Lost s6 ep 17

SPOILER ALERT: For three years now I’ve been writing about ‘Lost’ and trying to avoid spoilers in doing so.  I don’t see how I can write about this final episode without getting into specifics.

In my review of the first episode of this season I promised not to complain about the finale.  I’m going to clarify my position on that a little, and claim that it was meant to be a promise not to complain that the ending, if I found it unsatisfactory, invalidated the whole show.  It’s of particular importance this time out, of course: I’ve been evaluating each episode of this season both as a piece of TV in itself and as a contribution towards the overall ‘Lost’ picture, and those dual criteria apply even more this week, certainly to ‘Lost’, perhaps more than to any other episode of any TV show.  Ever.

As a piece of TV?  That’s the easy one.  Astonishing.  I didn’t move from in front of the TV for over two hours.  It had almost too many perfectly-judged moments to count.  On-island we had the long-awaited final battle between Flocke and, well, the rest of the world, represented by Jack, Kate, Hurley and Desmond.  With Ben somewhere in between.  Anyway, not for the first time in ‘Lost’ history Desmond’s down the hole, on this occasion to, y’know, pull the plug out (and who knew that vending machines and islands could be reset in essentially the same way?).  Then, as the island starts to fall apart, Flocke faces off against Jack, in another iteration of the conflict we’ve been seeing since season 1.  While all of that is going on, though, Lapidus lives!  And he’s a pilot, in case we’ve forgotten, so Miles and Richard – who also lives! – get the plane ready for takeoff.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the whole episode happened in this timeline, when Jack passed the mantle of leadership onto Hurley.  I hope I’m not reading too much into this, but it seemed to me to be freighted with fourth-wall symbolism: Hurley has always been the voice of the viewer, the Everyman-and-woman; he’s me, he’s you, and as far as I was concerned this amounted to nothing more or less than Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse handing the island over to us – they’re done, it’s ours now, and we can make of it what we will.

And in Sideways-world, for those of us who’ve stuck with ‘Lost’ for the duration, it’s all just lovely.  It really is.  (I’m not ashamed to say, incidentally, that I hadn’t spotted the symbolism of Christian Shephard’s name until it was pointed out.)  Shivers down spines, goosebumps on goosebumps, the lot, as most of the main characters remember their Island existence while sorting out their sideways lives: Jack’s flashback is particularly moving but they’re all good, as it happens, and just about everyone finds their constant.  In a week when the ensemble all got to play a part it would be invidious to single out any of the actors for praise – perhaps this week’s MVP award, in recognition both of six years of outstanding work and a particularly dazzling contribution to the final week, should go to soundtrack composer Michael Giacchino.

As for the endings: if I understand them correctly everything in the “original” island timeline happened, and the finish there was absolutely right; perhaps predictable to a certain extent but happily so, as a plane doesn’t crash, Jack closes his eyes, and we come full circle. 

The sideways one I’m more troubled by.  It looks as if the characters were slowly assembling in a sort of planet-sized post-death ante-room as one by one they died in the “real” timeline.  So for example the Hurley/Ben axis could have ruled the island for thousands of years (although who’s replaced Hurley, and how?); Sawyer and Juliet probably got together, and so on.  Now, this all serves as an explanation of the flash-sideways timeline, which covers – what? – about half of season 6, but doesn’t begin to explain away anything else.  To be clear – I’m not particularly looking for answers; but if we’re being given them anyway it seems somewhat half-assed to solve the riddle of the flash-sideways in this particular way, while leaving some of the bigger questions unaddressed.

UK viewers, of course, have just seen the end of ‘Ashes To Ashes’, which featured a not-dissimilar conclusion.  I compared it, perhaps a little unfairly, to everyone’s least-favourite ‘Dallas’ plot twist.  The big problem with Pamela Ewing’s year-long dream, as well as a pretty lazy way for the producers to get themselves out of a corner, was that it essentially amounted to the writers saying: everything you’ve just seen?  Everything that moved you, made you laugh, made you think?  None of it mattered.  Now, I’m going to be kinder to ‘Lost’ than I was to ‘Ashes’, because Darlton never claimed that their ending would answer all the questions, and because it only required us to write off half a season anyway.  In the ‘Lost’ universe, the island timeline events all happened.  The flash-sideways didn’t.  The ‘Ashes’ writers, on the other hand, claimed that their ending would sort everything out, and in the event it required us to assume that just about everything we’d seen over five seasons hadn’t actually happened.

It might seem as if I’m drawing a sort of arbitrary line between what “happened”, and what didn’t.  It’s all fiction; I know that.  But a suspension of disbelief is a necessary part of becoming truly invested in a work of fiction, and it involves – if this isn’t trite – a willingness to believe in the reality of that fiction.  In exchange for our belief in what the writers are putting before us we give them our good faith, and expect theirs in return.  Which is why I don’t much care for dream sequences in drama – if it didn’t “happen”, it probably doesn’t matter, and why should I care?  And if I can’t believe in what I’m seeing, even to a certain extent, I’m going to withhold my emotional involvement, or feel slightly cheated when the rug gets pulled from underneath me.

