Understanding the finale of LOST (sideways reality theory)

LOST-finale-reviewIf you are a fan of the TV show LOST (like I am) my guess is you are still pondering the end of the finale which was a bit “out there”, as if being “out there” is even possible for such a bizarre tv show.

If you have never watched LOST….. STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW! This article will spoil the ending for you. Get season one on Netflix or on Blu-Ray and start watching from the beginning you will be glad you did because it’s very likely the most interesting and creative television show ever created. Spoiler alert complete!

As for the rest of you here we go…

OK, so here is the deal I think I know why some folks have had a very hollow feeling after the finale of LOST, and no it’s not just because the show is over. It’s because of the prevailing notion that the ALT was merely purgatory, the same purgatory that any of us would eventually experience when we die (assuming you believe in purgatory, which I don’t but I digress) which means the end of LOST wasn’t necessarily connected to all the events in the previous seasons of LOST.

Let me explain….
If the ALT or sideways reality was just your run-of-the-mill purgatory then…. we don’t need a mysterious island to get there. We don’t need time travel, we don’t need to be avoiding a smoke-monster, and we don’t need to explode a nuclear bomb in an attempt to “set things right”. Every LOST fan probably agrees the characters in LOST were awesome without the crazy plot points, (such as the hatch, time travel, the “incident”, etc.) but it was those crazy  plot points that made most of us LOST evangelists love the show that much more and that’s why we begged our friends to start watching LOST from the beginning because “LOST is like a 6 year long movie”.
Yet if the purgatory ending wasn’t caused directly by the “incident” then all of the story leading up to it was just window dressing. These things were merely hoops to jump through just to keep us watching, nothing more than props for our characters to interact with. I have a hard time accepting that. Now if you are one of those people who say… “it was just a character show, don’t be concerned with the details” then you can skip my theory and go on being satisfied, I am happy for ya.

But if you are like me want the major plot points to have some sort of connection, some sort of meaning, I offer this explanation… (I hope you like it).

I submit to you that when the “incident” happened (i.e., the detonation of Jughead at the end of season 5) all of our losties and everyone even close to the island were killed. (or at very least… killed in a way, vaporized out of existence)

This is gonna leave a mark.
This is gonna leave a mark.

After all… they detonated a nuclear bomb for goodness sake!

But here is the twist: our characters were killed back in time yet THEY WERE STILL ALIVE in the future.

Dead in the past, yet alive in the future. (that’s cool just thinking about it)

No, no, no… I am not saying that all the things that happened on the island in seasons 1-6 didn’t really happen because everyone was dead. No, they most certainly lived through all of that. We know they lived through that stuff based on what Christian said in the waiting room of the church, everything that happened on the island was REAL (and I am relieved we can know that is the case).

What I am saying is… when they time traveled back to the 70’s they had essentially created two versions of themselves, one in the 70’s, and one that would have to exist in the future because they had already lived up to that point. They had essentially split their souls in two (via time travel). After all, we have direct evidence of this when Sawyer see’s Kate delivering Claire’s baby on the island, we know for sure that there were two Sawyers on the island at that point. And then later Sawyer ends up in the 70’s stuck in Dharmaville and later still he helps Jack detonate Jughead. Two Sawyers: one Sawyer traveling in time, and the  present day Sawyer (apply that same principle to everyone who was effected by the island time traveling).

Now here is the cool part…. when the nuclear bomb blew up and they all died they were instantly transported to the future. Why? Because they were still alive in the future! It was their time traveling version of themselves that was now killed off (or at very least vaporized) . Yet that time traveling version of themselves had a soul and what is that soul going to do in the time between the death of the 1970’s version and the death of their future self???

BAM! A self-created purgatory.

Souls, stuck in time. (at least for awhile)

In other words…. I believe they created the ALT/purgatory by detonating Jughead (the nuclear bomb). Some people say our LOST heroes created the ALT by merely imagining it or by it just being the natural thing that happens when you die regardless of time travel or exploding nuclear bombs. That explanation leaves me feeling that I wasted my time thinking about all the events leading up to the finale. I say… their time traveling soul was stuck in time (so to speak) waiting for the other half of their soul to be released from their physical body before the two halves of the soul could reunite again and finally enter heaven.

