Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lost: The End (2/2)

The End

In our past, we were broken.
In our present, we were lost.
In our future, we were healed.
In our church, we were whole.

Part Two: Leaving

--All right, time to wrap it up. Or at least, wrap up this particular chapter of a long and timeless story. Just because Lost ended doesn’t mean the story of the Island is done. It will never end; that’s the point. Every time and place is a waypoint to somewhere else. And death, well, death may be the end of the line if that’s what you want to believe. Or it could be just another transition, a way of moving.....sideways. Yes, in a final twist that will doubtlessly be debated long into the future, the sideways world, the place I’ve been calling Timeline LAX, turned out to be....a waystation. A stopping place for a select group of people who came together to do something extraordinary. They found each other in life, and they found each other again after life. Because what they did was important enough to earn them the right to go out together.

--Some people are mad, I know. With a TV show like this, the riskiest thing you can do is pull a twist that cancels out what’s come before. It Was All a Dream! It’s All Going On In Someone’s Head! Or, in this case, They’ve Been Dead the Whole Time! I’ll admit that my first reaction was, “Oh, come on!” Then I thought about it, and found that I didn’t mind so much. See, the sideways world is more complex than your usual idea of Purgatory. After all, it came into being simply because of our heroes, and within its confines, as they unwittingly waited to move on, they had a chance to give life another try, to make things different, for better or for worse. Think about it -- if you had the chance to examine your life from a different angle or scenario, wouldn’t you do it, just to see? The Lostaways did not consciously realize what was going on; they had to be clued in, activated to the truth by contact with one another. And, over the course of the finale, that’s exactly what happened. It’d be a long and pointless chore to break down the entire sequence of events, so I’m going to go character-to-character, describing their revelation and why their sideways story mattered.

DESMOND: As always, our time-unstuck Scot had a unique role to play. He’d already found happiness in life, but due to his special mind, it seemed right that he had to be the first to reawaken and take action. Sideways Desmond had the life that living Desmond used to think he wanted, but he learned that some things are more important than respect and influence. Of course, he found Penny again, because if any two people were fated to be together, it’s them, by golly. It was easy for Desmond to let go; in some ways, he was very lucky to find happiness in life before anyone else. Damn if he hasn’t earned it!

SAYID: Ahhh, one of the biggest fan complaints. Why the HELL did sideways Sayid wind up with Shannon and not Nadia? It’s a little disturbing, that whole triangle; it’s like, whenever Shannon’s around, we’re supposed to pretend Sayid’s original love doesn’t exist. But (and I know this is a controversial thing to say) maybe Nadia was never quite right for Sayid. As Kate has proved with her two men, you can love different people but still acknowledge that they’re not the one to spend your life with. Sayid’s past is dark, violent, and angry; Nadia, sweet and nurturing though she may be, is part of that past. Remember how he literally had to torture her? Sideways Sayid sadly rejected Nadia because Sayid’s personal journey involves forgiving himself. In a scene that I found really sweet, Hurley and Boone conspired to put Sayid and Shannon back together. Why? Because the Island gave everyone a chance at a fresh start, and for Sayid, that included a new love not mired in the tragedies and guilt of yesterday. He will always love Nadia. But your first love should never be your last, people. You move on. As Sayid did.

CLAIRE: What was the biggest question on Claire’s mind the whole way through? It was, Can I be a mother? Yes, Claire, you can. Despite loss and tragedy and abandonment, you can be a mother. Kate told her that when she didn’t want to leave the Island. Kate, despite all her flaws, knows how to nurture. Sideways Claire was once again pregnant and abandoned, dumped by everyone.....at first. But then came Kate, and the Shepherd family, and Charlie. People to help. People to care. Claire wound up birthing Aaron all over again, backstage at the fateful concert, and it acted as a confirmation: Yes, you did it right. This is your son; see how alive he is! You never, ever failed him! That moment was what reawakened both Claire and Kate, the secret bond that mothers see in each other’s eyes. But a father is always needed at some point, and so Charlie got to be there as well. For his own personal journey involved learning to nurture rather than destroy, and with his own death, he succeeded gloriously.

