Let's start with the elephant in the room. What's that? Well, from not so many people I have heard the following:
"It was obvious that when "L O S T" started the whole twist was that they were all dead and in purgatory or something similar and when people found that out the creators changed it mid-way through and started making it up as they were going along."
That is undeniably the ongoing theory that nearly everyone who didn't understand the "L O S T" finale has. I've had friends say they didn't like it because "They were dead the whole time.". This is painfully ignorant and just showcases just how little people understand about how television production works. To summarizes VERY briefly, when it comes to episodic television shows. Episodic television shows are shows that can be watched in any order where each episode has a beginning, middle and end ("CSI" and pretty much all police procedurals) the productions for those are largely build as you go, this is NOT saying that they make it up as they go along BUT they do leave certain facets open to keep things current.
However, when it comes to Serialized television, shows that tell a continuous story from beginning to end (soap operas and so on). Serialized television shows HAVE to be going somewhere, so if you're a show runner and you have a story CLEARLY you know how it's going to end. However, in television, Executives largely have a massive investment in stories that are making money and if it was their will they'd keep those stories on-going for as long as possible. So if you're a show runner and you have a very clear vision of where and how you want the story to go, you're going to do everything in your power to make that vision happen. However, if you're an Executives and the show is making money, you are going to want to keep that show forever and this runs counter to the show runner. If the show runners has the story planned out in 3 Seasons and you as an Executive want the show to run 7 Seasons.
Long story short, if a show runner was "making it up" as they went along, with all of the time behind the scenes spent building the story and production it would be PAINFULLY OBVIOUS to the point where the show would be unwatchable. So no, this "they were making it up as they go along" is insulting and not worth discussing in any serious fashion. The truth be told, Damon Lindelof stated that the Executives at ABC wanted "L O S T" to run much longer than he and Carlton originally planned, so during the 3rd Season they wrote Jack & Kate into cages because similarly they felt caged by the Executives. So in some fashion, yes, Damon & Carlton had to make up some of what they were doing in order to pad out what was not originally padded. But make NO mistake! If a serialized television doesn't contain a series bible or some direction, that will be made obvious.
That being said, let's dive into the meat before we digest. Let's address the "They were dead the whole time." Argument. For starters, this is the standard go to for just about everyone whenever a TV show features a group of characters waking up in a mysterious location after suffering some life threatening event. In truth very few TV shows utilize this trope as the GRAND twist but rather it's used in a few episodes of mostly supernatural anthology shows ("Twilight Zone" and "Are You Afraid Of The Dark?") but as the complete and ultimate twist, no, completely unheard of. Furthermore, Damon & Carlton have stated 100% that The Island was in no way, shape and or form purgatory or anything similar and the characters are very much alive. This is even subverted within the show it's self by having an entire episode "Ab Aeterno" dedicated to that very premise. So after all of this evidence making it clear that they were not "dead the whole time", if you still hold to that theory, then disregard this entire article because you clearly weren't paying attention and aren't going to start now.
|Once "The Sixth Sense" did it everyone else kinda stopped.|
Here we go, now let's dive in! So why did I understand the "L O S T" finale? Am I smarter than you? Not by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason I understood "L O S T" was simply because I took everything at Face Value and refrained from theorizing. Here's my theory on most viewers of "L O S T"; the vast majority of them probably had theories of where the show was going and as the show went on and those theories were debunked, most people rejected the show because they didn't want their theories to be debunked. So when I say "Face Value" what I mean is this: Say I come across an HDTV for $1, I say to myself "That can't be right!" but until I learn otherwise that HDTV is going for $1 and that's all I know. That's Face Value. Now my initial "That's can't be right!" is immaterial to what I'm looking at, a price tag for $1 on an HDTV, doesn't matter how I feel about it the facts (as I know them currently) is that this HDTV is for $1.
That's largely how I watched "L O S T" and by doing so I was able to follow the story easier than most. Again, not saying I'm smarter than anyone else but the more I've talked to people it seems the less able they were at following the story. So what IS the story? Simple really, here's a quick breakdown in chronological order:
"L O S T" is about a mystical figure named Jacob who is the sworn protector of a power source on a mystical island. Eventually, Jacob made a mistake and put the island and his job in jeopardy when he unleashed a Smoke Monster, who wished to destroy the island and the power source. In order to insure this power source will be protected, Jacob draws certain individuals to the island as candidates for his job."
