Monday, May 24, 2010

Season 6, Episode 16: "The End"

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'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 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 needed all of them, and they needed 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.


Anonymous Natasha said...

Did you just call Kersten your Ben?

10:57 AM  
Blogger jane said...

Great job Chuck! I didn't watch it as long as you
did but felt as though I had after reading your
blog! Well done!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Kersten said...

What, you didn't realize I was a manipulative, cold-blooded killer, Natasha?!

Great job, Chuck! Thanks for enhancing the LOST experience for us all over the years!

2:00 PM  
Blogger thebigmic said...

A conversation chuck and I just had...

Me: The only thing I disagree with is that Ben is still on the island. I don't think he is. He and hugo could have ruled for 5000 years for all we know, but I feel like admission into sideways was death on earth (be it on the island or off). The things he needed to work out were probably all the people he killed while being evil ben (locke, jacob, widmore, his dad, dharma folks). See, the island and hugo redeemed him only to a point. Then he dies and is floating around purgatory and though he gains Lockes forgiveness, maybe he still needs to gain the forgiveness of others before moving on. Other than that, spot on as always. The onion has a great rundown, check that out too.

That’s a good point. And that analysis also explains why Michael wasn’t in the church…since he did some pretty bad shit as well. Who knows though, cause it could be argued that Kate wasn’t dead in the Island world yet, but she was in the church…that’s why the whole time thing there was irrelevant. But I really like your the idea that while some need to find the ones they love in the Sideways to move on, Ben needed to find those that he wronged, and ask for forgiveness.

You should post it, good comment!

Re: kate, she's long dead. They all are, according to christian shepard. I feel like the sideways could literally be thousands of years later, depending on how long hugo and ben were on the island. Aaron is even long dead. Walt is too, but probably not there because michael is still stuck in Whispertowne. "There is no now, here" is true in the sense that it isn't 2012, but "here" is definitely post death (but pre-moving on).

How are you here?
Because I died too...

3:16 PM  
Blogger thebigmic said...

Wreckage scene added by abc, not producers:

also, here's the aforementioned onion av club piece:,41436/

3:22 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Thanks for the kind words, folks, not only hear but through email and FB as well...well not you Natasha, you trouble maker.

Per bigmic's thoughts and his transcriptions of my thoughts, I agree him and with myself. That's good stuff and I'm glad he posted.

And per the credit wreckage, I'm really glad that ABC posted that info so to stop any crazy theories that stemmed from a scene that was really supposed to act as a decompression so that we didn't hear "NOW AT 11, FEAR IS EVERYWHERE AND WE'LL BRING IT TO YOU NEXT, ON THE LOCAL NEWS" right after what was an extremely poignant scene on Lost. I took that scene at face value, but it just goes to show you that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to LOST!

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you see some parallels between linus and anakin skywalker? both were born essentially good and were good guys for a little while before being corrupted by power and turning "evil". both did unspeakable things as villians but ultimately redeemed themselves with selfless acts in the end. both were also invited to stand beside the good guys in "heaven", linus obviously declined but hurley still invited him in, while anakin's spirit obviously stood by yoda and obi won at the end of the trilogy.

I wonder if the producers drew that kind of connection a little bit. they were clearly impacted by star wars with hurley frequently referencing Star Wars, and his final line in the opening sequence of the series finale was, "i have a bad feeeling about this", a line taken directly from star wars.


7:33 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Chuck, what do you make of Eloise? Why did she want Desmond to stop? Was it because she was afraid that he would take Daniel with him?

9:24 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Anonymous: Star Wars is a huge influence on the Lost writers and I definitely see your parallels. Beyond the specific examples you site, the two stories to the core are about good and evil, light and dark, love and hope, etc. You could probably do a whole essay on the similarities...and I'm sure someone probably has!

9:56 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Bri: I think you're right, unless she was just doing a reverse psychology play...

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At first I didn't know how I felt about this final episode. But the more I thought about it and talked to others, I realized that I did truly like it. I think I fell into the trap that many did in the later part of this season: with the "force-feeding" of answers to our years-long questions, I expected to get more answers in the last episode. Like who built the statue and why did it have four toes and an ancient Egyptian theme, yet the island was in the Pacific, or was it not always in the Pacific... see there I go again!

But then I realized that a lot of those mysteries don't really matter to the purpose of the show. The whole show (all seasons) is very much like life. You go on your life journey not knowing LOTS of things. You figure out things that you need to know and how to work around the things that you don't know. It's what you do with the knowledge that you have that
really matters. Because, in the end, those mysteries of life are likely going to stay mysteries.

I miss your tidbits section in this post. But didn't know if you caught these few:

- Juliet's last line to Sawyer before she died on the island was "it worked". Her line to him when they both "realized" in the parallel world was "it worked." Almost like as she was dying, she saw the next step in her journey, meeting back up with him at the hospital in the parallel.

- In the church, when they all sit down. Locke is the only person in the front row on one side and Jack (with Kater) are the only ones on the opposite side. Another reminder about how they were opposing one another for the better part of the show.

- All episodes always end with that foreboding "twang" sound. But this one ended on a more light-hearted twang.

Thanks for all of your many hours you put in writing this blog. It's truly been a lot of fun reading it. By the way, love the Dharma cat in your picture. Does it have a number painted on it like the Dharma rabbits? :-)

-G. Brown

12:32 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts G. Brown...and yes, I didn't have tidbits, partly because to your point, the little things seemed to melt away to make room for the big picture in the finale, so to stay with that theme I kept the bits out.

