Monday, May 24, 2010
Today I'm going against my usual practice of doing a lot of rewatching, discussing and reading before coming to my own conclusions. I want to write about how I experienced the finale without too much outside input.
I loved it. On an emotional level it was nearly perfect. The return of so many characters, the resolution of the flashsideways storyline, and the final scene with Jack closing his eyes in the bamboo forest - it could not have been any better.
In terms of Island mythology I think it fell a bit short. The demise of MiB was anticlimactic for me, as was Desmond's descent into the cave. If they had to choose between mythology and character relationships though, I'm glad they went with character in the end.
The last scenes were so emotional that it was difficult to process all the new information I was getting. Looking back, Jack's conversation with his father is the key (and in the interest of full disclosure, I just cried my eyes out again rewatching this scene. No mascara today.)
Jack: I don't understand. You died.
Christian: Yeah. Yes, I did.
Jack: Then how are you here right now?
Christian: How are you here?
Jack: [realizing] I died too.
Christian: It's OK. It's OK son.
Jack: Are you real?
Christian: [laughing] I sure hope so. Yeah, I'm real. You're real. Everything that's ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they're all real too.
Jack: They're all...they're all dead?
Christian: Everyone dies sometime kiddo. Some of them before you, some long after you.
Jack: But why are they all here now?
Christian: Well there is no "now" here.
Jack: Where are we dad?
Christian: This is a place that you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.
Jack: For what?
Christian: To remember. And to let go.
Jack: Kate - she said we were leaving.
Christian: Not leaving, no. Moving on.
Jack: Where are we going?
Christian: Let's go find out.
So it's what we all thought from the very beginning of season one: they're all dead. But not in the way we thought back then. They didn't all die in the crash of Oceanic 815. They died later, and reunited in the flashsideways world. I think a lot of people felt let down that the sideways wasn't "real", but I didn't. The sideways has always felt unreal to me - even though things are better for most of the characters, it never felt quite right. It makes so much more sense as a psychological construct, a place they created where they were safe from the influence of the Island, where they didn't have to remember what they suffered there. Enough like their real lives to be convincing, and happy enough that they aren't motivated to search for something else - until Charlie comes along, and then Desmond. (By the way, if you like the idea of a world like ours where the dead wait to move on, you should read The Brief History of the Dead. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that the Lost writers have read it.)
A crucial line I missed the first time: "There is no 'now' here." The sideways exists independently of time. Each of the characters died at a different point in their lives, some of them long after the time we've been shown on the Island, but they are all reuniting in the same place, at the same moment. When Kate said to Jack "I've missed you SO much," I got the impression she had been living for a long time after saying goodbye to him. And it's likely that Hurley and Ben spent a very long time protecting the Island after everyone else was gone.
So why wasn't everyone at the church? Where was Mr. Eko? Walt? Michael? Eloise? Daniel? Christian said that for those who were there, the Island was the most important thing that ever happened to them. I think those who were missing 1) weren't ready to move on yet (like Ben, and I think Eloise), or 2) were somewhere else with people who were more influential in their lives than anyone they met on the Island. We've heard before about "those who can't move on" - maybe some of them are still whispering on the Island. Ultimately everyone in the group at the church was intimately connected to Jack, so on some level maybe they were all there for him as much as for themselves. And I guess a third (very likely) option is that there were practical matters that prevented some actors from being there (like Malcolm David Kelley, who's 18 years old now. Tall Waaaalt!) My one gripe about the church crowd was the reuniting of Shannon and Sayid. What about Nadia? I never liked them together. It reminded me of the ending of Titanic [spoiler alert!] where she's reunited in heaven with a guy she had a fling with on a boat and not her husband of 60+ years. Ugh! But I understand the need to bring the original characters full circle.
I appreciated the open-endedness of the church scene, and the fact that it wasn't pinned down to any one belief system. As long as you buy into the idea of life after death, it's believable. And even if you don't, it can be viewed psychologically and symbolically. They've shut the door on the past and they're starting a new journey - the way they were seated in the chapel resembles the way they were seated on Flight 815.
I like Jimmy Kimmel's suggestion that the show was ultimately about Jack's journey, his test in life. I think he's right, but I don't think that's the whole story. The final episode was told from Jack's point of view, in a mirror image of the first one, but overall the story was just as much about Kate, Locke, Hurley, Sayid, and everyone else as it was about Jack. They each came to their own realizations of what had happened and where they were, and they all needed each other.