First off, let me say that The Last Battle was my favourite Narnia book as a child and it still holds a place in my heart, so in theory, I don't have a problem with this particular ending. And that is ending singular (SPOILER) because all three series ended the same way. So welcome to a comparison of what worked for me and what didn't. (And you get a soundtrack too.)
For we all are caught in the middle
Of one long treacherous riddle
Can I trust you? Should you trust me too?
- "The Riddle" - The Scarlet Pimpernel
Lost How to stop the being currently known as Locke from destroying the Island and leaving? Why were there two realities? What was the Island anyway?
A2A What happened to Sam Tyler? How can Alex Drake get home again?
The Last Battle Not really a mystery - you've got a false Aslan and a Calormen invasion to deal with though?
Conclusion In all three stories the setup was good. The hints that this would be the end one way or another came mostly from outside (OMG, last episode ever, we're putting on a retrospective before the show that's almost as long as the last episode, titles: "The End" "The Last Battle"). I don't have many quibbles here.
Johnny you rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.
'Cos hells broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold.
But if you lose, the devil gets your soul.
- "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - Charlie Daniels
Lost The creature currently known as Locke. His name may have been Esau, but no one's really sure. He turns human in the end and dies by falling off a cliff. These things happen sometimes.
A2A Jim Keats. Gets to chew scenery in the last episode as it's implied he's the Devil, confirming my suspicions of the last few episodes. (Note that thinking he was the devil doesn't mean I had figured out the ending. I just knew that he was very invested in convincing her to make the wrong choice, whatever that choice turned out to be.)
The Last Battle Well there was an Ape who had the original idea, but he's sidelined early on in favour of more cunning and numerous foes. In the end Tash (the Narnian analogue of the Devil) shows up but he doesn't actually threaten our heroes in any way. They always make the right choices.
Conclusion As much as I love Terry O'Quinn and think he was one of the most compelling actors on Lost, I have to plead personal preference and give this to Ashes to Ashes. I'm a sucker for deal with the devil stories.
It was one of those great stories that you can't put down at night
The hero knew what he had to do and he wasn't afraid to fight
The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free
I wish it were that simple for me
- "Hero" - David Crosby
Lost Jack Shepard. White male in the prime of his youth. Flawed but prone to making the right decisions and a good leader. You can argue about this, but in the end this episode was all about Jack and the rest was just tying up loose ends.
A2A Gene Hunt. White male, a little past the prime of his youth. Drinks too much, is racist, sexist, etc.ist. You can argue about this too, but again I'm going to default to last man standing, once everyone else's issues were fixed.
The Last Battle Prince Tirian. The kids from Earth were only there for the ride. We can assume he's a white male, as his ancestors came from Earth in one of the earlier books, but there's always a chance there's some Calorman mixed in by this time. Eustace, Jill and the others were just along for the ride.
Conclusion Jack takes the responsibility for the Island just long enough to solve the crisis before doing what's right before sacrificing himself for the good of the Island and passing the responsibility on to Hurley (who isn't white, I'm shocked). Gene Hunt takes the responsibility for his team, after Alex prods him into action, solves everyone's problems and sends them on, choosing to stay behind and accept the responsibilities he has taken on himself. Prince Tirian fights the good fight, but it's a losing battle and he isn't given a chance to stay. Winner: Ashes to Ashes
The Love Story
So close to reaching
That famous happy end
This one's not pretend
Now you're beside me
And look how far we've come
- "So Close" - Enchanted
Lost The love triangle settles down into Jack/Kate and Sawyer/Juliet. Everyone's love story gets resolved in this one, except Hurley's. Which would have been fail even if the whole thing hadn't been relentlessly heterosexual.
A2A Gene Hunt gets to kiss the girl. The show acknowledges teh gay in a joke (which is still better than Lost). We get Chris/Shaz.
The Last Battle This is the touching story of a love between a man and his (male) unicorn and not only do they share a final kiss, they get to be together forever.
Conclusion The Last Battle wins this one, hands down.
We can beat them
For ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes
Just for one day
- "We Can Be Heroes" - The Wallflowers
Lost Desmond tries to save the Island, nearly destroys it, but it makes the creature currently known as Locke human again and Jack kills him. People excape the Island in a jet plane. Hurley makes Ben his second in command (hmmm, maybe I did miss a love story there). No one thinks to tell Rose and Bernard that their plane is leaving without them.
A2A Keats lures Shaz, Chris and Ray away from Gene and Alex. Alex calls Gene and idiot and revives his interest in life by going over the notes on the case they were working on. Shaz comes back and helps them put their plan into motion to capture the gem smugglers. The Camaro dies, but Ray and Chris choose the right side and they save the day.
The Last Battle The title says it all. A great battle is fought and everybody dies.
Conclusion Another win for Ashes to Ashes. I'll take a straightforward shootout over a confusing mess any day.
Boredom is a crime
And you're guaranteed a real good time
That just goes on and on
If you're good enough to go to Heaven-Con
- "Heaven Con" - Kathy Mar
Lost It ends in a church in the alternate universe. Kate brings Jack there to bury his father. Oh, look, the symbols in the stained glass window represent multiple religious faiths so it must be, even if the rest of the scene was clearly a Christian church. The coffin is empty and there is Jack's father. And when he goes into the main room his friends are waiting. I'm not sure what they were implying, but the last shots make it feel to me like it was all Jack's dream in the last minutes after he died in the original plane crash, when up until that point I was willing to accept it as a shared dream. Which explains so much about the whole heterosexual focus of the end among other things.
A2A They defeat the bad guys and go down to the pub. The original one from Life on Mars. Shaz, Ray and Chris head in, and Alex tries to persuade Gene to let her stay. Kiss. Telling her she'd be a diversion and that she was ready to move on. Alex heads into the pub. Gene ignores Keats and heads back to the station where the cycle starts again.
The Last Battle They're defeated and all is lost. Tirian ends up in a stable (not only is it symbolic, but the author comes out and says it's symbolic) only to find it's bigger on the inside and that all his allies who have died in the battle are there. Here ends Tirian's agency, for Aslan shows up and judges the people and the creatures of Narnia before destroying the world. Oh and there was a train crash on Earth so Eustace and Jill are dead in both worlds. They go farther up and farther in and meet all their loved ones who have died and the world turns out to be a bigger and better version of the one they had left.
Conclusion: Of the three ends I'd pick the pub, and Gene Hunt showed the most agency of the three, choosing not to move on, making the ending a little bit more complex.
Now looking back at all we've planned
We let so many dreams
Just slip through our hands
Why must we wait so long
Before we'll see
How sad the answers
To those questions can be
- "Theme from Mahogony (Do You Know Where You're Going To" - Diana Ross
Lost eschewed the answering of questions for a feel-good, happy endings for all (even though they're dead) end. Nobody has agency anymore, they're destined to be with their one true love and they need to come along, no questions asked. The only way I can resolve the Island is to believe that it was all Jack's delirium, which fails for me.
The Last Battle felt thin on rereading and the characters lack the agency they had in the previous books. We've got to the point where the main good guys always make the right choices, where in the previous books they were allowed to be flawed. The imagery and language can still do it for me, though.
Ashes to Ashes made me consider buying the series to watch again. They answered questions (Who was buried in that grave? Who was Keats? What happened to Alex? What is this place?), gave them agency (Gene or Keats? Stay or go?), and the world that was created didn't disappear just because the people involved had moved on.