locke ben lost 320 The Great 'Lost' Debate: Analyzing the sideways universeZap2it’s Rick Porter and I stepped into the metaphorical ring this week for another round in our Great “Lost” Debate series. This week’s topic came from you, the readers, after last week’s entries about “Lighthouse” set off a spirited discussion in the comments about the nature of the sideways universe. Rick and I had planned to debate the nature of mirrors in Season 6, but after making a few Michael Jackson jokes, we were stuck.
So bravo to you all for bailing us out with your passionate takes on the sideways universe. I’ve already talking about this on my weekly podcast and this week’s “Letters from the Flame,” but there’s no harm covering it a bit more in depth here before the next episode airs. Away we go!
Ryan McGee: OK, Rick, we’re going to be dealing with a touchy issue today. After all, it deals with how the show might end, and when it comes to the end of “Lost,” there are a lot of emotions that go into thinking about it. Jacob tells us that “It only ends once,” which may or may not be true. But in any case, the show as we know it will be over this May. And many people think we’ve already seen, to use the title of the Season 4 premiere, the beginning of the end.
The theory, as I understand it: the flash sideways are not parallel to the action on the Island in terms of their relationship to it, but in fact show us the EPILOGUE to the series. In other words: much in the way that Season 5’s premiere showed a scene that chronologically didn’t happen until much later in the season, what we’ve seen in these flash sideways are the events that happen after the conflict with The Man in Black on the Island ends. Once this conflict is “resolved,” a series of events kick off that ends with Jack and Company landing in LAX in the timeline created by their actions on the Island.
Now, here’s where my big disclaimer comes in, and it’s an important one. I don’t think this theory is correct, but I am NOT saying it’s not possible. Anything I talk about in this debate doesn’t negate this theory’s existence. I literally can’t disprove it, because it’s a definite possibility. Anyone who says it isn’t is completely wrong.
But I have been struggling to clearly articulate why I have such a problem it. Anything and everything I say in this discussion will be an attempt not to sway anyone’s opinion this way or that: reaction to a piece of artistic output is necessarily varied, and that’s a GOOD thing. I’m less interested in trying to figure out who is right (a stupid attempt, 5 hours into the season) and more interested in getting at the heart of the two camps, and the personal viewpoints on life that each theory suggest. But before I get into my reservations about the epilogue theory, Rick, I’m curious: what’s your take on the subject?
Rick Porter: Well, I suspect my take isn’t that different from yours. I agree that there’s no way to say with any certainty that what we’re seeing isn’t a coda to “Lost,” but as a fan and a self-styled student of how shows choose to end, I’m hoping rather hard that it’s not.
My primary objection to the idea is that, given what we’ve seen thus far of season 6, it feels like a bit of a cheat to me. We’re only just starting to see pieces move into place for whatever final conflict is taking place, and to hint now that it’s all going to work out in the end (more or less) really kind of pops the suspense balloon for the rest of the season.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that the glimpses of Sidewaysland we’ve seen are actually the epilogue to our characters’ journeys. Frankly, I have no problem at all with the idea of a still wheelchair-bound Locke making peace with his lot in life, or Jack discovering that he’s capable of being a good dad despite his own upbringing. My issue comes with seeing that NOW — if it turns out that we are glimpsing the end of the series, I think that when I look back, the big moments that are taking place on the island will have less meaning if it turns out I was watching fragments of a happy(-ish) ending all along. It just doesn’t feel earned yet.
All the mystery and weirdness of “Lost” has been in service of its characters discovering things about themselves. Since the sideways stories have, thus far, contained an element of that as well (albeit on a smaller scale), I’m more inclined to interpret them as scenes that will bear on the on-Island versions of the characters.
There are also specific things I’d point to as evidence to support my/our interpretation. But before I go too Comic Book Guy, I’ll turn it back over to you. How do you see this fitting into the larger design of the show?
RM: There is something to the fact that the end not being shown at the end is a little off-putting. If we’re denied the catharsis of seeing Jack overcome his issues with his father because it was shown in the 5th hour of the 6th season as opposed to the 18th, I think that’s problematic. But I think that’s less problematic than the implications inherent with the sideways timeline being the final chapter in these characters’ lives.
