Monday night update, after a second viewing: I revise my thinking a little bit. It's not that the flash-sideways is strictly Jack's construct to ease his passage to death -- (or reincarnation, I got a strong "next chapter" vibe this time around.) But the flash sideways world is the construct that all of them need at their moment of death, whenever that is. As viewers we need to get over the notion of linear time -- as Christian sez, some died before you, some died long after. There's no strict calendar for this passage, but that is why Hurley speaks to Ben about their island time in the past tense. And it's also why Ben has the option of opting out, as it were, at least for that moment. He's still working through his personal construct. But unlike on the first viewing, I do believe they're all moving on together -- hence the white light flooding the church.
The shots of the wreckage over the credits are still gnawing at me. I'm 85% sure it's old glimpses of Oceanic 815. I need to get out season one and study the early wreckage scenes to be absolutely sure. Though I suppose even if it is meant to be Aljira, we know how it winds up for Kate and Sawyer.
By Cynthia Littleton
(Jon Weisman's initial thoughts posted below)
And in the end ... the hero sacrifices himself for the greater good.
In hindsight the ending of "Lost" should have been clear, based on all the hero's journey sagas going back to Homer et al.
It is a credit to the show's depth and breadth of characters and storytelling that it wasn't. Jack was our hero from the start, of course, but the show took so many twists and turns, and characters like Locke, Sawyer, Ben and Desmond took the spotlight at various times that by season six it was easy to lose sight of Jack's central role. But they never really knocked Jack out of the center of the action for too long, from the role he played in rounding the Oceanic 6 up to go back to L.A. to detonating the atom bomb to the fact that season six opened with a flash-sideways from Jack's P.O.V. Live together, die alone -- except Jack didn't die alone, in his mind.
Here's my first stab at what we learned in the final 15 minutes or so, formulated with the help of my fellow "Lost" finale viewing comrades, Variety's Stuart Levine and Priscilla Levine, who kindly hosted our party at their house, and Variety's Justin Kroll and Rick Kissell.
The flash-sideways that we saw this season were Jack's fantasy visions of what became of the core Oceanic 815 group. It was part of the "letting go" process that Jack went through after he died. I believe Jack died on the island after he stuck the role back in the hole plugging the rock back into the hole that allowed the beautiful white light to come back, rather than the fiery color and the quaking and shaking the erupted after Desmond pulled out the rock -- which Kroll quickly observed symbolized the cork in the wine carafe that Jacob used as a visual aid to explain the evil-containment imperative to Richard.
The exact timing of Jack's death may be open to interpretation. But it's impossible to quarrel with how they handled it -- Jack lays himself to rest in the bamboo field, the very same spot where he first woke up on the island that was to provide him with the biggest awakening of his sorry life. Closing one eye carefully in the same way it popped open with a start all those seasons ago. And just as Vincent was there when he first awoke, so the faithful hound lies down to see Jack off into the next world. His fellow castaways do the same thing in his flash sideways, that's why Kate and others urge Jack to come when he's "ready" to leave.
Christian Shephard gave the most explicit explanation when he told Jack that all of the people in the church would die a some point -- some before him, some long after him -- and that time he spent with the people on the island were the most important part of his life. So this was Jack's vision of how he wanted to go out -- a happy ending for everyone, from Claire and Charlie, to Rose and Bernard, Sawyer and Juliet, Penny and Desmond, Hurley and Libby, Locke and Helen, etc. He also got the one thing he'd wanted since childhood, a big bear hug and "I love you" from his father.
"Nobody dies alone," Christian counsels, for once giving his son some real wisdom. "You needed them and they needed you" to allow for Jack to "move on."
The final scene put the line from an earlier flash-sideways from Locke into perspective, when he pressed the point with Jack that his son David was "not real." David was a figment of his fantasy construct. I think island events as we've seen them the past six seasons all absolutely happened -- Charlie's death, etc. -- right on up through Jack's time in the hole. Kate, Sawyer and Claire left with Lapidus and Miles on the plane, while Ben, Hurley and Jack and Hurley stayed behind. I think that was the point of Hurley telling Ben that he was "a great No. 2" in Jack's flash-sideways. He had a feeling those two would stick together.
Now, as for sending Desmond down the well to mess with the white light source in the first place -- that was the right thing to do. As soon as Des pulled the stopper, I believe Flocke became mortal again, which allowed Jack to kill him. Great fight scene between Jack and Flocke on the cliffs, in the rain (of course), with a big assist from Kate.
Among the most interesting revelations was the suggestion from Ben that Jacob didn't have to be so cruel and punishing in not letting people leave the island, etc. Hurley could find another way to lead, Jack told him. Power corrupts, I suppose. We saw the same thing with Ben.
Oh my goodness, so much more to say but it's late, and I'm beat after two and a half hours of mind-blowing television. A huge and hearty thank-you Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who wrote the epic finale, "The End," and to Jack Bender, who directed it, and to all the other core writers, producers, directors, editors, cast members, the great Michael Giacchino and every other artist who made any part of "Lost" come alive the past six seasons. It's been quite a journey.
Monday ayem update: It took my colleague Michael Schneider to point out to me that the plane Jack sees flying overhead as he's dying is not Oceanic 815, as I thought (duh) but the Ajira plane with Lapidus et al. Double D'oh! I was so focused on the recreation of the pilot scene...
From Jon Weisman:
It was worth it. It was more than worth it. Not just for the resolution, which didn't dot every i or cross every t (and maybe even dotted a t or crossed an i here and there), but nevertheless resolved more than I could have hoped for. But it was really worth it for the earthquake in my gut that barrels on for me even after the finale's end.
So many powerful moments, each more visceral then the next. "Lost" wasn't about what I learned, but rather about what I felt. Even though the series seemed kind of gassed in the weeks leading up to Sunday's finale, the finale itself transcended and became something truly unforgettable, easily one of the best series finales in TV history.