Lost, “The End” Part Two — Evaluating character arcs in both universes

I’ve decided to avoid adding more bold sectioned-off updates to my original recap of the Lost series finale, “The End” and start a brand new post. You can view my initial set of ramblings here before jumping in to this post.

For starters, I want to discuss the characters, since that’s what the whole episode was about anyway. We know that the intent of “The End” and perhaps of S6 as a whole was to service the characters we all fell in love with back in 2004 — and maybe 2005/2006 in the case of Desmond and Ben — and again, I think that if you can accept that as the intent, the series finale couldn’t be more satisfying. Even if those satisfactions came more in short moments than actual advanced stories, I’m not sure how fans who feel a connection to these people had a dry eye by the time “The End” came to a close. Thus, I wanted to discuss the arcs of many characters in both timelines as a way to celebrate and sometimes attack the way this all ended.

Let’s start with Jack. I said in my first post that is journey was an epic, beautiful one. Admittedly, I’ve always been a Jack apologist even in the times it was hard to be, but I honestly can’t see how people wouldn’t find the writers’ choices with Jack over the years to at least be respectfully risky. And if season six accomplished only one thing — it obviously did not, but go with me — it was that it made us all care about Jack again, like him again. His bull-headed, man of science routine was grating at times, but he eventually figured out that he was only when he could let go that things would come to him in the right way. And end in the end, he was able to suppress the worst parts of his personality and let the best parts save the world. Jack always wanted to fix everything and then when he finally didn’t necessarily have that need, the island was ready and there for the fixin’. I’m honestly a little teary-eyed thinking about it.

Along the way, the FS universe showed us a Jack who was a lot like the Jack a lot of you didn’t care for, but was still able to overcome his issues. I think I stated this somewhere amid all my thoughts on the finale, but if we are to assume the FS world was constructed to allow these people to get over their most intense and wretched hang-ups before coming together in the end, I’d like to discuss what each character actually had to face before moving forward. For Jack, it was all about the daddy issues and whether or not he really had what it takes to help people in the right way. Thus, fictional son David allowed him to work some of those daddy issues out as he became a father of his own and perhaps gave him a little perspective that he and Christian weren’t so different. And when he finally touched the casket, he saw images of various 815 survivors and how he helped them. It wasn’t all about how much he loved Kate — it was about how much his actions meant to other people. For a man thrust into a leadership role without ever really wanting it, a confirmation of the efficacy of his actions was all Jack really ever needed. Just as Jack did the most important thing in his life on the island, we saw him realize that it wasn’t just re-corking the island that made Jack a hero, it was everything leading up to that.

Let’s move on to Kate, who I think the writers lost hold of for a long time before finally bring it all back last night. I’ll be honest: I haven’t really cared about Kate or her journey to re-unite Claire and Aaron because it always felt hollow to me in some way. In was one of the only S4-S6 plots that felt like a “plot,” in the sense that the writers needed to give Kate a reason to be unhappy off the island from 2004-2007. However this season, Kate was mostly in the background, only occasionally giving Claire pep talks about leaving the island or not being crazy and that role ultimately suited her. But in the finale, it was if the Kate from season one miraculously returned. She was active, intelligent, tough, emotional and generally, a bad-ass. I never, ever, ever thought that most of my favorite scenes from the series finale of Lost would include Kate, but damn if that’s not the case. Jack and Desmond might have softened NotLocke up, but motherf’ing Kate Austen killed that SOB. And then she jumped off the cliff first! AND THEN she convinced Claire to return home so they could awkwardly raise Aaron together. And it finally made sense to me. After episode after episode of hearing Kate say she would do anything to reunite mother and child, she actually showed it.

