In the end Lost was a show not about smoke monsters or polar bears or numbers or hatches or golden lights or good and evil or fate and free will; it was a show about people, just like it was when the plane first crashed. We'll never know why Walt was so special, or why pregnancies failed on the island or why the Dharma food drops still continued, but the kinds of answers we got in the Lost finale were the simpler, better kind. We know that Ben Linus can make the choice to protect the island and to be good. We know Jack and Locke can both be right. We know that the island was real, and was so important to the castaways that it inspires them to reunite after their deaths. We know that the castaways make the final decision to live together not die alone.
It got pretty loosey-goosey spiritual toward the end, and the golden light at the center of the island felt a little too much like every other generic mystical thing that happened on the island. I'm not all that thrilled to see the show's complex relationships-- Jack and Sawyer's rivalries, Sayid's love for both Shannon and Nadia-- reduced to One True Love pairings at the happiest church social of all time. And I'm not really sure how Christian Shephard got the gig of explaining everything with five minutes left to go. But Lost was never just a show that built twisty puzzles and spooky scares, but one that named characters for philosophers, tossed out Biblical references freely, and followed an entire subplot about building a church. We always knew where the show fell in on the science vs. faith debate, and it only feels right to end things on that smooshy note.
There's plenty more to say about this episode-- what we saw and what we wanted to see, what we think it all means, which spin-off we'd like to see more-- and the entire CB staff will be pitching in over the next few days to send the show off in style. For now, though, here's my usual reaction done in a slightly unusual way. It seems pretty futile to divide it by questions answered and new questions, since very, very few questions were answered tonight, and any new questions will be the ones we're sitting with forever. Instead, because tonight's finale was more about character closure than anything, else, we'll do this by characters-- the alternate universe versions and the island versions-- and how we last see them.
What you'll read below is more recappy than what I usually write here, but there's a lot to sift through, and there's plenty more time for discussion. Relive the highlights below, chime in with your thoughts and comments, and we'll talk more tomorrow.
In The Flash-Sideways
Jin and Sun. In the hospital they are visited by ob-gyn Juliet, who gives Sun a sonogram and instantly allows Sun to flash to her island life. The same thing happens to Jin moments later when he sees Ji-Yeon on the screen. Cue the touching Jin and Sun montage, and Jin and Sun knowing everything, even recognizing Sawyer when he shows up later to check on them. Juliet, however, doesn't get it yet.
Sawyer. Realizing that Sayid has escaped from the prison van, Miles sends Sawyer to the hospital to check on Sun, who of course is just fine. Sawyer asks Jack in the hallway where he could find some food, calling him "Doc" without seeming to know why, and finds himself at a vending machine, trying to buy an Apollo bar that gets stuck in the machine.
Juliet. Yes, she's Jack's ex-wife, if you hadn't guessed that already, and still works at the same hospital that he does, giving them pretty much the healthiest relationship between exes I've ever seen. Juliet is at the hospital while everyone else goes to the concert, and there she runs into Cop Sawyer, helping him with the vending machine, touching his hand, and instantly flashing. Cue the touching Sawyer and Juliet montage, an explanation of Juliet's pre-death line "We'll go dutch," and, OK, maybe some tears.
Miles. He goes to his dad's concert. Sadly, he doesn't quite figure into the alternate-universe endgame as much as you may have wanted.
Sayid. Hurley has been put in charge of helping Sayid flash, and he somehow recruits Boone to make it happen. They stage a fight in an alley where Shannon gets shoved aside, and Sayid, ever the hero, steps in to save her-- cue the touching Shannon and Sayid montage. I wasn't even that big a fan of their short-lived relationship, but I think it was just nice to see something from so far back in the show acknowledged.
Hurley. That's pretty much the only thing Hurley got up to, aside from a nice moment with Ben-- but we'll get to that later.
Charlie and Claire. Claire-- seated at Table 23!-- is at the big benefit concert, and onstage Charlie spies her just as she goes into labor with Aaron. Sneaking backstage to give birth with Kate attending, Claire cradles Aaron and when Charlie brings her a blanket, she remembers-- cue the touching Charlie and Claire montage. There was a lot of focus on the imaginary peanut butter scene, but that really might have been their finest moment anyway.
