LostZone: It’s Time to Leave, Jack
By Louis Bedigian GameZone.com
Anticipation is a weird thing. For many years it seemed as though the first Star Wars prequel and Metal Gear Solid 4 held the title for most long-awaited form of entertainment. But as the Lost finale approached, I realized that this ending, more than any movie and more than any TV finale, is the thing I’ve waited for the longest.
Every year, the finale (whatever it would be) always came to mind; not just the season ender but the finale of the entire series. Lost held so many mysteries, and had so many promises attached to it, that you couldn’t help but wonder how it would ultimately conclude.
Most fans thought they knew what they were getting this season. We didn’t. Whether or not you could see the revelation coming, chances are most of you felt what I felt when, in the sideways world, Kate told Jack, "I've missed you so much!" I knew those words would have a significant impact, because if we are to take the show literally, the sideways world didn't seem to be that far apart from the current one. But for Kate to have missed Jack as much as she did, it sounded to like they had been apart for a very long time.
And they had.
Lost's conclusion wasn't the revolutionary, answer-half-our-questions finale many had hoped for. In fact, it didn't bother to answer any of our questions except for one: what is the sideways world and why does it exist?
Taking a portion of the purgatory theory and flipping it upside down (along with pieces of The Sixth Sense and, perhaps coincidentally, elements of The Lovely Bones), the sideways world is, as Christian explained, a place the castaways created to find each other. All the memories they've been having, all the powerful flashes – they're all memories of their lives. But they are no longer living. While the island and all its craziness was real, by the time each castaway makes it to the sideways world, they have passed away.
As beautiful as they were, the last 15 minutes couldn't have been more painful. Aside from the reality that no one got a second chance, the revelation that Kate, Claire, Sawyer, Frank, Miles, and Richard finally escaped the island, while Jack gave his life to save everyone and Hurley stayed behind to take Jacob's place as the island's new protector, was incredibly difficult to deal with. Prior to the finale, it was hard enough to imagine that they all would have to die before making it to the sideways world. But knowing that these characters – who we've spent six years loving – were ultimately kept apart from each other has led to a conclusion that is all but impossible to put into words. Rather than feeling a sense of awe, or experiencing a moment of, "Wow…” as I think about the past six seasons, I am instead left feeling very, very sad.
An Alternate Take: Walt’s Conclusion
By now you know that Walt didn’t return this season. But he really should have. This is how I would have brought him back:
During one of the flash sideways (or what appeared to be a flash sideways), Walt would be seen at a funeral. The body wouldn’t be shown but Walt would appear to be extremely upset, piquing our interest.
First, we’d wonder when and where he was because Walt wouldn’t be this old in the sideways world we’re familiar with, which was supposed to occur in 2004. Second, we’d wonder if this was a flash forward from his first life, and if his grandmother had passed away. Third, if it’s not a flash forward, we’d wonder if it was a flash sideways, how many years had gone by, and whether or not it was Michael in the coffin. (At this point in the show the sideways revelation wouldn’t have happened yet, so we wouldn’t know that it was a pathway to Heaven. We’d still be thinking it was a possible second chance.) In a matter of minutes, the show would have sparked a new mystery that would have made the fans go crazy.
My conclusion: since time does not matter in the sideways world, Walt’s age doesn’t matter either. To me, he simply manifested himself in the sideways world – in this form – because it was at this stage in his real life that he started to believe his father would never come home. Though he had been led to believe that Michael was alright, it’s easy to assume he eventually dealt with the reality that his father didn’t survive.
Why was Walt so upset in the sideways world? Because he had once again learned that his father died, and when he touched the coffin at the funeral, he remembered everything that happened to them in their real lives. His memory of his father’s death would have been real because, as a young man, he really had that experience.
All of those emotions would come rushing back, along with the memory of the awful things his father had done. Now, as he looks around this near-Heavenly place, he is still separated from his father. He heads to the church (with some guidance from a spiritual Vincent) but discovers that Michael isn’t there.
As Walt prepares to leave with his fellow castaways, he silently wishes he’ll see his father again. He hopes that if Michael is out there, trapped on the island because of his overwhelming guilt – or perhaps in a sideways hell all his own – he will find redemption and discover a way to move on.
