Could Lost Have Ended Differently?


We’ve spoken to our fair share of Lost fans since last night’s finale, and the consensus is clear: No one was satisfied. After an increasingly bizarre and foreboding final season, we weren’t terribly surprised. But even though we’re horribly disappointed and even a touch offended, the harsh light of Monday morning has us wondering if this ending was always inevitable. (In case you’re one of the five people who missed the finale, beware: Spoilers galore after the jump.)

First, let’s review why we’re pissed: Everything that happened on the island either did or didn’t happen. Everyone either died in the original plane crash and then appeared as characters in Jack’s struggle toward faith, redemption, and (sigh) heaven… or what took place in the first five seasons, pre-nuclear bomb blast and sideways reality, actually did happen. But, as it turns out, what transpired on the island last night isn’t that important. I mean, sure, it was the only action that was in any way satisfying (unless you’re the type who gets long-lasting fulfillment out of watching dead people make out in the afterlife). The big WTF went down in sideways reality — or purgatory, or the antechamber to heaven, or the happiest place on Earth.

It was all there last night: The bright light, the extended family reunion… for heaven’s sake, everyone was in a glowing, Technicolor church that Ben Linus knew was not (yet) the place for him while Christian Shepard led everyone to the great beyond, which, despite the panoply of religious symbols it acknowledges is most definitely the New Testament heaven. (Never mind that he was pretty much the worst father ever in life. Apparently he’s an Old Testament kind of God.) Ever since we got to know the character John Locke, way back in the first season of Lost, we were afraid this was going to end up being a Jesus thing. We suspected the producers were pulling for “man of faith” over “man of science,” and we were right. But we went kicking and screaming, first hoping that skeptical, logical Jack was right, then joining Team Smoke Monster when Jacob’s glowing tunnel of love inside each and every one of us had us reaching for the barf bag.

And then Damon and Carlton practically kicked us in the face with the finale. Not only was this a Christian allegory, it was a frustratingly literal one! It was one that (unlike almost everything else on the show) could not be reinterpreted to death. It was an ending that made everyone who doesn’t believe in heaven (not only atheists and agnostics, but also Jews and Buddhists, etc.) feel like we’d wasted six years on a show that turned out to mean nothing. We would even wager that the show was more attractive to non-believers than most, given its complexity and apparent relativism and a cast of characters that weren’t just good or evil. Now, we can’t even ask any more questions or complain about everything the finale left unexplained. It was just all part of God’s plan. Yawn.

Still, in retrospect, it’s hard to imagine the series could end any other way. Once we knew that it was going to be Jack’s (original) way versus Locke’s, we should have resigned ourselves to the realization that this was all going to come down to the Christian God. Because it had to be faith or science, and come on: This is network television in the United States of America in 2010. Perhaps Damon and Carlton didn’t have to give us the kind of religious-revival ending we got. (Imagine how you’d feel about the Chronicles of Narnia if C.S. Lewis had added a 20-page epilogue painstakingly explaining the series as Christian allegory.) But on a mainstream show that has always been set up to either affirm or deny the existence of God… it’s no surprise we got the ending they gave us.