In the FS universe, it was a similar story. That Kate knew she had a connection to Claire, but couldn’t quite see it — and again, even I thought it was the writers forcing the story I didn’t care about. But then Claire went into labor and Kate thankfully had her awakening because of Aaron, not because of Jack or Sawyer. It might have been just the emotions of the moment finally convincing me to invest in that story, but I don’t think I care. Because that reminded me of Kate being there the first time when Aaron was born, which means she really did have a connection to that damn kid from the very beginning. Her inner drama with him off the island might have been mishandled on numerous occasions, but that doesn’t mean Aaron wasn’t important to Kate. I’ll be interested to see how much Kate interacted with Aaron or Claire in the early seasons when I re-watch, because I want to care about that story more when I’m watching “Eggtown” or “The Little Prince.” I want to feel the way Evangeline Lilly’s performance made me feel last night. Though it probably won’t happen on that level, because I would strongly argue that somehow, amid a barrage of all-time performances, Lilly was the best. She was out of the world fantastic from beginning to end.

Now, I’d like to bring Jack and Kate together for a moment. I never cared about the triangle or the quadrangle, but understood its appeal. I think that Jack and Kate worked very well together throughout the first two seasons, but the mess in the polar bear cages changed their relationship forever and so watching them play house together in S4 didn’t quite work — especially because there was Sawyer-related drama involved. But once Sawyer and Juliet became everyone’s favorite couple, it was obvious these two would come back to one another and the way their relationship was handled made sense and kept true to their previous attempts at a real relationship. That’s the thing — I could always believe in the fact that Jack loved Kate and she loved him. It was really just all about timing and how freaking messed up they were as people. But freed from most of the island drama and with their lives in the balance, they realized that it was always going to be them. And in the FS universe, freed from any drama whatsoever, their love had nothing else to overcome. Kate’s line to Jack about missing him for so long nearly broke me, and I HATED any “Jate” moments after Jack’s “Because I love you” from “Through The Looking Glass.” Matthew Fox — who was fantastic as well — and Lilly somehow regained that S1 chemistry and sold every emotional beat the episode’s events put them through. I can’t believe that I keep thinking about Jack-Kate moments 24 hours later. How did that happen?

Sawyer. I thought he had the worst FS story of them all because there wasn’t enough different for him to really learn anything or let go. But with the knowledge of what this universe is, I guess I can see it a little bit more — and it plays into where he ended on the island as well. In the original timeline, Sawyer recovered from his emotional scarring by having people in his life. Really, his story mirrors the basic construct of the whole series the best — they needed support. Therefore, Sawyer was able to come into his own on the island when people cared about him, allowing him to lower the guard and ultimately become a hero and a damn good friend. His relationships with Hurley, Jin, Miles, Jack, Kate and Juliet showed Sawyer that being alone just to wallow in your own self-destruction would never top being loved by people who really knew you. And so, in the FS universe we saw a Sawyer who didn’t have those connections. He had Miles, but wouldn’t let him in because he didn’t have anything that forced him to. On the deserted island with people coming to kill him at all times, he had to trust, had to let others get his back. Without those constrictions, Sawyer never was forced to let his guard down.

His reunion with Juliet was probably a lot of folks’ favorite scene and for good reason. It showed Sawyer that he did need people and really just one person — his blondie. For Juliet, the FS construct seemed to exist as a way for her to do what she always wanted in helping pregnant women on her own accord. She was first ordered to do so by her ex-husband and then by Ben, but she really just watch women be happy, and here, she could. Of course, they both realized that being together was even better than all that.

For John Locke, the island story is bittersweet. On one hand, he stayed dead. No resurrection. In that sense, Locke’s original journey ends up as one of the most depressing and riveting things ever seen on broadcast television. Everyone has talked about how he was completely manipulated by his desire to believe in something and that’s true. But in the end, it was John Locke who helped Jack believe that the island meant something and that it deserved to be protected. John Locke did much more in death than he could have ever accomplished in life. That was his destiny. So on the other hand, Locke really wins. Jack is so convinced that Locke was right about just about everything that he’s willing to defend his honor to a killer pillar of smoke. In the FS universe, Locke was bogged down by his inability to believe in something, and he especially couldn’t believe in himself. His own actions nearly killed his father and crippled his own body, leaving him just as badly bruised on the inside. But when Jack saved his legs and showed him that there was reason to believe, it all came flooding back. How great, then, was it that the regained usage of his legs pushed Locke to believe in both timelines?

