Lost Was About Traveling, Not About Destination

Last Sunday TV show Lost ended. As everybody is talking, writing, crying, cursing… over the end of the series, I promised myself that I won’t. But I lied. I can’t resist.

If you haven’t seen Lost finale yet, you should stop reading this. There are spoilers inside.

I was fairly confident that the finale of Lost will not disappoint me. I believed that Carlton and Damon can wrap the story. And after all, Lost was about traveling, not about destination.

Or maybe it’s me trying not to admit that we’ve been cheated? I don’t feel cheated, I’ve enjoyed all six seasons of the show. Even the finale. But the finale was the easy way out. And I don’t understand why.

The purgatory theory

Long ago, J. J. Abrams said that there will be no snow globe ending, that it wasn’t Vincent’s dream, nor anybody’s. He also said (2005) that the island is not hell, purgatory or something like that:

Well [the theory] that I like, and the one that everyone was talking about a while to me, is the purgatory one, and though that’s not what it is, it is such a cool idea … But that isn’t literally what [the island] is.

And he’s right, Island isn’t. Flash-sideways reality is.

According to many statements of the producers and insiders (check that link for much more insider’s views), they knew how the show will end even during the season one. Of course that J. J. wouldn’t admit that they were busted that early in the show. Maybe they really did knew the ending.

But then, what happened and why the show had such inconsistencies? Like…

The candidates

For years, there are people that are special, candidates that have been touched by Jacob and monitored and dragged to the island. They even spontaneously travel through time from Ajira 316 to the island 30 years ago because they are candidates. And then, just an episode before the finale, Jacob gather them around the fire and tells them:

You’re just a bunch of losers so you didn’t lost anything by being here. And that’s all just chalk on the wall. It’s really doesn’t matter much.

Oh really? So you touched 12-y-o Kate and paid for that NKOTB lunchbox she stole because one day she’ll become fugitive that has nothing to lose and might replace you guarding the island though it’s just chalk on the wall?

The rules

Rules of the island play a role for at least two or three seasons. And while I really haven’t expected clarification about numbers or what’s that shiny light under the island or how the frozen donkey wheel works, I did expect some serious back story about the rules. Something better than mother told us not to hurt each other while we are kids and we stick to that 20 centuries later even if one of us killed her from the back and each of us will kill the other by ordering somebody to do it.

And what about rules preventing Ben and Widmore to kill each other? Did mother said something about that too?

Rules were important for one more thing:

The loophole

I admit that the loophole took me hours of thinking, rereading Lostpedia over and over, reading transcripts, banging the head against the wall, drawing diagrams and what not. For those of you less obsessed, loophole was mentioned for the first time in the scene of Jacob and Man in Black chit-chatting on the beach, when we see them for the first time. MiB says he’ll find his loophole one day and kill Jacob. And so he does, at the end of the fifth season.

But it’s not just that he finally found somebody to do the dirty job for him. It happens at the very moment that Juliet knocks the nuke. It’s the moment when a variable changes the whole equation. I really love that scene when Faraday says:

I had been spending so much time focused on the constants, I forgot about the variables. Do you know what the variables in these equations are, Jack?

Us. We’re the variables. People. We think. We reason. We make choices. We have free will. We can change our destiny.

So the bomb goes boom. And the loop in time (one in which they are all, including Faraday that is going to die just a couple of months before he’s born) is broken. And the MiB finds his loophole in the rules and kills Jacob. And the Oceanic 815 seems to land safely in L.A.

And the island is under the water with all the Dharmaville buildings standing. And everybody will die this way or another and end up in the church over the Dharma’s Lamp Post, to let go and move on.

Before that, Jack will unplug and plug the cork of the island back in again, probably according to Juliet’s recipe for getting a candy from a broken machine:

Can I tell you a secret? If you unplug it, and then plug it back in again, the candy just drops right down.

Which is one of the parallels that make Lost such a great show. But leave the candy aside, what happened back in 1977 at the building grounds of Swan station?

It exploded, whether because of the nuke or drilling into the pocket of energy, and kicked losties right back into 2007. Near the remains of Swan station destroyed by Desmond. Right back in the loop they tried to break.

