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The LOST Series Finale: One Year Later

One of the most popular posts of all time on my blog in its old location was an explanation I offered of the ending of LOST, of which today is the one year anniversary. And so I thought I would repost it here, and invite discussion of LOST now that we have the benefit of a year’s hindsight. What questions do you still have, if any? Do you still care how the show ended, and did you find the “Places in the Heart” ending satisfying? Would you have preferred an ending with an explanation along the lines of the “midichlorians” in Star Wars? [Click the links in the preceding text for some of my reflections on those topics].

Anyway, below is my post on the ending of LOST, which originally appeared here:

Some people are puzzled and/or disappointed by the ending. And so here is my attempt to explain it.

Imagine that you spend several years of your life on a strange island, then off the strange island, then return to that island. Your experience connects you with other people, and also raises perplexing questions and profound mysteries. If you’re a LOST fan, you have spent the past six years imagining this, so it should not be hard.

Now imagine that you find yourself in another reality and have no recollection of those events on the island. But then you “wake up” and remember your earlier existence, and realize that you have died and have now somehow in or beyond death been reunited with those people.

The ending of LOST is suggesting that when you have this experience, what comes out of your mouth will not be “So what was underneath the island?” but “I love you!” When you discover that you have lived and died and now continue to live or live again, you will rejoice rather than complain, connect with people rather than ask questions about what was really going on that time when such and such puzzled us.

Unless you’re one of those souls that can’t move on. Then perhaps you’ll remain on the island. And being there you may just possibly witness things that provide further explanations. But sooner or later you too will realize then that there was more to life, something important that you missed. Perhaps, like Michael, you killed rather than connected - even if it was out of a desire to save your son.

When John Locke was alive and confronting death, he wished Jack had believed him. As he died the thought that passed through his head was “I don’t understand.” But when he passed into the afterlife and remembered all that had happened to him, he didn’t mention either of those things. He didn’t ask for answers. He simply hoped that someone would do for Jack what Jack did for him in that moment – help him remember it all, recall all the connections. And move on.

And so that’s what we’re given at the end of LOST: the suggestion that everyone, even the “good guys,” will be wrong about some things, the realization that every answer leads to another question, and a challenge to appreciate human connections more than answers, because the former are, in the grand scheme of things, more valuable. And whether you like LOST’s vision of the afterlife, or don’t think there is an afterlife at all, I suspect that its message about there being more to life than solving mysteries is still one that most of us can appreciate – even, and perhaps especially, those of us who spend our lives exploring puzzles and trying to answer unanswered questions, since we are best situated to confirm that it is indeed true that every answer only leads to more questions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-Turner/100001645839707 Benjamin Turner

    I have been obsessed about this show since the first time i saw it, and i am just as obsessed now as i was on the 23rd of may 2010, I have discussed with so many people about the finer details and ive come to the conclusion that about 95% of the people that didnt like “The End” simply didnt understand what they saw. I know that every mystery in Lost WAS answered, a lot in very subtle ways, but still, Its a myth that the questions werent answered but rather than trying to understand people just want to complain. I dont follow any religion or believe in an afterlife but i found the ending a perfect fit to the rest of the story, which ALWAYS was about the characters, The finale itself was very emotional but it didnt ignore the mysteries as some will tell us, Some people had a checklist infront of them while watching the finale not realising that most of their questions had been answered long before, eg i still hear people asking “What about the polar bears” answered very early in season TWO, Why couldnt women have children” answered in many parts in season 3, 4 and 5.” what is the island” Which imo is clear, but people want a detailed “CSI” style answer(midchlorians) which takes the emotional gloss and sense of mystery off any story. There will NEVER be a tv series with such great character depth, amazing plot, great acting, production, and writing as LOST. Namaste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-Turner/100001645839707 Benjamin Turner

    I have been obsessed about this show since the first time i saw it, and i am just as obsessed now as i was on the 23rd of may 2010, I have discussed with so many people about the finer details and ive come to the conclusion that about 95% of the people that didnt like “The End” simply didnt understand what they saw. I know that every mystery in Lost WAS answered, a lot in very subtle ways, but still, Its a myth that the questions werent answered but rather than trying to understand people just want to complain. I dont follow any religion or believe in an afterlife but i found the ending a perfect fit to the rest of the story, which ALWAYS was about the characters, The finale itself was very emotional but it didnt ignore the mysteries as some will tell us, Some people had a checklist infront of them while watching the finale not realising that most of their questions had been answered long before, eg i still hear people asking “What about the polar bears” answered very early in season TWO, Why couldnt women have children” answered in many parts in season 3, 4 and 5.” what is the island” Which imo is clear, but people want a detailed “CSI” style answer(midchlorians) which takes the emotional gloss and sense of mystery off any story. There will NEVER be a tv series with such great character depth, amazing plot, great acting, production, and writing as LOST. Namaste.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I just didn’t pay enough attention because I have no idea why women can’t have kids, where the numbers came from, why men’s sperm count is lower on the island and what the heck the island is and I watched every episode looking for answers.

  • http://digestofworms.blogspot.com/ admiralmattbar

    I guess I just didn’t pay enough attention because I have no idea why women can’t have kids, where the numbers came from, why men’s sperm count is lower on the island and what the heck the island is and I watched every episode looking for answers.

