'Lost' finale: Redemption as 'The End' justifies the journey

With the greatest stories, the answers you get can be better than the questions you ask.

For six spellbinding years, Lost trapped its characters inside TV's most ingeniously constructed puzzle, leaving you to wonder why they're there and how they'll escape. In Sunday's emotional feast of a finale (* * * * out of four) — one that can stand with the best any series has produced — we discovered that Lost wasn't just interested in answering questions about the island and its residents, though the major ones were, indeed, answered.

It also wanted to tell us something about ourselves: Individual improvement and redemption are vital, yet not enough. We are not in this alone.

If you were looking for explanations for every twist and turn, you didn't get them. (Some viewers won't be satisfied until the producers churn out a multi-volume island manual that answers questions that were never actually posed.) But if you could be content with the "big" answers to the big questions — with exciting adventure, tragic consequences, flashes of humor and romance, and, ultimately, a happy ending — there was satisfaction in abundance.

Thrillingly, cleverly, and in a manner that tapped into the simple, profound truths of great American works like Our Town, the show spelled out for viewers what it has been saying all along. Lost is about life and death, faith and science, spirit and flesh, and has always stressed that the title refers to the characters' souls, not their location.

As it turns out, those now-beloved characters weren't just lost in the real world of the island. They were also lost in what many had assumed was an alternate "sideways" universe triggered by last season's atom bomb but was actually a gathering place for the dead as they wait to move on.

In many ways, the finale was designed to reaffirm what producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have told us for years: The island exists; what happens there matters. If the light (which looked far less cheesy this week than last) had stayed out, the world would have ended.

But they also were reminding us that ultimately, for individuals, saving the world only delays the inevitable. We all die.

So in some ways the 2½-hour finale was two journeys, both centered on Jack, each illustrating the themes of individual redemption and group responsibility. On our world, he saved the island, handed the guardian job to Hurley, and died. (For the record, Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Miles, Richard, Lapidus and Desmond eventually left the island; Hurley and Ben stayed.) In the other world, the post-life purgatory where "now" does not exist, he was the final piece that reunited the characters and allowed all to leave — a reawakening of memories, theirs and ours, any fan had to cherish.

The finale was earnest and hopeful, and like all things that share those qualities, it likely will attract mockery in some places. But not here. Here, let's celebrate the joy in a TV job well done and well ended, and in realizing that there are rewards in maintaining faith in people and producers alike.

And in a truly great show. Source: www.usatoday.com

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