A tiny bit on the Lost finale

This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on May 24, 2010). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

I’ve only had a few hours to process the Lost finale, and I was asleep for most of them, so this is still a little unformed and right off the cuff. Still, right off the bat, I’m a bit of two minds on how it all wrapped up…

(Behind the jump for those who prefer to remain spoiler-free.)

Update, two hours later: Okay — after conversation both with Prairie and in the comments to this post, it seems I didn’t quite “get it” right off the bat, and misinterpreted the end. The more I talk and think about it, the more I understand, and the more I like how things wrapped up. So, don’t pay too much attention to what follows…or if you do, please read through the comments as well. I’m actually quite okay with the fact that I didn’t get it at first and needed to talk it out. Too much TV is dumbed down so that the masses don’t have to engage their brain matter, and can just sit and zone in front of the tube. That this show didn’t take its viewers for granted, didn’t spoonfeed everything, and was willing to do things in a way that could (and, in my case, did) lead to some initial misinterpretation, forcing me to think about it, is a good, good thing.

On the one hand, I really enjoyed the majority of the finale, especially watching all the characters we’ve journeyed with for the past six years reach a point where they felt whole. Each of them finally got to a point of accepting themselves, their life, and their decisions. It can probably be argued that that was the point of everything they went through — the journey from broken, lonely, isolated people (each of them essentially an island in themselves) to whole, connected people, involved with the people around them, caring for themselves and others. The island, then, was essentially either limbo or purgatory, acting to allow the characters to heal themselves through their trials — or, perhaps, the island was functioning as Meister Eckhart‘s Hell, as summarized in the film Jacob’s Ladder:

You ever read Eckhart? Eckhart saw it all too. You know what he said? He said the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life. Your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you, he said. They’re freeing your soul. So…if you’re frightened of dying, and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But, if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. It’s just a matter of how you look at it, that’s all.

On the other hand, though, I feel a little bit as if it ended up as one big cop-out. It really looks like in the end, nothing actually happened. The plane crashed, the passengers died, and everything we’ve seen has been little more than the final crazed moments of hallucinatory brain activity of one of the passengers (probably Jack) before death finally takes hold. It’s just one very small step removed from the “it’s all a dream” reset button, or the infamous St. Elsewhere snow globe.

(A further spoiler warning regarding the film Jacob’s Ladder.)

The thing is, while part of me is annoyed at the feeling of being duped by the cop-out ending, I went through the same thing the first time I saw Jacob’s Ladder, a psychological horror film when uses a very similar device. That film, as hinted by the quote above, is about one man’s journey through his own personal hell as he learns to accept his death — only, of course, neither he nor the audience realizes this until the very end. When I first saw Jacob’s Ladder I was entirely pissed at the “cop-out” ending, but on subsequent viewings and with a little more thought, I grew to appreciate that in this case, it was the journey that mattered and that made the story powerful.

I can’t say for sure that Lost will end up in the same place as I let it percolate through my brain. But I’m at least going to do my best to give it a chance, and not to let a little dissatisfaction with the final fifteen minutes taint the fun I’ve had watching this show for the past six years.

It’ll be interesting to see what other people have to say as the final wrapups and analyses start to appear.

10 thoughts on “A tiny bit on the Lost finale”

  1. You made the same mistake my wife did – they didn’t die in the plane crash. What happened on the island was real.

  2. The only opinion I don’t really agree with is that the wreckage symbolized everyone died. Like Christian Shepherd said everything that happened, happened. Everything on the island was real and Kate and the others on the plane went on to live full lives elsewhere whereas Hurley and Ben stayed on the island (“You were a great number one” “You were a great number two” implies their long history together AFTER Jack dies on the island)

  3. Thom: I can accept that as a possibility, but would you mind explaining? Between the final conversation between Jack and Christian, with the explanation that everyone in the church had died, and the final shots over the credits of the wreckage of the airplane sitting on the beach, it seemed pretty clear to me.

  4. John: I did catch the Hurley/Ben bit, and I remember Christian saying something about how some of the people there died before Jack, and some died long (with an emphasis on “long“) after Jack.

    So: the Island, and everything we saw, was real, and the “sideways” universe was the actual limbo/purgatory? Why the final shot of the wreckage on the beach, then?

  5. I believe the wreckage on the island shown at the end was the original wreckage. They showed it as a throwback to how everything had started – just as Jack was laying there dying in a similar fashion to how he woke up on the island after the crash.

    Yes, what we saw happening on the island “really happened”. Once people died (which spanned from early deaths such as Boon and Shannon to later ones like Juliet, Sayid, & the Kwans to ones after the “end” of the show like Hurley, Ben, Kate, etc.) they found themselves in the “sideways” universe living a life that they had constructed. This form of purgatory was a way for them to learn how to let go and move on in the afterlife. Since they had all had such a huge impact on each other, their “individual purgatories” were tied together.

    That’s also the explanation for one certain people (like Lapidus and Walt) weren’t there. They had significant lives apart from this group and were not as tied to the island. Hope that helps.

  6. That does a lot, actually — as did a very similar conversation with Prairie this morning. I think I was a little biased by my prior experience with Jacob’s Ladder, so I immediately jumped to the wrong interpretation. The more I think and talk about it, though, the more I “get it” and the more I like it.

  7. The wreckage is the “start of it all”. That is the event that caused all of these characters to meet, interact and bond. The love relationships and rivalries would not have happened if not for the crash.

    And, long after the crash, long after the characters died off, the wreckage is still there. One more monument on the island to the events that have happened.

  8. Speaking of the wreckage, Prairie pointed out to me that the wreckage we saw at the end was aged and weathered — if they really had pulled a “reset,” it would have been fresh, smoking, strewn with bodies. Just one more clue to what they were really doing that I missed last night.

    Can I claim brainlessness from being up past my usual bedtime? I’m not usually this dense…. ;)

  9. Only one thing really bothered me about the finale (which I just finished watching): Sawyer and Kate swimming from the sailboat to Hydra Island. Time is of the essence. The plane is leaving as soon as it can, with or without you. Do you moor your boat a safe distance out and swim to shore, or do you run that sucker aground as close as possible?


  10. I did not make the Jacob’s Ladder connection like you did, but have to say I loved both the ending of LOST and the ending of that film. Both took the same sort of processing, which I suspect is why I liked them so much.

    Someone on Twitter really nailed it, by saying: “Watching LOST for answers is like watching a magic show to figure out how the tricks are done.” Like Christian said, the time on the island was the most important time of their lives, but, it was their time off the island that really colored things. They all had reasons for being there, reasons to be broken and ‘incomplete.’ Sure, polar bears and smoke monsters were neat, but the ‘magic’ of LOST was in the discovery of the characters themselves. Not a rabbit from a hat, but a loving caring individual from a crass, heartless dick. A level-headed follower from a ruthless control freak. A confident, fair leader from a self loathing junk food addict.

    I ignored that show for years because I listened to people bitching about answers and mysteries, but it wasn’t until someone explained to me the way all that stuff sort of ‘glued’ together the off-island interesting stuff that I really took notice. Every week is literally a different story with different characters in different settings. Like an anthology book. But the type of anthology book that Stephen King writes, where all the stories are intertwined in ways that reveal lots — if you’re paying attention.

    I’m 100% satisfied with the ending (as I would be if indeed it were the Jacob’s Ladder ending you first interpreted it as), but I was a teensy-tinsy bit disappointed it didn’t have a Dark Tower ending.

Comments are closed.