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LOST Finale Thoughts and Theories

Published May 24, 2010 in Television
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of ABC
LOST Season Three Poster LOST
Back during the first season of LOST I wrote this little tidbit that pointed out that the show was taking place in Purgatory (read it here). I know that it has become a widely discussed theory over the shows past six seasons, but I feel strongly enough that I was one of the first out there to broach the subject. So, now we've seen the LOST Series Finale -- if you haven't, you may want to stop reading -- and I can't help to think that I was partially correct with my assumptions.

Yes, the show's creators tried to claim early on that the island was not Purgatory, but they couldn't resist the temptation to create a new level of Purgatory later on.

LOST Series Finale Theories and Conclusions

The series finale of LOST was definitely created to inspire interpretation, but there are some facts that help one come to some more specific conclusions. To begin, though I still believe the island was first created to be Purgatory (or maybe a level of Purgatory), it looks like the location was now very real to the story. And, yes, the island was also very important in terms of science, religion and other paranormal activity. But, then again, was any of it real?

Debatable. The series finale ends right where it began, with Jack laying down amongst a bamboo forest. Coincidence? Definitely not. Instead of his eye opening, we see his eye closing. Yes, he does die in the finale; in a sense. But, did he ever live on the island? That's just one theory.

Jack was unique from the start, being the only season one "survivor" who didn't hit beach or water; remember he had to come back to the beach through the bamboo forest. It was also leaked early on that Jack would be dead by the second episode. Fact! So, was it script changes, or was Jack dead from the moment the crash happened? This would suggest a slip of tongue by the show's creators that easily got covered up. If that's the case, that would point to a single possibility.

All the passengers on Flight 815 died, and they were consequently placed into a level of Purgatory seen as an island. While it could be debated that it would be impossible to suspect that all the passengers of a single flight could be set for Purgatory, remember that Jacob (and fate) had no problem mettling with people's lives long before boarding Oceanic 815. It could be said that all those on the plane were already selected for Purgatory.

So, Jack died upon landing on the island (during the crash) and he immediately entered Purgatory with the rest of the flight's (dead) manifest.

It sounds good, and there's a lot of facts to support it, but it looks like the creators of the show decided to mix religions in order to keep us on our toes. (take a look at the ingredients below)

(My Finalized Lost Finale Theory)

So, if Purgatory alone is not the simple solution, how do you keep audiences guessing? Combine ideas and faith. Let's see what we can throw together to make LOST sound more er, structured.

Well, we definitely know Catholicism and religion are a big part of the serious. We've heard enough Amens, seen a collection of crosses (and holy men), and even witnessed mentions of dark and light and Heaven and Hell. We were also given the opportunity to assume that Jacob is God and the Man in Black the Devil. But then let's bring in the Dharma Initiative, which suggests Buddhism, and the final stained glass pattern seen in the church during "The End," which suggested all religions had something to play in the series' idea of spirituality. It all fit, but in a very loose way. So, let's look for inspiration.

Let's begin with Purgatory, something believed to exist in Catholicism. We've seen references directly to Catholicism throughout the series (such as the Sacrament), reaffirming that the show definitely has the religion on its mind during certain plot points. What should Purgatory look like? Well, if you've read Dante's "Divine Comedy," you'd know that Purgatorio is represented by an island with a mountain. We have an island, and we have "survivors" who could be dead, but that answer came to quickly and too easily. But, then again, Jacob is sure to point out that the island is a place between hell (evil) and the living world. Sounds a lot like Purgatory, but still way too easy; so mix in the Dharma Initiative.

Where can we take this? Well, Dharma and Buddhism can lead one to the notion of Karma, which suggests that people experience rebirth until they become "enlightened," something that frees one from rebirth and allows that person to literally move on. By mixing in Buddhism, we can then assume that the island could be real in a sense, Purgatory (from the Catholic angle) and another level of existence (Buddhist angle). These people are definitely not enlightened, as their flashbacks show that they all have dirty pasts. The island represents just one level of existence, giving any character a chance to improve upon or redeem their past transgression. When characters redeem themselves, they hence "die" and move onto their next level of existence. So, doing a Buddhist/Catholic mixture, we can say that when each survivor "died" during the series' six-season run, that character was really moving onto the next level of existence; with each level of existence being very similar to the last; almost like an alternate reality. This "side dimension" shown in the sixth season was really Jack's and the other characters' last level of enlightenment, a level that allows all of them to meet up once more; contributing to the fact that these characters were important to one another in achieving enlightenment. At this point they begin to become aware (through flashback) to their multiple levels of existence and therefore become "enlightened"; something that would allow these characters to "move on" through the final church scene. Further proof that the side reality shown in Season Six was the last level of existence was the fact that each character had cleaned up their act. Ben was a happy school teacher, though he did attempt some extortion which backfired, and Jack was now a person who was convinced of fate. Sawyer, who in a previous existence was a conman, was now a detective trying to put conmen in prison. Let's not forget that Kate is now, by her own recollection, "innocent" of the crimes she has been charged with. Did all the characters have perfectly clean slates by this last level of existence? Er, close enough!

I know it's a reach, but any other theory is just as open ended, and at least this mixture of religion does add some sort of closure. The levels of existence can be seen as dimensions by science -- something the show also played with -- and they seem to work perfectly here. Look at it as a timeline. We get to see at least three levels of existence for most of the characters during the series.

Level of Existence: Before the Crash
1. All the primary characters had skeletons in the closet, most more than one and some of them major.

Level of Existence: The Island
2. A chance to redeem past transgressions. Can this level also relate to a stop-off in Purgatory? Possibly. Typically when we witness a character dealing with and redeeming a previous fault, they die soon after. An assumption can be said that they are moving onto the next level of existence.

Final Level of Existence: Side Dimension
3. All the characters are way better off then we remember them from the earlier-season flashbacks. Though some encounter hard times, these were not brought on by themselves. Since each of these characters were important to one another's evolution through Dharma, they are forced to reunite in this last level of existence. True enlightenment occurs and the characters therefore flashback to all of their previous levels of existence; with focus obviously on the most important one -- the island. At this point they are allowed to move on as one whole, as seen in the show's final moments.

Now, some characters might have needed another twenty levels of existence (twenty new tries at life) before they achieved the last level of enlightenment shown in the series finale, while others might have only needed one or two. Hurley and Ben's added involvement on the island after everyone else left could have meant that they achieved enlightenment faster than others. Well, at least Hurley, since Ben had more than enough sins that needed cleaning up. But, do take notice that "love" is a big part of achieving enlightenment, and Ben had found something worth loving (other than the island, of course) in the last level of existence. You may remember his daughter from the island? His relationship with his "daughter" and her mother (you might have spotted the "French lady"), however, was unfinished and the likely reason why he decided not to "move on" just yet. Perhaps he knew he was not yet fully enlightened. Another character that also comes to mind is Ana Lucia. We see her and can quickly assume that she is not in her final level existence, as shown by one, her excepting a bribe to release prisoners, and two, Desmond stating that she was not yet "ready" to Hurley. We can assume that her and Desmond's actions would suggest that Ana has yet to fully redeem her previous sins and transgressions. As a matter of fact, she could be far from cleaning up her act and therefore becoming enlightened.

Again, open theories, but I believe if people look more into the Buddhist side of things they could find more answers. Why Walt and Michael weren't important enough to make the church meeting will however likely remain a mystery.

Anywho. Thanks for a great six (well, four and a half anyway) years LOST!

*I should point out my knowledge of Buddhism is limited (putting it lightly), so my use of terms might be somewhat inaccurate.

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Image property of ABC

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