LOST Theories - DarkUFO

Why I now love the flash sideways by j-dog

Disclaimer: I was going to post a part 2 to an earlier theory, but subsequently realized it was just too much. I'd rather just talk about this particular point because for me it has become one of the more enjoyable aspects of LOST...

If there's one thing I noticed throughout this final season of LOST it's that I was baffled and often impatient with, yet mysteriously intrigued by the flash-sideways, though I could never put my finger on why. However, after they were revealed as flash eternals ("there is no now, here") I began to realize the reason for my intrigue and after some rewatching have come to appreciate this particular storytelling device immensely. Here's why...

Each flash eternal of a Lostie during Season 6 showed what kind of person that Lostie had become as a result of the decisions they made in life, decisions made most notably during their time on the island. Each flash eternal revealed the "anything that happens before that" progress they had made, an amalgamation of their responses to the trials each faced during his or her natural life. After death this evolved self transitioned into the seemingly mundane conditions of a normal everyday life, albeit a false one in limbo.

It was a cool way of showing how each character's evolved self would function in a non-fantastical, non-island context. Rather than being a cop out or weak storytelling, the flash eternals were a comprehensive and rewarding form of character resolution, a satisfying answer to the second half of the dual question "What kind of person were they in the beginning and how have they changed?"

Serving as a kind of epilogue to the personal growth of each Lostie was each one's purgatorial step of "remembering," signifying a final "letting go" by that character. Letting go of what, though? As far as I can tell, it was a letting go of trying to satisfy one or several unmet desires. However in purgatory, as in real life, the Losties could not attain these desires through their own means. And unfortunately, this continuing struggle to satisfy desire often obscured their evolved selves, most notably in the cases of Locke, Sayid, and Charlie. Luckily, this struggle turned out merely to be a gross veneer, stripped away the moment that person decided to finally "let go" of it.

Just to put the whole thing in perspective, the flash backwards showed us each Lostie stuck in an unbreakable loop of self destruction. The island was the "break" each Lostie needed to begin their change into something better. The flash forwards depicted them getting stuck in their destructive loops again. Following these flash forwards they came back to the island, some dying there and others dying much later.

To demonstrate why I think the flash eternals aptly concluded this whole process, apart from the dramatically requisite reunions, here's a quick summary of a few of the Losties' "flash eternal selves" as compared to the "flawed" person we were presented with in Season 1. I also included how letting go of trying to fulfill their desire(s) paradoxically fulfilled that desire(s). Any thoughts on if and how this plays out with the other Losties is welcome - I have some thoughts but am too lazy to write it all out.

JACK: In the flash eternal Jack was definitely not the same man we first encountered in the Pilot episode. He was justifiably upset over the airline's loss of his father's body but this time did not lose his cool. In the flash eternal he apparently believed he "had what it takes" (saying "I got this" before Locke's surgery) and maybe even believed in the possibility of miracles ("nothing is irreversible.") He declined the offer of alcohol from his mom ("good for you" said mom.) and his manic need to fix things was remarkably improved though not yet fully resolved (note his reply to Helen in the assisted living home.) The flash eternal Jack was, without question, the Jack we saw dying in the bamboo and not the obsessive, addicted, and unsure Jack we knew and often disliked throughout the series. In retrospect, it was a huge hint about the true nature of the "flash sideways."

For my money, Jack's greatest desire was always to love and be loved by his father, to hear from his dad "you have what it takes." In the flash eternal he perversely realized this desire through his relationship with David, doing everything in his power to be the opposite of his own abusive, disinterested, and "terrifying" father Christian. He loved David, David loved him... it seemed like a good thing and felt like a good thing, at least within the episode "Lighthouse."

But in order to take the next step, Jack needed to relinquish this fantasy and accept that his relationship with Christian was downright awful, that Jack failed to forgive him when he had the chance, and that there was nothing he could do about it. I think he ultimately finished this letting go when he placed his hand on Christian's coffin. Upon doing so, Jack was ironically able to reconcile with his father. Letting go of the false construct allowed Jack to get the real thing back. And as far as I can tell, this scenario of "letting go and getting it all back" played out in each character's flash eternal story.

KATE: Kate was still on the run but only because she was satisfying a latent desire to punish herself for murdering her stepfather. Yet I really believed her when she claimed her innocence to Sawyer; in the flash eternal she is using running as merely a vehicle for atonement. This constant need to run strikes me as perhaps the biggest reason for all the Kate-hate since it manifested itself as a chronic wishy-washiness throughout the series.

In the flash eternals Kate was running but she was definitely not the same pre-island Kate. How do we know this? This time Kate risked capture and prison in order to help an alone and pregnant Claire. This was in stark contrast to the many lives Kate jeopardized throughout her life in order to escape the law. I'll also add that oddly enough flash eternal Kate did not annoy me; hell, I even liked flash eternal Kate. For me, that's some strong evidence for a changed Kate.

Kate's letting go happened in steps throughout the flash eternals. She went back for Claire, she stayed with Claire at the hospital, she trusted Desmond which allowed for the possibility of capture again, and finally she delivered Claire's baby. In effect, the less she ran the more she "let go." Letting go of her guilt for taking a life was immediately rewarded with Kate bringing a new life into the world in the form of Aaron.

LOCKE: Locke's faith, although intact, was shaky at the point of his death as evinced by his last thought "I don't understand." Therefore in the flash eternal Locke was still shaken and very hesitant to believe in anything. He was also seemingly punishing himself for his father's mental condition by staying in the wheelchair. I think what he was actually punishing himself for being a "sucker" throughout his life; being conned by so many people including his dad, the undercover policeman, the man in black, etc. This is what he needed to let go of.

I think the fact that we see so little improvement and perhaps even some regression in flash eternal Locke as compared to island Locke is due to the fact that from the very beginning Locke was always ready to believe and let go. It certainly was "never easy" as he told Jack in the hatch, but he did it much faster and more often than the other losties. I believe this is part of what belies his huge appeal among LOST fans. That being said, however, flash eternal Locke did seem more balanced on the empirical side than island Locke, which was a sign of growth I think.

It's debatable for me whether Locke's first step in letting go was his decision to substitute teach (something he could actually do, according to Rose) or when he accepted Jack's offer of surgery. Regardless, his final step was taking the advice of the man who continuously conned and eventually murdered him. Ben Linus suggests he get out of the wheelchair and Locke, finally allowing himself to believe again, does it. By letting go of his fear and choosing to trust again, his faith was paradoxically rewarded. He was then ready to "move on."

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