This started as a forum reply, then it got too big. So I post it here.
Hold on a sec.
We all agree that the sideways reality we’ve been shown is now officially “purgatory”, waiting for the light representing paradise. One decides if this was a satisfying resolution or not. But what about what happened BEFORE?
People who don’t get to live fancy sci-fi adventures don’t go in paradise? How this mythology propagates to the rest of the world? What if a character decided to kill himself at some point? In the end they all went in paradise, so why bother fussing in the previous life?
If you buy this metaphysical package then you HAVE to deal with it. If you accept that paradise exists, then not only the purgatory is so, but even the previous island life. Everything is preparatory and transitory to the new happy, un-flawed life. So, if we all go in paradise in the end, why the need to bother with a mortal life? So that we can set up an heartwarming get together party? Or it’s just a trick so that you can offer an “happy end” when there was no way for the plot to go someplace?
In other words, instead of addressing the central mysteries that have driven the show since the beginning, the writers conjured up a brand new mystery at the beginning of this season, and then used the *series* finale to resolve only that new mystery. And the resolution to that mystery – that this group had such fun times on the island that they decided to share a slice of afterlife together – is utterly unconnected to any other mystery that has ever been raised in the show. How anyone could watch this and conclude the writers totally had this planned out from the start is beyond me – there’s nothing in the finale that would support that interpretation.
Seriously, if you think about it, this “they had such fun together they decided to meet up again after they all died” device could be used as a feel-good tear-jerker ending to *any* ensemble show. It’s really a totally meaningless cop-out ending.
Because you can use that type of ending for EVERY story (TV series, books, movies, whatever): there was a big fuss, but they eventually, sooner or later, died, and were happy in paradise. You must be pleased. You got six seasons of characters being tortured, then you get to see them finally happy. Everyone. Even those who died two episodes ago. Doesn’t this make YOU happy?
So let’s re-interpret: the bomb did nothing at all beside getting Juliet killed so that she could go do Visitors. Whatever happened happened. Hurley and Ben took Jacob’s role for an indeterminate amount of time, and maybe managed to ship Desmond back home (unresolved). Jack died just after re-corking the steaming shithole, saving the world (from what, we’ll never know). The rest of the crew got off the island and, presumably, landed safely. Claire got to try being a mother, maybe going insane from time to time so that life would not get too boring, Kate would probably try to kidnap Ji Yeon (Sun & Jin daughter), since that daughter is now an orphan, probably finishing in the very evil hands of Sun’s father. Sawyer got nothing if not a sorrowful life, maybe he gets to help Kate kidnapping Ji Yeon and play the father. It would be nice if this makes Sawyer get two wives when in paradise, and Jack nothing. Jack got a kiss, hope it was satisfying because it’s all you’ll get. Yet it’s absolutely coherent to assume that Sawyer gets to pass his life with Kate for what is left of their lives in the normal world. He already managed to get it to work with Juliet, so he’ll probably manage to get it to work even with Kate.
Obviously nothing of this could have been shown explicitly while at the same time making it satisfying and conclusive. So we don’t get that and we get the “Cumulative & Indiscriminate Happy End” in its place.
The fact is, the ending we were given would be rather sad if you take away the whole side-reality part. Too sad to swallow. So they figured out this trick that would offer an ULTIMATE happy end, no matter what. Or maybe it matters, since the whole point is leaving a sweet aftertaste instead of a bitter one. Then, at least SOME of the audience will be pleased. Or not?
Or NOT? What if the purgatory scene is solely Jack’s wishland? The way he hallucinates the story to end? And he figures HIS happy end in regards to everyone he knows. He definitely prefers Sawyer with Juliet, while he gets Kate all for himself. Quite neat. Why does Sayid get to be with Shannon and not Nadia? Because Jack only saw Shannon, not Nadia, so Nadia was not invited to Jack’s wishland party. Heh. Other findings?
Those who have seen Evangelion probably arrived to the same conclusion since Evangelion ended in a similar way to Lost. If you never watched Evangelion I wouldn’t suggest doing it if you don’t dig that type of thing, but at least you may try to read the script of the last episode (TV, not the movies). The end of the Evangelion TV series mimics exactly the spiritual part of the end of Lost, and does it in an even more direct and open way. In Japan this last episode produced a huge outrage and the director received a lot of personal death threats. This because the last episode of the TV series completely dropped the “plot” and only focused on the “message” they were sending, using the plot merely as a means to carry that message. People were focusing TOO MUCH on what didn’t truly matter for the director. The discussions existed solely about the plot, mysteries and their details, disregarding the real message and purpose of the show. So the director decided (since they were also running out of money) to drop every plot-related element and just leave the essence of the message. It led to a final episode that was abstract and stylized, completely different from the rest of the series. The director of Evangelion, not unlike Lost, was accused of not answering any of the mysteries of the show and all this produced an unprecedented outrage. In the end they decided to make two more movies that do not expand the “meaning” or message of the show, but conclude the mysteries they left behind and the plot itself.
I kind of chuckle at people trying to figure details such as how Jack got out of the glowing pool. If there’s something this finale has made clear is that it’s not like the writers didn’t give a proper answer to mysteries, it’s that the answers simply do not exist. Or better: solving mysteries is beside the point. If you really want to speculate fancy solutions, go on. But that’s not part of the purpose of the show.
Instead there’s another aspect that is worth discussing, and it is about the relationship between the lives of the characters.
