By now, I am sure all of the diehard Lost fans have read at least some of the myriad of theories and possible meanings of the last episode of Lost. I have read quite a few myself (if you want a really good one, try this one posted on Dark UFO). I have to admit that I was a bit confused by the final 15 minutes of last Sunday’s ending. Let me rephrase that, I was fine and everything was peachy keen until three seconds after Jack closed his eye for the final time and my wife said, “See! They were all dead the entire time and the Island really was Purgatory!”
“Huh what? No, that can’t be, it’s, uh…” At that moment, six years of facts and figures and theories came rushing into my head. She went to bed, mad at how it ended and I stayed up for the next few hours working (of course) and in the back of my mind, I recreated scenario after scenario of what I thought had happened. By morning, I had a clear idea of my “truth” about what Lost really was. And I also had a few “theories” on why people misunderstood what happened. I read a bunch of critiques of the last episode and I saw that many agreed, but there were also quite a few that disagreed.
Before I go any further, let me start out by stating what I believe (and what my wife now believes):
Everything that happened in the six seasons of Lost (outside of the sideways/alt-universe of season 6) really happened to the characters. They crashed on the Island, they fought with the Others, they time traveled, some were killed on the island, etc. The LA-verse was some sort of afterlife meeting ground where they existed in a pseudo-existence before passing over to their final afterlife. You could call it purgatory before getting to heaven. It was Jack’s story of redemption, of finding faith and love and fulfilling his destiny.
With that out of the way, let me try to address all of the criticisms out there about unanswered questions. Did anyone really expected to get all of the questions answered and delivered with a nice little bow on top? The purpose of the series was not a science lesson, it was not a spiritual discourse on how to attain enlightenment. It was a piece of art put together by many people over a long period of time. It’s purpose was to entertain and move people. Like any good pieces of art, whether it is music, painting, television or movies, it should cause its audience to think and to feel and to react and, ultimately, tell a story, and I think it accomplished that extremely well.
I also think that the people that really “get it” and like what happened over the past six years and enjoyed the ending (i.e. people that agree with me) are the people that have had experience with this genre before and can also accept that sometimes you just don’t get all of the answers. I can name countless books and movies, many of which are labeled as classics, that did the same thing. They told a story and left many unanswered questions at the end. Is it wrong to do that? No. The authors and directors of these books and movies typically “know” or at least have a very good idea what the answers are, but they cannot fit them all into the story. You would end up reading an encyclopedia instead of being entertained. They told their story, as much of it as they could in the time allotted. The reader/viewer/listener has to use their imagination sometimes. Being spoon fed the answer to life, the universe and everything is usually not an option. It’s part of the mystery of good art.
Watch Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 and 2010, do you get all of the answers? No. Were you entertained? Read Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, did he tie up every single loose end? No. Was it still an amazing piece of work? Yes. What about Pulp Fiction, did you ever get to see what was inside the briefcase? What about Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is Deckard really a replicant?
Even when someone attempts to go back and fill in the blanks, the result is usually never good, the viewers are never satisfied and the resulting attempts fail to entertain or enlighten. I can name a bunch of these too. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, both failed at building on the Alien story. Even the mighty Star Wars saga failed when Lucas tried to fill in blanks with the prequel trilogy. (NOTE: I actually liked the prequel trilogy, but I must admit that it was not as good as the originals) Try reading the Dune books written by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian. The original six books by Frank were amazing, award winning works, but when they tried to revisit the story and fill in the blanks, the result was, um, very difficult to enjoy.
If you want all of the answers, read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories or something by Tom Clancy. Certainly don’t cross over into science fiction and fantasy, because your need for all of the facts ain’t gonna be filled. When you tell a story of another world or something that doesn’t quite fit with reality, you sometimes have to leave some of the facts open to interpretation.
But if you really want some answers, here is my attempt. There was a really good article written on IO9 about the 50 Questions Lost Really Needs To Answer. They followed it up with a report card of the results, which I think failed because it didn’t extrapolate what we know, it was based purely on seeing or hearing a solid answer. I wanted to take a stab at answering them with what I think happened.
IO9‘s 50 Questions
- So the island is the place with the glowy light that's inside all of us. Does this mean the Island's alive? People talk about what the island "wants." What do they mean? Is the island Eywa? – The Island represents some spiritual power, probably related to some deity-like being. It keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. Having just seen Avatar the other day, I would agree it is sort of like Eywa. You could also call it The Force (for the Star Wars fans) or Ka (if you have a read a Stephen King book in the last 10 years).
