One word can describe the Lost series finale: Artificiality.
Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy to be Darlton while writing the series finale of, arguably, the most-talked about TV series since the creation of the Internet. But summarizing that the show would be satisfying only for “believers”, a.k.a. viewers that wouldn’t obsess over mythological answers given in the finale, is ultimately a very cynical way of saying “if you don’t like that your version of the show living in your head is not the story we want to tell, that’s YOUR problem”.
I’d like to point out that however, it wouldn’t be fair stomping on the series finale for the lack of answers or mythology galore. It is a point that has been stressed by Darlton ever since the beginning of Season 6, that it would be all about the characters. I accept it as such, and will focus my criticism for what it is: essentially a character-driven series finale.
With its final twist, “Lost” has once again pulled the rug from under the feet of its devoted fans, except maybe those who were paralyzed by the emotion of characters they followed during six years leaving their screens forever. What Darlton didn’t realize is that there’s nothing wrong with being a little predictable, even more so during your endgame.
In fact, this is the second time viewers are proven completely wrong. After Season 4, everything pointed to a war between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore for control of the Island as the endgame of the show. It was rooted in characters, and the mythological knowledge of both those men would prove fertile territory for a decent endgame, as far as answers were concerned. There’s little doubt sacrifices would be made, Monsters would be used, alliances would be forged. Not unlike what we’ve seen in season 6. Except that both were made irrelevant by the introduction of Jacob and what we now know as the Man In Black, divine incarnations of the protector of the Island, and the Evil who’s trying to escape and be unleashed upon the World — or so we’re led to believe.
This was the endgame of “Lost”, and I’m ready to accept it. However, the big mystery of the season was the nature of the “flash-sideways”, where it appeared that all the survivors and characters live in a world where the Island sunk many years ago. They also remember little by little the events of their life on the Island, and they’re all led to meet each other. The emotional impact of the final scene left some viewers wrecked, and it would have been powerful…
…had it not been the Purgatory created by them after they died to come to grips with their issues, in a perpetual happy ending.
The “alternative timeline” was, to me, the more satisfying resolution, that would have implied they all died on the Island and were “projected” in Flight 815 by Jacob, who would give them back their free will, and a better set of choices for some characters. So, seeing all the cast fading into the white light to Heaven while Jack closed his eyes on the Island, with Vincent next to him, felt corny instead of powerful.
Yes, I actually laughed at the reveal made by the ultimate deus ex machina: Christian Shepard. Having this kind of sentimentality kicking off was just a cheap way of ignoring the fact that it could have gone another way. Having all these characters, almost, uniting at the Driveshaft concert, would have been as satisfying and emotional as what we got instead. Having them “projected” as a reward for preventing MIB from being unleashed upon the world was great, it also made them all heroes in the most noble sense. It reminds us of another HBO show I won’t name for those who don’t know how it ends, but that dealt with them better. Revealing that half of the final season was actually the characters evolving in a Disneyworld afterlife timeline, where everything would turn out “fine” in the end, far from the hassles of Craphole Island, was really more artificial, and also the worst way to end the show right behind “it was all a dream”. It’s also kind of sacrilegious to think that Darlton devoted a season showing characters in a Purgatory where they got what they were looking for, after debunking the Purgatory theories for the Island during the ENTIRE run. But it would have been predictable, and therefore the showrunners would feel like hacks just following the direction the fans thought they would go into.
Another amazing fact, not to be overlooked, is that we witnessed the Island losing its “specialness” during the finale. It actually should have relieved Ben and Hurley to know that they now have a desert island all to themselves, with no dangerous electromagnetism, Others, or angry deities to take care of. Really, having some characters escaping Craphole Island in the plane that was there all along without the potentiality of finding themselves in an electromagnetic cloud of danger was….convenient. This is also why Jack smiles while seeing a plane passing by: never will other people live what the survivors lived again. Pretty definitive ending for a show that’s supposed to be like “Star Trek” for ABC Studios.
You could feel that Darlton didn’t know when or how to make the characters die. In a way, I expected everyone to be dead, since they would be alive on “the other side” (which turned out to be just that). Maybe it was that two disappointing seasons made it feel easier to let go, for me at least. But faking the Jack death in the cave of Light so that he could die where he woke up, and thus obtain the iconic shot to close the series with, was laughable at best, ridiculous at worst.
Seeing the Jack/Locke scenes in the last few episodes also made me realize how much making Locke die in the season 4 finale was wrong, especially since that was to make way for the Man In Black, who turned out to be the least interesting baddie/foe on the show. (Unite the three baddies of the show in “What They Died For”, see who steals the spotlight.) There should have been a way to keep this iconic character as is for the remainder of the series, since the long con of MIB as John Locke for the latter part of Season 5 wasn’t very convincing to me. (It did provide humorous moments with Ben Linus, former most intriguing character on the show who is dumbfounded by the resurrected Locke, that gets him to do whatever he wants.) But if you replaced John Locke by Titus Welliver in those episodes, I don’t think the shock and mystery would have been that different.
This post is getting long, so I’ll get to my point. There’s nothing wrong, for a show that has been very unpredictable for the last six years, to be predictable with its finale. Giving a sense of alternate reality as opposed to an alternate afterlife would have worked. And I strongly feel that the sense of “letting go”, “moving on” with their issues, didn’t have to be translated through death. Especially since this alternate world gives them the keys to move on to every character, with largely better circumstances. So, stopping the sideways at the Driveshaft concert as opposed to the church would have felt satisfying to me. Same with everybody dying on the Island, at the same time, so that MIB dies with them and can’t escape. This is the time where the “version of the ending living in my head” makes more sense, and is more satisfying, since it basically boils down to the same thing. Since these characters’ most important moments are on the Island, projecting their bodies would have given them the unique opportunity to live a life with their loved ones outside of the Island, without all the trauma and death. That would have been as powerful an ending. But, like I said, that ending would have been predictable. I guess Darlton couldn’t accept to get away with that.