I'm not sure where to begin. Rarely am I so lost for words at the beginning of a post, but I guess if any episode was going to do it, it was going to be this one....it's just that I really wasn't expecting it.
I went into Sunday's finale with a celebratory attitude, happy to be taking part in the end of such a long and entertaining journey. Over the last few months, people have asked me "what will you do when it's over?" or "are you upset that it's ending?" My answer has always been, quite honestly, no. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed everything that has to do with this show - in watching, writing, and discussing it with all of you -but as we know, everything must come to an end. I was glad that the writers were able to end it on their own terms and I was excited to see what those terms would be. I mean, it's a TV show, right? How sad could I possibly get? I mean, look at this jokey pic I sent to some friends Sunday night and tell me that's not the face of a guy at peace with the end of his favorite show:
So at 9pm I got my notepad ready, poured a glass of wine for myself and Kersten, and settled in with the rest of the you, ready to let go of the show we've held so dearly for 6 years.
Then, about half way through I tossed the notepad aside. There was too much to process and I had too little left to try and capture the emotion in words. And by the end, I was pretty much a wreck. It was....a surprising reaction. One in which I did not expect or fully understand. But at the same time, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
"The End" fully met and exceeded my expectations for what a Lost finale could be. While I was expecting more of an emotional conclusion versus that of a sci-fi riddled shocker, I was not expecting to be so moved by what is, in the end, a Television show. I forgot how strong these characters are, how real they seem, and how close we've become with them over the years. I forgot how powerful a simple image could be, and how embedded those images are in our "Lost" subconscious. A coffin, a church, a sneaker, a wheelchair, a plane, an eye. And after it was over, I was terribly sad that those things were gone.
Was some of it cheesy, overkill? Yes. Is this post already cheesy? Hell yes. But it was also so unbelievably appropriate. Did you smile? Did you get chills? Did you cry? Then "it worked." Lost is a show about emotional connection - to yourself, to each other, to a home, to a choice - so it's no surprise that its final chapter relied heavily on these themes, and less so on the mysteries that will go unanswered. Life is full of questions that will never be answered, so why should the world in Lost be any different? At the end of it all, it's the experiences you share with those around you that makes life worth living. It's certainly not a new message that Lost left us with, but it's one that needs to be shared more often.
That all being said, I'll try and explain how I understood "The End" below, but keep in mind that best part of this show is that it is very much open to interpretation, so feel free to provide your reaction as well. Since there was so much to digest (and since I admitted to you that I did a crappy job in taking notes), I'm going to focus on some of the larger moments of the finale, and leave the rest to the imagination. The two moments that I found to be the most important were the function/purpose of the Light, and of course, the tear jerking final scenes. Let's tackle the Light first and then move on to The End.
After stealing Desmond from his rescuers (Bernard, Rose, and of course Vincent!), Flocke and his motley crew of Light soldiers marched towards the heart of the Island, each with a completely different hope of what would happen in the cave beyond the Bamboo field. Flocke, banking on Desmond's ability to withstand the Island's energy, hoped that he could somehow cancel out the Light, destroying the Island in the process. Jack, simply following orders from Jacob, hoped that Desmond truly was the Fail Safe that Jacob said he was. And Desmond assumed that the Light would allow him to leave not only the Island, but the Sideways world as well ("Because I want to leave" Desmond says to Kate in the Sideways) and move on. But as we know, none of these things happened. Instead, after being lowered to the core, Desmond unplugged the proverbial "cork" of the Island and, quite literally, all Hell broke loose.
As the Island began to crumble around them, we were left to ponder the consequences of a world without Light. As Widmore, Eloise, and Jacob have all paraphrased in the past, "everyone you know and love will cease to exist" if MIB squanders the Light and leaves the Island. To be sure, the immediate effects of an uncorked Source were evident in the scenes immediately following Desmond's action. The rain started pouring down. The sky, and even the colors of the once vibrant Island, turned cold, dark and gray.
Simply put, the Island had lost its Soul. And if the Island lost its Soul, we must assume that the same happened to all of humanity. And if the Soul ceases to exist, then with it goes the chance to move on to the next life. Is this what our former leaders meant by our loved ones "ceasing to exist?" Because if anything, "The End" showed us that this life is not actually The End. Instead, it might very well be the beginning. The beginning of the next journey that awaits beyond the church doors. But without some of the light that resides in all of us, we turn from carriers of the Source (emotion, connection, benevolence, belief, love) to heaping piles of dead weight waiting to rot in the ground, stuck there forever. Not an appealing thought, to say the least.
So this uncorking...it was a problem. But out of the darkness came a silver lining: MIB became human. And not only that, Richard began to age. In releasing the Light, Desmond seemed to have lifted the curtain on the Island's special properties, and with that MIB became vulnerable to the most significant of all human traits; death. Ironically MIB got everything he ever wished for, realizing it just in time to get shot in the back and kicked off a cliff. The image of MIB splayed out on the rocky cliff, unmoving on his back was reminiscent to that of Locke's ultimate betrayal after being thrown four flights to the ground by the hand of his Father. But for MIB, there would be no redemption...and it's safe to say that he'll never walk again.
