Reviews & Recommendations, The Modern Times

My Interpretation of the LOST Finale

I was going to write a lengthy review-style blog about last night’s LOST finale, but found myself, despite my satisfaction with how the show ended, still confused about key points. I’ll get to that soon, and hopefully you can help me resolve them. Like many of you, those questions and confusion pertain the nature of the out-of-time sideways world (which I’m not sure is sideways at all). However, I’ve decided to simply jot down some notes about what I think certain things mean and how they effect the story and characters.

– Ultimately, the masterminds behind LOST provided viewers with a happy ending, albeit an unexpected one. Consider: the island dwellers essentially completed everything they set out to do at the beginning of the finale. They defeated the evil Locke/MIB/smoke monster. They saved the island. And many of the show’s primary characters make it off the island alive, off to new lives and future experiences. That they ultimately die doesn’t change that. All stories, all journeys, all lives, end in death. There is no escaping that, and so it is no tragedy that these lives ended as they did. In fact, it was beautiful, and meaningful, and full of great hope that they were able to enter into their afterlife together, a community of flawed but changed individuals whose relationships with each other helped them grow.

– The implication clearly is that after Jack’s sacrifice (and on-island death) the story goes on. That, for some unspecified number of years, life continued on the island with Hurley and Ben as protectors (hence Hurley’s “you were a great number 2” comment, followed by Ben’s “and you were a great number one.”) And Miles, Kate, Claire, Alpert, Lapidus, and Sawyer really did make it off the island, as suggested by the airplane that Jack sees fly over his head before he closes his eyes and passes away. I love that there is both resolution and mystery in this implication, it’s truly wonderful storytelling. It offers the suggestion but leaves plenty for the imagination.

– I don’t know this for sure, but I think that the reason Ben can’t “let go” at the end and join the others is that he is first going to have to become one of the “whisperers” on the island, like Michael before him, characters both whose past sins will haunt them into the afterlife. For them the island seems to indeed serve as a purgatory (which the writers have continually said the island is not for the rest of the Oceanic survivors).

My favorite line of the finale: Hurley: “this would all be sweet if weren’t about to die.” We should have caught on then!

The “sideways world” certainly remains a bit of a mystery. But I think that one of the keys to understanding it was given by Christian when he tells Jack that “there is no now here.” The sideways reality, if indeed it is sideways at all, is outside of time. It’s not a product or time at all and thus it neither functions nor behaves like it would were it confined to the restrictions of time. It is simply a part of eternity and so it doesn’t matter whether it happens at the same time as the on-island events, as Jack’s bleeding seems to imply, or whether it happens later. It happens, and it matters, just like the events on the island happen and matter. But when they happen doesn’t matter. Christian tells Jack that all of them are dead, some died before him and others much later. Boone, Shannon, Charlie, Juliet, Sayid, Locke, Sun, and Jin obviously died before him. But Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Aaron, and the others died after him; when, we don’t know, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. They died after the on-island adventure occurred, after the “most important” time in their lives happened, and what is important is that they ultimately were able to be together in their after life, that they were able to rejoin the community of people whose friendship and love changed them for eternity. Much like the Christian hope.

A “sideways world” theory: Is it possible that the afterlife we saw at the end of the episode was only Jack’s version? I don’t think so, but what do you think?

– It does seem, however, that “sideways” seems to be some kind of preparation ground, some gathering place before the after life. Not a purgatory per se, but an opportunity to make amends for past mistakes and refurbish some broken relationships. I need to think more on what it means. I have a whole season of key scenes to re-watch and reconsider, which was presumably one of the writers’ goals.

– I think we need to forget about Walt-related answers. The producers had the problem of a kid who was aging too quickly to remain an active member of the cast and they were, it seems, forced to make some concessions. We would do well to remember that, since TV is such a unique medium, especially this TV show, the storytellers were forced to operate around restrictions that filmmakers or fiction writers can avoid.

– That said, I read a report (which I subsequently can’t find again) that revealed that show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff will provide some answers about key, unanswered questions on the forthcoming DVD. That will help tie up some loose ends I’m sure.

A few key visual metaphors I LOVED: The angels on the either side of the door that Christian opens at the end, allowing the white light to fill the church. Also, Jack stretched out crucifix style in the bamboo patch, a Christlike sacrifice for his friends. And, of course, the obvious one – the eye closing at the end.

