“John Locke was a believer. He was a man of faith. He was a much better man than I will ever be, and I’m very sorry I murdered him.“
Season 6 of Lost is where (most of) the questions throughout the show’s 6 year run get answered. It follows on directly from the explosive finale of Season 5, which saw the survivors of the Oceanic 815, after being sent back to the 1970s, trying to undo the circumstances that brought them to the island in the first place. Season 6 begins with the absurdly brilliant reveal that this both did and didn’t work, as we see the gang wake up on the island in the modern day and also a flash-sideways reveals a world where we are shown what would happen if the island was sunk and Oceanic 815 never crashed. It’s revealed quite early on in season 6 that this flash-sideways isn’t quite as clear cut as this but as a season opener, it’s very effective. From the very beginning it’s clear that this season is intended to wrap up the show and provide the audience with some closure. Whether it manages that or not though is going to differ from each person but I really, really like the ending of Lost, even if season 6 does stumble occasionally.
The show opens with the strong two-part episodes “LA X”. On the island we see that Jack’s plan to explode a nuclear warhead and undo everything that brought them to the island has failed. All that seems to have happened is that they have been brought back to the present day (to not long after Ben killed Jacob). Juliet is moments from death and trapped under the wreckage of the Swan station and Sawyer is pissed at Jack for starting all this. It’s hard not to feel for Jack and Sawyer here and their conflict drives much of the season, at least early on. Jack has slowly morphed into a John Locke-esque ‘Man of Faith’ but while trying to live out his destiny, he complete ruined the lives Sawyer and Juliet had built for themselves. This episode and the next, “What Kate Does” begins to delve into the mysterious temple on the island and the powers they seemingly have to bring people back from the dead. They did it once with a young Ben back in the 70s but now it is Sayid who needs their help. This brings me onto two of the more common complaints of the season; the temple and the treatment of Sayid’s character. Naveen Andrews is one of the best actors on the entire show but is unfortunately relegated to grunting henchman for much of season 6, due to his corruption by the Smoke Monster. He still has moments to shine but it’s shame after how instrumental he was in the earlier seasons. Even his death is no more than a footnote in the events of the season. The temple people are a mixed bag because on one hand, I really enjoy the more mystical and esoteric elements the show had in it’s later seasons. Plus the temple is headed up by Hiroyuki Sanada and John Hawkes, two fantastic actors. But while Sanada gets some fun moments in the season, for the most part these two are criminally underutilised. The whole temple story line is slightly undercooked to be honest, although it’s destruction at the hands of Locke/The Smoke Monster in episode 6 “Sundown” is a highlight of the season.
The season never drags really though, mainly due to the reduced episode count and the flash sideways breaking everything up (more on that in a moment). After the interesting but undercooked temple plotline is concluded, the season becomes more concerned with the war between the Smoke Monster and Widmore. The Oceanic 815 survivors change sides in this conflict practically every episode but for the most part, they all know they cannot let Ol’ Smokey off the island. It’s in this half season that we get the season’s best and most interesting episodes. One of these, “Ab Aeterno” finally reveals to us the true nature of Richard. It’s a little self-contained episode and Nestor Carbonell is predictably fantastic. It answers a lot of questions too, about Richard’s agelessness and his connection to Jacob, it develops more on the Jacob/Man in Black relationship, and it finally answers little niggling things like why the statue on the beach is smashed and where did the Black Rock ship come from. Some viewers might not like how it interrupts the pace of the show’s larger narrative but it’s such a well crafted hour of television, I don’t think most people will mind.
Another of the seasons best episodes is “Happily Ever After” which, like most of the show’s best episodes, follows Desmond Hume. He’s been brought to the Island by Widmore because of his proven ability to be able to withstand electro-magnetic energy. Henry Ian Cusick is fantastic as Desmond and like the greatest Desmond episodes, it has him bouncing between the present day Island narrative and the flash-backs/forwards/sideways. It’s here the true nature of the flashes start to be revealed in full, that this isn’t simply an alternate universe. It’s Lost at it’s mind-bending best.
Perhaps the most tragic episode in the entire season is “The Candidate”, which sees the death of 3 OG Oceanic 815 survivors aboard Charles Widmore’s submarine. Sayid is quickly offed trying to save his friends from a bomb blast in a final redeeming act, after being a henchman for Smokey all season long. The real tragedy comes moments later however, when Sun is pinned by wreckage in the slowly sinking submarine. Jin, who has only recently been reunited with his wife, desperately tries to free her but to no avail. The first tears will be shed when Jin tells Sun that he won’t leave her again. They then embrace as water floods the submarine, drowning them both while they hold each others hand. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then you’re dead inside. The brilliance of the Lost format however, is that it can feature a tragic death like this and moments later we can meet these characters again in a flash-sideways. And you’d think it’d undermine the drama of the character death but it surprisingly doesn’t. It’s wonderfully tragic moment and signifies the beginning of the end as the previously bulletproof characters begin to get killed off.
