just go along for the ride. So I was afraid, not that my questions wouldn’t be answered, but that the finale would instead leave me wanting too much more of something I knew I’d never get. It was an almost impossible situation as a viewer, but as Jack laid down in the bamboo patch and closed his eyes I felt oddly satisfied; pleased even.
Lost is many things. It’s a story about love and violence, morals and monsters, time travel and numbers, plane crashes and pushing buttons, questions and some answers (that often led to more questions), commitment and family, The Others and The Tailies, good and evil, friendship and choices. These are only some of the things that Lost encompassed and making a list of everything that happened on the most mysterious island ever is a fool’s errand. Ultimately, Lost was about what you wanted it to be.
Like the characters, the island (and Lost itself) means different things to different people. Were you like Jack who never, until the very, very end knew exactly what he wanted from the island? Were you Ben, who just wanted a little power over it and a little understanding so the whole story (and all the work) wasn’t for nothing? Were you Hurley, who just basically, also until the end, saw the island as one big form of entertainment? Were you Sun and Jin that saw the time on the island as a love story? Were you Sawyer who ended up there by accident and just could never get the hell off? The island is a metaphor for a lot of things and one of them is for how we watch television.
Some people will be disappointed by the two and a half hour finale. That’s inevitable. It won’t take on the vitriol of The Sopranos ending and we mercifully weren’t subjected to a cut to black (or to the Lost sign) without some stories wrapping up. Were all the questions answered? Of course not, we knew that going in. But did “The End” serve as a culminating piece of work that acted as a definitive stopping point? Most assuredly.
If you loved Lost for the characters and the stories, then “The End” was nothing short of a masterstroke (cheesy religious overtones aside). It brought to light (no not that light) an over-arcing sense of finality and closure to the relationships that vacillated back and forth from the very first episode to the final closing seconds. If stories are circular, then Lost told its in a spiral; where we started on the outside, walked to the middle and walked right back out to the start.
I don’t know if it’s worth recapping all of the machinations that brought the Losties back together in the church (or gateway to Heaven, or whatever it was) and I actually don’t think it’s worth getting too caught up in where exactly the sideways story was happening (purgatory maybe?). Because to do that would be to miss the jungle for the trees. It never really mattered where Oceanic 815 landed in the first place. Sure it was the coolest island ever, and for that purpose it acted as more a plot device than a central idea. If you saw it that way, then “The End” was satisfying and final.
If you we were caught up in the mythology, the mystery, the Dharma initiative, the button, the light, the underground island shifting donkey wheel, and other mysteries, then “The End” was most likely one big long disappointment. I hope that wasn’t the case because Lost told its story with a singular purpose: keep these people together for better or worse. And, in “The End” we understood they were forever attached.