It turns out, in the end, it was all the Doc’s dream.
The two-and-half-hour series finale of LOST, appropriately titled “The End”, was a surprisingly spiritual and emotional elegy with a heartwarming ending that left both fans and LOST-aways alike staring into a bright, white light. While “staring into a bright, white light” is typically mentioned as the last thing people see before they die, the light that ended the show actually represented the death of LOST to the millions of devoted viewers worldwide. Many were expecting the ending to be either an answer-filled treatise that tied together all the island’s and character’s mysteries or a completely shocking mindfuck that would blow everyone’s minds.
Yet, despite all expectations, LOST’s actual ending was much subtler and quieter than anyone had expected. The show we thought was a hard, undecipherable sci-fi puzzle held our hand through the whole thing and let us down easy.
This softer exit was echoed in Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous soundtrack, which, like the show itself, fully embraced a more ethereal tone, contrasting with the gritty and strange soundtrack that dominated previous seasons. Season 1’s mechanical clicks and eerie moans gave way to sweeping violins and optimistic overtones. Fittingly, it’s as if Giacchino started scoring the show as if it was Dante’s Inferno and ended with the soundtrack to Paradiso. Fitting, as that work, too, ended with reader and protagonist staring into the light. All in all, Giacchino’s brilliant work has greatly contributed to the LOST experience. Imagine the scene in the pilot where Kate, Charlie and Jack go examine the cockpit without the spine-tingling Giacchino (a noun) blaring at you! Or Jack and Locke looking down the hatch together (both times)! Or anytime anyone’s walking somewhere (can that bit of music please play as I walk around the office? It would make my workday that much more epic, thanks)! I mean, seriously, EGOT that guy already. If you’re interested, there is a great piece in the New Yorker about how LOST is composed.
But back to the Doc – that is, Doctor Jack Shephard, of course – and his many dreams. Now, by “it was all the doc’s dream,” I don’t mean the whole show was a fake or a dream. On Monday the 24th, I overheard a co-worker say, “So, they all were dead. They died in the original plane crash.” NO, MORON, THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. DID YOU EVEN WATCH THE SHOW? For the record, I did not say that out loud. And yet I don’t think she is alone in having large misconceptions about the show’s ending. I think we can agree that:
- Everything that happened on the Island was real. The Island exists, with all of its mystical oddities and electromagnetic wonders.
- Everything that happened to the characters on the Island was real. They did not die in the Oceanic 815 crash, whose wreckage was ill-advisedly shown during the finale credits. A rep from ABC did confirm that those images did not have anything to do with the show’s ending. The shots of the wrecked plane were just stock footage meant to transition the audience from the ending of LOST to the evening news. Yeah, ‘cuz footage of a plane crash really makes me feel better before watching the news. As Danny Faraday/Widmore said, “whatever happened, happened.”
- The Sideways was an ante-chamber. A holding place. A limbo. A very large, world-shaped waiting room. A “come-and-go” place that the collective consciousnesses of the castaways made up so that they could find each other. They needed each other to face reality: recognize death. Accept it. Let go of the mortal coil. Move on, together. Essentially, LOST’s central mantra of “Live Together, Die Alone” culminated in: “Live together… die. Together.”
- And yet… the Sideways was real too. As Christian Shephard (“Seriously? Christian Shephard” was one of the many moments that I felt the likable Kate come back around in “The End”) said, “I sure hope we’re real.” The Sideways was outside of time – “There is no now here” – where the souls of those people who had died both before and long after Doc Jack were able to reunite. It was real in the sense that any spiritual tenet is real – it is real if you believe it is real. As Albus Dumbledore says to Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows chapter King’s Cross: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
What I mean by “it was all the doc’s dream” is that all of Fixer Jack’s fantasies came true. He was able to save all of his friends (while stepping up to the plate and sacrificing himself) during his mortal life, and in his spiritual pre-afterlife, he was able to work out his daddy issues and move on from them. And I thought that guy had a God complex before.
