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TV Review: Lost: “The End” – Monday Mourning

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"How do you plan to do that?" — Smokey

"It’s a surprise." — Jack

Lost ended its six year run last night, and as I predicted last Tuesday, it ended with a whimper, not a bang. That was me, whimpering.

I have not been a huge fan of the Jack Shephard character. Over the last six years, I’ve found him whiny and at the same time inexplicably headstrong, but that didn’t keep me from crying like a baby during the final scenes of last night’s episode. A good thing that I didn’t attend any last Lost parties; I would have embarrassed myself. Not that I was invited, mind you.

Now that the tears have cleared, and the writers have skipped town, what do we have left? What was that?

The “End,” making little narrative sense, went for the emotional jugular. In a sleight of hand, distracting viewers from thematic and unanswered questions of “what was the island?” and “why were the castaways part of a larger plan?” the episode concentrated on the alternate or sideways stories, a recent plot device for this season. Mysterious Scot Desmond Hume, set up since season two to be a big player in the island’s arc, proved to be surprisingly ineffectual on Finale Island, just a pawn between two competitors. In Sideways World, Desmond gathered all our castaways together in an enigmatic Messenger of Heaven function; he was the unexpected harbinger of the end for Doc Shephard and his not-so-motley crew of castaways.

Co-creator J.J. Abrams and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have been swearing up and down for years that the island was not Purgatory, but what about the Sideways World? "Not Purgatory" may have been a lie of omission. Last night, the alternate reality proved to be not a reality at all but more an Occurrence at Eloise Hawking’s Church: an instant 'would-could-have-been' life that flashes before Jack’s eyes as he lays dying in the bamboo field.

“I think you’re a little confused as to what I came here to do.” — Smokey

The last Lost Cause recap: the island survivors outmaneuver Smokey (who was obviously not healed as I projected last week). The electromagnetic fields of the island are momentarily disrupted by Desmond; in that time, Smokey is sufficiently weakened so he can be gunned down by Kate. Jack, in a temp position as Jacob, restores the island’s powers but not before he hands off his Jacobean title to Hurley, fulfilling a prophecy I made at “The Lighthouse” that Hurley would emerge as the true leader (don’t worry, this is the last of the "I told you so’s"): "You were a great No. 1,"  Ben Linus tells Hurley in one of the best lines of the night. With cameos by beloved Rose and Bernard and Vincent, and a re-emergence of Frank Lapidus to a cheer from the house despite his awful lines, the island story was basically an experiment by both sides, Good Jack and Bad Locke, as to what would happen when they lowered Desmond into the ‘golden log flume’ as TV critic Alan Sepinwall calls it.

Changing the rules late in the game, Volunteer Jack doesn’t stop Smokey in his effort to destroy the island. In fact, he helps him along, betting that the ebbing of the island’s power will be Smokey’s loss. Desmond doesn’t put up too much of fight, willingly allowing himself to be a pawn in this new contest. Desmond’s speech to Jack before being thrown down yet another waterway was bewildering: “you can put me down there and I’ll just leave. Why don’t you come too?” That reminds me of the Robert Frost poem “The Pasture,” but I better save that for my forthcoming “Royal Pains” review.

There were lots of character questions in both worlds; why was Desmond trying to talk Jack out of confronting Smokey: “This doesn’t matter, you know. Him destroying the island. You destroying him.” Desmond seemed to be tempting Jack into abandoning his island responsibility. Jack stands strong and tells Desmond that “what happened, happened” and "all of this matters." Which may be true on the island but…

Meanwhile, back at Purgatory Ranch, Desmond and Hurley are busy rounding up the castaways, reintroducing them to their past lives and loves, and herding them all to Eloise Hawking’s Church. It is an obvious important location, being the portal between Limbo and Heaven, and so it is a puzzlement that Eloise was uncooperative. What is her place in all this? Hawking was missing from the final scenes of the show. Being the high priestess of Church of the Every Denomination So We Don’t Offend Anyone, she would seem to be more important to the closure of the show other than just the concerned mother of Daniel (it’s about time, though) at the concert.