HURLEY: Well, we already saw Hurley’s reawakening with Libby. Wasn’t it adorable? Seems appropriate that Hurley was the first one to have his revelation after Desmond. Because Hurley, remember, is the caregiver. So who better? I loved Hurley’s look of joy when he kidnapped Charlie, and the way he conspired with Boone, who is apparently way, way cooler than his Island exploits made him out to be. Maybe it’s because he’s spent some time as a vampire. But in all seriousness, let’s remember that the “activated” sideways Hurley also has all the wisdom from his time as Island keeper, which could have been even longer than Jacob’s reign for all we know. He’s practically a Jesus figure! Though he’d hate to be called that, the big sweetheart.

SUN AND JIN: Pretty easy to interpret. In life, they were kept apart by many people and forces, including their own doubt. So now, they get a do-over in which their love never wavers and they overcome all obstacles. I don’t think the bad guys, Keamy and Omar and Mikhail, were “real” in the same sense that our heroes were. They weren’t the actual souls of the men, but were conjured up by the sideways world to serve as proof that devotion conquers evil. The overcoming of evil serves as a reconfirmation of good. See how happy Sun and Jin were upon their reawakening, even knowing how they’d died? What was important, what made them smile, was that they died together, in love and loyalty. And little unborn Ji Yeon appearing on the ultrasound? A gentle reminder that they made a life before they lost theirs. A triumph.

MILES: Heh, I’m not sure. Was that the “real” Miles we saw in the sideways world, or another virtual person designed to interact with Sawyer? For that matter, what about Daniel and Charlotte? Okay, I think the two of them were real; their meet-cute at the concert suggested that they’re themselves. They just aren’t ready to move on yet. Not everyone was. I feel like they’ll get their moment; we won’t see it, but it’ll happen. As for Miles, well, maybe he has to make a kind of final peace with his father, Pierre Chang. Maybe then he’ll get his turn.

ELOISE: Yeah, she was real. When she asked Desmond if he was going to take her son away, that gave her away as real. But because Eloise Widmore/Hawking is the Grande Dame of Time Travel, she was perfectly aware that she was in a virtual pseudo-afterlife. And she took full advantage of that, creating a life where she could hold onto those she’d loved: her husband, Charles Widmore, and her son, Daniel. A life where she did not have to push Daniel or dominate him....or kill him. A life where she could be happy, even knowing it was only a temporary waystation. So she’ll be staying there until she’s quite satisfied, thank you very much.

SAWYER: Interesting that sideways Sawyer seemed just as flawed as living Sawyer. A cop rather than a con man, but still haunted by the same guilt and rage. Why would he subconsciously create this for himself, rather than some ideal, drama-free sideways existence? Well, letting go is harder for some people. Sawyer not only had to let go of his baggage, he had to let go of Kate, who appeared to him as a temptation. Should he help her escape? Throw in his lot with this woman whom he desired so deeply? No. Because, though they loved each other in life, they didn’t really heal each other. Sawyer found someone else to heal him, someone whose presence in the sideways world soothed all wounds. And that someone, bless her heart, is.....

JULIET: Took you long enough, show! Yeah, so...to my annoyance, she was indeed Jack’s ex-wife. But, to my relief, they only shared one scene together and it was clear they’d stayed friends rather than stewing in awkward resentment. To Jack, Juliet was the flawed ideal, the “We could have, if only....” But to Sawyer, she was life and love itself. Of all the reawakening scenes, my favorite was between Sawyer and Juliet. I loved the vending machine business, which cheekily mirrored the Island and its Core. And then, when they remembered, when Juliet broke down and Sawyer held her, held onto her like he’d failed to do in life....holy shit. “Kiss me, James.” “You got it, blondie.” And I cried. That was the one moment where I actually cried. That’s how perfect this couple was.

