Top 8 Things People Still Get Wrong About The Lost Finale

Jack and VincentIt’s that time again.

No, I’m not referring to the return of the cicadas that are starting to boil up from the ground after being asleep for seventeen years.

It’s the time of year to talk about TV season and series finales.

And, of course, this brings about yet another opportunity for people to complain about/decry the ending of Lost.

Let’s face it, this is not a once-a-year phenomenon. Any mention of Lost, any mention of anyone connected to Lost, and you are certain to see the following comments:

“Worst ending, ever!”

Or my personal favorite:

“I wasted six years of my life on Lost!”

A few other things repeatedly show up in comments sections, but I try to keep this blog rated somewhere in the vicinity of PG-13, so I won’t repeat them.

It’s not the only polarizing ending of a TV series. Entertainment Weekly recently had two slideshows on its web site—one for best series finales and one for most frustrating finales. Lost shows up on both, but so do the finales of Seinfeld and The Sopranos. Even so, it’s certainly the biggest lightning rod when it comes to the subject of series finales.

Look. I’m not out to convince anyone who was genuinely disappointed in the ending of Lost. People feel the way they feel. However, there are SO many inaccurate representations of the ending, that I felt moved to create this list to counter them. Let’s start with:

1. Everyone died in the original plane crash.  Blame ABC for this commonly-held belief. ABC made the decision to show the final credits over a shot of the empty beach where the “Losties” camped, with their belongings scattered everywhere as if it were immediately after the crash.

The producers/writers/directors of a show have no say over what is shown while the credits roll. This is left to the discretion of the network. They can show anything they want—scenes from next week’s episode (clearly not an issue here; just an example), scenes from another show to promote it, or a blank screen, or whatever else they want. They can even not show the full credits, if there’s a time issue (not every episode is the same exact length).

“Everything that happened, happened” was an oft-repeated phrase in the show. There was even some on-the-nose dialog in the notorious “flash-sideways” scene between Jack and his father where his father explained that everything the characters experienced on the island REALLY HAPPENED. The producers and writers have been quoted as saying it, too. Yet this belief still persists that they all died and the island was a kind of purgatory.

They didn’t. It wasn’t. I promise you.

2. The ending was deus ex machina. Aaargh! Is there any literary term more misunderstood than deus ex machina? I even wrote an article about it specifically because I saw someone erroneously use the ending of Lost as an example.

Deus ex machina means something or someone takes the fate of the characters out of their own hands.

It fascinates me how people zero in on final scenes of the flash-sideways and COMPLETELY ignore everything that happens in the present time-line. Those final scenes in the church aren’t even the “ending” in any real sense. Those scenes actually serve as a “coda”—an epilog to the actual story, which was the present time-line on the island.

Not one character had their destiny taken out of their hands.

Jack chose to sacrifice himself to stop the Man in Black from leaving the island, thus unleashing darkness throughout the world.

Hurley chose to become the island’s new protector.

Ben chose to become Hurley’s second-in-command.

Kate chose to leave Jack, the man she loved, behind so she could take Claire home to reunite her with her son Aaron.

After a great deal of persuading, Claire chose to go with Kate.

Desmond chose to return to Penny and his son.

Sawyer, Miles, Richard and Frank also chose to leave the island, taking a huge risk flying out in a plane that had recently crashed on the island.

Rose and Bernard chose to stay on the island.

Every character made a choice. No deus ex machina here.

3. The religious aspects of the ending came out of nowhere.  This is one of the criticisms of the finale that makes me suspect that some of the most vocal naysayers didn’t even watch the show.

There were three major running themes throughout the series:

Fate vs. self-determination

Faith vs. science

Redemption

I’m not pulling this out of the air—if you were truly one of those people haunting Lost message boards, you had to have participated in these thematic discussions. There was even an episode called “Man Of Faith, Man Of Science.”

Even more to the point, religion was an important aspect of several of the characters:

Charlie, Hurley, Desmond and Mr. Eko are explicitly shown to be Catholics. In fact, Desmond was once a monk and Mr. Eko is a priest (or calls himself one, after he took his dead brother’s place).

Jin and Sun are Buddhists.

Sayid is a practicing Muslim.

Think about how unusual that is for a TV series. Most of the time, the religion of TV characters is either vaguely implied or not specified at all.

Religion plays an important part in several episodes. Some examples:

Claire asks Mr. Eko to baptize Aaron, even though she’s not religious (she is shown to be more in the New Age camp, believing in astrology and psychics).

Mr. Eko and Charlie start building a church on the island.

Charlie crosses himself just before he dies.

