The LOST finale, revisited

LOST finale The End Heavens waiting room

Heaven's waiting room

Almost two months ago, I got a question (actually more like a comment) on the Ask a Question page from Mark Stouffer. I’d been feeling so traumatized by the finale that after my initial flurry of posts, I didn’t want to think about it any more.

Time heals all wounded expectations, and now I’m ready to talk about it again. Here’s what Mark wrote:

Is this blog about the reason of LOST?

I thought the show was about reason, rational thought. The light was identity, expressed by the identity principal a=a, the primary example of which is existence exists. The narative is the continuity of the rational mind. The source is identity and the river is the river of individuals who have preserved the human race and rational thought. The island is reality. Everyone arrives there ‘by accident’ from ‘accross the sea’. False Locke is mysticism and collectivism.

Am I way off base? Why is no one talking about the reasons? The rational view that ‘everything that happens here happens for a reason’ and that we needed ‘everything that happened’ to get where we are, talking about LOST.

This blog was about the reason that the LOST-ies were brought to the Island, something I believed we would find out at the end. Instead, I believe, the show dodged the question.

We got two answers, both highly unsatisfactory.

The first answer was that the LOST-ies were brought to the Island to meet each other, to find the (literally) undying friendship and love they hadn’t been able to find in their previous lives. This had the unfortunate effect of reducing the whole amazing Island experience to the equivalent of a college mixer. If it was all about finding each other, there was no need for the Dharma Initiative, or the Island’s healing powers, or the dying pregnant women, or the Others, or Ben, or Jacob, or Widmore or any of it. They could have all just gone on

Also, even if it were true, as many fans of the ending say, that the show was “all about the characters,” the characters were so badly misrepresented at the end that it negated much of the emotional impact of what had happened before during the previous six years. Pairing Sayid with Shannon, in Heaven’s waiting room, rather than with Nadia, could only have been done by a writer tone-deaf to the emotional truths of the show.

The same thing about making the ending so Jack-centric. While the image of Jack closing his eyes was beautiful in its symmetry, in its mirror imaging of the opening, it was the wrong ending for the way the show had evolved over the years. After the pilot, Jack was never again credible as a hero or a leader, and his character quickly became less interesting than many of the others.

Sawyer, in a way perhaps unexpected by the writers when the show first started, showed himself to be both a better leader of the LOST-ies and a more credible romantic leading man than Jack. The extraordinary acting of Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson made their characters far more surprising and interesting than Fox’s. Most of all, the show was an ensemble effort, and turning the finale into Jack’s story missed the essential aspect of what the “character story” was all about.

The second unsatisfactory answer the show gave us was that the LOST-ies were brought to the Island by Jacob to keep the light going. But this doesn’t even make sense. If Jack was destined to save the world by putting the butt-plug in the light socket, then what were all the rest of the LOST-ies there for? Were they all just substitutes in case Jack got sick? And why these particular individuals?

Remember, Locke was always saying that they were ALL brought there for a reason. EACH OF THEM was brought there for a reason. It was their DESTINY.

In the end, though, it was all about Jack’s destiny, and the rest were reduced to supporting players, hanging out in church waiting for Jack to show up.

Mark wrote, “I thought the show was about reason, rational thought.

I thought the show (up until, but not including, the ending) was about the tension between rational thought and faith.

The light was identity, expressed by the identity principal a=a, the primary example of which is existence exists.

Sorry, that’s over my head.

The narrative is the continuity of the rational mind. The source is identity and the river is the river of individuals who have preserved the human race and rational thought. The island is reality. Everyone arrives there ‘by accident’ from ‘across the sea’. False Locke is mysticism and collectivism.

I thought that Real Locke was the one who represented mysticism and faith. I don’t really know what False Locke was supposed to represent. The Devil? Non-denominational evil?

I don’t think the show was saying that collectivism is bad — in fact, just the opposite. The LOST-ies went from unhappy lonely individuals at the beginning to a happy group, all together at Heaven’s gate, at the end.

The source could be identity, but I think it was supposed to be something larger than that — I think it was meant to be whatever force breathes life into us. It might have been more convincing had it not looked so cheesy. 😉

Anyway, at this point, I’ve only seen the finale once, on the night it was aired. I turned on the rerun for about 10 seconds just to see if they had put on the “pop-up hints,” which they had, and then I turned it off.

But who knows, now that I can talk about it again, maybe I’ll be able to rewatch it some time soon-ish.