Now, granted, we’ve only seen glimpses into this timeline, and nothing’s close to either defined or definitive. But if this IS the epilogue, then shouldn’t the fact that so many characters end up happy ring…false? “Lost” is not a very forgiving show, either in terms of giving its characters happy endings or painting its protagonists in a very appealing light. Nearly every one of our heroes could in fact be a villain in another drama.
If this were indeed an epilogue, having everyone happy would be the way to go. But they are NOT all happy. They still have issues to work out. Structurally, I’d be more inclined to believe the sideways timeline were true if everyone were in Hurley’s predicament. Instead, Jack still has a missing father, Rose still has terminal cancer, and Locke’s still wheelchair bound. I’m not suggesting that an epilogue in which things revert to the way things “should have been” sans Jacob/The Man in Black/Island interference need be all rosy, but why give these characters an epilogue in which they must overcome obstacles that can be solved in hours as opposed to years.
Two more things I have against the “sideways timeline as epilogue” theory, one rather mundane but one rather vital. First up: tons of characters that died in the original timeline are now alive. When I asked readers to explain how this phenomenon fit into the epilogue theory, one replied that it answered the question, “What happens to these characters?” While I acknowledge there’s something poetic about Charie’s sacrifice for Claire on the Island timeline giving him a shot at them being together in the sideways/epilogue, what did Artz, Frogurt, Boone, Shannon, and others do to deserve it? I don’t mean to sound cruel, but the creation of an alternate reality for EVERYONE seems a bit pat. Everybody can’t matter equally.
Secondly, and more vitally: what’s up with Des? If this is an epilogue, then Des’ purpose in showing up on Oceanic 815 boils down to, “Aww, ain’t this nice, brutha?” I think his mission is much more vital: he’s a unifying factor, not between the past and the present, but between the two worlds created in the aftermath of the end of Season 5. He’s unique, to quote Faraday, and while he may be a deus ex machina when all is said and done, he’s still the
one person that can not only see both timelines, but ultimately connect them.
What evidence stands out to you? And are we as fans supposed to be rooting for “happy endings”, or “resolution”? I realize the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but they aren’t mutually inclusive either.
RP: I’d pretty much say “ditto” to all that, but that doesn’t make for a very spirited conversation. So I would add this: To my eyes, the show is dropping too many hints that the timelines are connected for Sidewaysland just to be an epilogue.
The cut on Jack’s neck in “LA X,” Claire blurting out Aaron’s name as she’s giving birth, the flash of recognition between Jack and Kate, even Locke accepting his lot as a man in a wheelchair — they’re not huge things individually, but collectively they add up to a whole lot of support for the notion that what happens in one place will eventually affect the other. And if it is just an epilogue, I’m assuming that Jack wouldn’t suddenly have a teenage son and Locke wouldn’t be (as far as we can tell) on good terms with his dad, which in turn could mean that he didn’t end up in a wheelchair after his pops shoved him out a window.
As to what we’re supposed to be rooting for, that’s up to each of us individually. You want everything to be OK in the end? Cool. You want answers to every last mystery? Great. Here’s what I want to see, though: an ending that, as I mentioned up above, is earned. I honestly don’t care about the specifics of that ending yet, but my fervent hope is that the series finale will leave me feeling good about where the show leaves its characters, good, bad or somewhere between the two.
It can happen any number of ways: “Six Feet Under” kind of demanded the closure it delivered so brilliantly, while “The Shield” gave its antihero a more open-ended but totally deserved fate. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have promised they won’t just cut to black (though I thought that was a pretty great way to end “The Sopranos”), and as long as they give us an ending that stays true to the spirit of the show and the paths its characters have taken, I’ll be happy.
RM: Here’s the good news, I suppose: according to those that attended the “Lost” panel at PaleyFest this past weekend (semi-spoilery info here at KorbiTV), it looks like we’re going to get a lot more concrete answers about this sideways universe sooner rather than later. And perhaps my long-lost Scottish friend will likewise be making an appearance on my television screen before I lose anymore of the five remaining hairs on my head. And hopefully, bringing the nature of this timeline to light will bring the true nature of the show’s final conflict into light. After all, it’s all well and good to have people looking into mirrors. I’m waiting for the image in the mirror to look back. That will be the moment in which everything in the final season of “Lost” changes.
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Photo credit: ABC

Posted by:Ryan McGee