I loved LOST from the first moments when a surgeon who wants to fix everything and an arrested murderer became friends. And then a lotto winner who thinks he’s unlucky shook hands with an ex-soldier from the Iraqi Republican Guard. It all thrilled me from that moment as we learned more and more about the survivors of a mysterious plane crash – more reasons why they never would have been friends in real life and even more ways their lives were connected whether they knew it or not.
To the loud noise in the jungle and the crazy whispering and giant polar bear, I was all “Enh. Whatever. Show me another end-of-the-day campfire montage!”
Eventually, I admit, the mystery and science fiction aspect sucked me in as well. This show may have singlehandedly won me over to new genres of entertainment. But still, even though I wanted answers to all the crazy stuff, I mostly just wanted to keep witnessing the amazing human ability to forgive and sacrifice and grow and the beautiful power of friendship.
To that end, the LOST finale totally satisfied me. When it comes to answers? Not so much. So many things I wanted to happen, didn’t. Although, when I think about the answers I didn’t get…I realize maybe that is an answer in itself. For instance:
Was Jacob God or what?
Through most of the series I expected an ultimate good and an ultimate evil, something like God and the devil. But the characters theoretically in those roles kept confusing me. The Smoke Monster in the form of John Locke, for instance, was obviously bad. He killed all the time and without any glimmer of being justified for it. But it seemed like, a lot of the time, he was telling the truth whereas his nemesis was all vague and annoying and inconsistent. So until the last few episodes I had to wonder if the creators would perform the ultimate twist and show us that the guy telling the truth and hanging out with the survivors was actually the guy to follow and the calmer voiced dude in white was just a master manipulator.
I wanted a strong answer to this question. And what I found out was that they were both just guys really. And still I wondered if the righter one was really totally right. So many things about Jacob bugged me. He accepted a job from a woman who killed his mother in cold blood and was so incredibly vague about said job that I sort of wanted to strike her head with a rock. He believed in her cause without much information at all.
Yeah, so Jacob wasn’t God. But nobody actually said, “Yes, Jacob’s the better guy, but he’s not perfect.” And yet, they kinda did. He said it himself when he told Kate she could still have the job of protector if she wanted it. He’d crossed her name off when she became a mother, but it was, after all, “Just chalk on a cave wall.” And in the end when Hurley feels badly about taking a job that keeps people from leaving the island, Ben says, “That’s how Jacob ran things. Maybe there’s a better way.” So, really, I guess I got my answer to that. Jacob was definitely fallible.
The problem with that, for me, is that I wanted better redemption for the Man in Black. Couldn’t we have had an Anakin Skywalker moment? Couldn’t Jacob at some point have apologized for not letting his brother just leave the island already before he turned him into the horrible man-eating smoke monster? Something like that could have happened when the Smoke Monster lost its immortality. “I just wanted to leave,” he could have said. “I’m sorry about that,” Jack could have answered. “He should have let you. But you definitely, definitely shouldn’t have killed all those people.” And then punch him in the face and kick him to the ocean. You know?
What is the Meaning of Life?
I think there are two ways to look at a show like this. You either take it for what it is, considering everything only within the context of the show (in which case, wow, so not enough answers at the end). Or you take it as a bit of a metaphor within the context of the universe we know and against the things that we believe. When you do the latter, there still weren’t enough answers. The religious leanings were extremely vague, especially in the end. But with this approach, there’s a lot more room for explanation.
For instance, the truth is, I didn’t want the creators to try and tell us point blank the meaning to life and what the afterlife would entail. Because I knew they couldn’t actually know that since none of us can. What they did instead was focus on what we do know – or what many of us believe anyway : There is more than this. And, in even greater detail: We need each other. I loved that.
Science or Faith?
The Man in Black kept insisting to Jack that Locke was wrong about everything. There’s nothing to believe in, nothing to protect, no such thing as destiny. And I wanted the finale to declare a winner on that. And at first, I didn’t think it did.
When the Man in Black fought Jack in the end, he said right before he thought he was about to kill him, “You died for nothing Jack.” Fortunately Kate killed the monster instead, and Jack lived until the end of the show. But when he did die at the end, there still wasn’t any definitive proof that everything had been for some grand purpose. Though he got the water turned back on and the Light and all, we didn’t really know if the whole world would have died without it. We didn’t know for sure that everyone’s lives would be wonderful now. And yet Jack smiled as he died. And I think it’s because he knew whether he was right about everything or not, he’d chosen the more fulfilling path. He had chosen faith, and it felt much better to have a destiny than not. He had loved and risked his life for others. He had moved past addiction and selfishness. He had found a way to believe in something bigger than himself. And he was glad for it.
What the -H- was the Island??
As I read in this article, the real faith-or-science answer was given to us in the fact that so few answers were given to us. We were asked as a fan to take a lot of things – well – on faith. Why did some people find healing on the Island? They just did. How did Jacob know so much, how could he leave the Island at will, what was the deal with his lighthouse? That stuff just was. It kind of comes back to what I consider to be the main point of the show: Characters and relationship. Since Juliet had tried for years to figure out why pregnant women died but never found the answer, then neither did we. Because what mattered more was Juliet’s journey. Ben didn’t get to learn why the Island healed Locke’s legs but not his tumor, so neither did we. Instead, we watched Ben struggle with whether or not he’d keep following the side that could have healed him but didn’t.
Here’s what the Island means to me. It’s a scientific phenomenon and a place where the spiritual is pretty much as real as the physical. And we don’t know why or how any of that is true. What we learned instead was how different people responded. Some people studied the scientific phenomenon at the cost of human life. Some people took the spiritual aspect and turned it into a religion that let them decide who got to participate in that spirituality. They invented rules that weren’t necessarily the rules the Island demanded. They stole human life too and they removed free will.
Others faced the Island with the best, if imperfect, intentions. They studied it, so they could learn to help. They signed on as protectors. They valued human life over their own purpose. They were willing to suffer for a greater good.
That’s how I see it. I walked away from the finale pretty much speechless, unsure whether I liked what I’d seen or not. And then Jimmy Kimmel, of all people, helped me get it. He said, “Life on earth is a test, and this was Jack’s.”
I don’t think we only saw Jack’s journey, but I do think whatever the Island is, the story was in how people reacted to it. I also think, one of the actors or creators summed it up in the pre-show before the finale. Many different people. Many different backgrounds. Many different reasons to be uncool. “But can we get along?” And the answer to that question was definitely a resounding yes.