Hurley learned that the kind of cliched “love is the answer” lesson in both universes, but I still think it was ultimately executed in the proper ways. As both Ben and Jack tell Hurley near the episode’s conclusion, he has always been the one to bring everyone together and support them whenever they needed it. On a basic level, it is as if Hurley’s love and care for everyone has kept them going through all the hell they’ve experienced during their time on the hellhole known as the island. And so it was completely fitting to have him take hold of the seemingly most powerful position in the world, because if the island is supposed to protect people from all the evil in the world, it’s perfect to have a man who cares the most about people in charge of protecting the thing that does all the protecting. In the FS world, Hurley was still the same, lovable dude, but didn’t have anyone loving him back. On the island, he had a support system, but there, he was a giver without any receiving. Libby returned the love and helped Hurley wake up to the reciprocated love that he deserved. And the fact that Hurley was able to give his #2 position to Benjamin Linus — a man who he knew was at-one time very, very evil — and possibly created the FS universe with his Jacob-y powers proves that Hurley was the right man for the job in the end anyway.

Speaking of Mr./Dr. Linus, what a glorious ending for him, even if I thought he’d have more of a plan on the island. But maybe that is why things worked out better for Ben on the island. For once, he didn’t have a scheme or evil plan that bettered his situation — he was just trying to survive. Then he sacrificed himself a little bit by pushing Hurley out of the way of the tree he later miraculously found his way out from under of later, showing a Ben who was willing to do the right thing in times of need. And in the end, his dream came true: someone had him. For decades, Ben wanted to be Jacob’s #2 and couldn’t get the mythical bastard’s attention whatsoever and to have the new Jacob just ask him for help was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same exact time. Of course, Emerson sold that moment extremely well. So Ben kind of learned a similar lesson that others did — you get what you give, in a sense. In the FS universe, Ben ultimately woke up to all the evil things he did and decided to stay because he knew that moving on wasn’t quite in the cards yet. He had let go on the island earlier in the season, but to have him understand that it wasn’t time was a beautiful choice for a character that’s moved on the scales of good and evil so often. Ben’s recognition of that movement and end choice to do whatever it took to move closer to the good end was fantastic.

As someone else whose life always moved around on the scales of good and evil, Sayid didn’t get quite the reclamation that Ben did and the explanations of being “claimed” were mostly mishandled, but it’s important to look at his journey. In both timelines, Sayid totally let himself be defined by what other people made him out to be. He tried to escape labels, but when people continuously tell you, “hey, you’re a torture and murder,” that’s probably what you’re going to think you are. But my reading of Sayid’s island conclusion mirrors what happened to him in the FS universe fairly well: He just needed someone to tell him that he wasn’t a torturer and murder. Throughout his life and the series, he’d been put in situations where A.) that’s what he had to be or B.) that’s what he was told to be and so he fully embraced that on the island when NotLocke dangled the Nadia carrot in front of him. I guess that’s the claiming. But thanks to his pep talks from Desmond in the island story and Hurley in the FS universe, Sayid realized that it was okay to not let someone else define his identity.

And so that’s why I can let the Shannon hook-up in the end go. I see it as that Sayid could never fully let go of his tortured torturer life if he was with Nadia. There was too much tumultuous history there and even if NotLocke could have brought her back, the mechanizations that got her there wouldn’t have been good for Sayid. But in the FS universe, he was able to remember Shannon, who not only connected him to the time on the island where Sayid was not just a torturer, but a heroic man who was counted on to be the brains of every operation, but also showed him that he could love without his baggage weighing him down. On the island, he wasn’t a torturer and Shannon didn’t know/care anyway. He was a good man to her and she “loved” him for it. That was a weird romance and a weird part of the group awakening, but I can find some value in it.

