What a frustrating ending. Unlike a lot of other people, I've kept an open mind on this last season, and I did have faith that some of the story elements that seemed haphazard and random would eventually make sense. Sci-fi and fantasy always has to strike a balance between what's possible and what's not. You're always asked to provide a willing suspension of disbelief on certain elements, but as long as the universe is self-consistent, you can let go (heh) and enjoy the ride. It's when the universe that you're visiting violates it's own rules, or when the story jumps for the sake of the story rather than unfolding naturally that you get jarred out of your enjoyment. In the interest of good story telling, I could have easily have dealt with some of the major questions not being answered, but they not only disappointed in that regard, the wrap-up disappointed on so many other levels.
The pity is that the raw material for something better was there to work with. An hour into the finale, we actually turned to each other and said that things were actually pretty cool. We were getting excited in the sideways timeline, as it seemed that the theme was "Better to have Loved and Lost", as each person remembered the Island and their lives when they touched their own true love. Both Claire and Kate having the birth of Aaron as the touchstone seemed especially poignant, although the lack of Charlotte and Daniel's epiphany seemed odd. There was hope that the sideways story was going to have a reciprocal effect on the "main" story. Maybe the Losties in the sideways world would get together, and somehow repopulate the light on the Island that was snuffed out or was dying out. Or that the two worlds would merge, and that the better of each losties lives would prevail? Or some other dovetailing that was significant? That would have made the hours and hours we spent in the sideways world worth it. But having the sideways world serve as a vestibule to some other place before they move on? What? Really? REALLY??
The story in the "real" universe was just as unsatisfying. I like Jack's sacrifice - that made sense, given his character - but why was the Island necessary at all? Desmond uncorked the bottle, and Locke/Smokey died, but what did that really mean? And the cork went back on, and the Island survived ...so? We were led to believe that the sideways timeline was born out of the choice made to detonate the bomb back in 75. (Turns out that's not true at all, the sideways world has nothing to do with that.) So that whole bomb thing in Season 5 meant nothing? But even if the two timelines did diverge back then due to the power of choice over destiny, then the destruction of the island resulted in a universe that seemed to be just fine. Bah!! I am fine with them not really explaining the meaning of the light and the cork and all that, but C.J. (I mean Allison Janney) said something about the light being a little part of every person in humanity a couple of episodes back. It was a logical conclusion that the smoke monster was somehow then the little dark bits of people, a duality that seemed to play into one of the major thematic elements of the series. The black/white stones and the scale was imagery they played with the entire season, so you'd think that would play into the final drama somehow.
And take the dramatic airplane escape. Jack ended up saving the Island, but Desmond was still there. It was implied that Hurley and Ben would simply send him home. Fine, but that makes the drama of jumping into the water and getting over there and getting the plane ready all really moot at the end of the day. Time they could have used to tell a story that they could have really satisfied.
Then there's nitpicky stuff about how they did choose to end it. In the church, why was Aaron a baby? If he was truly deposited there after dying in his "real" life, then he should have been older. What was the criteria for the inclusion of people in the church? Oceanic folk? (Nope, Juliet was there.) People that they cared about? (Really? Boone over Miles or Daniel or Charlotte or Rousseau?) We're supposed to believe Sayid's true love was Shannon? Quibbles, to be sure, but stuff that still grates.
I will say this about the ending: the strength of the series has always been it's deep characterizations and relationships, and this episode capitalized on the feelings that we have for them over the years. It just seems a real shame that they didn't leverage that into something better.
One could say that whatever ending that was written would be unsatisfactory to some. That's true. I'm one of the odd ones that actually liked the murky ending of the Sopranos (after yelling at the TV, thinking that my cable cut out). To me, the series finale of "Six Feet Under" is the high bar that a series needs to meet to end something satisfactorily. The ending of that series is absolutely, friggin' perfect.
I still love the series. They played with powerful, primal archetypes and stories that was really compelling. The characters all were really interesting, all of them shades of grey to some degree or another. I just wish they took those thematic elements to a different place than where they did. Story (the capital S kind) is really what happens when the characters and the plot work together. The characters *always* worked in the series, the plot seemed to be cobbled together lazily.
Okay, to sleep.