Saturday, June 12, 2010
So what was Lost, when all was said and done? Put simply, it was one of the two most complex, fully-realized and brilliant pieces of narrative fiction in the past decade (the other was the Harry Potter book series). Lost did not just entertain (though entertain it did, what with the beautiful locales, charismatic stars, sly humor, and sci-fi wonder). It made us think. It made us struggle to come to terms with its meaning (and, even after its conclusion, continues to do so). It was very much a religion - not in the sense that it should replace any other faith or be thought to offer the answers to everything in life, but rather because it presented us with all sorts of wonderment and made us struggle to come to terms with the meaning of its myriad puzzles. That's what a good religion does - it doesn't tell you the answers, it merely provides you the tools and invites you to ask the right questions.
That's not to say the whole of Lost cannot be understood. I'm particularly impressed with Doc Jensen's master theory of Lost, i.e. that the island was not just a setting, but rather a living, feeling, thinking protagonist, that became aware of its future at the moment that Sawyer and company time-traveled back to a time before the birth of Jacob. Check out Doc's theory at this link: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20313460_20393488,00.html
Of course, as with all works of art, pop or otherwise, Lost is and was subject to a number of criticisms. Before I praise the show further, let's air the dirty laundry. Here are my five biggest criticisms of Lost (in no particular order).
1. The over-use of unreliable narrators. A mystery is hard enough to solve, particularly when the final resolution of the story doesn't purport to give over the answers. What we, the viewers, were probably most frustrated by was Lost's tendency to give us information out of the mouths of people we knew better than to trust. Ben Linus. Charles Widmore. Anthony Cooper. And, of course, Smokey/ MIB/ Flocke. Their characters were richer for the ambiguity of their statements about what was really going on, but the sheer volume of lies these people spewed made the task of "solving" Lost that much more difficult. To this day, I still do not believe Flocke that he was Christian Shephard, at least not all the time.
2. The writers' inability to be the complete masters of their destiny. Hey, credit where it's due, and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse controlled the sprawling mega-myth of Lost better than anyone ever has or ever likely will in a multi-season TV setting. But as they've said often, unlike J.K. Rowling, who alone wrote Harry Potter and was not subject to outside control, Damon and Carlton could not control everything. They could not make the end of Mr. Eko's character arc nearly satisfying enough because they could not keep Adewale Akinnoye-Akbaje happy enough to stay in Hawaii. They had some plotlines that meandered because they had run out of stories to tell in the time before they negotiated their end-date. And I'm sure that a higher budget (not that Lost wasn't already extremely costly) would have produced some cooler effects, like actually seeing Smokey turn into a human form.
3. The sheer volume of loose threads and unanswered questions. When all is said and done, I'm actually kind of happy that Lost left a lot to the imagination. But some things that were treated as supremely dire plot points were never resolved. What was with the fertility problems? What were the rules, and why could they be so easily changed? What did Charles Widmore want? What were the Others really all about? A fairly clever compilation of the unresolved mysteries can be found here...
4. The wacky viewing schedule. It was only in the last two seasons that Lost finally figured out how best to air its episodes - in virtually uninterrupted weekly segments. In all honesty, the best way to watch Lost is in binges, by popping in the Blu-Ray disc versions of each season. But from reruns that tended to confuse viewers (given the non-linear nature of the story-telling), to long hiatuses (especially Season 3, the three-month break after episode 6), ABC often had a difficult time figuring out the best way to present the story in a way that held viewer's attention. And the frequent time-slot changes were unbearable. In particular, this should never have been a 10:00 pm show, given how much energy and focus it took to watch.
5. The artificial extension of mysteries. At times, it felt as if Lost made a mystery last even where the characters, if they acted true to character, would have solved it (or given us the tools to solve it). Sometimes, characters acted mysteriously just to give us a payoff at the end of an episode, or even 2-3 episodes later, when there was no reason to be so mysterious. Also, why on Earth did Widmore whisper his plan to Flocke, other than to prevent the audience from hearing it? And, of course, there was the Flash-sideways, the season-long, often frustrating plot device that seemed wedged in just to create one final mystery to solve in the remaining moments of the finale.
Not that any of these "problems" undoes all that Lost accomplished artistically, mind you. I'm just sayin...
Recap – Writing This Blog
I vividly recall my own experience with Lost, and of starting and plowing through this blog. In the late summer of 2004, before DVR had crept into my home, my wife and I saw promo after promo for this castaway adventure series ABC planned to air on Wednesdays at 8:00. We already had a firm commitment at that time - Smallville on the now-defunct WB - and were not too keen to intentionally create a viewing conflict. But the Lost pilot, "from the creator of Alias" (one of our favorite shows at the time) aired a couple of weeks before the Smallville season premiere, so we figured we'd give it a whirl.
