I remember ABC promoting JJ Abrams new show. About a plane crash on an island. It seemed like an odd premise, like a dramatic Gilligan’s Island or less scripted Survivor. But I watched it, and was hooked. Never once did my belief in the show falter. I played the ARGs, I watched the shows and mused about where it was all headed. I acknowledged that some seasons weren’t as interesting as the others (sorry Tailies, I really could have cared less about you, except that it meant we got Mr. Eko, Bernard and Libby).
But all through it, there was an interesting story. For all the polar bears, smoke monster and Dharma stations, it was the story about the people. How the Island changed them, and how they grew closer and further apart. They were real people, who reminded me of people that I’ve met in the real world. The snarky guy who uses humor to keep people at arm’s length. The cuddly big buy with the heart of gold. The sneaky weasel who’s in it only for himself. And the eternal optimist, who believes that everything has a meaning.
And I cared. I cried when Boone died on Jack’s makeshift operating table. I cried when Shannon died in Sayid’s arms, and when Charlie drowned in the hopes that it would save Claire. It hurt to see Locke so shaken in his faith in the Island. (Though I admit, I laughed with Nikki and Paolo’s death. I didn’t like them, but temporary paralysis and them being buried alive? That was harsh)
As the final season progressed, I reminded myself not to try to expect answers. The producers were pretty clear about saying that the show wasn’t about the mythology, but that we’d get some answers.
So what did I think? Non-spoiler review: I liked it. Just as the producers had said, the show wasn’t about the mythology at all. It took place on this mysterious island, but it was ultimately about the people. I thought that they found a very smart and yes, sentimental way to conclude the show, and didn’t feel shortchanged in the answer department.
Spoilers behind the cut.
This finale wasn’t what I was expecting. Though, from the beginning of the season, I realized this season that the entire series was headed in a direction that I hadn’t anticipated. I had thought, after watching Alias, that we’d get a resolution to the main story and that was it. I expected deaths, and a bit of a bitter ending. But after all the sacrifices from the series, they managed to give us a happy ending, too.
The Sideways world wasn’t so much a Sideways world as a Waiting Room for the Afterlife. And the show wasn’t so much about the island as it was about love. That’s right. Love, love, love. (Love is all you need) Well, that’s what the Waiting Room seemed to be about, at least. Not only that, but they created the Waiting Room with their sacrifices, so that no matter what the Island did to them, they could be together.
Plenty of people seemed confused by the notion of the Sideways world. Yes, everyone was dead. But as Jack’s father reminded us, everyone dies. It didn’t mean that they all died at the same time, or even at the ages we saw them as. Hurley and Ben’s exchange about Hurley being a great #1 and Ben being a great #2 let us realize that lifetimes passed before everything we were watching unfolded.
Not only that, but it gave everyone a chance to resolve what they hadn’t taken care of in their mortal lives. Jack got to better understand his father by becoming a father. Claire got to be accepted by Jack as family early on, and feel what it was like to be loved. James Ford got to build off of what he’d had as LaFleur and make himself the man that Juliet ultimately fell for. Miles was able to have a relationship with his father. Locke, still burdened by his father (but in a different way), was able to accept his disability and had Helen in his life.
Hurley. Oh, Hurley. I admit, I was baffled by this strangely confident Hugo Reyes. The man who was lucky and rich. He’d gained all that confidence in his life as the Island’s caretaker- his unresolved business was Libbey. He got the girl.
Ben! Ben got to redo it all. Instead of power-hungry, he was a dutiful son. He looked out for Alex, and as they hinted, even had the chance to become her father and resolve that. But he wasn’t done, so he stayed behind.
Sure, there were things left unanswered. What was the Man in Black’s real name? Why did the Dharma Initiative come to the Island? But I was satisfied not knowing. After all, we got to see Jack Shepherd save the day (as well as Kate- go her!) and know that everyone had lives ahead of them. Richard was finally able to live (and die). Claire would get to see Aaron and have Kate there to help her regain her sanity.
Was it the greatest series finale? No. Hour-long dramas are difficult to end. But, they gave us a substantial character arch with a bit of wish fulfillment, in giving us reunions for characters that had been ripped apart. Which makes me happy.
PS – Rumor has it that the Man in Black was named Samuel. It was apparently in the scripts, but the writers wanted to keep him as inhuman as possible, so they didn’t reveal it.
PPS – The Dharma Initiative? I think they were simply part of the cycle, part of Jacob & Samuel’s ongoing battle to prove that men are either good or inherently greedy. I also think they were a red herring to make us think that their stations would be the most important thing (like pushing a button to save the world) when ultimately, it was protecting a glowing cave, with a giant stopper in a pool of water.