Many devoted fans of Lost are up-in-arms over the series finale. They are angry because questions like “who built the statue?” and “what was the Hurley bird?” were left unanswered. While I understand the frustration of questions left unanswered, I think these fans are missing the point.
Lost was not a show about a mysterious island or a show about pseudo-science and/or magic. If you were expecting the finale to have been a two-and-a-half hour documentary covering the island’s history and providing explanations for it’s bizarre phenomenon, you were watching the wrong show. You can find plenty of programs about ancient mysteries and scientific phenomenon on the History, SyFy, Discovery etc.
Lost was a show about people, a core group of characters whose strengths, flaws, desires and backstories were developed over six seasons. In my view the finale provided viewers with proper closure to those characters’ stories. No, it wasn’t perfect, nothing ever is. I personally felt Sayid and Shannon’s reunion felt a bit contrived since so much time had been spent covering Sayid’s search for Nadia.
Beyond the characters, the finale did an excellent job reinforcing what I would call the show’s three primary “messages.”
The first message is a bit cliche’, “true love never dies.” While those specific words were never spoken, the idea was made abundantly clear by the stories of Rose and Bernard, Charlie and Claire, and most significantly, Desmond and Penny. While this is a lovely, romantic idea, I am glad those words remained unsaid.
Despite the inspiring nature of Lost’s love stories, they were never as important as the show’s second message: the importance of the familial, agape love that developed between the show’s main characters. This message was embodied in Jack’s motto “live together, or die alone.” Almost every major plot turn in the show, from the predations of the Others to being thrown around in time, required the Losties to work together to survive. Everything the characters went through served to strengthen the unspoken bonds or trust and love between them.
To me, “live together or die alone” is is a particularly prescient message. Lost began with a plain crash on a (seemingly) deserted island. This is much the same scenario presented in the once hugely popular “reality” show Survivor. Survivor’s motto: “outwit, outlast, outplay,” is a perfect example of modern America’s it’s-either-you-or-me, individualist culture. There is nothing “real” about Survivor. In the real world you are constantly forced to rely on those around you, even if you don’t realize it (e.g. how well do you think you’d make out if there were were no police in the world?).
Today’s culture too often dismisses the importance of cooperation and community. What else can be expected from a nation which views Ayn Rand as a saint and Karl Marx as a demon? During our decades-long struggle to defeat the threat of monolithic, authoritarian communism we placed ever-higher levels of emphasis on the free market system, self-reliance and our individual desires. The 20th century’s “American Dream” was at its core about attaining a comfortable level of isolation: moving to the suburbs (so our kids won’t have to go to school with “their” kids), buying a three-bedroom house with a yard (no more noisy upstairs neighbors or sharing a room with a sibling) and a car for every adult (who wants to ride a bus?).
I do not mean to say that self-reliance, freedom of choice and freedom of expression are not important principles; they just aren’t the most important principles. We have forgotten that in reality we must always live together or we will die alone.
The third message, “whatever happened, happened,” reminds us that no matter how many times we revisit our past mistakes, we can never change them (even if we live in a world with magical time travel). I struggle with this all the time. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes over the last 24 years. My main comfort is that I believe most of my mistakes have stemmed from wrong actions, not inaction. But whatever happened, happened; we learn, we keep going.
So those are the reasons I really enjoyed the finale. If you didn’t enjoy it, I’m sorry. But hey: whatever happened, happened.