So Faraday wasn’t right. There is no variables in the equation. There is no free will. Was that the idea of the show? I doubt.

And I doubt that show was intended to end up this way. The whole build-up was aiming in a different direction. And not in “we’re preparing the surprise” way.

Two timelines and Schrodinger’s cat

My hopes were somewhere along the Schrodinger’s cat. You know, the one from high school physics. The one that sits in a box with poison container connected to mechanism containing radioactive material that will release the poison at some moment. Quantum mechanics says that while the box is closed the cat is both alive AND dead. Only when we open the box it is alive OR dead.

I played that game with the two timelines. Losties were both in one and the other, living two different lives at the same time. And there was some box they had to open for one of the realities to turn out as the right one. And then, when realities started leaking from one to another, I wished them to somehow mix and get together again. Eloise once explained to Desmond that the Universe has a way of course-correcting itself. Everything would be right on the spot.

Personally, I thought that having the right reality is wrong. Why not make them all be real? That would be an ending good enough for the show like Lost.

But that was obviously too much. Just before the Lost finale, something went wrong, and things said before were forgotten in favour of a simple and easy solution. One with purgatory and no free will, no course-correction of the Universe and everybody being dead and hugging in the church. Meh.

Once again, I’m not disappointed. I love the show. It just didn’t ended the way I liked. But it wasn’t about the end anyway. It was a hell of a ride.


  • I liked it, except the purgatory part. Finale was very emotional, but not pathetic, even though there was a lot of hugging, crying & kissing moments when island bleeds in their memories. The best scene for me was when Hugo asked Ben to help him with the island. The look on Ben's face: priceless. But from the moment when Christian says that they built a church together to find each other there… It all went downhill. The church, holding hands/reunite (now, that was pathetic!), Christian opening the door an the bright light… So lame. 
    I agree with you that Lost was about the ride, not about the end, but I was expecting some time loop, joining realities, or something like that. Not this cheap purgatory end.
    Oh well… That last horrible 5 minutes in the church won't stop me from rewatching the show :)

  • The finale was good (I truly enjoyed seeing the old characters reunited) but I wasn't satisfied with the purgatory ending either.  A day or two after I watched it – and I remembered the scene where Kate said to Jack "I missed you so much," at the time they hadn't revealed yet that she'd made it off the island after jack saved the world and lived on without him. So thinking back on it with that realization – choked me right up.
    I didn't catch the candy bar parallel either – good eye!

  • I didn't mind the hugging part. It wasn't cheesy. After all, we spent six years with them and we deserved decent good buy. Similarly, some scenes of dying were so emotional but not bad. I just don't understand how could they let go Sayid in a second. 
    I also loved that Hurley and Ben scene. After all, Ben is one of the best pictured villain in the history of TV. I hated him, admired him, felt for him and wanted to get into his mind all at the same time. Giving him the role of Number Two was the resolution he really deserved. And a wise move on Hugo's side. 

  • Yes, moments like Kate's "I missed you so much" that make sense only after the whole show ends are so precious in Lost. One of the things that makes it worth watching again. 
    Now that purgatory moment, that so many people find not-quite-fitting… Does my idea of it being put instead of some other ending that was prepared for make sense?

  • You think that they had some other ending planned, but then they gave us this purgatory instead?
    Well, I guess that it is possible, but I don't understand why… Did some producer really thought that this cheap end would be better?

  • Yes. So many things changed during the second half of the last season. Candidates are not important anymore, loophole doesn't have significance anymore… maybe they went after simpler resolution, one that will be feasible for larger audience instead one with joining realities, new loopholes and other mind-bending stuff.

  • I completely agree, it seams that the easy way out was so… handy!
    Cant' say that I'm disappointed, more like worn-out or blown-out. The ride, as you say it was great, but somehow the landing was completely dissatisfactory. They didn't trigger my imagination to go into what-if scenarios (imagining other possible solutions) – which would've happen had the end been more vague, yet they didn't give me the solution that would put my thoughts in peace, feeling that all the puzzles are on their places, and that I can go on with new spectators experiences.
    I'm still hooked-up, but with the awareness that the hook is gone and that I should feel free. Just that I don't.

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