We were hooked.
Of course, at first, it seemed just like another well-produced J. J. Abrams series (we didn't follow credits enough to realize J. J.'s involvement waned substantially after the pilot), and, despite the frustrating first season resolution (what's inside the mystery hatch? A mystery hole!), the finale was so well-executed, we knew we'd be around for the long haul.
Then Season 2 rolled around. A few episodes in, one of my wife's clients (a reader of this blog, if I'm not mistaken) got into an email chain with her about Hurley's dream sequence from "Everybody Hates Hugo" and pointed out how Walt's image appeared on Hurley's milk carton. We Googled this, saw it was true, and suddenly discovered both the online Lost community, and the full depth of Lost's intricacies. Suddenly, the way I watched TV was transformed forever. No longer could I watch a well-plotted show passively, while paying bills or reading the newspaper. Nope, this was appointment television, demanding close attention.
Within days I had gotten into an email-based virtual water-cooler chat with a number of fellow Lost fans at the office, and amongst my childhood and college friends, and soon added some of my wife's friends. This email tree, itself, became an appointment for the rest of Season 2, to the extent that my mother, concerned over a Today Show story about clerical workers being fired for misuse of company computers, warned me not to "blog" on the company time. In my typical fashion, the advice I ended up taking was to take this email chain and turn it into, well, a blog. And that was when Lost Lover at Law was born, in October, 2006, with my recap of the Season 3 premiere episode, "A Tale of Two Cities."
Why did I do this? As a lawyer and husband (and, over the course of the next 3 years, a father twice over), my spare time was always at a premium. But, in a full-on John Lockian missing of the point, I felt that by scrutinizing each episode to its most minute detail, and writing what I was seeing, I would be able to gather all the hidden clues to enable me to solve the show. Silly man of faith! It would not be until Season 6 when I finally realized that "solving" Lost was beside the point (though, dammit, I still wanted answers!) But by then, this blog was my hobby, and my chance to communicate with people all around the world (and have them post their porn and illicit pharmaceutical ads on my comments page - thanks, you spamming bastards).
And I'm glad I did it. But it's time to stop. As I said, Lost has many, many mysteries left to untangle, and I really do plan to get a copy of the complete series Blu-Ray set. But the time for prognosticating is ending, at least as an amateur vocation.
Thank you all so much for reading what I've had to say the past 4 years (and for those of you on that old email chain - Dave, Aviva, Kelly, etc. - the past 5).
Thanks to Doc Jensen, Lost Users, TheTailSection.com, Doc Arzt, lost-media.com, and so many others for giving me so much food for thought, and in so many cases, material I directly plagiarized as a short-cut.
Thank you all for forgiving my use of a "blog" medium to publish what was really a series of lengthy essays, better suited to a more hyper-linked website that I lacked the technical expertise to create and maintain.
Thanks so much to those of you who have engaged me in discussion, both on this blog, and in reactions to it on FaceBook, and to those of you who would egg me on to "post already!" when my recaps got delayed.
And thanks to the good folks at Google, who gave me this environment to pour my thoughts into, even if you never sent me a check despite my voluntarily putting your ads on my page...
People have asked me what I plan to do to replace Lost, or what I'll blog about next. My answer is "nothing." Lost stood alone in its achievements. I'm not saying nothing could ever top it - my critiques above certainly suggest I believe something can, though it may take years for a network to greenlight such an idea.
This blog didn't turn into a new career, and with the hobby at a natural close, I'll turn to other pursuits.
But I'm glad we had this time together.
And on a final, final note - look again at my theory explain the flash-Sideways (previous post), and their connection to Jughead. Look at this as a way to believe that the writers - who never "lied" to us - didn't "waste" our time with both the time travel and flash-sideways seasons. And think back to Lost, in general, as an excellent exercise in training our minds. Life is not always about finding the answers. It's often really about just figuring out what the right questions are.
And with that, for one last time, Namaste!
Saturday, June 05, 2010
In case you missed it, this is the second part of my finale recap. Part 1, which dealt with the Island story (except the last few moments) can be accessed by scrolling waaaay down, or by clicking on the title of this post.
This portion of the post deals with the “Sideways” story from “The End,” and the final moments of the island story. As was the case in Part 1, these are my thoughts and impressions. Click on the following link for Doc Jensen’s thought-provoking recap of the Sideways story wrap-up: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20313460_20388269,00.html As you’ll see below, Doc and I differ on a few salient points. Ok, on the meaning of just about everything. In any case, read on, and enjoy.
