LOST Theories - DarkUFO

This does not contain spoilers on anything upcoming, but would contain spoilers if you haven't seen the finale or the last season.

I’m most certainly not the only viewer of the LOST finale to wonder if the alternate timeline was real. Since the show is very much open to interpretation, here’s my take on the alternate timeline and its significance.

I think that if we look at it as “not real,” we as viewers feel cheated and would be cheapening the story. Just like being told that all of LOST was simply a crazy dream, devoting so much time to an unreal plot would weaken the story and waste our time. But what I love about LOST is its ability to create paradox. LOST is rarely an “either/or” type of show, but rather a “both/and.” Is the island powered by magic and faith or electromagnetism and science? To trust the show, we know the answer is both.

I feel like the root of this answer lies heavily in the season 5 finale “The Incident.” The big question in that episode was, “Did they cause the incident, prevent it, or do something entirely different?” Well, I think it’s paradoxically all of the above. They did cause the incident when it was supposed to occur, yet they also did something completely new and propelled everyone back to their proper time period. The alternate timeline is now the fulfillment of the last part of that question.

Christian Shepperd’s words to Jack in the series finale revealed a ton of juicy stuff. He told Jack that everything he had experienced was real, and that everyone in the other room was real. So the alternate timeline is reality, just as the island timeline is reality. What Christian then goes on to say, I’ll admit, sounded really cheesy when I first heard it. “This is a place you all made together to find one another.” It sounded very much like what middle school girls say to each other before going on summer vacation. Again, that is until I thought about the season 5 finale.

To preface this theory, I’d first like to delve a little into some LOST background. One of the unspoken themes of LOST has often been, “Be careful what you wish for.” It’s been planted in the series from the beginning. John Locke wanted a father, and he got one; a lousy one who conned him out of his kidneys and into a wheelchair. Michael wanted a relationship with his son, and after years of waiting, he realized that tangibly having a son didn’t mean having a relationship with him. Kate can finally escape the law with the marshal dead, but she’s now trapped on an island. Sun wanted a new life, but didn’t know that it included hard work and repairing a broken marriage. And…I’m pretty sure you get the idea. Keeping this in mind, the characters supporting the detonation of the hydrogen bomb had certain beliefs in a beneficial outcome. Jack believed it was a chance to start over with Kate. Juliet thought it was an opportunity to prevent losing the one she loved (technically by not having a love at all). The overall hope was to create an existence better than the one they all currently had; one without a plane crash. But remember: be careful what you wish for.

When Christian said that Jack and his friends created the new timeline, I believe it became just a real as the original timeline, and it was because of their faith and the “incident.” It’s not an illusion or a dream world. Nor is it as universal as purgatory. It is a new reality that exists solely based on their actions and decisions on the island. It was also a “mission: accomplished” moment for Juliet. After the bomb goes off and Sawyer discovers that Juliet somehow didn’t instantly die in the explosion, we hear her last words that include phrases like, “It worked,” and going Dutch on some coffee. So as Juliet is fluttering between these two worlds, she can say that the plan worked because she’s beginning to exist almost entirely in a reality where the plane didn’t crash. To Juliet, she very clearly sees that they accomplished their goal as she passes on and begins existing solely in that one, new reality.

However, as we’ve learned from Faraday and our time traveling fun, changing events in the past won’t obliterate what they originally were. And because of this, the alternate timeline can’t obliterate the island timeline. Rather, they are now connected to one another and must exist in contention with one another. Just as Sawyer, Faraday, Juliet and Miles were in the Dharma initiative and not in the Dharma initiative (don’t you love LOST’s both/and nature?). Season 6 gave us some great material to mull over when it comes to this paradox. We have Charlie telling Desmond the parallel time isn’t real, and then we have Desmond telling Jack how the island time doesn’t matter. Charlie and Desmond are both right and wrong because neither reality matters without the other. The fulfillment of the new timeline is hollow without the knowledge and struggle in the island timeline. Similarly, the island timeline is unbearable without the hope of the new timeline. Both timelines are incomplete on their own and part of a longer journey. The destination for this journey is to fulfill everyone’s wishes to the fullest, without the sting of “be careful what you wish for.”

I suppose the best way to look at it is to relate it to Hurley trying to catch flight 815. He encountered a great deal of obstacles and trials to simply reach the airport. And even though he was relieved to arrive at the airport, it was only a checkpoint; not a destination. He had to continue through the challenges of the airport until he was safely seated, but that was still another checkpoint. After reaching these checkpoints, he was finally positioned to leave for his ultimate destination among the people fated to be his friends.

To tie it all in with the timelines, basically everyone is traveling toward their own happily ever after. I believe that dying completely to the island time would be a checkpoint necessary for each character’s journey. Another checkpoint is to live fully in the parallel timeline. The way a character lives fully in parallel time is to gain full knowledge of their existence in both planes and achieve reconciliation with those from the island. And because the parallel timeline has proven to not conform to the laws of natural time, these checkpoints often happen out of sequence. Juliet’s death immediately parallel’s her conversation with Sawyer about the Apollo bar, yet Sawyer’s been in parallel time long enough to land in LAX, sleep with two women, and arrest a third before encountering Juliet, all while still being alive in island time. But once these obstacles are overcome, the last check point is gathering everyone together to travel to a fateful destination (the gathering of specific people for a special trip is a common LOST motif, you know). And you can’t tell me seeing everyone sitting anxiously and excitedly in church pews with one central aisle didn’t look like them sitting on a plane ready for take-off.

The second timeline is imperative to LOST having a positive ending as well as resolution. With so many dear friends dead and even more covered in guilt, the process of “moving on” to mysteriously better place would be impossible from the island timeline. To call the parallel timeline “purgatory” feels insufficient. They aren’t cooling their heels waiting for redemption to come. The show is about new opportunities and chances. Just as the island was a chance for people to change and grow, so is the parallel time. We see tons of characters not waiting around to be redeemed by some outside force, but acting on their own behalf. Ben Linus has abandoned his lust for power, Sawyer is seeking justice with the law instead of against it, Sun puts her faith in Jin while separating from her father, and Jack has reconciled a lot of his daddy issues through David. Purgatory implies there are no more actions to be taken, and that is clearly not the case.

I think the hero’s arc is more fitting. Many religions and myths talk about undergoing death to experience rebirth (a seriously common LOST theme). Rebirth comes to mind much more readily than purgatory. So simply because our heroes are dead in the island time, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dead in the new time. Instead, they’re reborn and equipped to face a newer, brighter future. With the new opportunities presented in the parallel time, combined with the knowledge of their lives on the island, many of our heroes’ dreams can finally be fulfilled.

While others are more than welcome to disagree, I’m comforted in thinking that so many of our favorite characters had a hero’s arc and that it hammers home the motif of life and rebirth. The story continues to support the catchphrase “what happened, happened” by not altering the island timeline, just as the catchphrase “nothing is irreversible” is supported by creating the parallel timeline and undoing death itself. Without both timelines, our heroes would not achieve their truest happy ending, which the creators chose not to show us. Just as they trust us to use our imagination to solve LOST’s mysteries, they trust us to imagine their happily ever after.

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