However, I'm glad you brought a few up here in the comments! So while we're sharing, he's a couple more I noticed:

-When Juliette helps Sawyer with the stuck Apollo bar, she mentions that you can just "unplug and then plug it back in" to get the candy...a very apt analogy for what went down on the Island in the cave.

-Not much of a tid bit, but more a great image: Hurley's face when seeing Charlie open the motel door in the Sideways. I had forgotten how close they were, and how long it had been since they saw each other, and Hurley is just beaming in that was just such a great moment.

-After waking up in the Hospital bed, Locke wiggles his toes just as he did in Season 1 after the plane crashes.

-Jack's wound to his side was an obvious Christ symbol, as JC got a spear in the side while on the crucifix...and both made incredible sacrifices.

There are more, but my memory is failing...they pack so much into each episode that it's impossible to absorb it all.

Thanks again for the kind words...and the Dharma cat is Toby, and he's a rascal, maybe I should re-name him Sawyer....

1:41 PM  
Blogger The Lifeguard said...

Just wanted to say I loved the finale and despite all the various unanswered questions and debates still raging, I'm "letting go."

Thanks for the good work on the blog, Charles. Now I'm gonna go masturbate at the Phish concert.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

One other tidbit: the airplane jet engine sound that led into Sideways scenes ended up being the last sound Jack hears - Ajira Flight 316 flying away.

Thank you Chuck for years of watching, taking notes, rewatching, and taking more notes, so that I didn't have to. Without LN, I would've lost track about four years ago.

So, when does Fringe Notes start?

2:47 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Vin - thank you sir.

Brian - that's a great pick up...never even crossed my mind! Love it.

5:12 PM  
Blogger thebigmic said...

"Guy from 'Bad Robot'" post:

This has a tinge of "a buddy of mine ran into brad sands and the inside info is blah blah blah..." but still, thought it was pretty interesting. Comments too.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Very cool. Regardless of its authenticity it's a pretty spot on read. And from the looks of our conversations and analysis, we (and most other recaps I've read since posting) are pretty right on...

10:37 PM  
Blogger thomas said...

G Brown had a great point about Juliet saying "it worked" when she died in Sawyer's arems. I think at that moment, her two realities were meshed together as it probably happens when each character becomes concious they are dead. i think at that very moment on the island, she was saying those words to the Sawyer she was hugging in the Sideways world. pretty f'ing cool.

1:49 PM  
Blogger thebigmic said...

Annnnnnnnnnd here we go....

I would add these (mostly continuity) questions...
1) Why is kate's black (super hot) dress suddenly gone in the church?
2) How does jack get out of the caveafter restoring the light?
3) Is that the ajira plane Jack sees before he dies?
3a) If so, how is it that the plane that takes off during the earthquake, is only making it over jacks eyes - at least - ten minutes later?
4) How does Bernard and Rose's campsite also time-travel?
5) How does Vincent time-travel?
5a) Does Vincent look super-young to anyone in that last scene?
6) When the sun rises after all hell breaks loose on the island, how is the ground virtually dry on the cliff immediately?
7) How do they get the incredibly heavy fallen tree off of Ben?
7a) How is Ben uninjured?
8) How is Jins korean accent completely removed after he is "awakened"?
9) Why would Lapidus TWICE throw the walkie talkie with reckless abandon as if it wasnt the only method of communication between both groups?
10) How is the muddy water Jack fills the bottle with SO clear when HURLEY drinks it?
11) Why is Penny in the church but her and Desmonds child, Charlie, is not?
12) Was the nuke what created the purgatory? (I only say that because I am still unsure as to what the nuke actually did.)

(and these are just from the final episode!)

I'll let it go when all of this gets answered.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Chuck, nice work over the years. I finally have digested the last episode and just thought I'd add my $0.02. At first, I was torn about whether I liked the episode. Initially, I was annoyed that they never answered some of the biggest questions (like, what's the deal with the numbers? If they symbolized the remaining candidates, why was the "job still available" to Kate when her # 51 not in the original sequence? Why was Flock able to kill Jack if he couldn't kill Jacob?), but after I thought about it more, I realized that it didn't really matter. All of that stuff was white noise. One thing I really liked was that my girlfriend -- who was not as avid a Lost fan as I was, but watched most of the show nonetheless -- was able to appreciate it as much as I did. I know that a lot of casual Lost fans were thoroughly confused throughout this season and the last one, so I was glad that the explanation was one that everyone could comprehend. You didn't have to have tirelessly poured over every episode to get the meaning. Anyway, I guess I now have to find something else to do on Tuesday nights (and whatever morning Chuck's weekly blog came out).
Thanks for all the hard work, Chuck (and nice picture, that got a laugh).

10:39 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

bigmic - I don't know how that brain of yours even lets you sleep at night...let it go, partner!

Henry, thanks for the nice words. I think your conclusion is correct...a lot of the questions kept the show mysterious but at the end of the day they were not essential to what it was all really about.

I watched it again this weekend and it was just as powerful as the first time...the last 10 minutes are pretty close to perfect imo.

I think after all the dust settles The End will go down as one of the better finales to a show ever produced...but then again, I'm biased ;)

9:24 AM  

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