Sideways World (If That’s Even an Appropriate Nomenclature)
Christian’s casket is offloaded from a plane, bearing a routing sticker indicating that it has flown through Guam (where Ajira 316 was supposed to land). The casket is brought to a church – the same church that, in island world, housed DHARMA’s Lamppost station.
Meanwhile, Jack looks at Locke’s x-ray.
Aside Number 1 – Gotcha, Dan! Where’s the “Jack2” or “Alterna-Locke”? Well, in light of what we learned in this episode, I’d have to say that such naming conventions are no longer necessary, or even appropriate. As such, I will discuss the characters purely in terms of their “real” names (with all apologies to “Sawyer,” the man’s name is James Ford).
Dr. Linus is in his kitchen.
Locke is wheeled to surgery.
Detective Ford eyes the mirror he broke.
Kate waits in Hugo’s Camaro outside the church. Desmond signs for the casket, and has it brought inside. The delivery man asks if he works there, and he says, "I do indeed, brother." "Are you a priest or something," the man asks. "Or something," Desmond responds.
Hugo drives Sayid to a motel – the same one where Sayid once kept a safe house. Sayid explains that he can’t be held responsible for anything that happens from here on. Hugo pulls a tranq gun out of the glove compartment. He says, “none of this is wringing a bell, huh? You, me, a tranquilizer gun?” Sayid frowns, “you’re insane.” Hugo gives up for the moment and has Sayid wait in the car. "What if I don’t," the Iraqi ponders. "Then," Hugo sighs, "that is your choice. But if you stick with me, you’re going to be happy that you did."
Aside Number 2 - here we get the first, best sign of the rule regarding island flashes - it requires a moment that calls for substantial recall of a salient moment. So how did Hugo flash by kissing Libby? If I had to guess, I would say that he spent a lot of time dreaming about "what if" she hadn't died, and they had had their picnic.
So what's with all this "Hugo" stuff? Where are the "Hurley" references? You will notice, if you check again, that he never once went by "Hurley" in the sideways stories. Yes, I am mindful that they are still the same character. But we'll discuss that point more, later.
Hugo knocks on room 102, and finds a very drunk Chalrie inside. Hugo smiles at him, “grinning like a sodding idiot,” in Charlie's words. He shakes off the lack of recognition. “Didn’t I make it clear to Widmore’s other monkey? I don’t care about the sodding concert.” Hugo tries a new tactic – “what if I told you that playing the show will be the most important thing you will ever do? Would you come, then?” Charlie tells him to sod off. Hugo apologizes, then tranqs him, and sticks him in the back of the Hummer. Sayid asks what was that, and hugo responds, “that was Charlie.”
Desmond returns to Kate in the car. She asks who died. "A man named Christian Shephard." "Christian Shephard? Seriously?" She asks. "Seriously" responds Desmond.
Aside Number 3 - this was a clever moment, having a character, removed from her island memories, comment on the often overtly meaningful names given to characters on Lost. Of course, the true meaning of Christian's name becomes apparent at the end of the episode...
Kate wonders why she’s there, but Desmond says noone can tell her why she’s here. "I’m not talking about the church," he clarifies. "I’m talking about here." She asks who he is. He says he’s her friend, and what he wants is to leave. "Leave and go where," she asks. "Let me show you," he offers.
Miles sees Sayid arrive in the hummer and calls Ford, since Sayid is supposed to be at County. He tells him he checked and the transfer never happened. Miles dispatches Ford to protect the witness, Sun Paik.
Sun awakens. Jin says the OB is coming in, and when they see all is ok, they can leave. The doctor is Juliet – Dr. Juliet Carlson. She sees the chart says "no English." As she performs the sonogram, Sun flashes to the time in the medical hatch that she and Juliet first saw Ji Yeon, and suddenly she remembers. Jin checks on her. She says to him, "I…remember." Then Jin sees the image, and hears, “there’s your baby,” and flashes to all his memories with Sun on the island. They flash together, right to their reunion and mutual death. Sun asks, "Did you see?" Juliet shows them the heartbeat. In English, Sun tells Juliet she knows it’s a girl. And Jin says, “her name is Ji Yeon.” Juliet says, for the record, they speak English fine.
Aside Number 4 - that we see Sun and Jin flash all the way to their island deaths is a big hint of where the story is going. How does someone remember dying, and end up happier for it? Also, Jin's recall moment was the most subtle - he had seen Ji Yeon only as digital photos on the island, and seeing her as a songram flashed him in Sideways world. I wonder if Sun is "really" pregnant, at all? The answer in my mind is yes, and, in light of the rules for Sideways world, I think the relevant point is that she's "with" her parents.
