"It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress." - Jacob
What we just saw was not that solitary "end" that Jacob spoke of. The true end lies worlds beyond whatever awaits our characters on the other side of the door in the church. The story of Lost has always been about the progress made along the way. When Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on an island in the Pacific, the characters moved from their world to another, better world. Tonight, they moved from that better world to the next one, which will be even better.
Though we won't be shown any more of their adventure, the adventure isn't over. It's up to our imaginations to fill in whatever form their story takes from now on. In any case, I will elaborate on this theory (and provide some pretty good support for why I really think it's the correct one) down below.
Now, while I've seen plenty of support for the finale so far in the comments, I've also read through a considerable amount of resentment. Let me be clear: I've had problems with season 6. I've been frustrated by the way some storylines have been more or less completely abandoned, and I've groaned at having had to spend a lot of time in a reality where the characters didn't seem like they were really the characters I knew.
That said, this finale was fantastic -nearly perfect, even. For those of you who didn't like it, I'm sorry that Lost ends on such a low note for you, but I certainly don't agree.
Then again, what I was looking for in an ending may be different than what other people wanted. Others may have wanted sweeping answers about the purpose of the island, the Man in Black, a definitive timeline or ordering of the various realities, etc. All I wanted was to know that these characters, who mattered so much to me, mattered in some other sense, too. And this was answered; yes, they do matter. They mattered to each other.
Anyway, my immediate reaction to the ending of the episode was, "Oh, this has a lot in common with The Chronicles of Narnia. I wonder if the writers are conscious of that?" They did name Charlotte after C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, so it seemed likely. But after only about three seconds of browsing on Lostpedia, I found this little interview with Darlton where they said the following: "So much of LOST is based on our shared love for the great stories of our childhood (Narnia for Carlton, Oz for Damon)." And the events and themes of Oz really line up with Lost's ending, too.
Concerning, C.S. Lewis's work, Narnia is a magical world that acts as a sort of escape for many different people from our world. Narnia is often in need of protection from these people, but it also teaches them much about themselves and offers them second chances to grow as individuals. The point, though, is that the version of Narnia that the characters visit is not the definitive Narnia. There is in fact a more perfect Narnia beyond it. And beyond that, it's implied that there exists an even more wonderful Narnia. As they continued to move in, each world is bigger and more beautiful than the one before it.
Oz echoes the same theme, though a little more simply. While in the movie, Dorothy comes back to Kansas, in the books, she eventually goes back to Oz along with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, and they reside there permanently. In both cases, the characters could be said to have "died" and moved on to the next world, but whether they actually did die or not is sort of unimportant. They've traveled from one reality to the next - call it death, or whatever you wish.
This is exactly what happened on Lost, and has been happening since the beginning. The first world that we were shown was the characters' lives before the crash. They were weighed down by many struggles and disappointments and issues. Then the crash happens and they move to the next world. Some will say that the vehicle of this transportation was death - they all died in the plane crash, and were moved to the next world, a sort of Purgatory Step One, or something. But it doesn't really matter whether they actually all died in the crash or not, because they next world - the island - is real to them, alive or dead.
The island is a more perfect world than their previous one. Note: it's not perfect, it's more perfect. Their lives are for the most part better. They gain a sense of place and community. Many apply the skills and personalities from the former world while letting going of the baggage that weighed them down. They do this by first remembering the other world. What do you think the flashbacks that we were shown all of seasons 1, 2and 3 actually were? We were watching the characters reflect on their previous lives and let go of the bad parts in order to move forward with the good parts, just as they did in the flash-sideways last night.
I would like to suggest that the island is "magical" in order to facilitate a more perfect world. There is an energy on the island. The science people, like the Dharma folk, will explain it as electromagnetic anomalies, the mythological or religious will explain it as the heart of the island, etc., but its fulfills a role. It heals John Locke's paralysis. It allows Jin and Sun to have a baby. It gives Jack something worth protecting, saving and fixing.
I think the finale makes the argument that at some point, every character is ready for the next world. Some take longer than others. Some may even regress to a worse world, now and then (as I believe may have been what happened to the Oceanic 6 when they left the island). Some may be forced to repeat a world in a different role (as I believe could be a more proper explanation for the whispers - they are people who aren't quite ready for the next world, and will only let go of the necessary baggage by aiding and guiding others to the next world). But eventually, everyone gets there.