Is there anyone reading this who still cares about any of this? Do you still think about the finale, or have you put it behind you and let it go, as Christian Shephard urged us (via his speech to Jack) to do? Or maybe Christian’s advice was only meant for people who are already dead.

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13 responses to “The LOST finale, revisited

  1. The finale really let me down. SO many questions, so much effort was put into lostpedia and all these blogs. Why this, how come that. And in the end, ignore it. The show was the hit that it was for 6 years because of the mysteries and questions. They betrayed a good part of their fan base with walking away from all of that. Did the bomb go off? why were the numbers so prevalent. What was all the naming of people tied back to notable people? Just things to keep us hooked, then walk away from all of that? A shame.

  2. You need to be like Jack and let go. 🙂

    IMO, you are looking at both answers in isolation, rather than how they both interact.

    The reason Jacob brings people to the island was explained to Alpert in “Ab Aeterno”. MIB believes that people are inherently evil and Jacob is attempting to prove him wrong. Since he doesn’t want to interfere with their free will to choose good, he stays in the background and doesn’t interact with them.

    Now some of those people he chose for an additional reason, which was to have the potential to replace him as the guardian of the Island. In “What They Died For”, Jacob explained that candidates were specifically chosen above others because they were like Jacob. They, throughout their lives, had nothing to cling to, and felt alone in the world, so he brought them here because they needed to fill that empty hole with the island.

    While Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sawyer got that speech from Jacob, they were clearly not the only previous candidates. Sayid, the Kwons, and a bunch of other people had their names crossed out on the lighthouse wheel and cave ceiling. That said, while everyone brought to the island was to prove to MIB that not everyone was inherently evil, clearly not everyone was brought to the island was to be a candidate. After all, there have been far more people on the island than names written on the cave or on the lighthouse wheel.

    What I find interesting is that Sayid and Hurley were only touched by Jacob and made candidates *after* they returned to the real world as one of the Oceanic 6. (Sayid at Nadia’s death, and Hurley when being released from jail.) In hindsight, they didn’t have Jacob’s protection from the smoke monster until they came back to the island…

  3. Keith – great points. and the touch for hurley and Sayid later in life is an interesting catch. But why them, what did jacob see in them, why did some go back to the 70s from the Ajira flight and some didnt’ (wasn’t that supposed to be explained at some point or am I already tuning out the show). I was into the show for the science / intertwining, etc. didn’t desmond’s shirt color change in the picture with him and penny in the first seasons? was that the case and if so was it ever explained? I just felt let down with how I felt they left us hanging on way too much with that wrap up. a drama without all that science and twists that this had would not have lasted 6 years. did they know the runway was going to be needed for ajira, was kate and sawyer building that for ajira, how did friendly get back and forth from the island so readily, etc. etc..

  4. “But why them, what did jacob see in them”

    Jacob said in “What They Died For” that he picked the candidates because they were like him. They, throughout their lives, had nothing to cling to, and felt alone in the world, so he brought them here because they needed to fill that empty hole with the island. Candidates he has picked seem to show up with other people (like everyone else on 815, or Russeau’s science team, etc.), who also fufilled Jacob’s other reason from bringing people to the island, which is to show MIB that people aren’t inherently evil.

    As for why some went to the 70s, or why Desmond’s shirt changed colors, or how the Others (and heck, Jacob himself) got on and off the island simply isn’t explained. To me, the obvious reason is because LOST was a TV show with a huge cast, production errors, looming deadlines and a six year life span, so errors and discontinuities were not only going to crop up, but magnified a thousand times over given how obsessive LOST fans like me are at hyperanalyzing the show. If they had everything planned to that level of detail, then the story would have broke long before the guy playing Mr. Eko unexpectedly left the show.

    IMO, the writers had an impossible task. They could have spent the entire sixth season explaining every single answer and people would be bitching about how they didn’t focus on the characters enough. I think the writers decided to make what they wanted to make and damn the consequences.

    Personally, I love everything about the show and I really like The End, but IMO, LOST peaked when Season 4 ended.

  5. It’s funny, I thought Jack as a character was one of the strongest elements of the final episodes–I felt everything was handled really poignantly, and I liked the idea of Jack suddenly turning from science to faith. Unfortunately, you’re right–the story was about *all* the characters, and to suddenly narrow it down to Jack’s story definitely left a lot of things unfinished. Honestly, the whole thing of Locke being transformed to the MiB was handled poorly, and left us without the second half of the reason/science debate that he always had with Jack.

