Midseason Replacement

Earnest Pettie, comedy writer

The Lost Finale or Why I’m Right And Everyone Else Is Wrong

The simplest lessons are often the best, and one of the simplest lessons I’ve ever received is this: Film is an audio-visual medium. It seems so obvious that it shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, but it bears repeating because it’s important to remember that what you see and what you hear are important in film. The trick of narrative film is to make all the amalgamated elements of filmmaking–the photography, the sound recording, the editing, the acting–disappear into a story. The bigger trick of narrative film is to use those elements to tell the story for you, and that is something at which the creators of Lost were adept.

Audio-visually, the clues were there all along that this season was markedly different from the previous seasons, and it all began with the negative image of the Lost bumper at the close of last season after Juliette exploded the bomb. When we returned for this season, we had a new storyline, something that appeared to be a divergent continuum, and the first time we experienced what appeared to be an alternate reality, we were transitioned between the alternate reality and the regular Lost reality without the audio cue that we’d come to expect from flashes back and flashes forward. I remind you of these things to help you understand that our storytellers understand how to use the medium to give added depth to their narrative.

I believe Lost had two endings. One ending wraps up the narrative of the survivors’ struggle for existence on the island, and the other ending is the ending to Lost, the series. For six seasons, we’ve watched as the survivors of Oceanic 815 struggled to build a community with each other in order to survive the horrors of the island as they battled polar bears, smoke monsters, Others, and even each other. The end of that story is that ultimately they did find that community and were able to enjoy it in death. The other ending is the actual conclusion to Lost. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to flash us forward to the closing moments of the show and a sequence of very important images.

In these six images we see Jack crumbled on the Earth, bleeding to death, joined by Walt’s dog. From there we cut to the purgatory Church where all the survivors have reunited with their loves lost and friends found, where Jack and Kate finally get to be together. We cut back to the corporeal Jack, bleeding to death, happy as he sees Kate, Sawyer, and company fly away from the island. We return to the church, again, this time bringing closure to the Lost survivors’ narrative. We now can be sure that the church is their heaven and that Kate, Sawyer, Lapidus, and Miles survived the island and made it back to the real world. From here we get a transition that we have not gotten before, and that is a fade to white and a fade back to Jack. This time, however, the shot has changed. We are not looking at Jack’s body or head– instead we get his eye. This is a callback to the pilot, where we saw Jack’s eye open, which launched us into this grand adventure. Jack’s eye closes.  As I mentioned, the transition that precedes this shot is significant because the previous transitions have all been cuts, which is how the show’s creators move us back and forth between the island and the alternate/purgatory stories. As we move to the eye, then, we are not returning to Jack’s body on the island. Instead we are returning to Jack’s real body on the island, the body that has survived for probably just moments, the wreckage of Oceanic 815. That eye that opened is now closing, and Jack, like everyone else, is dead. We go to the Lost bumper, and then an image of the flight’s wreckage over the show’s closing credits, which serves to underscore that everyone who crashed on that plane is dead.

Narratively, the show’s creators have had their cake and eaten it, too. Yes, while everyone on the island is dead, none of them were dead in the story we were given. Yes, the island’s survivors did end up in purgatory, but the purgatory wasn’t the island, it was one of our characters’ own making (which is fodder for an entirely separate post regarding the amalgam of religious ideas in Lost). For the purposes of our story, all of this did happen, and all of it was important, even if none of it actually happened and existed only in the desperate fantasy of a man about to die. This isn’t “it was all a dream.” It is “it was all a desperate delusion,” and it doesn’t matter that it was because we were given a meaty story with adequate closure and a fitting conclusion: Smoke monsters and Jacob don’t exist, but our struggles, before we die, to ascertain the nature of this world, why evil exists, and why we haven’t been better people do exist.

Edit 4/25 10:43 pm– In the comments and on Twitter people have pointed out that the last image of the wreckage was added by the network. I would argue that it’s the use of a a different transition to take us to Jack’s closing eye that is meaningful.  Take away that last shot, and you still have the show’s creators taking us back to Jack’s eye closing after the crash.


10 comments on “The Lost Finale or Why I’m Right And Everyone Else Is Wrong

  1. Kam
    May 25, 2010

    Great analysis! I always cringe right after series finales. The public is SO hard to please only because most of them don’t correctly interpret the audio-visual clues. I remember how pissed everyone was at the end of The Sopranos even though David Chase gave them the answer.

    • Earnest Pettie
      May 25, 2010

      I didn’t pay OU hundreds of dollars in parking tickets for nothing!

  2. Bango
    May 25, 2010

    Great post E-Rock! I didn’t watch the finale but reading posts like yours makes me want to give it a go.

