LOST Places In The Heart: Making sense of LOST now that it is over (SPOILERS!)

In this post I will begin the process of putting into words my reflections about LOST, and will mention and discuss the details of the finale. And so if you have yet to see the finale, and are trying to avoid SPOILERS, then you should probably bookmark this post and come back later.

It is hard to know whether it is a spoiler to say that everyone dies…eventually. Many are saying that the story is more satisfying emotionally than intellectually. I think I’m inclined to agree. But since the story has always been first and foremost about the characters, this is perhaps to be expected. Ultimately the last quarter of an hour of the show will seem more or less satisfying depending on whether one thinks there can be an afterlife or at least that it is possible to transcend death, even if it involves using an atomic bomb and creating a closed time-like curve. But the more important message is perhaps that life – whether temporary or eternal – means little without the relationships and connections we form. But having LOST end in “Places in the Heart” fashion will probably be frustrating to those who wanted the show to end “realistically” even though a magic island is hardly realistic to begin with. The island was a metaphor, the flash sideways universe was a metaphor, and perhaps most importantly finding one’s constant was a metaphor. And once we start to think about LOST in a non-literalistic way, I think we’ll be able to find it moving and inspiring and touching. And perhaps that is the most important message of LOST: to find a way to connect with the emotional and spiritual and non-literal without sacrificing the intellectual and rational in the process. Would it be true to say that in the end Jack brings faith and reason together in his own person – that he brings balance? Or maybe the answer is Hurley’s approach – forget mysticism, forget science, and focus on being kind and helping others.

Returning to the plot and the mysteries, it certainly seems to me that, just as Desmond’s exposure to electromagnetism allowed his consciousness to transcend time and space, Eloise Hawking had a similar experience, perhaps as a result of being close at hand when Jughead exploded. And so when she interacted with Desmond in his “flashback” of his life, I think we caught a glimpse of that. She in particular pushed her son to become a physicist, knowing that it was his destiny to die on the island even before he was born as a result of time travel. She pushed him because she knew he couldn’t be prevented from dying but that in a very real sense he could “make time.”

I liked that all the main characters were wrong to some extent at some point in the series. Perhaps the most interesting example in the finale was when Desmond decided he was wrong about this life not mattering after having caught a glimpse of another one. The finale of the show explores the notion of an afterlife, and that parallel universe was missing something until the characters remembered the connections between them. “Live together, die alone” took on new meaning, or at least needs to be reconsidered in light of the ending. And as was also said on IO9, there was something nice about Jack telling Flocke that John Locke had been right about almost everything.

For a religion professor, there were a lot of striking elements. The interfaith church, for instance, where Christian imagery sits alongside a picture of Krishna and a menorah (among other things and symbols). Pop culture has regularly offered angels and an afterlife with “no religious affiliation.” And given the Hindu components that have been there since season one, I wasn’t too surprised to find a lingam and yoni were the heart of the island. I assume there will be some Freudian exploration of that at some point.

Star Wars allusions abounded (I loved the quip that Jacob is worse than Yoda). I wonder whether the musical echoes were intentional – there is a motif in the score that is reminiscent of the music from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which plays during the battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Did anyone else notice this?

Jimmy Kimmel live “Aloha to LOST” can be watched online, for those of us who couldn’t stay up to watch it. It is worth watching, not least for the “alternate endings.”

What did you think of it? What will you take away from it? Feel free to discuss, reflect, debate, and simply talk about LOST in the comments section.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05173197124226913557 Ben G-M

    I actually did notice the star wars musical element, not only in the fight but even when they are journeying to the heart of the island. Can you offer more explanation on the religious symbols at the heart of the island? I could tell they were symbols but neither I nor the people I was with could pinpoint what those symbols meant. Thanks!Ben G-M