So see me trying to wrap everything together in the way it should have been, without making anything up:
Level 1: Quantum reality. A whole, completely unresolved part of this series is “time travel”. The concept itself is in the show a loop that never closes. Merely a plot devices that doesn’t connect with a true meaning. They played a bit with the scientific theories, but ultimately this lead to a dead end. Unresolved, if you are an optimist, a failure if you’re not. An interesting aspect of the quantum reality theory, is the quantum immortality part. It’s loosely based on the concept: “I think, therefore I am”. It means that if there’s a conscious being aware of himself, then that conscious being must be immortal. The “quantum immortality” theory relies on the assumption of another theory, one requires the other: “many worlds interpretation”. This because the immortality of conscience relies on the fact that it will always exist in some other “world”. Being the worlds and possibilities infinite means that a conscious being can never completely cease to be. Desmond is clearly a mechanism of these theories. We aren’t being shown him simply as a bridge between sideways reality/purgatory and island. If I remember correctly (please point out the details if you remember) when Desmond time travel is described we see him looping quite a bit between alternate universes. Over and over. In the show we watch one world-story, but it is implied in the official mythology that there are infinite numbers of possible alternate worlds, maybe all pivoting on some immutable events, but still existing in parallel.
Level 2: I woke up early to watch Federer at the Roland Garros, then I was too tired and decided to nap before watching Lost. I dreamed something, not even too weird. Then I watched Lost. About 2/3 in, I was interrupted by something (not important what) that gave me a sudden deja-vu of what I dreamed just before. This happened right when in the show the characters were getting constant flashes of their island memories. This analogy got me realizing that all of us get these kinds of flashes daily. Sometime something we do makes us remember something weird we dreamed that night. What we live influences what we dream, and what we dream influences what we live, especially on a deep subconscious level. Then this can be linked back with Level 1: what if our conscience in all parallel worlds has a way to send some sort of feedback, and that feedback help us making choices in a precise instance of parallel universe, and then send back more feedback. Again and again. You are looped to yourself, and then linked to others.
Level 3: Jeff Jensen realized all of this in February, just after that awful Kate episode. He noticed that WHAT the characters did in the island time was then “informing” the sideways reality and made characters self correct. Many times we see a a flaw in a character in the island time that feeds and gets converted into something positive in the sideways time. It’s made explicit that (1) in the sideways time the characters have still their problems to deal with but (2) they learn to deal with them better. This is repeated over and over through the season, the sideways reality is in most cases a better reality simply because the characters learn from their mistakes. Nothing really comes as a “gift” (beside Hurley being lucky, but even that is probably a product and effect of perception), they EARN their “betterment”. The contemporaneity of this process is explicit even if Christian in the end says that the sideways reality has no time. Yet we see actions in island time that translate directly to sideways reality, and at the very least this is done to tell us that the characters are learning directly. And what happens in their “real” life has a finality because what they will become DEPENDS on what they learn and what they have been. It basically means: afterlife doesn’t lead to enlightenment. The enlightenment is something you bring along from your former life.
FINAL level: we do not get to see what the light past the door of the church represents. But it’s explicit that what they bring along from their previous life is ALL that matters, and that there would be nothing past that door if you didn’t bring along your experiences. The fact that this exists as a “pocket reality”, where only people that matter to you get to show up, means that it’s who you are and what you learned matters, even, and in particular, past the door.
Which all leads to the general concept of “Culture”. The show also represents the struggle of men Vs nature. Science Vs belief. The great intuition Jeff Jensen had is that the (island time – sideways reality) relationship is a metaphor for “fiction” in general. We, real people, become the object of this show (instead of the wreckage of the airplane, the final scene should have been about people watching TV, as in a mirror. That would have been a wonderful ending scene with cool subversion included). We watch these characters, get feelings about them. A few of you have cried. The involvement you can have with “fiction” has the same power of the relationship between the realities in the show. We learn things even if we don’t get to live directly those stories. The show, as fiction, tells and teach us stuff. It doesn’t impose anything, we get the choice to learn what we want, or discard everything. The same theme of choice that plays through the show: it’s the characters who do mistakes or learn to correct themselves. They go through a journey and this journey matters solely because it determines what they become. Lessons may be harsh, mistakes leading to tragedy, yet it all has a sense of finality.
The weakness of the ending was that the scene in the church gave more an impression of “nothing really matters, in the end everyone is happy”, when instead the actual message is that the happiness exists and is possible BECAUSE of what they lived, and that the room would be empty if they didn’t get through what they went through. Ben’s character and his reactions are especially meaningful. His life was so filled with hate and selfish drive that he feels uncomfortable joining the others. He’s ashamed of himself. In the end he connects with Hurley because Hurley is the one he gets to spend time with (on the island) and maybe redeem himself. If everyone gets a pocket reality of afterlife shared with the people that matter the most for him, we realize that these are the people that are the most important for Ben, yet he’s still uncomfortable being with them. And this makes it a rather sad and revealing ending. Ben brings with himself the legacy of his previous life. Everyone does.
The smoke monster, the island, the magic pool… Everything was simply a device. Used from a side to capture the attention of the audience and carry us through an extraordinary journey, from the other used so that these characters would face their obsessions and fears, their past. So that they would be tested and get the choice of resolving themselves, making themselves better. They face nightmares and dreams becoming real. The plot was made to liberate you, similarly to how the characters had to “let go” so that they could embrace a new life. If you let the plot & mysteries details tangle you, you’ll sink with them and won’t get the chance to understand what this show is telling you.
You’ll become like Eloise, who was so enamored of the fake reality that she preferred to stay out there.