Sayid is forced by the CIA to infiltrate an Islamic terrorist cell.

Kate makes a crack about Jack’s father’s name, Christian Shephard, in case anyone missed the point over six seasons.

It didn’t come out of nowhere.

4. The ending is “too happy.” I guess this falls into the category of personal opinion, but I found it very sad, actually.

I think what really bothered some people is that the flash-sideways was assumed to be a re-set of the character’s lives, where the plane never crashed and all the tragedies that happened on the island were erased.

If there’s anything the writers could be scolded for, it’s for giving that impression of the nature of the flash-sideways. The way the scenes were cut in the first episode of Season Six was deliberately misleading.

But . . . that’s not an uncommon trick by writers, they do it all the time.

To me, it was very bittersweet, almost like a knife through the heart, to know that Boone and Juliet and Jin and Sun and Charlie and other beloved characters were gone without a chance to live out more of their lives.

On the other hand, it truly would have been a cheat if the writers had given the characters a “do-over” life.

Everything that happened, happened.  Dead is dead.

They told us this many, many times over the life of the show.

5. It was focused too much on characters and not enough on the mysteries. It was always about the characters.

Always.

The mysteries were clearly used as a way to reveal character.

If that disappoints you—fair enough. If you wanted it to be more about the mysteries and the mythology, you are totally entitled to feel that way.

But since from Day One the story spent so much time focused on the characters, it shouldn’t be surprising that’s what the end was about, too.

6. The writers didn’t know how the show was going to end until fairly late in the series. This one’s true.

Damon Lindelof, among some of the other writers, admitted as much—they never expected the show to last past Season One. One of the reasons the show hit a very bad patch by mid-Season Three is because they didn’t know how much longer the series would last and how many characters and mysteries they had to keep spinning.

So they chose an end date and exit plan.

Here’s the thing, though. Even when it comes to the most devoted planner, outliner, meticulous storyboarder—most writers don’t know precisely how a story is going to end when they start writing it. For some reason, Lost was singled out as a show where the writers had to know EXACTLY where they were going from the EXACT MOMENT they started putting pen to paper, holding them to a standard almost no other writers in the world have to live up to.

That doesn’t mean the writers ignored everything that happened in the beginning—in fact, there are many threads from the early episodes of Lost that made it into the final season.

For instance, in an early episode, The Greater Good, Sayid pretends he is going to become a suicide bomber to help the CIA catch his friend who has joined a terrorist cell.

How does Sayid die? He blows himself up—for the greater good.

There are other examples of this—something easy to discover on a second viewing of the series. (Or third. Yes. I’ve watched the series all the way through three times. I may do it again one of these days.  Don’t judge me.)

7. They didn’t give answers.  Every major question was answered.

On Lostpedia they list all the unanswered questions for each episode, and most are minor.

What the island was, what the characters were doing on the island, what they had to do, what the Dharma Initiative was, who The Others were—all these questions were answered.

The problem is that some people wanted a very detailed explanation of the mythology, which the writers chose not to give. (Damon Lindelof has said he was afraid of an exposition-heavy scene like the one in The Matrix.)

Again, this is personal preference. If you preferred a detailed explanation of all the mythology involved, then you were going to be disappointed. But it’s not fair to say that they didn’t answer most of the major questions.

It’s again holding the writers of Lost to a tougher standard than other writers. Very few writers tie up every little thread neatly. In fact, when they do, it’s something that’s usually criticized. Heck, even Hitchcock didn’t tie up all the threads in his movies.

Thematically, it’s a different issue, because the answer they gave to faith or science and fate or self-determination was “yes,” “yes,” “yes,” and “yes.”

Some people were obviously aggravated not to get a clear-cut answer to the thematic questions the show posed.

Personally, I love the ambiguity.

8. About that “I wasted six years of my life!” thing:  No one wasted six years of their life watching and obsessing about a TV show. Even the most devoted fan spent at most a handful of hours per episode thinking about it. Can we move on from that?

Probably not, It sounds so dramatic, I doubt we’ll ever see that mantra disappear.

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Top 8 Things People Still Get Wrong About The Lost Finale

    1. You’re not alone. I’ve watched it three times now and I plan on purchasing the box set to view it a fourth time. Then when I have kids, I will watch it with them again. Next time through though, I’ll read up on the episode on the lostpedia, and go through all the links that are connected to the episode. It’s always fun doing so because then you get the “Ooooohhh..now I get it.” Even the third time through I noticed things that I’ve missed.

      Great post! 😀

  1. Love this post! I loved the Lost series, and I also loved the bittersweet ending. No ending to such an engaging show could ever be perfect, but I think the writers did the series justice.

