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LOST Season 6, Episode 17 | The Final Episode Explained

by Luke Kallis on June 11, 2010

So Lost is officially over and the ultimate irony of the finale is that many viewers are feeling “lost.”  For a show that ranks up there as one of the all time great modern dramas alongside The Shield, Six Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Mad Men (not finished), and The Sopranos this finale was unique in and of the fact that that it delivered strong or weak results depending on what each viewers ultimate expectations were.

The genius of Lost was that it was initially ideated as Survivor meet Gilligan’s Island meets Lord of the Flies. The show started as the most expensive pilot ever made developed by a bunch of geeks who thought the only way they could make it cool and believable was to make it interesting and weird. So from that rationale sprang such early ideas as there needs to be a monster and polar bears on the island and all of the characters need to carry around some serious emotional baggage that will be explained later. For example they thought Sawyer should have a letter that was majorly important to him but at the outset that thought  was more based on the concept of the meaning of the letter rather than what it said because ultimately they didn’t know yet.  The show was a drama about human interaction and relationships and as we all know it played up the emotional drama of such topics of would Kate end up with Sawyer or Jack or was Juliette really meant for Jack….but wait how did Juliet end up with Sawyer once he was allowed redemption? The show was also a hodgepodge of geek culture, new fangled mythology and ruminations about Sci-Fi and Fantasy concepts. The genius of it all was when it premiered it sucked in the woman who loved the standard drama element and it pulled in the men who loved the geeky aspects and everyone in between that crossed those segments. It also was the highest rated new show to premiere in 9 years.

The reason all of this matters is that the finale tried to toe the line between these two worlds but ultimately did a better job of exploring the drama angle rather than the mythology angle. I can only imagine the many people that were frustrated by the show wondering about a lot of the mythology elements that went unanswered like:

  • Why couldn’t people have babies on the island?
    • When did that start?
    • If that’s why they brought Juliet in initially then why or how did she fail with or solve the problem?
    • What was the deal with the children and why did the Others initially kidnap them?
      • Did that have to do with no one being allowed to have babies?
      • What was the deal with the ash and the temple?
        • Why did Dogen have to die for the Black Smoke to get in?
        • Why were Jack, Kate and Hurley sent back to 1977 during the return flight but Sun, Ben and others were not?

These are just a few of the many questions that didn’t get answered and I could go on for paragraph after paragraph picking apart some if not all of the unanswered questions or spend hours combing the shows subtext to see if I missed anything but at the end of the day it is what it is and I am going to choose to focus on the positive and the reality of the situation. That reality is that this was a TV show written over the span of many years. The show worked so well because it was a mystery wrapped in a mystery wrapped in time machine. It was that constant flow of intrigue that kept people tuned in and coming back to find out the answers. In the end the writers did a pretty could job of tying it all together and answering as much as they could. We found out that the whispers were the voices of the dead on the island. We found out how the 200 foot tall statue of Taweret was destroyed by Richard’s boat when he arrived 100 years ago on the island. We found out that there were Polar Bears on the island because Dharma was doing tests on them and using them to turn the frozen donkey wheel. We found out the numbers were actually the numbers assigned to Jacob’s candidates and coincided to the most important candidates of all. We found out that the “Adam and Eve” Skeletons discovered in Season 1 were actually the Man and Black and his mother’s remains. The list goes on and on over the course of the many seasons and rather than admonish the writers for not answering EVERY single mystery ever, I’d rather commend the writers for somehow getting around to setting up and answering as many as they did. I think   even the writers tried to show what a ridiculous ask answering all of the questions was when they eventually had Shannon’s inhaler found this season as the fans had been complaining about its disappearance for years. The message was clearly we can play this game if you want but it is kind of silly, so can’t you please just cut us some slack and enjoy the show.

