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Note: While the Lost finale aired Sunday night, it took a whole day to process it all!

Despite all its plot twists and turns, Lost has always dealt with one vital world mystery, something not unique to any one generation.

It’s about science versus faith.

But for young adult viewers, the same age as the main characters (and likely most of the writers), that debate takes on a special meaning.

An article on the New York Times’ Arts Beat blog on Monday said that the Lost finale, “The End,” will “probably end up being the best rating among young adult viewers for a concluding episode of any scripted drama this television season.”

That’s not a coincidence.

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The castaways ask a lot of questions on Lost. All the time. They ask things like, “Why would you do that?” And “How do you plan on doing that?” And “What would that be?” And Jacob’s the kind of guy who loves giving people choices. He needed the candidates’ help, but he made it seem like it was their idea all along. He guided the candidates and acted like they were special. He was all for taking a dysfunctional family background and turning it into something positive.

If your childhood was anything like mine, you had baby boomer parents who also encouraged you to ask questions. Like Jacob, they encouraged you to do something unique with your life, to figure things out in a way they couldn’t.

My father’s youth was a product of the 60s. He was rebellious. It was a time of reform. He wrote a book about the period called The Why Generation. I remember as a 10-year-old learning about that book and not really understanding it.

“We were the generation that asked questions,” he explained to me. “We were always asking, ‘Why?’”

LOST‘S LAST CALL: OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD

So much in the world was in upheaval at that time (the stuff we’re now nostalgic for, if you look at shows like Mad Men). Our parents were the children of a more repressed society. When they came of age, they tried to change things, to do things in a different way.

They passed their liberated ways onto us, their children, the first generation truly encouraged to do whatever we wanted with our lives. The first group told that any one of us could be a candidate for president. A candidate.

But here’s the thing: It’s great and all to grow up in a world filled with so many opportunities. But, much like Jacob, baby boomer parents opened lots of doors with their idealism and didn’t always prepare us for life’s harsh realities. These were also the first parents who were so individualistic that they got divorced in large numbers.

So many of these Lost characters had parents like this. So many of them had abandonment issues, daddy issues, mommy issues — they were trying to find their way in a world that finally attempts to accept all religions, all races, both genders and all sexual orientations. They have their parents to thank for that. But it was up to them to navigate it … and with so many options and possibilities, many of these characters felt alone. And many of them lost trust in their parents, who, based on their split marriages, often had to promote self-efficiency in order to survive.

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That’s why Jack’s mantra, “Live together, die alone,” resonates so strongly for so many young adult viewers. Our generation is building a new world together, as the castaways did on the island. We have lots of freedom and second chances, thanks to our parents, but we have to decide what the rules are. We have to decide what we believe.

We’ve grown up in a time when technology advances almost as rapidly as religious-service attendance declines. Most young adults say they’re either an agnostic or atheist, or that they have their own personal relationship with God. They also have their own personal computers, their own social networking profiles, their own states they’ve moved to, far away from their families. Their own little, private islands they’ve created …

What the Lost castaways showed us is that if we want to find spiritual redemption, we’ve got to find it together. And for a generation essentially raised on TV, what better way to deliver that message?

So much about Sunday night’s finale was a tribute to the characters we’ve grown to love that it’s hard to do a typically deconstructive post. At the same time, so many things are still a mystery. Some of you are satisfied with the results. Some of you are disappointed. So, let’s give this a shot, just one last time.

LOST’S LAST CALL: SHADES OF GRAY

In the early morning beginning of “The End,” Sideways Jack starts his day in his office. When paralleled with the pilot episode, this is an appropriate start. This is what Jack would have been doing, had he not woken up on an island on Sept. 22, 2004.

Jack’s office is serene, a mood definitely helped by Michael Giacchino’s musical score. At his desk, Jack grabs an x-ray from a file folder. His face visible through the transparency, he holds the x-ray to the light. One guess whose x-ray this could be.

In “The End,” both Sideways Jack and Island Protector Jack would finally find their way into Locke’s mindset. The writers were just reminding us what we were in for.

The scene cuts to early morning on the island, where Jack drinks water from a creek, just as Jacob did in “Across the Sea.” This back and forth between worlds, something we’ve seen all season, is paced very well in this episode.

Island Jack looks down at his hands, expecting them to be different than they were before, now that he’s the new Jacob. They shake a little.

Note how this opening sequence occurs with no dialogue. It’s like the musical beach reunions at the end of many Lost season finales. It’s done to remind the viewers of the parallel predicaments.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: LETTING GO

As Sideways Ben dips his gentlemanly tea bag, island Ben loads his weapon — but each action is done delicately. As the supernatural entity who has taken over Locke’s body aggressively wraps rope around his arm, Locke is wheeled on a stretcher into spinal surgery, glancing behind him at his wheelchair.