    I knew things weren’t going to go well when Richard–whom I had previously considered to be some sort of awesomely special phenom, turned out to be not at all magical, mystical, or all-knowing. Not that he couldn’t be flawed, but it just deflated the whole fantasy element of Lost for me and it only went downhill from there.

    I have to confess I got some good laughs out of your bitter sarcasm…heh…I can tell you’re still mad! 🙂

  6. Oh Wow! I am so happy to see you all here. I just found this. I have been busy.

    I need to prepare a little bit to answer this. I need to read it a couple times.

    But I can tell you this: There is hope. There is a Reason. There is a light in the heart of the island, and it is the light that illuminates the world. There is a reason that this is a 2,400 year old story. There is a reason that we all felt there was something meaningfull here. None of what I am talking about requires mysticism or blind faith. And all of it is meaningfull to everything you see happening around you every day.

    I can’t wait to share and to chew through this with you all.

  7. I have been reading over these comments and I can see that this is really a large discussion. We are all coming at this from diferrent directions. We have a lot of ground to cover to get to the same place, and to bring the story home.

    I can also see that we are not going to run out of subject matter any time soon. So I am just going to jump right in to the heart of the matter.

    My assertion is that LOST is philosophy fiction. It doesn’t fit into the category of science fiction. It’s topic is more fundamental.

    Philosophy is speckled all over LOST. “Let’s say you are dropped on a desert island…”, this is how a great many philosophical questions begin. Scenarios of this type date all the way back to ancient Greece, when being shipwrecked on a deserted island was not unheard of, but continue through WWII when being captured by Nazis and deposited on a desert island was the concern. The purpose of these scenarios is to remove extrainious factors and avoid definitions by non-essentials. This is precisley where the subjects of LOST find themselves.

    The titles of episodes are speckled with philisophical referrences. The third episode is called “Tabula Rasa”. This follows immediately after the “Pilot” episodes in which the pilot dies.

    Then there are the character names.

    But by putting the heart of this show on an desert island, the producers have created something more than just a nod towards philosophy. They have, at least, created a totem; a narrative, of philosophical nature, peppered with philosophical scenarios and crisis, on which other stories and observations can be hung. They have given us a discussion point. They have given us a show, widely viewed and popular, through which we can discuss the essential subject matter of philosophy. And we can avoid non-essentials.

    But my point is not merely that LOST is about a philosophy, or a jumble of a collection of philosophies, but that LOST first removes the idea that philosophy is esoteric, ivory-tower, mental masturbation, bearing no fruit in our lives. It asserts that philosophy, wheather we choose to know it or not, effects our interpersonal relationships, how we spend our days and our lives, how we talk, what we do, and what we die for. LOST comes to a conclusion.

    My next post will start at the begining, when Jack opens his eye. Notice it was not eyes, not eyeballs, not the physical orbs that come in pairs and deliver light signals to the brain, but one eye, the singular view of the world, the minds eye. Conciousness.

    P.S. Looking back I can see that I erred in saying the smoke was collectivism. That is too narrow of a focus. The Nameless One was an entity that seeks to evade it’s identity. I think I may even be able to put a name on it, if my theory of LOST as Philosophy Island bears fruit.

    • My assertion is that LOST is philosophy fiction. It doesn’t fit into the category of science fiction. It’s topic is more fundamental.

      I agree that LOST is about philosophy. I disagree, though, that it is not science fiction. I think it is both — philosophy and science fiction — as well as a lot of other things too.

      I think LOST did not fit into any single genre cateogry, and I think that this combining of genres was one of LOST’s biggest strengths. To me, LOST seemed like an expression of the various personal concerns, interests, and obsessions of its writers, in much the same way that a novel is an expression of its writer’s concerns and obsessions. For that reason, I have always thought of LOST as a literary work.

      LOST’s central theme was one of the main issues of philosophy — the question of free will versus determinism. The LOST writers were brilliant at raising interesting questions and expressing them in dramatic form. The questions and the stories were combined in an organic whole — I never got the sense (as in, for example, “Atlas Shrugged”) that all the action stopped while the characters delivered a philosophy lecture. In LOST, the stories were the embodiment of the philosophical questions, which was fascinating to watch.

      Unfortunately, the writers, so brilliant at framing and dramatizing questions, never managed to come up with any particularly interesting answers.

