‘Lost’ Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

Published 4 years ago by , Updated September 22nd, 2014 at 1:35 pm,

lost header Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

[Update: We've added even more Lost explanations!]

If you’ve visited our Lost series finale review and discussion, you know that opinion is sharply divided over how one of the biggest TV shows of the last decade came to a close.

Some people thought the ending couldn’t have been any sweeter, while others are either frustrated or disappointed with how Lost ultimately wrapped.

However, there are those out there who are currently feeling confused about how Lost came to a close and ‘what it all meant.’ So to help these (snicker) lost souls out, we thought we’d at least try and offer some quick explanations of some of the lingering questions. Hopefully it helps and doesn’t just further confuse.

It must be noted that unlike sites like Lostpedia, I haven’t done years and years of research on this. I’m just a moderate Lost fan who happens to have a good mind for literary analysis. So here goes nothing. And in case you haven’t guessed already:

[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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THEY WERE NOT “DEAD THE WHOLE TIME”

I don’t know why people are having trouble understanding this, as it is CLEARLY explained in the final minutes of the finale episode by Christian Shephard (Jack’s dad). The original Oceanic 815 plane crash happened. Everything on the Island through seasons 1-6 happened. The “flash sideways” universe introduced in season 6 was a sort of stop-over point between life and afterlife (referred to here as the “purgatory universe”).

Lost The Last Supper image 3 Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

Each person in this “purgatory universe” created a reality for themselves based on their lingering issues in life – that which they could not “let go” of. For Jack it was Daddy issues; Kate, the guilt of murder; Sawyer, the quest to find “Sawyer” and be a better man; Sayid, the unrequited love of Nadia; Charlie, looking for something “real” in his hollow life of fame, etc…

Everyone was still attached to their Earthly concerns (we’re getting very Buddhist here, bear with me) – but when they made contact with those people they’d met on the Island, they remembered the journey and growth they had experienced because of the Island, and could finally understand the connections and “purpose” brought into their damaged lives by being there. With that greater understanding of themselves, they were each ready to “leave” or “move on” to the next phase of existence – i.e., the true afterlife.

WHAT WAS THAT FINAL IMAGE OF THE CRASHED PLANE?

Some people are convinced the final image during the end credits of the Lost finale was the “clue” to the characters being dead the whole time. OK, let’s think about this: The image appears during the closing credits, after the final appearance of the “LOST” logo. That means that the story had officially ended. Saying that the biggest reveal came while the end credits were rolling is like saying a movie’s climax happens during the end credits. Not bloody likely.

The image of the plane crash (if you look closely) has memorabilia from the Lostie’s time on the beach where they first made camp. Shacks, towels, etc… it was one part nostalgia (remember where it all began?) and also one part commentary on the circular nature of the Island.

Like the Black Rock ship that brought Richard to the Island (“Ab Aeterno“), or the downed plane with the heroin that had Mr. Ecko’s brother’s corpse inside of it (“The 23rd Psalm“), the remains of Oceanic 815 and the evidence of a small community built on the beach are just more monuments of the Island. The next time somebody crashes there, they’ll see that stuff and wonder what the “mystery” behind it is…

Then they’ll whine and complain about how unsatisfying the answer is. (“What? That’s how that mystical guy “Hurley” came to the Island? LAME.”)

WHAT WAS DESMOND’S POWER?

lost desmond hume Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

One of the biggest things people seem to be questioning is how Desmond was able to “wake up” from the purgatory universe and how he had the know-how to “wake up” the other Losties. For that answer, you really just have to look back over the history of Desmond.

Desmond (specifically through his connection to Penny Widmore) is a sort of “constant” in the show. No matter what happens, when, or where, Desmond seems somehow immune to the Island’s energy (which has electromagnetic properties) and has a sort of awareness that can transcend space and time (his consciousness shifts seen in episodes like “The Constant“). These “shifts” and Widmore’s explanation that Desmond is special because of his resistance to the Island’s energies, imply that Desmond would even be able to “shift” his consciousness back and forth between this universe and the purgatory one, catalyzed by Widmore’s team placing him in that huge electromagnetic machine in the season six episode, “Happily Ever After“.

