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. This past week I’ve felt truly out of the loop of popular culture having *never* seen Lost and having only a vague idea what it’s about. But I do love your line: “I have a delete button and I’m not afraid to push it.” 🙂


  2. I don’t understand your criticism. You’re upset because the ‘sideways’ was an actual purgatory, and you think the whole ‘island story’ should have been / really was purgatory?

    Personally, the last episode delivered some good emotional closure…
    But that is all.
    It did leave a lot to be desired.

    First, I would have preferred a big, epic ending to what has really been a big, epic show. I wanted to see the monster unleashed on the world in one of the realities, I wanted to see the island sink, as it was shown underwater at the start of the ‘sideways’ story. These threats were talked about a lot — with no follow through on what they meant, on what could have happened.

    Instead the writers delivered a very small scale, character-centric ending, with the only action a fist-fight.
    Instead of our heroes struggling against monster, we had four characters against one old man [which is what Locke was reduced to in that final struggle.]
    I wanted the ‘sideways’ to be either a new ‘reality’ for the characters, a reward for the sacrifices they made to defeat the monster, a sequel to the main story shown in parallel to that main story…
    I wanted it to be what it was hinted at in a red herring: an alternate universe caused by the bomb. And I wanted that alternate reality to IMPACT the real-time story. Like the happy characters in the alternate universe having to sacrifice that life to defeat the monster in the ‘real’ story. [Jacob even said “they’re coming” as he died, and I can’t think of a better pay off to that line. Instead there was no pay off.]

    Even if the writers wanted the sideways to be ‘purgatory,’ it fell flat as presented because it did not impact the actual story we had been watching for six years. It was a cumbaya after thought.

    At the very least, it could have had some impact on the main story, in a way they hinted at but did not deliver:
    The characters in the main story should have had flashes to this afterlife — and those flashes should have informed, influenced, our out-right caused their final actions the conclusion of the real story.
    But no…

    So overall for me, Lost was really good but also rally disappointing — because it could have been GREAT.


    1. Also:
      My main wish for this season was for the real John Locke to get a real resurrection, not a fake one as part of the monsters con.
      I wanted John Locke to be the important character it was long implied he could be.
      Instead, he really did die as nothing more than a lonely, friendless, failure.
      All the portents, and his strong actions and character growth, were part of the monster’s ploy to convince Ben to kill Jacob.
      John Locke was simply a pawn and nothing more. Unsatisfying.


      1. I agree with that about Locke, Paul.

        You know, the more I think about this, the more I think the show can’t be viewed on the deep level I always thought it could be. I think the real long-con might be that some of us expected far more than we should have. I will always love some of the great characters they created, but maybe we can only just go with the story and not think too much about it. Whatever happened happened. It is what it is.


    2. I admit, I’ll be trying to get my head around all this for a long time, but wasn’t the upshot that there never was any alt-verse? Which of these was real: the island, the flashforwards, the flashsideways? And as I say that, my head starts spinning again.

      I just can’t get past the feeling the ending they gave us showed us that everything that happened previously, or that we thought happened, never did. I can believe the island weirdness, only if you tell me it was purgatory. Essentially, I watched the whole series from that perspective. And I don’t believe that was the wrong perspective. I buy that the show was always a spiritual journey, so I have no problem with them going “into the light” at the end. Just show me they came to that light through their actions on the island.


      1. The way I see it — and this comes also from reading LOTS of commentary on it all, and listening to many, many hours of interviews and podcast from the the two main writers:

        The island story is real; the flash forward is just part of that.
        The ‘sideways’ was revealed to be, not a parallel reality as implied, but the afterlife of the characters.

        So, for example:
        Jack was in the first plane crash in 2004.
        He was on the island for about a month, during which time we also got flashbacks to his past.
        He and the other six got off the island.
        The ‘flash forward’ was just to three years later, showing how unhappy Jack was back in LA.
        Jack [and the rest] returned to the island in 2007.
        Butt ended up immediately in 1970…
        He was in the 70s for about a month, his time.
        He returned to 2007 on the island…
        And died a few days later.
        And was in purgatory for however long of unmeasurable time/ no time at all, long enough for him to resolve his daddy issues, and then he went into the light.

        So, in the story, only the final ‘sideways’ purgatory was not real… Except that it was a real experience for the characters, just not meant to be part of ‘reality’ as the Island is.

        [If you are saying you can’t buy a story with a magic island and a monster unless that whole story is really set in purgatory — well, that’s a whole ‘nother argument. I don’t agree with that at all.]


        1. I do not believe the flashforwards were real. I don’t believe any of them ever left the island. (Even if I set aside my theory that all of the island experiences happened in Jack’s mind as he lay dying.)

          I can believe in a magic island, but not if you tell me that in actuality the island world had nothing to do with anything! That the REAL story was only about the spiritual journey of these crash survivors who just happened to be stranded on a magic island, for no reason.


