The ideal Lost ending would have wrapped up the important religious mysteries, explained the sci-fi mysteries, thrown some philosophy in the mix, and delivered an emotionally compelling ending for the characters.
After watching Lost last night and re-hashing it today, it’s clear that we didn’t get the ideal ending. All of those things in my dreambag didn’t happen–Lost’s potential as a story ended up being too tall an order to fill for the writers. You can’t change TV once when it’s written and aired, unlike a book. So, rather than try to haphazardly do all the things I mentioned above, the writers focused on bringing all the characters together in an emotional tour de force. Forget about it making sense or anything.
And yet, I’m not angry at the ending. All season, Lost has killed off characters left and right, some in the most preposterous ways (was there any reason for Sayid to dive through the sub door in a suicide run with the bomb rather than just throw the thing through the door and shut it?). The writers were clearly going for emotional earlier in the season too, but previous deaths didn’t coax one tear from my eyes. I felt nothing for many of the “emotional” scenes early in Season Six. Even Sun and Jin dying failed to move me. Why? I’m not a cold-hearted troll. Many scenes were poorly written, for various reasons. Sun and Jin’s death suffered from terrible writing and didn’t even have the lovers speak their final words in Korean. Sun and Jin’s reunion inserted Frank Lapidus in the most ridiculous way. Illana picked up dyamite and just went kaboom, but she wasn’t a comic relief character like Artz, so it didn’t work. Etc. Etc. Lots of stuff didn’t work.
So, I essentially set my expectations for the finale to Low, and I was thrilled to experience an emotionally resonant ending. Few hokey lines, no random one liners, no plot-device-convenient deaths, and few expedient deaths either. The last few minutes, starting with Jack and Kate’s farewell kiss (Kate: Tell me I’m going to see you again. Jack:……) hit me hard, followed by the montage of flashbacks as key characters in the sideways universe remembered their island pasts. Juliet and Sawyer with the Apollo candy bar=excellent acting and writing. Jack realizing he’s dead in the sidewaysverse with Christian. The last scene brought the show full circle, with Jack stumbling to the bamboo patch, lying down with Vincent, watching the Ajira plane fly over, and then closing his eye.
So, putting myself into the shoes of the writer’s, I understand their strategy to focus on the characters’ emotional ending rather than construct a mythology-rich ending with a rushed pace and flat tone.
But, the series will ultimately disappoint many people because it used its complex mythology as a six-season red herring, forsaking it at the end in a hokey pool of light. Remember when Jacob said that the island was a cork that kept the evil from the world?
On a show that prided itself on quasi-philosophical leanings and intelligent fans, it seemed mighty cheap for Jack and Desmond to plug up a pool of glowy light with a LITERAL cork.
At least the island world didn’t turn out to all be a dream, right? For the writers out there, the message of Lost seems to be–if you screwed up the story, then go for the emotion instead. But emotion doesn’t trump story for everyone, not even for me. So, at best, the ending of Lost half-worked. The fans who were in it for the mystery and mythology were left in limbo, even as the characters processed into that shiny white light. Literally.