With LOST over, all I can do is sit and dwell on the show, watch old episodes hoping to spot foreshadowing missed before, and eagerly await the extra scene to be provided in the Season Six DVD. Of course after the finale of LOST the LOST Haters came out of the woodworks to denounce LOST for the piece of shit show it was. They’ll hit on bad storytelling and an overall decision to fuck the audience over with questions they could never answer. Even though time and time again I’ve explained that LOST was never a show about the island but rather the people on it, people assume that means we have no answers. To the contrary. We know most of the stuff about the island, but that’s not the stuff we care the most about. Regardless, I want to try to help alleviate the confusion in many LOST virgins regarding the show’s conclusion and the show’s biggest questions. *SPOILERS AHEAD*
1. Were they all dead and in Purgatory?
No. The island is NOT Purgatory, Hell, Heaven, Nirvana, Val Halla, or any other plane of the afterlife. The big reason people think the island is Purgatory is because the final season included a Flash Sideways world that revealed everyone in it was dead. Purgatory right? Wrong. As said, the final season included TWO storylines. The first was our storyline on the island that followed the adventures of our island survivors. The second storyline seemed to be a “what if” scenario where Oceanic 815 never crashed on the island. It was a puzzling alternate reality that mirrored that on the island but with key differences like Locke was still together with Helen and Sawyer was a cop. Originally we figured this sideways world was created after “The Incident” (an event in the Season 5 story that doesn’t need to be explained here at the moment), but the series finale revealed the sideways world was in fact an afterlife of sorts where those on the island were gathered together so they could meet one last time and conclude their lives before “moving on”.
Not to get too philosophical, but there was no “time” or “place” in this sideways world. We believed it was an alternate reality, but it wasn’t. It was a world the characters met in before moving onto Heaven, or meandering in this sideways world in some cases. People call that Purgatory. It’s not really since Purgatory was a place to be cleaned of Original Sin and this sideways storyline was more so a place where the survivors could say good-bye to each other and give each other closure, but the idea was that it was some form of afterlife. Fine, call it Purgatory and I won’t argue it.
However this sideways world DOES NOT affect the storyline in any way. The way I explain is that you can cut the Flash Sideways completely out of the story and it does not affect the island storyline in any way. It can’t. It’s the afterlife. I know people want to say everyone on the island is dead, but they aren’t. We found out a lot through six seasons of the show, in particular that leaving the island was possible. Just to prove my point: Walt. Walt was a survivor of the original Oceanic 815 crash. He was a young boy who lived with everyone else on the island, but eventually (the end of Season Two), he leaves the island with his father. After leaving the island he lives a normal life. He goes to school, lives with his grandma, and exists in society. People can leave the island and return. The island is not a state of death. If you die on the island you die just as though you died off the island. Shot on the island? No different from being strangled off the island.
People want to believe the island was Purgatory as was a common theory at the start of the show that the creators shot down, but the existence of the Flash Sideways world leads people to believe they were right all along. They weren’t. The island ISN’T Purgatory. I’ll explain my thoughts on the island later, but we have proof the island exists in the mortal world just like New York City and Seoul do.
2. What was the Black Smoke Monster?
I’ll admit, what it is can’t be answered completely, but I will tell you what we know. The Smoke Monster is actually a person. Said person is known solely as “the Man in Black”, and this Man in Black was a human just like you or me. His mother came to the island pregnant, and she gave birth to two sons, Jacob and the Man in Black before she was murdered. Jacob and MIB were raised by a woman on the island (before you ask, no we never find out who she is, but presumably the island has been habitually bringing people to it since the dawn of time, so she’s just like everyone else). Long story short, MIB discovered the truth about his mother and wanted to escape the island, but his mother destroyed his only method of escape. In his anger, MIB killed his mom, and in revenge Jacob tossed MIB into the “Source” of the island which is a brilliant light that seems to symbolize life. MIB went in, but the Smoke Monster came out. MIB is the Smoke Monster, and since then the Smoke Monster has been trying to leave the island.
The Smoke Monster has actually been attempting to manipulate things behind the scenes. His goal is to convince somebody to kill Jacob (something he can’t do as Protectors can place special rules in effect, and Jacob and MIB not being able to hurt each other is one their Mother placed in effect), and we see him trying to perform this task. He’s also selfish, and malicious, hence constantly killing people he deems unworthy. One other thing to note is that MIB believes all men are inherently cruel and sinners. He believes that if you present a man with an option he will always sin and destroy. It’s a trait he picked up from his mom, but it’s important to note because some of his actions are seen as judging. Mr. Eko for example.
Now when I say I don’t know what the Smoke Monster was I mean I don’t know exactly how he was created, or why he takes the form of black smoke. There are hints to these answers, but not enough to base real speculation on it.
