Finally, after six seasons of riddles, puzzles, and philosophical musings, the Lost finale was going to answer all questions, or so fans hoped. That the big reveal turned out to be our old friend “It was all a dream” seemed like a tremendous cheat. But maybe that was an unfair reading. Sure, the final season’s “flash-sideways” timeline — in which Flight 815 never crashed on the island, but deposited its passengers safely in Los Angeles — turned out to be a supreme act of narrative misdirection on the part of the show’s writers, but it also had a thematic purpose.
As Jack’s dad, Christian Shepherd (yes, really) explained during the show’s final moments, the flash-sideways was a collective delusion, a limbo invented subconsciously by the castaways themselves as a way to reunite and recognize each other after they died and before they moved on to the next spiritual plane. But everything that had happened on the island had been real, part of an epic test to see who would replace Jacob as the island’s caretaker (a contest ultimately won by Hurley), and to save the world by preventing Jacob’s nameless, disembodied brother from leaving the island and wreaking havoc all over the planet.
As for the series-long debate between science (Jack) and faith (Locke), call it a draw. Even if you found the finale to add up to less than the sum of its parts, it was hard not to be moved to tears by the joyous reunion scenes in the flash-sideways purgatory, or by the show’s final image (an echo of its very first image): Jack’s eye closing for the last time as he lays down to die in the very spot where he awoke in the first episode, content at last to see the plane carrying his friends as they finally escape for good.
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