"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.