And as Sideways Sawyer puts on his badge in the police station locker room, touching the mirror he’d punched earlier, island Sawyer tenderly attends to Kate’s bullet wound.

In the Sideways world, an Oceanic Air package marked “Human Remains” is being delivered. That statue of Jesus in front of the church should remind viewers where Kate and Desmond are parked: This is the church where the Ajira passengers met with Eloise Hawking in her underground Lamp Post station. It’s one of the electromagnetic energy pockets that helped the Dharma folks find the island.

This statue was shown then too, but it was nighttime and harder to see. Seems significant that this is a “heralding good news” Christ and not a crucified one.

We know from last week that Desmond disguised his voice and called Jack to report that the airline had found his missing baggage. But it seems odd that someone would so easily sign Christian’s coffin over to him. This is just one of many things that seem off about the Sideways world, things that have happened all season.

For example, did it ever make sense that Kate would just go back and find Claire on the highway and then help her find Aaron’s potential adoptive parents? How about when Desmond rammed his car into Locke and he survived it? And then, when he tried to do it a second time, Ben and Locke didn’t call the police!

LOST‘S LAST CALL: MAKING PROGRESS

Remember when Sideways Charlie walked through a busy intersection with no negative consequences? Or when he drove Desmond’s car off a pier and they both left the scene without a scratch?

How about when Sun got shot in the stomach and was miraculously fine — and so was her baby? Or when she arrived at the hospital at the same time as Locke, despite the fact that in the story’s time line, she had been shot days earlier?

And it makes complete sense that Sideways James Ford could stop someone like Sayid by tripping him with a garden hose.

A lot of these things have made a lot of Lost naysayers (you know the type — they once loved the show, but somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, they lost the ability to suspend their disbelief) get up in arms this season.

But these plot anomalies were not accidents. The writers just couldn’t reveal the reasons for them until “The End.”

Desmond finally shares some clues as to what this Sideways world really is in his conversation with Kate. He tells Kate that no one can tell her why she’s here, certainly not him. When she asks if he means the church, he clarifies that he doesn’t — he means “here.”

LOST‘S LAST CALL: HEROIC HURLEY

Back on the island, Kate watches the delivery of a different Shephard. This Kate is a little more appreciative of spiritual concepts. She understands why Jack thinks he needs to be the island’s protector. He even seems transformed by the ritual. He stands in the middle of the water like he’s been baptized, dressed completely in blue, blending in … it’s like he and the island have become one. He looks to the sky, meditating.

Kate understands this, but she doesn’t want to lose Jack. And she knows that’s going to be inevitable.

Thank God for Sawyer and Hurley in this episode. Sawyer’s wit was desperately needed. And Hurley is often the perfect voicebox for the audience. Jack explains what they need to do to kill Fake Locke and save the island, but the idea’s still pretty vague. Hurley, with Star Wars on the mind, says Jacob’s worse than Yoda. Then, as Sawyer calls Desmond a “magic leprechaun,” Hurley says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” You can’t get any more Han Solo than that. And in one of many callbacks in this episode to scenes throughout the series, Sawyer tells Kate she can’t come along. This stuff just shows how much the writers have grown to love these characters.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: WHATEVER HAPPENED, HAPPENED

Back in the Sideways world, Hurley is just as childlike, as he attempts to refresh Sayid’s island memories. He takes Sayid to the motel where they once tried to hide, after Sayid freed him from the mental hospital. At that time, Hurley took the blame for Sayid tossing a guy onto a dishwasher pin cushion. Now he thinks that all he has to do to get Sayid to remember is bring him to the motel and say, “You, me, tranquilizer gun?”

It seems Sideways Hurley knows everything about his island mentality — like he has downloaded all these memories and he’s back to being the Hurley viewers know and love. So of course he would be thrilled to see Charlie alive again — Charlie was his closest friend on the island. When Hurley carries the spritely drunk out to the car, he says to Sayid, “That was Charlie,” like Sayid should just know who it is.

The suspense that built up all season about whom the Smoke Monster could kill and whom he couldn’t swiftly comes to an end in this episode with Sawyer’s elbow to Ben’s nose (it’s okay, he’s used to it) and declaration to Flocke, “We’re not candidates anymore.” Such a great scene. He then grabs the gun that would eventually extinguish the Monster.

Why does the Man In Black/Flocke/Smoke Monster admit to his lies left and right in this episode? Is it because he knows he’s running out of time? Could he know that the torch had been passed, that Jack had become the new Jacob? Maybe that’s why he wanted to destroy the island — because he knew that was the only viable way to leave.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: HEART AND SOUL

How is it possible for Jack to try to kill the Man In Black when he couldn’t earlier? Is it simply because he doesn’t have Jacob’s limitations (i.e., Mother said they couldn’t hurt each other)?