As for Juliet, it really was great to see her again, particularly in light of how under-utilized Elizabeth Mitchell's talents are on "V.". And, once she appeared, and was named "Carlson" - her maiden name - and not "Burke" - her island world married name, wasn't it pretty obvious how her story would play out?
Jack greets Locke just before beginning the surgery, and asks if he’s nervous. Locke asks if he’s sure it’s going to work. Jack says he’s confident it will work. He jokes that he might kill him, but didn’t want to worry him. He says "I’ll see you on the other side," another hint of what's really happening, and these two characters' complete obliviousness to it all. Locke asks him if they ever found his father’s coffin. He says he got the call that morning, and it’s arriving. Locke says he hopes it brings him some peace. Jack says, "if I can fix you, Mr. Locke, that’s all the peace I’ll need."
Jack greets Juliet, and, of course Dr. Carlson is David’s mother. Jack can’t make the concert, but suggests they take Aunt Claire. As they leave, Juliet almost encounters Det. Ford coming out of an elevator.
Sayid asks Hugo, as they sit parked outside a bar, what they’re doing there. "I can’t tell you," Hugo explains. "There are rules, dude." "Who’s rules," Sayid demands, asking one of Lost's great unanswered questions. "Don’t worry about it," Hugo deflects. He tells Sayid he’s a good guy, and he shouldn’t let other people tell him what kind of person he is. Sayid laments that Hugo doesn’t know anything about him, but Hugo insists he knows a lot about him. A fight breaks out on the street, and a woman warns the assailant to leave her brother alone. Sayid steels himself, then goes to help. The woman, of course, is Shannon. And as he helps her, they both flash to their island past, and, their memories restored, are suddenly in love. Boone, having staggered to Hugo's window, talks about what a pain it was to bring Shannon back from Australia.
Aside Number 5 – How to put this gently…the great thing about Shannon’s death was that it was both sudden and shocking, and that it also didn’t kill a character who added anything to the show. I always loved Sayid’s quest for Nadia, and thought they were made for each other. I suppose the fact is, for what he had done to her, Sayid didn’t deserve her, and the fact that his faustian bargain with Flocke was to reunite him with Nadia meant that he should never be with her again. But Shannon? The convenient hookup who got bratty, then got killed? That’s his eternal soulmate?
I did like how Hugo helped Sayid finally overcome his biggest weakness – the tendency to let other people define him, and how that helped him flash back to his island life. Sayid was always such a tragic character, that it was great to see him earn some peace, especially after his explosive demise.
And now it looks like Boone may have been island-activated for quite some time. I think he was being ironic (as opposed to dramatically ironic) when he commented in the pilot that, if the plane went down, he was sticking with John Locke.
At the concert, Claire, David and Juliet are in line, but Juliet gets a call from the hospital, and has to go in. Charlie is awakened by Charlotte, who sees he has a piece of paper that says “Bass Player. Wake me for the show.” Charlie says, “I was shot by a fat man.” Behind them is Daniel. He and Chartlotte see each other and have a knowing look. He says he plays piano and she seems impressed.
Aside Number 6 – my attempt to reconcile this with full knowledge of the outcome is that, since Daniel and Charlotte crushed on each other, but never made the love connection on the island, this encounter is not enough for them to regain their island memories. Of course, Daniel seems to have some of his, accessible through dreams, anyway, which was how he remembered detonating jughead.
David and Claire go to table 23 (Shephard!), where Desmond and Kate sit. Kate and Claire recognize each other from their brief Thelma and Louise routine.
Dr. Chang introduces the concert, with Daniel playing, accompanied by Drive Shaft. A proud Eloise beams. Miles and Charlotte sit at their table and look as if they almost know him. Reluctantly Charlie starts to play, but doesn’t sing when he sees Claire, and stares at her, gobsmacked (“is this,” he seems to be thinking, “my vision of true love, made flesh?”). She notices, and assumes its someone else he’s looking at, then smiles…and promptly goes into labor. She gets up to “go to the bathroom,” and Charlie watches her leave. Kate follows. Claire goes backstage, under a picture of a shark that looks like the DHARMA shark. Kate finds her and helps her to a couch.
Desmond enjoys the concert, until Eloise joins him. “I thought I made it clear that you were to stop this,” she scolds. “Perfectly clear,” he responds (and man will I miss the way that Desmond accent sounds when he’s being petulant). “I chose to ignore you.” “And once they know, what then,” Eloise asks” “Then, we’re leaving,” Desmond responds. They look at Dan. “Are you going to take my son,” Eloise asks, deeply concerned. He takes her hand. “Not with me, no,” Desmond reassures her. She frowns, but then looks at peace.