  • Jim

    Problem is you can insert that ending into any show – Weeds, Seinfeld, Scooby Doo. It wasn't an ENDING to the show that I was interested in the first few seasons .. it was just a generic statement that everyone dies at some point and the script writers take on their belief that there is an afterlife.I don't expect them to explain the origin of the plugged magic glowing toilet, but there are so many details that they just brushed away by focusing on the afterlife instead of the rest of the story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Ben, the lingam and yoni are Hindu religious symbols representing the complementary male and female energies of deities. I am not sure how conscious it was on the part of the writers and producers to utilize such imagery – I'd be very interested to find out. But in terms of the themes of balance and complementary forces of light and darkness, male and female, that seemed really appropriate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04581876323110725024 Robert Cornwall

    James,For a number of reasons I've pretty much missed the past 2 seasons, so watching the finale came with a lack of context. I did notice the interfaith stained glass window, and the fact that everyone seemed to be reunited and reconciled in the end.But, I think the ending left us wanting more explanation (but then again I've missed critical parts of the story).So, I appreciate your explanations! Something you don't mention here is that Ben doesn't go in. Do you have a thought on it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Bob, that's a great question. The others had found love on the island. Ben had loved Annie but we don't know what happened with her. I guess he felt like he wasn't ready to move on, that there was a person with whom he had to connect there before doing so. Or perhaps he'd simply never had that connection fully in real life, and so the parallel universe itself had an attraction for him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00261803813954084637 Luke

    I felt the wrap-up of the "flash sideways" line was perfectly acceptable. As a story telling device the original flash backs were great and the flash forwards worked pretty well too. The flash sideways added to Lost that sense of mystery, and I think everyone assumed that they were telling you something about "the current" time line or main story arc. Instead it was used to tell, basically, a different story all together was a good "con". Basically 5 years of setup, like a magician who uses misdirection, to make you think one thing when it's something completely different. I liked it.For the most part I think the characters had good stories, at least smaller story threads had good character stories… I will always like Lost for making character development important.I guess I feel a bit let down for what I view as the main story arc. It was a mystery driven show, and though I don't need resolution to everything I feel like I deserve some resolution to somethings. But maybe that was their whole point all along… Some REALLY crazy crap happens in life which you can't explain "The Mysteries" and you may search for them but overall you'll never find them so what is important is the relationships instead of the mystery. Though I was sad that Mr. Eko never developed even enough of a relationship with the people to even be in their group constructed world where Anna Lucia did (I like Mr. Eko alot and he left more of an impression on me then many of the other characters who made return appearances)?At one point I was hoping that the big drain plug that Desmond pulled would just suck everything down it (did the water turn clockwise or counter-clockwise? :P). I was a bit disappointed that we didn't learn anything about the Island or the nature of "the Rules" or why it even matters to have a protector. For being about characters I was let down by the MiB and Jacob characters, they seemed to have the potential for good stories… but it was too late to really tell much about them. The Smoke Monster itself (separate from the MiB) was made into this great character itself, from the VERY beginning but I can't really say I know much about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Well…I would say the ending was satisfying …but also somewhat frustrating.My cynical side thinks they did a long con on us and turned 6 seasons of Lost into a long drawn out episode of Ghost Whisperer…"Go into the light! Let go of your former life!"I was left asking:Was everything we watched an illusion? Did everyone die in the plane crash? Was the island purgatory, making RIchard Alpert almost right?Was the ending in the church only Jack's ending, or a moment after everyone "eventually" died and met up, having "awakened" to the light?If the island wasn't a place created in the minds of all of them and it was "real", then were Jacob and MIB "real"? Was the plane crash scene at the end the original 815, or Lapitis and the others crashing down? While I didn't hate the ending, I just thought that it was so vague that it's hard to know exactly what we are supposed to take away from it.If nothing was ever "real"…..then I am disappointed because it wouldn't be any different than saying that everything that happened was part of a dream, or Hurley's insanity-induced hallucination…..and that seems a little like a cop-out to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00261803813954084637 Luke

    The others had found love on the island.If the after life (coming to grips with your death) involves finding that true love the reminds you of your previous life I'm a bit dismayed at some of triggers (i.e. the true loves). Sun and Jin appeared to have that true love but their trigger was their baby? I'm a bit at a loss for what Locke's trigger was. Boone's was never touched upon (I don't think). Sayid — Shannon vs. Nadia??

