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. AWESOME elxplanations here. I have a question, though. What exactly happened to Michael and Ben Linus? In Season 6 the only time we see Michael is when his ghost advises Hurley. He tells Hurley he’s stuck on the island for what he did. Why is he not in Limbo? Why does Ben Linus not enter the church in “The End?” I may be answering my own question here. In “The End,” it looks as though everybody in the church is entering Heaven from Limbo. Suggested when Christian opens the door and we see a bright light. Maybe Michael and Linus actually go to Hell. But even still, we do see Linus in the Limbo world, but never see Michael in Limbo?

  2. Some brilliant ideas here, I felt from the very start of Season 6 that the flash sideways were a result of the Jughead detonation – we were shown the detonation twice, with two outcomes, both real, in my opinion but indicating that the Losties are both dead and alive at the same time. I think that was the final mystery Lost explored, the mystery of death and of one consciousness transferance. I’ll be watching this show for a lifetime. Thank you for some great pieces of writing – yours in Lost.

  3. Further to LostFreak408 comments (Below) please see me explanation on this matter following it

    LostFreak408 July 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm
    Fairly reasonable theory, although I thought your take on the ultimate theory of LOST was much better, great even. Something I don’t see here that I’ve always wondered is this: When Ajira 316 returns to the island, WHY do only Jack, Kate and Hugo jump to 1974, when the rest arrive in present time (including Sun, who is/was a candidate) ??? That never made sense to me and I haven’t heard a theory yet that explains it satisfactorily. Anyway, keep up the good work.. a true LOST fan ~~~~
    Written inside the Cliffside cave, many names appear with numbers beside them. They all are crossed out except for the six Candidates, with 4-John Locke, 8-Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, 15-James “Sawyer” Ford, 16- Sayid Jarrah, 23-Jack Shephard, and 42-Kwon, revealing that the numbers represented the candidates the entire time.
    I believe that when Airja 316 transferred Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid back to 1977 it was so all the candidates were together. Yes I agree that Sun wasn’t with the pack but there was only one of the Kwon’s who were a candidate. Take into account that she wasn’t transferrred it would have meant all the candidates were together. MIB crosses Locke off the wall when he enters the cave with Sawyer leaving the 5 candidates – Jack/Kate/Hurley/Sawyer/Jin who were all transferred back to 1977

  4. If that’s the case, how do you explain Juliet? She died in the past, too — so why wasn’t she alive and well in the future, too? It shouldn’t matter how you die, right? Getting blown up by a bomb or falling to the bottom of a well… how do you reconcile the fact that Juliet was transported to the future, but then she died of injuries sustained in the past?

  5. For WSK – just FYI that someone out there enjoys some Chinese TV enough to have subscribed via DirecTV…I watch with my wife regularly…a lot IS lame, but a lot is very good and without all the Hollywood and music industry crap that’s added in these days.

  6. Not bad for a start. I’m not 100% on it, but it sure as hell beats what we were handed via the finale. I know that the producers/directors wanted us to endlessly speculate, but there’s just soooooo much out there that it deserved a lot more airtime rather than a shortened and hastened ending.

    So glad to see people are still interested, still theorizing, and still wanting more…and still people out there producing more for us to read!

  7. To be honest the one major hole is the basic rule of time travel in most fiction. Each person is on a constant line. Jack for instance, was born, became a doctor, crashed on a plane, went back in time and died. That would be a straight shot and there’s no reason for a second soul to exist.

    And if that’s what happened than the child Jack at the time would eventually reach the same fate. I can see how you’re thinking child Jack and Adult Jack equals to souls but aging and time make me think it wouldn’t matter. As a soul can travel just like a body, even through time.

    Unless I missed something in there that mentions what I’m about to say I’d like to purpose another explanation that fits for me that lines up. It might be how you are actually saying it and I’m just not noticing.

    Your Sawyer explanation seems to state that there are two souls if he can be in the same room. But with the existance of time it’s the same soul, like it’s the same person, just aged.

    I think what actually would have happened is that by going back in time and setting off the jughead the solved the issue of going back in time. If Jack goes back. Destroys how he went back. He couldn’t have gone back in time.

    So when they set off the Jughead killing themselves it left them in an odd spot. They were dying in a way they couldn’t die. That would indeed create multiple souls/persons. Because now Jack doesn’t have to do it… but to not create a paradox the time line repairs itself(and the souls are incomplete when trying to move on and thusly are forced to hang around in purgatory dealing with the issues that they were dealing with on the show(I’m seperating show and ALT here))

    It’s the same theory really just a slightly different execution/explanation which goes along with what I was thinking, and a few people asked, after reading.

    It also, going with your ultimate theory, helps explain a few other things. Like why people got trapped on the island and such after dying.

  8. Fairly reasonable theory, although I thought your take on the ultimate theory of LOST was much better, great even. Something I don’t see here that I’ve always wondered is this: When Ajira 316 returns to the island, WHY do only Jack, Kate and Hugo jump to 1974, when the rest arrive in present time (including Sun, who is/was a candidate) ??? That never made sense to me and I haven’t heard a theory yet that explains it satisfactorily. Anyway, keep up the good work.. a true LOST fan ~~~~

  9. “because it’s very likely the most interesting and creative television show ever created”

    i enjoy reading your blog and everything, just sometimes felt a bit upset seeing these kinds of bold statements from westerners. most chinese tv dramas are lame, true, but did you manage to watch any?

    maybe you did watch many. just wondering.

    p.s. i notice the ‘very likely’

  10. Naomi asks…

    Why would they add so much twist to Lost so that only few people can figure things out?

