Wednesday, May 26, 2010
My thoughts on The End of LOST

This past Sunday, a nerd civil war ignited across the internets, for it was the end of the TV series 'LOST'. This show had put people in distinct camps since the pilot episode aired in September of 2004; at first it was the camp of "This is going to be landmark television" vs. "this show sucks". Then it evolved into Team ______ vs. Team _______ vs. "you're still watching that shit?" Now, as we have seen the finale we are pretty much in to the camp of "That was a suitable and perfect ending" and "That blows, I just wasted six years of my life".

This post is going to me my interpretation of the ending and of the series as a whole. I created a separate page  because I'm going to talk major spoilers and, believe it or not, there are those that are watching the series and have no knowledge about how it ends and where it went. So here goes:

I cannot think of a show in my lifetime that has built up so much mythology and mystery as LOST. Some can argue X Files, (The re-imagined) Battlestar Galactica or Twin Peaks, but this show has blended Sci-Fi/Theology/Myth so much that there have been people screen-capping the entire series one episode or frame at a time for over 120 episodes, trying to deconstruct every line, every clue, every reference, to a degree I've never seen. For six years, the audience desperately grasped for answers: Who are these people? What is this place they've come to? These are pretty general questions, of course, but as the seasons began to play out, there were plot elements that came into question: what's the deal with the cabin? Why is Walt special? Whats the deal with the temple? So on and so forth.

So here we are, the finale has come and gone and there are still lingering questions, and people are PISSED. Not only are they pissed about what has gone unanswered, but they are pissed about one answer that was given, the existence of this "sideways world" and what it meant within the function of the show. So much stuff had been written since trying to explain this and that, what worked and what didn't, and why it was remarkable or why it was all a 'Long Con'.

To me, LOST has never been the network ensemble version of 'Cast Away', sans Wilson the friendly Volleyball. It has been a story about people, people who are flawed and alone, estranged. One of the fundamental questions in political philosophy is this: In a state of nature, are we, as people, naturally communal or naturally selfish and estranged? This underlying question will play out throughout the series, as there are those who do feel its every man for themselves, that they much look out for their self interest because survival sometimes means you must not play well with others. This would play out pretty much throughout the series until the end...it even manifested itself into two people: Jacob who brought people to the island to bring them together, and the Man in Black who claimed people "corrupt and destroy".

The biggest question of the show wasn't what the purpose of Dharma was, or who the hell was Dogen, it was actually answered in the penultimate episode by Jacob. He brought them there as candidates to replace him because they were people who they, themselves were lost and who found their meanings through each other. To me, this conversation, and the finale made the message very clear, and one that the producers and writers stressed from the first season: it all isn't about the destination, its about he journey and those that are with you when you take that journey.

In life, we are guided by our faith and our reason, which are thought to be the antitheses of each other. We seek as balance of the two; is there are flaws in being simply a Man of Faith, or simply a Man of Science. But within both those realms, there are questions that can never be answered; we must only hypothesize and deliberate, and that's as close as we get. Why is Walt special? What role was he supposed to play? My best guess is that even though Malcolm David Kelley outgrew the show as an actor, his character was simply in that he could have been like Desmond; a person with a special ability that could have been used within Jacob and the MIB's power play. Same for Aaron. I viewed him as another candidate; born and bred on the island to be groomed as a potential successor. We'll never know that for sure, its just a theory that happens to fit the facts; and that is life.

I could go on and on about potential answers to questions, but there were clues all over the place about what was going to be answered, what was to come, and what the whole series meant. In the first season, Walt is reading an issue of 'Y: The Last Man', which is one of my favorite comic series about a Man and his Monkey that survive a plague that kills every mammal with the Y Chromosome. It, too is a story of a journey, with fascinating characters, that meets a similar ending in that the reader must create their own conclusion as to what caused this plague in the first place. But again, by that point, you really don't care all that much about why, you just enjoyed the ride.

There are tons of other literary and biblical references-Alice, Haroun, Phillip K. Dick, Carlos Castaneda, CS Lewis (the name of Daniel Farraday's love interest Charlotte), the Egyptian Goddess Tawaret, and probably most obvious being Jack Shephard and his link the 23rd Psalm. You can all take those clues and interpret whatever you want, it may also help you understand the context of the story and help you with answers, sort of like reading three companion novels to understand Ulysses.