I think the reason that so many people are upset with the unanswered questions is that the writers made some fundamental mistakes. They told everyone that they needed an end date because they had carefully plotted out the rest of the show. They continually promised answers to everyone’s questions. They set the expectations for everyone that if you ride this out with us it will be a trip well worth it as we’ve know the end of this and how we are getting there for years.  What I think is quite clear is they had no idea. I really don’t think any of them could look you in the face and tell you that the Black Smoke was always supposed to actually be a normal man who was born on the island, transformed into a supernatural entity by way of going down into a glowing cave of light which may or not be the cradle of all life and the fabric that connects the real life with the afterlife. After entering that light the electromagnetic properties of this in-between place would transform him into a supernatural entity that is most likely evil, could be the destroyer of man and as an added bonus could take on the form of other dead people. I simply think along the way they decided to tie as many  loose ends together and some worked better than others. I also don’t think that they needed 3 more years to tell us that the story will end with everyone in the afterlife on-deck circle for (insert religious destination here). Wasn’t that what all of the fans thought the show was about from the beginning anyway? Were they trying to say you thought it was purgatory, we told you it wasn’t but guess what it was KIND of purgatory…in the sideways world at least…not in the real world..so you weren’t “technically” right. Or maybe it’s been so long since the fans guessed the ending, not it’s kind of cool and ironic to deliver the ending you thought it would be. Really? That’s what we are getting? They simply  just didn’t have it figured out and for what it’s worth, they ended up exactly where the fans thought they started. I think this point was clearly annunciated by the fact that during the credits they showed the wreckage from the first episode without any people on the sand. After all of this now they give us one last mystery in the final seconds?! We are now left to wonder if the island life was all purgatory too or a dream? What did that really mean? It means they just threw it up there to create intrigue and like many times before over the course of the show…there is no answer for it…just one more chance to create intrigue and make us all wait for an answer they don’t have themselves. If they had more time they could write a pseudo solution but we will have to wait forever. Or for the DVD that will supposedly answer more questions only to not answer others. It’s an endless cycle that the writers spun the viewers into again and again.

This all finally brings us to the finale and what it did right. If you can get past a lot of the unanswered stuff above and focus on the drama and the characters then I felt the finale did a really solid job of celebrating all of the characters, their idiosyncrasies and their lifelong connections.

I loved how the last episode of the show started with Ben and Locke/MIB teamed up. For the entire course of the show they fought over who was the leader of the island and to kick things off the final episode has them joined together because Locke/MIB had promised Ben control of the island. His entire life that is all that Ben has wanted. He killed his father, murdered a town of people and abolished his competition from the island (Widmore) all to maintain control.  The island is all Ben has ever cared about and he was about to gain control. That is until he finds out that Locke/MIB is going to sink the island and in fact he will have merely have control of an underwater Shangri-La. So Ben does what he does best and flip flops back to the other side now that he can’t obtain the island.

One of the early moments I enjoyed was when Sawyer confronts Ben and Locke and he calls Locke by the nickname Smokey. That was a great moment. That was of course the nickname all of the fans gave the Black Smoke for many years before we all found out Smokey was a person. That simple moment gave the fans some enjoyment while bringing out one of Sawyers most memorable qualities. Later in this episode he calls Hurley Stay-Puft. Both of those nicknames made me laugh and that was what I loved about this episode is it celebrated the finer moments of each of characters attributes. Saywer has always been the king of the nicknames. He’s done some great work on Hurley alone including:

Avalanche

Babar

Blockhead

Gumby

Chicken Little

Deep dish

Grape Ape

Grimace

Hulk

International House of Pancakes

Jabba

Jumbotron

Kong

Lardo

Mongo

Muttonchops

Montezuma

Pillsbury

Pork Pie

Rerun

Rotund

Snuffy

Stay-Puft

Everyone will always remember Freckles which was his pet name for Kate but I was more fond of the humorous ones.

