Because, I did. I cried. And then I cried some more. And then I sobbed outright, and my husband said to me this morning, ‘so, I heard you crying. Did they all die?’ And I said…
‘No. I mean, yes. They were all dead at the end. But not, like, they all died dead. More like, everyone dies dead.’
That was my understanding of the strange, fascinating, gut-wrenching ending. They were all dead – well, Jack said so and his father, Christian Shephard, confirmed it – and the Sideways world was a kind of purgatory or bardo world or reincarnative space where souls go before they move on to… somewhere. The island world was real, the drama that played out there was real – real, as in real primary life real, although Christian Shephard insisted to Jack at the end that ‘this’, the sideways-purgatory-bardo world was also really real, which is why I wondered if there was some kind of reincarnative aspect, on which more below – and the sideways world was a world beyond or after or beyond-after that world. (I also think that it was, at the very end, Jack’s beyond-after world specifically. More on this, too, below.)
After it ended, I saw some immediate griping on the Internet. It wasn’t supposed to be purgatory! They didn’t say what the Island was! WAAAAALT! Which, whatever. I liked it. I loved it. Any questions that I had that didn’t get answered were of the niggling variety that don’t bear upon the central plotline. Which was, as I saw it, the adventure of a group of people on a mystical island that turns out to be a saving-the-world kind of adventure, but more importantly, a saving-the-soul kind of redemptive adventure. Why the women on the island couldn’t bear children doesn’t really matter in that larger picture, although I would argue that that question – and most others – have their answers in the larger general narrative (Jacob made up rules, as we know from Across The Sea and from this last episode – Jack to Hurley: “that’s how Jacob played it. We can do it our own way” – as his Mother did, and these were often arbitrary, and it seems reasonable given the fact that real mother got her brains bashed in by his adoptive mother and by his general pissiness that he’d make a rule that no Island women could give birth. This also explains why the Others took children and saw them as ‘special’ – they couldn’t have any of their own.)
So here’s how I saw it. Feel free to disagree, but know that I’m right.
1) The sideways world was a purgatory slash bardo world slash reincarnative timeline – pick whichever gateway to the afterlife speaks to your spirituality. The key thing to notice, though, I think, was that that world as it plays out in the last few minutes of the show is Jack’s world. It’s Jack’s gateway to the afterlife because, at the end, it’s Jack’s story. It’s Jack’s death. Which could be one explanation as to why Daniel and Charlotte and Walt and Richard Alpert and Ji Yeon and whomever else weren’t there: they weren’t central to Jack’s core community. (Another answer – not necessarily exclusive from the one that I just gave – is that those other folk weren’t there because they hadn’t come far enough along in their respective redemptions. When Daniel’s creepy mom asks Desmond if Daniel’s ‘going too,’ Desmond says ‘not with me.’ So.)
ANYWAY. As Jack’s father said, the ‘now’ of that endgame – of Jack’s endgame – is an eternal now; the people in the congregation died before Jack and after Jack, and Jack’s communion (boy, these terms are loaded, aren’t they?) with him is a communion that takes place when he is ready, and their communions with him and the rest of their core communities take place when they are ready and all those communions take place whenever, out of time. (Socrates: the soul takes flight to the world that is eternal…) (oh god… must… not… cry.. again…)
2) The Island world is/was real. Jack’s death there is real (and they couldn’t have made it more gut-punchy if they’d tried. Nice move on the dog, Lindelhuse. It’s like you wanted me to sob my guts out). He did save the world. That plane flying overhead was the Lapidus-piloted Ajira flight, taking Kate and Sawyer and Miles and Richard to safety. Hurley and Ben did stay on to protect the Island for the rest of their lives (Hurley to Ben, outside the church: “you were a great number two.”) Presumably, more Dharma intitiatives and Widmore corporations and the like would have come, were still to come, to plumb the Island for its secrets and its treasure (‘they always come, it’s always the same’) and to be fought off by Hurley and Ben and whomever replaced Hurley and Ben and so on. This means, of course, that the Losties didn’t die on the original plane crash. That was real, their Jacob-led quest was real, it was all real. That’s why they mattered so much to each other, why they needed each other in the end – they’d lived out, as Jack’s dad said, ‘the most important time’ of their lives together.
3) That said, I did wonder, at about 4am this morning, whether they mightn’t have died in the blast at the end of Season 5. I don’t think that works, though, for a number of reasons that I’m too lazy to explore right now.