BEN: Oh, how I cheered. I’ve been hoping for a full-blown Ben redemption, and boy did I get it. It was really neat and appropriate how Ben wasn’t ready to move on yet. Not just because he was reluctant to leave his cozy new sideways life with Danielle and Alex, but because he wanted to...think about some things. Well, that’s very wise of him. Passing out of life is not something you should ever do lightly, and the complexity of Ben’s life surely required some self-reflection. He was a bad man once. He killed people, lied, manipulated, stole a leadership that was never meant to be his. But was he evil in the same way that the Man in Black was evil? Of course not. No human being is all good or all evil. Ben wanted to think about his own duality, and so he’s outside, waiting. He’ll always be the outsider in many ways, but that no longer bothers him.

KATE: So, after all this, who did Kate choose? Jack or Sawyer....or neither? Well, that’s interesting, because I honestly don’t know. It’s important to note that, while many of her fellow castaways were reawakened upon contact with a lover, Kate had her moment as Aaron was born. It was not brought about by Jack or Sawyer. It think this may be linked to Kate’s much-debated absence from Jacob’s final list of candidates. He realized, and she eventually realized, that her place in life isn’t what she thought. It’s not being a lover, or a killer, or a shaker and mover. She always tagged along and got on our nerves because she wanted someone to depend on her, but that dependance took a form she didn’t see coming. “You became a mother,” Jacob said. Yes, and that’s what mattered in the end. She couldn’t be with Sawyer because they just exacerbated each other’s flaws. She couldn’t be with Jack because each wanted the other to depend upon them. What Kate needed was to stop playing the bad girl. Note that sideways Kate was innocent. Yeah, we just have her word on that, but I believe her for once. Innocence heals; guilt deepens the wounds. As she learned.

LOCKE: In life, he failed. He strove to do something and be something that was so, so important, and he failed, and became a pawn of an evil being. He lost his life, his dignity, and even his face. But sideways Locke? He got another chance to learn what matters, what happiness is and how to find it in the face of adversity and tragedy. At first, he took the self-indulgent route and accepted the wheelchair, even welcomed it. Punishing himself. But sometimes, you need to accept that you make mistakes and can’t do everything. Basically, Locke told himself what he couldn’t do. No one can tell you what you can’t do; you have to decide for yourself. Try to do everything, and you’ll get nowhere. Try to be a martyr and you may wind up on a pedestal, but it’s cold and lonely up there and you’re too high to hear people’s voices. Locke finally listened, both to himself and to others, and wound up winning back the use of his legs. He learned the humility to allow someone else to fix you, and as a result, he got to leave this life with grace and poise, on good terms with his former antagonists. He went out with a bang, not a whimper.

JACK: Yes, Jack. The hero, the fixer, the man who had the most trouble letting go. But let go he did. In the sideways world, he had a son, and although David was not real in the sense that you and I are real, he was real in the ways that mattered. He allowed Jack to avoid the mistakes he’d already made in life, the daddy issues, the resentment and misplaced sense of responsibility. Jack had to let someone else go before he could let himself go, and that someone was the son he’d never had. Letting David go, fixing Locke, coming to terms with his father’s death -- these were the steps Jack needed to take before he could be reminded of how he’d died, the great and noble sacrifice he had made. The finale really made Jack into a Christ figure, complete with bleeding stigmata, but don’t panic; it’s a metaphor. Jesus Christ was literally made to help others, and could never help himself. God wasn’t interested in Christ’s own welfare, because God (or Fate, or the Island’s Source, or whatever you call it) has to be cruel a lot of the time. It was cruel that Jack was always meant to die, but cruelty and comfort go hand in hand. Another duality. Balancing the two halves of a whole leads to grace.