Aside Number 7, AKA “The Big One.” In my mind, this discussion between Eloise and Desmond was the most revealing clue, in retrospect, as to what the Sideways world was all about. We know from later in the episode that entry into Sideways world was accomplished by dying, and that our characters all gained entry at various points in history, depending on their actual dates of death. There is substantial debate as to whether or not Sideways world can correctly be described as Purgatory, and Jeff Jensen certainly felt this to be the case. I’ll discuss the Purgatory-ness of Sideways world later. But for now, here’s my theory. Many have already told me – directly or through their own recaps (in the case of Jensen) – that they disagree, but ultimately, this blog is “Lost Lover at Law,” and I shall marshall the evidence that supports my theory.
First of all, whatever its metaphysical meaning, I believe Sideways world was created by the detonation of Jughead. Second of all, I believe one’s existence in Sideways world is the opportunity to live the life each character may have had, but without either or both of the influence the island and its synchronicity (and Jacob) exerted, or some other single aspect that haunted each character.
I also believe that Eloise Hawking, perhaps by being the single Others leader who came closest to qualifying to be Jacob’s replacement, may have been exposed to Source-y radiation (like Desmond) and, as such, had gained some of the same future-flashy abilities as Mr. Hume. But I also think her extra island experience gave her a better ability to read those flashes, and know their meaning.
With that foundation, I believe Eloise, from the moment she shot Daniel, was determined to undo her “mistake.” She came to realize that, what’s done is done, but another world could have been created under certain circumstances that would have given her and her son a posthumous life together free of the island forces that led to his death. In this world, Daniel could become the musical virtuoso he was always meant to be, and she and he could live together in a way that did not require her constantly molding him into the driven physicist who was needed to make that other world happen. The reason she knew the Jughead plan would work was that she had Desmond-type visions, where she saw that it had worked. Whether she ended up in Sideways world knowing it had worked or had to be “island-awakened” to gain that awareness is immaterial. She got there. Finally, I believe that everything that happened on the island, including the return of the Oceanic 6, was deliberately engineered by Eloise for the purpose of bringing about Sideways world. Here is my evidence:
1) Eloise was insistent, first with Desmond, and then with the Oceanic 6, that they had to return to the island and fulfill their destinies. She gave dire threats to cajole each of the characters into complying. She did this because, if they had not gone back in time (which her future flashes told her would happen), there would be no Jughead, and no flash-sideways.
2) When Desmond was shot by Ben, and Eloise was at the hospital, she told Penny she didn’t know whether Desmond would recover, because she didn’t know what happen from that point on. This tells me that her future flashes shifted gears so that, after she dispatched the Oceanic 6 on their Jughead mission, she could only “see” the Sideways world. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the same thing happened to Desmond, since we got no real indication that he ever detected any future beyond this point, either, except for the Sideways world he misinterpreted.
3) Sideways Daniel, despite not having been “island-activated” gained enough insight through his dreams to “remember” having detonated Jughead. For this to happen without a full regaining of his island memories, I think the event needed to have a special significance to the Sideways world.
4) Juliet’s final message to Sawyer – “it worked.” Sure, it took on the double-entendre from their Sideways vending machine encounter, but for that moment to carry back to the island world in her consciousness, I think both meanings needed to apply.
5) I just cannot reconcile the notion that an entire season (Season 5) of the series existed simply to motivate an in-person look at DHARMA with no further meaning other than to set up the mother of all red herrings. Season 5 was a full year and a half after the writers negotiated their end date and began plotting out how Lost would go. While I do believe they deliberately intended to leave the question open to debate as to whether or not Sideways world was related to Jughead, I think if we could read their minds, we would learn that it was. I think that, to the extent that other viewers disagree with me, it may be because they have imposed their own spiritual or religious world-view upon their viewing of Lost. But since mine does not have a well-defined notion of what the afterlife is, I am more of a blank slate capable of taking my meaning just from what the show presented.
Of course, over the past couple of weeks, various other thoughts have come in and out of my head about what evidence does and doesn’t support this theory, and if it comes to me after I post this, I’ll do an update in part 3 of my final post. But for now, there it is. Now, discuss.
Charlie goes back and finds Kate helping Claire. Kate sends him for water and blankets, and knows she has to deliver the baby. As Claire pushes, Kate flashes to the island, to the other time she delivered Aaron. She tears up, then gets back into it. She remembers everything as she takes Aaron, and when Claire sees him, she starts to remember, too. “Aaron,” she cries. And they’re proud, not just of the baby, but of their memory. When Charlie looks at Claire, and she looks back knowingly, he says it’s just a blanket. Kate tells him to give it to her. Claire takes his hand, and he remembers everything. She says, “Charlie,” And their whole relationship comes back. He tears up and kisses her, with Kate and Aaron there for the show. Charlie knows Aaron right then and there. Desmond comes back, and asks if Kate understands. She chokes up. “So, now what,” she aks and he smiles at her.