I’m still not sure if Rose and Bernard were used effectively. Viewers have wondered all season if those characters could still be alive. But they wondered about that for the entire fifth season, too. If they turned out to be alive then, why wouldn’t they also be alive now? They do serve the purpose of illustrating just how evil MIB is, though. I mean, really — who would kill Rose and Bernard? Would he stop with the dog? Maybe. Even Smoke Monsters need pets.

The whole story line with Miles, Richard and Lapidus also seemed awkward. I guess it’s necessary — some of these characters have to be warriors while the others have to actually try to get off the island. But the fact that these three guys are just doing what any human being would do (run as far away as possible) while the other six fight a battle between good and evil … well, I’m just not sure that the first premise adds to the believability of the second.

The viewers must have known that Richard would survive that Smoke Monster throat punt. So why is it only now revealed that he’s capable of aging? Maybe at the moment when Jack replaced Jacob, the old rules no longer applied and Richard got his freedom. He’s kind of like Pinnochio, getting to be a real boy. He’s bound to be mighty confused once that Ajira flight gets back to Los Angeles. He visited the outside world a bunch of times — but living in it is another story. If any spin-offs could come from this, that would be the best one. Ricky-boy Meets World. I dare you to come up with a better title.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: RICARDUS EVERLASTING

Sideways world Miles has always seemed ineffective as a character. This episode proves no different. In another Sideways anomaly, Miles finds Sayid sitting in Hurley’s Hummer in front of the concert benefit. He calls Sawyer only to tell him to go make sure the shooting victim (Sun) is okay. They’re dismayed that Sayid, Kate and Desmond never made it to the county jail, but they don’t do anything about it.

And does anyone ever explain why the museum is holding this concert benefit, anyway? (Other than to provide an excuse for Charlie to meet Claire, for Kate to play midwife and for creepy David to disappear forever?)

The scene where Sideways Juliet (yay!) checks on Sun and Jin’s baby more than makes up for their sudden submarine deaths. As that island Dharma ultrasound was such an emotional moment in Sun’s life (when she discovered that she and Jin could actually conceive a child), this was exactly what she needed to jog her memory.

It’s really a triumphant moment for Jin, too. Lots of viewers have struggled with the fact that he abandoned his daughter, Ji-Yeon, when he chose to drown with his wife. I say, since he’d never met his daughter, it was a much easier and more instinctive choice for him to make.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: LIVE TOGETHER, DIE ALONE

Viewers have grown a little weary of this whole “now they can speak English” routine, but it does work in this scene. Sun and Jin, as dull as many have accused them of being, are really the first characters to clarify what’s actually going on here. We know they both just died in a recent episode. When they have their enlightenment moment, they remember everything about their lives on the island. It’s not like with Desmond, where he’s special and might have the ability to jump between parallel worlds anyway. It’s not like with Hurley, where he can already talk to the dead and he’s a little crazy.

These two were always just normal people. Once they can remember their island lives, they seem very changed. And they remember it together, which makes it seem all the more real. When they start speaking in English, it’s obvious that the island Jin and Sun have become one with the Sideways Jin and Sun. Something has happened that transported their island souls into their Sideways bodies.

The next exchange in the hospital, between Locke and Sideways Jack, brought back that famous Lost phrase, “It worked.” After an island scene where Jack predicts Fake Locke’s demise, Sideways Jack jokes with Sideways Locke that he could “kill him” during his surgery. He asks Locke if he’s nervous, and Locke says, “Are you sure this is going to work?”

When Locke asks him about his father’s coffin, Jack glosses over it. He tells Locke that fixing him is all the peace he needs.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: A BETTER BEN

It used to be that Jack could not get over his father’s death. He couldn’t deal with the notion that maybe his father was right about him. But once he reached the island, he began to see past these fears. He became a leader in a real crisis situation. And, in this episode, he eventually becomes responsible for saving the world, if what Jacob said about the “light” is accurate.

So of course “fixing Locke,” as in “killing the creature that now looks like Locke,” is all the peace he needs.

What did everyone think of that island scene where Flocke confronts Jack and the others Sharks-meet-Jets style? After Kate shoots at him unsuccessfully, Flocke tells Jack that he assumes he’s the new Jacob, albeit an obvious choice, and he assumes Jack will try to stop him.

Jack’s reaction here made this one of Matthew Fox’s top five scenes of the entire series. “Now you’re going to the corner of the bamboo forest,” he says. “To the place that I’ve sworn that I’d protect. And then you think you’re going to destroy the island. That’s not what’s going to happen.” Flocke scoffs at this and asks, “What is going to happen?” And Jack says, “I’m gonna kill you.”

Flocke then asks another typical Lost question, “How do you plan to do that?” And Jack looks off to the side ever so slightly, like the island is providing him with the answer.

And then he says, quietly, “It’s a surprise.”

LOST‘S LAST CALL: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR

Do you think that in that moment, the island tells him what he needs to do? It’s a great bluff on Jack’s part, if not. Even Sawyer’s impressed. He compliments him on his long con.

