Unlike some people, I liked — perhaps even loved — the finale of Lost. It would have been churlish to deny fans who had invested six years in the show a happy ending, and while the sideways/afterlife reunion was cheap and sentimental, it worked. And it worked in part because it defied the expected coming together of the sixth season’s two universes. And it worked because it offered a payoff to those hooked by the characters and not just the mythology.
The writers took an optimistic and spiritual path rather than my proposed (and truly, madly, deeply wrong) cynical and philosophical one, and bully for them. My mistake was in believing that the Lost team would undercut the characters’ faith in (and the audience’s suspension of disbelief about) vague, unproven hokum. Instead, they rewarded both.
But I was seriously disappointed when the ending that was so clearly and carefully set up never materialized. (Bride of Culture Snob and I devised this about two hours into the finale.) Nothing in the finale changes, but after Jack’s island death, there’s this brief scene:
Hurley’s on the beach, the new Jacob. He’s looking out at the ocean, for perhaps 30 seconds, pensive. Jack walks up to him, and they have enough of a conversation that the audience realizes that Jack is the new Man in Black. The end.
Consider that Jack was in the center of the island when it was restored, and that Jack is not resistant to its force the way Desmond is. As with Jacob’s twin brother, the exposure changes him, delivering mortal wounds but also turning him into Smokey. Unlike with Jacob’s brother, Jack doesn’t die in the heart in the island, expiring instead with Vincent lying beside him, so we wouldn’t see the whoosh of black smoke.
Consider, too, Jack’s conversation with his father in the sideways world. Smokey has taken the form of Christian Shephard, no? So, with this ending, the sideways world could have had a greater resonance with the “real” island world.
Lastly, consider that this would reinforce the motif that the island has a habit of turning its most ardent protectors (e.g., John Locke) into its most bitter enemies.
Alas ... .
I was also miffed that this ending wasn’t even among the chucked alternatives.