So, it does stand to reason (at least Lost reasoning) that Desmond – after having his consciousness “shifted” to the purgatory reality – would “wake up” after encountering HIS constant, Penny. It’s another fast and loose metaphysical explanation, but one that (for me) still works within the framework of the show.

WHAT’S  THE DEAL WITH THE ISLAND’S “RULES?”

Lost Top 25 Moments Jacob and Man in Black conversation Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

Over the course of the show people have wondered about the mythology of the Island – where it came from, what it is and what are the “rules” that govern it and its mystical protectors? Admittedly, this is an area where the showrunners played things fast and loose, hoping that the momentum of the characters’ story arcs and the whole “good vs. evil” showdown would be enough to appease most fans. Alas, not so.

Season six of Lost did a great deal to semi-explain what the island was – a sort of container for a very important energy that seemingly links this world with worlds beyond… or something. That energy is represented by light and water, and if that light goes out and the water stops flowing, the world is basically screwed. Everything magical or fantastic about the Island stems from this energy, and many of the technological oddities found on the Island (the Swan Station from season 2) are a result of the Dharma Initiative trying to harness and control that energy (i.e., man trying to bend magic and mysticism to the will of modern science).

lost dharma initiative stations 570x532 Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

However, there are some things that were definitely left unexplained: Why did the Man In Black become a smoke monster when he was exposed to the light (was it a manifestation of his corrupted soul)?; What is the nature of the “rules” that governed certain aspects of the Island – who could come and go, who could kill who, who was healed from injury (Locke, Rose), who lived forever (Richard). How were these rules established and maintained?

The Jacob/MIB origin episode, “Across The Sea”, attempted to fill in that aspect of the Island mythology, but what we came away with were a lot of vague pseudo-explanations. The protector of the Island basically makes up the rules and once those rules are established they are set until somebody (a new protector?) changes them. This is the reason why the MIB was obsessed with “finding a loophole” in order to kill Jacob; it’s also why Jack was ultimately able to kill the MIB. Smokey was connected to the energy source, and when Jack had Desmond “turn off” that energy, Smokey lost his powers and was merely flesh and blood again.

lost smoke monster cerberus esau Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

Makes sense…doesn’t it?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE BABY MAMA DRAMA?

One of the earliest sub-plots of the Lost mythos was the notion that pregnant women died on the Island before they could successfully give birth. This was especially important during season one, back when Claire was pregnant with Aaron and got kidnapped and experimented on by Ethan, a memeber of The Others (“Raised by Another” & “Homecoming“). Of course we now know that Ethan was likely working with baby-doctor Juliet to help Claire – that is before Charlie killed Ethan (oops!) – and that Aaron was likely born on the Island without incident because Claire was already far enough along in her pregnancy before coming to the Island (just like Jacob and the Man In Black’s mother).

However, the pregnancy issue popped up again in season 3 when Sun learned that she was pregnant (“The Glass Ballerina” & “D.O.C.” ) and was a the prominent focus of Juliet’s flashback arch (“One of Us“). So whatever happened to the mystery of the baby mama drama?

lost Sun Juliet Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

Simple answer? Story developments made the issue a moot point in later seasons. Aaron was born fine, Sun eventually gave birth OFF the Island and Juliet died, even after she had no more pregnant patients to tend to. So really, when you think about it, there was no more of this story left to tell.

But does that excuse the fact that we never found out why pregnant women were dying on the Island? It might be bugging you, but I’m chalking this one up to being another random “rule of the Island.” Or maybe electromagnetic mystical lights just aren’t good for fetuses. Either way.

WHAT WAS WITH THE STATUE?

lost the statue Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions

This is one Lost mystery I don’t really need answered. Who built the statue, why they built it and what did represent are all things you can probably find out with some historical research on ancient cultures. People who have done the research claim the statue represents a goddess or fertility or something along those lines, linking the broken statue with the Island’s baby mama drama. Personally, I can neither confirm or deny the historical relevance of the statue -  if you’re curious, you should do the research.

As for the relevance of the statue to the Lost mythos: to me was evidence that the Island had been around for a long, long, time, and that people had been coming to it throughout history. So basically, it was a way to let viewers know, “This place plays a pivotal role in mankind’s existence.

