Welcome to the hangover of one of TV's longest, lamest cons.

No wonder a man could turn into smoke. No wonder people could time travel. No wonder Hurley never lost weight.

None of it was real.

It was all delusions. Of one man's dying brain. Or a planeload of dying brains.

Whether angels supplied the LSD we'll never know.

Yes, last night, Lost finally ended and - ta da! - Jack finally figures out he's been dead for six seasons.

It just took the doctor - and maybe his fellow passengers on Oceanic Flight 815 - a whole bunch of flashes back, forward and sideways, along all sorts of mythologically heavy island adventures to put duh and doh together.

Or maybe he just died last night saving the island, and this season's sideways flashes were the only delusions.

Some fans are concluding the latter because Jack's father says everything that happened was "real." But this apparition also says "I'm real" and "All those people in the church . . . they're all real, too" - when they're also dead?

Given that wildly inclusive use of "real," how can anyone be sure the island moved, a man turned into smoke, and Hurley could simultaneously be island king and the flash-sideways Hummer driver, too?

Whatever. Basically, the series resolves into some mutant spawn of Ghost Whisperer and Season 8 of Dallas, which was nothing but a dream.

Wow, we never could have guessed!

Except we had more than a Sixth Sense about this early on. In Season One, a friend, John Sharkey, predicted the deaths of a couple of characters, saying the island must be purgatory, because deaths followed acts of redemption. They got booted off the island - into the light.

Fans online jumped all over the limbo land idea.

But noooo, not so, the shows' creators said. Early and often.

After denying the purgatory idea, co-creator and producer Damon Lindelof told E! Online, "If we did such a thing after repeatedly stating otherwise, we'd be tarred and feathered!"

Let the tarring and feathering begin.

Or the quibbling about technicalities. Dante didn't have polar bears! they might say. The island WAS real, it wasn't purgatory, the flash sideways was - after Jack died saving the island.

Whatever. Still a dead guy. Still stuff imagined by a soul.

In 2005, Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams spoke about his favorite theory: "Well, the one that I like, and the one that everyone was talking about a while to me, was the purgatory one, because it was such a cool idea and though that's not what it is, it is such a great idea. . . . But that isn't literally what it is."

In 2006, co-creator Damon Lindelof told the New York Times: "People who believe that they're in purgatory or that they're subjects of an experiment are going to start reassessing those theories based on the fact that we are literally showing you the outside world."

Literally . . . the outside world? Yeah, sure.

In a recap special, Lindelof and fellow producer Carlton Cuse said the passengers of 815 were not dead and "do exist somewhere in the space-time continuum," according to Lostpedia (http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Purgatory_(debunked_theory).

Before this season's premiere, Lindelof told the Guardian: "With the pilot, people said, 'Are they in purgatory?' And we said, 'No, they're not.' But still people ask us, 'Are they in purgatory?' and then they say, 'Well, you could have been lying!' "

Still, the deception wasn't the biggest problem. After all, isn't all art a con?

Far more disappointing was the nature of ending.

For a show filled with "smart" allusions - many characters are named for philosophers, cool! a physicist prattles about space-time, freaky! - the ending was ultimately, well, kind of simple-minded.

Granted, the storyline reflected a spiritual evolution. Post-mortem, or even at the moment of death, a soul might reflect on the past (flashback), deny death and imagine a future (flash forward), and then imagine what cudda-shudda been (flash sideways).

Even with smoke monsters.

But the final revelation just wasn't that original or ingenious, was it?

Sixth Sense already gave us a dead guy who finds out he's dead. That worked, though, because (a) it was first and (b) the events presented weren't imagined.

This ending turned six seasons into one huge red herring, presenting countless clues that ultimately meant nothing.

No wonder they never bothered to give Smokie / Fake Locke a name.

Time travel was just a gimmick to throw the suckers off track.

Nice touch having Hurley see dead people. Who'd guess a dead person would see dead people?

Oh wait. Lots of people did.

A college fiction-writing course comes to mind. Almost everybody's first short-story attempt included a trick ending.

A bunch of main characters turned out to be - surprise! - the second coming of Christ!!!

Some were aliens. What, Twilight Zone already did a story a giant lady beating Earthlings with a broom?

A couple protagonists turned out to be dogs.

Woof!

Sorry, but Lost with its Christian Shephard (!) wound up barking up the wrong tree.

The series deserves all sorts of praise for everything from the scenery and special effects to its intricate, gripping storytelling.

But the hangover of the long con will linger, knowing these great characters were all dead on arrival.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

NOTE TO COMMENTERS: Story has been updated to address so-called "clear" understandings of what Christian Shephard meant by the word "real."