Letting go at ‘The End’ of LOST

Where to start? Obviously, there are spoilers here, so if somehow you haven’t yet seen the LOST finale … well, you know the drill. I have watched ‘The End’ of LOST [abc.go.com/shows/lost] twice now (the first time on the big screen in a public setting, and then more recently in the quiet of my living room) and still need tissues to get through the whole thing. Circulating a bag of Hawaiian leis among the crowd and placing a spirited island flower in my hair, I was nervous that the end of something I loved so much was near – but ready for the experience. I must say that the ‘Final Journey’ (pre-show) clips depicting character relationships were very carefully chosen. Bravo for the finale setup!  It was so good to see the old Claire and old John again. So good to remember how very much I loved all the characters before watching their final scenes together.

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“The writers were smart enough to show us a stereotype, [and] then flip it on its head.” –Daniel Dae Kim

The ‘Final Transmissions’ were a very classy touch. Where else are you going to find a team who buys ad time in their own finale to recognize fans and what their loyalty has meant to a primetime show? And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the powerful music of Michael Giacchino that moved me from a single tear to blubbering idiot more than once. In my opinion, his work on the finale is on par with the classic works of John Williams.

Let’s talk about the episode, itself. In “Previously on LOST,” Jack asks Jacob how long he will have to do this job. Never one for specifics, Jacob simply answers, “As long as you can.” So you know that the timeframe on many things is going to be open-ended. The episode opens with the island and sideways timelines blending almost seamlessly together. And as it becomes obvious that the sideways mirrors were just used to illustrate “reflections” of the LOSTies former selves, the remains of Christian Shephard have finally made it home to Los Angeles.

In the island timeline, Jack has now sworn to protect the “heart of the island,” and he knows that Desmond is somehow important to this mission. Island-Hurley makes a couple of Star Wars references (“That’s kind of true, dude, he’s worse than Yoda,” and “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”), and it’s just the beginning of SW similarities.

“I’ll go get the magic leprechaun out of that well.” –Sawyer

Kate and Jack attempt to have a heart-to-heart while hoofing it across the island. She tries to convince him that he is doing the best he can and repeats the same line Jack delivered to Locke in ‘LA X,’ “Nothing is irreversible.”

“This would be so sweet if we weren’t all about to die.” –Hurley

Ben catches Sawyer spying on Smokey and takes him to the well at gunpoint. The Man in Black (MIB) had promised to leave Ben in charge upon his departure from the island, but now he lets it slip that he plans to sink the isle – with Ben and everyone else still on it. Ben takes a hit to the face once again as Sawyer realizes Desmond has made his way out of the well and stands his ground to re-join Jack and company. But before Smokey too departs, he spies a dog print in the dirt …

It’s Vincent! And Rose & Bernard too! The crowd goes wild. It seems the couple rescued dear Desmond from the well – and broke their cardinal rule in doing so. Another rule. This is getting to be a running joke. Are these things published somewhere? But the fun ends there as Smokey’s just come around the corner and he doesn’t look happy.

“I’ll make it hurt.” –MIB to Desmond

He’s threatening Rose & Bernard in order to coerce Desmond into doing his bidding. All the sympathy I felt for the MIB after ‘Across the Sea’ just went right out the window! When Darlton said that Smokey was pure evil and had to be stopped, they weren’t kidding! And I just realized that Des is wearing a red shirt, so now I am worried.

But there is some good news: Ben has a walkie! That means he has a lifeline … and that he’s still on the right side of this war. And Miles has found Richard alive! Everybody exhale.

In the sideways timeline, Hurley takes Sayid to the fleabag, uh I mean Flightline motel go pick up Charlie. Hugo has a moment of awe at the door and the audience goes nuts to see Charlie Pace alive and well.

“You are insane.” –Sideways Sayid mocks Hurley

Miles later sees Sayid in Hurley’s hummer (outside his dad’s “museum-concert-benefit-thingy”) and immediately calls Sawyer to warn him. Sawyer heads to the hospital to protect Sun as he thinks Sayid is a threat.