I’m not trying to look much deeper than that.

Continue to Lost contradictions and missing characters…

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4,585 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. Jan, thank you. I will definitely get that book, “Zen Physics. I will read it when I’m ready (now, if I can absorb). I’m sorry that you lost your sister. That’s harder than losing a parent, because it’s natural to lose a parent, and tragic when we lose a young person we love.

    • Thanks Jamie. It wasn’t harder though…it was about as hard. I’m 57 years old and my sister was almost 80. My mother died 15 years ago and my father died when I was 20…so I’ve lost quite a few. I had a middle sister who died fairly young…I think she was 60. I was very much younger than the others. :-) I hope you get to feeling better soon.

  2. I just finished the series. I have a couple questions, of course. Did Jack actually have a son with Juliette? And what happened with Aaron? Why wasn’t Michael & his son in the church scene in the end?

  3. Hi Jan,
    I am also curious to know, why were michael and his sone not in church scene.
    And why was Hugo there, when he was playing the role of jacob?

  4. I just have a couple questions. Why did Daniel Faridays mother try to so Desmond from coming to the concert? Why didn’t Ben come in to the church? Why wasn’t Ana Lucia at the church?

  5. In answer to Laura: Ben did not go in the church because he had things to work out still. The person who placed Ana Lucia (in real life) was drinking and not in the show any more.

    • Didn’t they make her character a revenge killer cop near the end…when she and Hurley’s girlfriend got caught DWI in Hawaii? So it really had to do less with her show character than her real character. So she couldn’t go to heaven.

  6. Well the ana lucia explanation is not correct because she was in an episode, maybe one or two before the finale. She was the driver of the van that was carrying desmond, sayid and kate from jail. Hurley paid her to let them go. The only explanation we got was this: Desmond asked why ana lucia wasn’t coming and hurley said “she’s not ready.” so I guess we have to assume, she wasn’t in the church for the same reason as Ben, because she had things to work out still.

    • Excellent answer Jenna.

      I am going to repost the link to an article by an `uncredited writer on Lost. It so helped answer the questions I had. Funny how a tv show can really make an impression on you. That’s what Lost did to me. Now I watch the reruns, and say `OH! Now I get it!’

      http://lostendingexplained.com/lost-the-end-explained/

  7. Very good answer Jenna.

    I am goinf to post htis link again to help people with questions. It is from an uncredited writer for the show. Really helps us make sense of a wonderful, ground-breaking, show. I watch the reruns, and his insight makes me say `Now I get it!’

    http://lostendingexplained.com/lost-the-end-explained/

  8. I think Jacob and Smokey story looks like the bible story of Abel and Caen , the two brothers made a gift to God one was accepted, and the other one wasn’t, so Caein killed his brother and made the first crime of humanity. To me it’s seems like Smokey is Caen, Abel is Jacob, good/ Evil.
    Each caracter is here on the island to be tested. Charlie was always divised between his faith and the material world (symbolised by drugs), he realizes that he had been tested by the Island. I thin God rules the Islnd but it’s not explicitly said. Jacob is a sort of protector, or angel his work is to protect the island and choose the people on earth who were about to died on the plane.

    Now the most interesting character is LOCKE. He is not a true believer, even if it’s lie so. At many time, he refuses to believe for exemple when Charlie stole Aron and came to Locke to ask help, he told locke he was tested by the island, and Locke didn’t take him seriously even if he always says that the island is a test. He is the kind of person who speas a lot about faith, destiny… but when the time comes to truly believe he doesn’t. I think that’s why he get such a terrible ending, he became Smokey because he wasn’t able to truly believe, maybe because of all the deception he had on his life, with his mother, father stuff, accident stuff, love stuff, he is the person who had the wort life among the others and he tried so hard to find a sens to his life but never truly could, to me it’s the sadest story because almost everyone could achieve peace of minde exept Locke.

