This review is for those who've seen Lost and as such contains a lot of spoilers.
Now it's all over. The show has spanned 121 Episodes and about 94 hours, 40 minutes over six years. Love it or hate it, Lost isn't like other TV shows, certainly not US TV shows. Rarely has there been a (US) TV network who has had the guts to put aside tried and tested TV formulas and commit to finishing a show which never once tried to draw in new viewers. Over it's entire run Lost made almost no concessions to those people, it was one story and followed one fairly small group of people in a complicated environment. Basically it downright punished the lazy viewer. Frankly it's a miracle it exists at all. So, given the show has been the equivalent of one extremely long movie, just how do you pull in that much stuff into your head at once and come up with a conclusion to it all? Were the writers also able to do that?
Looking back on season 6, I've always regarded it in two disparate parts. To me the proper show concerns what happens on the island, so I'm going to talk about that first.
The plot of “The End” was a fairly simple one. NotLocke finds Desmond with Rose and Bernard and threatens to kill them if Desmond doesn't do as he's told. Desmond agrees and they eventually join up with the other remaining survivors. Then they all make their way to the cave of light thing. When they get there, notLocke, Jack and Desmond go it alone. They have the end game in their sights. Interestingly, Jack is no longer following the word of Jacob. Perhaps because he's tired of it all, he's now breaking away from doing what he's been told to do. He has the same aim as notLocke, only he foresees a different outcome. They begin to lower Des down the cave and into the chamber where the light is coming from. As per Widmore's prediction, Desmond is immune to the electromagnetic effects at the source of the light. Before going down he tells Jack that he expects to transition to the “other world” where they are happy and that “Jack is there too”. Desmond then pulls the plug and the light goes out. It's never made clear whether he truly knows he's going to die. I like to think that he doesn't make the distinction between “other place” and “heaven”.
Then the ground begins to shake and the island starts going down. Angry because he presumes that he's failed, Jack goes to lamp notLocke in the face. To both their surprise, the god now bleeds. As we all know, if it bleeds, we can kill it. So they duke it out to the death. Just as Jack is on the ropes, Kate steps in and shoots notLocke. Then Jack kicks his ass off the cliff. His rein of terror is all over. All season the death of MIB has been hinted at. I'm pleased with how he went out. It made enough sense, they turned off “his power source”, he's become mortal again, so they beat the crap out of him. This conclusion is one of the more satisfying of “the end”.
With the island going down, their problems aren't over yet. Here, injured from his fight with notLocke, Jack has to make a choice, he knows he has to reverse whatever Desmond did and that it's going to kill him when he does. He says his goodbyes to Kate and Sawyer, who head off in a boat to catch a plane. That leaves Hurley, Ben and Jack to go back to the cave. All of them choosing to remain on the island whatever happens. Now it's time for Jack to hand over his Jacob position to Hurley. They do the drinking of the water thing (that still works with the power off) and reluctantly Hurley takes the burden on. He and Ben then lower Jack down the hole.
Jack sees Desmond on the floor and wakes him. A little upset, he says to Jack that he thought he would be taken away. Jack ties him to Hurley's rope and sets about putting the plug back in, he succeeds, the island remains. With the light/glow returning, Hurley pulls Desmond back up. Here Hurley realises Jack is gone and he's on his own, he asks Ben to be his number 2 and live on the island with him. A fitting end for both of them I think. Jack then wakes up on the rock MIB did when he was thrown through the glowy blender. Near death he stumbles into the bamboo forest and collapses. Then it ends where it began, the show closes on Jack's eye, Vincent is there too to keep him company.
Aside from MIB's death, I don't think this island (proper) half of season 6 will be regarded as the best of the show. In certain respects, with what was missing, “the end” represents the worst of the show. For example, Widmore, Zoe and their crew were completely forgotten about. All Widmore did was turn up with Desmond and zap him. We got to know nothing more about him and why he (and his wife Hawking) cared about the island. His story was a major mystery for the middle of the show and revealing some of that would require no grand mythological “answers” that might ruin Darlton's vision for the show. Widmore's character was criminally under-written towards the end and that's a great shame.