Jack is the key. Consider this portion of a review from USA Today:

So in some ways the 2½-hour finale was two journeys, both centered on Jack, each illustrating the themes of individual redemption and group responsibility. On our world, he saved the island, handed the guardian job to Hurley, and died. (For the record, Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Miles, Richard, Lapidus and Desmond eventually left the island; Hurley and Ben stayed.) In the other world, the post-life purgatory where “now” does not exist, he was the final piece that reunited the characters and allowed all to leave — a reawakening of memories, theirs and ours, any fan had to cherish.

LOST was ultimately a show about people, as Lindelof suggested in the pre-finale retrospective. It’s flawed people changing, interacting, growing, struggling, loving, living, dying, failing and succeeding. We are all lost it says, and we are. And we are all in need of other people, of community. And no, there are no do-overs, it’s not true that nothing is irreversible, but in the end every action we take, everything we do, matters. All of it, the good and the bad, the regrettable and beautiful alike. And, when the show faded to black a final time, we knew that Jack had found his purpose and Kate her peace; that Hurley finally was able to accept himself for who he was and that Sayid could learn to forgive himself; that Claire would be able to protect her child and that the flame of Sun and Jin’s relationship would not burn out.

It’s been said that LOST is full of sloppy storytelling, and that was true from time to time. But not last night. It was full of crowd pleasing references to past episodes and seasons, and tied the oddly circular narrative of the show up in a nice (if predictable) way. For all of the hysteria that is sure is to ensure in the next few days, the show’s fans should have plenty of nostalgia to celebrate. But more than that, it did a marvelous job of re-instilling the key themes and ideas that made the show what it was.

– Writers Lindeloff and Cuse have said they were not interested in making a show that took the easy way out (and they sure weren’t lying). They said that they wanted to produce a finale that would help the show be long remembered, discussed, and thought about, full of big ideas and difficult themes, and in that they succeeded. LOST is perhaps the most unique television series in history, and there will never be another show like it. Viewers should be grateful for the experience, even if they came to it late, as I did.

What were your impressions and interpretations?

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2 thoughts on “My Interpretation of the LOST Finale

  1. TonyC says:

    Bingo. 100% absolutely. You’ve hit on many of my main thoughts on this show as well (including the question of whether the flash sideways world – and specifically the church gathering – were Jack-centric or a mutual experience among those there.)

    Well done.

  2. Caleb says:

    This is way, way late, but I finally caught up to the rest of the crowd, and want to add my two cents.

    My girlfriend has been reading about Egyptian Mythology and views of the afterlife. She gave me a crash course on what she’s reading, which she thinks helps explain the ending:

    Egyptians believed that when you die, your two essences (she explained it as your personality and your spirit) are separated. You go through 6 (gasp!) tests, passing through six gates, and if you are deemed worthy, your spirit and your personality are rejoined to pass into the afterlife as one whole.

    The statue on the island, you will remember, was the Egyptian God of the dead, Anubis.

    SO. The interpretation I’m leaning towards is, the airplane actually crashes; the people on board ACTUALLY die before the first scene of the first episode of the first season. They actually die above the island, due to the island (or technically, they die when their plane crashes into the island). At this point, their trials begin. Their personality passes onto the island in a very real manifestation; Their spirit goes back to the sideways world. their Spirits’ stories are relatively short and uninteresting, as the spirits are simply waiting on their personality to pass the test or not (you’ll remember that Anna Lucia was “not ready.” She didn’t pass her on-island test).

    The series “Lost” was the story of the Oceanic 815’s dead passengers tests on the island. Well, things got complicated, because scientists (such as Whitmore) are using science to break the system and locating the island and such (which, as stated, is a very real place). the Oceanic 6 actually do escape from the island- but everything is wrong because they’re not really alive. They no longer “belong” on the mainland. They need to be on the island to complete their test to move on. Once they do so, their spirits are free to remember their personality in sideways world, and they can move on.

    The only end this doesn’t tie up for me is; the plane that leaves the island. We have to assume Sawyer and his crew live out relatively normal lives that don’t involve the island. I’m still working that part out.

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