That being said, I think it is also possible that the Sideways world we saw throughout Season 6 could all be the pre-afterlife as Jack alone had imagined it. Jack features in most of the Sideways scenes (there are only a few moments in the Sideways that he doesn’t appear in at some point). The relationships that people are in in the Sideways are all those which Jack was familiar with – Sayid and Shannon;
SIDEBAR: Regarding Sayid and Shannon vs. Sayid and Nadia: call me crazy, but I somehow think this makes sense. For Sayid, Nadia was both an idea and an ideal. A relationship fraught with violence, longing and unattainable expectations. Even though Sayid and Shannon were only together for a short time, they were more appropriate romantic foils. They were able to see each other in new ways, ways which the outside world couldn’t see because of their stereotypes. I totally dug it, as did New York Magazine’s LOST recapper Emily Nussbaum, whom, by the by, I had the great pleasure of meeting at the Paley Center on May 22nd
Hurley and Libby; Ben and Rousseau. I mean, it’s possible that this is the ideal world that Jack had created to work through his mortal issues. After all, who was the key to moving on? Christian, Jack’s dad. He needed Christian to show him the way.
What about David, you say? Well, this is how I see it: David, my personal Justin Bieber, was a way for Jack to work through his daddy issues. Only when he was a dad himself – something that, perhaps, Jack always wanted – did Jack see his father’s perspective. By (all-too-easily) mending the relationship with David, Jack was able to pseudo-mend the relationship with his father. David was an aide to his acceptance. I think David served a purpose for Juliet as well, who had issues regarding children. For Juliet, perhaps David was the child she never got to have either, and a way for her to raise a child to adolescence, where so many children she had delivered were stillborn.
Why make Juliet and Jack friendly exes? I think this twist also worked out for both Jack and Juliet. Each of them had horribly toxic relationships with their exes during their mortal lives. Their amicable relationship in the Sideways allows them to work through those issues together. The fact that this helps both Jack and Juliet points to the idea that the Sideways is not just Jack’s creation but the sum of everyone involved’s collective issues. Is it possible that Sideways world was Jack’s alone? Possible. But I prefer the idea that it really was the creation of all of the castaways. Their time on the island was the most important time in their lives (with the exception of maybe Des and Penny – I would hope there would be better things for them on the horizon, but I guess their love would not be so epic without the castaways and such) and their being able to relive those relationships is what allows them to pass on.
And yet… I was surprised just how Jack-focused the finale was, both in the Sideways (as mentioned above) and on the island.
Yes, you could say that it’s been his journey all along. The show opened with his eye, Jack waking up in the bamboo forest then stumbling out to see the great melee unfold. But then the show exploded, with the introduction of a mass of complicated and interesting characters, whose stories were just as – if not more – interesting than that of the Doctor With a Hero Complex (haven’t seen that one before). Mainly I am referring to my personal favorite character John Locke, whose quiet philosophical teachings and strong faith were tempered with a fierce determination (DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN’T DO!) and scary skills with a knife. Everyone who watched the show had their “favorite”: from tortured Iraqi hottie Sayid; to voice-of-the-audience dude Hurley; to scheming-like-no-other Ben Linus; to on-the-run Kate. As viewers, we all made personal investments in the characters of the show and wanted to see how their personal struggles fit into the great mosaic which is LOST.
Which is why, AHEM, the show succeeded in the first place! Primarily, it was character-focused and character-driven. All the other storytelling elements and mysteries came second to the characters’ personal journeys. The mystery was the hook – the heart of the show was the characters. Which is why I don’t think fans should be surprised at the ending. Most people stuck with LOST because they wanted to see what happened next… to the people. I realized this at about Season 4 and was much happier watching the show not worrying about which parts of the mystery would be solved. I think, as time goes on, those who are currently griping about the lack of answers to specific mysteries will feel more in tune with the ending eventually. WARNING TO THOSE WHO KEEP TRYING TO MAKE THE NEXT LOST: START WITH THE CHARACTERS, THEN MAKE THE MYSTERY. Just sayin’.
As the seasons progressed, I had the feeling that, despite Jack’s central role (the purpose for which, as I see it, was mainly to anchor the show from meandering), LOST was an ensemble piece. It was the coming together of many different stories to make one larger story; which is, actually, an apt description of the finale. But “The End” still was, in my personal opinion, overly Jack-ian. The show narrowed itself down again from the journey of many to the journey of one and ended with a focus on his eye and its final closing.
