This image feels entirely too significant to me now for oh so many reasons. Because that, after all, is it, folks. The End. All of it. The image of Jack turning his back on us. The image of our protagonist coming to terms with what he’s done and what he must do. The image of a man who is not only fated to die, but knows and accepts it. Here he is: Jack Shephard. And in this moment of introspection and eerie calm he isn’t walking on water despite Sawyer’s quip about him always having “a God complex.” He isn’t Jesus Christ after all. He stands, instead, in a stream up over his ankles, partially underwater, sunken to some extent like the image of the island itself in the season’s first episode. Because in this brief and very quiet moment, Jack Shephard isn’t Jesus Christ. He isn’t Jacob. He isn’t the island’s protector or Kate’s hero or FLocke’s antithesis. He is Jack Shephard. He is a man who will at last not fix others, but fix himself. How? By letting go. By accepting these words not as cliche, but as apt:
Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I didn’t take any notes on “The End.” I didn’t want to. As one of those obsessive nerds who’s been watching LOST every week since the debut, I kind of felt like I owed to myself to sit back and let it wash over me. Will I go back and watch it again? Of course. But to have watched last night with pen and paper felt wrong, and instead I drank beer and ate Carnitas at the home of my pal, Pete. Six of us gathered ’round his flat-screen with mouths agape. And when it all came to an end, I was left with a single word to encapsulate my thoughts on the episode:
No, not a question, but a mere response. In other words, I didn’t know how I felt. I knew that I loved the episode, but mainly because of how epic it was, in that the show I’d spent the last six years watching and the last three years writing about just up and ended. Poof! Gone. Like a ghost. But did I love how it ended? Did I feel satisfied? Initially, well, no. But let’s face it: I wasn’t going to feel satisfied no matter what happened. I mean, it would have been impossible for the ending not to be a letdown in some facet. But I’m okay with that. Why? Because, as trite as it is, it’s the journey, not the destination. Where we ended up was insignificant in comparison to how we got there.
Sure, there are plenty of questions that were never properly addressed, such as:
- What was the significance of Aaron?
- What was the significance of Walt?
- Did the Dharma Initiative even matter?
- Why does the MiB take the form of smoke?
- Who really brought them to the island: Jacob or Desmond?
- How did Hurley gain weight on the island?
I can overlook some of the questions that just don’t seem significant now in the big picture, such as the whole Libby in the mental ward thing. Frankly, though, it’s hard to look at some of those questions above and not feel somewhat cheated. Sure, Darlton have claimed all along that they knew how it would end, and I completely accept that. But I also fully understand that to map out how they would get there in the course of six seasons would be impossible. So, to allow for some red herrings and bad writing choices makes sense. But considering, for instance, that the first two seasons focused so heavily on Walt’s “gift” and Michael’s rescuing him without ever really explaining it? Unfortunately, I have to call bullshit to some extent. (What other “big” questions weren’t answered that you think needed to be answered?)
I think two of the biggest questions we’ll be asking ourselves this morning are these:
- What was the significance of the sideways story this season? and
- What in the hell happened in the last five minutes of the show?
If I had to interpret/attempt to answer these questions, it might go something like this: the sideways storyline wasn’t real. At least, not in a secular sense. Was it an alternate reality? No, not in the sense that it was running parallel to the island storyline. The sideways world was a collective unconscious, of sorts. It was that place of letting go, where the soul has been redeemed and the mind has moved on. It was that spiritual, post-death “reality” where everything is “right,” and the people we love are there. I think we know this based on the fact that things simply didn’t make sense in the sideways story. Consider the following sideways events:
- Jack’s neck bleeding three different times for apparently no reason (even though we now know how he sustained that injury);
- Sun and Locke showing up at the hospital at the same time even though she would have been shot days before he was run over with Desmond’s car;
- Locke undergoing major spinal surgery, leaving the hospital and walking all in the span of what must have been a couple hours;
- Locke telling Jack that he doesn’t have a son; and
- The sheer fact that all of these people just happened to be on the same flight and just happened to be in Los Angeles.
I could go on and on with this, really. Where was Helen? How did Des know Locke wouldn’t die when he ran him over? How are folks like Shannon, Boone, and Roger Linus even alive here? What’s more, how in the hell is Christian Shephard among the “living”? Answer: he’s not. They’re not. Which brings us to the second question of what was happening during the final scene, in which a near-death Jack scrambled back to the bamboo while the “congregation” met in church. That scene was the letting go. That scene was the man who tried to fix everyone else finally fixing himself. That was him taking not only his own advice to John Locke, but the advice given to him by Rose in the season premiere, when she told him, “You can let go now.” Jack has realized his own mortality, and in forgiving himself and allowing it in, he can not only die on the island at peace, but find happiness at the next level. Are the other island folk really there, too? Yes and no.
Look, if we consider both the opening shot of LOST (Jack’s eye opening on the island, among the bamboo) and the closing shot (Jack’s eye closing, among the bamboo), we realize we’ve watched a perfectly bookended story. What’s more, we now realize that, to some extent, all of this has happened not through the lens of a collective group, but through the perspective of Jack Shephard. All along, we’ve been watching his story, even when we weren’t. Those other episodes that followed the lives and backstories of the other survivors? In a sense, those are all Jack’s story, too. The point, it would seem, is to make us realize that the show has been about two major themes: love and redemption, perhaps in that order. When we are able to love and forgive ourselves, we are able to love and forgive others. We let go and are redeemed. Sure, it reeks of good will and positivity and religious themes, right down to “Do unto others…” But is that so bad? I mean, LOST has weighed heavily on religion since jump. So is realizing we’ve been fed a message of hope really so terrible? I think not, and coming from someone who is so inherently negative, that’s saying something.
I could get into more of issues with did (and didn’t) happen in “The End.” I could complain about the show’s overall ambiguity. I could speak more to the bullet points above and hypothesize about Aaron’s signifcance, say, or my feeling dissatisfied with the roles of Jacob, Man in Black and, to some extent, Desmond. I could talk about the many sad and touching moments last night, including Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion, or Charlie and Claire’s, or even Jack and Vincent’s. And at some point, I might do just that. But, for now, I’m going to leave things be. I will go back; I will re-watch the finale and have even more thoughts and opinions. But for now, I’d rather hear what the rest of you have to think.
A couple of “programming” notes:
- In case you missed it, I got very drunk and hosted a LOST podcast on Saturday night, which you can listen to here. Thanks again to Mike Dell for manning the boards, and to you good folks who called in to chat.
- As promised, I will be re-watching and blogging about the first season of LOST, hopefully starting next week. I hope you’ll all re-watch (and read along) with me. I’m awfully curious to see how much of the ending was informed at the beginning.
So, that’ll do it. That’s it. My beloved LOST is over. See you all in another life, brother.