- How come the island heals people? Why does it heal them selectively? – If you do what the island wants, it rewards you. If you have something that island wants, it protects you. If the island doesn’t want you there, it doesn’t let you come.
- Who was the woman who raised Jacob and the Man In Black, and how did she get there? – She was another protector of the island, she was probably not the first and definitely wasn’t the last. She got there the same way everyone else gets there.
- If Jacob was a Roman, why is he so into Egyptian gods? – I don’t think the Island follows any specific mythology or religion. Since the majority of religions stem from the same ideals, the spiritual practices on the Island are just another example of an amalgamation of peoples’ beliefs and their search for answers to life’s mysteries. Many religions and mythologies deify natural phenomena, like Thor being the God of Thunder, so the island’s inhabitants selected a god from their beliefs to represent what was going on. And whatever the beliefs and heritage of the inhabitants of the island had, they built and used symbols that they were accustomed to represent that. So somewhere along the line, there were probably Egyptian inhabitants there, along with Romans, and eventually Christians, Muslims, Hindis and Buddhists. Every inhabitant of the island related to it in terms that they understood, so a Christian experiencing the island related it to stories that they heard from their religion (i.e. like my theories on Lucifer, Job, etc.) while an Egyptian would use something like Taweret. I think the protectors of the island, like Jacob, knew its true nature and realized that it didn’t need a name, but went along with what everyone else wanted to call it.
- What was with those Egyptian symbols that appeared in the Hatch when the countdown went past 108 minutes? That didn't seem like the Dharma Initiative's style. – See #4. That probably stemmed from something that MIB created to try to harness the island’s power and was never “translated” out of what he or a previous resident did. Newer inhabitants of the island took up where the previous or older residents of the island left off. This is similar to using Greek symbols to represent scientific and mathematic concepts. Why do we do that? Because that’s what the guys who created them used and we just carry on the tradition. We could always use different symbols but then our common language would fall apart and we wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively.
- Jacob told Alpert some previous visitors to the island had built that Taweret statue. Did he tell them to build it? Why Taweret? – see #4 and #5 above
- Is Jacob bringing people to the island, as the Man In Black suggests? If so, then who was bringing all those people to the island before Jacob did it? Why does Jacob want to bring so many people to the island? What was he trying to prove to the Man In Black? – I think that one has been pretty sufficiently answered by the show itself and doesn’t need anymore.
- Why did Widmore bring Desmond to the island? What's the sacrifice Desmond has to make? – Again, answered by the show.
- Why was Charlie fated to die, exactly? What did Charlie's death accomplish, in the end? – I haven’t really given much thought to this one, so I am not sure how to answer it.
- Was that the Smoke Monster telling Ben and Locke to move the island, back in season four? If so, why did Smokey want the island moved? What did moving the island accomplish exactly? – This was probably an attempt to destroy the island or set in motion the MIB’s plan to get off the island.
- Why was Libby in the same mental hospital as Hurley? What's her deal exactly? Why was she in Australia? – Beats me, maybe she went through a tough patch in her life and had a mental breakdown. Isn’t that what happened to most people on the show in one way or another.
- Why did the Smoke Monster kill Mr. Eko? Why did the Smoke Monster leave Rousseau alive after killing or "claiming" the rest of her expedition? – Mr. Eko probably was getting too close to the truth of what the island really was or to what MIB was trying to and the MIB knew it. It looks to me like MIB eventually claimed Rousseau anyway, or at least he got her to do what he wanted
- Who made the Rules? Like, what's preventing Smokey from killing the Candidates directly? – The island :)
- What was so special about Walt? No, really. They made a big deal out of it and everything. – Walt was probably more open to the power that the island emitted, similar to Desmond’s resistance to it. Hurley and Miles also had some weird abilities, i.e. talking to the dead. Maybe Walt was of a similar vein, but because he was young, he was more powerful.
- Jacob was immortal, right? So what made him decide he needed to start doing such a huge head-hunting search for his replacement? – I don’t think Jacob was immortal, but rather he wouldn’t die of old age or at the hands of the MIB. He probably had a few other abilities that helped keep him alive too. He was eventually killed by Ben, so that rules out the immortality thing.