The same goes for the handling of Jin and Sun as the series came to a close. They didn’t have dramatic arcs in either universe, but their story again reinforced the series’ emphasis on love. Though the story kept them apart for way too long and killed them way too quickly after the fact, their death still meant a lot to the series’ resolution, I think. The death of the Kwons showed Jack the evil that NotLocke was capable of and put hurt in the hearts of his remaining friends, a hurt that he eventually needed to fix. Sure, it definitely sucks for Ji Yeon that she’ll grow up without any parents, but Ji Yeon wasn’t a major character on this series. She’ll definitely be cared for by Sun’s family and the determination of the Kwons to reunite a bunch of admittedly stupid obstacles was something to admire.

In both universes, I got the indication that the fact that they could produce a child after all that drama was…enough? I know that sounds trite and even cruel, but the existence of Ji Yeon woke them up in the FS universe because they could remember that even though they died, they died together and brought a life into the world that was *hopefully* raised in the right ways. So Ji Yeon isn’t in the church because she physically didn’t mean as much to Sun and Jin as people like Sawyer, Kate and Jack did. Instead, all they needed was the knowledge of her existence to pass on with their friends that helped them create a real marriage out of something that was completely broken. That might cheap, stupid and again perhaps cruel to the child, but like Shannon’s inclusion, I’m willing to forgive it because it keeps the focus on the 815’ers.

And the final 815’er I’ll discuss is Claire. She is another character that didn’t necessarily overcome tremendous obstacles in either universe, but the individual moments of her realizations were satisfying nonetheless. For Claire, the arc was all about the journey from young, single, pregnant girl who didn’t want the life a baby could bring her. She was hesitant to keep the child from the beginning and only the fleeting promise of a family with Aaron’s father convinced her otherwise. When that guy ditched her, Claire was totally scared of raising the child, but also scared of what a child meant for her in responsibility and family, two things she never had much control over growing up. Her lack of father only fueled her closure into herself when Aaron’s birth came closer and she boarded Oceanic 815. But on the island, that all changed. She was thrust into both responsibility and family with Aaron’s birth and her relationship with Charlie. Although it was never easy, she eventually figured out that she could handle both — just as it was taken away from her. Finally overcoming those obstacles only to have them ripped away allowed her to be completely manipulated by MiB posing as her father, leading to a makeshift claiming and controlling we’ll never know much about. But even though Charlie was gone and she ended up at least partially crazy, she still had family in a sense through Kate. Ms. Austen was there during Aaron’s birth, watched over him at times on the island and eventually cared for him when Claire no longer could.

Thus, Claire’s recognition that she could be a mother to Aaron despite all her hang-ups reminded her of the woman she was before the crash while also recalling the woman she became after it. Responsibility and family awaited her when she returned from the island and she surely embraced it just as she did when she arrived. And in the FS universe, it was more about the family than the responsibility, but nevertheless any less effective. Charlie and Claire were the series’ closest thing to a nuclear family and that scared version of Claire who embraced the help of others allowed her to be woken up and ultimately, back with the man who should have helped her raise Aaron to begin with.

One more character to go, one that I’m still having trouble with: Desmond. I understand the need to focus on the 815’ers, but the decision to have Desmond be the catalyst for the awakening but not really give him any real payoff was the most disappointing thing about the finale for me. We saw Penny at the church with him in the conclusion, but never got the moment where she woke up and they had their beautiful moment. You’d like the writers would want to hit us with one final heartfelt reunion between those two, considering their relationship is the most popular. Perhaps it just ended on the cutting room floor? That is all more frustrating because we didn’t see them together in the original universe either, rendering Desmond’s emotional arc and general overall importance much more moot than I initially assumed it could ever be. And that’s an added note to the fact that a whole of his plans in either timelines make a lot of sense.

