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Jesus take the wheel: Lost ends and ascends

Last call for Lost's Jack Shephard. Photo: Ed Bark

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

The Beatles preached this gospel decades ago on Abbey Road. And now so has Lost, which ended Sunday night with what amounted to a beatific cast reunion in a glowing, healing church of the hereafter.

Meanwhile, back on the island, a mortally wounded Dr. Jack Shephard heroically and peacefully breathed his last in the company of a comforting Vincent the dog. The camera closed in on an eye closing -- a reverse Avatar ending -- as Jack watched a flyover of a plane carrying some of his island comrades. His inner and outer peace commanded the screen. And that's all, folks.

Whether Lost ended classically -- or with a clunk -- likely will be a hotter debate than The Sopranos could ever have hoped for. But after watching its denouement several times, I'm satisfied if not overwhelmed. To quote the wisdom of Jimmy Kimmel on his late night Lost post mortem, "If you're expecting it all to get wrapped up tonight, you're probably missing the point of the show."

The final tableau had a central character other than Jack (Matthew Fox). In his vision of eternal peace, Jack's estranged and self-destructive father, Dr. Christian Shephard (John Terry), essentially served as pastor at an idealized Church of the Lost and Found. Jack opened a casket that turned out to be empty before an immaculate Christian came into view.

"Dad, you died." (Dad agreed).

"Then how are you here right now?" Jack asked.

"How are you here?"

"I died, too."

"It's OK. It's OK. It's OK, son."

Their redemptive, tearful embrace was six long and winding seasons in the making. Father also assured son that "everything that's ever happened to you is real" before they walked into the church and its congregation of beaming couples destined and meant to be together. Sawyer and Juliet. Sun and Jin. Charlie and Claire. Desmond and Penny. Sayid and Shannon. Hurley and Libby. Pause, one-two. Jack and Kate.

Their Christian Shepherd -- named Christian Shephard -- finally walked between two angels and into a blinding white light before earthly Jack at last let go and expired from his wounds after saving the island from destruction. You'd need a machete to cut through the symbolism -- but Lost's biblical bent has been in overdrive during this sixth and final season. Way too much so at times. Still, millions kept the faith, as was evident from the opening Kimmel Live shot of studio audience members weeping while watching Lost's closing seconds.

Christian exits; Jack and Kate reach final resting spot. ABC photos

Kimmel said he was eager to ask cast members, "What the hell just happened?" But his theory, floated in the presence of first guest Matthew Fox, seemed as plausible as any. The entire Lost experience was "Jack's Test," he said. And when he overcame all obstacles and inner demons, his own personal heaven opened wide to him.

Recent episodes also positioned Jack as a veritable Christ figure who willingly went into battle with the seemingly invincible "Man In Black" (the devil in John Locke/Terry O'Quinn trappings). In that context, he ascended into heaven and finally sat at the right hand of his father while apostles gathered 'round. But maybe that's stretching it.

As an overall viewing experience, the two-and-a-half-hour Lost dragged far more than it should have. The commercial breaks at times seemed longer than the content that interrupted them. Target even chipped in with a Smoke Monster-themed ad.

Speaking of old SM, why in the end was he so relatively easy to kill? It was a titanic, picturesque struggle, all right, with Jack and SM squaring off on a mountaintop in a driving rainstorm while the Earth shook around them. Then Kate (Evangeline Lilly) finished off the previously all-powerful despot with a single bullet to the back before Jack kicked him off a cliff. Earlier in the finale, she had fired a series of gunshots at him, but to no avail.

Lost also dawdled during its frequent Purgatory-esque "Flash Sideways" interludes, with one character after another at last getting that old island tingle during the course of being made whole again. Worst contrivance: Charlie Pace (Dominic Monahan) with his old Driveshaft bandmates at a benefit concert accompanying classical pianist Daniel Faraday/Widmore. It was all a device to reunite him with island mate Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), who delivered her son, Aaron, for a second time in his presence.

My head's hurting at this point. Lost indeed left many loose ends, with those far more fanatical than yours truly no doubt ready and willing to point out every last one of them. And I'm not at all convinced that its two principal shepherds, executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, really knew where they were going in the very early stages of the series. Even though they say they did.

But as a fantastical journey with a fantasy ending, Lost spiked more devotion and debate than any series in TV history, including The Sopranos. It stands as a once in a lifetime pilgrimmage/amusement park ride with a menagerie of characters who emerged through their various looking glasses after years of microscopic scrutiny.

Trying to divine the meaning of it all can range from a waste of time to a life's quest. With plenty of room in between.