    1. Thanks! It’s inevitable that some people will be unhappy with the ending of a show, no matter what. Especially when people have years to speculate about how things will wrap up. I agree that they did justice to the story and the characters with the ending of Lost.

      (And I’m AMAZED at the positive response to this post so far! I thought I would get killed the minute I published it, lol! I even dithered about posting it–I was going to do it last week on the anniversary of the finale. I’m sure there are many who would disagree with me, but good to know that many people actually LIKED the ending.)

      1. Perhaps its a case of those few who didn’t like the ending being the vocal ones complaining about it. It was a real “thinkers” ending for me – bringing the whole series into sharp focus as ultimately Jack’s story (as it was in the beginning). And long after it was over, I’d catch myself saying things like – “wasn’t it interesting that Jack didn’t choose to have the perfect relationship with his father in the “perfect world” but rather be the father that his own father wasn’t” and marvelled at how Sawyer could have so easily gone either way, and chose the “good” path. Ah, so many memories. Thankyou for reminding me what a great series this was.

  2. Great post! Was a huge fan of Lost and the only thing I found frustrating about the finale was the multitude of crazy misconceptions people had about it. I heard so many folks carrying on about #1 it made me want to scream!

    1. Thanks!

      I remember when the scene between Jack and Christian first played I was a little annoyed by the use of on-the-nose dialog. I thought, can’t they trust viewers to get it without such a blatant explanation? Turns out, even with the blatant explanation, some people still didn’t get it. Oh, well, there are also people convinced that Tony was gunned down after the fried onion scene in the final episode of the Sopranos.

  3. Very good post. People who complain that not enough questions were answered obviously didn’t get the point. Even the characters didn’t get all of the answers, so why should the audience? In the end, the answers are just minor details anyway. It is the impact they made on the people they care about that really matter.

  4. Stopping by today after you liked my post and followed my blog. I watched the whole series start to finish as it aired, and the only thing that bugged me about the finale was the bait and switch of the so-called “flash sideways” (that was really a flash forward, I guess). It seemed superfluous. As for the main storyline, the writers brought it to a perfect end and the last scene of Jack on the island still brings tears. No comparison to the Seinfeld finale, which was awful for one reason—it wasn’t funny.

    1. I totally get what you’re saying–I guess deep down, there was always that hope that the flash sideways was some kind of reset for the characters, that they would come up with a way to do that without it being a cheat. When that didn’t happen, I can see why people were disappointed and would have rather not had the flash sideways at all.

      I liked it–I think they used it as an opportunity to explore the characters even more deeply, and I like the mythical aspect of the hero’s ascension. But again, I get why not everyone would love that.

      My beef is when people misunderstand those final flash sideways scenes and ignore the–as you say–perfect final scene of Jack’s death, and how that brought the story full circle.

      1. I wasn’t hoping for (or wanting) a reset. I thought that they might end up following the same path somehow anyway but I wasn’t sure. I just didn’t like how the scene with the sunken island and the Dharma shark ended up meaning nothing. That is, unless the shark was in his own purgatorial waiting room 🙂

  5. Finally someone who gets the essence of Lost. I’m not saying that everyone who didn’t like the show is wrong, everyone is entitled to his own opinion. But what I do think is that many people got bad feelings about the ending and stuck to that without re-considering. I mean, I have spoken to many people who just said “wow, the ending was awful, they didn’t answer anything” , just sitting and asking simple questions like “which mysterys were unanswered?”, and I just refuted every point. Then things like “the mystical thing was something they came up with in the final season and had no point”. Again, that is something easily refuted. Finally, many of them just had left the argument “well, I just didn’t like it”, which is just fine, but I feel sad about the false legend the the ending created. I mean, it is OBVIOUS that they were not dead all the time and yet that’s a sentence that comes out EVERY TIME someone speaks of Lost, even if the one that says it admits that he didn’t watch the show or didn’t understand it. I feel sad because that is a “curse” that will never abandon the show, and it dirties the legacy and memory of what for a bunch of years was considered one of the best tv show in history.

    1. Thank you so much! I feel your frustration, but I’m hoping in time the “legend” will fade and there will be a critical re-examination of the ending. It WAS a great show–certainly, one of the best on the major networks.