  3. Talker1
    May 25, 2010

    Sorry, but I think you are wrong. It’s a good analysis, though. My main argument is your interpretation of the eye opening in season one and closing in the finale. “That eye that opened is now closing, and Jack, like everyone else, is dead.” If you are using visuals as an argument, watch these two clips and freeze at 0:16 on the first and 4:26 on the second – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPRHrqh084U http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZBPZG7v96o. If it were the “same” eye shot when Jack dies moments after the crash, the abrasions would be the same. My belief (along with many out there) is that what happened on the island did really happen. Their connections with each other, made on the island, is why their souls found each other in the afterlife. Of course the creators left this open for interpretation and is probably why they didn’t want to talk about the finale after it aired. Speculating only makes it more fun, IMO.

    • Earnest Pettie
      May 25, 2010

      You’re absolutely right about their leaving it open to interpretation, and that’s what’s made the show so fun to watch for so long. I have to admit that I’ve been surprised that more people haven’t seemed to come to my conclusion, and I do think the consensus is going to be the one you’ve mentioned here.

      Extra note: My thoughts about the abrasions were just that it’s been so long that there are some things that can’t be fixed, like all the characters’ having aged so much, and that was something they just decided to let go.

      • Cathy
        May 25, 2010

        Hi..this is from the website eonline. The comment below was from Kristin, of the “Watch with Kristin” feature on that site. (She is a huge LOST fan.)

        “Newsflash to anyone still thinking that all the Losties died when Oceanic 815 hit the island:

        Those final images of Sunday night’s series finale—of the plane wreckage on the island with no survivors—were not the producers’ doing.

        The show’s ABC rep just told me:

        “The images shown during the end credits of the Lost finale, which included shots of Oceanic 815 on a deserted beach, were not part of the episode but were a visual aid to allow the viewer to decompress before heading into the news.” The statement was first acquired by the Los Angeles Times.

        The images were added by the network, not Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, to soften the transition to the 11:00 news.”

      • Earnest Pettie
        May 25, 2010

        Hi Cathy,

        That the last image of the wrecked plane was added by ABC does change things a bit, but even without that image, I think that the use of a different kind of transition to take us back to the eye remains meaningful enough that I would stick with my analysis. Of course, I am also very stubborn so there’s also that.

  4. Pingback: The Joe Donatelli Column » Blog Archive » LOST was the delusion of a dying man

  5. Cesar
    May 29, 2010

    It’s an interesting reasoning, and I guess you could say the show left it ambiguous (although I didn’t think about this possibility as I was watching), but I don’t see why we should think that.

    In that last conversation, Christian, besides saying everything that happened was real (which, I know, could still be said if it was just Jack’s imagination), also says that the reason they are there is to reunite with the most important people in their lives. If we see the final shot as an indication that the whole series was a dying delusion of Jack, there is no depth to the fact that he apparently thought he was reunited with the other ‘survivors’ and that they were the most important people in his life. If the series was in Jack’s mind, he died thinking the people he most loved were people he never met and who probably never existed.
    Also, what can we say about the other characters flashbacks and all of the strange things that happened with them without Jack knowing about? Did he create such an ellaborate and unnecessary fantasy just so he could be at peace in the end? Why not just create the alternate reality with the ones he truly loved (and truly had met in real life)? Why make 6 seasons of a show that amounts to nothing?

    My point is, if we assume all that happened (except the sideways timeline) was ‘real’, then we had a show full of people lost in their lifes, united in an island in order to redeem theirselves and protect something mystical (that in my opinion could be the afterlife existance itself, but which is definitely open for interpretation), and who, after dying (some during and some long after the end shot) find the most important people in their lifes in order to ‘move on’ together, making lost a series about redemption and the importance of other people in our lives. If the whole series passed within the moments Jack was dying, it was a tale of the bizarre allucinations suffered by a dying man.

    It’s impossible to prove or disprove your theory, and if you think this makes the series better than the alternative, it’s ok, but I just don’t see why explain it that way (I’d be happy to read an explanation, though 🙂 ).

    PS: I’m not a big fan of the purgatory/limbo revelation (and I’m not sure some of the sideways scenes make much sense), but I thought it was coherent with the series theme as a whole, and I really liked the ‘real’/island part of the finale.

    • Cesar
      May 29, 2010

      oh, by the way, I don’t think an audio transition is such important if we’re assuming the producers forgot to reproduce the abrasions (which would be quite easy to do, it’s just a close in an eye, and acording to Matthew Fox, he knew that would be the final scene since the begginning and they could have shot it while filming the pilot)

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This entry was posted on May 25, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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