Essentially the path of the show was: opening of one man’s eye/worldview; expanding to the point-of-view of many others; a tightening of focus on most important character arcs; sudden zoom back in to the story of the one man, and his eye shuts. It does make sense – I feel like I’m arguing with myself about this point – the show’s original title was “The Circle.” And yet, I still feel that some of the characters that we were told were important and who we focused on through the other seasons got a bit shortchanged at the end. I guess it’s hard to have long, personal elegies to a show with 16 main characters.
I suppose my biggest complaint about the finale (and for the record I quite enjoyed it), was the Jack-centric-ness and the feeling that it was definitely a Season 6 finale but didn’t completely feel like a series finale. They dutifully wrapped up the big mystery of Season 6 – the Sideways – but I think it’s hard to apply “The End” to the series as a whole. I felt it spoke much more to recent events in the series than all that came before it. /rant
Not to say that we didn’t get some WONDERFUL character moments throughout the episode, moments which spoke to earlier seasons. It could be easy to get fatigued with each of the characters’ awakening moments – and yet somehow, each one was a touching, beautiful monument to what these characters had been through together. The one that hit me particularly hard – both the first and second time I watched it – was Jin and Sun. Maybe it was because I hadn’t really thought of their deaths as deaths before – OH, WELL THERE’S ALWAYS THE SIDEWAYS. But in their Sideways realization moment, when they actually saw flashes of their final moments alive, I was very emotional. The way the show conveyed the notion of being able to reunite with those you’ve lost after death was moving, especially, I think, to those who have lost someone. The idea of simultaneous recognition – I dug it.
My other Top Teary Moments:
- Kate/Claire/Charlie – I don’t think I’ll ever get over Charlie’s death. Ever. I also liked how the three of them got to share their recognition moment together, a strange nuclear family that never coalesced in real life.
- Juliet/Sawyer – I definitely felt this one more the second time I watched it, with knowledge of what the Sideways was. Juliet Mitchell and Josh Holloway are magic together and I think their relationship on the show, even though short-lived, was the most real of all the romantic entanglements.
- Jack/Locke in the church – why did this get me? They had eye contact for like 2 seconds, but I had an emotional response. WTF, self?!
- Kate/Jack on the cliff – again, a surprising one as neither Jack nor Kate have been my personal favorites. This one, too, came during the second watch. Maybe it was because, the second time around, I knew this would be the last time they would ever see each other and that Kate would miss him for the rest of her life? Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to watch these things alone.
So, shippers, if you’re keeping score, the final tally is: Kate + Jack! Sawyer + Juliet! Ben + Hurley!
Speaking of Number 1 and Number 2… how surprisingly pleasant is that pairing?! At the Times Talk LOST discussion, Michael Emerson mentioned that he and Jorge Garcia’s characters, who hadn’t interacted much before this, were given an interesting opportunity for an unexpected working relationship. And how!
This is why Hurley + Ben works: Hurley and Ben don’t have a lot of personal history. Sure, Hurley wasn’t so fond of His Trickiness’ trickery, and Hurley may have thrown a Hot Pocket at Ben (we cheered when that happened at the LOST-A-THON) and would have rather gone to jail than trust him… but, really, did they have that much baggage? Not like Ben and Locke or Ben and Jack or Ben and Widmore. They hadn’t had a chance to be dueling foes. In fact, I think Ben has a lot of respect for Hurley because Hurley is everything that Ben wanted to be. Everybody loves Hugo! He is spiritually (well, and monetarily) rich, has a good outlook on life and is someone people like and trust. Ben: not so much. I think Ben would be okay to work under Hurley because Hurley is the type of dude a reformed Ben might want to be. And I think, at that point, Ben knew that he couldn’t handle the power of the job, but he was still happy he was needed by someone.
PLUS, as you probably already know, there will be a 12-14 minute short about the Island Times of Hurley and Ben on the S6 DVD special features. Huzzah I say! I am very much looking forward to it, although I do like just imagining what it would have been like. Was it an era of peace? What were Hurley’s rules? Ranch dressing for all!? Did they meet up with the Others (oh hey, Cindy) again? Did the Jacob cycle continue? Who came to power after Hurley? Was it Ben? Was it a peaceful transition? We shall see…
SIDEBAR: WHY WAS BEN NOT IN THE CHURCH? While we’re talking about Ben, here are my thoughts about who’s in the church and who’s not: those gathered there had experienced something communally. That stage of their lives, on the island, was the most important. So, for Ben, while he could have gone with them, he was not ready to move on. He had some things to do before getting to the resolve, let go, move on step. He had recognition, but as Walt would say, he had work to do.
