The series finale of Lost didn’t settle every question, but it did settle many of the long-running questions raised by fans. Although my live viewing was frustratingly complicated by failed transmission equipment at ABC affiliate, WEWS, I was able to watch the entire episode thanks to iTunes. So let’s settle the things that can be settled regarding Lost.
Yeah, this is a break from my normal topics. Feel free to skip this if you didn’t watch Lost. In fact, since there are major spoilers here, you probably ought to skip it unless you have seen the finale!
- The island wasn’t purgatory – A very popular theory during the first few years of Lost was that they all really died in the crash of Oceanic flight 815 and the island was purgatory or even hell. The concept would be that they would suffer for their real-life sins and when they found redemption they would be able to move on. Although redemption was a major theme of the show, I think we can definitely say that they survived the plane crash and lived, suffered, and (some) died on the island.
- LA X was purgatory – The entire season 6 alternate reality was, as Christian Shephard points out, constructed in the minds of the survivors and their friends as a “waiting room” until they “remembered” and decided to “move on.” Although we don’t know where they go after LA X, we do know that punishment and redemption played a big part while they were there – a textbook definition of purgatory. Apparently, LA X was a mash-up of each person’s own conception of himself, and what he deserved if the plane had never crashed.
- Everyone dies, just not at the same time – No doubt, the producers must have been tempted to kill everyone off in the finale. But just as they chose to allow these people to survive the initial plane crash, they chose to let some live and others die. Of the main characters, Boone, Shannon, Charlie, Michael, Locke, Sun, Jin, Sayid, and Jack die and Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Hurley, Rose, and Bernard live (for now). Sawyer, Kate, and Claire seem to make it off the island in the Ajira plane, Hurley and Ben stay and rule the island for some time, and Rose and Bernard seem safe as well. Of course they all die eventually, but they don’t “get it” on screen.
- Jacob was a jerk – The two thousand year regime of Jacob was cruel and violent, and the rules were his alone, not dictated by the island. Although he was on the side of good, Jacob was not a good person and the game he played with smokey was entirely unnecessary. He set everything in motion and spent two millenia trying to fix his mistake by manipulating others and delivering them to their deaths. Presumably, the rule of Hurley and Ben was far different.
- Benjamin Linus wasn’t evil – Like so many literary characters, we spent the majority of five seasons trying to figure out which side Ben Linus was on. In the end, we see that although he was selfish and jealous, Ben had enough good inside to be redeemed. All it took was Hurley’s sincere invitation to bring it out.
- Everyone has a chance at redemption – Ben Linus helped to set up a new positive island regime with Hurley, and he was able to “remember” and show up at the church (though he chose not to go in yet). Sayid also chose to redeem himself, sacrificing himself on the sub and choosing to help Shannon in LA X. Locke and Jack were never really evil, but were filled with the same self-hate as everyone else. In the Lost world, everyone has a shot at redemption.
- There were ghosts on the island – That’s right, ghosts. Though Michael as much as told us this a few episodes back, many still wondered if this was a trick from Smokey or even Jacob. But the appearance of Christian Shephard at the church, his conversation with Jack, and the ultimate resolution of the series demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that there were remnant spirits of the dead on that island.
- Juliet and Sawyer were meant for each other – As pathetic as it sounds, the Jack/Kate/Sawyer+Juliet love quadrangle was a major running storyline on Lost. The “remembering” scenes in the finale provide some final insight into this plot: Sawyer and Juliet spark each other’s memory, so they belong together. But the wake-up calls for Jack and Kate come from other sources entirely: Jack is sparked by his father’s coffin, and Kate by Claire’s giving birth to Aaron. Although they (finally) profess their love, Jack+Kate do not equal Sawyer+Juliet.
- Nobody will have daddy issues with Jack – Sorry, David, you were a figment of Jack’s imagination. Nearly every character on Lost had some problem or another with his father or mother, but this was to become the primary mental block for Jack. Although he wished he could break the cycle with his own son, Jack ended it by never having children. Goodbye, daddy issues!
- This was human drama not science fiction – The mysterious island kept us speculating and coming back for more for six seasons, but the finale answered one last question: What kind of show is this? In the end, we don’t know if the island was home to alien technology or a battle ground for warring gods and demons and we don’t care. Lost was always about people, and the finale rightly focused on their struggles and redemption.
