Note: Below are spoilers for the entire series of LOST. Specifically the Series Finale “The End.”
Dharma: Performing one’s duty, or the path to enlightenment.
At the end of tonight’s episode there was a window, a fragment of stained glass each with a series of symbols, the iconography/visual culture of spirituality. The icons of faith.
Inside this church, inside the building that, in the real world, housed the Lamppost, waited a Shepherd, Christian who watched for his son so that he could reveal the truth. So that their love could bring, finally, some enlightenment, some answers….that death comes to us all, and with it the ability to move on.
The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. Nobody does it alone. You needed all of them and they needed you.
Which I think is, in the end the ultimate message of the series. That the murder, the anger, the decisions, the choices, the manipulations were real. That evil was evil, but that it had made a choice to be evil, and that choice had consequences. When Desmond finally looked at Jack and said, “Nothing matters,” our consummate man of Science reached out to remind Desmond with newfound faith that “No. All of this matters.” That you have a duty to the people that surround you, that your actions and reactions are all a part of your personal history. Everything is real, and yes ““No shortcuts, no do-overs, what happened, happened.”
Here is what LOST meant to me.
When LOST first started six years ago one of the best things included how it took the time to step beyond the archetypes. We had a murderer, a thief, a conman, an addict, the abusive Asian man, the submissive Asian woman, the terrorist, the spoiled brat, the handsome leading man doctor, the priest,and comedic fat man. You name it, LOST had it.
Of course over the course of the series, those archetypes fell away—sometimes creating new ones, but other time creating competing viewpoints and actions that stretched the imagination. We learned through shared experience that Sun and Jin had once been in love, that their history had pulled them apart after they fought so much to stay together. We read a letter by a little boy to the man who destroyed his life and watched as he shot that man dead, and stood by as our comedic man who never seemed to lose weight became a leader in his own right.
Most of all what this final episode shows is that sometimes what we see is not what we get. That every individual comes with a shared history, and that sometimes we cannot understand how to fix that history until we pass on into another existence….which is all the more reason why we should take care with the time we are given.
Another science fiction show that ended this year claimed, that “everything has happened before, and everything will happen again.” It looked at the flaws of humanity and claimed that the lessons will be learned eventually, but that we live in a continual cycle until that end point is achieved, if ever.
LOST, saw “the end” as a fixed point. That what intrigued us for six years was the story of Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Jin, Sun, Hurley, Miles, Lapidus, Claire, Charlie, Mr. Eko, Rose, Bernard, Desmond, Penny, Libby, Hurley, Ana Lucia, Michael, Walt, John Locke, Benjamin Linus and of course Vincent—and that for them those experiences were about trying to make a fresh start, that when faced with an inescapable situation some were able to believe in themselves and break free, while others consciously had to take the bomb and save those who he had come to love in order to find redemption.
While I don’t believe that the sideways world or the island were purgatory per-se, I do see them as weigh stations, one in life and one in death that allowed our castaways to finally be true to themselves and yes….move on.
On Mysteries, Hatches, Whispers and Ghosts
I think out of everything that happened in the 2.5 hour finale, the mysteries are what got short-shrift. We learned about the whispers, we learned about the island, but in the end we, as an audience, were expected to take those solutions on faith. To not ask answers to questions that can only be answered with more questions. While many of our characters were scientists, they lived within a world of coincidences and miracles—each a number on a compass, possible guides to the future of the island.
This is probably what is going to anger many viewers, but I think that I can live without these answers. That a series of events led each of these passengers on Oceanic 815 to the island so that they could remake themselves and pass “through the looking glass,” and into the light.
This confluence of science and science-fiction, faith and religion is, to some extent, a reflection of our actual reality. That we live in a world full of contradictions and hypocrisies. That we can have faith, but be faithless—or believe in the existence of God and Evolution at the same time. That the search for answers to miracles and mysteries can be obstacles to actually looking yourself in the mirror and changing your life.
We saw this with Jack and Locke, time and time again as they became obsessed with pushing a button, hunting down the others, searching for water, food, or some method off the island. In each case these hatches and mysteries which were all pieces of investigation for the Dharma Initiative, were also steps in each heroes journey (to pull from Joseph Campbell) to achieving dharma the path to enlightenment.