From this point on, “The End” takes a major turn (in normal circumstances, this would probably be the beginning of another episode). The island world becomes decidedly dark as the Sideways world gets ever brighter. With each horrible, scary, life-threatening thing that occurs on the island, a tearful, happy reunion occurs in the Sideways world. The writers chose a very interesting placement of these scenes.

On the island, Desmond willingly lets Jack and Flocke lower him into the abyss because he believes when he reaches the light, he’ll return to the Sideways world and Penny. He assumes it will be an identical experience to the electromagnetic-activity test Widmore gave him. When his consciousness visited the Sideways world before, he didn’t know where he was — he just knew that everything felt secure there, in a way that it definitely doesn’t on the island.

The thing about Desmond that is so special is that ever since he imploded the Swan station, he has been able to travel into both the past and future in his mind. Nobody ever said anything about him being able to shift his consciousness into parallel universes, right? So the Sideways world has always been a place that exists either in the past or in the future. Those are the only two options.

Why didn’t we see this all season? Bravo, writers.

“This doesn’t matter, you know,” Desmond tells Jack. “Him destroying the island, you destroying him. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to lower me into that light and I’m going to go somewhere else — a place where we can be with the ones we love and not have to ever think about this damn island again … You know, maybe I can find a way to bring you there too.”

Jack has no idea what Desmond’s talking about, of course. Even if he does have a newly Jacobean omniscience, he has no knowledge of what ends up being a sort of “afterlife.” He tells Desmond that yes, in fact, all of it does matter. Jack already tried to time travel once, even though his time travel was a little different than Desmond’s. He thought he could change the order of events and fix everyone’s lives. It turned out he couldn’t. “Whatever happened, happened,” he says. This is what Daniel Faraday used to say about how time course-corrects itself.

LOST‘S LAST CALL: CON-DUIT KATE

So I guess Jughead didn’t blow up the Swan station after all. It didn’t work. Now that we know what the Sideways world really is, we have no reason to believe otherwise.

There’s something about this scene where they tie the rope around Desmond that is very reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist. Except Desmond doesn’t come back covered in supernatural goo.

I’ve accidentally deleted all my notes about Sayid’s enlightenment moment, but I don’t think that matters much anyway. Most viewers found it ultimately very disappointing and I have to agree. Sayid was such a confusing character, especially towards the end. His Zombie-like killing ways combined with his alive-assassin ways didn’t make him the most sympathetic of the bunch. Yet his early story line on the island made viewers root for him. The fact that meeting up with Shannon is what brings his memories back does make sense in that regard. But if he becomes enlightened and remembers loving her, wouldn’t he also be horrified, remembering the murders he committed?

Maybe island enlightenment is just that — island memories only. In the Sideways world, we’ve watched Sayid find redemption with Nadia, but she was never on the island. The other relationships that spark enlightenment all involve the island in one way or another — even Penny traveled there by boat to pick up the Oceanic 6.

If Sayid didn’t kill anyone while on the island (Zombie-Sayid killings don’t count, because he was undead), then it’s fair that he wouldn’t remember any. Maybe if we hadn’t watched Sayid go back to being an assassin when he left with the Oceanic 6, all of this would be more palatable. I did enjoy Hurley’s try at raising Sayid’s self-esteem, though (a callback to the pilot episode, when Hurley said to Sayid, “You’re okay, I like you”). After all, he did sacrifice his life to save his friends. What did you all think about this?

LOST‘S LAST CALL: PLAYING CATCH-UP

When Flocke and Jack stare down after Desmond, it looks a lot like the season two episode, “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” when Locke lowered Kate into the hatch. Even back then, Hurley called the hatch a “burning death hole.” Did the writers know they would be repeating this theme? “If there was a button down there to push,” Flocke inappropriately jokes to Jack, “we could fight about whether to push it. It would be just like old times.”

Jack and Locke always had that basic argument, over whether or not to push the button. Sometimes it was over whether or not they were on the island for a reason. It’s the same as any fate versus free will debate. But in this scene, Jack says Locke was right about “most everything.”

This set the tone for the first of the most tearful reunions … maybe because the characters are so beloved. Or maybe because we haven’t seen them together in such a long time.

The viewers always ask why Aaron was so special. They complain that the writers have never fully explained that. (Just like they never explained the big to-do about Walt.)

LOST‘S LAST CALL: THE FINAL SEASON BEGINS

But he’s special simply because he’s a child born on the island. He represents a stubborn faith against all odds. The kind of faith Locke defended. And in “The End,” just as a practical man-turned-evil is about to be destroyed on the island, a baby that was the product of faith on the island is ready to be born. The writers did a great job pairing these scenes. Now if only someone could tell Aaron that he’s being born into the afterlife, like his poor cousin, David.

And by the way? Sideways Jack and Juliet are pretty crappy parents. Juliet just leaves David with Claire, while Jack couldn’t even make it to the concert! No wonder that kid’s so messed up. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t actually exist.