The other thing I liked about this episode was the set up so that each character would have amazing flashback moments that were a part of their enlightenment or “remembering.”  It was really an ingenious device because it allowed the viewers to have a brief trip down memory road to celebrate the high points of those characters stories as well as their relationships. For example, when Jin and Sun are in the waiting room and Juliet comes in to be their doctor (which was its own great irony as she was Sun’s doctor on the island) and then they remember their old lives together and even dying together and then they begin to well up and cry because of all of those memories flooding in was incredibly well done. It was all wrapped up in the guise of Juliet thinking they were crying because they found out they were having a baby girl. That was a very well done moment and a nice reflection and culmination to their story.  I also loved how Charlie and Claire reconnected during the birth of Aaron and when their memory flashes hit we got to see the great peanut butter moment between them and how they were always meant to be together but never given the chance because of Charlie’s early demise. The same goes for Saywer and Juliet at the vending machine. Their whole interaction was pitch perfect and a great recap of their romance.

On the flip side of the well done moments I felt like some of them were a stretch. The Sayid and Shannon reunion was a bit of a tough pill to swallow as unless I’m crazy he knew Shannon for just a few short weeks and spent pretty much his entire life chasing and pining over Nadia going so far as to carry her picture around with him.

The common thread that was really being pressed upon the viewers was that in the end the love that you share with someone is the most powerful force in the world. Once you realize the importance of that love then the rest of the world doesn’t matter and you can celebrate your life. It’s the age old saying that love will set you free and in this instance, it apparently sets you free to go to the afterlife.

Speaking of which that brings us back the island and the cave. I thought that it was amazing how the whole show came down to Jack battling Locke. From the very first episode the entire show was about Jack’s man of science viewpoint vs. Locke’s man of faith viewpoint. In the very end the story of Lost can be boiled down to the story of Jack Shepard. His journey on Lost was the most complete and to say he had an amazing character arch would be a tremendous understatement. In the beginning he was all science battling Locke as well as any and all spirituality on the island with his answers and facts. He did not want to be the leader and said so many times in Season 1 but it was bestowed upon him because he was logical and a doctor. As the show progressed he slowly realized his viewpoint about faith was wrong which culminated when the island disappeared. He literally lost his mind for a period of time after that as he couldn’t accept that everything he believed in his whole life was a fallacy. Upon returning to the island he accepted that faith was the appropriate choice for him to make and began down that path with simple half truths like they were all there for a reason until he reached a point of blind faith with the dynamite moment with Richard in the Black Rock and the pleading to let the bomb wind down in the sub. To be truly spiritual and one of God’s true advocates one must reach blind faith to be a pure believer. Once Jack reached that level of faith he ultimately realized that he wanted to step up and take the reins from Jacob. He chose to be the leader leaving behind all of his daddy issues and fact based reasons why he couldn’t handle the job. That was why when he said he wanted the job, Jacob asked, “Was that a question?”  to which Jack responded, “No”. It was a complete character transformation from one side of the equation to the other. The one constant thread throughout the whole experience was that he knew his life mission was to fix people. He fixed his wife from a car accident, Ben from spinal collapse, John Locke in the sideways world and so on and so on and in the very end he got a chance to fix the whole world by saving it from destruction.

