I’ll just work up a “brief” recap of the episode tonight (and by “brief”, I mean 1500 words); I’ll probably create a more comprehensive “what it all means” post in another day or so. Actually, it’ll probably be a multi-part series! Too much to write about! Anyway, here goes my recap:
I loved the way the episode began; it was actually a companion piece to the episode’s concluding shot. We began with scenes of Jack, Ben, Locke, Sawyer, Kate in the two different realities (set beautifully to Giacchino’s score) while Christian’s “body” was being transported to the church. Outside the church, Desmond tells Kate, “No one can tell you why you’re here,” a line that brims with resonance in light of the conclusion.
Desmond is right; no one can tell you why you’re “here” when you’re in the Sideways. But it seems that the show goes out of its way in the finale to say that you can’t really be “here” all by yourself. It’s only in the context of community that we find our truest, most complete selves. “Live together, die alone.” Right? More to say about that in my “what it all means” post later in the week.
Meanwhile, the Island narrative begins with Jack standing mid-stream in the “river of life”. Its fitting, since this episode finally depicts our protagonist as a destiny-soaked hero for a change. Jack has really taken a beating by some fans over the years, but I’ve always been partial to the doc. I thought Fox played the hero well in this episode, especially in his confrontations with Locke. His “I’m going to kill you” speech will go down as one of my favorite moments in LOST history.
The Sideways scene between Jin, Sun, and Juliet was the first real tearjerker of the night. We all cried foul a few weeks ago when our Korean couple died aboard the sub, especially given that Ji Yeon would have to grow up as an orphan. But, as we learned, the Sideways story plays as a “happily ever after” for our castaways. For the Kwons, this means reunion as a fully pregnant couple awaiting the birth of their young daughter with the help of Dr. Juliet.
The series of reunions that followed were equally emotional with each one building in intensity. Personally, I found the reunions to be some of the most emotionally satisfying moments of the entire series. The flashbacks to the past, Giacchino’s score, the actors’ measured recognition of these “aha!” moments…the whole thing just worked for me. (Well, except for maybe the Sayid / Shannon thing. Actually, their whole relationship always creeped me out a little.) Taking the cake were Juliet and Sawyer, whose interaction demonstrated the great chemistry these two always had. (I loved it when she told Sawyer, “Maybe you should read the machine it’s rights.”) Jack almost had his moment of recognition with Locke and then later with Kate, but we knew better than to fall for that. This doc’s Daddy issues could only be resolved one way; through opening up his dead father’s coffin at the very end (fittingly). More on that in a later post.
Back on the Island, I loved the symmetry with Jack and Hurley and their “I believe in you” moments. Remember, it was Hurley’s speech in Season 4 that undermined Jack’s leadership and convinced a good number of the castaways to stay with Locke’s camp in New Otherton. As Jack marched headlong to meet his destiny, Hurley stepped forward and professed his belief in Jack as the new Jacob. Little did he know that Jack would reciprocate in like manner. Symmetry like this really made this episode work for me.
Desmond and Jack’s conversation outside the cave was especially important. Desmond tried to convince Jack that thwarting MIB’s plan to blow up the Island didn’t really matter; Desmond had inside information that there was something more to come, “a place where we can be with the ones that we love”. But Jack would have none of it. “All of this matters,” he said authoritatively. And both of them are right. I think this is the producers nodding to those who would criticize their message as a “pie in the sky”, blissful theology. Christians have often been criticized for being “so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good.” Jack and Desmond seem to be saying that it’s possible to subscribe to a robust eschatology while affirming the sanctity and value of life in the present. In fact, doesn’t eschatology properly infuse the present with even more meaning than otherwise? This is one of the great legacies of LOST.
My favorite Island scene, though, was the conversation Locke and Jack engaged in while lowering Desmond down the falls into the light. MIB channels Locke’s memories, reminiscing about Jack and Locke’s “man of science / man of faith” arguments in the Hatch. Jack fires back: “You’re not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face, but you’re nothing like him. Turns out he was right about most everything. I just wish I could’ve told him that while he was still alive.” A final showdown in the Locke / Jack Squareoff Hall of Fame. I love how the scene ended with the camera looking upward at these two as it descended down the falls, a clear allusion to the Season 1 finale where Jack and Locke found themselves staring down the Hatch.
Desmond’s purpose on the Island was revealed: it seems that his electromagnetic exposure through turning the failsafe key uniquely qualified him to “release the cork” and continue to live. But this spelled doom for the Island and its inhabitants, prompting Locke to claim victory over Jack. However, Desmond’s actions also changed “the rules” for Smokey, as we learned that he was susceptible to injury, a new wrinkle in his constitution that opened the door for his demise.
But the releasing of the cork wreaked havoc on the Island. We see an act of heroism on Ben’s behalf; he pushes Hurley out of the way as a gigantic tree falls. The tree pins Ben and the castaways have to pry him free. But this impulsive act of humanitarianism and free will is not lost on Hurley. His first act as Island Protector is to appoint Ben as his #2, a cabinet position that Linus gladly accepts. Finally, it seems, there is peace on the Island for Benjamin Linus.
But this peace pales in comparison to the peace our castaways experience together in the closing shots at the church. Kate’s comment to Jack on the Island — “Tell me I’m going to see you again.” — they tap into our most natural human inclination when we’re faced with saying goodbye. We want to know that this is possible; we want to know that our love that we feel so strongly and tangibly in the present will somehow live on into something greater than our present reality. And that’s another enduring legacy of this show; because if the finale affirms anything, it affirms the hope that all of this is heading somewhere. What matters along the way is the people we choose to share the journey with. Live together, indeed.
- There was something fitting about the way Smokey met his demise. In keeping with the theme of the show, it took a combined effort from both Kate and Jack to kill MIB. Yet again, we see that these characters were meant to live in community with one another.
- Based on his comments to Locke (acknowledging the presence of the Island’s bright light) and Jack (having an understanding of how good the Sideways world is / would be; remembering that he sat next to Jack on 815), Desmond has full cognizance of both realities, it seems. I guess we were right about him earlier when it was suggested that his role was to serve as some sort of “shepherd” between the Island word and the Sideways, transporting the souls of our heroes to their communal afterlife.
- Was it just me, or did Sawyer have some of the funniest lines of the season tonight? My personal favorite was when he called MIB “Smokey”. Although Hurley as “Bigfoot” got a chuckle out of me, too.
- Did anybody else think Claire was gonna blow Miles, Lapidus, and Richard to kingdom come, a la Rousseau? I was worried there for a minute.
- Richard getting a gray hair. Very cool. He’s no longer ageless, I suppose.
- How about our boy Lapidus? Looks like they were keeping him around for something heroic after all! And did you catch that little “Amen” escape his lips when he got the Ajira plane in the air?
- Claire’s salvation is proof that yes, you can come back from the dark side.
As for answers, the finale played about like I expected: short on answers, long on character resolution. And for me, that’s absolutely fine. I would’ve liked a little more information about a few things (in particular: how Jacob’s cabin worked and how long Smokey was contained there), but coming into the finale, I was more interested in how these characters’ stories were going to resolve. And I walk away from six years of this show feeling extremely satisfied with the way the story ended.
How about you? Where does the finale rank in the canon of LOST episodes for you? Top 10? Greatest ever? A colossal flop? Were you satisfied? Or disappointed? Or a little bit of both?