We know that Desmond’s arc was that he was a coward and until he could be a man, he couldn’t be with Penny. His turning of the failsafe key and time traveling journeys basically solved those problems. And so in the final season he was forced into this battle against his will and really, for what? He had knowledge of both timelines it seemed and thought each would take him to a happier place, but what’s really the point? On the island, he seemed all-knowing after Widmore blew him full of electromagnetic energy and coyly assumed that uncorking the island would send him to a happier place. But that happier place wasn’t the FS universe, but a world that seems similar because he and Jack are both on 815. Therefore, what’s the purpose of presenting him as having knowledge of the FS universe if he didn’t really? The conversation he had with Jack right before the journey into the pool suggests that he thought things would reset, much like Jack did with the Judghead. As I suggested in my other post, this could mean that while Desmond had knowledge of the FS universe, he couldn’t quite know exactly what it was past “it’s better” because he wasn’t, you know, dead yet. But if that’s the case and the island’s inability to “be done” with Mr. Hume was simply because it wanted to make him be wrong and Jack right, I don’t think that was worth it. We’re led to assume he was sent back home and ultimately lived out his life with Penny and lil’ Charlie, so why isn’t he in the church?*

*Sidenote: Is it REALLY possible that the flash-sideways was really just a construct for Jack and Jack alone? That would explain the exclusion of certain characters like the Freighter people (because he didn’t spend time with them in the ’70s like Sawyer and Jin did) and someone like little Charlie (who Jack never met), while Penny gets to be there because she was integral in rescuing the Oceanic Six? Or is it still a construct for everyone, but just a partially mishandled one in the end? I still think it’s the latter.

And in the FS universe, again, what is the purpose of having Desmond be the guy to round everyone up to “leave?” There didn’t seem to be any bleed through for him until Charlie helped him wake up, so it’s not like he was the first. I guess we can still hold on to the idea that he was somehow experiencing both timelines at the same time because of the electromagnetism — which also explains Juliet’s ramblings before her death — but neither the timelines or Desmond’s awareness of both seemed to ever matter in the end. He said back in “Happily Ever After” that he wanted to “show” people something and we all know what that was after “The End,” but I still don’t understand why it had to be him aside from the external notion that Desmond needed something to do in both timelines and it would be cool to have a fan favorite do the awakening in the FS. I hope someone can clear this up for me, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about much more and will probably post about it much more as time goes on. Desmond’s actual arc in the FS — that he really did need that one person — was well done in “Happily,” but because we got no additional pay-off from that with Penny in the finale, he felt more like a plot driver than an actual character in the FS universe — and really, both stories. He didn’t deserve that.

4,200 words later, I feel like that’s a nice place to stop for today’s musings on “The End.” I’ll be posting more throughout the week, particularly in reflection on whether or not “everything matters” really rings true in the end, as well posting a fun list about the things that hey, would have been nice to have answered if even I don’t really care. But the fact that I and dozens of others have already written multiple posts with no end in sight really proves how damn important these series has been. It might not have all made sense in the end whether you wanted answers or not and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with it as I write more, but for the most part, the series was completely true to the characters we all cared about. And hopefully this post displayed some of the ways it did that and also showed why “The End” was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful journey, no matter the destination.

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2 thoughts on “Lost, “The End” Part Two — Evaluating character arcs in both universes

  1. [” But in the finale, it was if the Kate from season one miraculously returned. She was active, intelligent, tough, emotional and generally, a bad-ass. I never, ever, ever thought that most of my favorite scenes from the series finale of Lost would include Kate, but damn if that’s not the case. Jack and Desmond might have softened NotLocke up, but motherf’ing Kate Austen killed that SOB. And then she jumped off the cliff first! AND THEN she convinced Claire to return home so they could awkwardly raise Aaron together. And it finally made sense to me. After episode after episode of hearing Kate say she would do anything to reunite mother and child, she actually showed it.”]

    Season One Kate Austen was not that great. She was the star of one of the worst episodes of that season – “Whatever the Case May Be”.

    And killing Fake Locke didn’t help her character. Why? Because the show still refused to show the negative effects of Kate’s murder of her father. The issue was shoved to the background around Seasons 3/4 and never seen again. She felt remorse for kidnapping Aaron (illogical, if one looks at the facts), but not for killing her father for an obvious selfish reason – namely her sense of worth. Even worse, the series ended with Kate promising Claire that she would help raise Aaron. This was incredibly stupid, when one remembers that Claire will have her own mother to help her raise Aaron, and Kate will be facing prison for breaking her parole. Unless she plans to do something incredibly stupid by going on the run again.

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