All of the above is why it was so great when Locke/MIB asks Jack in the finale, “ You are the obvious choice, don’t you think?” it was  a stellar moment. He was the obvious choice now that we’ve seen the journey he went through to get there. And Jack knew that his transformation was complete and acknowledged it by stating that, “Locke was right about everything.”I liked that the final argument between Jack and Locke was no longer an argument of science vs. faith but rather faith vs. faith. Both men believed that Desmond was the key that they needed and both of them had nothing to go off of but blind faith that they were right. Jack believed that he could kill MIB with Desmond’s help and MIB believed Desmond would destroy the island. They were both right because it is no becoming quite clear how faith heavy this episode and finale was. In the end when Jack and Locke fight on the caves and Jack defeats Locke (in an amazing mountain battle I might add) Jack is left stabbed in the side in the same place Jesus was stabbed with the spear by one of the soldiers in the Gospel of John.  Jack knows that he is done for and so he gives Hurley Communion err makes him drink the dirty puddle water and passes on the protector of the island role to Hurley who was always his most devout decibel. This makes complete sense as one could argue that in the end Jack was the soul of the island while Hurley was always the heart. He was the most loveable character and was the one that was always there for his friends. Doesn’t it make sense at the very end that Hurley would take on the ultimate task of protector to aid and support his friends? For the record when Jack tells Hurley in front of Ben that it, “Needs to be you Hurley” the look on Ben’s face of sadness is incredible. I am going to miss Michael Emerson’s acting as Ben. He was originally only supposed to be in 3 episodes but he was so great he became a regular and I applaud that decision as his character and acting were a consistent high point for me.

Now I guess it’s time to wrap up this wrap up. This all leads us to the place of what did it all mean. I personally think that the island life was real and the sideways life was the holding station before heaven. The church was where all of the Losties went to ascend together. This last episode relied heavily on Christian themes and went as far as to take a moment to annunciate Jack’s dad’s name like this…Christian….Shephard to make sure we all understood what was trying to be communicated. However the church was also non denominational and as you can see by this stain glass window was very inclusive of many religions Clockwise, from upper left: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Seventh Day Donkeywheelism, Hinduism.

Lost Stained Glass Window in the Church

Lost Stained Glass Window in the Church from the Finale

I also thought it was funny how the heroin smuggling statues made it into the church! Ultimately once you had an awakening and celebrated love for its purity and your own life then you could reach the church. When Ben doesn’t enter the church it’s because he still has unfinished business with Alex and he still needs to atone for his murders and life mistakes. It is the same for Eloise Hawking who is afraid she will lose Daniel Faraday again and she must atone for her sins longer as she murdered Daniel’s grown self while he was simultaneously a baby in her womb. Overall many people talk about their life flashing before their eyes when they are about to die and in some religions people must remember their life’s and reflect on them before they ascend or reach spiritual balance so I understand what the writers were going for but in this instance I feel it didn’t deliver with the impact that the they felt it would. The reason I believe this is because in the end everyone was confused by the sideways world all season and to have that be the climax of the show felt force. The show’s ultimate meaning should have been about the island as that’s where we all invested all of our time.

This of course now leads us back to the island. I think that the light in the cave was most likely just light in a cave (sorry writers, you used up all of your believe in us credits) but I actually prefer to believe it was potentially the foundation of all spirituality and that if exhausted then the ability for people to cross over into heaven/the afterlife would be severely damaged. The reason that Desmond could go down there was that he could withstand the electromagnetic radiation that kept the light together in one place. I believe the light was connected to the living world and to the afterlife because Desmond believed that by going in there he would be transported to the sideways world (ie the afterlife). The reason he thought this was because he had already visited this place many times. When the hatch blew up Desmond’s life literally flashed before his eyes as so many other people with near death experiences have said happened. What was unique for him was that when he came out of it part of  him existed in the real world and part of him existed and lived in the afterlife world (Sideways world). As we found out via Christian Shephard at the church, everyone there died at different times but they can all be there together because once you pass on there is no time. Desmond essentially passed on but came back BUT for him there was no time in the real world because he understood the probabilities of the timeless afterlife world. However in this episode when he told Jack he would pull out the plug and move on to the afterlife world he was confused as for the first time since the accident he was wrong. The reason he was wrong was that he was actually extinguishing the light of heaven (for lack of a better term) and therefore he couldn’t return to a place that no longer existed. Ultimately when Jack goes down in the cave he saves Desmond and delivers Desmond’s signature line to him, “I’ll see you in another life brother.” The above actually explains why for all these years Desmond has said that…he truly does see everyone in another life.

