This post is about the last episode of Lost. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s probably because you got lulled to sleep by the 30 seconds of Lost followed by 2 minutes of commercials format they went with for the finale. If you don’t want spoilers, go drink some coffee and cue up your TiVo.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Seen it now? Cool, let’s get on with the water cooler discussion, than.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked if Lost had jumped the shark. But like any faithful fan (or drug addict), I kept coming back for more. Last night, I hosted a Lost watch party (complete with Lost-themed food and drink) for the 2 and a half hour series finale. And, honestly, I think Lost may have partially redeemed itself with its series ender.
Lost is clearly a series that intended to explore spiritual matters from the beginning. Each of the main survivors appear to suffer from a spiritual emptiness in their off-island lives. The island is a place where the line between life and death is blurred, and ghosts haunt the living. Jacob and the Smoke Monster are clear representations of pure Good and Evil. Hell, the main protagonist spends the entire series searching for his lost father, Christian Shepherd — a name that was revealed back in Season 1. Fans predicted (both rightly and wrongly) from the beginning that all the characters were dead and that the island was some sort of purgatory.
Yet, Lost became ensconced in mystery after mystery, that seemed to multiply exponentially with each season. Every answer given seemed to expose more questions, and unfortunately, most of them remained unaswered by the end of the Lost finale. What is the true nature of the Source upon which the island is built? Who built the underground cavern that houses The Source? What was Charles Whidmore’s plan involving Desmond (Whidmore didn’t know about the location of The Source, so he must have had another plan)? How did the Dharma Initiative find out about the island and what was the purpose of some of the more elaborate experiments designed by Dharma? How did Walt develop his “bringing things back to life” power and Miles develop his “talking to people in the Flashsideways purgatory” ability? What was the magic of the numbers?
With the theme of the finale, the show’s writers basically asserted that many of those questions were meaningless — and, as a fan of the show’s mystery, I was frustrated by that message. Instead, the writers argue that it is the journey that the characters were on, not the destination, that was important for them. The answers to the questions of the island (i.e. the purpose for why each of the characters were marooned on the island) didn’t matter when compared to the relationships formed between the Losties over the course of their time together.
I saw this movie, once, called Waking Life, which suggested (among other things) that the after-life was actually a prolonged dream state that occurs in the process of dying. At this time, the brain knows no concept of time, and the person recollects his or her life in an abstract experience that can feel like an entire lifetime, but occurs in reality within a fraction of second. This dream state ends at the moment of brain-death, but could it be that death can only occur when the person chooses to end the process of processing his or her life (and wishing to go on living), and accept his or her death?
This idea seemed to be reinforced in last night’s episode of Lost. Last night, it was revealed that the Flashsideways universe is a form of purgatory, where each of the survivors went to at the moment of their deaths, whether they die in the past (as with Shannon, Boone, and Charlie), in the future (as with Kate, Claire, Hurley, and Ben), or in the present (as with Jack). While some have asserted that this purgatory is an afterlife, I believe that the purgatory was supposed to exist within the dying moment of each Lostie. For example, while Juliet dies in Sawyer’s arms in the opening episode of Season 6, she says the same things she said in her conversation with Sawyer in the Flashsideways universe: “Let’s do coffee” and “Let’s go Dutch”.
Furthermore, when Miles allows Juliet to talk from beyond the grave, she tells Sawyer “it worked”. At the time, we thought Juliet had seen an alternate universe where the island never happened for each Lostie, but last night it became clear that Juliet was talking about salvaging a chocolate bar from a vending machine for Sawyer. In addition, the fragment of conversation that Miles picked up from Juliet (“it worked”) occurs earlier in the Flashsideways conversation between Juliet and Sawyer, not after the “Let’s do coffee” and “Let’s go Dutch” lines, further suggesting that while the Flashsideways continuity appears linear (for the purposes of storytelling), it all occurs instantaneously and simultaneously. Clearly, for Juliet, the Flashsideways purgatory universe didn’t happen after she died; she was living her existence within the Flashsideways universe in the seconds before she died.