3. What was the Dharma Initiative?
I answer this one solely because Howard Stern made such a stink about it. This is simple. The Dharma Initiative is a group of scientists who came to the island to study its unique properties; in particular its bizarre source of electromagnetism. They set up different stations around the island all for varying reasons. Some were scientific (The Swan, the Orchid), some were related to communication (The Flame, the Looking Glass), and some were used for other purposes (The Pearl for surveillance for example). The Dharma Initiative existed at odds with the Others who were people who lived on the island as a home. They maintained a peaceful co-existence for years, but the Others wanted them removed. They got their opportunity in Benjamin Linus who was the son of a janitor in the Dharma Initiative. Ben hated his father, and was told by the Others that if he helped them kill the DI he could become their leader. Thus Ben helped them use poison gas to kill the DI, and the Others assimilated their stations to use for themselves to protect the island. That’s it. Not too complicated.
4. What’s up with the Numbers?
Ah… 4… 8… 15… 16… 23… 42…
These numbers were pretty important in LOST. They were the numbers that Hurley won the Lottery with, and the same numbers that was on the hatch. In addition they were the same numbers that needed to be entered into the computer every 108 minutes (the sum of the above numbers), and in the final season we learned the numbers then coincided with a survivor (4 – Locke, 8 – Hurley, 15 – Sawyer, 16 – Sayid, 23 –Jack, 42 – Jin). So what were the numbers exactly?
We sorta know we sorta don’t. An extra in the DVD reveals the numbers were core values in the Venzetti Equation which was a formula used to predict the end of the world, and the Dharma Initiative was attempting to change one of the values to put off the end of the world. You can accept that answer if you want, but personally I believe they didn’t mean anything. Sounds like a cop-out I’m sure, but LOST always hinted at a variety of themes, but one in particular was Coincidence VS Fate. Most of the show sided with the latter, but really, what if these numbers really didn’t mean that much? We attached so much meaning to theme, but in the end they’re just numbers. Yeah, Hurley won the lotto with those numbers which then had to be added to the computer, but couldn’t this be coincidence? Or rather it’s a string of fate designed to make you believe there’s something more to it, but in truth there isn’t.
It’s up to you. You can believe they are numbers to an equation that tells the end of humanity, or you can choose to believe whatever you want. I don’t believe they were all that serious, but that’s just me.
5. Polar bears on an island? How?
Ugh. When the Dharma Initiative came to the island one of their tests involved seeing how animals reacted to the island. They brought rabbits, sharks, and even polar bears to the island for this reason. At some point in time the polar bears escaped their cages. Because of this they were wandering the island. Mystery Solved.
6. What is the island?
Ah, the real question. What is the island? Well we never got a definitive answer, but we get enough clues to debate an answer. In my opinion the island was a place people came to so they could be tested. Everyone who came to the island was flawed and needed to change in order to be happy. Sawyer was a man obsessed with revenge. The island gave him a chance to get his revenge and learn to overcome his more sinister side. Sayid was a man who believed he was a bad person. The island gave him a chance to prove that even a torturer and an assassin is not defined by his titles but by rather his actions. For Jack it was letting go. For Locke it was his cowardice. For Charlie his addiction. For Claire her fear of motherhood. For Hurley his fear of bad luck. For Bernard his inability to live life and stop worrying. For Eko it was to come to grips with the sins he made in the past. Everyone had a challenge to overcome, and in my personal opinion the island was a place where people could come to change.
For example let’s look at Jack. Coming to the island he was obsessed with fixing everything. His brash nature led him to make poor decisions and he refused to even consider the idea of “faith”. As time went on he continued to butt heads with John Locke over the idea of there being a higher purpose to this island, but when Jack finally left the island he knew he had made a mistake. He returned to the island to “fix” everything, but only ended up making it worse. He finally came to grips with the fact that you can fix everything, and that somethings are left to faith. In the final season he exhibited acts of pure faith, and our Man of Science became the Man of Faith. The island brought out this change in Jack, and finally he could learn to let go. He died happy.
The castaways all suffered this to degrees. Charlie got a die a hero. Jin learned what it meant to truly love his wife again. Sayid learned that a man is defined by his actions. Again this all comes back to the fact the story is about the characters. What is the island? A place for people to come to so they can be tested. What’s the Smoke Monster? A person. What are the numbers? Something for the people on the island to debate about. Hopefully this answered some people’s questions about the show. Look, I’ll admit the show had its faults, but we learned a lot. Much more than I could post here. Are there stuff we don’t know? Absolutely. I still don’t know why pregnant women die on the island or why the Dharma food drops still occur. Maybe we’ll get answers to those in time. Maybe not. Either way, LOST was still one of the most amazing shows on television. Period.