Perhaps my adverse reaction to it had a personal aspect to it: I’ve really enjoyed the flash-sideways, and to be told that none of it had happened was somewhat deflating.   If it didn’t happen, then did it matter?  And should I have got quite so worked up about my adoration of, say, Dr Linus the history teacher? 

I’ve reflected overnight on the ending, and I’m bound to say that I’m more relaxed about it today than I was last night, when I viewed it as something of a cop-out.  But the bigger point, and my fulfillment of my promise, is this: it doesn’t even remotely come close to tarnishing the enjoyment six years of ‘Lost’ have given me.  Out of over 100 episodes, only a handful have been less than thoroughly enjoyable, and some have represented benchmarks for TV drama.  It’s provided plenty of thrills and character-driven emotion blended with philosphical and literary allusions, and it leaves the TV landscape permanently altered.  I don’t hold with the doomsayers who say that it’s the last of its type: something big, satisfying, ambitious, and challenging will come along soon enough, and we’ll all be talking about it.  But it won’t be ‘Lost’.

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13 thoughts on “Lost s6 ep 17

  1. e May 25, 2010 / 5:05 pm

    Why did we even bother with the sideways if nothing there added to the “coming to accept your own death” storyline, which seemed pasted onto the last episode as an afterthought. It invalidated the entire sideways storyline, and made the whole Desmond arc pointless. Why did Jack have a make-believe son? What did he gain by struggling with that non-existent child? Why bother having the Juliet-as-his-ex-wife reveal if they were all just dead and there was no “now” there.

    Seems to me that the writers were heading towards an actual two-story-integration and derailed themselves at the last minute by playing it cute rather than by writing it smart.

    But Jack died! Gotta give ’em credit for at least that.

    • Capt. Harold Dobey May 25, 2010 / 7:09 pm

      I see it like this. And as I was typing out my explanation I realised it ran out of sense.

      I was going along the lines of Sideways is what you wished for. Jack wanted a son. He wanted Juliet.

      Then I got stuck.

      I can maybe argue a case of … but he was meant to be with Kate.

      But then you get into stuff like – was Kate just meant to be in jail then. Which really rides all over her flashbacks.

      This is where I really think it was a St Elsewhere ending and they just bottled it and are denying it.

  2. Capt. Harold Dobey May 25, 2010 / 7:01 pm

    As an episode of tv – fantastic. As a conclusion – a little flat when it came to the ultimate battle. However, it was never meant to be about some big showdown. It was always about the characters, so I’m told.

    What did it all mean?

    The way I read it, and Cuse (and everyone else for that matter) tells me I’m wrong, everything was Jack’s dying thoughts. It’s the only way to make sense of everything. All those little strands of plot that the writers just forgot about over the years, they can only be explained in this way.

    Vincent just happening to be there after all that has gone on is just a bit suspicious to me. He always had a tendancy to wander off.

    The generally accepted explanation that the island was real and sideways was some kind of stained-glass multi-faith purgatory suits me okay. It does throw up questions. Why is Ben outside the church is easy enough. What Widmore needed the island so badly for will never be known.

    Whatever it’s about, it was obvious from the start. It was Jack’s journey and Hurley was his helper. How we got there, you would never guess. And you couldn’t. Writer strikes, the world loving Desmond and Ben, Mr Eko being a diddy on set, drink driving charges, you can never plan for that stuff.

    It’s probably ended as we thought, more questions than answers. I loved it (apart from a lot of season 2) and look forward to the Sawyer and Miles Cops In Purgatory spin-off.

  3. Peter Griffin May 25, 2010 / 8:29 pm

    I must admit that the end to Lost was disappointing for me because there were no answers to the major questions. The way I see it, the writers have as much of a clue about what was going on over the last few years as we do. The sugary sweet ending is no surprise. Wouldn’t want to upset anyone by having characters “die”. This way everyone “lives”, those who died and those who didn’t.

    I know that for some people what happens to the characters is the only important thing but lets be honest about the show. The reason it was so popular and what made it different was the mysterious goings on, the surprising things that happened, the mysterious, magical island itself. I’m not suggesting that every little detail should have been explained but the major questions should have been answered. The writers obviously made things up because they seemed interesting and intriguing without really knowing where it was all going. The writers not claiming that the ending would have all the answers was because they don’t have answers. The whole “sideways” stuff just seems to be a get out for the writers to end the series.

    Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the final episode and the whole series was fantastic. But it just left me feeling a little cheated at the end.

    Jed, you likened the end of Ashes to Ashes to the ending of Lost. Yes, they both involved an afterlife theme but the Ashes to Ashes ending didn’t seem to be an afterthought. I thought it was clever and explained what had been going on. Whether the writers always knew this was how it would end or not, it worked. The end of Lost didn’t.

  4. Capt. Harold Dobey May 25, 2010 / 9:17 pm

    Something awesome has already arrived in tv to replace Lost.

    Mayim Bialik is in The Big Bang Theory. Roll on Season 4.

    They can kill Jack Bauer now if they want, tv is saved.

