Sunday, May 23, 2010

Time to let go

Closing a TV series is a dicey business. Questions and cliffhangers propel TV shows. A movie dispatches its plot and characters in two hours. Lost sustained its spinning (donkey) wheels for six years.

So when something that is meant to keep going and going finally stops, what do you do?

It had to end somehow, which will surely leave people who invested years into the show feeling empty. There's no way to please them all, but one thing is certain: Lost had to move on, and now its obsessive, manic fan base must follow suit.

If you hadn't heard, Lost came to an end in an epic, 2 1/2-hour orgy of sentimentality and spiritual affirmation. All questions weren't answered. All fates weren't spelled out. However, the finale did give us a satisfactory, intensely emotional conclusion, one that won't have me second-guessing my devotion to this one-of-a-kind series.

It was all worth it.

So where to begin? The highlight has to be the grand, messianic sacrifice of Jack Shephard. Always a divisive character, Jack is the well-meaning leader who proved that hell is indeed paved with good intentions. He tried to bring the castaways together from the very first season and failed. He tried to get everyone off the island and failed. He was divorced, destitute and even suicidal after escaping the island for the first time, proving to himself that his father was right to think very little of him.

Then he saw the light. He came back to the island having converted from a man of science to a man of faith. Jack, the tortured, failed hero found his salvation and ultimate redemption by claiming the protectorship mantle of the island from Jacob, taking down the island's force of evil and ultimately sacrificing himself for the sake of his friends and the world. What he couldn't find in life, he found in death.

The final scene, showing Jack stumbling through the bamboo forest until he collapsed provoked some manly tears. He ends up like we first saw him, lying on his back and gazing skyward. And then old friend Vincent appeared to be with Jack in his last moments. (If you've ever had a dog and did not get emotional when that happened, check your pulse.) Jack spots his friends escaping the island in the Ajira plane and smiles, a grin he earned through six bumpy seasons.

And his eye closed.

Before he died, he appointed Hurley as the new protector in what may be one of the most satisfying, memorable scenes in the show's history. Hurley, always full of self-doubt, bitterly argued that Jack didn't have to die. But he eventually knew what had to be done. (The minute he said, "I'm glad it wasn't me" during the last episode, you knew this might happen tonight.)
I bet the Hurley administration was much cooler than Jacob's.

The redemption carousel wasn't about to stop since Hurley needed a right-hand man, and who better than Ben? A perfect ending for Ben, a character who did more than enough evil things to merit infinite hatred from the fans, but through the sheer force of an all-time performance from Michael Emerson, he was always strangely likable. The fact that he came around to being a decent person really made me smile during that scene. He always wanted to be special on the island, which drove him to do many heinous things. Good ol' Hurley made his dream come true at last, right when Ben deserved it the most.

Off the island, we finally find out that the Sideways universe was actually a purgatory-esque waiting room for heaven. All the characters, dead or alive, lived out their fears/doubts/faults/dreams in this spiritual construct throughout the season. They made peace with their real lives and with those they loved the most. Each awakening, from Charlie/Claire to Sawyer/Juliet did its best to draw some tears and raise some goosebumps. While the mythology was always the most interesting facet of the show, the characters and their relationships were the most important. This episode made sure we understood that.

Many of the Lost-aways gathered in a church and waited for Jack to finally come around and accept his death. His scene with his dead father will be parsed like the Zapruder film for the next few decades as it served as the Rossetta Stone for this final season. Some of the characters died before Jack, like Charlie and Sayid, and some died after, like Hurley and Desmond, but they all died at some point. What we saw on the island did happen. There were no do-overs. No re-set button. They just all needed to come to grips before they could all move on to the heavenly white light that awaited them.

Sawyer got to hold Juliet one last time. Sayid got one last kiss with Shannon. Ben apologized for murdering Locke - my favorite scene from the episode. This was the last duet between Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson and I'll be damned if it wasn't fitting. They provided us two of the best and most enduring characters in TV history and I loved that they got closure.
I loved that everyone got closure.

So the phenomenon that was Lost is finally over. Our characters didn't die alone. They all waited for each other in the afterlife because their time together was the most important part of their lives. And meanwhile the island remains, ever mysterious. The "Light" still shines. The wreckage of Oceanic 815 still litters the lonely beach, a memento of the gigantic imprint these people left there on that rock and in our TV-watching lives.

"The End" goes up there with Six Feet Under's finale as the best series closer I've seen. All the debate, all the 25-page Doc Jensen recaps, all the Lostpedia browsing was worth it.

Yeah, I can move on now.

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