"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The End"

Of "Lost", that is. In a mad frenzy of late nights this past week, I've stayed up to get up-to-date in preparation for last night's series finale. Knowing I'd only get about 4 hours of sleep before having to drive back up to the Stumps, I hoped and prayed that Lost's last two and a half hours would be worth the deprivation (FYI, please take that into account should you discover any spelling mistakes, poor grammar, or general incoherence in this post).

At the end of the day, it was.

If you're looking for a metaphysical play-by-play of what every millisecond of the series finale means, go find Doc Jensen's blog on EW. If you're looking for a detailed exegesis of the episode and its relation to the series as a whole, go read my wife's blog (which I am assured will be updated with a level of respect appropriate to the occasion). I only a few thoughts on whether or not the ending satisfied six years of commitment.

I think it did.

We already knew that, an extra 30 minutes of Lostage notwithstanding, the creaters weren't going to answer every single lingering question (though an extra 20 minutes of DVD footage promises to remedy that, for a small fee...). I still don't know the significance of the Numbers. As a history major I'm tantalized by the few scraps of information left behind about the Others, their Temple, and their origins (at some point, the Others worshipped/feared Smokey to the point where they constructed an underground catacomb in homage to him. Strangely enough, the catacomb was directly underneath the Temple walls they built to keep him out. Poor design flaw a la the exhaust port on the first Death Star? Discuss). The whole time travel/Island 'skipping' concept still gives me a nosebleed if I think about it too hard. On the whole, though, I have to admit that "Lost", at the end, tied things up more satisfactorily than my other favorite show that ended recently (BSG). Both were still more character-driven than anything else, and I still found "Daybreak" a very moving finale to the space opera (even if I wanted to punch Lee Adama for flying all their technology into the sun so they could romp with the natives. And Kara Thrace = least harbinging "harbinger of death" ever). "Lost" did a little better. I turned off the television last night relatively confident in my understanding of the Island, Jacob/MIB, the Sideways world, and how things turned out for the few remaining survivors. I'll wait for the DVD to address the Numbers.

Any nagging questions, however, were more than overshadowed by the power of the characters' stories and THEIR conclusions. Like BSG, "Lost" was at its best when it dealt with character, not whiz-bang battles and sci-fi gobbledeegook (also like BSG, "Lost" did the latter very well, and had a surprisingly high level of sci-fi weirdness for a mainstream drama). And "The End" was an incredible tour-de-force of sheer character-driven drama. (not sure exactly what I'm going to say but might as well throw this out there: POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT AHEAD)

I was still reeling from Sun and Jin's death by drowning in the submarine. Seriously, of all the people who'd suffered and been kept apart on the Island, they deserved a future with their daughter. Nope; having been kept apart long enough in life, when it became clear Sun was irreversibly trapped, Jin joined her in death. Screw you Smokey Locke. "The End" then continued with a steady stream of one-two punches, as each character in the Sideways world was awakenend to the lives they'd lived - and people they'd loved - on the Island. Honestly, the 'present day' action over the fate of the Island was almost a sideshow compared to Sideways Sun and Jin discovering just how deeply they loved each other and their child, or Sawyer and Juliet sharing a final embrace after the bitter losses at the beginning of the season. Sayid and Shannon were sort of bleh, since we all know Sayid's true love was Nadia and Shannon was just kind of, well, there. Kate and Claire, though, were re-united in the joy they both felt over Aaron's birth as they recreated that scene from their Island days. The only Island scene even as remotely charged as the Sideways revelations - aside from Jack's final moments - was Kate's solemn "I love you" as Jack headed back to the cave to save the Island from oblivion (having just celebrated the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back"'s release the day prior, I was struck by the Han Solo-Princess Leiaesque similarities to Han's ordeal in the carbonite chamber).

And then - Smokey dead, Island saved, survivors on their last plane ride home - there was the big 'reveal' about the Sideways world. It wasn't a parallel dimension created by the hydrogen bomb blast at the beginning of the season, or a dead-end exercise in "what if"; it was, truly, the End for souls of the castaways, for whom the Sideways world was a waystation on the way to the afterlife. The script did its best to be friendly to all religions by having a (implausible) stained glass window in the church with a Star of David, crucifix, crescent moon, and Hindu and Buddhist symbols, but there was no mistaking the overtly Christian tone of the finale as a whole. Jack's Last Supper "drink this" command to Hurley, the stab wound in Jack's side, Jack's 'doubting Thomas' moment as his father explains that he's dead, the castaways all gathering in a church before their final journey to wherever, even the name of Jack's father (Christian Shepherd; I enjoyed the moment when Desmond told Kate that name outside the church and Kate smirked, clearly thinking, "Christian Shepherd? Oh, you mean, like, JESUS? No kidding Paddy-in-the-Hatch, tell me something I don't know") were all pulled straight out of the Gospels. Not that the show as a whole went banging a theological drum (the actors surely didn't think so as one listened to their bland observations about how the show expressed love, togetherness, community, diversity, yawn); but they didn't exactly shy away from it, either. I thought BSG was some bold television because the protagonists and antagonists were each driven by a powerful theology. "Lost" handled it in a much more subdued manner, but the theological overtones were consistent. Each character was flawed and sinful in one way or another, each was tested and challenged, most suffered greatly, and in the end, a few were redeemed and their redemption stuck because one savior gave his own life to save the world in which their redemption took place. And - copyright infringement of "5 People You Meet In Heaven" aside - at the end, those chosen few moved on from their pain, loss, and sacrifice to a higher plane.

The final ten minutes were incredibly moving as each castaway embraced and honored the fellows who held pull them along in their journey of redemption. Especially powerful was the final Sideways confrontation between Locke and Ben, each fully aware of the suffering inflicted by one upon the other. Ben physically and emotionally tortured Locke season after season, finally murdering him to fulfill his own selfish desires; and he looked Locke in the eye and was truly humble in his repentence. Locke, cognizant of everything Ben took from him, looked him in the eye and forgave him. Knowing he still has much to atone for before 'moving on', Ben stayed outside the church, but at least we got the sense that, once Hurley had taken over as guardian of the Island, Ben honestly changed his ways and served, as Hurley said, as "a great number two."

And then, in the final seconds, Jack came full circle. Once the Island's greatest detractor, he gave his life to ensure that its power remained intact; once hell-bent on leaving, he stayed and died so that his friends could return to their normal lives. Stumbling through the same bamboo grove he was deposited in in the crash, he collapsed, gazed up at the sky to watch the last survivors fly away from the Island, and we end up focusing on his eye as we did in the pilot six years ago; it finally, peacefully, closes.

"Lost", I will miss you.

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