In her hospital room, Sun & Jin again reference “leaving” – and then Juliet walks in! She’s the fertility specialist there to check out Sun’s bay-bee. And then, my friends, we experience the first big tear-jerker of the night as Sun & Jin recall their life on the island and everything they’ve meant to each other. The flashes are furious, the music intense, and the Kleenex box passed from person to person. So beautiful. So expertly done. Even when the flashes cease, the tears continue to flow as Jin is watching Ji Yeon on the baby monitor, but we all know he will never know or hold his child. The Kwon’s grasp of the English language suddenly returns, just the way it did for Sun in ‘The Last Recruit.’

“I’ll see you on the other side.” –Sideways Jack to Locke

Back on the island, Sawyer warns Jack, Kate and Hurley that Smokey intends to destroy the island. Miles spots a grey hair on Richard, so he must have begun to age as Jacob is no longer around to honor their deal. Richard and Miles continue their journey to Hydra Island to blow up the plane – and discover Frank Lapidus along the way!

On the main island, Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Hurley meet Smokey/Desmond/Ben and it is ON! Kate grabs Sawyer’s gun and starts shooting! Ben and Desmond drop to the ground for cover as she screams, “You killed them!” As Kate’s shots go right through the MIB, he tells her she might want to save her bullets. Then Jack throws down the gauntlet. And we’re just a little more than 30 minutes in at this point, people!

Jack: “I’m going to kill you.”
MIB: “How do you plan to do that?”
Jack: “It’s a surprise.”

The group heads to the field of bamboo, and Smokey says that only Jack and Desmond can go in with him. Hurley gets all up in Jack’s business and says, “I believe in you, Dude.” There’s been a weird bond between them since Hurley took Jack to ‘The Lighthouse,’ and Hurley has been coming into his own recently and changed a lot since being turned away at Pala Ferry.

As Smokey’s disposition sours, the weather begins to change. Desmond takes the opportunity to try and convince Jack that he’s going to go to a place where he can “be with the ones that we love and not have to ever think about this damn island again.” Des tells him that Jughead worked – and Flight 815 never crashed. But Jack no longer believes in do-overs, once again quoting ‘Whatever Happened, Happened,’ and tells Des that all of this matters.

As they enter the cave of light and look down over the waterfall, it appears that the LOST call sheet that was posted online some weeks back was pretty accurate. As Jack and Smokey peer over the edge, we are reminded of the two of them looking down into the Swan hatch all those seasons ago.

Back in the sideways timeline, Sawyer just passed Juliet in the hospital elevator and the entire row in front of me just threw their hands up in the air. Ack! A missed opportunity, or perhaps Darlton is just toying with us.

Hurley is still driving around with Sayid (and an unconscious Charlie), but is not allowed to tell him what they’re up to. More rules – gesh. Suddenly, there’s a fight in the alley near their vehicle. Two guys duke-ing it out and a woman cries, “Don’t hurt my brother!” Hello, Shannon! Sayid watches the fight with little interest – until one of the men pushes Shannon. Now he’s pissed and runs to the damsel’s rescue. As he pulls her from the ground, the flashes begin again – this time of Sayid & Shannon’s brief love affair on the island. They recognize each other, and suddenly Sayid knows why Hurley brought him to this place. The other man involved in the fight – Boone! – chats at Hurley’s car window. The gang’s all here!

At the cave, Des is moving to where the light is brightest. He passes a few skeletons along the way (the whole set is very Indiana Jones-ish), so there must have been others before him that have tried this same thing and failed. Not encouraging. Smokey’s making small talk with Jack … trying to bring up the good old days … but Jack’s not having it.

“You’re not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face, but you’re not the man.” –Jack to the MIB

In sideways world, many LOSTies are congregating at the big concert event. Claire, Desmond, Kate, and David are all seated at Table 23. Meanwhile, Charlotte appears and wakes a still sleeping Charlie.