Therefore, the incident accomplished two very important things:

1. It absorbed the electromagnetic release that Dharma accidentally tapped into. (this also kept smokie trapped on the island because the island, possibly because even though the Jughead blew up big time it was still better than the island being completely destroyed by the releasing of the electromagnetic energy)

2. It helped all of our losties and everyone else near the island escape from the time loop that was created when they time traveled in the first place. (had they not killed their past self off they would have been stuck in a loop always traveling back in time over and over again).

Dad... isn't it time you stopped calling me "kiddo"?
Dad... isn't it time you stopped calling me "kiddo"?

Yet the side-effect was that now they had a portion of their conciseness (or their soul) stuck back in time with nowhere to go. That soul conciseness needed to do stuff while the person was still alive in real-time hence the events in the ALT. Which is also why some of the things that happened in the ALT were seemingly affected by the events going on on the island. It’s as if their souls were “half-aware” of what was really going on (maybe like being in a cosmic-coma).

As Jack’s dad Christian said in the church…. “This is a place that you’ve all made together so that you could find one another.” I doubt that standard-purgatory is something a normal person could “make” on their own. The universe course corrected itself by making sure the people who were living in the present were still living in the present even if they were vaporized in the past.

When we look at it in this light we can feel better knowing that the ALT wasn’t disjointed from everything that had happened prior to it. It all led up to the end and it was all relevant and important.

  1. Time travel created the time loop (paradox).
  2. Time travel created another version of their physical bodies, souls, and or conciseness.
  3. Jughead killed off their time traveling physical bodies.
  4. The ALT was the result (a side-effect) of their time traveling soul having nowhere to go until it could be reunited with their present die soul at death.

There are a couple of possible holes in this theory.
Not everyone was there at the “incident”. Most notably Locke and Sun. But I write this off to the fact that even though not everyone was there at the “incident” the time travel still caused the paradox (time loop) and their souls still were connected to the ones they loved and knew and therefore the self-created purgatory contained all the souls that were connected via the island and their own lives leading up to that point. (it’s not as perfect as I would like but maybe I can tighten it up in the future)

In conclusion…. traveling back in time and the subsequent “incident” caused a self created “purgatory” type reality where a portion of their souls went to work things out and wait until their future (and real-time) soul was finally separated from their body and they died. The universe course corrected by bringing everyone back to the future after jughead exploded but the side-effect was creating a necessary holding place for these souls i.e., the ALT/purgatory – after all… whatever happened, happened and what’s a soul to do when it can’t move on just yet?

If you like this LOST theory please check out my more complete and comprehensive theory “ABC’s LOST: the ultimate explanation of everything“.

38 thoughts on “Understanding the finale of LOST (sideways reality theory)”

  1. So on the last episode, why doesn’t Ben go into the church? Are you referring to him when you say “not everyone is ready to move on?”

    By the way I love your theories, it did make me feel better about the end, I was confused at first with the ending of the show & unanswered questions, but you filled in the holes well! 😊❤️

  2. There were never two versions or copies of anyone. Older versions of characters went back in time, no duplication. When Sawyer time-jumped to watch the baby being delivered, the other Sawyer somewhere else on the island at the time was his younger self, before he started time skipping. Not a duplicate. Both Sawyers are directly, causally connected to each other, one being the older version, one being the younger version.

    I don’t think the time jumps were random, but were “guided” by the Source for a purpose (or perhaps by Jacob using the power of the source?). Which is to say that the Source is more than just “time”, but more likely something more akin to the Force from Star Wars, where it can be harnessed for both good and evil. It is not just the source of time, but apparently the source of everything — time, space, matter, energy, and ultimately life itself. May the Source be with you, always…

  3. Well thanks to all for the comments. I am the rare soul who never saw the show until 6 weeks ago. Ran through the series and now looking for more. Thanks again Dave

  4. This theory does not work. Too many other people survived. Darma people that is. Also Shepard said people lived long after jack and Hurley told Ben he was a good number two. Richard started getting gray hair after Jacob died so if the plane did make it. He would have died eventually. Would of loved to know what happened to him. I believe the alt was purgatory made by them at all different times. It worked Juliet said because her soul went to purgatory waiting for everyone else. Plus bomb may have not blown up. Just the incident that happened in the 70s that we knew happened snyway and losties just skipped through time again one last time. Faraday did say that a tie change can happen anytime.

