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Message In A Bottle

May 24th, 2010

WARNING: The following post is nothing but spoilers for the final episode of Lost. Turn back now, if ye wish to be unspoilt!

As the airdate of the Lost finale approached, I became concerned the series might end in one of two ways:

  • Jack and Locke sitting alone on the beach, starting the Jacob/Man in Black cycle of violence all over again.
  • A final title card replacing the word “Lost” with “Found.”

Fortunately, neither of these happened. In hindsight, the actual final shot (Jack’s eyeball closing for the last time) was just as obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me.

While I wasn’t surprised that my wife and I reacted very differently to the episode, it seemed odd that I was less bothered by its focus on matters of emotion and spirituality rather than explanations of the nature and purpose of the Island. I think of myself as more skeptical about the possibility of life after death, and more likely to get caught up in niggling details like the experiments of the Dharama Initiative. Yet I felt generally satisfied by the conclusion whereas Vic was frustrated by what she felt was a cop-out.

That said, we both bawled uncontrollably. I think it was the dog. I was already tearing up during the final scene between Ben and Locke (yes, not Charlie and Claire or Sayid and Shannon, but Ben and Locke), then again during the last group hug. Yet, it was the shot of Vincent the dog sitting next to Jack to be with him as he died that sent both of us right over the precipice.

Emotionally, it all worked for me. I enjoyed that final opportunity to see (most) everyone together again, reconciling their “happy endings” in the so-called Sideways world with their memories of the friendship and love that developed during their stay on the Island. It felt earned. And after all the death on the show (by the end, they were down to about a dozen surviving characters, and that’s including Penny and Walt), it was comforting to have everyone back for a tearful curtain call.

I suppose that I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of hard explanations because I was already reconciled to my expectation that we’d already found out pretty much everything we were likely to learn about the Island, the Others and the Dharma folks. With the producers being coy about such simple details as the Man in Black’s name, I didn’t think it likely that they would offer a definitive answer about the Glowy Cave That Must Be Protected.

I’ll admit that I would’ve preferred that the final conflict not have come down to protecting a Mysterious Glowy Cave that had only been introduced two episodes ago. However, I can live with that. The Glowy Cave is clearly a MacGuffin; what it does is less important than how the characters react to it. Once you start down the path of explaining The Origin of the Glowy Cave, you’re entering Kingdom of the Crystal Skull territory. Maybe the glow represents immortality, absolute power or unlimited rice pudding. Maybe it’s the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase, or Repo Man’s trunk. I think that all you really need to know is that pulling the cork from the bottle is bad.

Besides, when the producers actually began to answer questions, the results could be rather clunky. Oh, hey, remember those mysterious whispers? They were the voices of those who had died on the Island yet hadn’t passed on! Do you feel better being told that?

A popular speculation in the early seasons of Lost was the castaways were dead and the Island was Purgatory. (After all, that’s Twilight Zone twist ending #2, right next to “It was Earth all along!”)  This was flatly denied by producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Yet…that’s precisely what the Island was for characters such as Michael. And, while I take the show at its word that the events on the Island “really happened,” the Sideways world which dominated so much of this final season turned out to be itself a transitional afterlife.

Like the Glowy Cave, it’s best not to get too bogged down in the nature of the Sideways world. Was it the product of the atomic explosion that concluded Season Five? A gift from Hurley in his new, semi-omnipotent role? Whatever. It’s clearly not too bad a Purgatory, given that one can realize their rock n’ roll dreams and/or get it on with Rebecca Mader therein. And let’s not think too much about an afterlife in which people can be murdered again, or give birth to the same children a second time.

Already, the concluding minutes are being wildly misinterpreted. I read a couple of reviews that suggest that the entire story is Jack’s hallucination just before his post-plane crash death, even though 1) that would be an unforgivable cheat, 2) the show definitively states otherwise, and 3) he’s wearing different clothes.

Similarly, there are some who feel the views of the airplane wreckage over the closing credits are intended to suggest that there were never any survivors in the first place. I’ll be honest, I don’t know the point of those shots, but I’m going to take it on faith that the explanation given within the show is the explanation. Everyone died…eventually. Whether it was sooner or later, for a time they all wound up in the same metaphysical place. There’s enough wiggle room so that if you absolutely want to turn it into something less satisfying, you can do it.

For my own part, I’m content. There was enough there there. And I’m ready to move on.

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