WALT?! A thorn in many fans’ side is why Walt wasn’t in the church. Personally, I was okay with it. In fact, it made me happy: it meant that the island was not the most important part of Walt’s life. He was able to move on and have something greater than that. Maybe he and Michael will be able to meet up and reconcile; although poor Michael had to stay on the Island and whisper. Okay, so how is it okay for murderin’ Kate, torturin’ Sayid and stranglin’ Sawyer to be there, but not shootin’ Michael?! I guess I can fall back that eventually he gets to be with Walt. But I do think it’s a bit unfair that Michael has to stay on the Island, while Sayid gets to prance with his lady love into the Great White Light.
Obviously, this ending still leaves much room for interpretation. There is an amusing video of all the “unanswered questions” up on College Humor (although I think the answer to most of the questions they mention can be inferred), and it’s 5 minutes long.
The part about the show that I am most curious about at this point is: what happened to the survivors after they left the island?
- I felt sad for Sawyer, who, along with Claire, had never left the island, and now was going back to… his insanely depressing life pre-crash? Everyone thought he was dead. In the real world, he was a disliked con man who murdered the wrong guy in Australia and had a daughter who knew nothing about him. No to mention that he had also just lost the great love of his life, Juliet. And Kate ultimately loved Jack, not him. But, I’d like to think that maybe his friendship with Miles blossomed and he was finally able to open up to someone. After all, Miles was the closest friend (other than Juliet) that he ever had.
- I imagine Kate and Claire raised Aaron together… but Kate missed Jack for the rest of her life. Maybe Kate was able to reconnect Sawyer and little Clementine, as she had that strange relationship with Cassie, Sawyer’s baby mama.
- Oh, Richard! You actually made me so happy!
OMG GREAT RICHARD MOMENT
R. Alpert finally got to live a real life; that is, one with an expiration date. Silver foxes club with Miles? Done AND done. How great an actor is Nestor Carbonell that he could convey so much – “I’m free! I’m mortal! I can start again! But I don’t belong! That shit on the Island was nuts! But I made it!” – with one look. So, so happy for Ricardo.
- I imagine Frank was united with his true love… bacon.
And this is why I think the Sideways is a gift to the fans: because without it, LOST would have a very unhappy ending. Imagine: Jack kills the Smoke monster… but then dies. Six of them get to escape, but… the hero dies. Vincent’s there (AHHHH MY BFF VINCENT). It’s all very sad.
SIDEBAR: Can I say that the resolution to the Smokey-menace did not quite live up to my expectations? I do think it was a bold move to cut out the villain halfway through the finale – ultimately, that resolution ended up being fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of the episode. Yet, I was never really clear about what the danger of having a mortal Smokey escape would be. What was the importance of killing him? And the magical bathtub cork? A LITERAL HOT TUB TIME MACHINE? REALLY? And no one was in danger of becoming Smokey? Again, with the cheesy CGI and the way-too-easy solutions to much-ballyhooed problems. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that the island drama was visually stunning – I loved the gritty, post-apocalyptic feel when the island was sinking – and had some excellent acting and dialogue – EPIC fight scene between Flocke and Jack – but it was a bit weak story-wise. All in all, that was not meant to be the focus of the ep… which was….
The Sideways was a way for us, as fans, to let go. We were able to see the curtain calls of many of our fave characters and slowly realize that it was “The End” for us, too. LOST has been very meta this season, so it’s no surprise that the Sideways is a meta commentary on the show’s run as well. We have to recognize. To let go. To move on.
