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This season’s finale is expertly crafted. It provides emotional depth (the wrenchingly heroic death of Charlie), bizarrely, blackly humorous scenes (Hurley plowing down Price with the Dharma Initiative van and forcing his friends to let him save them), and mind-bending theories about what is happening/has happened on the island (Are there parallel universes? alternate timelines?). The finale also facilitates reunions: Alex and her mother Danielle, Walt and his mentor Locke, even an almost-reunion of Penny and Desmond.
Most important, it ends the Lost we’ve come to know and still, for the most part, love. Those who long for the good ol’ days after the crash, when island life was new and that first wisp of black smoke hadn’t appeared on the horizon, might be disappointed. But most fans asked for more action, resolution among characters, and above all, some answers. But the answers aren’t what we (or I assume most of us) expected:
• Yes, Naomi is telling the truth about having a boat off shore and a way to communicate with it.
• Yes, Charlie really dies (and yes, the promised “big romance” between Claire and Charlie is limited to a few kisses and lots of genuine affection).
• Yes, Juliet throws in her lot with the castaways instead of her former employer and associates.
• Yes, Locke survives and can walk.
• Yes, the castaways are (about to be) rescued.
• Yes, Jack and Kate make it back to the mainland.
On the surface, what seem to be positive answers about the story, the series, and at least some characters are not the hopeful, happy endings we may have wished for. The “ending” of the story is really just the beginning of the end. Yes, we receive many answers but then have just as many new avenues for questions:
• Who is on the rescue boat—and is rescue really a good idea?
• What will happen to the island and the people who elect to remain there (probably Rousseau, Locke, and Ben)?
• Is more than one timeline in operation, or is a parallel universe shown in the flashforward to Bearded Jack’s life?
• Who is in the casket?
• Why isn’t Kate in jail, and with whom is she living?
What is most important to remember is that these characters were just as lost in their pre-crash lives as they are/were on the island and in any current/future return home. Jack, whether the same man seen on the island or a different Jack from a parallel universe or timeline, is even more lost than ever. He sits alone, drinking, and tries to find himself by locating the island and returning to somehow change events or make amends. The number of push-pin-laden maps scattered around his home indicates just how futile his search has been. In Jack’s world, Charlie is the lucky one who dies nobly for the greater good and achieves a measure of grace and redemption; he at least doesn’t suffer the possibly negative consequences of being discovered by Naomi’s shipmates. Jack-of-the-island, who only wants to see his friends and himself rescued, apparently discovers that there are worse things than being stuck in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes the devil you know (e.g., the Others, Smoky, technological deprivation) is better than the devil you don’t know (e.g., the great unknown about the return home).
If we’d taken the series’ title seriously, we might’ve realized that Lost refers to these characters’ lives, not where they land in relation to where they were. As the series’ creators have hinted several times, when the characters are no longer lost in their lives, the story is over. That happened quite literally with Charlie during the finale, but it promises that Jack’s story still has many episodes before its resolution. Lost is a theme, not a location or transitory state of being, and the beauty of the series’ storytelling is that it will take another 48 episodes before everyone works out just how they might find themselves, instead of waiting for someone else to find them.