Well, in my opinion, they basically nailed it.
Sure, I have my questions about certain things and am still processing the ending, but I honestly cannot deny that I was emotionally satisfied on basically every single level possible by the time “The End” came to an end. Both stories came to very compelling and oftentimes complicated resolutions. But every single character reunion or little emotional beat in this episode was spot-on. It even somehow completely got me re-invested in the Jack-Kate pairing. And I have no idea how in God’s name that is possible.
Jack’s journey came to a hotly satisfying end, especially on the island, but definitely in both worlds as far as I’m concerned. To take the hero archetype to so many extreme highs and deep lows and even meandering middle ground AND finish here was something to admire. The fact that nearly everyone at home had to be behind Jack by this episode’s end says a lot about how these creative people told stories. Really everyone’s arcs came to a nice end, something I’ll talk about in the future.
Of course, everyone is going to be talking about the ending. I’ve already seen people on Twitter who loved the whole episode right until the last five minutes who now retroactively hate the entire episode or season or series. That’s nonsense. Even if you didn’t like the ending, don’t hate everything prior just because of it. Moreover, the ending doesn’t really effective the original island story whatsoever, so you can almost block it out.
But seriously, my take: it was beautiful. I’ll have to think about it some more moving forward here when I watch it again, but yeah, loved it. Not only does it make the flash-sideways worthwhile, but it still ultimately comes back to choice. Everyone, especially Jack, had to choose to let go, wake up and join the others — not the Others — in the group pilgrimage to…wherever you like to call that place when we die. I’ve had a bunch of people ask me already, but my interpretation of the proceedings is that yes, they were all dead throughout the flash-sideways all season. Whether it’s a construct of getting into the H word or just some sort of device to tell the story Darlton wanted to tell, that’s it. As Christian said, time or location didn’t matter. It was all just a world where a choice had to be made, free of time and space. They didn’t all die at the same time, but spiritually knew that they’d never be happy or be able to let go unless they chose to be together — forever.
That all might be too spiritual for some people who were worried about scientific explanations or “answers,” but emotionally, it was 100 percent effective for me. And really, that’s the best way I can personally explain my feelings towards “The End” all together. It didn’t answer really much of anything, but it made me smile, made me laugh and nearly made me cry on multiple occasions. In the end, it was really all about the characters and for this viewer, the series couldn’t have given me anymore.
FIRST UPDATE (I hope it doesn’t all seem like rambling):
“There are no shortcuts, no do-overs – what happened, happened. All of this matters.”
I’m sure most people will use that line in their recaps at some point, but I couldn’t resist. It’s now 2 a.m. eastern time and I’m still taking it all in, but I’m not surprised by the reaction in comments sections all around the web. I am, however, surprised at how fervently some people hate it. I never like to tell anyone they are wrong for simply having an opinion, but I have trouble believing people thought the entire episode was bad, completely separated from the ending. Most of the concerns unsurprisingly center on the lack of answers given to us by the finale or even the final episodes. No, we didn’t learn anything else about Jacob or the Man in Black. No, we didn’t learn who had the job before Mother. No, we didn’t learn anything about the so-called “rules.” And no, we didn’t learn who created the literal plug that took the place of the figurative plug from “Ab Aeterno.” But seriously, in the end, does any of that really matter?
I don’t think it does. It would have been fine to have that knowledge, but it’s not crucial to know. This season has gone out of its way to tell us that a lot of what we thought was “mythology” was really just bullshit. It’s all information passed down through centuries, manipulated to fit certain perspectives and ultimately, skewed. Jacob told Jack all that he needed to know last week so that he could make that final choice and if people complained when the story supposed shifted focus to the battle between Jacob and MiB, I have no sympathy for them when they are enraged that it shifted back to Jack and his friends. For better or worse, Darlton have always said they gave answers they needed to give that felt important to the characters. In terms of the island story, I’m not sure there is one thing that was left out that Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Desmond, Locke or Ben needed to know.
And again, what are “answers” if they don’t “mean” anything? As a writer, you can present all the mythological quandaries and mysteries that you want, but if they don’t say anything about human beings and how we relate to one another, it’s all for not. Throughout the series’ run — and especially in the second half when the end-date was in place — the writers tried to place the mystery amid narrative and thematic context. But when it all came down to it, most of those mysteries didn’t matter because there is no way to solve a mystery that creates the kind of poignant moments we received in droves throughout “The End.”
That’s not to say that none of the mysteries or any of the island’s events didn’t matter. As that line up there suggests, it all mattered. These people might have been brought to the island by mythical beings, but after that, they were on their own. Every single choice was there to make and from what I can deduce, those choices led to a building of relationships. And so while it may be too cheesy or on-the-nose for some people, but I can’t stop thinking about how much I loved it. The decision to find out what was in the hatch? It mattered, because it created hundreds of different consequences for these people and how they interacted with one another, how they became more of a family. All the struggle, all the pain, it was totally worth it.
There’s lots of rage out there over the ultimate need for the flash-sideways universe. In one sense, the FS wasn’t needed because even though it was a coy and sort of-cheap swerve by the writers who convinced us that the FS had something to do with the Jughead detonation, it did not. Again, as Christian said, this place is always just “there,” but nowhere specifically. All the choices these people made convinced them that they couldn’t be happy even in the hereafter without one another.