So there you have it. The Lost finale answered some of the most important questions of the series but focused on the human element rather than the sci-fi mysteries. After watching the finale, I have to say it was satisfying in a way that Battlestar Galactica, for example, was not. The characters found redemption and the mysteries of the island remained, for the most part, intact. I call this a win.
Colin Steele says
Great review, Steve. I loved the finale too. But one question: How was the appearance of Christian at the church proof that ghosts existed on the Island? That was off the Island, and I took it that Christian was just another of the souls in purgatory waiting to move on. Any time we saw Christian on the Island in past seasons, that was the Man in Black.
Great sum-up Stephe. I’ve watched the whole series from Italy, sometimes dubbed (that was fun!), but most times in the original.
1) I knew it wasn’t science fiction, right from the start. I wouldn’t have kept watching otherwise 🙂
2) While I agree with your sum-up, two things really bothered me about season 6, philosophically speaking.
a) In one episode Jacob uses the wine-in-the-bottle metaphor to explain evil. Something like, “right now it’s bottled up, but if we pop the cork, all hell breaks loose”. That doesn’t sound right to me. Evil isn’t something bottled up waiting to get out, it’s already out, everywhere, the wine or water or whatever has already seeped into every nook and cranny. (Maybe, as you say, Jacob was a jerk, and even his little metaphor was just a sign of his jerkiness).
b) The concept of two people “being made for each other” is, to me, well, crap. Love (and relationships in general) is like a garden. It grows, and you need to maintain it. It’s not just something that is there, ready-to-wear (as it were), and you just need to find it.
Anyway, just some thoughts.
Thanks for the lucid summary!
I suppose it wasn’t Christian specifically that said it, but I drew the conclusion that if spiritual afterlives (Christian et al) in LA X are acceptable then so too are spirits trapped on the island.
Re wine-in-a-bottle, this strikes me as odd too. It sounds like Jacob was referring to the “cork” in the Golden Cave of Doom now that we’ve seen it. But uncorking it was exactly what had to happen! And although some evil was definitely ripping the island apart, I think it ended well. Weird.
As for the “made for each other” thing – I guess it means that S+J was the most important thing in their lives. True Love?
Chris K. says
Agreed… Jacob was a total jerk.
I do agree that LA X being purgatory is one interpretation, but that is the beauty of the finale – and, indeed, religion – in that people can choose to believe what they will.
Also, you’re spot on about Juliet and Sawyer. They are truly soulmates.
I have just finished the whole show (streamed) and I am totally disappointed. 1-9 are facts, correct. 10 is bollocks! Or half of it. It may not be SciFi but Lost is Fantasy/Mystery the least. They built many questions, vital at least for us that watched it also for its mysteries, and they have never gotten answered.
As for the human drama.. So, that’s the solution for happiness? To die and then to meet in Purgatory all people we loved “in the most important time of our lives” to go together to Paradise? What about poor Aaron? Does he have to stay a baby for eternity so his mommy and mommy’s bf will be forever happy? Is that seriously a message to send? Happiness is in death. Yeah, sure, you first bloody Lost’s producers and writers!
PS: I know this is a very old article. But I am so disappointed that I need to blow off in a way or another.
Sawyer & Kate are the ones who were meant to be. They had all the “crossing path connections”, she knew Cassidy, he met her mother, they were touched by Jacob as children, only he could see her horse, only she could see his boar, their numbers are mirror images of each other “15 and 51” .. Jack & Juliet had NO such cosmic connections to Kate&Sawyer. They were the only couple with a “love theme”, AND they got off the island together! They jumped from the cliff together in an obvious symbolic gesture .. “leap of faith”, “lovers leap”, “taking the plunge”, whatever you want to call it, that moment was important and totally called back to the moment when Sawyer jumped from the helicopter. And Kate yelled “Sawyer!”. this time KATE jumps first and Sawyer yells “Kate!” they jump in the exact same way they jumped from the waterfall in Season 1. Feet first for her, head first for him. They were the total endgame ON the island, which was “real. The AU was “whatever you want it to be”, per Darlton. Besides, Sawyer loved Kate the whole time he was with Juliet. I think that was pretty obvious, both overtly and subtextually.