  • Braavos

    So, if I am interpreting the explanation of the ending of Lost correctly; in physical reality, it was showing all the characters struggles on the island, while they simultaneously showed the “afterlife reality” which wasn’t necessarily happening at the same time as the physical reality, it was just shown parallel to what was going on during the last season on the island. So in reality, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, and Miles got off the island and lived to old age for all we know but just found each other in the afterlife when they were all dead? If so I’m glad everyone waited for them to die before remembering who they were. But Sawyer and Miles as cops in the afterlife? WTF is that about. That is the understanding I have from watching the show and reading all explanations about it.

  • Braavos

    So, if I am interpreting the explanation of the ending of Lost correctly; in physical reality, it was showing all the characters struggles on the island, while they simultaneously showed the “afterlife reality” which wasn’t necessarily happening at the same time as the physical reality, it was just shown parallel to what was going on during the last season on the island. So in reality, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, and Miles got off the island and lived to old age for all we know but just found each other in the afterlife when they were all dead? If so I’m glad everyone waited for them to die before remembering who they were. But Sawyer and Miles as cops in the afterlife? WTF is that about. That is the understanding I have from watching the show and reading all explanations about it.

    • Leonkennedy411

      YES. You have it right.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @0919ea12f995e591f759fcf947a18b57:disqus , I thought that everyone wanted to be a cop in the afterlife…  :-)
     
    But more seriously, Christian Shepherd makes the point that the afterlife is “timeless,” or in his words, “there is no now here.”
     

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @0919ea12f995e591f759fcf947a18b57:disqus , I thought that everyone wanted to be a cop in the afterlife…  :-)
     
    But more seriously, Christian Shepherd makes the point that the afterlife is “timeless,” or in his words, “there is no now here.”
     

  • Adrienne Warren

    I finished watching Lost last night. I started watching the seasons about 6 months ago on Netflix and finally finished. As someone who watched the show for hours on end, episode after episode I can admit to being hooked from Season 1. Although there are some questions still left in my mind, I believe that it was intentional for the writers to leave us with some open-ended ideas. I believe that they explained moslty everything or gave us beginnings to an explanations so that we could then take our own ideas and beliefs and come up with our own conclusions. Back in Season 6 when Richard says about knowing a secret Jacob told him and that they were all in Hell – that is the one question I am still “lost” on. I don’t believe they were in Hell, I believe that all the characters we know and love really crashed on that island and lived there searching for the answers. While some of our favorites died on that island I believe that they were all alive and well when arriving on the island and did not die in a massive plane crash. So, why would Jacob tell Richard that they were all dead in hell? Other than that, I think that if you really pay attention and allow yourself to connect one idea to another you can come up with your own answers. Great show, great cast, great ending.

  • Adrienne Warren

    I finished watching Lost last night. I started watching the seasons about 6 months ago on Netflix and finally finished. As someone who watched the show for hours on end, episode after episode I can admit to being hooked from Season 1. Although there are some questions still left in my mind, I believe that it was intentional for the writers to leave us with some open-ended ideas. I believe that they explained moslty everything or gave us beginnings to an explanations so that we could then take our own ideas and beliefs and come up with our own conclusions. Back in Season 6 when Richard says about knowing a secret Jacob told him and that they were all in Hell – that is the one question I am still “lost” on. I don’t believe they were in Hell, I believe that all the characters we know and love really crashed on that island and lived there searching for the answers. While some of our favorites died on that island I believe that they were all alive and well when arriving on the island and did not die in a massive plane crash. So, why would Jacob tell Richard that they were all dead in hell? Other than that, I think that if you really pay attention and allow yourself to connect one idea to another you can come up with your own answers. Great show, great cast, great ending.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Adrienne, thanks for sharing your experience of watching LOST! I don’t remember Richard saying specifically that Jacob had told him that. It seemed in the context to be an expression of his grief and dispair.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Adrienne, thanks for sharing your experience of watching LOST! I don’t remember Richard saying specifically that Jacob had told him that. It seemed in the context to be an expression of his grief and dispair.

  • Guest

    I don’t care about the unanswered questions of why polar bears, or the life source of the island in the finale…

    What I REALLY HATED was that we care about the characters, we wanted them to survive, and we were manipulated by the writers to think that it was going to turn out that way.

    They wasted all our time and emotion showing you “limbo land” of what could have happened if they wouldn’t have crashed, then pull rug out from under you saying…Oh Suck… that didn’t really happen after all in the life they would have had.

    The most disappointing part for me was the emotional let down, in movies and tv world what makes a good ending is giving the viewer an emotional payoff, this was NOT it.

    I agree with those who say this was a lazy writers way of shutting it down quickly…Oh, their all dead. See you guys later, I’ve got another show I’m writing now.

    I thought the show was great, ending SUCKED. I kept hoping they wouldn’t do it it us…but they did.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Brett, sorry to hear that you felt that way. I think that we all have an emotional aversion to thinking of characters we have grown to love dying, even if (in the case of LOST) they all died in different ways, some after full lives, and all were reunited in an afterlife. I wonder what it is about this particular way of ending the show that brought out such a negative emotional response. I’m considering giving a conference paper on the ending of LOST, and so I really would like to know!


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