    • Locke became smokey bc smokey new how much potential he had in getting smokey off the island- simple as that- the island did test Charlie and Charlie failed , Locke new that intuitively and said what needed to be said. Most people didn’t like the ending but I thought it was magnificent – especially when Christian said the friendship you made were real they needed you as much as you need them- if people understood that in their everyday life life would be more rewarding

  9. Hey,
    I have a question, at the end, at the last epizode, then they were all in the Curch, they were all ready to ‘leave’ ‘move on’ did that mean they were ready to die?

  10. My question is simple. If everyone died in their own way and met at the station essentially in the afterlife, then how did James, the azn guy, and a few others who were on the plane that survived the island entirely, how did they end up at the station in the “dead” world when they weren’t even dead! It shows their plane taking off and leaving the island alive. Did they crash and not make it anywhere else? Did their fuel run out or something??

    • That’s what I was wondering too.. ???

    • If yiu had paid attention to what Christian told Jack, you would have heard him tell them they had all died, some before Jack, and some long after Jack had died. Meaning they had lived out their lives after the island and gathered there in the end.

  11. Here is the TRUE ending…

    THERE WASN’T ONE.

    Roll your own. Fill in the blanks yourself. There WAS NO ENDING unless you interpret a huge amount of it in yourself.

    Were they all just dead from the beginning? If you want…

    Did they die on the island? If you want…

    Ask 100 different people and you will get 100 different answers… and 200 more questions.

    What about the HUNDREDS of loose ends in that show that were left open and unresolved? Oh, they “meant to do that”…

    Remember the “Let’s get a VW Van started to give us hope” FILLER episode? What was the point of THAT again? Remember the “two diamond thieves get bit by a spider and buried alive” FILLER episode? What was the point of THAT again? Now Sawyer’s a cop? Really?

    Please don’t mistake GENIUS for SLOPPINESS. The fact is, this show was SLOPPY. Undercooked in many places, overcooked in others and served half-baked and partly burned.

    • Precisely. When the human brain is left to “fill in the blanks’ it creates patterns where there aren’t any, just to make sense of the input.

      • when you start to put time travelling and immortal semi-gods fighting the eternal battle of good vs evil, it really means you had nothing to say to begin with.

    • I agree to some degree. Lost had its moments of genius, but there was a lot of sloppiness AND, although viewers were originally told that there was a pre-written 5-year arc, the writers later revealed that a lot of the writing happened on the fly with changes made to meet: 1) viewer complaints/preferences 2) actor availability 3) actor-added ideas 4) network expectations.

      A lot of viewers thought the island was purgatory or hell since the beginning of the show. We’ll never know if the original intent of the writers was to make it purgatory or hell since they made a ton of changes to the original story. We just have to live with what they gave us — a very good character-driven story wrapped in unanswered or badly explained mysteries.

  12. That helped but Im still a little confused.. Maybe I missed something, but how did they all die?? Kate, Hugo, Sawyer.. ?

    • Come on, guys, what’s so difficult??? They left the island and they went on with their lives. Eventually they died, but it is not necessary to know how and when they died: the show didn’t have to show the actual lives and deaths of everybody!

      • So they Are all drad?

      • So they Are all dead?

        • “So, they are all dead?” – erm… exactly what part of my answer you didn’t get? and what are you actually asking?

          • Yes, they are all dead. And if you’re wondering how, I like the explanation here, although it flies in the face of all that is professed.
            http://neversawtheflick.blogspot.com/2010/05/lost-in-eye-of-beholder.html

            And I disagree that the way they died is not important. After pulling us through the back stories and mundane aspects of the lives of the castaways for 6 years, I think we were owed just a little bit more than, “And then they died.”

  13. You are not really a true fan of this show if you are giving such whack explanations to a lot of these questions. The protector of the island was also capable of bestowing gifts to people (hurley’s ability to see the dead, miles’ ability, walt, desmond) thus explaining why desmond was immune to the islands energy and was the exception to the rules of time travel. The pregnancy subplot was caused by the incident, you can discover the answer to this in the epilogue “The New Man In Charge”.

  14. You are not really a true fan of this show if you are giving such whack explanations to a lot of these questions. The protector of the island was also capable of bestowing gifts to people (hurley’s ability to see the dead, miles’ ability, walt, richard, desmond) thus explaining why desmond was immune to the islands energy and was the exception to the rules of time travel. The pregnancy subplot was caused by the incident, you can discover the answer to this in the epilogue “The New Man In Charge”.