          1. What do you mean that you do not believe the flashforwards were real, and no one ever left the island? The writers have been very clear about what that part of the story was. The telling of it was non-linear because Lindlehoff personally just likes non-linear — but he is adamant about what ‘happened’ in the story.
            And the island had plenty to do with the real story –as, in a nutshell, the real story was the current [of many before and after] protector of the island, drafting in our characters — to deal with the monster he created.

            The story’s main conceit is that the island always has been and always will be an important magical place that needs a protector for some reason… yes, a lot of that is unexplained.

            A cool take on the importance of the afterlife to the story is here:


            …purportedly from someone who worked on the show but was not a main writer.

            A lot of other interesting debate on it is here:



          2. Sorry, for dropping out this afternoon. The pollen this year keeps felling me with the worst headaches I’ve ever had.

            Okay, that last link has almost pacified me. Almost.

            I don’t disagree with anyone who loved the finale. I don’t really disagree with you. I think we all just watched our own version of Lost.

            I only hear bits of what Lindelof and Cuse say … usually by accident. I don’t really want a writer telling me what they wrote, or intended to, I want them to write it. Show don’t tell, you know? And if they leave it up for interpretation, they don’t get to mock me if I don’t interpret it the way they wanted me to.


          3. I can empathize with the allergies.
            But with your last point?
            Nope, nope, nope.
            If I said, “Linda, Brevity was kinda ambiguous — I’m gonna go with it was all in the mind of the first wife’s dead husband — he just imagined everything.” — would you say “Well, that is a perfectly legitimate interpretation.” ?
            Nope, nope, nope…

            However, I think you will like this article on the finale and people’s reaction to it – I just read it, and liked it a lot:


          4. That looks like a really good article, Paul, but I’ll have to read it when my headache is completely gone.

            What I meant by watching our own version, was that we came to it from different angles. I always viewed at it as a mystical story. I knew it would end with them going into the light. I read this morning that the show’s creator started with the pilot and the last church scene, so in that sense he did know the end from the beginning … and essentially, so did I. I looked for spiritual metaphor in the “magical” stuff. I think you looked at the show in a different way, and I think our particular points of dissatisfaction with Lost differ because of that.


  3. Sounds like a rather confusing show to me. :/ But I can understand why you would be upset. It sounds as though the show’s end (and much of the information in it) was ambigious, maybe too much so. I’m a fan of having open ends, but sometimes I feel that writers go out of their way to leave things too open – this happened to me recently when I was watching a show based around a couple, and it ended without telling you whether or not they got together. It was very frustrating.


    1. Yes, Chibi, much of it was up for interpretation, and in the way I interpreted it, the finale failed. That’s not to say I didn’t have a blast trying to figure out the show during all the seasons.


  4. Just from reading the comments, it sounds like a mess. This may be one more reason to be glad I don’t watch t.v. 😉

    So sorry you’re disappointed by the ending, Linda. It seems to have been something you were rather passionate about, and to have it come to an end at all must be a little sad. But the fact that it was an anticlimactic and badly written ending must be just doubling the bad feelings. 😦


    1. You know, Meredith, I don’t really look at it as a mess. This summer, I will probably start at season one and watch the whole thing again. I’ll just mentally rewrite it to suit me. I do that with books that don’t go the way I want them to, so why not TV series? 🙂


  5. So, I will make a better comment after I’ve re-read y’all’s discussion with a closer eye – so far, I’ve only had time to skim, much to my avid-Lost-fan-dismay.

    For now, I’ll say this: despite an underlying feeling that some things didn’t pay off quite as well as I hoped they would, and despite my own expectations for some huge mythologically-focused ending, I really and truly loved the finale. Yes, it left some stuff to be desired, but I thought it did other things pretty well. A friend of mine has said all along that the writers would never address every question, because they’ve probably already answered them if you look close enough. I think he’ll prove to be more right than wrong about that, though I’m not sure every question has an answer.

    As far as the Purgatory thing went, I was opposite from you, Linda, though I feel similar dissatisfaction with it. While you hoped it would explain Island world, I hoped it wouldn’t be included at all, haha.

    From skimming Paul’s thoughts (I’ll go back and read closer – hopefully this afternoon or evening), I found myself nodding along with some of the weaknesses he pointed out.

    Okay. That’s all for now! 🙂 I’m sorry the finale wasn’t everything we all expected it to be, but I’m glad it didn’t ruin the entire series for you, Linda! 🙂 I don’t think it’s a mess, either, for the record.


    1. Kayla, the Lost finale didn’t ruin ANY of the series for me. I’ll still rewatch it and see if the way I always saw it. It’s like The Sopranos. My husband watched it as just a mob show and hated the way it ended, but he still watches the episodes frequently. (I thought it ended the only way it could, by the way, because I always viewed it differently than he did.)

      I’m interested to know what you expected from the ending, and why you didn’t want purgatory to be any part of it. (Email me whenever you find the time to write it out.)


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