(Even though I stand by the notion that we were purposefully deceived as to what the Sideways was. The writers went out of their way to make this revelation particularly shocking, which can make one a bit resentful, but, I digress…)
The Sideways also allowed us to relive and remake our favorite moments/relationships/motifs from the series. In Season 6, we got to see many classic scenes again, beginning with Jack and Rose on the airplane. “The End” was chock full of these moments, from Jack and Flocke looking down a mysterious, glowing hatch together, to Jack and Kate talking stitches, to Jack doing a miracle surgery (originally on Sarah, but this time on Locke), to the final sequence of Jack’s death, which, shot-for-shot mimics the series’ opening. Not to mention that the Oceanic 6 are now the Ajira 6. We’ve gotten many repeated lines throughout the series – live together die alone; see you in another life, brother; I hope you find what you’re looking for; don’t mistake coincidence for fate; whatever happened, happened; the island isn’t done with you yet; don’t tell me what I can’t do – many of which recurred here. In the finale, we also got to visit some familiar settings – the bamboo forest, the hill where Kate, Jack and Charlie walked up to get to the Fuselage is the hill where Kate, Jack and Hurley go to get to the cave. It’s almost as if the series is a set of recurring moments – like we as viewers are having constant déjà vu.
This feeling, along with the central theme that these people are meant to be together (remember the excitement of seeing all the random connections between them in Season 1?) leaves me with this final theory: it only ends once, everything else is just progress. That is, the souls of these people may be going under some sort of reincarnation, where they are meant to find each other again in the next life (brotha). There is a cycle, whereby everything that has occurred in the past feeds into the present. We are constantly making ourselves; looking, like Sawyer, at our reflections in broken mirrors. I wonder if, after they walked into the bright light with Christian, if their souls moved on to new lives, where they will all eventually collide, fight, love, die and meet up again? Or, it could be that this is the end of a long cycle of enlightenment journeys, and finally it does end: these characters are moving on to the next thing.
Which is… ?
That, I am still wrapping my mind around.
In my real life, the next thing is finding the next show to enthrall and captivate me. I’ll be keeping a look out, but something tells me there will be nothing like the LOST experience. The week leading up to the finale was so thrilling for me and a fitting send-off to not just a show I liked, but a show that represented a specific time in my life. Over the past 6 years, my life has changed dramatically, and LOST will always be a touchstone for memories and friendships and places.
A few footnotes from LOST week:
- Times Talk LOST was incredibly amusing, especially watching the Des-Penny constant scene on the big screen. I am quite jealous of those who got to watch the finale this way, although I am happy that my finale viewing experience was more intimate. I had my constants around me; there were margaritas and smoke monster popcorn. It helped me let go.
- The panel at the Paley Center was excellent! Not only did we get to watch the pilot on a big screen, but yours truly may have been in the top 6 of their trivia contest. Somehow I lucked out and won this awesome poster (which will be framed posthaste).
- We also visited LOSTATHON, where three college friends were aiming to break the Guinness World Record for a TV Marathon by watching the entire series of LOST simultaneously. We had our own mini marathon – 6 hours and many DHARMA beers later – and met some great fans, including the ladies from the Unlocke LOST podcast. I can’t say I’ve ever had so much fun nerding out as discussing LOST for 6 hours with other diehards, outside, at a bar. Congrats to the guys who did complete the marathon – I don’t think anyone has ever been excited about a dismembering as we all were when we cheered for Montand’s arm being ripped off. A farewell to arms, indeed.
And, with that, a farewell to you too, my dear readers. Since LOST has come to a close, I fear that this instant-analysis blog has also found its necessary end. Not to say that there is isn’t more to think about and discuss; I’m sure fans will be analyzing and dissecting and rediscovering LOST for a long time. I was recently discussing this finale week with a friend, who said he’d like to go back – WE HAVE TO GO BACK, KATE – and rewatch the whole series… but in about two or three years. Sometimes, one needs distance from something so large and all-consuming to get a fresher perspective on it. I have certainly loved developing the eyeoftheisland project and look forward to creating the next thing that really moves and inspires me. For now, my game plan is to keep the blog up for new fans of the series and somewhat maintian the eyeoftheisland twitter account to keep up with readers and LOST-related news, including August’s S6 DVD release. I’ve been more recently toying with the idea of going back to the beginning and analyzing season 1-4 postmortem with a bit of hindsight to put a new spin on it. We’ll see what develops.
Until then, thank you for going on this journey with me. Namaste and good luck!