Kate. Brought to Table 23 by Desmond and still not quite understanding what she's doing there, Kate once again helps deliver Aaron and flashes to the island. Cue a Kate montage that's less focused on romance, for once, but still includes plenty of One True Love Jack. When Jack shows up late to the party, Kate knows she has to help him flash, but only manages to touch his face before he flips and walk away. Turns out there's still someone else who has more power over Jack... but we'll get to him later.
Locke. He lets Jack do the surgery on him, wakes up earlier than anyone expected, and already capable of wiggling his toes. The toe-wiggling does it-- cue the hugely emotional Locke montage-- and Locke, ever unable to convince Man of Science Jack, can only tell him "I hope that somebody does for you what you just did for me."
Desmond. He's mostly doing his creepy silent thing as he gathers the crew together-- in fact, I'm not sure he says a word in the entire sideways world after he assures Kate, "My name is Desmond Hume, and even though you don't realize it, I'm your friend."
Ben. In the end Desmond has gotten everyone to gather at the church where Christian Shephard's funeral is to take place, and he's waiting outside when Locke, fresh form the hospital, wheels by. Their conversation is worth including in its entirety:
"I'm very sorry for what I did to you, John. I was selfish, jealous. I wanted everything you had."
"What did I have?"
"You were special John. But I wasn't."
"Well, if it helps Ben, I forgive you."
"Thank you John. That does help. It matters more than I can say."
And then Ben chooses not to go inside, because "I have some things I still need to work out." He has time for one more nice moment with Hurley-- again, we'll get to that later-- and then Ben's fate in this world is left mysterious. Much like Ben himself.
On The Island
Rose, Bernard and Vincent. Turns out, they pulled Desmond out the well, but aren't willing to get mixed up in his nonsense-- Rose, ever practical, tells Desmond he has to get out of dodge before any of the island warfare reaches them. Before he can move, though, SmokeLocke shows up and threatens their lives if Desmond doesn't come with him. Desmond does, of course, leaving Rose and Bernard to live out their lives peacefully with Vincent, so long as the island lasts.
Richard. He's alive! And Miles finds him and the two of them set out on Widmore's canoe, only to find...
Lapidus. He's alive! Miles and Richard find him floating in the ocean, and Lapidus, ever practical and pilot-y, decides it's time to get the Ajira plane and get the hell out of there. And for the entire episode, no matter how much crazy nonsense is going on on the island, that's exactly what they're up to.
Miles. Ever practical and sarcastic, Miles is helping put the plane together, and expressing the one thing he believes in after all this time-- duct tape.
Sawyer. His reconnaissance mission to rescue Desmond from the well only gets him into a run-in with SmokeLocke and Ben and a quick retreat, and when it comes time for Jack to execute his master plan, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley and Ben don't get to come along. Eventually it comes time to decide who stays and who goes, and Sawyer and Kate decide to grab Claire on the other island and get to the plane.
Kate. She has one key moment of usefulness after what's seemed like seasons of this character spinning her Aaron-adoring wheels-- shooting SmokeLocke when we thought no one could. Then it's time for her to bid Jack one more emotional goodbye and jump off a literal cliff with Sawyer on their way to the plane. It's actually kind of a nice twist on Kate-Jack-Sawyer love triangle-- there's not much a suggestion that Kate and Sawyer will get back together as an acknowledgement that Jack loves Kate, but his one true love is the island
Claire. She doesn't want to leave, to the point that she'll pull a gun on Richard one last time. Then Kate convinces her no one knows how to be a mom, least of all her, and Claire joins them all anyway. Lapidus, Richard, Miles, Claire, Kate and Sawyer take off on Ajira Airways. Happy ending assumed for all.
Desmond. Jack figures he's been planted as a weapon by Jacob, and allows SmokeLocke to send Desmond down to the source of the glowing golden light, assuming nothing all that bad will happen. Desmond pulls out this cork-like rock-- there's literally a cork! Jacob wasn't even using a metaphor!-- and suddenly the water dries up, the island starts shaking, and the light turns red. Everyone above ground is too freaked out to even know what to do when Desmond doesn't come back up from the waterfall.