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00261803813954084637 Luke

    Was everything we watched an illusion?Well, assuming that Christian Shephard stated the truth (or at least the way I took what he said) then everything that took place, that wasn't the flash sideways afterlife scenes, really took place or happened. It's just that we don't get any answers to them. Let's call everything sans-sideways The Mystery, it seems to me, or what I took away from it, was that everything truly happened but in the end the Mystery doesn't matter… it's the relationships with people that matter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Terri, the impression I had is that not only was the starting universe "really real" but even the parallel universe was real. They were, as Charlie put it when talking to Hurley once, "dead, but also here." It has long been the outlook of the show that death isn't the end, that somehow humans live on.Luke, I think the key reason Mr. Eko disappeared from the show was that the actor who played him hated working in Hawaii. So they did what they could without him. I wouldn't read too much into it – just like Walt's growth imposed some constraints on his involvement in the later parts of the story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Ok…but if the island was "real" and the things that happened there were "real"….then the ending makes even less sense to me.If the island is purgatory, then it all comes together. The whispers are the dead people working out their various issues creating new worlds with others that allow them to find redemption and forgiveness…..and all the extraneous characters are only movers in the minds of the dead people. So people occasionally hear these other worlds leaking through into their "reality"….which would explain all the really weird stuff like polar bears, the horse running through the forest, etc…..and also why there were so many different religious symbols and temples on the island. Those things would be like psychic remnants left by all of the numerous people over the years whose cultural and religious expressions somehow stayed behind in this sort waiting area/purgatory.If that is what the writers are proposing….then I think it works and is brilliant, even if it's a little to easy to explain everything away like that.However….If the island is a physically real place and not purgatory…then things get really messy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    Hey Terri, I think the island was real, and that people lived their lives, died at various times, and reunited in the parallel universe.But I'm drawn to your idea that people brought their memories with them to the island, and those were projected outward. On the Pilot, Rose said that the Smoke Monster sounded like the subway in New York.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Terri, I think it may be that it is in fact "messy" rather than "brilliant" – although perhaps it can be both?And although we're talking about "reality" an overly-literal reading of Daniel Faraday's diagram might have led us to expect the parallel universe to take place in "imaginary space/time".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    I guess my question is, where does the line get drawn between Mystery and Red Herring

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00261803813954084637 Luke

    I guess my question is, where does the line get drawn between Mystery and Red Herring I didn't get into watching Lost until close that the mid-point of season 3 (when they went on that long hiatus — writers strike I think). A large number of people I worked with would always talk about the show and it seemed intriguing enough that decided to rent the first two seasons from Netflix and download torrents of season 3. We devoured the show in a matter of weeks. I did like them on DVD because I could watch some of the extras and they had these interviews with some writers that seemed to me revealing. If I recall correctly, there's an interview where this writer is talking about the first season script development and J.J. Abrams is there during the pitch of ideas and Abrams says something like: "and there's this hatch over a big hole." and the writer reacts all react in a bit of bewildered shock and then ask "Ok, so what's down the hole that the hatch is covering?" and Abrams says "I don't know I don't care, I just want a hatch in the middle of the island." It was at that point that I realized they had absolutely no idea where they were taking the main story thread and were completely winging it.Mathew Fox, from my understanding, has always said that he knew how the story was going to end, and it seemed to me that many people took that to mean that there was some grand over arching end idea that would tie all the early things together. I could never really buy it… for example, I still don't think the Adam-Eve corpses = MiB-Mother was not in the original plan when they wrote that cave scene (having an opening scene of awaking with a close-up of an eye and then closing with the characters death and a close-up of the closing of an eye does not make for knowing how the middle might make sense — I'm not even sure it's much of a beginning and end). But the writers did a pretty good job of trying to write to the problems that Abrams created early on. I think the writers intended there to be Mystery and probably wanted to explain things but other factors that are a fact of TV story telling got in the way… as James pointed out Mr. Eko just didn't like Hawaii, Walt grew up, some blue-suited penguins are trying to control things too much… etc and you can't go back and un-write those parts of the story already told. So what I think I mean to say is that there was probably much good intention by many people to write good Mystery but to other uncontrollable forces much of it ended up as Red Herring. I think part of the problem is that Abrams is so infatuated with NEVER revealing mystery (see his comments on his magic set he bought that he uses as inspiration) that he is never reigned in to tell a tight story that has a beginning-middle-end. It's lead me to think that networks need to be willing to buy shows for a 3 season installment, tell the writers to be creative and tell a good story but you will have an end date. I think a time table for his creative impulse might allow those who do the grunt work of writing the main thread to develop a coherent story. My 2 cents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18402976407308180059 Jason Hammer