      Perhaps I expected too much. Neither religion nor philosophy has been able to come up with definitive answers to the free-will-versus-determinism question — so why should I have expected that a TV show could have something new to add?

      Probably my hopes were raised by the sheer literary quality of the show — if I believe that anything can give us answers, I believe that literature can.

      In this case, though, it didn’t. But man, could they make those questions sing!

      • “Neither religion nor philosophy has been able to come up with definitive answers to the free-will-versus-determinism question”.

        I believe LOST portrayed the answer. There were times, I will have to find them, when the characters changed their minds. They saw something, or in other scenarios were told something, and made a new decision, that then changed the course of the show. The characters acquired special knowledge, then went through the process of validating this new knowledge, integrating the valid knowledge with all the existing knowledge they had ever acquired, and then made a decision.

        We do not integrate our knowledge at a predetermined rate. We do it by volition. There is no process, or computer, or anything else outside ourselves that know how much we are figuring out. Sure, people may be able to guess on occasion, that you can figure out a joke, let’s say. But they may be wrong.

        Your ability to integrate a certain set of data may vary. Your effort may vary. Each of these will effect your choice.

        I will try to find some clips where this is best illustrated.

        “I never got the sense (as in, for example, “Atlas Shrugged”) that all the action stopped while the characters delivered a philosophy lecture. In LOST, the stories were the embodiment of the philosophical questions, which was fascinating to watch.”

        That is a fascinating statement. It sums up what I have been trying to say for a while. It seems to me that the writers wanted to tell us about philosophy, but then said, “No, wait! Let’s show them. How can we portray this?”

        It is as if Ernest Hemingway wrote Atlas Shrugged. Only it wasn’t Atlas Shrugged they were trying to write. It was Genisis, “complete with our very own Adam and Eve”.

      • In fact you can’t validate my statement without a volitional consciousness. Proof requires non-determinism. Any proof requires that you are free to choose the truth. It requires that you are able to pick the valid answer from a list of alternatives.

        This applies even to people who are trying to prove determinism. How could you accept their conclusion of it was produced by a series of random facts? Are their random, determined utterances always result in truths?

  8. Hey, Mark. I can’t really address the question of “free will or determinism?” in philosophical terms. That feels, as the saying goes, like it’s above my pay grade. 😉

    What interests me most is the more mundane question of how LOST approached the question as a drama, how the writers went about posing the questions (which they did brilliantly) and how they went about answering them (which, to me, was a let down.)

    It’s not that I really expected LOST to come up with some kind of answer that has eluded everybody else. It’s that I expected the show as a drama to provide a satisfying dramatic resolution to its own INTERNAL questions. And since one of the main conflicts of the show — the one between Jack and Locke — was based in their differing philosophical orientations — they were living expressions of faith/determinism in Locke’s case, and reason/free will in Jack’s — I expected a resolution that would address that conflict, not as some kind of ultimate truth, but as something that felt complete dramatically.

    Instead, we got the story of Jacob. I was actually one of the (few?) people who liked “Across the Sea” when it aired — but at the time I thought that was just the beginning of the explanation (the “mythology,” as the show’s writers liked to call it). Instead it turned out to be all that we were going to get.

    It was just too thin of an explanation to support a dramatic resolution to the five years of conflict between Jack and Locke, or to provide a really interesting answer to the question of why they were on the Island. Locke always contended that they were there for a reason — and the show, in the end, said that Locke was right — but there was no real reason for Jacob to have brought ALL of them there, and no real reason why THOSE PARTICULAR PEOPLE were the ones that he brought. And then it turns out that all the crazy “rules” of the Island were just arbitrary because Jacob was some kind of control freak? Not satisfying in dramatic terms.

    Perhaps the most satisfying answer might have been one in which the views of the Season 1 Locke and Jack were both shown to be right. Maybe that would have been impossible to write, though.

  9. P.S. Personally I believe in free will. I think that when we make choices, they really are choices, not just the illusions of choices. On the other hand, I do believe everyone is shaped by heredity, environment, and a karma-like residue of their past actions, and that puts constraints on the choices we are able to make.

    Whether our destiny is also controlled by a higher power — a God, a Jacob-like being, a sadistic scientist on another planet who is pushing us all around in his gigantic petri dish and laughing when we trip and fall — is something I can’t say. I mean, I think the answer is “no,” but the question still greatly intrigues.

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