Ben. His final heroic sacrifice is smaller than I expected-- he pushes Hurley out of the way of a falling tree and gets trapped under it himself. Somehow or another they pull him out, and when Ben is given the choice to leave on the plane, he of course must stay. When it comes time for Jack to make the sacrifice to save the island, and for Hurley to take over as protector, Hurley offers Ben the one thing he's wanted more than anything-- a chance to protect the island too. It was the only moment of the entire episode that had me in tears.
Hurley. For most of the episode he served his usual role, serving up Star Wars references and "dudes" and being afraid the same way we would be. But Hurley, loyal to the last, won't leave the island without Jack, and when Jack goes down into the light and knows he won't come out, Hurley accepts the role of the island's new protector with fear and a kind of joy. When Jack stops the shaking and saves the island, sending Desmond back up above ground in the process, Hurley doesn't know what to do next, but Ben, finally certain of his role, has the right advice: "I think you do what you do best. Take care of people. You can start by helping Desmond get home." You couldn't leave the island before, but as Ben points out, "That's how Jacob ran things. Maybe there's another way. A better way." I have to assume they're saving the scenes from the Ben and Hurley administration for the spinoff.
SmokeLocke. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night is that the SmokeLocke of the island never turned back into John Locke, nor did the sideways Locke link up-- John Locke is still dead, and the man walking on the island is still the evil smoke monster who must be stopped. He and Jack lower Desmond into the well, in a shot perfectly reminiscent of the shot down the hatch at the end of Season One, and throughout the episode he and Jack assure each other than the other is wrong. In the end Desmond really did serve as a kind of weapon on the side of Jacob-- his pulling out the cork makes it capable for SmokeLocke to be injured, and after he and Jack have a spectacular fight on the cliffs, Kate shows up to shoot SmokeLocke in the back. Jack kicks him off the cliff, and barely an hour into the two and a half hour finale, it's really over-- the Monster really is dead.
Jack-- In Both Worlds
In earlier seasons I would have complained about the entire finale revolving around Jack-- his ambition, his struggles between science and faith, even his goddamn daddy issues. But Jack's turnaround into likability this season has been remarkable, and I was with his struggle in both universes. In Los Angeles, people repeatedly fail to get through to Jack to help him remember his island life-- until, in the back of the church, Christian Shephard walks again to do the job. On the island, Jack struggles against the Smoke Monster and succeeds, though coming out with a nasty stab wound to the liver. Jack goes down into the well and rescues Desmond, feeling nothing but joy when he puts the cork back in and the water starts flowing, even though he's aware it's his certain death. There's one last Incident that tosses Jack's body back up above ground, and as he walks into the bamboo forest where he first saw him, we're simultaneously learning this from Christian Shephard in the sideways: the sideways, so to speak, wasn't real. Here's how the conversation went:
Jack: How are you here right now?
Christian: How are you here?
Jack: I died too. [Sobbing realization of the truth] Are you real?
Christian: I'm real, you're real, everything that's ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they're real too.
Jack: They're all dead.
Christian: Everyone dies sometime kiddo.
The sideways was another world, yes, but it was a fantasy one, in which the Losties could live out the lives they always wanted and then join each other to move on. "The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people," Christian tells Jack; after their deaths they have gathered again to move on together. They all died at different times-- Charlie, Boone, Shannon etc., back on the island, Hurley and Ben after long years of ruling the island together, everyone else at some point in-between. But they're all together again after death to move on to that great Dharma hatch in the sky.
Jack sits in a pew with Kate and all of the other Island survivors, save Ben, ever the outlaw. On the island, Jack lays down in the bamboo forest, and Vincent-- the first 815 survivor Jack saw after the crash, you may remember-- lays down beside him. Jack's eye closes. The end.
Like I said before, this is only the beginning of the conversation. Chime in with your thoughts below and let's talk.
For more coverage of the Lost finale go here.