Monday night update, after a second viewing: I revise my thinking a little bit. It's not that the flash-sideways is strictly Jack's construct to ease his passage to death — (or reincarnation, I got a strong "next chapter" vibe this time around.) But the flash sideways world is the construct that all of them need at their moment of death, whenever that is. As viewers we need to get over the notion of linear time — as Christian sez, some died before you, some died long after. There's no strict calendar for this passage, but that is why Hurley speaks to Ben about their island time in the past tense. And it's also why Ben has the option of opting out, as it were, at least for that moment. He's still working through his personal construct. But unlike on the first viewing, I do believe they're all moving on together — hence the white light flooding the church.
The shots of the wreckage over the credits are still gnawing at me. I'm 85% sure it's old glimpses of Oceanic 815. I need to get out season one and study the early wreckage scenes to be absolutely sure. Though I suppose even if it is meant to be Aljira, we know how it winds up for Kate and Sawyer.
By Cynthia Littleton
(Jon Weisman's initial thoughts posted below)
And in the end … the hero sacrifices himself for the greater good.
In hindsight the ending of "Lost" should have been clear, based on all the hero's journey sagas going back to Homer et al.
It is a credit to the show's depth and breadth of characters and storytelling that it wasn't. Jack was our hero from the start, of course, but the show took so many twists and turns, and characters like Locke, Sawyer, Ben and Desmond took the spotlight at various times that by season six it was easy to lose sight of Jack's central role. But they never really knocked Jack out of the center of the action for too long, from the role he played in rounding the Oceanic 6 up to go back to L.A. to detonating the atom bomb to the fact that season six opened with a flash-sideways from Jack's P.O.V. Live together, die alone — except Jack didn't die alone, in his mind.
Here's my first stab at what we learned in the final 15 minutes or so, formulated with the help of my fellow "Lost" finale viewing comrades, Variety's Stuart Levine and Priscilla Levine, who kindly hosted our party at their house, and Variety's Justin Kroll and Rick Kissell.
The flash-sideways that we saw this season were Jack's fantasy visions of what became of the core Oceanic 815 group. It was part of the "letting go" process that Jack went through after he died. I believe Jack died on the island after he stuck the role back in the hole plugging the rock back into the hole that allowed the beautiful white light to come back, rather than the fiery color and the quaking and shaking the erupted after Desmond pulled out the rock — which Kroll quickly observed symbolized the cork in the wine carafe that Jacob used as a visual aid to explain the evil-containment imperative to Richard.
The exact timing of Jack's death may be open to interpretation. But it's impossible to quarrel with how they handled it — Jack lays himself to rest in the bamboo field, the very same spot where he first woke up on the island that was to provide him with the biggest awakening of his sorry life. Closing one eye carefully in the same way it popped open with a start all those seasons ago. And just as Vincent was there when he first awoke, so the faithful hound lies down to see Jack off into the next world. His fellow castaways do the same thing in his flash sideways, that's why Kate and others urge Jack to come when he's "ready" to leave.