What was the Ending of LOST?

What was the Ending of LOST? September 19, 2010

One of the all-time most popular posts on this blog is my explanation of the ending of LOST. I’ve occasionally had people reach here searching specifically for “What was the ending of LOST?” and it is actually a good question. There is a sense in which an ending in the afterlife is not what we usually mean by a show’s ending. If one believes in an afterlife, then presumably all characters end up there, whether one is talking about the ending of M*A*S*H, LOST, or any other show. And if you don’t, then the fate of Henry Blake was a tragic death with nothing more following for him, and LOST’s portrayal of the idea that Jack Shepard and anyone else from the island entered some other spiritual realm might be annoyingly at odds with your worldview.

So was that the ending of LOST? If what you mean by a show’s ending is the resolution of major plotlines, then (although there were some issues of consistency along the way) the ending was Jack defeating the smoke monster, who was revealed as neither simply good or evil, but like his brother Jacob, a figure in part heroic, in part tragic, but one who, unlike Anakin Skywalker, never returned to the light side, even briefly. And the ending was the baton of care for the island being passed from Jacob to Jack and then to Hurley.

If that’s what an ending is for you, then simply ignore the flashes sideways that turned out to be flashes into an afterlife. Ignore the scenes in the church. Focus on what happened to the characters when they were alive, and set everything else aside.

But if the idea that the ultimate resolution of the main characters’ stories transcends death bugs you that much, then I must admit to being puzzled how you failed to be annoyed from the outset and all along, as dead people seemed to appear and communicate with the living. It is not a question of whether you find the idea of an afterlife persuasive. But if the notion that some aspect of human persons survives death is one that offends you so much as to spoil your enjoyment of a show, I would have expected you to walk away indignantly from LOST long before the final episode.

And so maybe that’s the question those who strongly disliked the ending should ponder: if it bothered you that much, why didn’t the entire series bother you in quite the same way?

Oh, and if you need a nicely wrapped up midichlorian ending, I have one for you here.

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  • I've thought a little about this.It's not that I "didn't like the ending". I actually liked "the ending" and thought it was very poignant in some respects.However, I didn't find "the ending" at all satisfying within the frame of reference of the series. All of the seasons leading up to the finale constantly intrigued us with tidbits about The Island. EVeryone wnated to know what is The Island? How do all these weird coincidences keep bringing these people back to The Island? What is the power behind The Island?The sideways ending sidesteps almost everything concerning The Island. While it's great that this group of people had a connection that transcended death and brought them together because their time on The Island was so significant in their lives….that ending doesn't really resolve The Island as a character. Any significant event could have been substituted to bring a group of people together in the afterlife.The Ending that was provided was not and ending to the story we had been told for several years. It's the ending to a completely different question.It's like asking someone about the weather and they tell you that they're doing well.That's great. But it's a complete non-sequitur.Now, I think the writers tried to make it seem as if the ending wasn't a non-sequitur with the whole Jack-has-to-put-the-stopper-back-in-the-mystical-hole scene.But, ultimately there is no connection made between the powers of the island and the after life. On the one hand we are told that if The Island doesn't have a care-taker that unspeakable evil/nothingness will destroy the world. On the other hand, the sideways world seems to be absent of any confirmation of The Island's power, or recognition that the what holds the "real" world together has any bearing on what holds the "spiritual" world together.

  • I think I agree with you, Terri. I was really focused here on the many people who have focused on (and complained about) them all dying in the end and going into a great beyond. in one sense, I think that ties in closely with the show's central motif that "every answer you get will only lead to another question".But the big issue for me is that, when they introduced Jacob and his brother, it seemed like that was a new direction rather than tying up what had gone before. And so in a sense, my complaints are not about the last episode, but the last season. The finale wrapped up the key themes of the final season, but the focus of the final season felt like it wasn't organically connected with the earlier seasons in a number of important ways.

  • While I’m not one of those you pose the question to, I think I can understand their position. I would think that they were hoping for non-metaphysical answers to the apparitions and the like. I know that I was considering that we might get something like that.Actually, the thing about Lost is that you almost could not give it a fair judgement until the end. You don’t really know if the whole series bothers you until the end because they always kept the audience enough in the dark to be unsure about nearly everything. We were left with all these incomplete “well that will bother me if…” and “that won’t bother me if…” bits.

  • Perhaps you do not know this, but "The End" was not the final episode of Lost. As promised, on the DVD (or Blu-Ray) set is the true final episode: "The New Man in Charge." You can check Lostpedia for details, if you wish.As to why the ending was so routinely panned — it was because rather than answering the questions that the creators posed — and complete dead-ends that went nowhere (e.g., why the Temple subplot?) The creators obviously had very little idea where they were going with the story, and just needed to wrap it up, and so they had this rather unsatisfactory ending.Now the creator's claim that it was a character-based show. What a cop-out. Here is a comment that I thought was pretty insightful that got posted somewhere:The “This is a character-based show!” defense is a tried-and-true TV gambit, not unlike innocent of murder because of low blood sugar, or because the glove did not fit!I think it was the epic character study MANIMAL that first offered this defense in the 1980s as a means of eking out another season, but it was Steven Bochco who most famously used the Character-First! plea in his hostile defense of COP ROCK in 1990.So, make no mistake. Lost has earned its place in the pantheon of these All-About-Characters!! series. Whether it was deciding whether or not to transform into a leopard or a gerbil, breaking out into a show-tune during a violent drug-bust, or asking your audience to PLEASE PLEASE just pretend that the numbers, Walt and Michael, the Others, the Donkey Wheel, Seasons 1-4, and any sense of consistency or coherence NEVER existed, these three fine character-based shows will all hold the same place in the hearts and minds of demanding viewers for many, many years to come.

  • I find it baffling how people that are clearly literate and intelligent people are blinded by their own arrogance, If they dont understand it..then it must be nonsensical..right?Theres millions of people around the world who totally "got it" placed ALL the pieces of this large puzzle together, yet were "deluded" we see something that isnt there…once again ARROGANCE, whats more likely we have collective delusion and self denial, or that people didnt pay enough attention, missed the symbolism, metaphors, allusion, and in many cases clear blatant dialogue.The "character based" show was stated in season 1, so for the "bitters" to use that is in itsaelf a "copout" LOST was a character based show, The flashbacks(Season 1-3) alone which took up around 1600 minutes(30%) of the show had very little to do with anything BUT the characters relationships and dynamic.As for the connections between the seasons, how does the island connect to the afterlife?? We were clearly shown/told that the afterlife would not exist if it were not for the island/light survival, The very reason for these people being on this island in the first place was revealed and resolved in season 6.The questions i see people asking are ALL answered, "the numbers, Walt, The others, The donkey wheel" What about them??? Serously? did you watch this show while wearing a blindfols and earplugs.