LOST went out Sunday night in a magnificent blaze of heavenly light, offering emotional closure instead of solved puzzles in an ending that cut through the clutter of minutia to focus on the personal connections that make, the show argues, life worth living. The final episode offers few answers to the questions that viewers spent years debating, though it does answer perhaps the biggest one of all:
Is this really happening?
The answer is a satisfying and resounding “YES.” The island is not Heaven or Hell or Purgatory and the characters do not all die in the Oceanic 815 crash back at the show’s beginning. As Jack’s dad explains to him near the show’s end: “It all happened.” Everything we watched – with the exception of the flash-sideways during this final season – was “real,” and as it turns out it was the flash-sideways that was the afterlife, the Purgatory where the characters reconnected before sailing into the West.
Here is what actually happens in the finale: The Locke Monster turns mortal when Desmond kills the “heart” of the island, and dies when Kate shoots him and Jack kicks him off a cliff. Jack dies at the end of the episode (with Vincent at his side) after restarting the heart of the island (’cause he’s a doctor, get it?). Kate, Sawyer, Miles, Richard, Lapidis, and Claire are the final Oceanic 6 who get off the island to live their lives and die at some unknown point in the future. Hurley and Ben stay on the island to protect it, as does Desmond, though his staying is due to injury and not choice. The show indicates that he will be able to leave to return to Penny because, as Ben suggests, Hurley’s rules for the island do not have to be Jacob’s rules.
After the characters die (whether that happened in Season 1, Season 6, or post-show) they cool their heels in the flash-sideways until all of them come to grips with what has happened. When they get it, they gather in a church and then follow Jack’s dad into the bright light.
Ultimately, LOST is not a show about science vs. faith, at all, it’s about love vs. logic, with love coming out the victor. The ending favors the reunion of lovers – Sun and Jin, Shannon and Sayid, Sawyer and Juliet, Jack and Kate, Charlie and Claire, Rose and Bernard, Hurley and that woman Wilson is sleeping with over on HOUSE, etc. Not everyone comes back, but as Ben tells us, not everyone has to be here. Just this group. Just those, it appears, that were waiting for Jack.
One would gather, given Desmond’s answer to Daniel’s mom, that there is another reunion taking place somewhere in the ether that includes Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, and the Widmores, and that Ben is likely waiting for Alex and Danielle and some of the Others before his time in Purgatory is over.
As a series, LOST is about making real connections with the people that walk in and out of our lives, and the show offers the realization of the hope that we’ll all come together again with the people that matter most to us in the next life, that before we move on to Heaven for the final journey we wait for those we love most.
I can understand those who might feel cheated that there are questions left unanswered, but LOST has rarely given us answers, focusing instead on the choices characters make when confronted with those puzzles, and the bonds crafted and broken because of those choices. In this, the final delivers what it has promised over the course of its run.
LOST largely argues that a puzzle exists not to be solved, but to challenge; that is, a puzzle is not significant because it is finite, but because it is infinite in the possibilities it generates in those who find it a puzzle. That can make for frustrating viewing, but it can make for vigorous arguments, and while many will be denied their victory dance at the watercooler this morning for being right about this puzzle or that (though those who celebrated last week because they thought Jack would be the New Jacob and not Hurley will have an In Your Face coming), I am thankful for the debates LOST has given us over the past six seasons.
LOST has not been a perfect show and the final episode was not perfect, either, but all told it was engaging television at the start and engaging television at the finish, and largely engaging between those two points. At times LOST was brilliant and at times it was frustrating, but as the characters reunited over the course of the series finale, and as the show brilliantly used flashbacks one last time to crank up the emotional impact, it became clear just how much these characters mattered to me, and how glad I was to see them walk on together.
And that, for me, makes LOST a show well worth watching.