As Desmond embarks on his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade moment and pulls out the “cork,” whatever Jacob said the light represents is diminished. The funny thing about Desmond is that he’s the only one who could pull that cork out and survive. When he does pull it out, the light dims and the island gets darker. The glue that holds things together starts to loosen. Rocks fall. Earthquakes, avalanches and hurricanes abound. You know, end-of-the-world stuff.

But what he does in the Sideways world is the opposite of this. In that world, he’s turning the light on. He’s the first one to remember the island (except for Charlie) and realize what he needs to do next. He gets all these other people together and enlightens them, too. He gets them to see how they are connected, how they were connected. Things come together in that world while the island world falls apart.

As I’ve said before in this blog, he’s definitely the man for the job because if it wasn’t for him (and Jacob), the castaways never would have crashed on the island to begin with.

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I’m still not sure I totally get this (a little help?), but as the Smoke Monster was created in that all-powerful light, his powers seem to also diminish.   Jack discovers his vulnerability and tells him it looks like he was “wrong too.”

In the Sideways world, Claire and Charlie’s eye contact triggers Claire’s labor pains. And despite how predictable this scene is — we all knew as soon as she saw her that Kate’d be the one to help Claire give birth — it’s very emotionally powerful. Even if it doesn’t make much sense that they couldn’t get Claire to an emergency room.

Evangeline Lilly is so great here. The look she gives Claire — it’s clear that she remembers everything. I suppose Aaron had to be born in this world in order for Kate to have this. And once she does, she is transformed. All the good things about island Kate come back to her.

It’s as though these actors were instructed to play these Sideways characters on a very superficial level, just to illustrate how different they’d be if they had never crashed. That’s why they look into mirrors all the time. They’re looking for their spirits but can’t find them.

Charlie’s the only one who had an enlightenment moment while looking into a mirror. He got a glimpse of his time with Claire on the island when he started choking on his stash of drugs in the Oceanic 815 bathroom. But what if he had died? What does it mean to die in this afterlife realm? What happened to Keamy and his goons when Sayid shot them? Where did Mikhail go?

In direct contrast to that warm and fuzzy moment, the scene where Jack and Kate kill Flocke is the darkest we’ve ever seen on this show. This is the closest Lost has come to resembling epic cinema.

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I’m still not entirely sure why Flocke would run towards Jack instead of continuing with his escape plan. It was going rather successfully. I can’t decide which was more tremendous in this scene — that Jack leaps out mid-punch at Flocke or that he’s doing this with the knowledge that Flocke has a knife.

Flocke/MIB stabs Jack in the side with the same knife he had used to kill his mother. He also stabs Jack in the neck, finally explaining why Sideways Jack has discovered a mysteriously bloody neck twice now.

Did anyone find it weird that he could kill Jack if he could never kill Jacob?

“You died for nothing,” Flocke tells him. And then, just as I said last week, as Flocke threatens to harm Jack/the Scarecrow, Kate/Dorothy ends up killing him. Her annoying tendency to follow people comes in handy for once.

Just after a very relieved Jack kicks Flocke off the cliff (can I even begin to tell you how happy I am to no longer have to write that name?), the scene cuts to the Sideways world, where a nurse says, “Nice work, Dr. Shephard.” But she’s referring to his successful spinal surgery (again, something oddly miraculous that could not happen in real life). Locke wakes up despite the heavy anesthesia. That’s just how powerful his enlightenment moment is.

“It worked,” he tells Jack. Like the nurse, he could easily be describing the island scene here. “I can feel my legs,” he exclaims. And in that moment, he can also finally feel all the other wonderful things he experienced on the island. Terry O’Quinn is amazing in this scene. “Did you see that?” he asks Jack. “You don’t remember? Jack, I hope that somebody does for you what you just did for me.”

Meanwhile, back on the island, the storm is over. But the place is still in shambles, including Jack. “I’ll be fine,” he says to Kate. “Just find me some thread and I can count to five.” He realizes that whatever Desmond turned off, he has to turn back on again. Kate tells him he doesn’t have to do it, but Jack insists that it’s his responsibility.

Jack’s goodbye to Sawyer is heartfelt. He shakes his hand and wishes him luck. He calls him James (which most everyone has called him this season). Sawyer, who heroically jumped from the helicopter the last time Jack got them off the island, thanks Jack “for everything.”

In the Sideways world, he thanks Jack again — for telling him where he can find “some grub.” Sawyer looks a little shaken in that scene, even though he doesn’t know why, and he should be. What he’s really thanking Jack for is showing him where he can go find Juliet.

Jack was a serious role model for Sawyer, whether or not he’d care to admit it. If Jack had never left the island with the Oceanic 6, Sawyer wouldn’t have had the opportunity to step in as the leader. He wouldn’t have fallen in love with Juliet. He may not have fully understood the importance of “having someone’s back,” because for most of his life, nobody had his. In that regard, Kate was an inspiration for Sawyer, too.

