My initial thoughts on the season finale of Lost I summed up in a tweet last night.
After six years of great foreplay, #Lost becomes an inconsiderate lover – rolls over, turns off the lights, leaves me unfulfilled.
What has been so great about the show, and the reason I have been such a dedicated fan, is the fact that the show often left me feeling… off. It often wasn’t until I had spent some time discussing it (usually with my friends Paul and Anne), that I found deeper meaning in the show. Sometimes I was introduced to someone else’s theories, which forced me to reconsider my perspective and brought me to a new way to see each episode and each story.
It’s fitting, then, that last night was the same. Immediately after the show, I sent Paul and Anne a message about my overwhelming sense of disappointment in the show. My take was that those who found love or peace on the island made out fine, but everyone else got screwed. Further, I wanted more answers than the show was willing to provide.
But like almost every other episode, it was the discussion with friends that changed my reality.
Paul pointed me to a post by Doc Jensen. It contained a simple throwaway sentence that began to refocus my thinking.
Some people think [the sideways world is] an illusion like The Matrix, or a group delusion, or even ersatz pocket universe created by The Monster’s magic designed to give himself a happily ever after — a twist on Joseph’s theory. This theory differs from the more conventional and commonly held theory that the Sideways world is the next life epilogue for all the Island world castaways — that after their death, the castaways will be reincarnated into the Sideways world.
The post was actually put up before the show aired, and it turned out to be quite prescient. What struck me, however, is that they were both right. It was a next life epilogue, but at the same time it was also a group delusion. A next life born from the shared connections of the castaways. Still it seemed out of place.
I have seen some on Twitter, and I made this point to Paul, that they all were dead all along, and the sideways world was all that mattered. But then I realized that’s not quite the point. Everything that happened on the island was the real story, and the sideways world matters hardly at all.
Climbing Jacob’s Ladder
In retrospect, there are two movies I believe Lost has drawn heavily from for inspiration. The first is Heaven Can Wait (the Warren Beatty version, not that Chris Rock aberation.)
In Heaven Can Wait, Beatty “dies” and is brought to a weigh station. His escort explains that the weigh station isn’t the final destination, but a gateway to the final destination. The rules of the weigh station are a collective vision based on Beatty’s idea of the afterlife, and those who share his idea of the afterlife. In this was, the sideways world is exactly the same. It is a world the castaways created through their shared experience, and where they meet to move on. It is “their” weigh station – the implication being different groups of people share different visions, and create different worlds.
The sideways world, is the weigh station for this particular group of friends.
The second movie is Jacob’s Ladder (which Jensen mentions in his post.) If you have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. I also recommend you do so before finishing this post because the rest of it deals with similarities between Lost and Jacob’s Ladder.
In the movie, Tim Robbins plays a soldier who underwent medical testing during his tour. His platoon were hopped up on drugs to make they hyper-aggressive. The film deals with the mystery of those drugs, Robbins discovering the nature of the drugs, and finally coming to the realization that his fellows turned on each other.
The movie jumps back and forth in time between Vietnam and modern day. As it does, it follows multiple different story lines in which different lives seem to be coalescing. In the end, however, it turns out that Jacob died in Vietnam, and the entire mixed up world of the modern day was simply his mind trying to come to terms with how he died.
Lost is, if nothing else, the story of how Jack died. It is his journey.
You Were An Awesome Number Two
If you assume that the entire story, from beginning to end, has been Jack’s story, in much the way Jacob’s Ladder was not a story about Vietnam or the drugs, but Jacob’s death, things begin to fall into place. A few scenes in the finale provide great clarity.
The two scenes that stand out the most to me were:
- Hurley, seeing Ben outside the church, tells him “You were an awesome #2.” And Ben replies that Hugo was an awesome number one.
- Christian comments that some died before Jack and some died years later.
We saw Hurley ask Ben to be his second. The line at the church conveyed a sense that is exactly what happened, and the two worked well together. That clearly has to have happened after Jack’s death.
The appearance of Boone and Shannon indicates that Christian was correct that some died before Jack. The presence of half of the Ajira Six – Claire, Kate, and Sawyer – loop in those who died much later.
Jack’s last view was the Ajira flight carrying the six off the island. Reunited with him at the party, Kate tells Jack she has missed him, implying it has been some time since they saw each other. It has, because she lived well past him.
As for why Kate doesn’t look 80, or 90, or however old she was when she died, that simply doesn’t fit with the way the rest remembered her. This was, after all, a collective vision, and they saw each other as they knew each other on the island.
The Unanswered Questions
For three years now, Paul and I, like many others, have discussed and debated which questions Lost needed to answer. Today there are countless people who really want to know where the four-toed statue came from. Who built it? When?
I have come to accept that questions like these are only questions for rabid fans. The questions that were going to be answered were the questions important to Jack’s story.
While that may irritate some, it makes perfect sense from a storyteller’s perspective. In any story, there will be things that are important and things that aren’t. When telling the story, you want to paint a picture. You may mention that someone is wearing a red shirt. Unless the story you’re telling is Star Trek, that detail is likely irrelevant. To ask why a red shirt and not a blue shirt is to miss the point – it’s not about the shirt, it’s about the man wearing it.
The writers of Lost understand that, no doubt.