Good versus Evil
In all good science fiction and fantasy there is a struggle between dark and light, good and evil. Up until this season good has been personified by our castaways, with ultimate evil coming in the shape of one Henry Gale/Benjamin Linus. I’m going to miss Ben Linus—and while I’m glad that in the end he found his own sort of peace and happiness it is difficult to actually forgive a man so heinous with his actions (don’t forget he in essence committed genocide on the Dharma Initiative). That being said I think he is the key figure in the overall LOST conversation about redemption. That in the end, he chose to wait outside, to wait to atone a little bit longer speaks volumes for Benjamin Linus’ changes over the length of the series.
Of course in the last three seasons that duality was replaced with that of the Man in Black and Jacob, and the island itself—sitting on a well of darkness that if destroyed would let forth all the evil into the universe. Take it, or leave it, but this idea that someone had to protect the island, that someone had to in the end sacrifice their off-island destiny was ultimately “the point” of the entire LOST experience didn’t feel real until Jack leaped towards Flocke on the top of the mountain to finally kill the Man in Black. I keep coming back to other science-fiction tropes that at one point the hero has to descend into the well of darkness to find his way out again. That some come out forever changed, while others become that darkness, they become Darth Vader or even Gollum whose need and greed for the “one ring to rule them all” pushed him over the edge and into Mount Doom. That being said like all mythical “good” figures mistakes were made along the way—and I am convinced that Jacob was a figure of malevolence in his own right. That we had to know his story so that we could understand Jack’s is clear—but I think that Ben stated it quite clearly in “The End” when he told Hurley that in effect they did not have to play by Jacob’s rules any more. They could chart their own destiny their own fate.
This show had it all, it had the overarching evils, mixed in with more personal, realistic choices between right and wrong, good and bad (or in some cases bad-ass). After the darkness follows the light and that’s what we got with the sideways world—which in the end was ultimately about humanity.
Science Fiction: Faith in the Narrative
I am an apologist. Which means I am willing to accept contradictions and things that just don’t seem to make sense (sometimes finding ways to get them to make it work as Tim Gunn likes to say). So it probably won’t surprise many of you that the most important part of this series was the story—that the world building and the emotional joyride we’ve been on for six years was made all the more stronger by the other-worldly environment. That a show about a group of castaways wouldn’t have worked in this day and age without the mysterious, science fiction elements. Now I’m not going to give everything a pass, since there were points where we seemed to veer off course (the temple, which I suppose in hindsight was an integral part of Sayid’s journey to self-realization.) but this story could not have been this story without the polar bears, the hatches, the fantastical methods to push us to look beyond the fabric of reality and see that unexpected things can occur to ordinary people. In doing so the narrative gave us something that I’ve never gotten in any other television series to date—a window into a truer reality one where love, faith and reason trumped death, loss and tragedy. That we could, despite never finding it on Earth find peace together. That we did not have to “live together, and die alone,” because in death we are with those that make us whole.
Reflecting Outward, On History
A few final thoughts, since this is—first and foremost, a history oriented blog. One of the key elements that makes history matter is its relevance to the reader. While we can write large tomes and detailed analysis of actions during a war, or a place in time it is up to the reader, the public writ large, to internalize that piece of the past into their identity. For some history doesn’t mean anything, and bears little relevance to our personal pasts, but for others it is an integral part of who we are and why we exist.
“I brought all of you here because I made a mistake. A mistake I made a long time ago.” –Jacob
“I didn’t pluck any of out of a happy existence. You were all flawed.” –Jacob
LOST, to some extent did just that. It put us in a place with a group of people who were trying to escape their pasts—to remake their histories so that they could attain a “good” life. Instead of starting a-new in LA they were brought to the island by someone else who was trying to escape his own mistakes, and found “in the place they all made together so they could find each other,” that their histories were more than just the actions they took, but also the people they loved.
- I’m real, you’re real. Everything that has ever happened to you is real, all those people in the church are real.
- Everybody dies sometime. There is no now, here.
- To remember, and to let go.
- Hurley to Sayid: “You can’t let others tell you what you are. You have to decide for yourself.”
- “I have a bad feeling about this”
- “He’s worse than Yoda.”
Don’t agree? Comment below!