‘Lost’ finale a fitting end after six years but with few answers

By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / May 24, 2010

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Last night, “Lost’’ did not end its six-year run with intellectual resolution. We never got a concise, specific explanation of the island: where it was, when it was, what it was. And the question of why anyone — Hurley and Ben? — would need to take care of this island remained obscure.

Instead, the episode offered an abundance of emotional resolution and vague metaphor, some of which was compelling (Sawyer and Juliet’s reunion) and some of which was quite hokey (the cork?!).

We were left with a strong sense of the island as a kind of purgatory, a place where each character worked out his or her issues in the instant before letting go into death. The last moments of the finale mirrored the opening moments of the series, as Jack lay on his back looking up and then closed his eyes and died, now having come to terms with his issues. That the producers have said that the show was not about purgatory will, of course, be debated in the coming weeks, along with the rest of the finale.

The emotional moments came fast and furiously — and at times too automatically — for the entire 2 1/2 hours, punctuated by action sequences and commercials. We got the warm satisfaction of the “Lost’’ reunion tour, as Sayid and Shannon and Boone and Charlie and Charlotte — and Vincent! — and the rest of the gang got back together. The déjà vu revelations came on in the characters like a love drug, as Kate delivered Claire’s baby, as Sayid saw Shannon, as Sawyer and Juliet re-met cute by the hospital candy machine. When they all sat in a church at the end, ready to “move on,’’ it was like a flashforward to the sentimental “Lost’’ reunion show that will inevitably take place 10 years from now.

We got a full dose of cheesy “Lost’’ thrills, too, as Desmond and Jack were lowered into the golden water in a set that was pure Disney World. And we got the show’s trademark humor, as Kate said, “Christian Shephard? Seriously?’’ The wittiest moment, though? The Target ad for smoke alarms with the smoke monster. It was kind of brilliant and kind of gross.

Despite the irritating muddiness and unanswered questions of the finale, I still felt grateful for it. One of TV’s most compelling pieces of serial storytelling came to an end exactly when it should have, before the rigors of TV seasons stretched the narrative too far out of shape. Viewers and networks always want more of what they love, but the “Lost’’ producers resisted temptation. They picked an end date and stuck to it, and for that, as well as six years of great mystery, they deserve respect.