Last Sunday, Lost finished its six-year run with the final episode, appropriately titled “The End”. I sat down to the recorded finale on Monday, eager to see how the show would finish. While I’ve always been a fan of Lost, there are two distinct phases to my fandom. The first was “this is a fun show”, lasting up to Season 3. Beyond that, it got continually better and better, with the quality of discussion, online and offline, adding to the experience.
[Warning: this post features MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire series, INCLUDING THE FINALE, so proceed with caution.]
One of my best articles I wrote for the Leeds University student paper was one about Lost, written on the cusp of Season 4, which for me was where the show turned around. As great as Season 3 was, it still had its share of placeholder episodes, information withholding and other annoying tactics which threatened to sour me on the show.
However, from the fourth season onward, with a clear end date in sight, Lost powered ahead, the master plot moving faster than before while continuing to pull out from our band of castaways to show their presence in the larger scheme of things. With each successive season, the pull-outs increased in scope, encompassing the island’s history and inhabitants, from sundry travellers to hippy scientists to cult-like temple-dwelling guardians, until the final season, where the island was revealed as the scene of an epic, centuries-long battle between godlike entities.
It’s to Lindelhof and Cuse’s credit that as much as Lost is the story of the Island, it remains a fundamentally human story. Where in the past characters have behaved oddly to fit the plot beats (I’m thinking in particular of the decisions taken in Season Five’s finale The Incident), everyone’s actions this season grew organically out of what had happened to them before. Some sought meaning, some redemption, others simply escape. And in the finale, after so much struggle and sacrifice, all were given what they wanted.
From a storytelling perspective, the finale was exceptional, equally at home with small, humorous character-based moments as with scenes of an epic scale, such as Jack and Locke’s clifftop confrontation (and just how fucking epic was that scene?!), or Desmond’s discovery of the heart of the Island. Lost has always owed a lot to the grab-bag, anything-goes Hollywood approach to mythmaking (think of all the Star Wars references), and there was a definite Indiana Jones vibe to the revelation of the Giant Mystical Plughole of Doom™.
Yes, it was a little goofy, but Lost has always couched its more fantastical elements in human drama, and it was heartbreaking to watch Desmond and Jack’s efforts (seemingly) fail. In another of the series’ self-referential twists, the sequence played out like a re-enactment of the Series Two climax – Jack and Locke in conflict over a mysterious energy source, an encroaching cataclysm, and Desmond taking on the role of “fail-safe”.
It was a typical Lost ending, full of big heroic moments, pot twists, and a last-minute saving of the day. Within that framework, it was the human moments that were most important. Jack fulfilled his destiny. Hugo was given the praise and confidence that he always needed to take charge of things. Ben was forgiven for all his transgressions, and found a new calling. Sawyer finally, finally got to leave the Island. Even Kate, one of my least favourite characters, acted selflessly in persuading Claire to return with them and see her son again.
Meanwhile, in the Sideways timeline (or the alt-verse, or whatever you like to call it), the other Desmond continues his mission to reunite the Oceanic 815 passengers. This led to some calculated, but perfectly earned tearjerking moments as the characters realised the time they had shared together on the Island. Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion in particular … ahem. Got … a little something in my eye there. Nothing to worry about.
Eventually, they all end up in a church, and here in my opinion is where the finale takes a misstep. As nice as it is for each character (living and dead) to have a grace moment or reappearance, I feel the power of the ending was diminished by focusing so heavily on the Alt-verse which, Christian Shepherd confirmed to us, wasn’t actually real. In addition to which, all the drama in the Alt-verse (Kate running from the cops, Sayid’s shoot-out with Keamey) didn’t really matter in the end. The surviving characters got the endings they deserved in the Island timeline, and I wanted to see more of that.
But then, I thought the series would end with Jack and Not-Locke, now immortal enemies, sitting down on the beach to play backgammon (“Two sides – one is light, one is dark”), so what do I know? What I do know is the final shot was well-chosen, moving and a perfect closer to the six years spent on the Island.
Lost is many things, but it certainly isn’t a cynical show. We began with a disparate group of survivors, threats from without and within, shifting alliances, secrets, mistrust. We end with hugs, smiles, and “nobody does it alone”. After watching the finale, I wanted to go out and hug someone close to me. It was a reminder of the connections we make in life, and how important they are. I’m lucky to have come of age in the middle of a period of incredible creativity and invention in serialised television, and thanks to this show, genre TV will never be the same again. The characters have all been on an incredible journey over the six years of Lost, and I’m happy to have shared it with them.