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Live Together, Die Alone: The Questions Left Behind by the LOST Series Finale
[Editor's Note: I originally wrote this piece as a Facebook note way back in 2011. Because of the continuing legacy of Lost thanks in part to Netflix's consistent popularity, I have modified and tweaked sections of my analysis to make it an easier read. Thanks for taking the time to check it out!]
Today has been a strange day for me. It's one of those days where no matter how hard you try you can't stop being bored and monotone. It's happened to many people before, but I feel that this time it represents something: the constricting grasp of finality. Last night, I finally finished watching the television series Lost, which I can safely say has had a profound effect on how I think about people, fate, and life itself. To anyone who hasn't seen the show, I probably sound a bit silly. Maybe you're thinking, "It's just a TV show man, go do something cooler with your life."
To someone who has seen the show, maybe you can understand. Last night, more than just a show ended for me; I lost friends, an adventure, and a place to call home. A journey I began months ago is over, and the fact that we have so much to talk about now that it has concluded says something. (My applause here goes out to those who watched the series during its television run; a six year wait to see the end of this show? Egad!)
[From here on, I'll rant about the show's final moments. If you haven't seen Lost before and plan on watching the show one day, I highly recommend stopping and browsing Netflix for it first. You've been warned.]
Exploring the Concepts
If my opening hasn't said it, I'm very pleased with the show's ending. All the questions fans needed to know the answers to were answered, and the smaller details that weren't acknowledged I've managed to pass aside. Many fans have complained vehemently online, distraught with fury about Walt's unresolved story, the scattered character arcs in the later seasons, Sawyer's lack of closure with Anthony Cooper, and many other topics. In some instances, many of these outcries are completely valid.
But I believe that the stories of the characters were properly concluded; if a question wasn't answered, there wasn't a need for the question to be answered. That part of the character's life is finished and they are, to paraphrase Christian, ready to move on. The final episode of Lost seems to confuse and frustrate many people, but a number of viewers were given the conclusion they needed because they listened.
"The survivors were dead the whole time?!?!? WAT A DUM SHOW!'
These are the viewers I'm talking about. If you've experienced this, this is a perfect example of people who weren't listening when it really mattered. The Lostaways survived every single crash throughout the show; some died long before and after Jack, but in the separate universe that we explored in Season Six, time had little weight. Once all the characters were dead, they met each other in the afterlife as they had intended to do so they would be able to "remember. And to ... let go" together.
This, I believe, is one of the most beautiful aspects of the show's ending; Jack's mantra of "live together" was completely appropriate, but in a pleasant surprise the survivors could die together as well.
Many questions have also been raised about some of the characters. I will attempt to provide my thoughts on their whereabouts below.
Walt was one of the characters that many of the fans' complaints were directed for. Throughout the show, everyone had said Walt was special, but the details of these speculations were never directly addressed. That assertion is only partially true. In a small 'mini episode' of Lost called "The New Man in Charge", Ben and Hurley pick up a teenage Walt from the Santa Rosa Mental Hospital and take him back to the island with them. Afterwards, it is assumed he will eventually become Hurley's successor. Walt was a special child because he called the island home long after he left it, and on his homecoming he had the knowledge and strength to become the island's protector. That sounds pretty special to me!
YouTube - "The New Man in Charge"
"What happened to Michael?" This is one of the questions that is more easily explained. Michael died in the explosion on the freighter at the end of Season Four and becomes one of the island's "whispers" heard throughout the series. I believe this is because Michael knowingly killed innocent people to get off the island, and though he tried to redeem himself in life it simply wasn't enough for him to let go. Michael stayed on the island because it wasn't his time to leave; like a ghost, he first needed to reconcile with himself and find redemption wherever he could. I also believe that because he and Walt were not as bonded to the other Lostaways because they left so soon. Their early departure from the island did not permit them to experience many of the events that brought the other characters closer together, therefore finding themselves unable to join the group in the church in the series finale. It's a sad reality, but an appropriate one.
Charles Widmore & Eloise Hawking
Simply enough, their story was over. Lost is a very character driven show, and once the stories of Charles and Eloise stopped progressing the story their lives were no longer important to the island's welfare. They had done what they were supposed to do: Eloise sent Daniel to the island and Charles brought Desmond.
You can apply this logic to many other side characters you missed down the road. If they weren't in the show anymore, they probably didn't have anything to contribute to the remainder of the journey.
Why were some major characters absent from the church?
There's been a lot of debate on this because it's a good question: Why were some of the show's characters in the afterlife, like Ana Lucia and Ben, not in the final church scene? I believe this was because of the conflicts the church goers experienced. The memories of their lives on the island were revealed to them when they had found the solace they needed to in the afterlife, allowing them to move on. For many of the Lostaways, it involved finding someone important to them. Hurley found his lost love Libby like Sayid found Shannon, Sawyer found Juliet, and Desmond found Penny. Jin and Sun saw their unborn baby Ji Yeon together in the ultrasound, finally coming into contact with their daughter together. Locke was able to walk again and effectively move on from his father's betrayal, and Jack similarly resolved his issues with his father by resolving his issues with his own son, David. Ben didn't enter because he hadn't helped Danielle and Alex "remember" yet. Ben still had his own list of people to find and reconcile with before moving on, as I'm sure was the case with Daniel, Ana Lucia, Miles, Lapidus, Eloise, Arzt, Charlotte and the rest. They simply weren't ready to take the next step, and Lost handles the subject with maturity and intelligence.
What exactly was the purpose of the island?
This one seems to be a head-scratcher for a lot of people, but I think this goes back to the metaphor Jacob used with Richard: the wine cork. Just like the electromagnetic "cork" Desmond and Jack unplugged and plugged in again, the cork represents the stopper to the extremes of evil, represented by the wine. The extremes create a mess, so to speak, when the bottle is turned upside down, and the island metaphorically acts as a place to contain that struggle. The island possessed the light and early passage into the afterlife, the epitome of eternal happiness. The island required someone to protect that property; Jacob's mother was not the first, and Walt was certainly not the last. The island is essentially eternal, much like the afterlife it connects to.
How many plot points were truly necessary? Was Season 5's time travel aspect a vital story arc? How about Season 4's escape from the island?
Everything on the island did in fact happen for a reason. Not a single moment, as subtle as it may have been, was ever wasted. Each event on the island brought the characters to where they really needed to be in the end: with each other. Their reliance and faith on each other, as well as the forces on the island, gave these people the catharses they were searching for while they were still miserably sauntering through life. Their journey led them to the peace they needed to make in order to move forward.
The series finale of Lost wasn't perfect. It's true. The show itself was also far from perfect. There are plenty of secondary characters and plot points that truly never led to anything. Some of the pacing was atrocious, and several of the writing decisions remain captivatingly catastrophic to this very day.
However, what Lost did give us was fantastic acting, wonderful music, great cinematography, and, most of all, memorable and relatable characters. Lost had its flaws, but like many six year relationships, the good far outweighs the bad. Lost will be remembered as one of the most emotionally gripping and complex TV shows of its time for decades to come.
Have any more questions? Just want a place to share your love of Lost? Leave a comment and keep the discussion going! Thanks to everyone who went on the journey with me! Namaste, and good luck.