Something tells me Hurley could help him out with that.
An Alternate Take: The Children of the Island and Oceanic 815
To further enhance the emotion of the sideways revelation, and to bring some conclusion – and initially some mystery – to the gathering at the church, I wish that final scene had begun with some (if not all) of the kids from the show, most notably the two Cindy (the flight attendant) was watching over. The kids could have appeared at the church, and Jack – and maybe some other characters who didn’t quite understand what was happening – would wonder why they were there. And then all of a sudden they’d be gone, and the audience would once again be left wondering, “What the heck is going on!? What is this sideways world, exactly?”
That has been a recurring scenario on the show: the kids always disappear. This would have fooled the audience into believe it was another Others-related event. But when we found out the truth, we’d realize that the kids had just gone to Heaven.
I guess then we would have needed two boxes of tissues, eh?
An Alternate Take: Richard’s Fate
One thing I had hoped for that actually happened was that Hurley would become the island’s protector. That outcome was pretty amazing. But leading up to that moment, I think they missed a stellar opportunity to give Richard a powerful conclusion.
After spending several decades mourning the loss of his wife and even after considering a pact with the smoke monster this season, Richard – having realized that he can finally die – decided he wants to live. That’s a counterproductive conclusion to a character that has experienced nothing but misery. Lost was a show that loved killing off main characters, so why not put an end to his misery and reunite him with his wife?
Before the finale, I envisioned a scene where he’s dead and he doesn’t know it (sort of a conclusion to his Sixth Sense moment in “Ab Aeterno”). Then his wife appears in the jungle and, with the show’s breathtaking score playing and tears rolling down his face, he runs to her, hugs her and kisses her, and can barely believe she’s there, since he does not realize that they’re both dead. They’d walk off together, and the camera would spin around to reveal Hurley, who is crying as he watches this long overdue reunion.
Then Ben or somebody would walk over to him and ask, “Why are you crying?” And he’d respond, “Richard just got his wife back.” Ben would look around but no one would be there. However, Hurley would know what just happened, and we’d know what happened.
I think that would have been a really powerful way to conclude Richard’s story – it would have been separate from (but similar to) the conclusion of the sideways world.
Season Four: What Could Have Been
When the writers revealed their idea for flash-forwards, it seemed like a brilliant way to tell us where the characters would end up and how they’d get there without the need for an epilogue. But it was only a creative tool for that season, to show us how the characters must leave, discover that they had made a mistake, and return to the island.
In hindsight, the return feels like a waste. Jacob’s silly games may have had a purpose, but that’s open to interpretation. Frankly, it feels as though everyone who died on the island died for nothing, except for Jack and Sayid, who sacrificed themselves to save others. Their deaths were sad but meaningful. Without a second chance, Sun and Jin really did die on the sub. Everything was as it seemed. Their baby will grow up without parents. Sure, Kate or Claire likely raised her, but so what?
On the flip side, if Lost had concluded with the fourth season – if the writers (and ABC) had chosen to wrap things up back then – we could have counted our losses (in terms of who had already passed away) and let the show end right there. It may have felt premature, especially when you consider how breathtaking that season was. But I’ve learned that it’s better to be short and sweet than long and disappointing.
On the whole, this season didn’t deliver in the way it should have. Excluding the complete lack of answers (most of which the writers clearly ran from because they didn’t have any to give), Season Six had episodes that people literally hated, most notably “Across the Sea,” the one that attempted to explain the island without telling us a thing.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that “The End” wasn’t that different from how the series could have ended with Season Four: some characters are still on the island, some died, and some escaped.
Hmmm, the Ajira Six.
Time to Let Go
In a strange way, it almost feels like Christian was talking to the audience when he said it was time to let go. Aside from the profound sadness the finale created in me, “The End” also gave me a bit of closure in that I am ready to move on. I am ready to stop theorizing; in fact, beyond this point, I don’t know that I ever will again.
I can certainly appreciate what the writers aimed to achieve with “The End.” But the emotion is still overwhelming. Long-term, I hope I end up being really satisfied with this episode. For now, however, I wish the conclusion had been more uplifting.