LOST: A Report Card on the Finale

First off, let me just say the finale was very touching and very entertaining.  They replayed old motifs with the castaways' "flashes of memory", redeemed characters, and made use of familiar imagery for new action.  I have no thematic or aesthetic complaints.  It was all beautifully done, even ending with Jack's eye closing, Vincent cuddling next to him, Hugo giving Ben the attention he needed so badly, and Juliet and Sawyer having their moment.

However, they chose not to answer any questions. At all. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Let me explain:

While I have been what some might call an "answer zealot" for some time now, what I really am is a "context zealot."  I didn't necessarily want to know how everything worked, but I did want to know if there was a framework in which time travel, Widmore, Eloise, Dharma, and Smokey all fit.  There was not.  Given that, I am actually glad that they chose not to even try to answer any questions.  If they had, they would have been bad answers.  What we learned from the finale is that every device used, every reference and allusion, and every strange occurrence was a red herring, meant only to keep us interested while the writers were getting us attached to the great characters they created.  That being the case, I can't fault them for then choosing to ignore these mysteries in the final, and instead revisit every major character from the series (minus Eko) and letting them have some satisfaction . . .

. . . even if it came at the hand of Purgatory. Yes, folks, that's what sideways-land was all along.  Purgatory. We weren't watching an alternate reality created by The Incident. We weren't watching the end result of Smokey doing anything. Just purgatory. That's fine, whatever.

Unfortunately, what that also means is that the writers chose an explanation to the sideways world that still doesn't make much sense. After all:

  • If it was purgatory all along, why did they feel the need to show us a sunken island in the season premiere?  It had no significance.  
  • How is it exactly that Desmond's being exposed to electromagnetism by Widmore allowed Desmond to enter purgatory temporarily before his death?

But that's not all.  The show's island resolution was just not internally consistent.  For example:

  • What was Widmore's purpose in bringing Desmond?  As it turns out, his unplugging of the source does exactly what Smokey wants.  Did Widmore bring him so that Desmond could replug it if Smokey managed to unplug it? It doesn't seem likely, since the show suggested that Smokey couldn't do it himself, since he probably would have done it before.
  • Shouldn't Jack's soul have been ripped from his body after being exposed to the Light Source, like what happened to the Man in Black in "Across the Sea"?  Like MIB, he was just a man, having tranferred his Jacob-powers to Hurley before rappelling down into the cave.  Shouldn't he have emerged a smoke monster himself, the fate "worse than death" that Jacob's mother describes?  I mean, if you're going to attribute the origin of Smokey to magic, ought not that magic be consistently applied?

Incidentally, the only question that I would have really liked to have answered is what the Man in Black's long con actually accomplished.  Couldn't he have gotten Ben to kill Jacob in a less circuitous way?  Certainly one without having anyone turn the donkey wheel (twice), going back in time, or coming back to the island.  Also, why did Jacob let himself get killed so easily by Ben if it was so vital for someone to protect the island? We saw him kick the shit out of Richard, so we know he could fight. Also, who was protecting the island when Jacob was off-island molesting people and reading Flannery O'Connor novels? Also, what prevented Ben from killing Widmore when he snuck into Widmore's bedroom to tell him that he was going to kill Penelope?  And who was Tall Ghost Walt (the one that prevented Locke from killing himself, getting him to kill Naomi and almost prevent the Freighter from getting to the island), since I thought Smokey could only take the form of the dead?  And yeah, how did Smokey appear as Christian to Michael on the Freighter, which was outside the realm of the island (beyond the special bearing, and across the water)?  Oh, and why exactly did the Ajira flight propel the Losties to 1977, except for Sun, and why not Sun (yeah, she wasn't a candidate, probably because she was a mom, which disqualified Kate, but Kate went back, and what would being a candidate have to do with going back in time anyway?)?  Oh, and what about that magic box that saved Juliet's sister from cancer and made Anthony Cooper appear out of nowhere?  And Eloise preventing Desmond from marrying Penelope after he turns the failsafe key? And how did Dharma know how to keep Smokey out with those pylons (and why would it work)?  And what exactly made Sayid come back from the dead?  And all those island fertility problems, er . . .

If they could only have answered that one question.

But hey, the show was a great ride.  The answers it did provide during the course of the first five seasons were good ones.  Desmond was in the hatch.  Desmond's not pushing the button caused the Oceanic 815 crash. Dharma found the island using Foucault's pendulum. The runway the Others were building in Season Three was for the Ajira flight.  The castaways caused The Incident. Eloise and Widmore were Others.  The Black Rock destroyed the Statue.  All decent answers that will be remembered fondly before the sea change of Season Six.

However, I have but one last question for the producers:  If you knew it was going to end like this, then why limit the show to six seasons?  I mean, honestly, you could have given us a purgatory sideways flash at any time, and the action of Season Six didn't really directly lead us to the final moments (all you really needed was Ben, a couple candidates, and Desmond on the island, in any capacity).  A couple more seasons to explore New Otherton and Dharmaville would have been fun.  Perhaps even in an unforced, non-didactic mystery-resolving way.  Too bad.