But I feel the biggest purpose of the show is to take you through the evolution of its characters. Jack, the doctor, the man of science...transformed into the man who would, on faith, save his friends and humanity. Kate, the fugitive, thinking only for herself and using others, altruistically risking her life to reunite a son and a mother. Sawyer, the grifter, the con-man, falling in love and becoming one of the leaders and a believer. Hurley, who I feel represented the audience the whole series, ascends to the position of the leader and protector of the island, when he was always kind of dismissed throughout his circle.

Each relatively major character (and there were many) made their changes throughout the show and each had their closure, either in the form of death or resolution that we had a good idea as to where they were going. In the finale, we saw Kate (who ironically tons of fanboys wanted to see dead), Sawyer, Miles, Claire, Lapidus, and Richard all presumably escape the island. We aren't given any lines of text as to an epilogue for them, but we don't need one. We are safe to assume they will live the rest of their lives out in peace, perhaps together, and that their characters have completed their journey from one of tumult in 2004, to serenity in 2007 and beyond. We figure Hurley and Ben's story will be written as they guard the island indefinitely, talking about their lives, waxing poetic about their friends, and learning to discover what the island's secrets hold.

Then there is a sideways world. At the beginning of LOST, we had a "flashback", a "flash forward" (which was VERY cleverly revealed at the end of Season 3) and then at the beginning of the final season, a "flash sideways" in which history sort of repeats itself, except the biggest difference is Oceanic 815 lands safely at LAX, and we see the once-Castaways live out a slightly altered life. I had always speculated as to what this sideways world meant, and how it was to be integrated into the normal timeline. Turns out, as each person progressed through this sideways world, each would increasingly become aware as to their alternate life up to the point were, with about five minutes left, we realize it is their past life, and that in this sideways world, everyone has in fact, died.

Fans keep calling this sideways world Purgatory. I like to think its something a little different. I don't necessarily think the writers set this world up as a vehicle in which they all become self aware and go to heaven, at least not a heaven in the Christian sense. Since LOST drops a lot of multi-religious hints throughout the series, I like to think of the sideways world as a 'Spiritual Matrix', something that the island created so that those who were so connected to it through each other can be together, to complete one journey and move to another. Its a place where there is no time, since everyone there died at different times on this earth, but live together there. There is violence and danger in that world (Keamy and Mikkail meet violent ends), but it is also a place where each character has brought the change they ended this world with into the sideways world; Kate, putting Claire's need above her own. Sawyer, a man of the law. Jack, believing on faith that he can 'fix' John Locke, and Locke, not having the faith that he will walk again. The only way each person triggers their look into their past lives is the connections in which they forged on the island through love. I think then, with each 'awakening' each character realized what the audience doesn't: this isn't their world; they left their world, and they need each other to 'move on' to the next world. What that is is up to you to decide, and it works. You don't even have to be spiritual for it to work.

In the end, it doesn't matter why we don't know where the air-dropped food came from, or why the smoke monster couldn't penetrate ash, or what Jacob's brother's real name is. What matters is seeing Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, Hurley, Sun, Jin, Richard's...all their stories of their lives complete themselves, and it's wonderful. There have been so many prominent television series throughout the last 25 years totally screw up its final episode: the dream of the Vermont Inn; the abrupt cut out in the middle of a Journey song; it was all a dream in the shower; spending a year in jail. I think LOST nailed it. We got a resolution. We got our closure. We got Jack, who once told the survivors of Flight 815 to "Live Together or Die Alone", nearly be the only main character to die alone, only to be comforted in his final moments by Vincent the Dog, the knowledge that his love was flying to safety, and a distant vision into the sideways life we had been seeing throughout the last season (which is why I think he really cracked that smile at the end). The final shot mirrored the very first shot of the series. It was fitting, it was perfect, and it concluded one of the best television dramas of my generation, love it or hate it.

TL; DR- Namaste. And Bravo.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Never missed an episode, and absolutely loved the finale. Bringing everyone back together for a reunion was awesome. The last 20 minutes were perfection for me.