I am a “Lost” apologist. Best to get that out of the way first. The show came to me at an important part in my life. I had just moved across the country and into my cousin’s guest bedroom about 40 miles north of Los Angeles proper. I knew no one. ABC premiered the show two days after I settled in. I spent the first year of my West Coast existence logging onto every “Lost” message board on the Internet. You know those people who were obsessively dissecting the Blast Door map in season two? That was me.
Not coincidentally, it’s one of the only shows I’ve watched from pilot to finale on a week-to-week basis. It’s a lot tougher to critique something when you live with it for that much time. You learn to accept its faults. And if you don’t, then you’re obviously a self-sadist.
But, as a network television show that was filmed over a six-year period-as opposed to pretty much every form of media where the schedule allows for planning the complete narrative before shooting-there were bound to be a few holes left the storytellers couldn’t get to. Let’s try to logically fill in a few of those, shall we?
So, what the fudgesicles happened in the finale anyway?
Here’s what I got: All the stuff that happened on the island actually did happen. (“Whatever happened, happened.”) Meanwhile, all the stuff that took place in the “sideways” universe this season was really in a Matrix-like purgatory after each individual character died, although they all died at different times and although they all resemble each other from the period they “knew” each other, because it would be too “Six Feet Under” if Kate came to the church as an old woman. And all this despite what Christian Shephard said about everything being “real.”
Let’s take Jack’s life for instance: He dies on the island at the end of the finale. Afterward, he wakes up in purgatory and goes on living, la-tee-da, in this fake life until he’s forced to realize that he’s dead. Meanwhile, everyone else who survived the island stuff (Ben, Hurley, Sawyer, Kate, etc.) live their own lives until they eventually die and are then transported to this purgatory universe via some psychic MeetUp.com until they themselves are forced to realize they’re dead. Seeing as this is an ensemble show, everyone needs to realize at the same “time” (though there is no “time” here) in order to “move on.”
The island wasn’t purgatory?
Oh no. All that stuff was real. It’s probably best to look at the show in two separate phases: (1) All of the stuff in seasons 1–5 and the island action in season 6; (2) All of the “sideways” stuff in season 6. If you wanted to make it into a timeline, take all of (1) and then, whenever a character dies, they go into a holding chamber. Once everyone dies, in their own timeline, the holding chamber opens and (2) starts. The series concludes with everyone in the church together going into The Beyond.
Can you somehow use “The Sixth Sense” to explain this?
Sure. They’re all Bruce Willises and, I guess, an Emotional Experience is Haley Joel Osment. That Emotional Experience could be Sawyer and Juliet touching, Claire looking at Baby Aaron, etc. Once they’re woken up, they do their best to facilitate Emotional Experiences for the others characters.
That certainly didn’t help.
Let’s move on then.
Why does Ben stay back?
My guess is he wants to spend time with his daughter-and maybe even bang the non-crazy Rousseau a bit-before moving on. Or perhaps since he’s a stone-cold killer he has more atoning to do before some higher being allows him to move on. I’m rooting for the hot making out with Rousseau scenario. She cleans up real nice.
What about the other people who don’t go?
Each one has their own reason not for leaving yet. Eloise wants to stay as long as possible with her son Faraday, since she has a bunch of guilt left over from killing him before he was born. (Don’t get me started with that time-loop.) Not sure about Charlotte. Ana Lucia is “not ready yet,” according to the all-powerful Desmond, for whatever reason. Michael, meanwhile, is still stuck on the island with a whole lot of other lost souls, whispering away for a long, long time.
Then what happened when the nuclear bomb went off? It didn’t split reality?
Not really. It just shot them back into present-day, the island-half of season 6. As far as it starting the “sideways” universe, that was more due to the fact that if the island didn’t exist-if the plane was allowed to land instead of crash-then the Most Important Part Of Their Lives would have never occurred. Meaning, the island has to not exist in this made-up purgatory so they can continue pretending they’re not dead. Does this make sense at all?
Think of it like this. You’re a ghost but you don’t want to move on. So you create this dream world where things are different for you. Have a bad relationship with your dad? Now you can redeem yourself a bit by having a great relationship with your son? Looking for revenge because a con man indirectly killed your parents? How about, this time, you use your street-smart powers for good and be a cop?
Oh, sort of like Mulholland Drive?
Sure. Like that. Except not as blatant a “happy place.” Reality seeps in a bit more often here, so much so that they find themselves living nearly the exact same lives, even ending up on that same fateful plane in this dream world. And sometimes, the world they create is not always great. Kate’s still on the run from the law. Charlie’s still drugged up. Desmond, instead of being in love with Penny, is globe-trotting on Charles Widmore’s expense account and macking on stewardesses left and right.
