Seth, I, too, went to bed hoping Lost would sort itself out in my sleep. Instead I woke up, watched the final 15 minutes of that finale again, and felt even more bilious than I did yesterday, when I betrayed the show that betrayed me.
I have long claimed that Lost was the writers’ story to tell; we were just spectators. That, of course, applies to the finale as well. But the finale was so disturbing because it disrespected the writers’ own story. It fundamentally changed Lost’s thematic message in the last 15 minutes without warning and without class. For six seasons we’ve watched nearly two dozen characters try to redeem themselves. As Jacob says in Season 6, all of these people were flawed, and the fun of Lost was watching the island serve as their psychoanalyst.
Yet what they could never do was go back and apologize for all the awful things they had done. Kate has to live with the guilt of killing her best friend. Jack has to regret his failed marriage. Sayid can’t absolve himself for torturing military prisoners during the Gulf War. Lost was about redemption, not revision. Whatever happened, happened.
And yet there we were in the waning moments of Season 6 watching Ben apologize to Locke for killing him. In this one gesture, the show alienated itself from the human experience. There are second chances in life, but there are no do-overs. At least all the time travel, the donkey wheels, the smoke monsters were vehicles to explore the human condition. They were as fantastical as purgatory, yes, but they were also grounded in the terrestrial realities of life, death, and the pursuit of happiness.
The show’s purgatorial clusterfuck is not. It is a venue for wish-fulfillment. Thus, the finale wronged not just me, but the show itself.
But enough complaining. I’d like to use these waning moments to make sense of the show. We’ve discussed what Lost is really “about” all year and have decided that it’s partly about power, partly about toilet bowls of light, and partly about destiny and fate. It’s this last bit that the finale harped on most.
Before the finale, we assumed that certain aspects of the castaways’ lives were fated. The similarities in the original and alternate timelines appeared to mean that the universe had course-corrected. Even without the island, Kate was meant to help Claire with her pregnancy. But not everything is predetermined. Jack didn’t have a substance-abuse problem, for example.
Now that we know the alternate timeline was purgatory—not really “alternate” at all— the message seems different. It seems to be that, in life, we choose our destinies. Jack chooses to become the new Jacob. Kate chooses to leave the island. Ben chooses to remain on it. What happens in eternity, however, is out of our hands. His Holiness Christian Shephard tells Jesus Jack that they all built the dream scenario together. Note, however, that they never actually made the choice to build it. In fact, they didn’t even realize what they had created. There was no free will involved.
And with that, gentlemen, the TV Club needs to close its eyes one last time. We’ve reached the end. Seth and Jack, it was a hell of a ride—to where, I don’t know. Certainly not to television nirvana. But it was a pleasure to chat with you for the past 16 weeks, except for those times Jack challenged my manhood.
Readers, your passion and loyalty know no bounds. I’ve read a lot of Lost comment sections on the Internet, and your insights were among the best. I’m looking forward to dipping into the comments in earnest over the next few days, so let’s continue the conversation there. And let’s be sure to reconvene when some other show tricks us into falling in love all over again.
Until then, namaste.