May 25, 2010

Lost Finale: The Man of Faith... (Part 1)

I intended to follow the Lost series finale with a checklist of questions for which I sought answers; tallying up the revelations and grading the writers on how well they were able to resolve the entangled plotline. But midway through the two-and-a-half hour tear-jerker, I realized obtaining the answers to those questions was never really the point. So following what Lost has asked us to do since the beginning of season 6, I stopped asking questions and reflected on the journey.

Of course my rational brain was disappointed that we didn’t receive a resolution on one of the biggest questions: what exactly was the Island (more on that in another post). Lost asked us to take a leap; to merely believe in the Island’s existence. So I took that jump into the white light, and became a man of faith. Instead of basing my opinion of the finale on how much was resolved, I decided to measure Lost on how much I learned along with the rest of the castaways.

Dead is really dead

It wasn’t until the final Lost moments that we realized dead is really and truly dead. Sun, Jin, Charlie, Sayid, and all the others that perished on the Island, really did die (I was fully expecting the Sideways world would bring them back). As Jack told Desmond before his leap into the great white light, what happened, happened and there are no short cuts to changing the past. Turning the wheel of time and detonating hydrogen bombs won’t fix our mistakes. The only thing we can do is move forward. Which brings me to my next lesson…

What we do in this life matters

Did anyone actually have to protect the Island? I guess we will never know. Regardless, having a purpose in life is essential. Despite Desmond’s enlightenment, he still needed to learn that lesson. Everything that happened on the Island, even though we are unsure of its purpose, did happen and was essential to the growth of the castaways. As Christian Shepherd told Jack, the people he met on the Island and his time in this mystical place, was the most important part of his life, and were very real.

Rules can be changed

Rules and contracts dominated Lost. Early on, Desmond believed he had to push that button in the hatch every 108 minutes to prevent a catastrophic event. The Mother, Jacob, Jack and finally Hurley, believed it was their obligation to protect the Island. According to the “rules,” Jacob and the Man in Black couldn’t kill each other, and apparently Ben and Charles Widmore operated under a similar contract. Rose and Barnard followed one rule: stay out of the Island drama. Under Jacobs rule people couldn’t leave the Island. Eloise criticized Desmond for breaking the rules in the Sideways world in his quest to enlighten the castaways. In order to kill Smokey, Dogen said you couldn’t let him speak to you and had to use a special dagger. The list goes on.

But ultimately, these rules weren’t the be all and end all. As Jacob told Kate when she asked why her name was crossed off the list of candidates in the cave: that list was merely chalk on a wall. Nothing was actually set in stone and she could have claimed the job as Island protector if she wanted it.

In the same way, most of the “rules” that governed Lost turned out to be malleable or eventually needed to be changed. The drama Rose and Bernard longed to avoid found them regardless of what they wanted, Desmond eventually stopped pressing that button, Ben shot and killed Widmore and Desmond “woke up” the Sidways world. Man in Black found a loophole to kill his brother. But the greatest change to the rules it seems came after the show ended. With Hurley as the new Island leader, Ben presents him with an option: change the rules. Find a better way to govern than his predecessors. The Island had been operating under the same conditions for thousands of years. Those rules may have worked for Jacobs time, but don’t work in 2010.

People are not purely good or evil

I spent most of the series debating whose side each of the characters were on. Was Ben really taking orders from Jacob, or his scheming twin brother? Was Charles Widmore actually helping the castaways as he claimed, or on the Island for his own personal gain? But it is impossible to answer these questions. Sayid, Sawyer, Kate were all very flawed human beings, murders, con-men, who turned out to be very good people. Even the Man in Black didn’t just wear cloak of darkness. I think this is why Charles Widmore remained blatantly absent from the series finale. Lost couldn’t answer whose side Widmore was on, because like all of the other characters, he was never on just one team.

It’s ok to not always be No. 1

The most poignant moment of the series finale for me was when Ben graciously and humbly accepted the position as Hurley’s No. 2. It was only fitting that he was the one to hand over the bottle used to anoint Hurley as the new Jacob. Here was a man who longed to be “special,” asking Jacob back in Season 5, what about me? He followed Fake Locke blindly on the promise of being in charge of the Island once MIB escaped. He would do anything to be leader, including standing back when the only thing he ever loved, his daughter Alex, was killed. Ben’s story arch was one of the most successful in my opinion. He was able to acknowledge his failures, apologize to Locke for murdering him out of sheer jealousy, but accept that he still had more work to do before he could follow the rest of the castaways into the next world.

There are always more questions

If there is anything Lost has taught us is that we can never have all the answers. Master plans don’t always turn out the way we hoped, and there can be more than one answer to the same question. Even Desmond, who was the most enlightened of the bunch, didn’t know everything and was proven fallible.

While the Mother was bat shit crazy, she did provide one piece of insight: “any answer I give you will just lead to more questions.” Any resolution about what the Island was would have inevitably led to even more questions. The Island is meant to be something different for each one of us, a place of growth and enlightenment that can’t be explained simply or logically. The only explanation I can wrap my mind around is it is the place where people who are lost go to be found.


Daryl said...

So Jeanine you and I have exchanged quick comments about the finale. Here is what I think. I'm not of the school of thought that the island was the real world. I think that the cast did in fact die in a plane crash and that the island was either Hell or lower Purgatory (see Dante's Divine Comedy). I believe that what they all fought through is supposed to be some representation of the fight for redemption, the fight to achieve Heaven. Some made it while others clearly did not. How else would you explain why Michael was stuck as a whispering voice. Many religions (and we know for a fact the writers used religions from around the world to inspire concepts) talk about a journey that takes place after your Human life ends. Such a journey cannot end until you have completed what is required of you. That would explain why Jacob was still able to pass off the right to "protect the island" even after he was "killed" by Ben. I think the idea of the island being hell or some level of purgatory helps explain all the fantastical things as well, but in the end, who cares about the unexplained weirdness. All in all, the journey was great, and in the end our faulted characters found redemption.

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