As I wrote at the Washington Post two minutes after the show ended:
The Island was NOT Purgatory (as the writers said all along), but the Sideways World of the sixth season was a quasi-purgatory, an artificial construct that acted as a kind of waiting room. The Post has for some reason deleted the initial comments by me and others, but here are the others that are still up --
Everything that happened, happened (in the regular world, not in the Sideways Reality). Whoever survived the crash, survived the crash. But they were all dead at the end.
Boone died from the falling plane. Shannon was shot. Charlie drowned. Jack was knifed at the end.
Those that were alive at the end of tonight went on to live their lives, and they died whenever they died.
The Island was NOT purgatory, but the Sideways Reality WAS a kind of waiting room between death and the "next step," which we saw as the bright light when Christian opened the door. The Sideways Reality was an artificial construct, which did NOT take place in 2004, as we had supposed, but was timeless, it existed outside of time. It was a construct, as Christian said, so that, after their individual deaths, whenever they happened, they could "find" themselves.
If you are confused --
Ignore the Sideways Reality aspect for the moment. Just concentrate on the Island Reality and the mythology, etc. All of that happened. Exactly the way we saw, for all the reasons we saw -- to keep evil at bay and to protect "the light."
What we did not see was Hugo's long reign as "Jacob," which apparently he did very well, according to Ben.
All of that happened.
Now turning to the Sideways Reality -- that did NOT happen. It was artificial, and it happened after they had all died. Some died in 2004, some died in 2007, some died in 1977, perhaps some died 50 years from now. Perhaps Hugo and Ben went on to guard the Island for another 1000 years. But the Sideways Reality did NOT exist in parallel to the Island Reality, as we had supposed.
"Everyone dies." And all the characters died. But they did not all die during the course of the show. Some went on to live and died years from now.
What did James and Kate and Lapidus and Miles and Richard and Claire do in the interim? Who knows? Room enough there for a movie though.
For those who don't know about it, Jorge Garcia (Hurley) has had a Lost blog for a while now --
Go say "thanks" to him.
Beyond the "what really happened" questions, I have to say, even though Jack did redeem himself to a large extent (and he needed redeeming after his arrogant hubris did nothing except mostly get people killed), Hugo will make a MUCH better Jacob than Jack would have.
Hurley was always the most good-hearted person on the show.
(In response to the complaints of some that presumed that the writers killed off Aaron as a baby) -- just because Aaron appears in the church as a baby does not mean that he did not go and live to be 90 years old.
Eternity is timeless, which means that all moments in linear time exist simultaneously AND all individual moments exist in perpetuity. (If you wanted a Christian example, Jesus did not simply die on the Cross 2000 years ago, rather, He is on the Cross, from His perspective, right now.)
When did Lapidus and Miles and James and Kate and Claire and Desmond and (yes) Richard die? Who knows? If we did not see them die, then they haven't died yet, they die sometime after the end of the story.
**why did Sayid end up with Shannon after loving Nadia for so many years?**
He didn't "end up" with her. The only purpose that Shannon served was to connect Sayid back to the 815/Island people. She was his "constant," who allowed his dead consciousness to remember and for Hugo to tell him that, although he had done some really bad things, he was deep down a good guy.
The church scene does not mean that they all stayed together as a group, happily ever after. Rather, they eventually all "went into the light," where Sayid quite likely met up with Nadia - the real Nadia, and not the artificial one of the constructed Sideways World.
The more I think about it, the more I'm starting to think that Hurley was there for a VERY long time.
As the new Jacob, his purpose was to protect the light, and so long as the light was protected, he would continue to live to do the job (Jacob appears to have been over 2000 years old). Thus, so long as the Island was not threatened, and without having to keep MIB/Smoke Monster imprisoned there, since he was dead, Hurley would just keep on rolling.
Without MIB/SM in the picture, I can see how it would be a lot easier to protect the Island/light from outside threats, such that Hurley might have been the Protector until the end of the world, which might be in 2012 or in another 10,000 years. And if the latter, then the church scene, from a worldly linear time perspective, will not take place until 10,000 years into the future.