That sounds alright to me.
Stop being a jerk.
So, if all of the island stuff actually happened and not purgatory, can we nit-pick it?
Can we ever!
Fill in the blank. The island was ____.
A mysterious, magical place with a bunch of healing power and a shitload of electromagnetism. It was difficult to find, maybe because Jacob was camouflaging it. Basically it was the fountain of youth, the Universal MacGuffin, that thing everyone is after once they realize it exists. It’s why Widmore and Ben have been fighting with each other for its ownership for so long.
Speaking of those two, they had some “rules” that were never explained. As did other factions. What was the deal with all those rules?
There were three sets of rules that were independent of each other. Ben and Widmore couldn’t kill each others’ kids, a pact they apparently made off-camera at some point. When Widmore broke that rule, all bets were off. The second set of rules were that Jacob and The Man in Black couldn’t kill each other, a magic rule (magic meaning it couldn’t be broken) sent down by crazy Allison Janney. This is why Ben was needed as a murdering intermediary. The third set was another magic rule that The Man in Black couldn’t kill any of the Candidates. He could kill people who weren’t, however, which accounts for him killing Mr. Eko. I mean, other than the fact that the actor who played Mr. Eko, for whatever reason, hated working in Hawaii.
What was that Smoke Monster anyway? Am I wrong to think he was some kind of manifestation of Pure Evil who’d destroy the world if he got off the island?
I’m comfortable with that. Once The Man in Black got tossed into the Light, let’s say it took the evil in him and turned it into smoke. And if he got off the island, he could fuck everyone up. That sound good?
Meanwhile, Jacob being alive kept him on the island. That whole corked bottle thing. Once Jacob was dead, he could leave. As long as the Candidates were dead. Or something.
There are plenty of inconsistencies in this.
Well, why does the island need to be sunk for him to leave? Why didn’t he just do another one of his “Get The Candidates In One Place And Kill Them All” plans? If those large electromagnetic pole thingies could keep him on the island, why didn’t they just put those on the island’s perimeter? Why was magic ash able to keep him at bay… until it wasn’t anymore?
Next: So what was the deal ages ago with that ash that surrounded Jacob’s cabin? And what happened to Evil Sayid?
Yeah, hey so what was the deal with that ash around the cabin? Didn’t Ben think it was Jacob’s?
He did, but that doesn’t mean anything. Ben always thought he was taking orders from Jacob, but who knows? Ben admits he never saw Jacob and there’s that bit in the second-to-last episode where he explains, “I was told I could summon the Monster. That’s before I realized it was the one summoning me.” Sounds like a guy who’s questioning just where he was getting his orders. Since the Monster was able to turn into pretty much anyone, there’s a good chance he spent most of Ben’s life just fucking with him so he would get to the point where he’d happily plunge the knife into Jacob.
Speaking of the Monster being able to turn into anyone….
I’ll stop you there. No, I don’t know the difference between the Monster using dead bodies that are on the island, to bodies that are not dead, to straight-up ghosts or hallucinations on the island. I will say I’m pretty sure that horse that Kate saw wasn’t the Monster.
So, what are we meant to take from all of this? Is there an all-encompassing message with Jacob, Man in Black, etc.?
My gut instinct: Question authority. There is no true “God” being on this show. Jacob and the Man in Black were just two regular fallible dudes. They just happened to (a) never age; and (b) be a giant plume of smoke. Their followers, whether it was Richard Alpert and his band of Temple dwellers, or Ben and the folks in the Dharma Barracks, were just blindly taking orders. Look at all that nonsense with Sayid in the Temple this year.
What do you mean?
Well, when he came back to life, Dogen and John Hawkes said he was evil because he failed whatever bullshit test they gave him.
So, I think Sayid was never evil after he came back from the dead. The Temple people didn’t really know what the fuck they were doing. They were kind of following Jacob but, like all religions, had to fill in quite a few blanks on their own. And those blanks were filled with nonsense and superstition, leading to them concluding that Sayid was evil for some unknown reason.
But didn’t Sayid kill them? (And didn’t he get all weird and blank-faced?) That’s pretty evil.
That’s just a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy at that point. If you tell a guy who’s been struggling with whether or not he’s good for 5 seasons that he’s pure evil, why wouldn’t he fully embrace that?
But, wait. Jacob touched all of the Candidates at various points in their lives and steered them towards the island. That’s got to be kind of God-like, right?
Having God-like powers does not make one God-like. I mean, shit, if he was completely infallible and God-like he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be killed, right?