- Why is Aaron so important? Why wasn't Kate supposed to raise him? – Aaron may have been important because he was a child that was destined to be born on the island. The island may have only allowed “special” children be born, such as Aaron, Jacob and MIB. It could also be that the MIB could possibly take control of newborns in the same fashion he could take over the dead. Kate was needed as a candidate and therefore shouldn’t raise Aaron. Jacob said that he had to remove her from the list because she became a “mother”.
- Why isn't Kate a candidate? – see #16
- What was the Dharma Initiative really up to on the Island? What was their ultimate goal? Why did the Hanso Foundation regard the Dharma Initiative as a failure? – The Dharma Initiative was there for the same reason as everyone else, to harness the power of the island, and also serve as sort of a protector. Some of them were eventually corrupted by the MIB.
- It seems like everyone who was a passenger on Oceanic 815 has numerous connections that they don't even know about. Like Jack and Claire being half-siblings, and Sawyer's ex-girlfriend helping Kate confront her mom. What caused this excessive degree of synchronicity? – This is probably the work of Jacob and/or the island in drawing the candidates to the island.
- What really happens if the Smoke Monster leaves the island? – The end of days
- In the "flash-sideways" universe, the island is under water. When exactly did this happen? – I think this is a metaphor for what life would have been like if the island had never existed in the Oceanic passengers’ timeline.
- How/when did Roger Linus and Pierre Chang get off the island before it sank? – a boat, or maybe a plane, does it matter?
- Why did Ben and Widmore hate each other quite so much? Why couldn't Ben just shoot Widmore in the face that one time when Ben came into Widmore's bedroom? – They both wanted to be top dog on the island, having two power hungry leaders will always lead to contention. Ben didn’t shoot Widmore because he wanted Widmore to experience the pain of losing his daughter, just like Ben did.
- Why did Widmore order Keamy's gang to kill everyone on the island except for Ben? Especially since Widmore is so keen for Locke to lead the Oceanic Six back to the island a few years later. And why exactly is Widmore so keen for the Oceanic Six to come back to the island? Because they're Candidates? Or some other reason? If he is keen for there to be Candidates on the island, why did he order Keamy to kill them all? – Widmore admitted he was wrong for having done that and that Jacob came to him and showed him the error of his ways.
- After Richard Alpert met Jacob and Jacob explained the island to him, why didn't Richard repeat that explanation to everyone he met? – He didn’t explain it because most people would not have understood it. He had to get the people to do what was needed by putting things in ideas that they could understand. Walking around telling everyone that the island was some sort of spiritual power source that kept the world in balance and prevented evil from taking it over probably would have landed his ass in a Looney bin and we could have watched him not age in a padded cell.
- How did Richard and the Others decide whom to recruit from among the various people who came to the island after that? What was the deal with all those lists? The lists weren't lists of Candidates, since the Others didn't try to recruit Sawyer or Jack. So what were they? – Jacob must have provided Richard with the lists or Richard might have come up with them on his own. The lists contained people that had to be removed from the island and also people that were needed to influence the real candidates.
- Why did the Incident in 1977 leave the island's women unable to give birth? What's with the huge importance placed on fertility on the island, what with the Tawaret statue? Why are so many women separated from their babies? – See #16
- So why was Widmore unable to return to the island? And then why was he able to return to the island after all? Also, why did turning the donkey wheel mean that Ben was unable to return to the island, except with the Oceanic Six? – The Island only brought people there that it wanted. It didn’t bring Widmore back until he could bring Desmond with him. It didn’t bring Ben back until he brought the candidates with him.
- What was the deal with that brand on Juliet's lower back? The cross/asterisk thing? – tramp stamp?
- Where did that supply drop come from? You know, the huge pallet of food and stuff? – the Others, Richard’s people that lived off the island. Widmore’s people maybe.
- Who built that weird Dharma Initiative door that leads to a stone wall? Did the Others put it there as part of their fake village? – no idea, but does it really matter?
- Was Rousseau "claimed" by the Smoke Monster the same way Claire and Sayid were? – I would say “yes” and “no”, see #12
- What was the Sickness that the Dharma Initiative was vaccinating people against? Is it similar to the Smoke Monster "claiming" people, or something else? – One way to control a group people is to unite them against a common foe. It may have been the idea of Richard or someone that propagated the idea that there was a sickness on the island that made them go insane, instead of revealing that it was a mystical smoke monster attempting to control their minds. It probably worked to keep the island’s inhabitants from getting to the real truth of the island.
