This post has been a long time coming, since shortly after the finale aired in May, but I wanted to let the entire experience stew for me awhile. Since then I’ve rewatched the finale twice, discussed it to no end with my family and a few friends, and now I’m working my way through all of season six on the DVR. And I still think the finale, and the show as a whole, was a glorious piece of work, of art.
The main criticism I’ve seen deals with the shows refusal (or, as some have said, inability) to answer all of the mysteries. I saw it described very eloquently as a failure to pay the bill of dipping into the future, but I still disagree 100%. And here’s why.
The show was never about the mysteries.
Yes, they figured prominently, yes they drove the characters, and yeah, they didn’t always make sense (I still don’t understand how Sayid came back to life after two hours, or what that means about Claire). But in the end—and from the beginning—the show was about a dynamic cast of characters: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Sun, Jin, Ben, Richard (and Juliet, of course). That’s why the writers incorporated the flashbacks in season one. That’s why shows were usually centered around one or two characters, even while the story might touch elsewhere. And so if that’s what the writers most heavily invested in, that’s what the payoff had to be—not answers.
Because the show was based in reality—or rather, it was based in something I’ll call character reality. The characters were dropped onto the island like us, with our range of views and beliefs, our fears and ambitions, our problems and our pain. There were broken families, bitter disappointments, successes tinged with the unexpected. They were lives interrupted, and except for the more extreme circumstances they had been put in, they could have been us. When the mysteries started, they reacted in a variety of ways, as would be expected from what we know of the world. Some characters were easy to relate to while others took more work. For me, I felt most akin to Shannon and Charlie in the first season.
And for me, this reality can logically mean only one thing. There will never be a minute when all, or even most, of what people want to know, becomes clear to them. This is clear in our own lives, without the added benefit of mysteries. I will never know why my first boyfriend was so nasty to me at the end, or how I passed my intro biology class in college. I will also never understand the physics behind what caused the survivors to jump through time in season five, but it is enough that I accept that the island was jumping through time. Yes, there might be a bigger explanation there (and I’d be willing to bet that the writers know and understand at least a significant part of this), but it had no place in the television show. First off, someone please explain to me how that would have ever fit in with the show.
There were many mystery/answer combinations like this in the show that many fans simply couldn’t accept or weren’t satisfied with. My guess is because they didn’t understand or believe the explanation, but if my ex were to come back now and tell me in a few sentences why he treated me that way, I bet I’d react in a similar manner of disbelief or unacceptance. But what matters here is that those things didn’t matter. Rose says this herself when Desmond meets her in season six, commenting on how they’ve moved through time, and it is clear that while she doesn’t understand it, she accepts it. And if LOST is trying to teach us anything (though I would never call the show didactic), it is this.
What the show promised, the show delivered upon. The show had a very definite and satisfying arc, and to me, it was indeed a masterpiece that I will watch again and again over the coming years.
And also, just to clear this up, the finale in no way meant that they all died in the plane crash. The writers are not laughing at you.