I guess not. But along the same lines, Jacob didn’t touch Hurley and Sayid until after they’d already left the island? What’s up with that?
Kind of points out the whole “not being God-like” thing to me. I’m going to claim that he didn’t know those two were official Candidates until they’d already got to the island and he had a chance to look them over.
But what about them being on the cave wall and magical lighthouse?
Who’s to say those weren’t both made until after he’d touched everyone?
That doesn’t make sense.
I know. I have no fucking idea why he touched them when he did.
So what was with The Numbers?
Jacob numbered a shit load of Candidates, let’s say, so he could keep track of where to spin his magic lighthouse. Throughout time, the Candidates were crossed off for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it was because Jacob found them to be weak (say, Ben) or preoccupied (Kate and her babies!) or because they were dead (Locke). The Numbers just happened to be the ones associated with the Final Candidates.
But why were they used in the radio SOS in season 1? Or Hurley’s lottery numbers? Or everywhere in the entire show?
Well why was Libby both Hurley’s mental hospital companion/Soul Constant while also being the person who gave Desmond the boat to use? Everyone in the world of “Lost” is connected to someone else. Why shouldn’t numbers be the same way?
Why did Walt grow so much during a short period of time?
You’re not really going to ask me that, right?
I’m joking, I’m joking. I know it’s actually just television and is therefore subject to following simple logistics regarding the narrative time frame and when the show is shot.
Explain Walt’s magical powers, though? That seems like a legit question.
I don’t think there’s an explanation. He had magical powers. He was special. So were Miles and Hurley with their ability to speak to the dead. And Faraday with his insane understanding of quantum mechanics. (Almost) no one’s getting their sweatpants in a bunch because the series didn’t explain those.
Fair enough. But what was up with that Dharma supply drop?
Realistically, it was just a sly way for the creators to address idiots who were questioning why Hurley maintained his substantial girth despite subsisting entirely on mangoes and water. Do you have any more real questions? These are starting to get dumb.
Who built that big four-toed statue? Where did Allison Janney come from?
I don’t know. Fucking Egyptians put them both there or something.
Why did the island have to be plugged up at the end?
The plug was keeping all of the magic on the island intact. Once it was unplugged, the magic left. Smoke/Locke was able to be hurt. Richard starting aging. I bet if we looked to Rose and Bernard, we’d see she had the cancer again. It wasn’t about Desmond combining timelines; he admitted he was wrong about that. It was simply turning off the island’s magic. When Jack plugged it back in, the magic returned.
How could Drive Shaft get radio play with an awful song like “You All Everybody”?
I think we’re just about done here.
Wait, wait! Here’s a biggie. Why did the frozen donkey wheel drop people off the island and in Tunisia?
My own dorky theory is that the wheel acted as a pause button for whoever turned it. While paused, the Earth rotates normally for a little while. When the wheel-pusher becomes un-paused, the Earth has rotated without them and they are now in Tunisia.
Have you looked on a globe recently? Does this make actual sense?
Probably not. It’s just something I tell myself to get past that narrative hole.
How long will this supposed “radio silence” by Lindelof and Cuse go on?
The final season of “Lost” comes out on DVD and Blu-ray August 24th. So, what-like, two weeks before then?
Why were Jack, Kate and Hurley sent back to 1977 during the return flight but Sun, Ben and others were not?
My pet theory: Sun was not a Candidate and Jin was. And, for whatever reason, all of the Candidates have to stay in the same time period when on the island. They’re linked to each other, like the numbers, like their purgatory, etc. I’m sure there’s some kind of inconsistency in this, but it would explain why Ben and Lapidus didn’t make it back to ‘77.
So, what happens to our characters now?
Off-Island: Sawyer continues living as the scoundrel we all love him for while never deeply connecting with someone like he did with Juliet. Kate and Claire become best pals and raise Baby Aaron together, with Kate probably taking custody of the Kwon kid. Miles and Lapidus, I don’t know, open up some kind of ghost-hunting/pilot-school? Richard becomes a Vegas player and playboy with his new salt-and-pepper hair.
On-Island: They bury Jack. Hurley and Ben run the island, protecting the Light, until another group of nimrods stumble onto it. Now, though, perhaps they’ll be a bit more kind than the previous administration (that may be a metaphor!), seeing as Hurley is in control with a more loving touch. Also, Bernard and Rose live happily ever after (with Vincent) and probably cook a few meals for Hurley.
Are you glad you spent so much time watching this show?
Right up until just now.
Rick Paulas is willing, not necessarily able, to get into it with you about “Lost” in the comments below.