  15. Well the polar bears SEEM to be explained but what about the polar bear charlotte found in the desert??

  16. They turned
    The Wheel that opened
    The Portal to
    The Outside World
    that just so happened to be in
    The Middle of a desert

  17. I just finished watching Lost on Netflix. I didn’t see it when it aired on network TV. Somehow I managed to remain ignorant of the key plot points, for which I am really glad. Lost is one of the better TV shows I’ve seen. (It’s no “The Wire,” but for what it is, they did a great job.) I have many of the same nits to pick with the ending that thousands of others already have mentioned, so I won’t repeat them.

    But I do want to say that overall I feel the show went a little overboard with the religion stuff at the end. I was moved by some of the reunion scenes in the “sideways reality,” but I can’t shake the feeling that the whole purgatory concept undermined some of the show’s strengths as a whole and emphasized its main weakness: That when the show’s writers could not come up with a rational-sounding explanation for something, they used spirituality/mysticism as a sort of literary cop-out.

    If the show’s entire basis had been religion and spirituality, then such explanations would be fair game and perfectly OK. It’s that they clearly tried to come up with plausible pseudo-scientific explanations for some things, but then they resorted to totally irrational explanations — or no explanation — when they could not come up with something better. It certainly did not ruin the show for me. I enjoyed it very much, especially the great characters. But I do see it as a weakness in the writing of Lost.

  18. My biggest issue with Lost, overall, wasn’t the overreaching unanswered questions or the purgatory cop-out for fans (although those were both big issues).

    I had a problem with the uneven storytelling during S4 and S5. The 3-year Oceanic 6 arc started in S4 and was given a lot of air time in S4 and S5. Yet, the experiences of the other time traveling survivors (Sawyer, Jin, Miles, Juliet and Daniel) from 1974-1977 were given very little air time and only in S5.

    Personally, I think more time should have been spent with learning about things like: 1) Why did Juliet stay past 2 weeks? or 2) How did Sawyer become head of security?. 3) What was life really like for them before Jack, Kate and Hurley arrived?

    I think a lot of people who spent years gleaning bits and pieces about the Dharma Initiative (or playing the online and other viewer Dharma games) found themselves disappointed because there was so little investment made to covering the experiences of the time travelers after watching them travel.

    Instead, there was a ton of time spent on the mainland dealing with Hugo’s craziness, Jack’s addiction and guilt, Kate’s fear, Sayid’s redemption/killing, Sun’s revenge and Ben’s trying to get back… and then later a lot more time devoted to Locke’s trying to get everyone to go back.

    It was a shame that they didn’t spend more time delving into the scientific experiments of the Dharma Initiative or the truce with the hostiles and how Sawyer’s group managed.

    I personally would have preferred that over the sideways world.

    • Interesting perspective.

      • Thank you~

  19. i still don’t get it, why did it has to be so complicated, instead of giving a better more understandable, satisfying ending like without introducing this sideways thing. I really wish it was what started in the first three seasons, something more like danger island, i would love to watch the whole series over and over again, but now, i don’t even wanna look at it.

  20. You said that pregnant women died in the island because its Rules
    so how about Ethan’s birth on the island ?!

    • Pregnant Women die on the island because the incident released electromagnetic radiation into the air which interferes with pregnancy. Ethan was born before the incident.

  21. Was there ever an explanation as to why “bad things followed Walt?” i.e. The bird smashing into the window. His mother’s boyfriend (can’t remember his name) didn’t want to be around him anymore because of it, seemed to be afraid of him. Did I overlook or miss the explanation? Or is it one of those things in the show we were supposed to just forget about?

    • Jacob had a gift he could bring things to the island using his mind, setting on the beach staring out at the Blackrock ship brother ask how did they get here Jacob said I brought them here, his timing was calculated to where the storm would carry the ship inland all part of his plan, the same with flight 815 Jacob brought them there calculated with desmond not pushing the button that brought the plane down , Walt also has this gift i.e. thinking about the birds and the birds trying to come to him.