Lost went out, last night, like the first Star Wars movie, in the same excellent, sweet way.
Beyond the defeat of a man in black, here was a group of friends, gathered joyously in a smiling, winking celebration of the bond that enabled them to triumph together.
Star Wars: A New Hope ended with Han and Luke, Leia and Chewie, even the droids, all knowing their special secret: that together they had accomplished great things. So too was it with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Desmond and the rest.
If Lost's sixth and final season was at risk of being stereotypically male, a show suddenly about war and action and bad guys, its finale proved that Lost's most crucial matters were those stereotypically female: love, community and a yearning to express deeply affectionate emotion.
The show was about friends who were linked before they ever crashed, who were drawn together repeatedly by the outside hand of Jacob and The Others and so many forces other than themselves, and who found final blissful release in the flash-sideways when it was they — no one else — who brought them together one more wonderful time. It's little surprise that the meeting of their own making appeared to be the most joyful one.
I had fallen for false leads. I thought season six's flash-sideways was a timeline divergence, a possible ramification from the explosion of the bomb that concluded season five.
I was wrong.
No bomb sank the island. No bomb changed history.
The flash-sideways proved to be what so many people, early in Lost's existence, thought the whole show might be: some sort of after-life purgatory. It's not clear who constructed the flash-sideways plane of existence. My current theory is that it was the construct of Hurley, a final Jacob-powered gesture designed after the main events of season six to allow his friends to find each other one last time. Maybe. In this plane, though, were characters who were not part of our tight band of friends: Eloise Hawking, aware that she's not living her original life yet clinging to a chance at an existence where she won't murder her son; Martin Keamy, still a bastard; Ana Lucia, still not the world's best cop. This flash-sideways, or more aptly, flash-afterlife, is a place where a repentant Ben can find peace. It's also a flash-afterlife where the woman for Sayid is Shannon, not Nadia, which is kind of weird!
The finale's church scene was a celebration of Lost's band of heroes, their Titanic-finale of friends beyond the hurt of life's struggles. Ben was fittingly left outside, perhaps to maintain the euphoric mood. Even he must know that he's a downer, recusing himself from book clubs in the past and tearful goodbyes at the last, finally at peace with not belonging.
But where were Michael and Walt, the father and son who had meant so much, for good or ill, to so many of our Oceanic 815 survivors? We had seen Michael this season as a restless ghost stuck on the island. Perhaps that nature of his character, not a casting decision, kept him out of the church. Perhaps he did not quite belong, though his son, the special Walt, was missed.
Maybe Desmond had not hopped his mind from the island to the flash-sideways earlier this season after all. Maybe he had just foreseen it as he had foreseen so many other possible futures. It turns out the island was the only present for our heroes. It was the setting for the Man In Black's defeat and a wonderful refutation not just of the season's obvious villain but of a less obviously unpleasant character, Jacob. Ben's final encouragement to Hurley to reject Jacob's way of doing things was a wonderful repudiation of an island-management philosophy that tolerated genocide and restricted freedom.
At the end of season five, Jacob had expressed his belief in the free will of men and women to do something other than squabble. In that sense, he was right and Man in Black was wrong. Our Lost heroes ended with no squabble. They persevered and preserved where Jacob and his brother destroyed. Jacob's hand was heavy, his understanding limited. Hurley could surely do better... and help Ben be a better man for it.
Who would have expected Miles to survive? For Richard Alpert to go gray and Frank to fly home? (OK, I sort of did). Beyond season six, Hurley, Ben, Rose and Bernard — and maybe Cindy — are our island-dwellers. Frank, Miles, Claire, Aaron, Kate and Sawyer are our island escapees. These are not the combinations I expected, but they feel fine to me. They live on with little questions to be asked about their next steps. And I guess Desmond of season three was right, in a way. Claire flies of the island; Aaron will be hers.
It's just a bummer to know that Hurley, so much for island immortality, eventually dies, winding up in the flash-afterlife. So be it.
The season six finale pressed the button of emotional awakening and reunion perhaps a few more times than needed, more times arguably than the numbers demanded. But this was a send-off I could celebrate, a Kate-saves-Jack, Locke-teaches-Jack-one-last-time-to-have-faith return to the spirit of season one and love letter to a simple idea: friendship wins. Together, there is will.
Lost was a fine show. It leaves me happy, satisfied.