“I was shot by a fat man.” –Sideways Charlie

The benefit evening is hosted by the Golden State Natural History Museum (helmed by Dr. Pierre Chang) and features Daniel (Faraday) Widmore accompanied by none other than Drive Shaft! We are, unfortunately, not treated to another rendition of “You All Everybody,” because there’s no time as once Charlie & Claire’s eyes meet – she begins going into labor.

Eloise has a word with Desmond, asking if he’s going to take dear Daniel with him when he “leaves.” It turns out that she does love her son after all (enough to indulge his musical aspirations in this timeline, rather than push him towards physics) and has been purposely keeping Daniel close. Des takes her hand and assures her that Daniel’s destiny does not lie with him.

Kate again helps an unprepared Claire deliver baby Aaron. In the intensity of the moment, the two of them have flashes of Aaron’s birth on the island, and their memories come flooding back in a rush of tears. And once Charlie arrives on the scene with a blanket, the two women can’t help but smile at the return of their long-lost friend. When Claire takes Charlie’s hand, we are again bombarded with a whirlwind of flashes (and I think I cried harder during this scene than during Sun & Jin’s emotional flash). Charlie suddenly looks at Claire and baby Aaron in a whole new light and sobs as he too remembers his time on the island. These extreme emotions – like the ones the audience now feels as well – are what make the LOSTies experience worthwhile. Claire says, “It’s Aaron,” not like it’s the first time she’s held him, but as though he’s finally back in her arms. And as if on cue, that adorable baby quiets and coos as she places her cheek next to his. Lordy, pass the tissues as Charlie and Claire have sent me over the edge again.

“I looked into the eye of the island, and what I saw was beautiful.” –John Locke

Island Des is now entering a literal pool of light that houses massive amounts of electromagnetism. Fighting his way to the center of the pool, he removes the stone column – and the water stops flowing and the light goes out. All is quiet for a moment, but then the “heart of the island” turns red and burns like a volcano and the ground begins to quake. All I kept thinking about during this scene was Mother saying that if the light goes out on the island, it goes out everywhere. So either Mother lied (which is very possible), or she over-anticipated the scope of the island’s reach.

Smokey believes all is lost at this point and tells Jack he’s won before exiting the cave. But now that the cave’s powers are inoperable, the MIB’s power/life force is as well. And when Jack tackles him to the ground and punches him, the MIB bleeds. It’s as if his mortality is defined by the island, itself – and as the island weakens, so does Smokey. Angered at the thought of losing control, the MIB grabs a rock and bashes Jack in the head to make his escape.

The island is rockin’ and rollin’ as Jack regains consciousness and realizes Ben has been pinned by some falling debris. Everyone works hard to free Linus, and until that moment, I don’t think I realized how unbelievably many times Sawyer uses the phrase, “Son of a bitch!” Then Ben tells everyone that Smokey has a boat. Did I miss something? Where did this boat come from? It wasn’t the boat that Sawyer took to Hydra Island, was it? The way characters are stumbling from the shaking ground reminds me very much of the scene where the Millennium Falcon tries to escape the gullet of the asteroid field creature in The Empire Strikes Back. Do you think the island read Hurley’s sequel to Star Wars?

The rain is really coming hard now as Jack and Smokey charge at each other on the side of the cliff above Jacob’s cave of names. It’s a fair fight now, though, as the MIB is vulnerable. Instead of sinking as a whole, the island seems to be disintegrating in pieces around them. In the fight, Jack is mortally stabbed, and Smokey strikes again – trying to cut his throat. He mutters, “I want you to know, Jack, that you died for nothing.” As we all realize where the cut came from on sideways-Jack’s neck, Kate appears out of nowhere and shoots MIB in the back.

“I saved you a bullet.” –Kate to Smokey

The MIB tries to tell Jack that he’s too late, but Jack musters enough strength to kick him over the cliff’s edge. Smokey bounces against the rocks below and lands twisted in much the same way as John Locke after falling eight stories.