4) Sure, we didn’t get to see Walt, but who cares? The kid was psychic or something, but so were Hurley and Miles. Walt and his dad got off the Island; his dad came back, got stuck there as a ghost, yadda yadda. And I don’t want to hear bitching about the stone foot/statue of Tawaret. I thought that got cleared up in Across the Sea, when circa-500 BC Smoke Mother (she was a smoke monster too, right?) explained to her boys that people had always come to the island, and that it was always the same, they tried to destroy it, etc, etc. Some ancient Egyptians were among them. Case closed. The producers have been insisting for forever that this show was about the characters more than the mysteries, and I thought that with this finale they really sold that. I wanted to see Charlie and Claire reunited. I wanted Jack to let go. I wanted Ben’s redemption. That shit mattered. The big toes didn’t.
5) One question that I don’t think got answered, although I have some ideas, is what the deal on the Smoke Monster was. Was the monster created when the original MiB was tossed into the Big Glowy Waterfall Of Awesome, or was there another monster (Mother, as I’ve hypothesized before) before him? Is the smoke a product of corrupt souls coming in contact with the light? Why didn’t Jack or Desmond become a Smoky? (The answer to that question, I think, is that the answer to the previous question is yes: tormented or corrupt souls corrupt the light or are corrupted further by the light.) What I think is clear, though, is that Jack’s plan to kill Smoky was the same as Smoky’s plan to kill the Island: turn off the light. So he did, thinking – I think – that once Smoky was killed (made mortal by the dying of the light), things would be okay. Which he was only partly right about: turning out the light allowed him to kill Smoky, but it also nearly killed everything else, so he had to go turn it on again – and it had to be him, someone willing to make a pure sacrifice for the Island, rather than Desmond, who made it clear that he just wanted to get back to the afterlife (“none of this matters, brotha!”) who might have become a smoke monster if he’d been the one to – god, I can’t believe that I’m going to go here – turn on the heartlight.
6) And that’s what the Island was, I think: the heart – the hearth – of the world. I don’t know that this is really speculative, since they – Jacob, his Mother – talked about it so much, but still. What that ‘light’ means, though – is it goodness? is it life? is it the realm of the Forms, per Socrates’ explanation in Plato’s Republic, which gives shape and meaning to everything in the ‘visible’ realm of the lived world? – is left open, and that’s good, I think. If they’d had Jacob give a monologue on what, exactly, the light is, we’d all have rolled our eyes right back in our heads. Isn’t it more fun – more interesting – to come up with our own answers? (I personally like my own theory that Across the Sea was a nod to the idea that Mother was a wink to Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, and protector of the light.)
7) Why I cried. God, I cried, and I’m still parsing my feelings to figure why the gut-wrenching sobs. Mamas and babies and dead dads and the idea of a coherent afterlife are a part of that, but hell: why did a TV show have me curled up in the fetal position, weeping uncontrollably? I’m still thinking about that.
I might write more about this, after I read what the rest of the Internet has to say. I might not. Either way, know this: I will miss Lost. I will miss Lost some lots.
For a full and fully awesome recap of the episode check MamaPop later today – Tracey will be working her usual Lost magic. You’ll probably cry again, so bring tissue.
POSTSCRIPT: This guy, writing here, gives a pretty kick-ass explanation as to why it was so profoundly moving, and also works in the term ‘Leibnizian,’ which makes me a little weak in the knees –
I view the show’s cosmology as reflecting the existence of all possible universes and we get to see, and live with, a few of them. That includes the universe where they all die in the initial crash, the universe where they all die in the hydrogen bomb explosion, the universe where the hydrogen bomb creates an alternative reality, the universe where there really is a miraculously surviving “Oceanic Six,” the universe where the main island narrative happens, the universe where it is all a dream of Jack’s, and bits of others as well. This Leibnizian move “explains” the show’s numerous unanswered questions, such as those about the lottery numbers and many more. It was possible, so it happened, toss in the anthropic principles as well.
The most striking moment of the final episode was when Locke tells Jack, quite sincerely, that he does not in fact have a son. The question remains how the different universes fit together or interact and in some manner it seems they do. The final episode is extremely effective in bringing out the dreamy and speculative tones of many of the previous episodes.
Most of all I viewed the ending as tragic. It was not mainly about any particular account of the metaphysics of the island. It was about how few couples had the chance to actually live together, love together, and stay together. The perfect reunions of the couples in the “we’re all dead” scenario only drove this point home. I found this contrast moving.
Yes! Ditto! Me too! EAT IT, HATERS.