So… I Liked LOST, In The End
I had to think on it for rather a long time.
But I think I’m satisfied. I’m satisfied with the story it told, the way it told it, and ultimately with the character arcs being the core of the show.
Could the producers have gone through and checked off all of those 50-item long “answers they MUST give” checklists? Sure. But I’m not sure the show would have been a better experience for it. I’m not sure that what there was of that, when characters like Christian Shepard spelled things out a little too clearly and clumsily, it was any good.
I know that there are lots of people that feel like the series wasted time with, for instance, the Temple scenes. But it wasted time only if the producers ever meant to spend that time spelling out what the infection was, what was really at stake with the Island, why women on the Island couldn’t, at least for a span of time, have babies without dying. And it’s pretty clear at this point that they didn’t ever plan to do that.
Instead they wanted to propel the characters through the “rest” of their stories: flesh out their motivations and frustrations and work through their issues. And I think that ultimately, that was the right choice.
If people were expecting bigger final mystery reveals at the End, then I think they spent their time watching one show hoping it was really secretly a different show rather than enjoying the show it was. Lost has always explained proximate causes and character motivations: the goofy set-pieces are the backdrop, the mythology. If you saw all those ominous cuts to “LOST” at the end of a potent plot reveal or new “the floor just dropped out from beneath us” mysteries as promises of cliffhangers-to-be resolved, then I think you were misinterpreting what they meant. They were true WTF moments for the most part: part of a mythology of myths, not of explanations.
Now, if you thought the very end, with its new agey mishmash of religious symbols was cheesy, I was there with you. But it was also just right, at the same time: it was the only way that the Sideways world could have resolved without it feeling like a big cheat. Charlie really died. Sun and Jin really died. And that’s that. Pre-uncorking Desmond was wrong: these things happened, and these things mattered. The whole season, and really a lot of the Season 5 set-up for it, was about letting the audience hold out hope that somehow all the characters could escape their fates, that history could be re-written, that the things that happened on the Island weren’t real, that there was an out.
But the show’s final message didn’t and couldn’t square with that. In Ab Aeterno, Jacob explained to Richard that once people came to Island, their pasts didn’t matter. That they had a choice of who they were going to be: what to hold onto, what to leave behind. The characters had issues that made them what they were, and that shaped their choices in ways that made sense (unlike many critics, the actions of LOST’s characters were far more explicable than most precisely because the writers always went back and showed just where particular irrational behavior came from: what it mirrored, what old battles were being fought).
And so that’s the way this had to end. Not by fleshing out all possible aspect of ongoing history or spoiling every mystery, but by bringing the ensemble back together to say goodbye, and then let go of wanting it to be anything more that it was. That was the one and only thematic ending that made sense. And I thought it was pretty damn great.