Well, it could have been worse. It could have all been a dream.

Actually, that might have been better, if the finale of “Lost” had ended with some alien life form or surprising human -- Ray Bradbury, say, or Terry O’Quinn in a pre-audition nap -- opening his eyes from the craziest dream ever.

Instead, it turns out the passengers of Oceanic 815 are all dead, victims, if the end-credit imagery is to believed, of the same tragic plane accident that started the whole thing. Six seasons of polar bears, bachelor pad hatches, landlocked ships, personal submarines and a fleet of fallen airplanes, and it was all apparently some sort of shared afterlife experience. Excuse me, but what are we supposed to do with those religious statues full of heroin, with Fionnula Flanagan’s pendulums, with the crazy Frenchwoman and the time shifts and the whole glorious Richard Alpert back story? And what on Earth are we supposed to do with the Dharma Initiative?


Release them into the universe, apparently, along with the image of Allison Janney in bad biblical hair. Because as Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) kept telling Jack and anyone who would listen, really, none of it matters, except that it’s over, and even if Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse decided, and possibly at the last minute, that their uber-narrative would be an over-the-top marriage of “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” at least it’s over, and that’s something.

Because watching “Lost” has been a bit like being pregnant. The thrill of discovery, followed by the delight of watching a nascent form evolve into something real. Then the long delightful exhausting middle months, until it came down to a few final weeks, fueled by fevered anticipation and the wretched, bloated desire to just get the dang thing over with.

And as with most birth experiences, there was blood and there were tears. Lots of tears. In the end, “Lost” was not, despite all that blogging to the contrary, a modern allegory of good versus evil or faith versus science. “Lost,” it turns out, was nothing more or less than a love story, the 21/2 hours of its finale tilted much more toward lovers’ reunions than the final battle between Jack (Matthew Fox) and John Locke (Terry O’Quinn).

So the sound you heard ‘round about 10 Sunday night was thousands of nonromantics wishing for a time slip that would give them those 21/2 hours and possibly six seasons back.

Which is ridiculous, of course, because the message of “Lost” had nothing to do with smoke monsters or even true love -- it was about living in the present. The slippery, ever-shifting, oh-now-there’s-a-temple-in-the-jungle present. Viewers either went with it or they didn’t.

No matter how you felt about the resolution of the finale, the 144 or so minutes that preceded it were pretty compelling television, proof if nothing else that if Kate (Evangeline Lilly) picks up a gun in the first episode, it will go off in the last, that O’Quinn and Michael Emerson (Ben) should be nominated for at least two Emmys apiece and Cusick needs his own series. And if there was some pretty clunky dialogue, including Hurley (Jorge Garcia) saying, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” there were more than a few highlights, including:


The resigned exclamation Ben (Emerson) makes when Sawyer hits him -- is there any member of the cast who hasn’t beaten Ben up?

The “My mouth’s bleedin’, Bert” look on Locke’s face when Jack hits him and Locke realizes he is mortal once again.

That Hurley becomes, at the last moment, the keeper of the island. His belief in himself was touching and for one moment one could forget the real mystery of “Lost,” which is how Hurley actually seemed to get heavier despite all that walking.

The return of Shannon (Maggie Grace) into Sayid’s arms was the most romantic moment of the night, though I don’t know what to say about the Dixie Chick hair -- especially if this is heaven.

The scene in which Claire (Emilie de Ravin) gives birth backstage at the Widmore benefit while Kate assists and Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) in full rocker gear looks on was one of the low points (although it works well for my pregnancy analogy). But the most disturbing image of the evening happened during the commercial break: It is too soon for the smoke monster to shill for Target.