The flash-sideways timeline (that name doesn't really fit anymore, but I'll use it for convenience) does, I think, fit my definition of a more perfect world than the island reality. The characters are for the most part happier and more well-rounded. I know what you're thinking, "But how can the flash-sideways be more special than a magical island?" To which I answer, "the flash-sideways is absolutely magical, too." And I'm not just saying that because it's inhabited by dead people. This reality has been breaking the rules of a normal universe all season. At least a week elapses for John Locke, Desmond, Kate, Sawyer, Claire and Hurley between 815 landing and the concert happening. Sayid, Jin and Sun, though, only go through one or two days. Sun and Jin are apprehended by Keamy the morning after arriving in Los Angeles. That same day, Sun is accidentally shot. She arrives at the hospital at the same time as John Locke, who was run over by Desmond at least a week after getting back from the flight (John couldn't have been fired, gone to the temp agency, been placed as a substitute teacher and substituted for a variety of classes all within 24 hours of getting back to LA).
Also, when John agrees to the surgery it is already the day of the concert. There is no way he could have gone through all the prep work and actually undergone the surgery that same night. Remember how long Jack prepared for his surgery on the Italian Guy in the flashbacks of "The Hunting Party"? I'm not trying to point out continuity errors, I'm just arguing that the flash-sideways has a magical timelessness to it that makes it special.
Maybe the flash-sideways wasn't a proper next world. Maybe it was more of a waiting room of sorts. But in order to progress through it, the characters had to do basically the same thing that they did on the island: have flashbacks to the previous world. And then, once they've used these memories to correct the flaws that made them unworthy and unready for the next world, it's time to move on.
We don't know what the next world is like. Or any of the worlds after, for that matter. What we've seen was just progress - a process of perfecting flaws, growing closer together, and moving into a better and better life.
It doesn't really matter, then, how rigidly you classify these worlds. It would be possible to call the island hell (as Richard and the Man in Black did), the flash sideways as purgatory and the world beyond the door in the church as heaven. You could take a less spiritual approach, too, and say that everyone was still alive until their natural death during the show, and the flash-sideways was some sort of reincarnation and the world after will be another. The important thing, I think, is that Lost is understood as a constant process of moving from one special, unique place with people you love into a more special and unique place with people you love even more.
Think about it. Daniel, as evidenced by his conversation with Desmond in "Happily Ever After", still thinks he caused an alternate reality by setting off a bomb. He might appear like he's in the same world as everybody else, but for him, it could be a level below. He's still wrapped up in the science without seeing the bigger picture. That could be why someone like him isn't ready to move on yet.
But anyway, I said I was talking about Desmond. I think he's been a step ahead of everyone else all along. It could be because he came to the island years before the plane crash survivors. Maybe that's why he received so many special powers and "the rules don't apply" wild cards. He was more special because he was on a higher level. And whereas leaving the island was probably a step back for the Oceanic 6, for Desmond, it was most certainly an improvement. But the island was in danger, and Jacob had no choice but to recall one of its most special characters in order to save the island and insure that everyone else would be able to move on. So Desmond is forcibly brought back to the island, but he's clearly thinking on a more advanced level. He knows about the next world - the flash-sideways, which he received a taste of in the strange generator - and he just wants to get back there.
Super Island Protector Jack and the Man in Black both know that Desmond's specialness is a sort of "secret weapon". As it turns out, he grants both of their wishes, as if he were the Magic Box. He begins to destroy the island like Flocke wants, and he makes Flocke mortal, like Jack wants. And for a considerably chunk of the finale, Desmond finds himself down a hole with some special energy while Jack and a John-esque entity watch him from above the shaft. I loved Jack's words to Flocke here; he basically says, "You're not John Locke and you are insulting a great man by wearing his face." Awesome dialogue.
I have to say that during the canoe ride over to Hydra Island, I was quite sure the infamous "The Little Prince" shootout was about to occur and probably kill or at least wound Miles. The shootout never happens, so I guess we'll never know for sure exactly who got shot by Juliet in that episode. It doesn't seem like it was anyone we cared about, though.
Miles is present at the concert, but I'm quite sure he didn't make it inside the church. Maybe he wasn't ready? Or he has to redo something? As for Frank, we don't see any of him in the flash-sideways, so it's hard to speculate. It would seem that they go on to continue their lives in the real world, but that's not an adventure that we will be in on. (Or... they didn't go back to the real world. More on that in the next section.)
This could be what happens to Claire, too, since she does get Aaron back, in a sense, by giving birth to him in the flash-sideways. The circumstances of the birth are of course mostly the same - Kate delivers the baby with Charlie providing limited assistance. Of all the "remembrance" scenes, this one probably made me cry the second-hardest.