  5. When everyone is gathered together for the finale of season 6, if Claire, Kate, the pilot, James, Michael, and miles made it back to the “real world” where are Ji Yeon, Aaron, and Michael at the finale reunion???

  6. I’ve just begun my 5(?) watching of Lost and discovered this article and your ultimate explanation because I like to watch TV & movies while surfing for surrounding and related stuff.

    Now, while I think your ultimate explanation of the series as a whole is really awesome, very well thought out and the past/future dichotomy is an awesome lens to look through at the series, I have to say that this article is just too elaborate.

    It just doesn’t pass Occam’s razor; the purgatory explanation is simple enough without the split soul theory being thrown in there as well.

    But I do have a theories as to why the writers chose to create a “flash-sideways” series; noting to do with the internal narrative & logic of the story but more to do with continuity of storytelling style and about reacting to fan theories.

    The series used the dual timelines, first flashbacks then flash-forwards, to great narrative effect; they were an integral way of reinforcing thematic content of particular episodes, creating the mysteries & occasional answers, as well as providing character development that couldn’t be done in “real time”. To have a final series without some sort of “flash” in the storytelling would have lost an important part of the storytelling; it would have been almost a betrayal of the way the tale was told as the technique had become as important to the story as the characters and mystery.

    But I also think it was an important reaction to fan theories; one of the most common and enduring fan theories was that the island was purgatory and all the characters died in the crash. This was a theory that persisted even after the creative team actively denied it.

    So, in one way, I can’t but help think that the creation of an actual purgatory in the final season was not to placate the fans but more of a great big middle finger to them! A sort of, well, if you REALLY want a purgatory we’ll give you one, along with all the mawkish wish-fulfillment for the characters that would entail.

    It was well done, it fit into the rest of the story, with loads of emotional bang (Juliet & Sawyer remembering each other, anyone?) but, more importantly, just crap enough to show how disappointing it would have been if that was what the island was.

    Just my two cents worth…

  7. Well from my understanding and reading other blogs they didn’t die because of the bomb , all the events after the bomb and leading up to the finale really did happen (ON THE ISLAND ). Yes , they all died but they all died at different times. Jack died on the island we all saw how john, sun and jin died…. shannon and boone, and at some point hurley and ben must have died whether that be hundred years from the day hurley became protector or not, kate, sawyer , claire must of made it off the island & lived their lives and died years later. I remember Christian saying soeo

    In the ALT they created lives for themselves to deal with issues they never could deal with in real life. Jack had daddy issues and created a son and become a better father than his father ever was …. sawyer still looking for the man that ruined his childhood but still wanting to become a better man , Ben finally putting alex first instead of his selfish need to be a leader …Kate dealing with her guilt and is finally captured – Yes she was let go, but it wasn’t because she ran…. and of course being there for Claire.

    Also remember Desmond could see into the future – he told Jack prior to lowering him into the light that what happened there wouldn’t matter, they would all be together again, and all that happened , did happen and it mattered. the exact quote

    “This doesn’t matter. Him destroying the Island, you destroying him. It doesn’t matter.You’re going to lower me into that light, and I’m going to go somewhere else. A place we can be with our loved ones. A place where we never have to think of this dammed place again. And you know the best part Jack, you are in this place. Jack: What happened, happened. All of this matters.”

    A lot of people question why Michael and his son were not there I agree with other fans, Michael soul would always be stuck on the island, which would mean all that happen on the island after the bomb did occur because Hurley faced him.
    His son didn’t spend enough time on the island to have formed the bond and connection the others did (and i am sure for realistic reasons , growing up and all) Echo died on the island and came to peace prior to his death, he accepted his death and moved on long before the others died and moved on., there was no need to hang around purgatory.
    Ana Lucia was present , but they mention she isn’t ready , maybe she still did not deal with whatever issues she needed to deal with in purgatory ( also I am sure the creators of the show didn’t want to spend much time on her character)

    Daniel was there, but remember his mother asked Desmond if he was taking her son away from her, and he said that he would not be taking Daniel with him , clearly her purgatory was being with her son and she was aware that her existence was purgatory but she was not ready to move on nor allow her son to move on … Charles was finally with his family and daughter.