It’s interesting that Sawyer would be a detective in this Sideways world because it’s really what he got to be best at on the island — being able to tell if someone was lying and then protecting his friends from that person. His reasons for leading were always more compassionate than Jack’s in that sense.

It’s odd that his meeting with Juliet should revolve around an electrical outlet, considering that she died when magnetic energy pulled her into the Swan station site. She tells Sawyer he has to unplug the machine in order to get the stuck candy bar. When she hands it to him, she says, “It worked.” Which basically calls into question every part of Miles’ gift for talking to the dead. Just after Juliet died, he told Sawyer her last words were “It worked.” Sawyer wasn’t dumb enough back then (though most of us were) to believe that her phrase meant that Jughead had exploded successfully. In fact, I can’t recall one moment this entire season that made that claim. Except for maybe Daniel Farraday/Widmore’s notion that he had set off a nuclear bomb.

No, Juliet had been talking about vending machines. Her spirit had gotten a glimpse of this other world. She was experiencing the moment when she finds Sawyer in her afterlife as she said goodbye to him in life. And Sawyer picks up right where he left off. “Juliet, it’s me,” he says. “I gotcha.” Their dialogue here is identical to when she died on the island.

And as if this weren’t emotional enough, the writers decided to have Sideways Jack find Kate directly after.

Jack goes to the concert grounds and tells Kate he’s looking for his son. “It’s over,” Kate tells him.  Jack recognizes her but can’t figure out how. But when she tries to kiss him, he gets weirded out and tries to walk away.

Back on the island, Jack tells Hurley that he has to go down into the hole after Desmond alone. Hurley gets upset because he knows that if Desmond couldn’t survive it, Jack couldn’t either. In another very emotional scene, Jack tells him that maybe he was just supposed to take Jacob’s job so he could sacrifice himself. Maybe the next protector is supposed to be Hurley. This was definitely foreshadowed last week when Jack asked Jacob how long he’d have to do the job and Hurley quipped that he was glad it wasn’t him.

It’s cool what the writers do here. Because if Hurley has always been such an audience voicebox, his sadness over Jack’s death fairly represents how the viewers might feel. And for Jack to hand the job of island protector over to him means that the viewers should now be inspired to protect their own figurative islands. It’s like Jack saying goodbye directly to the audience.

When Ben and Hurley lower Jack into the hole, he finds Desmond lying face-down. Desmond’s upset about his plan not working. “I thought I’d leave this place,” he moans. “But I’m still here.” Desmond says he has to put the cork back in, that it was like a drain (which finally explains why Ben’s Smoke Monster summoner functioned the way it did). When Jack asks him how he did it, Desmond protests and says he has to be the one to replace the cork because the electromagnetic activity would kill Jack.

This scene reminded me very much of the first time Jack met Desmond, when they were both running in the stadium. Jack was worried that he’d promised to “fix” Sarah’s spine and that he hadn’t succeeded.

Jack: I told her, I made her a promise I couldn’t keep. I told her I’d fix her and I couldn’t. I failed.
Desmond: Right. Just one thing – what if you did fix her?
Jack: I didn’t.
Desmond: But what if you did?
Jack: You don’t know what you’re talking about, man.
Desmond: I don’t? Why not?
Jack: Because with her situation, that would be a miracle, brother.
Desmond: Oh, and you don’t believe in miracles?
Jack laughs at him and shakes his head to say no.
Desmond: Right. Well, then, I’m going to give you some advice anyway. You have to lift it up.
Jack: Lift it up?

When Desmond said that to Jack, he was talking about a sprained ankle. But it always seemed like he was referring to something more. In the context of this finale, Jack really needed that advice. After instructing Desmond to go home to his wife and son, Jack has to “lift up” the cork Desmond pulled out and put it back in. That’s what saves the island.

And in the Sideways world, he follows the same advice when he finds Christian’s coffin.

On the way to the Ajira plane, when Kate finds Claire, she decides she can’t leave her behind. It’s odd that Claire’s only issue is “craziness” here, because the writers made it seem like she was “undead,” that the temple dwellers had put her through the same tests as Sayid and she had failed. What do you all think about this? Is Kate making a good choice by bringing her back to Aaron, or is she making the only compassionate choice she can?

As Jack tries to plug the drain back up, Lapidus finally gets the Ajira plane in the air. When they lift off, he says, “Amen.” An interesting choice of words for a guy who only believes in duct tape. But just as he says that, on the other side of the island, Jack feels the water trickle back down into his stony drain and the light comes back on. And as the electromagnetic activity slowly kills him, he cries deliriously happy tears. Because it finally worked. He lies there, with his arms lifted up in nearly the same position as the Jesus statue we saw earlier.

