The Definitive Guide to WTF Just Happened on ‘Lost’

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for last night’s series finale of Lost. It is intended only for readers who watched the episode. Seriously, if you continue reading on for another paragraph, it will all be ruined for you. We wash our hands of this.

Face it: LOST is over. And whether your eyes are puffy from a night of post-reunion crying or simply one to many Dharma beers, chances are you’re now searching for the meaning behind those last two-and-a-half hours — or at least confirmation that you’re not crazy in your interpretation of them.

So whether you loved it or hated it, here’s your Definitive Guide to WTF Just Happened on LOST.

Who’s dead now?

Everyone and yet only the people you saw die during the course of the series. Let me explain.

When Jack meets his father, Christian, in the last few moments of the finale, he suffers the revelation that they both are now dead. But as Christian explains to him, they’re not the only ones dead in the church, with everyone currently awaiting him in the pews having undergone their own deaths either before or long after Jack. The Sideways World has no time (As Christian said, “There is no now here”), and thus everyone, regardless of when they died is there to meet with each other even though for people who died long ago, like Jack, it might seem like just seconds have passed between his death and him taking his seat on the non-doomed Sideways Oceanic Flight 815.

Supporting Evidence: When Juliet and Sawyer meet in Sideways World, their exchange matches the one-sided conversation that Juliet had with Sawyer while she died in his arms on the Island. This could be interpreted as Juliet experiencing everything in the Sideways World in the few moments before her death. (See: British TV series Life on Mars for more on that perspective.)

More Evidence: Hurley and Ben’s convo outside the church in which they compliment each other on being the best “Number Two” and “Number One” respectively. Since the last the audience saw of the two they were committing themselves to protecting the Island with Hurley in the top spot and Ben as his assistant, this exchange supports the idea that the pair had long Island lives before they eventually died and entered the Sideways World.

So everything that happened on the Island was real?

Yep. Christian pointedly says to Jack, “Everything that’s ever happened to you is real.” The Sideways World is the existence that never happened for them on Earth. So enough of the whole “Hur hur, we were right; the Island is purgatory! Stupid creators” because the Island was real.

What is the Sideways World?

Some people are calling it purgatory, but you could also call the Sideways World a way station as it stands somewhere between life and whatever afterlife the Losties are heading to after they’ve found each other. But instead of just being a place to chill out and listen to Drive Shaft’s greatest hits, the Sideways World is where the characters can work out their remaining issues (if they have any) while they experience the necessary Island-parallels to jumpstart their memory of their lives together and let go of any remaining guilt or complexes.

Unfortunately, for the guiltiest consciences amongst them, the Sideways World becomes a place where they encounter pain and humiliation. Sayid and Ben, both men with way too much blood on their hands, have less than idyllic lives in the Sideways World. While Sayid is tortured by his “true love” Nadia’s marriage to his idiot brother, Ben, former Napoleonic leader of the Others, regularly swallows his pride to help the one person that does mean something to him, Alex.

If everyone’s dead, then why are Aaron and Ji Yeon still, respectively, a baby and in utero?

As Christian explains, the time on the Island was, for the characters in the Church, the most important time of their lives and a shared experience amongst them. From the perspective of the viewer, and likely the characters, the Sideways World begins with their turbulent moment on Oceanic 815 because that was the first moment the majority of them shared on what became a crazy journey. The rest of the Sideways World revolves around the characters overcoming their issues and reaching an epiphany with their Island loved ones. For Charlie and Claire, even though she likely lived for many more years after getting off the Island and raised Aaron to be a rock demigod, the moment they shared that meant everything to them was becoming a family unit with the birth of her child.

As for Sun and Jin, their shared experience was the miracle of the conception of their child, Ji Yeon, especially as Jin never actually got to meet her. We don’t need to see Ji Yeon in the church because her life was not as defined by the Island.

But if the Sideways World was where the Losties met up and moved on, where were Ana Lucia, Michael, Walt, Ben, Mr. Eko, Rousseau, etc.?

This is where it’s important to remember that for the characters in the Church, the Island was the most important time in their lives and they were ready to move on. For someone like Walt or Mr. Eko, the Island may not have been the most important time in their lives and they never quite had the shared experience that the main characters who suffered through six seasons together did. Walt likely had a full and complicated life after the Island, while most of Mr. Eko’s issues are with his home country. As for the likes of Ben, Ana Lucia, and Rousseau, their absence from the church likely has to do with their reluctance and inability to move on. Hurley actually says at one point that Ana Lucia isn’t ready, while Ben turns down Hurley’s invitation to join them in the church, as he still seems wracked by guilt for his Island past. Meanwhile, someone like Rousseau or Alex may still be sorting out things and making up for lost time by pursuing the mother-daughter relationship they never got to have in life.

Why did they meet up in a church? Christian agenda much?

LOST has never gone easy on the religious metaphors and imagery but for once we have something from them that appears to strive for an inclusive spirituality despite taking place in a church (see: the stained glass window behind Jack that featured symbols from various religions… and the donkey wheel). The only reason why the final moving-on-to-the-afterlife scene took place in a church was because, as Kate told Jack, it was where he was going to have his funeral for his father. And for Jack, the one thing keeping him tied to his life was his guilt over his father and his death. The funeral was where he had to say goodbye and gain the power to move on.

What happens to Jack’s son?

I’m sorry to tell you, but he’s not real. Jack’s son was just a prop and a tool for him to have the father-son relationship he always wanted to share with his own father. Creating a kid for himself in this Sideways World is what enabled him, in part, to move on. As for Juliet, she was the mother as a matter of convenience and a nod to her and Jack’s Island brief would-be Island romance. Note how little interaction she actually has with her “son” as further proof of how he was only important to Jack as a way of overcoming his issues.

So the Island really was a cork on a bottle then?

Yeah, can you believe that? The one time Jacob gives a straight answer.

What are your unanswered questions from last night’s finale?

Better known as the ScarletScribe, Genevieve's an NYU grad with a degree in journalism and a passion for film analysis. She couples her love of weighty, politically oriented East Asian cinema and ethically-challenging sci-fi films with an obscene interest in trashy action flicks, lame martial arts movies, and the complete "Xena: Warrior Princess" DVD series. Always one to go for the cheap pun, Genevieve is on a secret mission to catalog every "Some Like it Hot" and "Groundhog's Day" reference and homage in the world.

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