THE MISSING:
Some people didn’t make it. Some people weren’t there in that church, and didn’t even appear in the sideways world. Let’s briefly discuss why...
EKO: Okay, yeah, the real reason is because they couldn’t get AAA to come back as Eko. Which makes me sad. But Eko was always a loner, defiantly resistant to redemption. The Monster killed him for this very reason. Eko never wanted to forgive and let go, so why should he be here? He walked his own lonely path by choice.
MICHAEL AND WALT: Michael failed. Yeah, his last living act was redemptive, but it wasn’t enough. His story is one of the most tragic on Lost, because although he was a good person, he did one thing so bad that it broke his chances. He was trapped. He became a Whisper, unable to move on. Poor, poor Michael. As for Walt....well, I do wish we’d seen him in the church at the end. I think leaving Walt out was a mistake on the show’s part. Oh, well.
ANA-LUCIA: Not ready yet. Desmond said as much. She was a deeply flawed and troubled woman, and it’s gonna take her awhile to work through the shell she built around herself. Doesn’t mean she won’t do it eventually, though.
FRANK AND ILANA: I’m putting them together because I feel both of them would be equally resistant to all this romantic, symbolic nonsense. Frank and Ilana were practical functionaries who happily did what they’d signed up to do because they knew it was what they were meant for. They had it much simpler than all our Lostaways with their endless baggage. In a way, both of these folks made the necessary peace with themselves ages ago, because there was so little to forgive! Ilana did appear in the sideways world, and....do you think that Ilana the lawyer knew the truth and was quietly helping Jack and Claire find their way? I think she just might have.
RICHARD: A man who had a long, long, long life. A life in which he was never truly happy or content. I can’t imagine he would have wanted to linger in some dreamy afterlife, even if it meant generating a sideways copy of his love to snuggle with. He was ready to move on a long time ago.

--So, that about sums it up. In a beautiful church of no single religion, all the friends and lovers came together for one last hurrah. Jack was the last to arrive, and he found his father waiting for him. His real father, not a sham. Christian Shepherd was there to play, well, the shepherd, opening the doorway for our beloved gang. Why a church? Because, all religions aside, a church is universally a place of quiet comfort, serenity, and community. A place where you can spend time with those you care about, without all the hassle and stress of the outside world. A place where no one will complain if you just sit and rest and think awhile, no matter what your faith. I mean, I personally follow no religion, and yet I have never felt awkward or unwelcome in a church. This was their place, the final space they chose to make. And it was where they sat together while the way to....whatever came next....was opened for them. At the same time, we saw Jack die peacefully, good old Vincent keeping him company, his final seconds perfectly mirroring the opening seconds of the entire show. A cycle. A transition.

--And that’s the end. Some people were a little confused and thought that we were supposed to infer that everyone had died in the initial plane crash. This wasn’t helped by the shots of the Oceanic 815 wreckage that ABC chose to insert over the end credits; people thought those images were meant to be important somehow. (They weren’t.) No worries, folks, Lost wouldn’t be so lame as to go with the “They’ve Been Dead the Whole Time” ending. Yeah, in the sideways world, they’ve been dead the whole time. But they all arrived at different times, some earlier, some later. The sideways world has nothing to do with real space and time; it was there for everyone exactly when they needed it. Because, hell, these people saved the world. Each of them helped in their own way, so they’ve earned this. And so have we. And while I would have loved to see a snapshot of the surviving characters’ post-Island lives....well, that’d just be copying Six Feet Under, and it probably wouldn’t be as good as I can imagine it in my mind.

--Lost is over. I fell in love with the show after hearing the very first promo for it. I thought it was going to be cool and unique, and I was right. It exceeded so many expectations. Parts of it sucked, I will admit. There are mysteries left unsolved (the food drop in Season Two...where the fuck did that come from??!!), characters I wish they’d handled better (why hire Lance Reddick if you’re not gonna do anything interesting with him?), backstories that were insufferable time-filler (Michael’s custody woes, Charlie’s puke-a-thon, and Jack’s whacky Thailand adventure can all go fuck right off), and a lot of other frustrations. But there were also brilliant and complex characters, gorgeous visuals, top-notch acting, mind-melting revelations, fun comic relief, deep tragedy, and a plot that delighted me with each new, intricate little cog and spring and hidden chamber. Lost took us backward, forward, sideways, and beyond in a roller coaster of fascination and enjoyment, and I will always treasure it. As I will treasure my DVD collections of each season. I never want to stop watching, because I know that each new viewing will bring new surprises and insights. The show will just keep on giving. And, hopefully, it will go down in history as a work of collective genius.

--Thanks for reading. What a long, strange trip it’s been. I’m signing off now. And, though it’s hard to do that final sound effect as an onomatopoeia, here you go:


BOOM.

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