Aside Number 8 – my corollary theory is that, because of the involvement of Jughead, a person’s appearance and age in Sideways world matches up with how they were on the island. If Sideways were a separate purgatory, unconnected to the island, why would each character appear as they did in island time? Why would Ji Yeon be a fetus, and Aaron an infant? And why would island-enlightened parents still recognize their children as their children?
Jack’s neck cut reopens as Locke is wheeled to recovery. Locke wakes up earlier than he should have. Jack stays with him. Jack tells him not to move, but John says, “it worked.” He says he can feel his legs. Jack tries to pooh-pooh this, but then John wiggles his toes, and, as he does, he flashes to when he first awoke on the island, and then all his memories. “Ohhh…did you see that,” John smiles. “You don’t remember?” Jack starts to flash, but shakes it off. “What we need to do…” Jack says, trying so hard to stay in the moment. Locke interrupts, “what we need to do, is go. Will you come with me?” Jack says he needs to see his son. John says, “you don’t have a son, Jack.” Jack asks the nurse to get him something to rest. “Jack,” Locke says, “I hope that someone does for you what you just did for me.” And Jack turns and leaves.
Aside Number 9 – Could this be further support for my theories? John Locke died scared and alone and confused. Why would his moment of clarity not bring back those same feelings? Because he now knows, due to the connection between the island and Sideways, that his time there did make a difference.
Detective Ford goes to question Jin and Sun, but they’re checking out. He asks if they saw Sayid. She says no protection needed. “All due respect,” the confused detective insists, “I have a job to do here ma’am.” “It’s ok,” Sun assures. “I have faith.” As they leave, Jin says, “we’ll see you there.” James gives his best WTF look and asks, “See me where?” He encounters Jack in the hallway, and Jack directs him to the vending machines. James thinks he knows him, then shakes it off. The Appollo bar he tries to buy gets stuck, so he tries to reach for it. Juliet sees him and offers to help. He says he’s a cop, and she suggests, playfully, “maybe you should read the machine its rights.” She tells him if he unplugs and plugs it back in, the machine drops the candy. He goes to do just that, and accidentally kills the lights. She hands it to him. “It worked.” And then they both flash. They jump back. “Did you feel that?” he asks, as neither of them has fully given in to their respective flashes. “We should get coffee some time,” she suggests, re-flashing her death moment on the island. “I’d love to but the machine ate my dollar,” he responds. “I only got one left”. She says, “we can go dutch,” and their relationship comes back to them. They embrace. She cries, “kiss me, James.” “You got it, Blondie,” he repeats what he said during their last kiss on the island. And they kiss deeply.
Aside Number 10 – To me, this was the most powerful moment of the finale. For as little screen time as it enjoyed, I believed the Sawyer/ Juliet relationship as the most “real” relationship on the island (except, perhaps, for Jin and Sun). I had suspected for some time, without knowing precisely what Sideways was, that Juliet’s dying words somehow involved her channeling their Sideways meet-cute from the “future,” and that, of course, panned out. Perhaps Juliet’s presence when the bomb and the Swan energy pocket interacted gave her, in her dying moments, Desmond-type powers? In any case, I was positively weepy when these two got back together in this moment.
Jack tries to find David at the concert, but it’s done, and people are leaving. He goes for his phone, but then sees Kate. She says it’s over. “You looking for someone,” she asks. He says, yeah, and talks about his son. He looks at her and she looks for him to remember. “I’m sorry,” he says. “Where do I remember you from?” “I stole your pen,” she offers. “Oceanic 815? Coming from Sydney? I bumped into you and stole your pen.” “That’s how I know you,” Jack asks, his innate empiricism actually compelling his bigger meaning realization. “No,” smiles Kate. “That’s not how you know me.” She touches him, and he starts to flash. She says, “I’ve missed you so much.” He backs away. “What is happening to me,” Jack wonders aloud. “Who are you? I don’t understand.” “I know you don’t understand, Jack,” Kate reassures, “but if you come with me, you will.”
Aside Number 11 – Jack’s eventual inability to fight off his island recall brings to mind the ultimate weakness of his character. I’m ok with the notion that empiricism has a place in face of miracles. But to ignore the facts and sensations one encounters because you don’t have the explanation? That’s not empiricism. That’s giving over to cognitive dissonance. “I don’t understand so I will ignore until it goes away” is a stupid and dangerous way to live life, and I always faulted Jack’s character for acting that way.