    Ive been mulling over the idea that the last couple of scenes of Lost are strikingly similar to the ending of Pan's Labyrinth. (If you haven't seen both then SPOILER ALERT) At the end of Pan's Labryrinth, we see Ofelia dying above the hole in the heart of the labyrinth. If I remember correctly, we even have a top-down camera shot either panning in or zooming out (not sure) as she dies. Then, the movie cuts to a fantasy world where her real-life deceased parents are the king and Queen of the Underground Realm. She has passed over to the other side to be with those she loved. This is not unlike what we see with Jack's death and his meeting up with everyone in the church.I think I need to watch the movie again to be sure on the details, but so far I am finding this correlation to be helpful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Ok…I know most people think the island is real…but I still think things make more sense if the island is a spiritual place, not a physical place.If that were true then the island could be whatever it needed to be for each character. For RIchard, it's a place where he can live forever…because if he dies, then he'll go to hell because the priest refused to absolve his guilt…..so Jacob makes Richard immortal, thereby solving his problem until he is ready to move on.If the island is purgatory then we have an explanation for why people who did not die on the island or have their bodies there can still show up, like Isabella. It also explains why the main characters couldn't kill themselves, or die….because they were already dead. It also explains why MIB could never really leave the island….because there was no other reality for him to go to. In some ways Psycho mom was right when she said that there was nothing beyond the island.So then…Psycho Mom and Jacob become more like guardians of purgatory, maintaining the backdrop for people to work out their redemption. MIB destroying the island would be a bad thing because then people wouldn't have this place to come to and find redemption….they would still be stuck, unable to move on…..so Jacob tries to keep MIB from "leaving" as a way to keep redemption possibilities for everybody.All teh off-island action becomes the minds of the various people creating narratives that tie them together and makes sense of their group death and group redemption.What do you think?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    One more piece of the puzzle….the fertility problems.Dead people can't have babies…so if their narrative involves relationships, then the only way to explain the lack of children is for their minds to create a reason why no one ever got pregnant.If a woman "came to the island", or died while she was already pregnant, than her child is "born" and has to work out its own redemption, or become part of the group story/redemption…which is why Jacon and MIB are there. This would go along with the idea that fetuses are "people" at a certain stage in pregnancy.Wasn't there a certain point in a pregnancy that would make it succeed if it had been conceived off the island?

  • Jim

    Luke, your last comment is spot on. The networks need to buy X seasons and have a beginning and end for the writers.Problem is .. that will never happen. It's about advertising and that's it, end of story. I look to Battlestar Galactica as another amazing story, except all throughout it was amazing, but in the end it was a major deus ex machina ending and a little research uncovered writers that were making it up as they went along – they just did a better job of BS'ing until the end.The fact is, movies and books can have well thought out plots and story arcs, TV is not like this since it's advertising driven.Terri I think what Jack's dad says at the end clears up that the island was real .. but everyone died in their own time and then came to the sideways purgatory until the elevator to the afterlife opened. It's still a terrible ending IMHO, but I think that was not open to interpretation as much as the rest of the mysteries left on the table, including people that weren't in purgatory, why not? Jacob? Faraday? etc…Again, for me the tough thing was they ended the show but didn't really end the 'mystery'. Saying characters die and they all go to a happy place was not what Lost was about the first few seasons, it was about the mystery of the island and the set pieces around them. At least that's what it was about for me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04284263482145074475 CornelC