That's the entire premise. Of course, we don't know this going in because the story isn't told from Jacob's perspective but the perspective of his candidates. And upon their arrival on the island, through flashbacks we learn what kind of people they are and what their lives were like that illuminate a lot of the decisions they make. Because we see the story from their perspective, we're just as confused as they are about what's really going on because the actual main character (Jacob) isn't revealed. Got it? Good. Let's continue.
What about The Numbers?!
What about The Numbers? Hurley believes that the sequence of numbers he used to win the lottery were inherently bad luck. Were they? People complain that The Numbers weren't explained and when it was revealed that The Numbers corresponded to the number a specific candidate was listed on, many did not like this reveal because they wanted to The Numbers to be something more. It was something more. The constant reappearance of The Numbers was an Easter Egg for us pointing us to a much larger reveal that The Numbers actually represented the characters. These weren't coincidences, it was constant appearances telling us to remember these numbers as we'll see them again. Did The Numbers hold any mystical properties? Not at all. To think that they actually did is just apophenia on our part and on the part of Hurley. You can ask why they were broadcast from the radio tower but once again, is that question entirely significant to the series as a whole? No. And again, it doesn't change what the Numbers actually represent (the characters).
How does The Light work?
This is an actual objection I've heard about the finale. Someone actually hated the finale because it wasn't explained how The Light worked. This is a bad reason for many reasons but the main one is this, if you can accept everything else the series has presented and yet be stuck by this one thing, then you have no business watching this series to begin with. That being said, from my understanding The Light is the very thing that makes The Island what it is and controls the properties of both Jacob & The Smoke Monster. Think of it in terms of a TV. If the TV is plugged in it can do what it's supposed to do, unplug it and it can't do anything. We can assume as much because once the cork from The Light was unplugged The Island started to crumble, The Smoke Monster could not assume his smoke form and was susceptible to physical harm when previously he was not. So that's how it works, as long as the cork is plugged in, The Island remains, The Smoke Monster can assume his smoke form and Jacob stays ageless.
The Smoke Monster?
The Smoke Monster is one of the biggest questions in the series but it can also be explained but with a little assuming. Let's consider what we know, prior to Jacob becoming The Guardian, there was no Smoke Monster, now here's the assumption, my assumption is that The Guardians prior to Jacob were able to assume the Smoke Monster form. I'm assuming this from the episode "Across The Sea" in which we find The Mother being responsible for not only killing all of the shipped wrecked survivors but for burning their mini-village. There is no way a lone woman could be responsible for such devastation and violence all by herself against a village of mostly men. So the assumption goes like this; once Jacob became The Guardian he was able to assume the Smoke Monster form, however after throwing The Man In Black into The Light, because The Man In Black had not undergone the ceremony (The drinking, the touching & the blessing) he merely assumed some of the powers (the agelessness and the transformation abilities) but not the other powers (e.g., being able to bless others with healing & immortality) or responsibilities or the wisdom.
All of this is speculation, of course BUT it all stands to reason. Otherwise, why else would Jacob be able to recognize The Smoke Monster regardless of what form her took? It's because they're of like nature. So The Smoke Monster is the main antagonist, however there is a barrier that keeps him from killing those Jacob has touched & The Island works in tandem with Jacob in keeping his candidates safe (EXCEPT when they choose the kill themselves, hence why Jack couldn't be blown up by the dynamite). The Smoke Monster is a master manipulator and has been shown to have been around for ages. So it's not out of the realm of possibility that The Smoke Monster manipulated people into thinking they could control him (e.g. The Secret Door). As Ben Linus put it "It’s where I was told I could summon the monster. That’s before I realized that it was the one summoning me.". While none of this is spelled out, there's enough evidence to assume this is the case. If you want more of an answer, I'm sorry but none of this is spelled out for you and spoon fed to you. You're gonna have to piece together what you know. But sadly, I feel like so many people are waiting for definitive answers that aren't coming. So if that doesn't explain The Smoke Monster to you, I don't know what will exactly.
What were The Whispers?
The Ghosts of those who died on The Island and couldn't move on to the afterlife due to unfinished business. That's all, that's it. Michael explained what they were point blank to Hurley in "Everybody Loves Hugo". If you wanted more than that, I don't know what to tell you. This is the one question that was answered point blank with no interpretation. Done. Now one objection I had to this explanation is that "The show made them out to be more than what they were.", did it or did you? That's my only reply to that.
