I stayed up late last night watching it and woke up early this morning thinking about it. Of course I’m talking about the Lost finale. If you’re not a Lostie then you can stop reading now. If you haven’t seen the finale yet, you probably ought to bookmark this post and move on as well.
I’ve read a variety of reactions to the finale online and can’t help but throw my two cents into the fray. I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure how long it will take or what route I’ll use to get there, but like the series itself, I will get there in the end.
Overall, I found it to be a satisfying finale on a number of levels.
From a narrative standpoint, I think Darlton did about as well as they could do with the sprawling narrative they’d created over the past six years. Unlike so many critics, I’m going to cut them some slack in this area because I think there are few things harder than bringing an epic tale to a satisfying end. How many times has it been done? The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter come to mind.
How many great narratives have been started with a bang only to fizzle out before the end? I’ve been disappointed by a number of stories like The X-Files, The Matrix movies, and John Twelve Hawks’ Fourth Realm Trilogy. Recently, I’ve learned to turn my disappointment into a question: if I were telling this story how would I have finished it? I usually come to the conclusion that I can’t come up with a better ending than the one that has already been told. At first, I didn’t like the way Stephen King ended his Gunslinger series, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate that it was the necessary ending to the story he had been telling.
In most epics there are a limited number of options for how to bring closure anyway. In a good vs. evil epic, either good wins out and everyone lives happily ever after or you reset the cycle and things continue with a new cast of characters. Jack and Kate kill the smoke monster and everyone moves on to something else, or Hurley takes Jacob/Jack’s place and Ben throws a fit and gets himself thrown into the cave of light and becomes a new smoke monster. Instead of the final shot being Jack dying a sacrificial hero’s death, we get Hurley and Ben sitting on the beach and Ben saying to Hurley, “Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you? (fade to black)
I know there were lots of questions left unanswered, but again, how can you tell an episodic epic story that must have a dramatic arc in every installment without introducing some mysteries that play well in the present moment, but ultimately don’t fit into the larger narrative?
I’ve done this before as a preacher, if only on a slightly smaller scale (he says with a wink). It used to be that my favorite sermon in a series was the first one. That would be the sermon where I would throw out a bunch of questions and teasers and try to get everyone interested in what I’d be talking about over the next six weeks. I’d bring up lots of problems and then promise to solve them with a careful exposition of Philippians or some other section of scripture. People would leave the service excited and saying, “This is going to be a great series. Can’t wait til next week.” Invariably, as the series progressed, I found it far easier to introduce questions than to answer them. My solutions weren’t nearly as exciting as were my descriptions of the problems I used as a hook. What began as a roar would conclude with a whimper. Luckily, most people don’t geek out on a sermon series the way fans of a TV show do, so no one ever seemed to notice that I’d finish the series without ever dealing with all the stuff I brought up at the beginning. I was incapable of tying up all the loose ends of a six week series. Can you imagine how hard it would be to tie up the loose ends of a story you’ve been telling for six years? Impossible. I don’t care who you are. Let the critics of Lost tell their own stories and do a better job of it.
Besides, are you sure having all your questions answered would leave you any more satisfied than you already are?
One of my favorite things about the reunion scene was that in the end, the questions the characters had about their experiences seemed to be unimportant. They didn’t get all of their questions about the island answered any more than we did, but none of that seemed to matter. What really counted was that they were together again. The unanswered questions were overwhelmed by the beauty of the light and their love for each other.
This reminds me of a challenge from John Stackhouse in his brilliant book, Can God be Trusted? He challenges the notion that someday in heaven we’ll get an answer to all of our questions about why God allowed certain things to happen in our lives. Where in Scripture does it say that eventually God will sit down with us and explain it all? If we think of heaven as a place where we’ll finally get some answers, we could be sorely disappointed. It may be that when we’re reunited with those we love in the new creation, the questions about who? and why? and how? will be neutralized by the light of God’s glory. I’m preparing myself for this possibility by not freaking out about all the unanswered questions I still have about the island.
Speaking of questions, one of the questions about heaven that used to bother me when I was a kid was whether or not we’d recognize each other on the other side. I remember thinking that heaven didn’t seem like that great of a place if you wouldn’t know anyone when you got there. The early flash-sideways scenes were intriguing, but it was also empty and odd to see these characters who shared so much history together bumping into each other with no sense of recognition. Of course this was a set-up for the payoff of the recognition scenes in the finale. Those scenes gave me an imagination for what it might be like someday to recognize our old traveling partners in the new creation and in a flash of recognition have the sum total of our shared experiences come together in a gestalt of joy from being together again.
Probably the most interesting thing of all was listening to Jimmy Kimmel try to summarize the teachings of Christianity on his show after the finale. I’ll have more to say about that later and what I’ll say will change your life forever.
How’s that for a teaser?