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

  6. Critical analysis:
    1. Saying that the show is about the characters or the plot is an ultimately subjective statement. People who see the show as plot driven do so for good reason. The show Lost isn’t well known for having great characters, it is well known for being confusing and having “mysteries.” People are not wrong or misreading anything if they are disappointed at a lack of closure or elaboration of these mysteries
    2. The problem with the religion isn’t that it comes out of nowhere..It’s that it is disgustingly ethnocentric. After they die they all meet up in heaven. In a church. A christian styled church. With stained glass windows giving little nods to the major world religions. And the doors to the white lights of heaven are opened by a man named “Christian Shepard.” Because people of all colors and creeds are accepted into the liberal white christian view of the afterlife. It’s pathetic really. Because the no one even notices this. But trust me, if they ended up in a mosque styled heaven, or a buddist temple styled heaven, people would have noticed. (Note: I have nothing against Christianity, or against the idea of all religions going to the same heaven, just poor storytelling, or all religions going to an obviously christian heaven).
    3. They kill the smoke monster who would bring darkness to the world and destroy reality (as in the universe….) by having a fist fight with him and then Kate shoots him. Now I get that his mortality is explained, but could this have been any more lame? It’s almost like Jack punches the smoke monster.
    4. Even though the flash sideways doesn’t negate previous tragedies, it also serves no purpose other than to shamelessly tell the audience, “your favorite characters end up happily ever after in an aesthetically christian heaven, with all your favorite couples together, smiling like idiots.” What story needs that? How does that serve the plot other than to make audiences feel warm and fuzzy inside? They would have been smarter to just make the island purgatory.

    1. It seems the flash-sideways is the sticking point for most who disliked the ending. I had my own issues with it (the on-the-nose dialogue, for one thing) and as far as the present time-line, I agree that the battle with the smoke monster could have been handled better. I just finished a book that I otherwise enjoyed where the heroes vanquished the bad guys just a tad too easily. Seems like many stories falter on this point–either the final battle goes on too long or not long enough.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to share your own analysis.

  7. excellent analysis which hit a couple of my biggest pet peeves over the complaints about the Lost finale.
    The whole “they were dead the whole time” I never had any patience for. Christian clearly tells Jack that “some died before you…some LONG AFTER”. I don’t know how much bigger a plot anvil has to fall on some viewers heads. I saw the same scenes and never interpreted the luggage or the fuselage as proof of everyone dying in the crash. For me it more like…well the Egyptians left behind statues and stonework, the American military left behind rope bridges and atom bombs, the Dharma Initiative left cabins and hatches……our characters left behind the wreckage of Flight 805. Anyone who found the island left something to tell others they had been there.

    And the religious aspects only came out of nowhere only if one seldom saw an episode of LOST before the final. You got former monk, devout Muslim, a guy who carves scripture into his walking stick…all the faith vs science themes. LOST always had that hint of religion in it. Always

    Ending too happy…well everything can’t be The Red Wedding. Some of us prefer not wanting to stick heads in an oven at a series conclusion.

    I can think of a couple of tweeks that maybe the final could have had but negative response was all out proportion to the “crime”.

    LOST wonderful series with a lovely ending.

    1. I agree a tweek here and there would have improved the ending (as I mentioned in my reply to the previous comment, the battle between Jack and Faux Locke could have been handled better) but it worked for me much more than it didn’t. I’m also not sure why even if the ending was perceived as “happy” why that’s necessarily a bad thing. I never assumed it was a story heading for tragedy. Like I said in my original post, I found it bittersweet, which I thought was appropriate to the tone of the show.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  8. Totally agree Debbie, these days so many people [film-makers, book publishers] want happy endings and all the loose ends tied up. Leave it for the reader/viewer to imagine and make up their own mind, I say! SD

  9. I thought the ending was just right…it was quietly moving (Sawyer’s choosing to be a “good” guy, Sun and Jin getting to experience Sun’s pregnancy together, Farraday’s mum getting to be a good mother, Ben getting to connect to his daugher and her mom). It also left you with intriguing new mysteries – was Jack and Juliette’s “son” real? What happened to Michael and Walt? And Locke’s girlfriend Helen? And biggest of all – what will happen to the characters after they “walk into the light?” Will they cease to be – or go on to another plane of existence? Will those that finally ended up together get to remain together? I thought it was intriguing that Jin and Sun, once they are “enlightened” as to their former existence, still express joy of Sun’s apparent re-pregnancy. The best shows (and finales) leave you with talking-points, long after they’ve aired.

  10. I’m not sure how often you check this but I loved all the info here. My wife and I have watched the series every year for the past 5 years. So I’ve officially seen it 6 times and she, 5. It’s our favorite, and the connections we make with the characters are always amazing and we always cry at the series finale. It’s bittersweet but my absolute favorite show ever.

    1. Wow, what timing! I just finished watching the entire series with my mom, who had never seen it before. In fact, at this very moment I’m listening to some of the soundtrack music. Just the music makes me bawl! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s