What about all the religious symbolism and stuff?
What about it? Again they were signals to something bigger. They were signs to point us to the ideas going into the mythology of "L O S T". Once again this is apophenia on your part if you thought "L O S T" was going to become some sort of amalgam of world religions rolled into one. This is the same problem people have with the anime "Evangelion". Not to go on a complete tangent but both "L O S T" & "Evangelion" relied on religious imagery & symbolism to get certain points across to by homage to certain concepts but people read WAY more into it than what was actually intended.
|Because anything in the Jesus pose is obvious symbolism|
As an example, the choosing of the leader of The Others is similar to how the next Dali Lama is chosen. Jacob has a very passive role is wanting people to understand the difference between good & evil similar to most Eastern deities. So if you thought the religious symbolism was something else, maybe you don't understand the concept of homage, references and conceptual resonance. Once again, this has less to do with the show and more to do with people taking certain parts of it way further than it needed to go. Damon & Carlton wanted viewers to be aware of certain concepts so that when they appeared in the show, there are enough references there to show that they've been pointing to them all along.
What about all the weird characters connections?
Well to be perfectly honest, that makes the most sense considering that the vast majority of characters already have one thing in common and that's an encounter with Jacob. Since they already have that in common, it wouldn't be too much of stretch to believe that these characters would eventually find and interact with each other over time? After all, all of these characters did find themselves in the same place at the same time and that can't happen without some sort of divine figure making that happen and luckily there was. Considering in the episode "Lighthouse", Jacob has been watching these characters for a long time, it wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibility that Jacob manipulated events so that certain characters would meet (like Locke & Sawyer being connected by Locke's dad) and so on. Jacob has been shown to be able to appear almost anywhere as he showed up at Jin & Sun's wedding, with both parties being completely perplexed as to who he was.
BUT IT DIDN'T ANSWER ANYTHING!
This is one of those things that I hear frequently and in these instances I want to ask questions of my own the first being: "Tell me what you wanted answered and I'm pretty sure we can get an understanding of it.". So if answers is what you want, the answers you got were peppered in certain episodes that may take some re-watching on your part. But what I found with this contention is that most of the people who say this don't want to contemplate an answer and formulate an idea, they merely want an exposition dump where everything is explained. Not cool. Not cool for a few reasons because it ultimately stops being about the show and starts being about answers and in context of the show, there's no logical way to provide those answers without it sounding like an exposition dump.
If you're unfamiliar with that term, an exposition dump is where a character in a movie or TV show will explain the plot to a character who functions as the audience's surrogate. Most exposition dumps are done well especially in most action movies where the hero has to stop the bad guy from doing the bad thing and this is usually explained to the audience and the hero via the person handing the hero the assignment. Some exposition dumps are done at the end of an episode most notably Scooby Doo, where Velma in all her sexy nerd glory explains to the Sheriff or whatever law enforcement available how the bad guy managed to do all his bad guy things. These are cases of exposition dumps done well and organically integrated into the story. Meaning these exposition dumps are necessary to the story. If we weren't aware of who James Bond was or what he was doing he'd come off as a psychopath shooting random people and if Velma didn't explain how the bad guys managed to pull of their supernatural tricks the Sheriff wouldn't have evidence.
But in the case of "L O S T" where exactly would an exposition dump be placed where it would be necessary? What questions would the characters have asked that wasn't already answered? Why are they there? That's the most important question and it was answered, they're there to potentially take Jacob's job in protecting The Light. All other questions are irrelevant. Yeah, you heard me, IRRELEVANT! That thing that you're wondering about, doesn't matter to the most important questions because that's essentially what the entire story is about. You can complain that answers are never given and you're right about somethings, most things have clues and enough info to piece together a solid theory. For example, my assumption that Mother was the Smoke Monster prior to The Man In Black is merely based on clues that allowed me to piece together that theory.
Here's another theory, Walt is just like The Man In Black. If you recall, in his childhood, The Man In Black was capable of seeing and talking with ghosts, the same way Hurley has. Walt has been shown to have supernatural abilities. The Man In Black was told by Mother that he was "special", although this "special" is never explained, it can be interpreted as "having a keen insight into how The Island works.". The Man In Black knew that harnessing the power of The Light and attaching a mechanical system to it would allow him to leave The Island. The Others also had a vested interest in Walt and his abilities. But if we want a full on explanation of how and why Hurley is able to speak to ghosts and what exactly is Walt capable of, we'll never get a 100% solid answer, and that's fine.
