"This is the place you all made together so you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. That's why you're all here...."
(Thanks to Dark UFO for all the screencaps).
I was going to simply use "See you in another life, brutha" as my quote, but it just seemed too obvious.
Leading up to the finale, there was a lot of online discussion about where Lost's ending would fall among the ranks of the great and the not-so-great. On the great side, you have M*A*S*H, Newhart and Cheers; on the not-so-great (or at very least, controversial) you have Seinfeld, The Sopranos, St. Elsewhere and BSG. My gut feeling is that if you're one of the people who liked "Across The Sea" you're going to put "The End" in with the greats. If you didn't, it's going to fall in the latter group, possibly pretty far down.
As for myself, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the narrative overall, but I'm greatly disappointed that 1) everything in the Alt was kinda made irrelevant by the fact it was really just an existential waiting room and 2) all the unresolved questions that were ignored in favor of the Jacob/MiB conflict this season made much of the previous seasons feel irrelevant as well.
On some of the message boards, it's been suggested Lost would have been better if it ended with Season 5 - Juliet detonates the bomb and fade to black (or white, I suppose). The end. Dark? Sure, but dark is always cool. The same thing could be said for BSG, which could have ended in even a darker manner halfway through the final season (in fact, it could have gone down in history as the darkest, bleakest ending ever seen). But BSG instead chose to go out happy, giving most of the characters a fan-friendly send-off that treated them with reverence. Lost chose this route as well. There was also a touch of "The Sopranos" here as well, especially in the fact that Darlton chose to go out on their own terms.
Darlton were kinda sensitive in their defense of "Across The Sea," especially in regards to the words "cop out." But there's really no way to spin this ending without mentioning those words. Even if you liked the feel-good reunion at the end and didn't care about all the unresolved questions, in order to make it all work and us in suspense all season they had to give us a big head-fake as to the Alt's true nature. And now, in retrospect, a lot of what we saw in the Alt this season doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. And for a show that prides itself on its intelligence and the intelligence of its viewers, this is extremely disappointing to me.
I'm not going to be totally negative here, if you want that you can go here instead. Let's go through some of the individual plot elements from "The End" and take a look at what I liked and didn't like.
1) The Alt is an existential waiting room where the Losties gather until they're all dead and ready to "move on."
I did like this. Sorta.
Is it creative? Yes. Is it schmaltzy? Yes. Were all the awakenings emotionally manipulative? Heck yeah. But I really enjoyed all of the Alt scenes regardless. The ending in the church felt a little too much like a self-congratulatory cast party, but it still tugged the heartstrings. And it didn't cheapen what happened on the Island because all these people really did die, just some much later than others. Kate, Sawyer and everyone on the Ajira plane really did escape from the Island.
The problem with it is that because it was just a "waiting room," nothing in it was real. Everything we saw in the Alt this past season was fake. And in retrospect, even though all the awakenings were cool, it makes us question why they all had to wake up in the first place.
Also, because they didn't want to give the ending away, they had to mislead us all season into thinking the Alt was actually an alternate timeline. Yes, Jack's cut on his neck and "appendix scar" (yay, more blatant Christian symbolism) were nice bits of misdirection, but there was so much about the Alt that now, in retrospect, just doesn't make a lot of sense. Showing us the sunken Island in "LA X" was a total head-fake, put there simply to make us think it was an alternate timeline and that kinda ticks me off. It does make me feel somewhat good that my pocket universe theory was somewhat closer to the actual truth.
Also because the Alt is a total fake, a lot of the stuff we saw there this season just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As I mentioned above, why did Desmond have to wake everyone up? How did he get woken up in the first place? Did he did actually die and come back when Charles Widmore tried to turn him into Dr. Manhattan? Certainly seems like it. But the weirdest thing was Aaron being "born" into the Alt. He certainly must have lived a full life in the real world with Claire and Kate. Must suck to have to then spend your entire afterlife as an infant because that's how these people remembered you. :P
2) The Island really is a cork to keep Hell in its place.
It's not just a cork, it actually has a literal cork too. And when you pull it out, it negates all rules on the Island or something. Jack and Smokey become mortal, everyone dies. Again I imagine anyone who liked "Across The Sea" liked this. I thought it was kinda cheesy.
3) You gain no awareness or knowledge whatsoever by becoming the new Jacob.
I think this is the plot element that annoyed me the most. Jack becomes the new Jacob and doesn't have a clue. WTF? Granted, this was only done because it was the only way to set up the ending, but this was emblematic of the episode itself. The awakenings, Jack being clueless, Jack and Smokey becoming mortal, Aaron being an infant in the Alt... all these things were done to get us to the reunion and the final shot of Jack's eye closing. Darlton knew the final shot was to be Jack's eye closing in the bamboo field and had to come up with some pretty silly plot devices to get him there.