Right before his death, Flocke did close the circle on one of this season's lasting images, and as it turns out one, of its biggest clues; the cut on Jack's neck. Before getting shot by Kate, Flocke's dagger dug ever so slowly into Jack's neck, creating the cut we've seen on numerous occasions in the Sideways. In essence, it helped finally reveal the mysterious connection between worlds. It hinted that the cut Jack saw in the mirror wasn't a reflection of his life on the Island, it was a symbol of his death in the Sideways.
All season, we've been wondering which timeline was the "real" one. Was the Island simply a proving ground for what seemed to be the "real" lives of our characters in the Sideways? Was the age old Purgatory theory right? Have we spent all of this time stuck on an Island that doesn't even exist, following the lives (or deaths) of our characters only to learn that all along they had completely different lives in another dimension?
Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, we've been tricked. Yes, the Purgatory theory was right. But the Island wasn't the purgatory proving ground for our characters, the Sideways was. The Island was very real, and everything that happened on the Island was real. Indeed, "what happened, happened." Conversely, the Sideways was an intermediate reality constructed specifically by and for our characters to cope with their deaths and prepare them for the next world (or the other side, or another life, or what have you.) To do so, emotional connections needed to be established, memories unlocked, and experiences realized. Most important was the understanding that their connections to each other were paramount in being able to let go and move on.
In the church, Christian says to Jack that "nobody does it alone...you needed all of them, and they needed you....to remember, and to let go." We're not meant to live our lives in isolation, and for so long this was Jack's struggle. Even before his time on the Island he managed to push away his wife and distance himself from his Father. After Oceanic 815 crashed, he shunned the Island itself, refusing to adhere to its fateful advances. Instead, he fought against what would be his destiny and left as one of the O6, only to then detach himself from Kate, abandon Aaron, and fall into a haze of addiction and depression. Even with his compulsive need to fix all those around him, he remained desperately alone.
Only upon returning to the Island did he start to realize that he was not alone in his journey. He began to take a back seat role, listening first and speaking second. He opened his eyes to the notions of fate and purpose, subscribing to the distant words of an old nemesis ("turns out [John] was right about nearly everything" he says as he descended into the cave). In doing so, he gained back the trust of his friends ("I believe in you, Jack"), and became one with the Island itself. The man that once kept himself in the dark quite literally brought the light back to everyone by plugging the cork back into its Source. After finally allowing himself to realize all of this in the Sideways, Jack's journey was complete and he, along with all those truly important to him, move on the next journey that awaits them.
The trigger that solidified this understanding for Jack was the vision of a coffin, and the memory of his Father. For others, it was the realization of true love. For Locke, it was the feeling of the Earth beneath his feet. For Claire, Charlie, and Kate it was the birth of a boy that shared their love. These triggers signified profoundly emotional moments, during what Christian described as the "most important time of their lives."
The Island helped our characters not only find themselves, but each other. The Sideways world taught us that when you move on to the next life you keep what's truly important, and leave the rest behind. Jack's claim back in the early years of Lost was more true than they ever knew, "if we don't live together, we'll die alone." And in the end, by living together and sharing these experiences with each other, they were able to die together as well. As the Light poured into the Church, Jack and his loved ones moved on to the other side.
But not everyone went along for the ride. Some were not ready yet. They still had work to do, and connections to make. Daniel had a network of his own to build, including not only Charlotte but maybe also former love Theresa, likely needing to redeem himself for what he did to her with his experiments. Ben's work included living out his time on the Island, finally acting as its true Protector following Hurley's reign. And when it's his time to move on, his community will likely include Alex and possibly even Rousseau.
And don't get confused by the obvious time constraints that exist within the Sideways. Christian (somewhat conveniently), tells us that "there is no now, here." Time is a variable that does not exist within this world. As Christian says, "we all die, kiddo." Sure, some died long before Jack and some died long after, but death in and of itself is inevitable, which is why they all exist void of time in the Sideways. Even though we see him outside the Church, Ben is still living his life on the Island. We may never know how Kate, Richard, Sawyer, Miles, and Frank die, but it's my belief that they landed safely in the real world and went on to live fulfilling lives before entering into a death that would reunite them with the ones they love.
And it's this understanding that ultimately leaves Jack smiling at the sky just before his death in the Bamboo field, coming full circle from the first image we saw 6 years ago. He's not only happy to see his friends fly away - knowing that he fulfilled his purpose and saved them - he's happy to see them in the Church, greeting him with open arms and glowing smiles. The two worlds become one, and the Light washes over it all. And with that image in his eye and Vincent by his side, not even Jack dies alone.
Writing this last post was tough, and I hope I did it justice. As I mentioned above, this is just my take, and I'd love to hear your experiences with The End. True to Lost form, the community doesn't have to end here, and the discussions and connections we've made through the show will live on. How appropriate.
On a personal note, I'd really like to thank you guys for sharing in this experience over the years, and passing these thoughts on to others. This little thing started as an email to a handful of co-workers and built into something pretty cool from there, and it's because you have shared so much positive feedback throughout it all. A special thanks has to go out to my own Dharma Lady, Kersten, for being the ultimate Lost companion. Her insight was probably responsible for most of the good ideas on this site, and she patiently put up with my incessant ramblings in the process. What can I say, she was a great number 2, and I couldn't have picked a better person to share it all with.
So I think that'll about wrap her all up. Thanks everyone, and see ya in another life.