And in case we’d forgotten, the writers show the statue again, when Locke pulls up to the church in a taxi. Right, because a guy who just had spinal surgery can just show up at a church directly afterward? The writers saved the best for last with Ben and Locke’s reunion. Both are island-enlightened, and Ben probably didn’t like what he remembered. He tells Locke that most of the group is inside the church, but he’s not going in. He has some things to work out.

It might be because of the astonishing abilities of these two actors that this scene is so great. Ben finally apologizes to Locke for everything he did to him. And Terry O’Quinn is so believable as Locke, a role we haven’t watched him play in some time. As Sideways Locke, he was a different man than on the island. He had the trappings of island Locke, but not the drive. Not the spirit. And obviously, playing the Man In Black in Locke’s body was another task altogether.

But now that he’s enlightened, the finally sincerely smiling Locke (I still think they used some kind of computer technology to make him grimace so menacingly as MIB) tells Ben that he forgives him. He sheds his wheelchair like a second skin. We watched him get up and walk on the island after 815 crashed, too. But that wasn’t as powerful as this.

From that point, the episode takes a decidedly different turn, something everyone’s still debating about.

As Jack dies on the island, his Sideways counterpart enters the church, the setting of his father’s funeral, according to Kate. This was where Desmond accepted the coffin at the beginning of the episode.

Did anyone recognize the statue Jack walks by in the church? Is it St. Thomas? This is the same location of the doubting Thomas painting Jack encountered with Ben before he boarded the Ajira flight.

He enters a room that was once Eloise’s office, where she gave Jack a “suicide” note from Locke and told him he had to take a leap of faith.

The room is filled with religious iconography: crosses, a menorah, statues of Buddha, a Shiva painting, a bust of the Virgin Mary, rosary beads and a setting for holy communion. Jack walks over to the centerpiece, his father’s coffin. Anyone notice the symbols in the stained glass window behind him? They look an awful lot like Dharma stations, at least in their arrangement. And a light (like the source on the island) shines in the middle of them. The symbols represent multiple religions and philosophies (including a donkey wheel!).

Jack looks afraid as he circles the coffin. He places his hand on it. And then he remembers.

The following scenes flash through his mind, but the ones that stand out most involve him helping people: saving Claire on the beach after the plane crash, reviving Rose, trying (but failing) to save Boone, helping Shannon with her asthma, meeting and then leading Charlie, Sayid and Hurley, debating with Locke, hearing about his dad from Sawyer, getting everyone rescued on the phone with the freighter, sacrificing himself so Kate and Sawyer could leave Otherville and kissing Kate goodbye before saving the island.

But when he follows Desmond’s advice and lifts up the lid of the coffin, it’s still empty. In “White Rabbit,” when Jack found Christian’s coffin empty on the island, he smashed it to pieces. But here, he just starts to cry. That is, until Christian shows up behind him.

“I don’t understand,” Jack says. “You died.”
“Yeah, yes I did,” Christian says.
“Then how are you here right now?” Jack asks.
“How are you here?” Christian says.

Jack finally realizes that he’s dead and cries like a scared child, which is important here. Because through that, he finally makes peace with his father, who hugs him and tells him that everything will be okay.

And like a child, Jack asks him if he’s real. After the Man In Black’s mimicry, and Jack’s realization that his current existence is a sham, it makes sense that he’d ask that.

After Christian tells Jack that everyone there is real. Unfortunately, they’re also all dead. Some of them died before Jack did and some died long after him (I’m guessing that would be Island Protector Hurley).

“Why are they all here now?” Jack asks.
“Well, there is no ‘now’ here,” Christian explains. His eyes move upward when he says “here.”

This is the first time on this show that Jack has asked so many important questions. He proceeds to ask Christian where they are.

“This is the place that you all made together so that you could find one another,” Christian says. “The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody dies alone, Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you.”
“For what?” Jack asks.
“To remember,” he responds. “And … to let go.”

So, as far as I understand it, this Sideways world, this purgatory or afterlife — this is where the spirits of these people had to go because they wanted to move on together? Maybe the notion of heaven for all of them consists of being with these people, all at the same time.

Maybe they’re what’s called a “soul group.” This website explains the concept a little bit, but I mainly mention it because of the illustration at the top. It looks a lot like the figures in the textile Jacob was weaving.

Christian explains to Jack that they’re not leaving but moving on. This is all a great comparison to what the audience has to do with this show now. Let go of it but still remember.

The final scenes are like a party. A funeral for the show, but a happy one.

As these characters all celebrate finally finding one another, they embrace and then sit down in the pews, which look a lot like the way they were seated on Oceanic 815.

The scene then cuts to Jack, straggling along on the island. He walks by his old white sneaker, as beaten-up looking as he is. It’s been hanging on that bamboo stalk for three and half years. It reminded me a bit of the cocoon Locke tells Charlie about in the episode “The Moth.” Whatever had been preparing in there, being tested and strengthened, had finally broken free. Jack finds the spot where he woke up after 815 crashed. As he falls down into the same position, his Sideways counterpart sits down in a pew next to Kate.