  5. CJ Cregg May 25, 2010 / 10:19 pm

    Jed, great review – it can’t have been easy to write and I think you did what was, I agree with you, a very special 6 years of tv justice. So well done for that. And at the risk of sounding like a cheesy fool, it’s lovely to hear from everyone about what they thought. (I may be slightly emotional still from watching it, oooh, 12 hours ago ;-))

    Onto my thoughts. I absolutely adored it. It was deeply moving, very exciting, and for me, the ending worked absolutely beautifully. I especially loved that it started and ended with Jack in the field, with Vincent. Sob.

    The way I saw it, though, the sideways did matter – it was about working out the problems and issues they had before they all let go together, and Jack was just the last person to do that, because it’s always been Jack who struggles most to let go. Without the sideways, they wouldn’t have been fulfilled or quite whole, I suppose. So Jack had to have a child to lay his daddy issues to rest, etc. But as well as that, I thought the resolution was incredibly clever because it meant that the sideways gave many different fans so many little grace notes and emotionally satisfying moments over the season that they loved and wouldn’t have got otherwise. I understand why folk say it’s a cop-out but I actually thought it was a brilliant way to deal with it, and preferred it to a time-travel/course-correct type solution.

    However, maybe it’s because I wasn’t as invested in the sideways at the beginning of the season as a lot of other people were that it worked so well as an ending for me. I cried like a baby, several times. Any attempt to explain stuff like the cork of the island or the electromagnetic qualities or who set up the Dharma Initiative or whatever would have bored me with technobabble – I can’t see any explanation being halfway plausible or interesting – and would have taken away from the elegiac, dreamy feeling it left me with so I’m glad they didn’t try, although I understand why so many disagree.

    I suppose my only real issue with it (apart from Lapidus not being dead – I mean, really, he survived the sub? I can buy everything else that happened, but come on.) is that the finale could have been a bit shorter; it felt like it ended a few times and could have been trimmed a little, but I’m not going to complain about getting to spend a bit longer with characters I’ve grown to care about over the past 6 seasons and as part of the huge, global community of people who are talking about it and will still be talking about it for a long time. I feel like we should all have a group hug and toast Damon & Carlton to thank them for the ride 😉

  6. Stephen Strange May 26, 2010 / 1:21 pm

    Well, that wasn’t very satisfying…was it?
    I have enjoyed the Final season, as a whole, but this ending, really, come on, huh!!
    I loved the episode and like e was waiting for the brilliant twist, when we got to see how the sideways story merged into the Island story. I kept believing right up to when Jack walked into the church, then….nothing, I just felt empty, cheated. They are all dead, all of them? When did that happen? How did Penny die? What happened to the Island after Jack kicked the bucket, as far as I could work out Ben, Hurley, Desmond, Bernard, Rose and the dog were all still ok. Did they survive on the Island for…how long? What was the Island? etc etc etc…..
    It did have that feeling of ‘Dallas’
    Jed I doth my cap to you Sir, it can’t have been easy writing about Lost over the years, never mind making sense of it, I will miss my Lost fix now that it’s gone, but I hated that ending!

    • CJ Cregg May 26, 2010 / 7:22 pm

      As far as I’m concerned, Hurley ruled the island happily with Ben helping him for many years, he helped Desmond get home to Penny, and Desmond and Penny died after a long and happy life with their son. But that’s just what I choose to believe happened to them – depends how much you liked them, I guess Stephen!

      I thought Vincent died with Jack, but I suppose he could have lived on. I’m not too fussed about Rose and Bernard but let’s just say they lived to a ripe old age too 😉

  7. Jed Bartlet May 26, 2010 / 5:06 pm

    Generally speaking I’m still on board with those of you who thought the “sideways” resolution to be disappointing: it was the one major issue of season 6 and I think it was something of a letdown.

    As to the rest of it: I’m just about OK with what we got. In episode 15 the Mother said “Every question I answer will simply lead to another question”, and I stole that to use as a comment on that episode, because the writers have hinted that it sums their position up. I think there’s some merit to that. But I do agree, Peter, with what you say: people like me are being a bit disingenuous when we claim that it was all about the characters. Of course it was the mysteries that got us hooked.

  8. Red July 7, 2010 / 7:57 pm

    I’m not sure I got The End. Maybe it was all explained in the three minutes my screen froze for right near the end of The End… Somehow I doubt it tho. 😉

  9. Kay20 October 12, 2010 / 4:05 am

    Above average for lost – and still great TV. But I wish there was a little more action and less schmaltz.

    I kinda figured out people were meant to be together awhile ago.

    Who was a revelation in this final episode was Jack. His storyline literally made me a little teary. His acting this episode, particularly in the last 30 minutes made me feel for Jack. For the son he wanted, for the reunion with Kate (still flat as ever), and for his conversations with Locke.

    I loved seeing Jin and Sun together and happy finally.

    Oh 0 and the introduction of Shannon back into the mix was a little jarring. And Boone appeared to have a little Damon in him. 🙂

    I wish we could have seen Eko – a fantastic character on this show, and Walt too. Still haven’t figured out what Walt was.

    But wow – all other TV shows wish they could be this good.

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