    Reasons I believe the bomb didn’t kill them all and all the events after did occur:

    When Kate remembered her life prior to death she tells jack how much she had missed him -to me this proved that after she finally left the island for the second time she lived her life but always missed him. She couldn’t have missed him having just remembered her life if she hadn’t lived a life at some point without him , she did get off that island and lived a life away from the island and at some point she died, we just don’t know when.

    When hurley and Ben meet Hurley tells Ben he was a great #2, this meant they had to have spend time on that island together long after everyone left or died. We just don’t know for how long orwhen they died, but their acknowledgement of one another and their times being #1 and #2 occurred

    And finally Christians entire conversation with Jack

    Christian explains: I’m real, you’re real. Everything that has ever happened to you is real. All the people in the church, they’re all real too. Jack They’re all dead? Christian: EVERYONE DIES SOMETIME. Some of them before you, some of them long after you. Jack: Why are they here now? Christian: There is no now, here. Jack: Where are we now? Christian: This is a place that you all made together so you could find one another. The most important time of your life was when you were with these people. That’s why you are all here. No one does it alone Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you. Jack: For what? Christian: To remember and to let go. Jack: Kate, she said we were leaving. Christian: Not leaving, no, moving on. Jack: Where are we going. Christian: Lets go find out.

    THERE IS NO NOW, CHRISTIAN CLEARLY STATED ‘ Some of them before you, some of them long after you…..

    yes this leaves the bomb unexplained, i think simple it just time traveled them to the future and there is nothing more to it, but clearly they all didn’t die from the bomb… deaths we never got to witness were Kate, Claire , Hurley , Ben , Sawyer , Penny , Richard ( although i believe he stayed immortal after leaving the island )

    these are my interpretations of things, i loved that this show left it up to the audience to interpret whatever way they wanted too, but i do think there were enough clues there to answer a lot of questions fans had.

    Overall I loved the series, i watched after it ended , obvious to todays date, I wish I was a part of this when the show was airing, really a wonderful creative show

  8. Well from my understanding and reading other blogs they didn’t die because of the bomb , all the events after the bomb and leading up to the finale really did happen (ON THE ISLAND ). Yes , they all died but they all died at different times. Jack died on the island we all saw how john, sun and jin died…. shannon and boone, and at some point hurley and ben must have died whether that be hundred years from the day hurley became protector or not, kate, sawyer , claire must of made it off the island & lived their lives and died years later. I remember Christian saying soeo

    In the ALT they created lives for themselves to deal with issues they never could deal with in real life. Jack had daddy issues and created a son and become a better father than his father ever was …. sawyer still looking for the man that ruined his childhood but still wanting to become a better man , Ben finally putting alex first instead of his selfish need to be a leader …Kate dealing with her guilt and is finally captured – Yes she was let go, but it wasn’t because she ran…. and of course being there for Claire.

    Also remember Desmond could see into the future – he told Jack prior to lowering him into the light that what happened there wouldn’t matter, they would all be together again, and all that happened , did happen and it mattered. the exact quote

    “This doesn’t matter. Him destroying the Island, you destroying him. It doesn’t matter.You’re going to lower me into that light, and I’m going to go somewhere else. A place we can be with our loved ones. A place where we never have to think of this dammed place again. And you know the best part Jack, you are in this place. Jack: What happened, happened. All of this matters.”

    A lot of people question why Michael and his son were not there I agree with other fans, Michael soul would always be stuck on the island, which would mean all that happen on the island after the bomb did occur because Hurley faced him.
    His son didn’t spend enough time on the island to have formed the bond and connection the others did (and i am sure for realistic reasons , growing up and all) Echo died on the island and came to peace prior to his death, he accepted his death and moved on long before the others died and moved on., there was no need to hang around purgatory.
    Ana Lucia was present , but they mention she isn’t ready , maybe she still did not deal with whatever issues she needed to deal with in purgatory ( also I am sure the creators of the show didn’t want to spend much time on her character)

    Daniel was there, but remember his mother asked Desmond if he was taking her son away from her, and he said that he would not be taking Daniel with him , clearly her purgatory was being with her son and she was aware that her existence was purgatory but she was not ready to move on nor allow her son to move on … Charles was finally with his family and daughter.

