NOTE: This isn't so much a review of the episode as a pondering on the greater meaning of the story-telling process "Lost" has given us the past six years.
Well, it's over. Six years of thinking, pondering, questioning, analyzing, being moved and excited, staying up nights thinking about the possibilities - finished. "Lost" changed the way I, and many others, think about storytelling and, to an even greater extent, our lives. The show will go down in history as one of, if not the greatest of all time.
Was the ending completely fulfilling? Simultaneously yes and no, an only too fitting answer for "Lost." It's easy to point to the flaws: there were many questions the series set up for us as viewers over the course of its run that it never answered. Some were basic stuff we can take on faith: why does the sonic fence stop Smokey? (answer: it just does), why does the donkey wheel move the island? (it just does), was there a REASON for those particular numbers? (nope, just the numbers Jacob had assigned to each candidate). Some questions can be derived from what we know: I have theories on the fertility issue and what the island actually was. Some are just going to be left open and never answered: What did Annie have to do with anything? What was the deal with the cabin? (though maybe an answer for that is in there somewhere) What was the deal with the brand on Juliet?
So yes, some things weren't answered to our satisfaction, or at all, but in the end, the question is does it matter? Like Mother said, every question leads to another -- on one level it does and on another it doesn't at all.
The reason it does matter is that the writers have built up a trust with the audience. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the writers of ANYTHING promise to complete the story they lay out for us, or else leave the reader/viewer wondering. They make a deal: we'll set up the premise and give you resolution, you sit back and enjoy the ride and we'll tell you a story. Anyone can propose a scenario, make it as bizarre as they want, but if they don't have a satisfactory resolution to the scenario, then they haven't really done their job. The creators of "Lost" reneged on part of their bargain with the audience. They set things up in this story that they never answered, never gave us reason for, not even the TOOLS to figure them out. They knew all along the viewers were trying to puzzle these mysteries out, and it seems wildly unfair of them, given that they knew when the show would end, to not give us the answer to the questions THEY posed in the first place. When viewed that way, and that way alone, "The End" was a failure of almost epic proportions.
What the writers managed to do, though, is make my entire previous paragraph not matter. Why it doesn't matter is the same answer to the first question I posed: was the ending fulfilling in the end? While we didn't get every answer, we got a completion to the story. We got character resolution that was some of the absolute best story-telling I've ever seen. We got an exciting two and a half hours full of incredible drama (Jack and Locke on the cliff face), touching reunions (Sawyer and Juliet! Charlie and Claire!), fond remembrances of the six years (very clever use of the flashes), and inside nods to loyal viewers. The season long story of the sideways world came to a completely satisfactory ending, a beautiful story of redemption and promise. In that sense, "Lost" succeeded on an incredibly profound and beautiful level.
The island story is a bit trickier. The island is where our answers should have come from. No Dharma initiative, no cabin, no Smokey. Still, the CHARACTER'S stories were completely resolved. Maybe the mysteries aren't meant to be solved. After all, no one dies understanding all there is to understand, and isn't that, in the end what the show was about?
I have a theory that the island was really a metaphor for life - on one level the events there really happened, but on another the entire series was a metaphor for the paths of our lives - that all of us are flawed and have chances to improve ourselves through the people we meet and choices we make. We have to fight evil on a daily basis. We have to work with those around us to achieve a greater goal. We have to love those who matter to us. We have to deal with situations that make no sense to us. We have to contend with people trying to grab power, organizations that seek to run/affect our lives that are so much greater than ourselves, people with contrary points of view, and we have to come out the other side having learned from them to make ourselves better people. "Lost" gave us all that on the island. In the end, does it MATTER how MIB became a smoke monster or even what his name was?
I don't know. In the end, the series held a mirror up to us, let us look at ourselves in a new way, and examine our own views on our own journeys. I do know the series gave us a metaphorical view of life that no other series ever has, or probably ever will. The minutiae is important, sure, and there is a level of disappointment, but the overwhelming feeling at the end I have is one of profound gratefulness for six years of wonderful stories, questions to mull over, and more importantly, resolution for the lives of the characters we've come to know for six years.
Thank you "Lost" -- you will be missed.