After sleeping on it, and thinking about it all day on and off, I think I'm finally "at peace" with the Lost finale. My initial reaction was kind of mezzo-mezzo; that they got a lot of things right yet still didn't stick the landing, and made it even worse by slathering it with a frosting of eye-rolling religiosity. Because of my personal beliefs (or lack thereof), I'll always sharpen the critical knives and push back against stories and programs that take all the "spiritual" and "faith" hokum too seriously. I'm down with fictional worlds inhabited by vampires and wizards and cyborgs and other fantastical elements, and I've never had problems accepting the show reality of an island with a sentient smoke monster and characters who can travel through time. But you don't find people in real life - that make laws that affect your freedoms and educate your children and have access to weapons of mass destruction -- who run on a "vampire platform" or make your affiliation with Gryffindor House a litmus test for political office (or societal acceptance). Mystical, implausible, fanciful worlds are just that, and there to entertain and to fire our imagination, and perhaps even to educate and elucidate through parable (but certainly not though any proven science, history, facts or concrete evidence). So naturally my kneejerk reaction was to hold back a gag reflex during those last thirty minutes, no matter how lovingly and movingly they were crafted.
And then I thought about it some more, and realized the ending wasn't necessarily a flat out endorsement of an all-knowing, holy creator who shackled his minions with immutable laws and outmoded and illogical hoops to jump through in order to enter his glistening kingdom. In fact, the show took a much more humanistic approach. Yes, there were still religious trappings, but they were non-denominational, and in the end, what mattered most to the story and its resolution was the characters belief in themselves and each other. In the real life of the island, no one was "saved" purely because of their faith or their conversion to an illogical belief system. They were saved, and escaped from the island, because Frank "Chesty" Lapidus can fly a motherfucking plane. Because Jack laid a beat down on a now humanized enemy. Because Kate saved a bullet and is a good shot. Because Miles, like all of us, believes in the power of duct tape. The story of these characters on this island, as mystical and magical as it was at its core, was brought to a close by human actions and character agency, even as supernatural things were happening all around them.
Even the final scenes with Jack in the church could be read through a humanistic filter. If it's your wont, you could take that to be a literal purgatory, or afterlife, where souls and spirits meet up before passing on to whatever reward fits neatly into your belief system. Or, you could think of it as a dramatic representation of Jack Sheppard's mind finally making peace with his human foibles and real-life struggles on the island, and coming to terms with the decisions he made and the actions he took to ensure that his friends, with whom he formed tangible, meaningful earthly bonds, lived on to see another day. So was there a true spiritual waystation where the survivors of Oceanic 815 (and their friends) actually met up, outside the bonds of time and space, to wait for Jack and help him off into a real afterlife? Or was this yet another story within the story, meant to bring life and images to a decision-making process that goes on inside all of us, yet doesn't truly exist in form and function within the fabric of the world we know? Like just about everything with Lost, they don't tell us, and leave it up to us to interpret, and for that, I'm glad.
There's no denying that "The End" was a monumental television achievement. The acting, directing, cinematography and particularly the masterful score by Michael Giacchino were all brilliant. While a few lines, and plot points, weren't quite as sharp as they could be, the two and a half hours were extraordinarily moving. If you didn't tear up when Sawyer and Juliet regained their memories of each other by the candy machine, or when Vincent came to lie down beside Jack, then you have no heart. Each and every performance was perfectly calibrated, and we got the stellar work we usually do from Emerson, O'Quinn, Holloway, Mitchell and Fox. Special kudos, though, should go to Evangeline Lilly and Jorge Garcia. Kate was always a target of fan scorn, usually because the scripts made her impossible to like at times, but Lilly really nailed all of her scenes last night, and got quite a few colors to play. And everybody loves Hugo, and Garcia has always excelled a providing a comical, heartfelt voice of the fan. But he was required to do some more emotional heavy lifting in "The End," and he delivered in spades.
So, thought-provoking and action packed story, masterfully executed on a technical level, why does this finale still leave me wanting? I guess, in a way, it's much like the equally divisive finale of Battlestar Galactica, "Daybreak." (which I wrote about here). That epic conclusion was also packed with beautiful imagery, lofty ideas, remarkable acting, a superlative score and mythic ambitions. But "The End," like "Daybreak," was less than the sum of its parts because as the wrap up to a show built on mysteries, the "answers," where we got them, didn't hold together in a way corresponding to the weight and importance the shows themselves placed on those questions over the years of their unfolding. I'm fine, of course, not knowing what the hell was up with the "Hurley Bird" or where the island came from originally or who built the Giant Cosmic Sink of Godly Gold Light and Water. And I understand the real-life issues surrounding the return of the actors who played Eko and Walt. But too many issues - issues that formed the narrative drive and backbone of much of Lost's storytelling (and character motivations) - were never adequately touched on. Desmond's "specialness." Eloise's off island knowledge. The island fertility problems. Widmore's motivations. The oft-referenced "rules." These aren't arcane things on the fringe of the plot you can just ignore, like the outrigger shooting. These are things that actively drove characters and entire storylines of the show, and to ignore them (while spending time in the temple, or so much time in the sideways world) and leave them unresolved or unexplained is a major failing of plotting and execution. I don't need a "midichlorians" resolution to the ability of a millennia-dead man to turn into malevolent smoke, but I do need to know what forces were giving our characters agency, informing their decisions and propelling the narrative.
So while my response, and I believe the response of a lot of Lost fans is "the story didn't quite come together, but damn, the character work was outstanding and it was emotionally fulfilling," why do we have to leave it at that? Yes, the show was groundbreaking and ambitious as all get out. And yes, the finale was triumphantly rewarding emotionally, but why should we -- and Damon and Carlton -- settle for just that? Wouldn't it have been even better to have all those wonderful, rich character moments AND have the entire story fit together logically?
Still, I don't regret any of the time I've invested in Lost, and I would be happy if most of the shows I watch reached this high, only to come up a bit short.
I'll see ya in the next life, brutha. Namaste.