At the church where Christian’s casket was delivered, Locke gets out of his cab. The driver brings around his wheelchair and helps him in. With a big smile, Locke rolls himself over to where Ben sits, staring at the church. “Hello, Benjamin,” Locke beams, full forgiveness in his gaze. “Hello, John,” Ben responds, humbly (perhaps for the first time). John smiles. “Is everyone already inside?” “I believe most of them are, yes,” Ben responds, and then apologizes for what he did. “I was selfish. Jealous. I wanted everything you had.” John asks, “what did I have?” “You were special, John, and I wasn’t,” Ben explains. John smiles at him. “Well, if it matters, Ben, I forgive you.” Ben thanks him, “it matters more than I can say. Ben says he has some things he still needs to work out, so he’ll stay there for a while. “You know, I don’t think you need to be in that chair anymore,” he suggests to John. And so, John stands up, and watches the chair roll away. “Good-bye, Ben,” Locke smiles. Ben nods at him, and John ascends the stairs. Hurley steps outside. “Hey, dude.” Ben beams, “hello Hugo.” “We’re all inside, beckons Hugo.” “I don’t think I’m coming in,” Ben politely responds. Hurley says, “you know, you were a really good number 2.” “And you were a great number 1, Hugo,” Ben responds. Hugo thanks him, and goes back inside.
Aside Number 12 – my take on Ben’s decision not to go inside is that, he never really enjoyed a nuclear family unit, and his newfound Sideways life with Danielle and Alex Rousseau gives him just that. I think, much as Eloise wanted Daniel to have time with his musical life, Ben wants to enjoy this existence before moving on.
My brother, Carl, has a different take. Carl believes that Ben has succeeded Hurley as “No. 1” on the island, and that one of the powers that comes with that station is the ability to move freely between island and Sideways worlds. While an interesting notion, I prefer my more “character-centered” explanation. Still, both Carl and I seem tickled by the notion of the further island adventures of Ben and Hugo (one of several possible spinoffs!) According to Michael Emerson, there will be a bonus feature in the Lost complete series box set that shows a 12-14 minute scene of Hurley and Ben running the island in the time after Jack’s passing. I, for one, would really enjoy seeing that.
As for Locke and Ben, I have nothing to add – the scene so eloquently spoke for itself, and it was great to see these two fine actors have one final shared moment before the series closed out.
Jack and Kate pull up in Jack’s old Bronco. She asks if he knows where they are. “Where I was going to have my father’s funeral,” he responds, still clinging to the Sideways life. She apologizes. She says she brought him here, because this is where he is going to have his father’s funeral. She sends him around back, and says she’s going inside to wait for him, once he’s ready, to leave.
In the church, in the room where Jack and Eloise once had their private meeting, Jack sees a rosary, then spots his dad’s coffin. He goes to open it. Behind him is a stained glass window with the symbols of many faiths. As he touches the casket, he flashes again. He is taken aback, but then embraces it, and his island history comes back to him. He lifts the casket, but it’s empty. “Hey, kiddo,” Christian’s voice calls.” Jack turns. “Dad,” he asks, confused. “Hello, Jack,” Christian smiles. “I don’t understand,” Jack protests, “you died.” “Yeah, yes I did,” Christian responds, smiling. “Then how are you here right now,” Jack asks. “How are you here,” Christian asks knowingly. Jack realizes. “I died, too,” he suddenly realizes. He cries. “That’s ok, son,” Christian reassures. They hug. Jack cries as they embrace. They say they love each other. Jack asks if he’s real. “I sure hope so,” Christian jokes, “yeah, I’m real, you’re real. Everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they’re all real, too.” “They’re all dead,” Jack asks, feeling for a moment as though he failed his people. “Everybody dies some time, kiddo,” Christian explains. “Some before you, some long after you.” “Why now,” Jack asks. “Well, there is no now, here,” Christian explains. Jack asks where they are. “This is the place that you all made together so that you could find one another,” Christian further elucidates. “The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. You needed all of them. And they needed you. To remember, and to let go.” Jack smiles, “Kate, she said we were leaving.” “No,” corrects Christian gently, “moving on.” “Where are we going,” Jack asks. “Let’s go find out,” Christian suggests. Arm in arm, they go into the church, and the whole principal cast is there, all greeting each other.
Intercut with the walk into the church is Jack’s death march on the island, out to the bamboo forest, to the spot where he first awoke on the island, by the lone sneaker, still dangling. His nose is bleeding like Minkowski, Charlotte, and Desmond – all victims of “island energy.”