Sawyer and Juliet's moment was touching, too. It was terrific how they worked in the lines she uttered before dying at the start of the season, but her "it worked" didn't end up meaning at all what we thought it did. In other words, it wasn't proof that they had reset anything, just proof that her consciousness crossed over to the next world at that moment.
As for the Man in Black, I don't know exactly what rules he operated under. I don't know to what extent the rules were mandatory. I said in my last recap that I thought a lot of the "you can't do that" rules were made up on the spot and were nothing more than cons to get people to do or not do certain things. But certainly there were some unbreakable rules, and why Flocke was suddenly mortal after Desmond uncorked the island is anybody's guess.
I was happy to see Jack receive that neck wound, though, and I was also amused that in the end, it was Kate who took down the big bad guy. Kate had been so dismissed by Flocke (by viewers, too, and myself as well at a lot of times), and it was nice to see her make him pay for ignoring her.
Ultimately, though, I felt bad for the dead man in Locke's guise sprawled across the rocks. I truly wonder what world his soul would move on to.
In the flash-sideways, Hurley tells Ben that he was a great number 2, meaning that they did indeed rule the island together for an indeterminate amount of time. Was it ideal not to give us more of a glimpse of what this was like? Maybe not. But we can infer from Hurley's character that island life would have involved a lot more golfing, cooking, and all-around good times than it was under Jacob. It also seems likely that Hurley would impose a less strict limitation on traveling to and from the island. Maybe he visited his friends across the sea (and his mother!), if indeed they did return and lead normal lives their.
The door isn't for everyone yet, though. It was interesting that Ben chose to stay behind to "work some things out". Though Ben did plenty of good in the flash-sideways, he also did a lot of bad on the island. Ben was on the road to redemption, but he wasn't quite ready to go there, yet.
Having put things back in order on the island, but dying from a knife wound, Jack finds himself curling up in the same bamboo forest he first arrives in. Vincent joins him. The conditions of "Pilot" are duplicated, but in reverse. Jack closes his eyes as a plane takes off. Vincent's loyalty to him was certainly a tear-jerker. It was impossible to be too sad, though, because we knew that in the flash-sideways, Jack was ready for realization.
He has to be guided into it, though, by his father, who serves as a literal "Christian shepherd". He explains that everyone dies eventually, and then they move on to the next thing. They do this by letting go. That's what the characters did last night, and that's what we have to do now.
What is the shape of the world that waits for our characters? Will it be a heavenly island? Will they get there through flashes, time travel, moving islands or plane crashes? That final image of the wreckage of a plane flight might be a clue. There are a couple ways to interpret this image.
1) It's the familiar wreckage of Oceanic 815 as some sort of tribute. That's totally fine by me, but if you look closely, the words Oceanic Airlines never appear on the wreckage discernibly. I did spy Jack's original medical tent in the corner, though.
2) It's Ajira 316, which never made it back to the real world. If the plane crashed, though, our friends flashed off the plane and into the next world before the actual crash.
3) It's whatever plane crashes on the island next, during Hurley's reign. These survivors should expect a warmer welcome than the 815ers received.
4) It's the world that comes after the flash sideways. This is the explanation I like the most. After Christian opens the door in the church, our friends move to the next island, which is more beautiful and perfect and magical and special than anything they've yet seen.
However you took it, note that there are no dead bodies lying around, just as Christian's dead body ultimately never showed up in any reality and was not inside the coffin at the end. In the end, we aren't burdened by death. We all move on with those memories.
This recap was more of an overarching one - I may write another recap processing individual moments once I rewatch the finale. You are also welcome to friend me on Facebook, where I'll publish my magazine articles starting in mid-June and anything else I write. But in case this is the last time we meet, let me thank everyone who read and commented on my recaps. You've encouraged and helped me more than you know.
To Dark and all the people who make this the greatest Lost site on the Internet, thank you for your tireless efforts to create a central hub for everyone who loves this show. I can't even imagine how much less fulfilling the last six years would have been without DarkUFO. And to all the other recappers, contributors, moderators, etc., you've all done one hell of a good job.
Thank you to my family and friends, particularly my parents, my brother Ryan, and especially my wonderfully supportive girlfriend, Carrie. I've loved taking this journey with all of you.
As for you, Lost. I've only got one thing left to say. See you in another life, brotha.
- Robby "Robz888" Soave