Opinion, Writing

Explain it to me then!

I tried really hard not to write this post. I had phone conversations with or wrote emails to a few friends hoping they would enlighten me. I’ve read several online critics’ reviews. Despite all that, I still can’t help but call foul at the LOST finale. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the show. It was some of the best TV ever. I’ll just remember the story the way I think it was always meant to be.

Bear with me, non-Lost fans, there’s a connection to writing here. It’s the writers of Lost I’m angry with. For those of you who don’t know, Lost was a TV series ostensibly about a group of passengers who survive their plane breaking apart in mid-air and crashing onto a tropical island. (Overlook the fact that no one could have survived that crash, for now.) Ah, but this is no ordinary island they find themselves stranded on. They soon discover their plane was way off course when they crashed so their chances of being found by a rescue mission are slim to none. They also discover there are mysterious Others living on this island as well as a murderous Smoke Monster,  there used to be a scientific group called the Dharma Initiative running things, and the island has healing powers. Eventually, they discover other island oddities such as: a man who never ages, the ruins of an ancient four-toed statue, and time shifting. No, no, Lost Isle is definitely NOT an ordinary island.

The writers introduce the survivors’ backstory in what they called FlashBackwards. All well and good. We learn who these people were, though, as the main character points out, their pasts no longer matter; they get to have a fresh start on the island. So for five seasons we get to know some great characters. We watch them struggle with themselves and others. Relationships are formed. Relationships are broken, sometimes by death, sometimes by mistrust, always by the machinations of the island. What we don’t get are many answers to what is really going on with these survivors.

During the later seasons, the writers introduce another device called FlashForwards. In these, we see some of the castaways back in the real world. Some of them have better lives than we saw in the FlashBackwards, some not. Are these true glimpses into the future? We think so because when six of the castaways are actually rescued, we see them living these lives. Unfortunately, the island calls them back … and they go.

Now we come to the sixth, and final, season and this time we start getting answers to the mysteries. Not to all of them, of course, not even to all the ones introduced in this last season. But the writers purport to give us an answer to the biggest mystery of all—What is this island? Hmmm … when all the Smoke and Mirrors clear, do we really know the answer to that? No! We are told it’s not what we all suspected from the beginning. The island is not purgatory—the writers have vehemently denied that since the first season. Ah, but the new device—the FlashSideways—are purgatory!


That’s where you LOST me guys. That’s where the writers’ arrogance jumped the shark. No. No. No. I’ll set aside my pet theory that Jack was the only survivor of that crash, and then only briefly. But you cannot tell us that what happened to these survivors on that island was anything other than a stay in purgatory. That was where they examined the lives they’d led. That was where they discovered their true selves. That was where they prepared to let go and move on. If the island wasn’t purgatory, what was it? It certainly wasn’t reality.

Like magicians, the writers tried to misdirect our attention to the FlashSideways because they did not want to admit they underestimated the viewers who saw the island as purgatory right from the start. In writing analogy, they put the gun on the mantel in scene one, then tried to pretend they didn’t. Shame on them.

Okay, all you Lost fans more brilliant than I, explain why I’m wrong … but do it nicely because I have a delete button and I’m not afraid to push it.

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23 thoughts on “Explain it to me then!”

  1. Finally got to the Finale – several times in fact as my Sky Box cut out minutes before the end of recording, then my internet connection went off twice as I caught up on Demand, and a dog-cacophony meant I needed to re-run another section so as not to lose the mood. As a result, I feel I’ve done a short, examinable course for which grades will be given!
    Let me say now, I was ready to be disappointed. Battle Star Galactica delivered angels for viper pilots and that hacked me off no end so I was gearing up for major annoyance. The final scenes came close. Churches and bright lights and lots of smiley, huggy people who haven’t aged are bad cliches for mediating endings. However, the notion of purgatory never crossed my mind but Golding’s 1956 ‘Pincher Martin’ did. I read it at school and was gripped by the surreal image of a man trying to hold onto reality while his consciousness slipped away. In his deteriorating state, he ‘constructs’ an island onto which he has been washed following the sinking of his ship. He populates it with increasingly convincing elements such as vegetation and, I think, various fauna. But as time passes, seconds in real time, he begins to question some of these elements and their behaviour, gradually realising that the only things present are constructs he has been able to imagine. As his consciousness begins to fade (he is drowning), the island slowly unravels and the truth dawns.
    No need in Golding’s work for a theistic explanation and, astonishingly, considerable contemporary evidence for the way in which an oxygen deprived brain works to pin down and reify its fading experience. Evidence Golding would not have known about but which has been demonstrated and described in all manner of reports concerning ‘out of body’ experiences and functioning MRI material.
    So, for me this was a tale of brain death which, give or take a bit of artistic license in the collective unconscious department and a nod to religious closure, I found mostly satisfying.
    I’d like to think the writers had this planned out from the start because they are going to be in so much doo-doo if it becomes a core tract for media studies analysis as every nuance and throwaway line will be analysed till it chokes.
    Upshot? I’m happier than I thought I would be and that’s a result!


    1. I’ve never read that book, Suzanne, but that’s exactly what I thought the whole story was: the construct of a dying man (Jack) but the creator and writers say NO. My next best scenario was that it was a sort of collective account of a group of those who died in the crash as they worked their way through purgatory. Again, the PTB say NO … only the sideways bits in the last season were purgatory.

      So, are you happy with the ending because you choose to ignore what THEY say it all meant, or because you would not have been happy if it had all been in Jack’s dying brain?


  2. Hm. I reckon the writers had no idea then and they just got lucky with a post hoc explanation! I’m happy with my explanation, it works, up to a point, and it has validity while theirs draws on quasi religious wrapping which is, in my view, a cop out. We have to be grateful Jack didn’t just come out of the shower though, towelling down his tousled locks and musing about his extraordinary dream. I’d have invested in a (currently scarce) British Airways flight just to come over and kick authorial ass!


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