Because the show is a supernatural series characters are shown to exhibit supernatural abilities, which begs the question, which came first, Jacob's choosing of the individual which lead to the supernatural abilities or the supernatural abilities which lead to Jacob's choosing? Who knows aside from The Creators and that's the only people who NEED to know for certain. If you read Lostpedia you'll see a whole slew of answered mysteries that the show addressed in full. However maybe your contention is you didn't like the answers provided and with that I can't help you.
So The Ending?
What about The Ending? Well The Flash Sideways Universe IS a sort of purgatory (the only thing in the show that actually is). The Flash Sideways Universe is said to be "a place they made together to find each other and move on". While not much is known about the Flash Sideways Universe, what we do know is that it's more or less a holding place to get to afterlife. As Christian Shephard said "Some have died before you, others way after.", so time is relative but they're all there. However, does this mean everyone who's there is dead like Keamy & Mikhail and so on? No. From my understanding, this universe is a created by the subconsciousness of the characters to create a realm of wish fulfillment and re-writing history.
For example in the Flash-Sideways Universe Sawyer uses his skills as a con artist to become an undercover police officer. This new roles resonates with his role in life of becoming DHARMA Security Chief. Jack, the guy with all the father issues in The Flash Sideways Universe created himself a son, David as a means of working through those issues, as well as Juliet being a fertility doctor while not having children herself. The characters didn't retain their memories in The Flash-Sideways Universe because that universe is a wish fulfillment location BUT while they didn't retain their memories, they retained their connections, which would allow them to find their way back to each other. As Christian said "Everyone in the church is real." you could interpret that to mean that Everyone who could potentially go to the church is real. (e.g. Daniel, Widmore, Alex, Ben, Ana Lucia and so on) So subconsciously all the characters filled that universe with familiar faces to help them remember and move on.
The ending really showcased what the show was about aside from it's actual story. "L O S T" managed to separate The Plot from The Story. The Plot is what the story is about, The Story is how it's told. For example; The PLOT of "L O S T" is:
"a mystical figure named Jacob who is the sworn protector of a power source on a mystical island. Eventually, Jacob made a mistake and put the island and his job in jeopardy when he unleashed a Smoke Monster, who wished to destroy the island and the power source. In order to insure this power source will be protected, Jacob draws certain individuals to the island as candidates for his job."
However, THE STORY is:
"several strangers are brought to a mysterious island that reveals many mystical secrets and together they confront their past, their present and their future."
This is essentially why the story isn't told from Jacob's perspective. because the show isn't about Jacob, it's about his candidates and their lives. So in the end all of the characters remembered their lives together and together were able to move on to whatever afterlife they're meant to go to. And the most noticeable thing is that all those who were in the church were the same ones on Oceanic (including Christian Shephard). Once again the creators made that theme clear as they needed to recreate the conditions that got them to The Island to get back to The Island, so it creates a parallel when those same conditions are put in place in The Church to go to the afterlife. Basically, we got to see these characters lives from beginning to end with a supernatural backdrop as the setting of the story and that's pretty cool.
In conclusion, I can't make you like the ending of "L O S T" but hopefully after reading this you understand it a little bit more and if you still don't like it, cool. I liked it, not because I'm a fan boy or anything like that but because as a writer "L O S T" taught me how to effectively write a mystery (know everything as the creator, even things that don't matter), taught me how to effectively read visual and context clues, it taught me how to slowly reveal important plot points to help people draw their own conclusions, it taught me how to release just enough information to keep people guessing, it taught me that the characters don't need to know everything, it taught me not to spoon feed my audience or treat them like idiots and it taught me that just because the story features one thing doesn't always means that's what it's about. "L O S T" has really made an impact on how I write and how I think about my writing. I would be mortified if after putting so much thought into something I've written people said "Eh, you made it up as you went along." or "It was going to be X but you changed it, didn't you?".
To this day "L O S T" is one of my favorite televisions shows and some day I look forward to re-watching it. Much like "Southland Tales" I can understand why some people don't like it but I urge you if any of this article spoke to you, share it with others and let's talk about this thing we call "L O S T". That'll do it for me, I'll catch you guys on the flip-flop!