When Jack replaces the cork into the cave bottle and saves the heaven light he then is destroyed and sent out onto the very same rocks that MIB’s body was on. We are not sure if Jack has actually been transformed into a new Black Smoke Monster to forever live on the island but what we do know is that he finds his way back to the bamboo forest. He lays down in the very same place that he lay when the pilot started. Vincent is there to watch Jack die. Jack would always comment that they could live together or die alone and in the very end after he fixed everyone he was able to sidestep a big fear of his and not die alone. The show always was going to end at the very beginning. There was nowhere else for it to end as the show explored flashbacks, flash sideways, flash forwards and time travel. In the end the only answer to all of those various questions of time is that all paths lead to the beginning. The final scene from that standpoint made complete sense and I am not surprised that when you really think about it in the final moments the show delivered the the opening scene again showcasing he most important character culminating in and  ending that everybody said would be the ending right from the beginning. When you think about it in those terms…it almost all made sense.

*On a final note, I wanted to say thanks to everybody that ever read this blog or participated on this blog. This was a small project that started out as a fun experiment that grew to readership numbers that I never imagined. I want to thank everyone for celebrating this great show with me and for sharing in my enjoyment of Lost.

I’ll see you all in another life brothers.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Mealboy June 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Yes, but no.

Antonio August 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

Thanks. This was a well thought out review. I think it’s time for all of us Lostie fans to move on..

Danielle June 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Just watched the entire season 1 to 6 in the last 2mths and I adored every minute of it. I finished the season finale tonight and was completely moved by it. Now I’m reading blogs and blogs to gather any bits I missed and opinions and I can say this was by far the best. I can honestly say this was a series I could watch from start to finish again. Amazing and what a great ending. :-) )))

Rosie July 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

["His entire life that is all that Ben has wanted. He killed his father, murdered a town of people and abolished his competition from the island (Widmore) all to maintain control."]

It’s now official that Widmore ordered the Purge, not Ben.

Rosie July 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I think you are too generous in your opinion of “LOST”. Or perhaps I don’t fully agree with it. I think the show was entertaining and had flashes of brilliance. It’s probably one of my top 20 favorite shows, but NOT among my top 10 favorites.

But I believe that too much inconsistent writing prevented it from being the great series it could have been.

solodolo February 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Thanks!!!! I Just Got Finished Watching The Entire series on NETFLIX (2-11-13) and I Started like 2weeks ago. I was seriously confused with the final episode and my whole understanding of the “Sideways World” was all wrong but your theory makes sense. All is well. Lol.

Rev Edwin North April 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I know the wheel was integral to the island but the window? That is also a symbol of the Buddha’s eight fold path Also with any tale like this? Every interpretation is both right and wrong. It is what you make of it.the deeper isues are personal questions..teh other ones? I want answers LOL WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS AND BABIES!!? lol

Nita Mae November 15, 2013 at 5:32 am

I just became a lost fan a month or two ago when I discovered the series on Netflix. I’ve watched the final episode 3 or 4 times (actually watching it again now), mainly because I can’t let go & wrap my mind around the fact that they all transition on. At the start of the show I had my favorites but by the end Itruly had learned to love & sympathize with everyone. I love your review. I loved Hugo, Jack, Desmond from the moment their characters hit the screen. Sawyer on the other hand was not so likeable but he won me over. I also loved the nick names Sawyer would give. Rerun was one of my favorites. I’m also glad the writers kept Ben. I’m so sad the show is over even though I literally just discovered it. Well, Jack & Locke are about to fight so I guess I had better wrap it up. Awesome show!!! Be Blessed fellow Lost fans!

cameron gates March 26, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I thought it was a great show I have not watched every episode and thought it was good I cant wait to get the last couple seasons and watch them i love this show and thank you writers its amazing thts the only thing i look forward to on the weekends thk u

Derek April 30, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Thank you for the clarity!

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