Um, spoiler alert. Obviously.
So it's been a little less than an hour since I finished watching the End of Lost and I've had a little time to mull over it. Did I like it? Was it a satisfying conclusion? What did it all mean? Well, since I want to work through my thoughts on these weighty matters a bit, I thought I might as well share them with you.
First off. Can people stop saying "they were dead all along"? There is absolutely no reason to believe this. They were dead all along in what we've been calling the 'sideways universe'. We were led to believe this alternate universe split off from the original one when Juliet detonated the bomb, and it was an alt-verse in which the incident never happened, the hatch was never built, the plane never crashed, etc. That was revealed not to be the case, and the sideways universe was in fact simply an afterlife for all the Losties to catch up with each other before they headed off into Heaven or whatever.
Anyone who watched it in hopes of a grand unifying theory explaining what the island was and why it was so mystical, and anyone who tries to extrapolate such a theory from this finale, is fundamentally misguided. The show's creators previously said that the only question they felt they had a responsibility to answer was the one posed in the final season - i.e., the sideways universe. That's what they did. Of course there's still a lot of mystery surrounding Lost, but I think that's for the best. When the questions are directly answered it can be clumsy and unsatisfying. "Oh hey Michael. Are the whispers the ghosts of dead people?" "Yeah." "Oh. Sweet." No one can claim that was a satisfying scene, and if all our questions had been answered in the finale it would have looked like that scene extended by two hours.
So, what happened? To paraphrase Daniel Faraday, everything that happened, happened. Knowing that the original universe is the only true one makes things a lot simpler. Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Miles and co. flew off the island. Jack stayed and died. Hurley stayed and became the island's protector. Ben stayed as his second-in-command; the new Richard to Hurley's new Jacob. Desmond, presumably, took Locke's boat (though wasn't it Penny's boat all along?) and went back to his constant. At some point, everyone died. And even though they all died at different times and in different ways, they were still all together at the same time in the afterlife. That's just how it works. It's an afterlife, it doesn't really need to make sense.
Now onto some problems. There were notable absences from the church at the end: Michael and Walt. What could this be about? It seems unlikely that the actors' relationship with the show made it impossible for them to return - remember we only saw Michael a handful of episodes ago as a ghost. I have a more complex theory about why Michael wasn't there that would take too long to go into, so for now, let's just remember that Hurley and Desmond came across Ana Lucia in the episode before, and when Hurley asked why she wasn't coming with, Desmond said she wasn't ready. Clearly, there are Losties who weren't supposed - for one reason or another - to be at the church with the rest of them. It's not a very satisfying explanation, especially since the producers obviously pulled the stops out to get characters like Shannon and Boone back, but it can tide us over.
Speaking of Shannon. Is anyone else bothered by the way her post-death reunion with Sayid was portrayed like their one true love when the show has consistently been pushing Sayid and Nadia as the epic love story? No? I saw some commenters wonder if Sayid saying "the only thing I ever wanted died in my arms" as referring to Shannon and I thought they were being stupid, but now it seems like they might have been right, and that kind of negates Nadia's existence, which bothers me.
There are things about the alt-verse which sit uncomfortably with it being an afterlife. Like the fact that Jack and Juliet had a child together and yet never had any of those flashing "OMG I REMEMBER YOU" moments... or the fact that they were even a couple in an afterlife which primarily involved distorted or inverted versions of real-life events and relationships. And as an explanation in itself, I found it a little disappointing. I was hoping that the two universes were going to merge in some way that left everyone better off, and that still made sense. But I guess having one "real" universe that still involves extensive time travel is probably enough for us to be dealing with.
I'll round off with a few things I loved. The glorious return of Vincent! Kate saving the day in the end after 6 seasons of being a generally disappointing lead female character. The line "Christian Shepherd? Seriously?". Benjamin Linus in general. Sawyer and Juliet's reunion, even though it did turn out to be post-death.
All in all, I think it was satisfactory as a finale. Of course there are still loose ends, and it's those that we fans will have plenty of fun trying to get to grips with when we obsessively rewatch our dvd box sets over and over again, but it did enough. It felt like a proper goodbye - not least, of course, because for the characters it really was. I understand frustration that the finale didn't live up to the general epic awesomeness of what Lost has been over the last six years, but really, no single episode could have done. We just have to take what we got and be able to, finally, let it go.