WARNING: SPOILERS for the season finale of LOST
On Sunday night, cult TV series Lost ended with dozens of mysteries unanswered and a happily-ever-afterlife that felt arbitrary and tacked-on for the sake of giving beloved characters some measure of reward for their sacrifices.
Like many other viewers who have followed the show with devotion since 2004, I was disappointed with "The End" (the finale's title). The conflict between the smoke monster and the castaways was resolved clumsily, with character motivations unclear and a plot full of holes - why, for example, did the smoke monster and Jack have any reason to believe that lowering Desmond into the source would benefit either of them and not the other? I guess Jack just got lucky that Desmond's act of pulling the island's plug robbed the smoke monster of his otherworldly powers, allowing the climactic...fist fight. Hooray. Jack gets stabbed during the fight, kills the depowered smoke monster, plugs the hole Desmond made and wanders, mortally wounded, back into the jungle, dying in the very spot the crash flung him in 2004. Poetic, yes - but unsatisfying on many levels.
The revelation that the season six flash-sideways plotline was nothing more than God's waiting room is, quite simply, a cheat. All season long, viewers were led to believe that what happened in this alternate timeline (or at least, we thought it was an alternate timeline) mattered; that the gradual awakening of the characters would have some impact on the prime storyline on the island. But no. In the final minutes of the finale, we discover that perhaps thousands of years have passed, and Jack is in purgatory, waiting for all his friends to be together so that they can move on to heaven.
I should make it clear that the scene itself was moving and well-written. My only problem is that it makes the entire island storyline, the one we've followed for the last six years, meaningless; everyone winds up in heaven (or near enough), so what were the stakes? Why was it so important that the island be protected?
Here's how the finale could have been saved. When Christian reveals the truth to Jack, he tells him that his time on the island was the most important time in his life. But he doesn't say why. It's just a given, and it's why he needed all his friends together in purgatory to achieve closure and "move on."
Christian needed to say one more thing. He needed to say,
"Jack, your time on the island was the most important time in your life...and in the lives of all these other people. Because the sacrifices you made on that island made all this [gesturing to the afterlife] possible...not just for you and your friends - but for everyone, everywhere, for all time. Without you, after death there would be only darkness."
If it had turned out that Jack and company were fighting for an afterlife for all humanity...wouldn't those stakes have been worth all they endured? Wouldn't that have made the unresolved mysteries at least a little more bearable? I would have been quite content never to learn who made the drain and the plug at the heart of the island if I had reason to believe that they had a very good reason - the best possible existential reason - for doing so.