Still lost

Okay, I admit it. I was hooked on Lost.

Last night ABC aired the final episode in the series about the survivors of an airplane crash on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. All season long the teasers had been telling us that we would finally get the answers we’ve been waiting for. What I got out of it was more questions.

My biggest question is, just what the hell is the “flash sideways”? At the end of Season 5/beginning of Season 6, Juliet gets sucked into the pit at the Swan Station where Jack had dropped the hydrogen bomb. The bomb had failed to detonate, so Juliet, with her last ounce of strength, bangs on it with a rock until it explodes. The next scene we see is Jack back on Oceanic 815. The plane hits some turbulence, just like it did in the pilot episode six years ago, but this time it stays in the air. Jack goes to the restroom and, when he comes back, Desmond is sitting in the seat next to him, which is strange, since he was not on the original Flight 815. The camera then pans down from the plane and we see that the island is underwater.

For the rest of Season 6 we jump back and forth between the island and the “flash sideways”. So what is it? An alternate reality? A might-have-been? It’s what would have happened if Flight 815 had landed safely in Los Angeles — but not exactly. Jack has a son, which he didn’t when the plane crashed, Sawyer/Ford is a cop instead of a con man, and Desmond is the trusted right-hand man of Charles Widmore instead of his estranged son-in-law.

The only character who seems to grasp what it is is Desmond, whose mind jumps into the alternate world after Widmore jolts him with enough electromagnetism to, well, bring down an airliner. Desmond, when he’s in the sideways world, makes it his mission to bring all the major characters together. To what purpose, he does not say, leaving the characters and the audience in the dark.

Last night’s series finale was supposed to resolve that question, and I guess it did, in a way. In the sideways world, the characters meet each other and touch and then ka-boom!, they suddenly remember everything that happened on the island. Meanwhile, back on the island, Jack is engaged in the final struggle between Good and Evil. He prevails when Kate shoots The Man in Black/Smoke Monster (who has assumed the form of Locke), but in the end the struggle costs him his life. The last scene of the series is of Jack lying in a bamboo thicket and closing his eyes — a fitting end, since the series began with him lying in the same thicket and opening his eyes.

From this — and from the meeting with his deceased father and all the characters from the series in a church at the end — we are supposed to understand that the sideways world is actually heaven, or some sort of afterlife (Purgatory, perhaps, where the characters can do a reset?).

It’s not a Christian heaven, that’s for sure. For Christians there’s no sex in the afterlife (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-35 — maybe that’s why secularists don’t care for Christianity), but here Sawyer/Ford has sex with at least two women and Jin and Sun get it on, too.

There are other weird things about this sideways world. For example, we learn that Jack had his son with his ex-wife, who turns out to be Juliet. But near the end, Locke informs him that he has no son. There’s no explanation for this. You would think the sideways world, even if different from the island world, would at least be consistent with itself.

And we never did get answers to all the questions we had about Lost. For example:

  • Who are The Others, and where did they come from?
  • Why do women who get pregnant on the island die during the third trimester?
  • Who built all the ruins on the island?
  • Why did the Dharma Initiative come to the island?
  • Why were people always killing each other?
  • And what’s the deal with the polar bears?

I guess the survival of polar bears on a tropical island should provide us with some reassurance. Even if the worst fears of the global warming alarmists come true and the polar ice caps melt, we now know that polar bears will not become extinct.

I was probably expecting too much from the series finale. I’ve always had the feeling that the writers of TV serials make up stuff as they go along. They put out a lot of red herrings to hold audience interest, but then can’t figure out how to resolve all the subplots and end up leaving a lot of stuff hanging. I took a creative writing course in college and found that the hardest part of writing fiction is figuring out how to end a story.

It’s probably a good thing the producers chose to end the series after six years. They didn’t try to jump any sharks, and they held audience interest week after week. Although the highly emotional finale left me with a feeling that something is missing, I’ve seen far worse endings to popular series.