    Twist? I don’t see it as a twist at all. After all…. the was some sort of explanation right?

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog.

  11. Why would they add so much twist to Lost so that only few people can figure things out?

  12. 1. The ALT world, as you seem to refer to it, is the “purgatory.” Think of the first moment of the season 6 premier, LAX. When Jack sort of awakens on the plane before it crashes (or in this case, lands safely). This is the moment that follows for Jack when the camera closes in on his eye in the finale and he dies. The same applies for all the characters, whose deaths we may or may not have seen. The ALT world, Christian Shepard refers to it as the “place they made themselves,” we can assume it is a unique collective experience to the Losties or it is a general world shared by those who have passed, it doesn’t matter so much here. I do find your explanation of Desmond’s time traveling into the afterlife interesting.

    2. I really don’t think the Losties had two bodies in time. It is understandable that when they time traveled from the Ajira flight and the rest of the people on the plain were on the island without them, that they were displaced from that portion of their own timeline and removed to 1977. There is no way otherwise that they could have been in 1977, and there does not seem to be a good explanation to how they ended up back in the present after Jughead’s detonation. In the episode LAX when we first see the island at the bottom of the ocean, we can likely assume that this is in fact an alternate reality. The shot of the stone foot underwater serves no other purpose. This distracts from the question of their appearance in the present day. This notion is disproved I believe by Christian Shepard’s talk with Jack in the finale, which supports my previous theory of the sideways world.

  13. Two issues:

    1. I don’t accept the idea of splitting bodies/souls. When the Losties went back in time… they were living their PRESENT existence… it just happened to be taking place in 1977. There actually were two versions of the Losties in 1977… their 1977 selves (ie Sawyer as a child experiencing his parent’s deaths) and their 2008 selves that were time-traveling. But I just can’t buy into the idea that the present-day version of their bodies remained on the island while while their split version time-traveled to 1977. It’s just not possible… even in crazy Lost world.

    Also…. I don’t understand why you say the FS story had no relevance to the island story we watched for five years…. on the contrary… it was the very culmination of all their past life experiences (both off… but mostly on the island) that brought them all together in the afterlife (I don’t like the P word). Without their experiences together on the island… they would never even have known each other and therefore never come together. But they DID come together… and they DID have these life-changing experiences with each other… and it all mattered… and it made all the difference to them… in life and in death.

    2. If Jughead HAD gone off… it would have not only vaporized the Losties… but also much of the island…. including, possibly the light source. So wouldn’t that have severely affected time in your original time/light theory?

  14. This is great. Thanks so much for this and your ultimate theory!
    Just one thing bothers me:
    “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.”
    Do you mean consciousness, rather than conciseness?
    Sorry to nitpick.

  15. Tom, great comment.

    Understanding what the light is helps us to understand why Desmond could see the ALT. I think you have already read my ULTIMATE theory here.. http://ericknowsitall.com/ultimate-lost-theory/ which I propose that the light is time, this also explains the Desmond “dilemma”, in that when Widmore placed Desmond into the “box” (Episode “Happily Ever After”) Widmore bombarded Desmond with time and therefore Desmond was sent into the future… a future in which Desmond was dead. Yet in that future Desmond (like the others) had no constant so he was LOST in the man-made “purgatory” which I described above, Desmond found a constant when he hooked up with Penny and then he could see that everything was going to be alright as long as he could hook up our losties with some type of constant (Hurley/Libby, Sayid/Shannon, Jack/Locke, etc.). That’s why Desmond’s attitude was so confident… he knew he couldn’t explain to everyone what was going on but he knew that everything was going to work out for them all as soon as they “let go” of their past and were prepared to move on. Once again… this was a time traveling issue.

    Widmore sends Desmond into the future via blasting him with time and then Desmond does what he does best… “push the buttons” so to speak of our losties getting them to see what he wants them to see. Facilitating the outcome that was meant to be.

  16. This is the only version of the purgatory I’ve read that has any satisfaction connected to it. The whole purgatory thing left me wildly unsatisfied and I had rejected it and had instead thought of the altverse as a second timeline created by Jughead (but one where the Losties were alive), and that the white light in the final scene was the island correcting the 2 timelines into one again.

    I guess this could be tied to your theory by saying the ALT was in fact an alternate reality butt hat they were dead in it instead of alive.

    the issue I have with it how would Desmond be able to see into a realm/purgatory where he was dead and that only existed in some sort of virtual reality? That is what always made me feel the alt timeline was never meant to be a place where they were dead.

  17. I love this theory. I hope I live long enough to see a TV series as good as Lost is.

    I’ll bet there is another story out there, that really gets to the heart of free will, without time travel…

  18. Hey Eric! Well you know I love this theory. It helped me out a lot! Now I am excited to keep watching it with my parents and Jenni. I thought of some things about Aaron and Walt that might make sense that I’ll have to ask you about when I see you. Nothing big, just side points.


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