END FIRST UPDATE
It is now 12:36 p.m. on Monday and I still can’t stop thinking about the finale. With this update of thoughts, I’m going to try to be a bit more critical because “The End” was not without its faults, even if I did slobber all over it last night and early this morning.
In terms of the island story, I don’t have many problems. I think Jack’s plan to use Desmond against NotLocke could have been explained just a little bit more, because it really led to nothing, but if we’re supposed to read that as Jack being more confident than ever that he could make something happen, then I’m fine with that. The other thing I can see lots of folks complaining about is de-powering of NotLocke. That’s something I want to think about even more as the week goes along, but it ultimately doesn’t really matter does it? It gave us the epic fight on the cliff of the cave and I think that’s enough. Moreover, the few leaps in logic — Frank’s alive!, Ben’s freedom from the tree — can also be forgiven because they ultimately led to enjoyable character moments that made me smile or feel something.
In terms of the FS story, my biggest complaint — and it’s still not a huge one — is that it was a total cheat. We all expected, and in some cases, hoped, that the FS conclusion would then retroactively make the earlier episodes seem more relevant or more important with that enlightened view. In the end, that didn’t really happen whatsoever. We expected the story to build to something that would bend back and tell us something new, but on the whole, the FS story simply depicted characters meandering towards an awakening. And while saving most of those awakenings for the finale made it more emotionally resonant and effective, it doesn’t add anything to previous episodes, meaning “What Kate Does” or “The Package” aren’t going to all of a sudden tell us something new about Jin, Sun, Kate or Claire.
Instead, the FS universe served as a waiting room of sorts where these people could work out their final batch of hangups before moving on together. I guess we could say that the conflicts in those stories were just tests for these characters to pass, but in some cases, the tests didn’t result to much and the characters eventually woke up because they were put in the right position to do so. But of course, they made the ultimate choice to wake up and accept the memories of their lives, so I cannot fully complain. However, still a cheat because the writers could have told any story all season in that universe and then hid behind “it’s all a construct of their spiritual minds anyway!” Luckily, nearly all of the stories that were presented worked for me and so did the resolution, so the cheating part of it doesn’t bother me anymore.
Additionally, I’m just a smidgen disappointed with Desmond’s ultimate role in the story. We know that the electromagnetism caused something within his mind to jar free and see this other universe that was really just a waiting room for the hereafter. And so, in the FS universe, Desmond’s charge was to get everyone in place so that they could “leave” together. But on the island, Desmond, who we are led to believe is completely aware of that departure, doesn’t act as such. He knows he’s supposed to go down into the island’s heart and uncork it because he believes it will send him home. But as he tells Jack, he think that home means back on 815 and NOT in the waiting room — and that’s a little confusing. Is island Desmond just aware that the other, happier world is there, but only its beginnings (i.e. he knows he gets to a happier place by starting a on plane with Jack)? Or is FS Desmond not actually aware of what the “leaving” as he’s rounding people up? That’s all a little sketchy at the moment.
Finally, one last thought for now before I surely come back to this post again by day’s end. The criticisms with the actual construct of the FS universe are valid, but it makes sense that this world started on Oceanic 815. That flight was the beginning of the relationships between these people and what started it all. Thus, it makes complete sense to me that within this world and idea, the characters would want to be together in that form. That means Ji Yeon isn’t there because her parents were never really part of her life and the happiness of Jin and Sun is really just based on the fact that she existed out there. That means that Jack and Juliet’s son probably doesn’t exist anymore either because it was all just a construct of their mind. Jack’s inner struggles were powered by his daddy issues and terrible marriage, so in this universe, he overcomes them both to be a good dad and at least somewhat happy divorcee. That means that Shannon and Sayid are ultimately together because with Naida, Sayid could never not be Sayid, the torturer. As Hurley told him, he needed to stop letting titles and his past relationships define who he was and on the island, Sayid was just a man in love with a woman, and that was Shannon. And that means that others like Miles, Frank, Daniel, Charlotte, Michael, Walt, Eko and even Ben don’t get in. Michael’s trapped on the island forever, we already went through that. I’d wager Eko is as well. Walt had a much deeper connection to others in his life because he only spent 65 days or so on the island — and for most of it he was trapped in a room. We know that Ben decides to stay in the construct because he still has penance to do and Alex to be with. And I guess the Freighter Folks just had deeper connections with other people OR had more to do in the constructed world. I’m okay with most of that, but think Miles should have been there.
But as I’ve said multiple times, in the end, it was all about the survivors of Oceanic 815 — and Desmond and Penny I guess — and their relationships. They were always told that if they didn’t live together, they’d die alone. But because they chose to live together as long as they could on the island, they ended up passing on together. And that’s just damn beautiful.
END SECOND UPDATE
Bullets of favorite moments:
- Hurley and Ben as the new Jacob and Richard? Amazing spin-off potential! Just kidding. Seriously.
- Locke’s awakening and smile when Jack starts arguing with him was perhaps my favorite FS moment.
- The much-anticipated Sawyer-Juliet reunion was handled so well.
- And again, Jack and Kate — where did THAT come from?
- The NotLocke-Jack fight on the rainy cliff? That was action movie-quality. Actually all the direction, those long crane and chopper shots were fantastic.