Warning: This post contains explicit SPOILERS about the ending to the television show Lost. If you haven’t seen it and intend to watch it one day, do not read this.
I’m not going to go into my detailed thoughts on the finale, the series, or any of that. Not yet. EVERYONE is doing that right now so I’d just get lost in the mix, and frankly, there is just too much to say in one post, anyway. But I do want to revisit something I posted about last year.
Last year, after the finale to the fifth season of Lost, it became clear that an overarching theme of the show — faith versus reason; fate versus free will — was coming to a head. I posted about it at the time, looking specifically at John Locke’s pressing need to believe and Jack’s unwillingness to let go and do the same.
Both were right. And both were wrong.
Locke was seemingly betrayed by his faith in the island, a faith manipulated by the Man in Black and a faith that ultimately led to his death. Or did his lack of faith lead to his death? It was only at the very end, when he had given up on his quest to bring his friends back to the island, that he was killed.
Jack was finally rewarded with the strength he needed to face his final trials by giving in to destiny and accepting the fate the island had for him. Or did he rationalize that he needed to do the things he did, thinking things out and realizing this was the logical course for him, just as he did just before Sawyer kicked him off the boat near the end of the final season? Was he led there not through blind faith, but through a reasoned recognition of what he had to do?
As I said last year, neither is the “correct” viewpoint. The show, like life, provides us with no easy answers. All we can do is decide what fits within our worldview.
In the end, though, the faith these characters were asked to have was not a faith in a higher purpose or power at all — as “Across the Sea” aptly showed us, even the supposedly all-knowing Jacob didn’t actually know a damn thing; he did what he did based solely on blind faith to his crazy murdering adoptive mother — it was faith in one another that was essential to their lives. The key is in the controversial “flash sideways” story of the last season.
Ultimately, the sideways storyline of the final season wasn’t integral to the core island narrative. We thought it would be, but that was a red herring. It never impacted that narrative. What it was, was an extended epilogue; a coda stretched throughout the season, and masked Lost-style in order to keep the audience guessing. Now that we can look back on it for what it truly was, we can see some themes become evident in retrospect, themes that have been integral to the show from the start.
And those themes are rather beautiful.
The entire show began by toying with the idea that everyone was brought together on that island for a reason. They had been connected throughout their lives (though they didn’t realize it at first) and eventually they came together in that place to be caretakers of something special. Of something mysterious and beautiful and powerful and dangerous and essential to us all, even if we don’t realize it.
But they doubted, and they fretted, and too often took their struggles on (and off) the island to be very individual in nature when really they were struggling together. It wasn’t until the end, when they had been torn apart and the island was in jeopardy and all seemed lost, when everything they had fought for was going to be torn apart by a man (turned monster) consumed by his desire to get off the island, that they realized they needed one another more than they needed anything else in the world.
They truly were connected. Connected for a purpose greater than their individual selves.
And here’s the beautiful part: Those connections transcended life itself. In the end, after their struggles; after they lived and died; after defeating evil and living lives and having children; in the end not even death itself could wipe away the connection they had to one another. They came together again in death just as they had in life, and even as happened in life, they needed one another in order to finally let go, lift the burdens from their souls, and move on to whatever comes next.
Ben couldn’t, of course, making his a particularly tragic story. When the truth of their existence was finally revealed to him in the sideways world, he knew he could not yet move on. He did not belong with those people. He had too much to atone for. Locke and Hurley, maybe the two most noble souls to have been in that group, suggest he can have his peace. But he’s not yet ready.
The others are. They’re this beautiful and impossible family stitched together from the stuff of fate and love and necessity, and nothing — not hatches, smoke monsters, time travel, or even death — can alter that. Not even the end of all things.
It’s quite lovely, really.