    Reasons I believe the bomb didn’t kill them all and all the events after did occur:

    When Kate remembered her life prior to death she tells jack how much she had missed him -to me this proved that after she finally left the island for the second time she lived her life but always missed him. She couldn’t have missed him having just remembered her life if she hadn’t lived a life at some point without him , she did get off that island and lived a life away from the island and at some point she died, we just don’t know when.

    When hurley and Ben meet Hurley tells Ben he was a great #2, this meant they had to have spend time on that island together long after everyone left or died. We just don’t know for how long orwhen they died, but their acknowledgement of one another and their times being #1 and #2 occurred

    And finally Christians entire conversation with Jack

    Christian explains: I’m real, you’re real. Everything that has ever happened to you is real. All the people in the church, they’re all real too. Jack They’re all dead? Christian: EVERYONE DIES SOMETIME. Some of them before you, some of them long after you. Jack: Why are they here now? Christian: There is no now, here. Jack: Where are we now? Christian: This is a place that you all made together so you could find one another. The most important time of your life was when you were with these people. That’s why you are all here. No one does it alone Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you. Jack: For what? Christian: To remember and to let go. Jack: Kate, she said we were leaving. Christian: Not leaving, no, moving on. Jack: Where are we going. Christian: Lets go find out.

    THERE IS NO NOW, CHRISTIAN CLEARLY STATED ‘ Some of them before you, some of them long after you…..

    yes this leaves the bomb unexplained, i think simple it just time traveled them to the future and there is nothing more to it, but clearly they all didn’t die from the bomb… deaths we never got to witness were Kate, Claire , Hurley , Ben , Sawyer , Penny , Richard ( although i believe he stayed immortal after leaving the island )

    these are my interpretations of things, i loved that this show left it up to the audience to interpret whatever way they wanted too, but i do think there were enough clues there to answer a lot of questions fans had.

    Overall I loved the series, i watched after it ended , obvious to todays date, I wish I was a part of this when the show was airing, really a wonderful creative show

  9. What about when the bomb went off they were time-jumped one last time right at the same moment that Juliet made it explode, or even all of the debris that was flying down made it explode after they time-jumped. That explains why there was the ALT and then I could believe your soul-splitting theory. The ALT was real, and so was the present when the Losties were around the imploded hatch. The bomb did go off in the 70’s. That is also why Juliet in her dying words said that it had worked. She was talking about the bomb how it reset everything. Anyway that is my interpretation on how it went down

  10. You’ve just opened my eyes. I was seeing the ALT world as a kind of ‘mudroom’ before death, a place, where losties could get ready to actually DIE and let go. But your whole theory…
    Well, I liked the ending anyway, but after reading your article, I can’t find the right words to describe the awesomeness of the show. I love it even more now, now all the puzzles are put perfectly together.

    Another thing… some people say it’s stupid that in ALT world Claire has Aaron – a baby. For me it’s simple. Probably last time Claire saw her baby, Aaron was that small. She gave the birth ON THE ISLAND and then he was that small. So also metaphorically, for her own sake, she remembered him this way and recreated his image that way in the ALT world. Anyway it’s all metaphorical. We shouldnt expect all the characters looking EXACTLY the same way that they looked in the moment they died, right? Remembering that the light on the island is the time… it could give them this honour to make them ‘young’ as they were when they were on the island (I hope it makes sense). 🙂

  11. If they are all dead does that not mean the light is out therefor the world is destroyed? Please someone explain this.