- When the Smoke Monster told Sayid that he could have Nadia back from the dead, was he referring to the "flash sideways" universe, or something else? Or just lying? – I think the Smoke Monster told a lot of lies, he even admitted it to Ben at the end. He could have been telling the truth, but only part of it. Maybe by destroying the island, the MIB would have released all of the souls in hell/purgatory and Sayid would have been reunited with her in a sort of hell on earth scenario. Or maybe he planned on Sayid dying, since he was a candidate.
- What was the deal with Pierre Chang having so many wacky pseudonyms? – Really, who cares?
- What were the Others having Kate and Sawyer build? Was it really going to be a runway? For what? – Probably for the Ajira flight.
- So if the hydrogen bomb going off caused the "flash sideways" universe and prevented Oceanic 815 from crashing, how did it change Hurley's lottery numbers, or make Sawyer a cop instead of a con-man? – I don’t think the bomb did any of that. I think the bomb brought everyone into the same timeline or current day. The LA-verse was timeless and was always there, we just never got to see it before.
- Is Ji Yeon the "Kwon" who's a candidate? – No. But she might be now that her parents were killed and she is alone.
- Who's the mother of Jack's son David in the "flash-sideways" universe? On a related note, where's alt-Juliet? – Answered.
- What happened to the body of Christian Shephard on the "flash-sideways" Flight 815? – Answered.
- Come to think of it, what happened to Christian's body on the island? – Eaten by polar bears, consumed by the MIB, or something similar.
- Sayid was "claimed" by the Smoke Monster, but he still had free will afterward. What did that being "claimed" thing mean anyway? – Claimed meant under the influence of MIB, but not in total control by MIB. They were promised something by the MIB and sworn their allegiance to him. It was probably a lot like Jacob’s marking someone as a candidate. The candidates obviously got some sort of protection since the MIB could not kill them directly.
- What does god need with a starship? I mean, why does Locke need an airplane to leave the island? – I think he needed the ability to free himself from the island, regardless of what the form of transportation was. MIB was sustained by the power of the island, he could not leave it unless the island was destroyed and that power unleashed. Jacob on the other hand was still a living being and could come and go as he chose. He could probably use the power of the island himself to travel in time, teleport off the island and return the same way.
- Why are the Numbers so important? I get that each of the Numbers corresponds to one of the remaining Candidates as of a while ago. But that's just another instance of the Numbers popping up in relation to something. Why these numbers? Why were they powerful long before Jack, Hurley, et al. came to the island? – This was probably one of the many ways of attracting people and candidates to the island.
- And come to think of it, what was the point of having someone broadcasting the numbers over the radio over and over again for years? – see #44
- If Jacob is dead, and his ghost is wandering around talking to Hurley, what's with the little kid version of Jacob? Why can only certain people, like Sawyer, see the little-kid Jacob? – They can see him when he wants to be seen. His spirit lingered on until his body was completely destroyed.
- Who was Juliet inviting to coffee? What sort of coffee? Can I come? Will there be biscotti, or madeleines? – Sawyer. Juliet was dying and was seeing into her afterlife.
- Why can't the Smoke Monster cross a line of ash? What about the sonic fence? – The ash probably represented a magic circle similar to what is used to contain demons in many occult rituals. The sonic fence disrupted the smoke particles or something similar.
- So the Man In Black can't leave the island. But Jacob was wandering off the island all the time, buying Louis Vuitton luggage, touching the Oceanic Six and various other people, and stocking up on Flannery O'Connor books. At one point, Jacob opened a dance studio in Newark. What gives? – See #43
- When Ben took Locke to Jacob's Cabin, there was a weird telekinetic storm and Locke heard a voice saying "Help me." Was that Jacob? Or the M.I.B.? What sort of help did the voice have in mind? More importantly, what's with the dog painting in Jacob's Cabin??? – This was the MIB, he was locked in the cabin by the circle of ash. He couldn’t appear in a physical body because he didn’t have one to inhabit at the time.
So that’s it. My final Lost post. I might write something else when the DVDs come out in August. I here there will be an additional 15-20 minutes of epilogue. I doubt there will be another show like this for a while. I am sure I will find something else to occupy my time, right now it is watching the complete Battlestar Galactica series. Well, it will be when Netflix decides to start sending me the DVDs again. I’m sorry this post was so long, but the word count is divisible by 18, which is always a good thing.