"The longest single story ever told on television" Whatever else Lost was, it was surely that. Perhaps only Battlestar Galactica has come close to telling such a long, extraordinary tale. Unlike most television, which tells a new story each episode (CSI, House, etc.) or each season (The Wire, Buffy, and so on...), Lost's story lasted six seasons, with a clear beginning, middle and end.
As such, it frustrated and engaged fans in equal measure; as they debated the meaning of numbers, four-toed statues, smoke monsters and polar bears. Of course, the reality is most of these questions were answered in the final season. And even the most hardcore of fan cannot have expected every single thread to be tied up in its final episode.
However, this was the show that took its fans and its mythology incredibly seriously. The final season showed just how much the writers had invested in the show. Time and again we saw things that had happened 5+ years ago being referenced, and it's a testament to the show's ability to create memorable moments and mysteries that we were able to remember precisely what it is they were referring to.
Season 6 Review
(SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL SEASON AHEAD)
The final season was based around Jacob and NotLocke: the two brothers who had been bringing and testing people on the island for at least 150 years. After Jacob's death at the end of season 5, the island needed a new protector, and so 'the candidates' emerged.
The battle between the brothers provided the backdrop to the season, as we saw how they're differing opinions on humanity influenced their relationships with those who were washed ashore.
Jacob's final revelation that the reason for them being there was because their lives needed direction made surprisingly perfect sense of the events of the last six seasons. This was underlined by the reunions of all the characters in the FlashSideways (or perhaps more accurately, FlashUpwards) which were by far the highlight of the finale. More than once I had tears in my eyes as Charlie and Claire, Sawyer and Juliette, and so on were reunited. Hurley's understated remark to Ben that 'he was a good number two' likewise provided a surprisingly poignant moment.
If Lost's finale said anything, it was that the show was not primarily about the island and its mythology but rather the relationships the Losties made there. Relationships that allowed each individual to put all their worries and concerns to one side in the alternate reality and enjoy life again.
My only 'theory' about the ending is that when each Lostie died, instead of being reborn again, they went straight to boarding Oceanic Flight 815 - any memories they had being false ones based on memories of their real lives.
The reason I think this, is because it is clear the flight was supposed to be the most significant event in their lives, and it makes perfect sense their brain would go straight there to relive it. So as soon as they die, they go straight onto the flight in order to reach their final destination with the people who were most important to them.
Although Christian Shepherd's revelation in the final fifteen minutes kind of came of the blue, upon reflection I think it makes perfect sense. At my most cynical I could say limbo was just an excuse to bring all the old cast members back, and their reasoning behind not having Shannon on the plane makes zero sense.
However, the season certainly set-up these religious themes: the epic battle between good and evil; finding one's destiny; and earning one's redemption. In the context of these themes, introducing limbo or heaven into the equation I have no real problem with.
Finally, it's interesting to consider fans reaction to the finale. A reaction which it seems has been somewhat mixed. Perhaps the weakness of doing one story over six seasons is that fans have so much invested in the show, and have come up with so many theories about the island and the overall story the show is trying to tell, that they'll inevitably be disappointed when the show diverges from their own interpretation.
However, as I mentioned in my television review of the decade, the appeal of Lost to me has always be always been it's ability to surprise, and as such I should give the show credit for continuing to bring me with it for six years without ever really feeling cheated when new concepts like buttons, time travel, or alternate realities were introduced. Normally, shows would only introduce these type of things for one episode, with any plot holes, being easily ignored for the sake of that week's story. Lost meticulously established such grand concepts into the show's mythology, and for this it should be given a lot of credit.
I think when fans reflect back over the six seasons, they'll see a truly unique story that was unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Unlike Battlestar Galactica which 'Jumped The Starbuck', I don't think Lost has such a singular moment where fans gave up on the show. As such I think those disappointed by the finale will soon forgive the show as they reflect and re-watch the story in its entirety in years to come.