  12. Did any of you stop to think that perhaps the bomb never detonated. We never actually get a definate yes that it did, the episode just ends with Juliet hitting the bomb and there is a large bright light. Perhaps the bright flash that we saw was in fact the electromagnitism that had built up from the swan hatch. Which if his theory on lost is correct and that the light is time and that as a result of not pressing the button the light/time builds up and then time tries to go straight again and fix any problems that had occured. This would effectively throw them all back to the future as they did not belong in the past. Perhaps everything in the area of the blast was thrown in time which would explain why the picture of the hatch destroyed is different from the image of when Desmond originally destroyed it and if people then come back and ask why did we get shown that the island was sunk if the bomb did not go off then I would explain that we are only shown that the island is under water in the ALT, which is infact not reality and we do not even know that the ALT is on the same time line with the real world, think of it like a dream, you fall asleep at night and feel like you have dreamt for several minutes when in reality you have slept for hours. Who is to say that the ALT is not on a different time frame and that what has felt like several minutes to Jack and everyone in the ALT that it has actually been hundreds of year in reality. Now that is the theory that I would think of…

  13. Don’t forget about what Daniel Farraday said. He said that what the characters who were time traveling were experiencing was their “present”. As in everything was happening to them “now” while everything in the Dharma Initiative was in the “past” and “already happened”. Therefore I disagree that there would be two versions of each of the time traveling characters. When Sawyer saw Kate delivering Aaron he was watching his “past”. Everything during that time had already happened to him and even though there were two of him there, one was the past Sawyer and the other was present Sawyer.

    Of course, this still leaves the “how did they not die during a nuclear bomb explosion” question unanswered and doesn’t help with any of the purgatory theories. I’m happy though, the scene where they all meet each other again in the church was beautiful. Especially with Jack and Locke considering that Locke had sabotaged a lot of Jacks plans and that Jack pulled the trigger of a gun held in Lockes face. It holds up the underlying message of letting go of the past.

  14. Also the bomb did not detonate in the way a conventional nuclear weapon does, This is why the Island is still intact post “Incident”.

  15. Even within your first few sentences you have misunderstood events and what they meant…

    “the same purgatory that any of us would eventually experience when we die ”
    Heres the thing, ONLY by saving the Island, were they rewarded with the opportunity to “Move on”, Without the “Light” on the Island there is no umbillical between life and “Afterlife” THIS is precisely why the Island was SOOO important. Not only is the Island imperative to the living,(EM anomalies destroying the rest of the planet, much like the Island) its even more so for the dead. Remember in “Ab Aeterno” when Hurley says “If we don’t stop the man in black…todos nos vamos al infierno. [Subtitle: We all go to hell”?? Well… The only way MIB can leave is if the “Light” is no more.

    The very ending we experienced was foreshadowed in the season 1 pilot episode, They knew the basics of the ending from day one…

    One of LOST’s most important and iconic scenes…

    LOCKE: Backgammon is the oldest game in the world. Archeologists found sets when they excavated the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Five thousand years old. That’s older than Jesus Christ.
    WALT: Did they have dice and stuff?
    LOCKE: [nods] Mhhm. But theirs weren’t made of plastic. Their dice were made of bones.
    WALT: Cool.
    LOCKE: Two players. Two sides. One is light… one is dark. Walt, do you want to know a secret?

    Backgammon originated around 5000 years ago as Locke mentioned, but what he didn’t mention was that the game was played by Egyptian royalty in order to prepare themselves for “The Afterlife”, They believed that by overcoming the obstacles within the game they were cleansing their souls and would be allowed into the great unknown. Indeed in one version of the game(Passing) the actual reward for winning was the afterlife.

    There are many references to the game throughout the series, but it didnt really become obvious until the reveal that the flashsideways was passage into the afterlife.

    In Egyptian mythology the dead played alongside the living, the game itself acted as a means for the dead and the living to make contact with one another, However, the specific purpose of enacting the netherworld passage was to effect union with a constant, the opponent in the senet ritual was understood as an inimical UN_NAMED SPIRITUAL ENTITY who was eventually DESTROYED AT THE END OF THE GAME–denied union with a constant and passage into the afterlife..

  16. Okay this is all good, and correct me if im wrong but this still doesnt explain why Miles, Lydia, Mr. Echo, Frank, Daniel, and Charleot werent in that last church scene or why Ben didnt want to go into the church.

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