Cut to Jack wheeling a “fixed” John Locke out of surgery in the sideways-ville.  The nurse notices that Jack’s neck is bleeding again. Wake-up call on line one for Shephard – Jack Shephard! Locke regains consciousness very soon (too soon) after surgery and repeats Juliet’s line, “It worked.” And as he wiggles his toes, his memories of doing the same on the beach come flooding back and John Locke remembers his time on the island. He now knows they have to go, but Jack is still in denial. Jack wants/needs to get to David, but Locke tells him he doesn’t have a son. Jack seems both hurt and frightened as part of him knows it’s true.

“I hope that somebody does for you what you just did for me.” –Sideways Locke to Jack

On the island, the storms have stopped, but the quakes continue. Kate assists Jack, and the rest of their party shows up on the cliff. Jack knows he has to turn back on what Desmond shut off for the island to be saved. It’s what Jack does – fixing things – and now he’s sworn to protect this place.

Much like the Falcon in Star Wars, Lapidus is still frantically trying to fix the Ajira plane as it is their only means left for escape. Jack wants Kate to get to the plane and get to Claire. It would be wonderful for fans to see Claire board that plane and get safely off the island as Desmond promised Charlie she would when Charlie sacrificed himself. Jack & Kate declare their love for one another and kiss for what they know will be the last time.

“I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape.” –Miles

Ben tosses Sawyer his gun and says, “If the island’s going down, I’m going down with it.” Always loyal to Jack, Hurley also opts to stay behind. Without much time left and on their own once again, Sawyer and Kate dive off the cliff and swim to the MIB’s boat.

Back at the hospital, Sawyer arrives to protect Sun. “We’ll see you there,” sideways-Jin smiles to the confused detective. For a moment, I really thought Sun was going to hug Sawyer on her way out of the hospital room, but I guess that was to be Juliet’s job. As Sawyer passes Jack in the hallway, there’s something very familiar about his, “Thanks, Doc,” as he heads to the vending machines.

And as a befuddled Sawyer takes on the candy machine (and loses), Juliet arrives to calmly tell him where he went wrong. “It worked,” she says as they share a moment over an Apollo Bar.

“We should get coffee some time.” –Sideways Juliet

The romantic flashes take them both by surprise as the music builds to another crescendo. The audience weeps as Sawyer holds Juliet and repeats, “I’ve got you,” his line from Season 5’s ‘The Incident’ (uttered just before Sawyer lost his grip and Juliet fell to her death).

Jack arrives at the concert, but David’s not there. It’s my opinion that Jack created David in his mind to satisfy the relationship he always wished he’d had with his own father. David earlier arrived with Juliet (who, at the time, we thought was his mother) & Claire … then Juliet was called away to the hospital … and later Claire excused herself when she went into labor. David was never seen again.

Jack runs into Kate, though, and recalls their meeting on Oceanic 815. Still, Jack feels there’s more to it.

“No, that’s not how you know me.” –Sideways Kate to Jack

As the island continues its downward spiral, Jack prepares to enter the cave.  Jack explains that he was only chosen to re-do what was undone by Des; he knows his ticket is one-way. “Hurley, I’m already dead.” Foreshadowing much?  Jack needs a successor. I told Hurley to watch what he said last week!  No more chanting over the ceremonial drink, the cups (and even the liquid, itself) seem to get dingier and dingier with each passing of the torch.

“It needs to be you, Hugo.” –Jack to Hurley

Hurley and Ben then lower Jack back into the now dry cave. The whole place is starting to resemble the Vader/Obi-Won volcano scene in Revenge of the Sith. Jack finds Desmond and tells him to go home and be with his wife and son (when did Jack learn that Des & Penny had a son?)

“I’ll see you in another life, brother.” –Jack to Desmond

The Ajira plane is moving! There’s no conceivable runway for this thing to take off, but we’ve already time-travelled and seen a man turn into smoke, so I guess we can suspend reality a little longer. Like with the Oceanic plane, the turbine engine takes center stage. Lapidus, Miles, Richard, Kate, Sawyer, and Claire are now on-board – the new Oceanic 6?

Cut to Jack replacing the stone column in the island’s heart, but it takes some time for the quakes to stop and the water to run freely again.

