Monday, May 24, 2010

The End of Lost

If you have not seen that last episode of Lost yet then I would suggest not reading any farther. You have been warned. The following is my interoperation of the meaning of, not only the last episode, but of the shows meaning overall.

I have heard a lot of different opinions about the finale of Lost in a very short time since it aired last night. Some people are very upset about the lack of explanation's regarding issues that were made to previously appear very, very important to the series. I was aware that not every aspect of the show would be explained, and when I take a step back I am fairly impressed with how much was actually revealed, from who Jacob was to why the character's were all there, to a vague idea of what the smoke monster is. The show does a very good job of humanizing certain elements to the point where many of them can be explained simply by revealing that the character isn't anything unusual at all.

This is exemplified by the exchange between Hurley and Ben at the end of the episode. When Hurley learns that he is Jacob and Jack's replacement, he asks, "What the hell am I supposed to do?"

"You can start by helping Desmond get home."

"But how? People can't leave the island?"

"That's how Jacob ran things, maybe there's another way. A better way."

So the reason that Jacob has a thing about people leaving the island is not explained by some grand truth, it's just the way that he is. He's just a person. It's the way his mother raised him, which we also learn is literally true.

There are still many holes that my theory about the series does not explain, some that I think I could fill in with a little research and many that probably never will (what's with the food drops?) but for the most part I think that I have boiled the island down to a basic supernatural idea.

For lack of a better name, I will call this the Haunted Island Theory

I don't really believe in ghosts, but as a kid I was utterly fascinated by the idea of spirits and hauntings, particularly the various ways that spirits were said to manifest themselves. Some accounts are of seemingly sentient beings who would interact with there experiencer, tell them a story or seem practically human and then vanish without a trace. Others, more commonly, would describe a a spirit that would repeat a particular task over and over again, like walking down a staircase... or cutting down a tree?



While some run in's with the deceased can be explained by the black smoke, Michael pretty clearly explains to Hurley that he and the other whispers are souls that are stuck on the island. Which also help's to explain why Michael is not in the church with the rest of the Losties in the final shots of the series. This also echos a long held legend that ghost's are souls left to roam the earth until they close there unfinished business.

There have also been other types of spirits and manifestations of the dead. The black smoke itself matches the description of many apparitions and, as seen in the episode, the Man In Black's body is obviously no longer living. The black smoke would frequently show people images that appeared to have been from there lives before passing "judgement" on them. Below is a scene of this occurring with Eko.



But when you consider what we have learned about the nature of the show, these visions could actually be what the character perceives as an entire journey into a flash sideways reality. Much like the expression, you're life flashing before your eyes.

One thing that "ghost" lore is fairly consistent with, however, is that hauntings all most always occur in the presence of high electromagnetic activity.

As stated on the website ghosthuntingsecrets.com.

"You asked, 'What evidence is available to prove that a ghost causes or even raises an EMF field?' It has been proven that when a ghost is sighted there is normally a high EMF reading (significant from base/background readings). Whether the EMF is *caused* by the ghost—or whether something else causes the EMF is a subject of debate. "

If we assume that, in the world of Lost, this statement is true, then the island should be teeming with Haunting activity. This starts with the obvious ghostly encounters that we have been discussing, but also would suggest that the location as a whole would have a very thin layer between it and the afterlife which, as we learn in the finale, more like a parallel universe.

In season 2, when the hatch explodes, Desmond is briefly transported through time and space because of a massive release of electromagnetic activity. He does it again in season 6 when he is transported to the flash-sideways timeline (the afterlife) and comes back. As the characters frequently say, Desmond has the "unique ability to withstand high amounts of electromagnetic energy." This could be viewed as the ability to have a near death experience without actually crossing over to the other side. In a similar fashion, we see Ben do the same thing after turning the frozen donkey wheel under the island, which releases yet another large amount of electromagnetic energy and transports him through time and space to a desert in the near future.

If you take the word "Haunted" and define it as a place where this universe, and a parallel one where the deceased may or may not still be existing, then that pretty well sums up the island. Similarly, if you define "Afterlife" as another space and time (parallel universe), similar to this one, where all of your loved ones will be waited when you die, then that pretty much sums up the events of season 6. Even though you are traveling through these different permutations of life together, your loved ones, and your "constant" stays the same.

In the final episode, "The End", Jack asks his father "I don't understand, you died."

"Yes I did."

"Then how are you here right now?"

"How are you here?"

To which Jack suddenly realizes, "I died too."

Of course, this entire conversation takes place in front of a stained glass window adorned with a symbols from six large religions: (from lostpedia.org) the star and crescent of Islam, the Star of David (Judaism), the Aum (widely used as a symbol of Hinduism, but also present in Buddhism and Jainism), the Christian cross, the Dharmacakra (Buddhism) and the Yin/Yang (Taoism). Very subtle.

The point is, is that this idea of the afterlife isn't necessarily magic, to quote Jack's dad "It's all very real", just as real as the life before it and apparently the life that comes after it.

The pieces of this theory can be extrapolated to explain a few of the loose ends of the series, but can't even come close to all of them. Karl pointed out the other day that Walt's power to attracted animals and the others interest in him is also closely related to electromagnetism. Bird's could be thrown out of their flight and barrel into windows, like he caused them to do, if he was somehow exuding large amounts of electromagnetic energy. Possibly, exposure to heavy electromagnetism is what caused difficulties giving birth on the island.

All and all, the conclusion to the series was not at all logically satisfying, but emotionally it was wonderful. It was so great seeing everyone back together, and the poetry of making the final moments of the show the exact opposite of what they were in the pilot was really cool. I also love the *wink wink* moment where it looks like Jack is going to literally "die alone" but then Vincent comes and lays down next to him.



I am sure I will have more thoughts later, but after having one day to let it all sink in, this is where I am at. The ambiguity of the ending reminded me of twin peaks in a lot of ways, with enough lining up to make me believe that producers had planned it the whole time, and enough mystery to let people make up there own answers.

2 comments:

Karl Peterson said...

In total agreement. It wouldn't have been a good ending if they had handed us all the answers on a plate. Remember how cheesy it was when a character would just matter-of-factly state the answer to a long held question? That's what the whole finale would have been like.

The final scene is not a vision of heaven, it is a second chance. The characters from the other reality would have kept on living their (alternate) lives if the minds from the characters on the island hadn't interrupted. But their memories transfered and gave them the perspective that Desmond had. The ability to know about an alternative life and their love and death in it.

Nice review Dan. I knew there was something there that made sense of what was happening.

jimmy jimmy said...

Hearing "'LOST' is filmed before a live studio audience," pretty much gave me all the closure I needed for the series. I thought it was predictable, but the only way for the writers to truly wrap up the show. I was impressed, even if I was sad to see it end.