Jack’s hug to Sawyer in the church is especially touching, as is the smile he shares with Kate.
On the island, Jack stumbles to that spot where he first awoke after 815 crashed. He lies down in the forest.
He sits down with Kate in the church.
As he stares up to the sky through the bamboo… as his friends sit down in the church…Christian holds his shoulder. Vincent barks, and comes to sit by dying Jack on the island, just as he ran by in the pilot. Jack is happy to see him, then looks up.
In the church, Jack is happy, at peace. Christian opens the back door, and a bright light washes over the assembled. They are all dazzled by its brilliance.
On the island, the last thing Jack sees is the Ajira plane taking off. Then Jack’s eye closes, the mirror image of the first scene of the pilot.
And with that, Lost ends.
Aside Number 13 – a popular, but misguided, interpretation of this last sequence was that all the main characters died when flight 815 crashed. Others believed that the Ajira plane crashed on take-off leaving the island. These theories were bolstered by the odd choice of ABC (and not the writers of the show) to run b-roll footage of the flight 815 crash site over the end credits. But that is not the meaning of this finale at all.
First, Jorge Garcia read the last page of the script on his last “Geronimo’s Jack’s Beard” podcast: "The plane clears frame, finally free of the island. Jack Shephard has finally done what he came to this place to do. He has found his purpose. He has found love and been loved. He has finally found a way to love himself. The bamboo sways across t...he blue sky, and Jack Shephard's eye closes one final time. He is gone."
Second, there is Christian’s line to Jack – that they all died at different times, some before Jack, others long after.
Third, there was Kate’s line about having missed Jack for so long.
And then there’s Ben and Hugo reminiscing over their time running the island. This only began after Jack turned over the reins to Hurley.
Finally, there’s Ben’s presence at all at the church (even if he did not go in). If Ben was never on flight 815, what would he be doing there with all the people who were?
Nope – the characters really did crash on the island. They really did have adventures there. They died as we saw them die, except for Kate, Hurley, Ben, Claire, Miles, Frank, Richard, Sawyer, Ji Yeon and Aaron. Those characters went on to live their lives, eventually dying, with their souls landing in the timeless “place” that was Sideways world.
So was Sideways world “Purgatory?” I share with you a discussion I had with Greg Smith, a friend of a friend. My take was that it was not Purgatory. Purgatory is a place where people go who have not quite earned themselves a path to either Heaven or Hell. Every character on Lost was going to get to move on to the light (the Lost version of Heaven) as soon as they remembered their pasts. The criteria for entry into this cosmic way point – which, as noted above, was created (in my mind) by the H-bomb blast – was being touched by the island. Purgatory, in my understanding, is an eternal place for those who do not qualify for Heaven, and yet do not find themselves consigned to Hell.
Greg responded, “I agree mostly with you except that I don't think Jughead had anything to do with the Sideways - it was just a part of the trick.... We've had a lot of discussions in the office about this. I've concluded that Jughead did nothing more than set off a time flash, transporting all the Losties back to the ‘Present.’ Strongest evidence for this is Juliet being transported to the hole... I might wager that there was no explosion at all, and the power of Jughead was dampened/restricted by the electromagnetic force of the future-swan. As the Sideways was not caused by Jughead, then we have to assume that the Present they are transported to is on the same time line as the Jughead incident. And since the Swan still appears to have been built, and there's no giant crater that would have been caused by an atomic blast. Lastly, when I use the term Purgatory - I'm speaking very broadly of aspiritual waystation of sorts... nothing in any theistic sense...”
Casey Flaherty, who introduced Greg and me for this discussion, weighed in on my take on Purgatory, too. “Not to get all 16-years of Catholic school on you, but I do not necessarily agree with your description of Purgatory. Purgatory is traditionally a place of purification for those who have died in a state of grace. That is, they are guaranteed a place in Heaven once they have paid for their sins…Indeed, I am not aware of any state for souls that have not been designated for assignment to Heaven or Hell (seems to obviate the importance of what is done in this world). The state that comes quickest to mind is Limbo, which has been discarded. Limbo, however, is largely nonpersonal because it is predicated on Original Sin and the temporal arrival of the Christ. I am not a theologian, not religious, and in no position to comment on Lost.”
I’ve said my peace on this, except to note that 6-faith stained glass window, which, to me, was placed at the church to tell us that no one religion’s views was being endorsed or depicted by Lost. Rather, this “afterlife” was the creation of the Lost executive producers – one Catholic, one Jewish, and neither expressly channeling either faith.
And that, my fellow Lostophiles, is the end of part 2 of my finale recap. I’ll return once more for my full recap of Lost as a series and a moment in popular culture. Until then, Namaste.