LOST, Season 6, Episode 18: “The End”
Written by Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse
Directed by Jack Bender
Aired 5/23/2010 on ABC
It’s been three years since the LOST finale aired – but people are still bitter, given the Twitter reaction over the Breaking Bad series finale, which saw “The End” detractors flinging turds at Lindelof for no apparent reason except to do so. Like the 120 hours that came before it, “The End” was confusing, mysterious, and often frustrating – but when it came time to put its cards on the table, LOST pushed away from the quasi-mythological/spiritual narrative it had built for the last four seasons, and returned to spend some quality time with our protagonist, Jack Shepard. I’m talking, of course, about the final scene – which for some, is the most hated television scene in history. For myself (and others, I hope) it’s a reminder of how emotional television can actually be, remembering what LOST was really about: reconciliation – and of course, letting go.
Yes, there are many parts of “The End” that don’t quite work as well as intended: as our band of merry islanders split up to get a plane off the ground and defeat Locke once and for all, Lindelof and Cuse’s script stumbles trying to give dramatic and philosophical weight to the proceedings. There’s still the show’s trademark visual intensity, with Jack Bender’s direction constantly lifting scenes above their source material (the closeups of Desmond’s face as he uncorks the island’s source, the final Jack/Not Locke showdown), which itself is an action-packed mishmash of head-shaking moments (Whitmore’s whispers) and forced resolutions (a post-stabbing Jack making out with Kate on the rainy, rocky edges of the island).
Where “The End” finds its footing, oddly, is in the much-maligned “flash sideways” sequences – an ambitious endeavor that ultimately confused a lot of viewers once it’s meaning is revealed (I can’t count the amount of people who said “So everyone died on the plane crash?”, something the shot of the empty island over the credits didn’t help any). The problem with the flash-sideways were never the stories themselves – it was the lack of context, a lack of communicating to the audience that the show was narrowing its narrative focus, not widening it. People (including myself) searched for clues and answers that would never be in the flash-sideways: which some viewed as a drawn-out, cheap aversion exercise to string viewers along.
Was it? I like to think those sequences served a different purpose: by repeating old bits of story and showing a group of characters “in the dark” about their own lives, Lindelof and Cuse were showing the audience that these people, much as they had changed, were still healing. Letting go is a not an easy thing: whether it be a relationship, a new job, a town – or the end of one’s life. As humans, we’re oddly drawn to bitterness (hello, internet) and negativity, dwelling on the opportunities to isolate ourselves from the world and ignoring the things in life that really, truly unsettle us the most. This purgatory these characters are in during the flash-sideways is not just a spiritual one, focused on being mystical in that special LOST way: it’s about bringing attention back to the characters, reminding us all why they were damaged, and ended up on the island in the first place.
None of these stories was more important than Jack and Christian: their relationship defined the heart of LOST, the one bit of narrative it couldn’t leave hanging with a cliffhanger or unsatisfying resolution. And rather than have Christian appear as a vision, or some vicious manifestation of The Man in Black, the writers of LOST give Jack and his father the reconciliation they deserved, in the only place they could: somewhere in between this life and the next, in a place where Jack and the ones he loved (and in turn, the ones they loved) could all let go together.
Those final flash-sideways scenes reminded viewers why they grew so connected to these characters in the first place: these were damaged people who had found redemption in others, men and women who couldn’t come to terms with the biggest mistakes of their lives, most of which stemmed from parental relationships (Kate and her stepfather, Jack and his Dad, Locke/Sawyer and their fathers, etc etc). And how did they heal themselves? Together – as Jack one famously said, “we can either live together or we can die alone”; LOST was a story of self-redemption, showing us that life is nothing without the people we love, the ones who support us, anger us, and make us laugh (and in the case of Shannon and Sayid, the closest piece of attractive tail… even that still pisses me off). We’re nothing without our family: and for these merry band of plane crash survivors, they found that deep companionship in each other’s flaws and carefully-guarded shortcomings.
Next time you watch “The End”, put aside all the magical water drinking (no bathroom breaks in this episode? Really?) the brotherly feuds, and whatever the fuck happened to Walt and why he mattered. As much as it liked to parade these plots around, LOST was a show about the human soul, and how a damaged soul doesn’t have to be lost forever. With some love, some raw fish, and a lot of running through the woods in the rain, LOST is about how powerful love and forgiveness can be in a world filled with betrayal, corruption and regret – once we’ve learned how to forgive others (and more importantly, ourselves), we can finally let go and “move on”, together.
– Randy Dankievitch