[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!!!]
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").
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?
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?"
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).
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.
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?
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.