They certainly should have had time left to dedicate to Widmore. Most of the on island antics, of the characters we were following, revolved around walking back and forth between far too many (unnecessarily) fractured groups. When those groups met, all they said was something along the lines of “I am going to do such and such to you... but I'm not ready yet and you're not ready to know why”. That made the season feel like it was a long drawn-out wait for the inevitable. So I think the end of the show would have been a million times better if they had used some of their time to drop a few in more stories that we've not been let in on. The format of Richard Alpert's episode should have been the rule for the season, not the exception.
What was good about the episode; Frank and Richard weren't killed as we were previously led to believe. Actually it looks like Richard is finally starting to age, so he could have a future off the island. One grey hair is his happy ending, I like that, it's simple. Frank really had to come back if they were going to use that plane, so no shock there. It's also good we saw a little more inside that Cave of Light. As there were carvings on that plug, and graves next to the pool, it seems like it was made by the same people that made the Statue, the Temple, the Lighthouse and the Tunnels. Over time I'm sure Lost's internet squirrels will come up with some nice information on what was written on the plug or maybe some theories in general as to what the heck is going on. As I said in my review of Across the Sea, I don't think any of that has been worked on by the writers past the basic imagery. I'm fine (at peace) with that, more answers lead to more questions, they have to draw a line somewhere. Fine.
So that just leaves the other half of season 6, the alternate universe. So we now know that is basically a very long epilogue and represents the reward given to our dead characters. They are happy and all get a ride to heaven. I mentioned in a previous review how I thought this “alt-universe” worked. My conclusion was that Desmond was waking them up, not for the purpose of teleporting them home or some other plot thing. He had no end game, he was merely showing them their other lives so they could see what might have been, a happy ending by proxy. Turns out I was right on that, but I hadn't put two and two together and come up with why they were happy. Actually no one seemed to pick up on what it turned out to be. Whether that's because “purgatory” had become a dirty word amongst fans of the show, or because it was well hidden under a few red herrings, I'm not sure.
At the beginning of the season we were told that the point of the show spending time in the “alt-universe” was so they could reintroduce the plot mechanic the flashbacks fulfilled in Season 1. Back then, the flashbacks of the characters' lives informed the viewer of the motivations that person had. This gave context for many of the decisions made in the present. That was a clever way to approach the characterization of these people. All season 6 I had been looking at the alt-characters in this regard, but I couldn't find much that lined up. Most of the time the character in question was so different, that there was no link and the two story threads just seemed to compete for attention. This led to me resenting the alt-universe,so I still feel that most of it could (should!) have been cut out. As far as I can tell (I have yet to watch the season back with the knowledge that they are in purgatory) hardly anything would have been lost by removing big chunks of the episodes. If they had gone that route, much more time of the last season could have been spent fleshing out the island's past, Widmore's intentions with the island, Hawking's history, MIB's motivations. The possibilities are endless. It's a shame we'll never get to see any of that. Fan fiction aside of course.
However, I'd be lying if the emotional resonance of the final purgatory scenes didn't get to me. It was great to see all the characters come together at the end. Sawyer and Juliet's reunion in particular (clever thing with the vending machine plug and the lights ;) ) worked very well and tugged the heart strings. Then there was Jack finally talking to his father, as far as I can remember, he never once met the ghost of his father on the island and many other characters did. It's fitting that he got to meet him again. All these moments were great and without them, the ending would have fallen flat emotionally. Most of the huge ensemble cast had been killed already, so this conceit was a great excuse to get as many of them together as possible. So despite my hate for the alt-universe throughout the season, they did turn that around in the end and no question, it turned out to be a good choice for the show. Had they only used “purgo-flashes” for 3 or 4 episodes towards the end they could have covered the same material. A whole season of confusing people and drawing attention away from the actual plot at hand was a huge waste.
I don't think the “legacy” of the finale, and season 6 in general, can be called immediately. But I think we can come to one conclusion right now. The beginning and the end of the season were great, I don't have a problem with their choices for the show. The problem is just in the middle of the season and the balance of what was important, it seemed to lose it's way for a while.
In “The End”, Lost has been amazing in that it was allowed to exist as “movie grade” entertainment. It's sure to be talked about for many years to come, just for the way it shows what could be achieved on episodic television. When creative people are given the freedom to work and a boat load of cash, great things can happen. It didn't have a perfect plot, there were many holes, dead ends and towards the end it almost collapsed under it's own weight; but for a time we were presented with a fascinating and enigmatic world that was never boring. I for one wouldn't have missed a minute of it.