An interesting and controversial episode is “Across The Sea” which is the first episode of the show to be set entirely in the past. It reveals all about the origins of Jacob and the Smoke Monster and while a lot of fans hate it for it’s bluntness and clear explanation of one of the shows greatest mysteries, some fans love it for it answering these questions and trying something new. And while it does annoyingly interrupt the pace of the season, following on from the explosive and tragic ending of “The Candidate”, I really enjoyed it. I enjoy Lost when it takes a turn for the transcendental and the explanation for Jacob and the Smoke Monster (who it turns out isn’t Jacob’s brother, he just took his form after Jacob killed him) is perfectly answered. Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino are great as the MiB and Jacob, as is Allison Janney as ‘Mother’. We don’t get an answer for who she is and how she got her powers but this is one of those mysteries best left unanswered, or risk there being no ambiguity left in show’s universe.
In season’s two-part opening episodes “LA X”, the flash-sideways are suggested to be an alternate world where the plane never crashed on the island. We see Jack sat in the same seat he did back in season 1; across the aisle from Rose, being served a drink by Cindy. Kate is in handcuffs next to Mars, the U.S Marshal, and Locke, Hurley, Sawyer and the rest are all in the same seats and clothing they were in all the way back in Season 1. The plane hits the same ‘turbulence’ that crashed them on the island in season 1 only this time, they pass right through it – unharmed. However, it’s obvious from quite early on that this flash-sideways world isn’t simply a world where the the plane never crashed on the Island. In the opening episode we see that the person next to Jack on Oceanic 815 is Desmond Hume, who was never on flight 815 in the main timeline. Also Boone is there but this time without Shannon. And Hurley is still a millionaire but this time around, he doesn’t believe he is cursed. Sure, a lot of these inconsistencies can be explained by the fact that it’s suggested in this timeline that the island was sunk in the 70’s. But as the season continues, bigger elements start to pop up and unravel this alternate universe. In the episode “Lighthouse” it’s revealed Jack has a son. In “Recon”, Sawyer is a cop with Miles as his partner.
There are loads of clever and deliberate inconsistencies throughout the flash-sideways portions of the season which hint at the eventual reveal in the final episode “The End” that this isn’t a flash-sideways at all; it’s a purgatory or limbo for the Islanders; for those who died on the Island and for those who escaped. The reason they are all together is due to the Island being the most important time in these people’s lives. I realise this is a controversial move on the show’s part, and yeah it is all a little bit too perfect at times (should actual murderers like Ben and Sayid really be redeemed when characters like Michael are left out?). But for the most part I really love this reveal. I love that it allows closure between characters who otherwise would never have seen each other again. Like writer Damon Lindelof’s later show, The Leftovers, the ending is bittersweet but is probably the happiest ending possible without being a let down.
When all is said and done, the ending to Lost is surprisingly simple. We got an ending for all of our characters, a conclusion to the smoke monster story, and answers to all of the important mysteries. Nearly all of the characters in the show, whether they died on the Island or off it, end up in limbo. The final episode of Lost ever – aptly called “The End” – shows the main characters being reunited in a church and ‘moving on’ to an unknown place. Some, like Ben and Ana Lucia, are ‘not ready’ and don’t yet move on to the unknown place. This place is strongly suggested to be heaven (Jack’s dad is the one who leads them through the doors and he’s called Christian Shepard, so it’s pretty on the nose) but the show does a great job at staying vague enough to include most major religions. I liked how the churches stained glass windows included the symbols of loads of different religions. It’s a perfect and beautiful ending to the show in my opinion, and I actually really liked that it wasn’t left open to the audiences interpretation. We don’t know where exactly these characters are moving on to but we know the place they’ve been throughout the flash sideways has been limbo. Lost had been leaning into the transcendental for a long time now so the characters going to the afterlife is no big leap. It’s a poignant and fitting end and one that suits the show completely.
The ending is made bittersweet however, with the juxtaposition to the goings on back on the island. Kate and Sawyer and a few others escape off the Island in the Ajira Airways plane from last season while Hurley and Ben take up new roles as the keeper of the Island and his assistant. But Jack, the show’s de facto main character has been mortally wounded in his battle with the smoke monster. He stumbles and finally collapses in the bamboo forest where he awoke in the first ever Lost episode. The show ends, in a beautiful bookend to it’s opening moments back in 2004, with a shot of Jack closing his eye for the last time. It’s one of the all time greatest TV endings, which is fitting, as Lost is one of the all time greatest TV shows. Nothing has had quite the same impact on me before or after Lost. And despite it’s 6-season long mysteries and labyrinthial time travelling highjinks, it’s the wonderfully realised characters that keep me coming back, time and time again. Shows have tried to recreate the intrigue and magic that make it so brilliant still, all these years on. The truth is though, there has never been anything else quite like Lost, on television – and there never will be again.
Reviewed by Tom