Jack's been stabbed in the side and has to cross the Island and climb down a rope? No problem. Jack gets blown out of the Source like Smokey and survives? No problem. After all that he's still able to stagger through the jungle to the bamboo forest? No problem. After all that he wants to stagger through the forest to the bamboo jungle? Yeeesh. It was almost like you could see him thinking "I've... got... to... get... perfect... final... shot... before... I... die" while he was walking. Completely contrived and really, really weak.
4) What happened on the Island, happened. Those who escaped, escaped.
I liked the fact that some people did manage to escape the Island, that Kate managed to bring Claire back and that all the Island stuff wasn't a dream. There's also a bit of fanservice in that Kate and Sawyer get to be together in real life while Kate and Jack (and Sawyer and Juliet) get to be together in the afterlife. Guess Kate got the best of both worlds, eh?
I also cheered when I saw Frank was still alive. Makes me feel better knowing he didn't die a pointless death.
5) Ben and Daniel stay behind to be with the people they love.
I kinda like this even if it doesn't make much sense. Daniel wouldn't go with them since Charlotte was here. Ben would stay for Alex (and maybe Danielle), not to mention, he always felt he was a bit of an outsider of the group - remember his pained speech to Ilana where he told her he was going to Locke because he had nowhere else to go? The scene outside the church reminded me of that. In fact, I think that would be the one scene from the episode that would make my Top 108 moments list - Locke forgiving Ben.
But why would you want to stay in a waiting room when the real afterlife awaits? Wouldn't the real afterlife be so much better? Maybe there's a really juicy issue of People Magazine they haven't read there or something.
6) Rose, Bernard and Vincent did time travel to 2007 and lived out their lives on the Island.
Yay. Just yay. :)
Oh, and I totally called it, by the way. In general I was pleased with several of my predictions: The Alt being Lost's happy ending, Desmond entering the source, Juliet being Jack's ex-wife, Hurley being Jack's backup, Smokey using The Elizabeth as his escape plan. Just didn't see the waiting room coming. *sigh*
7) Hurley becomes the new Jacob and Ben becomes his #2.
I liked this as well. And props to Michael Emerson here too. Did you notice the way his eyes dropped when Jack chose Hurley as his successor? He so wanted the job himself, even though he knew he didn't deserve it. But somehow the thought of those two living on the Island for an eternity together after everyone else has left is kinda neat.
8) Eloise really was self-serving.
I kinda predicted this. Smokey had nothing to do with the Alt, but it does fit that all of Eloise's motivation was selfishness, driven by the desire to be together with Daniel.
9) The writers really didn't care about anything other than the characters.
And this sucked. Yeah, they've been warning us all season, but it doesn't make it suck any less. And don't get me wrong, the characters were important, but Darlton knew the fanbase cared about the mythology as well and to just ignore it entirely in favor of heart-tugging schmaltz is a total cop out. You can almost hear Journey playing in the background.
Darlton will argue that they had no obligation to answer every question on the show, but the sheer magnitude of everything they've ignored diminishes every season of Lost outside of this one and the first. Why do all the Egyptian stuff in the first place? Why spend so much time on childbirth on the Island? Why tease us with giant statues of fertility goddesses if they're just there for show? I'm not angry, I'm just sad and incredibly disappointed they chose the easy way out.
10) I have perfected the chicken wing.
If there is one excellent thing that came out of last night, it's that I've perfected my chicken wing recipe. The breading was excellent, the sauces were incredible and they were cooked to perfection. I actually had to put the remaining Honey BBQ sauce into the fridge otherwise I would have eaten the entire bowl with a spoon. I wish I was eating them right now...
Summary (and future blogging plans)
I'm going to give this episode a 2.5/5. The character stuff was a 5, but it gets a 0 for the mythology and overall I feel a little disappointed, about the same as I did after the BSG finale, but I do think on the whole I liked that finale a bit more because (with one major exception) I thought it was a bit more honest about it's intentions than Lost was.
Next week, I'll start my Top 108 Lost Moments list. I'll probably post them in batches of 10 or so along with a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut. After that, I think I'm probably going to start a new blog, one that will touch on a variety of subjects I'm interested in, including science, the Mets, parenting and, of course, pop culture. There will be an announcement once that begins.
As for Lost, it will still remain one of my favorite all-time shows. I'm just a bit saddened that it's legacy to television (which will still remain great, to be sure) is likely going to be diminished by the ending.
What did everyone think? :)