Lost ended as it has existed all along, obfuscation disguised as complex narrative, but it was a good ride while it lasted. Great acting and even better music carried contrivance and cheesy dialogue. In a “don’t pay attention to all those unanswered questions behind the curtain, Jack Shephard is dying over here” finale, Lost writers left many questions unanswered. I wasn't too hung up on finding all resolutions, in fact, in "Across the Sea," there was more information than I wanted, but last night we found out "what happens" rather than "what happened." Was the mystery solved? Were the numbers simply table settings at the concert?

Ultimately, the show may have made more sense if I hadn’t been so choked up, but I suspect the tears were, in part, for a loss of community rather than a reaction to what may be happening on screen. For the last six years, through stories about Jack’s tattoos and Nicky and Paolo, Lost viewers, brought together by the Internet, DVR, and DVD, made a imaginative and enthusiastic community that television had never seen before. The tears in our eyes, in the eyes of Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Lost audience, were tears for the end of the Lost collective, for ourselves at a certain point of time, not for Dr. Shephard.

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About Kate Shea Kennon

  • rcgldr

    The ending essentially turned Lost into a remake of Jacob’s Ladder. In Jacob’s Ladder, the entire movie ends up being the hallucinations of a single dying man, none of the other characters were real. The dying mans finds his “peace” when he hallucinates that he sees his daughter “leading him to the light” just before they flash back to the war scene where he dies.

    In the case of Lost, the entire series could simply be the hallucinations of Jack, who is in a prolonged coma before dying, perhaps not even in an airplane crash.

  • http://deathknellforseriouscriticism.blogspot.com/ Kate

    p.s. I would love to hear what people thought of the last scene – the plane wreckage. Does it mean anything? or just impetus for further conversation.

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    Jacob repeatedly tells Smoky that there’s nothing outside of the island. Yet, Jacob appears around the world, over the course of several years, in the lives of those who end up living on the island. So, Jacob was lying. I feel for Smoky!

  • Jennyct

    I can’t get how one could be more evil than the other. MIB, pre-smoky did not go around killing everyone (though he did kill the woman who killed his mother after she killed his whole village). Who was worse? FMom was hardly innocent and no better than smoky himself. Jacob cared nothing about the hundreds of casualties he left in his path. So was MIB, pre-smoky, really evil? Did he deserve to be made into smoky? So why does everyone take Jacob’s word? He seemed to be manipulating everyone from the get go.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Oddly, I was satisfied with the ending, Kate. I liked that it ended with Jack closing his eye (and Vincent lying next to him).

    The church scene was reminsicent of the “group hug” at the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show series finale many moons ago, but it was followed by the bright light that tells us sequels or spin-offs just ain’t happening.

  • http://deathknellforseriouscriticism.blogspot.com/ Kate

    Hi Victor: Thanks for the MTM reference – made my day! I agree – spin-offs just ain’t happening. btw – long overdue congrats on the book!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    “You were a great No. 1,” Ben Linus tells Hurley in one of the best lines of the night.

    Yes, but the absolute best line was Miles, as he helps Lapidus repair the plane:

    “I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape.”

  • sHx

    Lost had a dreadful finale. I felt cheated in the end. When Sun and Jin first remembered their experiences on the island, I thought this was going to be a really clever ending to the series: as each character died on the island, they ‘re-awakened’ in the sideways world with a flood of memories of their time on the island. The flawed characters that went down with the Oceanic 815 would be rewarded and healed for all their troubles. This would not only allow a somewhat scientifically plausible explanation (similar things happened to Desmond throughout the series, remember?), but it would also help the characters live happily ever after in true Hollywood fashion.

    Instead, there was nothing scientific in the finale at all. Everything was inexplicably spiritual, all of the characters became men and women of faith, and now they were all dead.. dead happily ever after in the worst Hollywood fashion.

    In The End, Lost turned out to be a Fantasy show for the spiritually minded people who don’t mind if their questions go unanswered. In The End, Lost was never a show belonging to the Sci-Fi genre, which appeal to people who seek rational answers for the mysteries they encounter. The finale of Lost has made the whole series appear like religious propaganda of Christian variety, especially of the Catholic kind.