The plane takes off (running the length of the beach for a runway?), barely clearing the jungle tree line. I fully expected to see Richard age before our eyes and turn into a creepy skeleton as he pulled away from the island. LOL. Our airborne friends are safe, with only three of the original castaways making it off the island (four if you count Walt who left on the boat with Michael).

As the cave waters begin to run again, Jack lays beaten and bloodied in the center of it all. He smiles as the electromagnetic surges of light return. Ben and Hurley pull Des to safety, and water envelopes the cave. Hurley is devastated at the loss of Jack, especially now knowing that he must fill his shoes. But Ben is there to support him, and encourage him to do things differently than Jacob. Hurley asks for Ben’s help, and they both find new purpose in protecting what Jack died for.

Hurley: “Would you help me, Ben?”
Ben: “I’d be honored.”

In the sideways timeline, Locke arrives at the church with his wheelchair. A guilt-ridden Ben sits outside. He was jealous of Locke because he was “special” – something Ben has always longed to be. Upon receiving Locke’s forgiveness, Ben says, “It matters more than I can say.” And at Ben’s prompting, Locke steps out of his chair. But Ben won’t be joining the others in the church as he still has some things to work out. Ben Linus needs a little more redemption than your average Joe. LOL! And his life impacted others (like Danielle and Alex) more than the LOSTies, so perhaps his destiny lies elsewhere.

“I’m very sorry for what I did to you, John.” –Sideways Ben

In the final island scenes, Jack’s body has been washed out of the cave and up along the rocks in an almost identical position to the one in which Jacob found Smokey. His nose is bleeding from exposure to the magnetic radiation, and he is bloodied and slowing. Still also bleeding from his stab wound, Jack makes his way back to the bamboo clearing.

Sideways Kate takes Jack to the church where he was going to have his father’s funeral. This is the same service they were supposed to have all the way back at the beginning of Season 6, but when Christian’s remains disappeared, everything changed. They weren’t ready yet. Kate tells Jack that she’ll be waiting for him in the church, “to leave,” whenever he’s ready.

At Kate’s instruction, Jack enters the back side of the church to a room filled with religious symbolism from many denominations. Christian Shephard’s coffin is also there. Jack lays the palm of his hand on the coffin lid and his flashes begin. Memories wash over him like a spiritual awakening and Jack remembers it all – especially his feelings for Kate. His time on the island is relived in a matter of moments. Opening the coffin, Jack is alarmed to find it empty. And then he hears his father’s voice.

The real Dr. Christian Shephard stands before Jack – not the silent apparition or the leering MIB taking Christian’s form. He speaks to Jack with kindness and understanding … and helps Jack see that his life has also come to an end. Make no mistake – Jack is real, Christian is real, all the people in the church are real and so is everything that’s happened to them – everything. Whatever happened, happened.

Key quotes from Christian:

“Everyone dies sometime, kiddo.  Some of them before you, some long after you.”

“There is no ‘now,’ ‘here.’”

The sideways timeline has been, for the lack of a better term, “purgatory.” But that has such a negative connotation. I prefer to call it “limbo,” or “the waiting room” if you prefer. The church they are in, the place they have all been drawn to after their awakenings, is a place they made together so that they could find one another in the afterlife. In my opinion, this is a nice nod to the church Eko was building on the island. Remember, they didn’t all get there at the same time or in the same way. Christian’s words clearly state that some died sooner, and some later. And it doesn’t even matter how they died, only that they’ve come together again.

“The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people.”

Christian: “Nobody does it all alone, Jack. You needed them, and they needed you.”
Jack: “For what?”
Christian: “To remember, and to let go.”

As Jack moves into the sanctuary, we see a room full of familiar faces: Boone, Locke, Sayid, Shannon, Kate, Hurley, Libby, Desmond, Penny, Claire, Aaron, Sun, Jin, Rose, Bernard, Juliet, Sawyer, and Charlie. Ultimately, Jack fixed them all. There is an absolutely wonderful slow-motion camera pan through the room and across all characters, very much like the closing montages at the end of key LOST episodes. Giacchino’s musical score is at its height, and clips of Jack in the bamboo jungle are interspersed. It’s a slo-mo of Jack letting go in both timelines.

