Lost, despite its mysteries and labyrinthine plot twists, was revealed at its conclusion as a love story — romantic love, platonic love, the love of parents for their children, even the love of oneself. One of the key conflicts for characters throughout six seasons was between faith and reason; now that conflict has spilled over for us, the viewers. Those of us who wanted emotional fulfillment got what we wanted, while fans who wanted to understand the Dharma Initiative and other more concrete mysteries of the island were disappointed.
After hashing it out with some of my fellow Lost addicts, though, we began to see that some (though not all) of the “mysteries” were not so mysterious after all.
Were they dead all along?
No, writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse left multiple clues that only the “flash-sideways” events that occurred after the bomb went off at the end of Season 5 were unreal. The conversation between Ben and Hurley, Jack’s final view of the Ajira flight leaving the island, and the sneaker caught in the bamboo — clean and white in the pilot, but weathered in the parallel shot of it in the finale — were all clear signs that the events of the island really took place.
What was that statue?
The statue was of Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth, Taweret. Given that children were rarely carried to term on the island, it’s plausible that the statue was built by Egyptian castaways to propitiate a goddess whom they would certainly have believed was angry at them. The importance of the statue — and by extension, of the hieroglyphics, temple ruins, and use of Latin by the Others — to Lost mythology was probably to emphasize to viewers that the island had been there and inhabited for quite a long time.
What happened to Walt being “special?”
Walt was not the only character on Lost who had some kind of supernatural ability, only the first that viewers got to meet. Hurley’s ability to speak to the dead and Miles’s more limited ability to understand how others died were also special, and no deeper explanation was ever given for their powers. Walt, like Hugo and Miles, had a gift (or curse, depending on point of view) that was unrelated to the island and was therefore ultimately not important to the island. It’s useful to remember that what the characters thought wasn’t always right; the Others who kidnapped Walt and believed he was somehow key to understanding deeper mysteries could very well have been wrong.
Where were some important characters not in the finale?
Christian Shephard tells Jack that “The time you spent with these people was the most important period of your life.” We’re left to decide for ourselves whether Eko, Walt, Michael, and others aren’t there simply because the island events were not the most important in their lives or if they’re missing because they weren’t as central to Jack’s life. There’s a brief scene as Mr. Eko dies of him walking off with his long-departed brother, lending greater credence to the theory that each character had their own place of waiting and would meet those most important to them.
What was the “smoke monster?”
Again, the writers leave it to us to decide whether “Smokey” was something dark at the heart of the island that laid in wait for the right person (Jacob’s brother) to come along and give it form or whether it was something already present in the “Man In Black” that needed the heart of the island to activate it. Neither possibility seems like a definitive answer, but then the question becomes: would any definitive answer satisfy all or even most viewers? Apparently not, according to the writers, so they left it open-ended.
Why did the DHARMA Initiative seem so important in early seasons only to go nowhere in later ones?
The DHARMA Initiative sought to use the island’s power to change one or more of the six constants of the Valenzetti Equation, a Lost-created formula that purportedly gave the time at which humanity would be destroyed. DHARMA diminished in importance as the nature of the island, its protector Jacob, and his adversary “Smokey” became more prominent. DHARMA storylines ultimately mattered only so far as they led viewers to a deeper contemplation of the forces at play on the island. They were not so much a red herring laid to lead us away from the true storyline as a few breadcrumbs sprinkled to entice us down the path to Jacob and the island’s heart. While it’s frustrating for viewers who wanted to see more of the compelling DHARMA events, it’s a common trope for writers to use one story to introduce another, and apparently that was the case with DHARMA.
Did the show’s creators really know all along how Lost would end?
While it’s impossible for anyone to say for certain, the consensus of my impromptu round table was, “Not a chance.” In the general sense, they undoubtedly planned for the final scene of the series to be the opposite of its opening scene in the pilot, but various actors have left the show early or been retained long after their planned sequence of episodes were concluded. In the two-hour pre-finale show, we learned that Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus) was originally slated for only three episodes; instead, not only was he kept for the remainder of the series, but also played a major catalyst in multiple storylines. Meanwhile, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko) was intended as a long-term star of the show, but decided to work with the writers for a dramatic early conclusion to his character’s life once the actor realized the show’s time and travel commitments weren’t a good fit for him.
Will there ever be a Lost movie or something that ties up more loose ends?
The creators of Lost have promised to show some deleted scenes on future DVD releases that might be more forthcoming with answers to some of Lost‘s biggest questions, but even hours of exposition probably wouldn’t answer every question for every viewer. The debate between reason and faith that’s spilled over to viewers will undoubtedly continue for some time. Whether that’s enough to persuade Lindelof and Cuse to produce new Lost content is anyone’s guess.
Ultimately, the “men of faith” among us would have been disappointed with a clinical checklist approach to the finale. Understanding DHARMA, knowing the Man in Black’s real name, and finding out why Walt was important to the Others would have left us wringing our hands and saying, “But what was it all for?” The “men of reason” were disappointed to a greater or lesser extent by not getting the answers to the many mysteries Lost placed before us; for them, knowing how it all fit together was at least as important as understanding the purpose.
The one point on which all agreed, though, was that the ride was worth it even if the ultimate destination wasn’t what some of us expected.