    I'm surprised you didn't catch Christian's remark about the 'church' they were meeting in (after the 'where is here? now?'…) as a place they have built to meet each other …Also, there was a 'Matrix' thematic more or less, especially towards the end of the season.On the other hand, Lost is probably the best TV experience so far in terms of where it all started, evolution, rational, intrigue, usw … And probably I'd love to watch it again – the whole 6 seasons as a 'holiday experience'.. In few years time though :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I seem to remember Damon and Carlton saying something recently about the scene with the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded. I suppose there's a sense in which the sideways world was indeed a "matrix" of sorts.Oare a ajuns LOST in Romania?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04284263482145074475 CornelC

    1. Not only that, but also in the way each of them started to realize the truth and their mind had to accept it, when they get in contact with an object from the 'other side' (see Fringe) that works like a trigger be it someone else or an object (the coffin for Jack, although he had the same reaction when touching Kate or John, after the surgery – btw, why wouldn't he have the same reaction when operating on John cause that's when he fixed him !?!? Or this was also determined by a timeline in which events were meant to happen on the island; and when it ends – it only ends once :D – they're in a state in which one cannot define time and space).However the final episode was a strong response to 'Live together, die alone' when Christian tells Jack that 'nobody dies alone'.Though, Ben chooses to stay behind for a while – is he bound to die alone, or just waiting for 'his people' ?2. Nu stiu pt ca sint plecat de citiva ani. Dupa cum ii stiam, grila de programe ar putea fi supraincarcata cu telenovele ca sa mai incapa Lost, Fringe, etc …

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Jack seems to have had multiple 'flashes' of his 'real life', but resisted them. That's something I haven't seen talked about. I also wonder if the light beneath the island has any connection to the light they depart into after they die.Ce vrei sa spui, ca LOST n-a fost un fel de telenovela?! ;-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04284263482145074475 CornelC

    1. Desmond has a very intriguing role to bring everybody together and being the first (in the sense of the final episode) to walk into and be exposed to the Source (the Light), as he was subjected to previous exposures though not at the very Source.On the other hand, Jack couldn't have get to the Source without the Key (Desmond's act that actually renders the Source into an unstable state).Then Jack is first 'exposed' to the water – the stream that flows INTO the Light, as he manages to put the Rock back into its place, and then to the Light in the heart of the island. However, meanwhile he proves the mortality of and terminates 'program Smith' – MIB.Also to note the symbolism at the Source: a Key-whole shape in which sits the Rock, then the Light, the Water, the Fire beneath, the circles, channels leading away from the source that reminded me of the pipe lines in Matrix (though here the one in the middle had a branch, each terminating in a grave-like arched entrances), etc …Very rich and syncretic in symbolism as you noticed about the church, and as it was the case with Matrix, too.2. Etimologic da, in sens de povestire pentru televizor. Ma refeream evident la acele povestiri care nu ajung mai sus de cerebel…Tocmai am cautat pe site-uri in Romania si am gasit un program AXN (singurul cred) care are programat episodul 8 din sezonul 6 pentru miercuri si difuzeaza fiecare episod de 3 ori pe saptamina. Nu-i de mirare ca s-au organizat fanii LOST si au urmarit episodul final impreuna intr-un cinematograf cred (potrivit informatiilor pe care le-am gasit pe http://www.lost-romania.com/)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12963476276106907984 Sabio Lantz

    "…the more important message is perhaps that life – whether temporary or eternal – means little without the relationships and connections we form."– JamesAgree, and I am a "no afterlife" person. But central to my philosophy is the oriental concept of En (Japanese) or Yuan (Chinese) which captures this and a bit more (I think).


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