Jack lies down beneath the bamboo trees and stares into the sky. I’m crying again, thinking over and over: ‘Live Together, Die Alone.’ Jack is alone now. But wait, loyal Vincent is there to comfort him.

In the church, everyone is seated and Christian (still in his white tennis shoes) opens the rear sanctuary doors and floods the room with a bright white light. The symbolism is reminiscent of everyone seated on the plane as the back half blows off. But this time, there is only peace and contentment on everyone’s faces. Is this the same light that Jack was protecting on the island? Is this why it was so important? So they could all move on, and so they could do it together. For anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, this scene is very powerful. To have a visual representation of complete calm and serenity on the other side. And to know that it’s only been a moment, an instance, since they last saw you, and they will see you again.

On the island, Jack sees a plane fly safely overhead and smiles. He knows his work is done. Jack closes his eyes and dies. The audience blots their eyes, and cheers.

So am I a finale lover or hater? There certainly seems to be a lot of differing opinions on what was good and what was bad. There are even variations on things that were clearly spelled out. I will have to say that the LOST finale surpassed my expectations (which were pretty freakin’ high, by the way) – and did it in spades. As far as meeting my emotional needs as a devoted fan, I couldn’t have asked for better character sequences. The mythological needs fell a little short, but I’m gleaning more with each viewing. There are a lot of questions left unanswered … things that I really, really wanted to know. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s the key characters that meant the most to me. And the payoff there was remarkable.  If I had a chief complaint during Season 6, it was that there was too much about the MIB and not enough about the original crash survivors. If I could have resolution for them, I would have resolution for myself. Darlton came through for me, and so I’ve learned to pick my battles.

Looking back at the final season, there have been many hints dropped along the way … lots of “It’s time to leave,” and “You can let go now” sprinkled into conversation. Or Kate ambiguously asking, “Who died?” At one point in the finale, Jack even says to Hurley, “I’m already dead.” Of course we think he is speaking figuratively, or that someone will be able to save the good doctor the way he has always saved everyone else.

As for why Ji Yeon was again not mentioned and not in the church with everyone else, consider that the Oceanic passengers saw themselves as they were when they first came to the island – this is best illustrated by the fact that Claire was still pregnant. So in that vein, Sun was also early in her pregnancy and Ji Yeon would be in utero. As there are no identifiable time markers in limbo, Aaron could have died when he was much older – but was represented by the baby. And as I understand it, everyone in the sideways timeline had died, and they were all searching for a way to cross over. So for naysayers who argue, “What happened to Cindy?” She was also on the plane that landed at LAX, appearing in the sideways timeline, and she probably died on the island. This explains how Desmond could be on the plane the second time around. All the miscellaneous characters we saw in the sideways of Season 6 – Frogurt, the Marshall, Ethan, Ana-Lucia, etc. – were trying to find redemption and get to the other side. It doesn’t matter when or where they died; it’s just important to realize that their paths were always meant to cross.

And on further consideration as to why Jacob crossed Kate’s name off his list once she became a mother … I at first thought that was a pretty hokey excuse. But when you look at what kind of “mother” Jacob was raised by, you had to know that he didn’t feel anyone in a mothering role could ever be impartial and act with a clear head.

Considering the circumstances, it would have been clever to see the white LOST logo at the close of the final episode (instead of black). But whatever. ABC has released a statement saying that the plane wreckage shown at the very end of the finale are just buffer shots and have nothing to do with the story, itself. But here’s the way I like to think about it: the fuselage is that of Oceanic 815 and reminds us all of how far our story has come. Their narrative is told; it’s over and done. After Jack, Hurley served as protector of the island as long as he could, and Ben took over for a time after that. But no one is left on the island now, and so it no longer needs protecting. The wreckage is a constant reminder of how we got to this point so that mankind does not repeat its mistakes. It only ends once. Now only the surf remains.

Examiner – National Edition
May 2010