People seem to experience the purgatory universe as a natural process of dying, as a place where they can recollect the choices they made in their lives and ultimately find peace with their death. Each Lostie is oblivious of the true nature of the Flashsideways universe, trudging through their mundane lives (perhaps endlessly?) until they are faced with a moment of realization that it is better to “let go”. For each Lostie, the circumstance for their relevation is different, but generally involves a moment of deep connection with another person they met on the island. For Kate, it was delivering Aaron and realizing it is time to stop running. For Locke, it was being cured of his dependence (both physically and emotionally) on his wheelchair — which he had been using as a crutch (pun intended) to hide from reality. For Jin and Sun, it was being reminded of the daughter they brought into the world. And for Jack, it was finding peace with his father’s death. In all cases, the Losties seemed to find peace and accept death by resolving an emptiness they had suffered in life, often through the people they met on the island. They learn that a fulfilled life isn’t necessarily about the big things we accomplish (or leave unresolved), but about the people we meet and affect (and who, in turn, affect us) along the way.
Or to beat the metaphorical dead horse, it’s not about the destination (which is largely unaffected by whether or not we get there), it’s about the people we ride the plane with.
As an agnostic, this finale resonated with me. While the overt Christian imagery is there for the Bible-thumpers, the finale doesn’t explicitly state that “letting go” means going to Heaven. Indeed, (“white light seen through the doors of a church pushed open by a Christian Shepherd” aside) I prefer to think that all the Losties simply found peace in death by “letting go” of the need to keep living (and re-living) their lives while seeking fulfillment they didn’t know they had already found. Whatever happens next to the Losties (Heaven, Hell, reincarnation or oblivion) is as unimportant to the Losties (if not to us) as the true nature of the island; in death, what was ultimately important was the experience of deciding to embark (or not, as with Ben) on the adventure of “letting go” together. The final episode emphasized the strength of personal choice, rather than predestination, in the lives (and deaths) of the Losties: and their version of Purgatory is, in many ways, shaped by the limitations of human consciousness and perception. And, despite the fact that this all just metaphysical hand-waving, there’s something comforting in the notion that even if our last moments of life are experienced in the final, random pinging of a dying brain, we do not die alone.
While the big ticket items were not resolved in the finale of Lost, I’m strangely satisfied with the ending. The Losties found each other in death, and achieved fulfillment in their lives. Touching reconnections between each of the characters in the episode’s final scene spoke to not just the friendships made between the characters over the course of the series, but also to the friendships made between the actors in the show’s filming. The show may have jumped the shark in killing off Sayid, Sun and Jin in a single episode, but I find myself kind of sorry to see it go.
It was appropriate that Hurley became the new Island Guardian. Jack was never cut out for a prolonged Jacob-esque existence, whereas Hurley would be deeply fulfilled by caring for the island and its inhabitants.
Ben makes a good number two. It was nice to finally see him become special.
I was thoroughly annoyed by the Temple of Doom-esque set of The Source, and the big bathtub plug that seems to keep The Source… ehrm… Source-y.
The reunion between Sawyer and Juliet was touching and sweet. The reunion between Sayid and Shannon was just kind of grope-y.
Sun and Jin’s post-revelation encounter with Sawyer was touching. Jin managed to convey so much knowing and joy about seeing Sawyer again without saying a word. At the same time, both of them also somehow managed to make the whole thing a little creepy, so you could see why Sawyer was totally weirded out by the whole thing.
I guess Michael and Walt just didn’t make enough friends on the island, huh?
Meanwhile, I’m kind of suffering from a post-Lost depression. This show took six years of my life: what will I fill my own TV void with? I’m thinking Hawaii Five-0. Why? Could it have something to do with the fact that I have a major boy crush on Daniel Dae Kim and a major girl crush on Grace Park? Of course not.