I just finished watching the last 7 episodes of Lost. Yes, I know I’m 6 months late. I live in Japan; it takes a while for the DVDs to come out here.
It feels very sad to say goodbye to Jack & Co. I started renting the first season years ago, likely after the second season finished up on TV, and I've been waiting with bated breath every year for the next installment to come out. The series had its ups and downs, but that only seems appropriate, as the characters had them too.
The conclusion felt a lot like Evangelion, another series that realized, as time ran out, that all of the explanations were not going to happen, and more importantly, that they didn’t actually matter. Like Eva, Lost realized that it was not about hatches and polar bears and mysterious lights, but about character relationships. The loose ends were irrelevant. In the side-shift universe, everyone found completion not only by finding love, but by finding the experiences they had shared with one another.
The ultimate message of Lost was, “Even if we could have everything we wanted, we’d still be better off if we found each other.”
The Island was in many ways a purgatory or even a chamber of hell, a nonsensical place where the rules were fixed against you and struggle led only to frustration. But the characters developed bonds that, even though they were formed in such a place, they could not throw away, even if offered total happiness. And part of why the series worked was because the viewer felt included in that bond.
All of the characters were fundamentally flawed and, more importantly, fundamentally helpless. There were no heroes. Jack, who seemed so strong at the outset despite his self-doubt, spent the last three seasons being shaved down into someone who was truly believable and pitiable in his despondence. As a doctor, had such skill, and yet he believed he could do nothing. Even Ben, who looked like he controlled everything, was left understanding nothing for the entirety of the last season. Richard, who seemed like he knew the deepest truths, ultimately knew nothing. And when Jack and Hurley finally became Jacob, they realized that Jacob knew nothing more than any of the rest of them. Nobody had power. The one real power that was aspired to, the light, was ultimately unattainable.
At its base, Lost is a show about the human condition: We are all alone, in an unfamiliar environment, desperately grasping for power and answers we can never have—and with even the answers and sources of power constantly change. In Lost, first food was power. Then guns. Then the hatch. Then knowledge. Then the light. Some were even attained. None really mattered. All we can really be sure to take away is our relationships with one another.
The finale could have been tacked onto any show—any show could do a post-mortem retrospective of all its characters. You could do it on Full House if you wanted to. You could do it on Heroes. But for the creators to have chosen to do so with this series shows how clearly they knew what their creation was about. And that is why they knew that all the niggling little answers didn’t matter. That is why the meaning of the light in the cave is left entirely vague—in fact, you can tell the writers haven’t a clue what it is, and haven’t bothered to work it out. It just represents something the characters want. That’s all you need to know. Because this was all, ultimately, about only the characters, and nothing else. And we all got to feel included in their stories. Because who couldn’t understand and relate to the overwhelming confusion of uncertainty, and the unstoppable desire to overcome it by creating a relationship with someone else?
That’s why Lost worked. And if you know what I’m talking about and haven’t seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, go rent it right now.