Whoops, I just fixed ‘Lost’
It can be done! In fact, it’s easy. Allow me to demonstrate. I just need you to treat me like the Desmond of Threat Quality, and trust that I know things I shouldn’t know, and may not entirely understand myself. Agreed? Agreed.
Now then: Let’s get to work on those sideways flashes.
The finale asked us to accept them as a kind of pre-afterlife construct*, meant to bring the characters along to a point where they’d be content, having finally fought past the hang-ups that held them back in their lives. As a result, the castaways are finally ready to take the next step – together, as one hard-forged community – into the great unknown.
Which is, yeah, a bit silly. Not because the idea of Heaven is silly (necessarily), but because for all the show’s dabbling in spirituality and Christian mythology, the idea of an afterlife never really came up. “Heaven” is a concept Lost never actually bothered with**, so it seems an ill fit, to introduce the idea in the last moments of the show.
But since the show’s basically asking us to create our own connecting threads to sew up the loose ends left behind, why not push those boundaries a little further? The show wants the audience to finish creating it? Fine – then we get to have a big eraser, too. So we get to rub out the things that don’t work. Since Heaven doesn’t fit in the story, we’re within our rights to scrap it. (Or at least tweak it a bit.)
Now we need to fill in the blank spot. Begging the question: What does fit?
Dreams. Visions. The show played with these things – mostly through Locke in the first few seasons – far more than any hard-core spirituality.
That’s right: I’m about to tell you to refashion the sideways flashes into a dream.
Don’t panic – I know where I’m going with this. Kind of. (TQP Desmond, remember?)
The important thing is whose dream it is. It’s the Island’s.
The show has flirted with the idea of the Island as sentient (though maybe not alive in a conventional sense). So let’s use that. Let’s say, for instance, that the island has formed some kind of psychic relationship with the castaways and has used that to try to communicate with them in some meaningful ways (and it has, unless you want to give a better explanation for Kate’s Horse, or Hurley’s mental institution roommate, and let’s throw in Shannon’s Walt-visions, too).
OK – I haven’t quite breached the gates of Crazyopolis yet, right? Let’s push a little further. So much death, so much trauma happening on that island. Lots of psychic energy at play.
Real quick, now, let’s talk hauntings. Being that this is a show that flat-out TOLD us ghosts are on the Island, we can accept the basic origins of a haunting – souls who came to a bad end, or whose minds weren’t at peace, essentially infecting their homes – as one of Lost’s potential story elements.
Meanwhile, in the flashes, people are living somewhat improved versions of their own lives; these aren’t necessarily the current models, but memories of past selves; some of the same psychological issues are still in place; and some of the details are wrong, but nobody seems to notice the differences. And sometimes reality creeps back in, changing the narrative a bit. Memory blending with fantasy.
What does that sound like to you?
Still with me? Fantastic. Let’s bring it on home.
We can’t really stop here and say it’s some kind of mass-dream – not because it’s stupid (though, yeah), but because it doesn’t get us anything, storywise. But if we connect it to the Island, we have this:
All the telltale signs of a haunting, filtered through the powerful-but-nonhuman consciousness of the Island, to create a dream-reality based on the minds/souls of everyone who lived there.***
But what’s the Island dreaming for? If this was the end of the explanation, it would be…well, not bad. Not great, but it still fits in with the story we’ve been following. But it doesn’t mean anything yet, and by god, with all the hours devoted to this part of the story it should mean something.
Fortunately for us, Jack’s laying on his back, dying and alone.
What’s been Jack’s motivation, this whole time? Yeah, yeah, “Fixing things.” Which sounds cold and calculating, but in context: he’s trying to fix things so his people are safe. So they have a chance at happiness.
Jack, when all is said and done, is moving hell and high water to give his friends a better life.
And Jack is the volunteer protector of the Island. But despite all his actions, the Man in Black told him, “You died for nothing.” Even though he just pulled some loony stunts, doing what he thought might protect the Island? He could probably use a little encouragement at this point that he did something right.
Now, since the Island has a habit of bestowing hard-to-discern “gifts” to the people it deems worthy, maybe it sees Jack – the guy who said he had only one goal left in his life, to protect the Island – dying on the ground and with no one to comfort him. And it tries to provide that comfort. To offer him a parting gift. An “attaboy.”
So it gives him a vision of a reality where everyone is doing better – not perfect, but better. Thanks to him. (The Island is also maybe lying a little bit, but Jack’s lost a lot of blood at this point so he’s probably not going to debate matters.) And in the Island’s dream, they “wake up” to a bigger reality, and then all pile together to wait for Jack to join them.
So the flash-sideways are still a fiction – but in this edit, they’re a fiction with a purpose. It’s thematically rich, and it sidesteps the odd continuity issues like who’s not in the church and why does Jack have a son and all that. Don’t worry – it’s a dream. And a lovely dream, at that.
It’s a kiss goodbye from the Island, to its protector. “You did great. You looked after me, and saved your friends. Now they’re waiting for you. You can let go of your responsibilities and join them.”
And I’m pretty sure if you watch the last season again, with this in mind, and do a little creative editing with the mute button for that last church scene? It makes the whole thing just a little better.
Unless you have a different idea. There’s no reason we can’t all be Desmonds.
*I’m sorry, I just refuse to say “Purgatory.” It irks me.
**If it did, please, let me know – I’ll admit I don’t have the whole show memorized.
***Sure, shades of “Solaris” here, but if the biggest complaint is “Lost is ripping off Solaris!” I think we can live with it.