Pure and Disposed to Mount Unto the Stars
Ultimately, I think that "The End" was a relatively moving and entertaining episode of "Lost" (though, unlike the folks interviewed on the local ABC evening news, who were crying and practically without words, I don't think it was as ultimately profound or moving as the writers would like it to be perceived). It would've taken missteps of epic proportions to botch up a lot of the scenes intended to play on our heartstrings because most of those bits write themselves. Bring back missed characters (I'm talking about Rose and Bernard and, especially, Vincent; not so much Boone), play on moments from episodes past (like the long hatch-shot down the golden falls, and Aaron's birth), and give us the lovely Charlie/Claire and Sawyer/Juliet reunions we've been waiting for ever since Desmond started waking folks up (while the Sawyer/Juliet scene did exactly what it should have, I actually thought the birth of Aaron was the stronger and more resonant moment).
As I think back on the two-and-a-half hours, there were a lot of individual scenes, both on the island and in the flash sideways, that I enjoyed as scenes in the moment. In fact, I can only think of one scene that really didn't work for me which was, unfortunately, the big action showdown between Jack and Locke. From the rain and muddy cliffs to that cartoony, pre-commercial shot of Jack leaping down the cliff in a fist-pump superhero pose, that scene was just underwhelming (although I did like how it ended, with Kate returning to a bit of her bad-ass former self -- girl can get her gun on when she wants).
Of course, the producers love to tout the the show as a character-driven one, rather than a plot-driven one, and from that perspective, I think the episode had some nice beats and, in particular, did a good job of concluding Jack's character arc. Jack has been a much more likable character this final season as he has shed a lot of his baggage and his man-of-science skin in order to find the man of faith within, and his transition has been one of the highlights of what has been an oftentimes underwhelming final season (it was also a nice touch that Jack, of everyone, resisted his awakening in the flash sideways universe because it meant accepting religion and faith over science and what's in front of you). And while Jack's physical showdown with Locke may not have been all that effective, the earlier scenes of dialogue between the pair which led up to that moment were excellent. Similarly, although it was quickly played out in just a few scenes, Hurley being pushed into the role of the new Jacob was really nicely played by everyone involved, and made for a well-earned conclusion to the places they've taken Hurley's character over the years, from comic sidekick to reluctant hero.
That being said, there were some character moments that felt particularly false, especially Shannon being Sayid's true love. Really? Even though Nadia is the woman who propelled him in both the real world and the flash-sideways existence? Seems a bit thin to me. Sawyer taking off for the other island without having a moment with Hurley, who probably developed into his closest friend on the island, also felt wrong.
...And although I could pick at some other character-related nits (and a gazill-ton of plot-related issues, not the least of which is the silliness that, apparently, the single most important thing in our world is that some stone stays plugged into a hole -- Freud much?), I'm not sure there's really a point.
Because this episode finally clarified what "Lost" really is, at least to me. It's not really a plot-driven show, like the producers say, because so much of the plot is frequently left in the wind (or perhaps it's better to say that it was a plot-driven show, just one that wasn't nearly as well executed or fulfilling as it could've/should've been). But it's also not really a character-driven show either because, despite their protestations, the story lines that have come and gone over the years really have been propelled much more by plot than by characters (though there are certainly exceptions to that as well, particularly the first few seasons of Locke). But what this show really turned out to be was a moments-driven show. It's a show that was all about giving us lots of great moments. I find myself thinking all the way back to that god damned hatch. The moment when Locke is at his deepest despair and the light comes on in the hatch, a great moment. The moment when we learned (frustratingly after a summer hiatus) that Desmond was the one in that hatch, a great moment. Back then, there was actually a pretty good mix of character, plot, and moment. But as the show progressed, plot had to go by the wayside as the creators were simply in too deep to cleanly tie things up. And characters started to go by the wayside so that the show could continue to give us these cool moments and go to the places the creators wanted to take it.
So, ultimately, I'm glad that we opted to keep "Lost" off Pajiba's list of the best TV shows of the aughts. We explained that this was because "we can't really make a determination ... until we see the last season, which could prove 'Lost' to be a top five show of the decade or, ultimately, a huge disappointment, depending on how they wrap it up." And there was a lot that was disappointing about this final season, from the relatively needless introduction of the Temple and a host of new characters who didn't serve a particularly compelling purpose, to the final revelation that the flash sideways universe was not really tied to our beloved island at all, in any meaningful cause-and-effect way, since it was really a post-death epilogue. Thus, the perceived lack of stakes in the flash sideways clips was an actual lack of stakes (although I guess you could argue that the notion of having our characters being woken up so they can "move on" is the highest of stakes or some such). Like many, I expected that there was some deeper connection between the two universes, and that the two would somehow merge or one would give way to the other, and the result would be that there would be some additional appreciation we'd get by rewatching the earlier parts of the season, with this knowledge in tow.
But even though that's not to be, I can actually live with where they ultimately took this flash sideways business, for the most part, because I'm willing to accept the show for what it is. Again, the flash sideways universe provided some great moments (though, as with the flashbacks before it, there were also quite a few needless ones). Yes, there are a billion things that can be picked apart with this post-death explanation (although Harold Perrineau, while on Jimmy Kimmel's show, mentioned a good point as to one nit some may have - Michael wasn't in the church because he's stuck on the island as a whispering voice, so while the flash sideways is kind of a purgatory, the island is even more of a purgatory, at least for those stuck as whispers ... and yes, this doesn't explain why Walt or a lot of others weren't in the church but, hell, there are a lot of unanswered questions about Walt and I guess you could say those characters, like Ana Lucia, weren't ready to move on, or maybe they already had moved on, or a thousand other cooked-up explanations). As Jacob explained just last week, these characters started off the show basically lost and alone it's only in finding themselves and, in most cases, their true loves, that they could complete their spiritual journey. It's hokey, but I can live with it.
And that's because, over the course of this season, I had been preparing myself, much like Jack, to let go. To let go of my expectations that this was going to be one of the Greats, with a fulfilling storyline for the ages. To let go of my expectations that the big mysteries were going to be answered at all, let alone satisfyingly. To let get of my expectations in general. It's a shame, because the show had the potential to be something amazing, but isn't that true of so many things that fail to live up to their potential?
Ultimately, I think I'm willing to look past the show's failed achievements and what I wanted it to be, and just take it for what it was. And, for six years, "Lost" still managed to give us a hell of a ride. Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse managed to make a mainstream hit of a genre show (last season, I had countless happy hour conversations about time travel with friends and co-workers who otherwise don't care a lick about science fiction). Even if "Lost" wasn't always as smart as it thought it was, even if the writing was sometimes too on the nose or hackey, it was still smarter and better written than the vast majority of network, mainstream shows. I may not ever sit down and rewatch the entire series start to finish, as I have done and will do with many other great shows, but there are countless moments I will look back upon over the years with fond memories, and I'll miss the experience of watching the show. Fare thee well, "Lost."