She holds his hand.

Of the characters on this show, I could only find the following featured in this church scene: Kate with Jack, Sayid with Shannon, Locke, Penny with Desmond, Bernard with Rose, Sun with Jin, Juliet with Sawyer, Hurley with Libby, Charlie with Claire and Boone.

There’s been some debate this week about why these particular characters are there. And why so many of them are coupled up. I suppose the writers left that up to interpretation. My thoughts are that within this soul group, many of the people are soul mates, and soul mates often end up in romantic relationships. It doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes they’re just friends. But in this case, several of these spirits needed another half. Locke, who was supposed to marry Helen, is noticeably sitting alone here. Does that mean Helen wasn’t his soul mate? Maybe not. And maybe Nadia wasn’t Sayid’s.

Desmond touches on this topic when Eloise Hawking confronts him at the concert benefit.

Eloise: I thought I made it perfectly clear you were to stop this.
Desmond: Perfectly clear.
Eloise: And what’s to happen once they all know? What then?
Desmond: Then, we’re leaving.
Eloise: Are you going to take my son?
Desmond (taking her hand): Not with me, no.

If the fedora-wearing Daniel is going to move on, he has to do so with his own group. That might include his parents. Maybe Charlotte and Miles.

These people weren’t ready to “move on,” yet, like Ana Lucia wasn’t. And Ben. Maybe Ben would move on with Alex.

And what of Michael, whose soul was supposedly stuck on the island? Where is he?

What I find really strange is that some of the children produced by these couples aren’t in the church. Like Charlie Hume. Should we just assume that he doesn’t get to have a soul connection with his parents?

Also, we know that Penny has a different last name in this world, “Milton” (presumably a reference to the author). But why is Juliet’s last name “Carlson”?

The notion that these soul groups often meet in life through synchronicities increases the odds that this is what the writers meant here. Look at all the synchronicities that drew these people together, which they largely ignored until they reached this “afterlife.”

Look at all the synchronicities each character experienced with Christian Shephard alone. And he didn’t even make it to the island alive.

As Christian prepares to leave the church, he touches Jack’s shoulder, as if to say, for the first time, “I’m proud of you.” He’s commending Jack on the job he did, leading all these people.

Back on the island, Vincent finds Jack dying in the bamboo thicket. He was the first to find Jack on the island in the pilot episode and these final moments are nearly identical to that scene. Jack watches the Ajira flight go by above him and he smiles, knowing that his friends are on it. He finally got them back home.

As Christian opens the church doors, the light fills the room. This is the same light Christian was bathed in when he appeared to Sun and Lapidus in the Dharma barracks on the island, back when Ajira had landed and Sun was looking for Jin.

As Sideways Jack smiles in the light, a smiling Jack on the island closes his eyes — presumably already seeing this church scene in his mind.

As his eye closes, the screen fades to black.

Many episodes of this series start with an eye opening. This was the first time we watched one close. And at the end of the fifth season, last year, it didn’t fade to black as it normally would. It was a white screen. Was that meant to hint at what this Sideways world was going to be?

The New York Times blog post I mentioned earlier, in this, my final Lost’s Last Call, talked about the high number of young adult viewers of the finale, that it would surely beat the number of young adults watching any other finale this season. The post continued to say that “the almost unwavering rating Lost scored over such a long period of prime time [two and a half hours] is highly unusual for any television show, but it is reflective of the extraordinary loyalty of the Lost audience — and the show’s demands on them.”

To say this show is demanding is an understatement. Back when my brother introduced me to Lost, it seemed there was nothing good on TV anymore. YouTube was becoming a real phenomenon for young adults. But then this came along. It attracted men and women equally and created a real community of viewers. If you wanted to talk about this show, you surely could find someone who’d dissect it with you, whether or not they actually liked it.

And Lost examined so many kinds of viewpoints about so many things. It got people talking about religion, literature, philosophy and even physics in ways they might not have otherwise.

I’ve been honored to have the privilege to write about this all season. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these entries as much as I’ve enjoyed making them. I’m sure there is a ton of stuff I missed in this last one, so now I leave this to you. What did you think? Were you surprised? Sad? Let down? Moved to tears? Inspired?

I’m hoping it’s the last one. When I started watching this show, I was going through a particularly difficult, isolating time. Lost reminded me to have faith in what I was doing. That I was not alone. I could relate to Jack because I too needed to learn how to let go.

As I mentioned earlier, when Jack left the island to Hurley to protect, it was like the writers saying, “Here, it’s your turn now. Go do something this creative and celebrate life — don’t let this light go out.”

It’s not easy to create a story as multi-dimensional as this was, least of all on television.

It’s your turn. Tell me what you believe.

By Laura Carney

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