Lost took the world by storm when it debuted on ABC back in 2004, and the series was something of an unlikely hit. The show featured vague numbers and symbols, combined sci fi with mythology, and involved timeline shenanigans that were often difficult to keep track of. It was a complex series with a killer cast that knew how to pluck at our heartstrings even when it didn't make the most sense.
After six seasons of developing mythology, the series finale brought the very best and the very worst of the entire saga as it answered some of the biggest questions while leaving others completely unaddressed. Theories abound even six years after the finale, and some are more based in fact than others. So, take a look at our breakdown of the major questions that were and were not answered by the end.
What Was The Island Anyway?
The Island was discovered by the DHARMA Initiative via the Lamp Post station in Los Angeles. The Lamp Post used the Island's electromagnetic properties to track it as it moved through space and time. DHARMA researchers traveled to the island to study its scientific properties. Lost would eventually reveal that the electromagnetism is connected to the Heart of the Island, which had the potential to destroy the world if improperly handled.
According to Jacob, the island acted as a cork that held the destructive forces back from consuming the rest of the planet. As Desmond and Jack discovered in the finale, the cork wasn't entirely metaphorical. There was literally a cork in the Heart of the Island. The Island was nearly destroyed when Desmond removed the cork, but Jack managed to save the Island and restore the light by putting the cork back in. After Jack's death, Hurley became Protector of the Island with Ben as his #2 to keep the cork in and kept the destructive forces contained.
How Did The Man in Black Die?
Jacob killed his brother - known only as the Man in Black - and sent his body into the Heart of the Island. The Man in Black was turned into the smoke monster that could kill as well as inhabit the bodies of the dead, like Christian Shephard. His biggest limitation was that he could not leave the Island so long as Jacob was alive and working as Protector of the Island. Unfortunately, the MIB also couldn't be killed by conventional means.
The Man in Black ultimately got himself killed as part of his plan to escape the Island. When he forced Desmond to pull the cork, he broke the Island's power over him, which meant that he was stuck in the body of John Locke and could no longer transform into the smoke monster. Jack and Kate took advantage of his new mortality and killed him before he could escape and spread his darkness to the rest of the world.
What Did The Numbers Mean?
Throughout all six seasons of Lost, a certain assortment of numbers turned up time and time again. The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 were used as everything from Hurley's winning lottery numbers to the basis for an equation developed to predict the end of the world. It wasn't until the final season that the show revealed the real significance of the numbers.
Each number represented one of the survivors who had been noted by Jacob as a candidate to take over his role as Protector of the Island in case the Man in Black ever succeeded in killing him. Jacob used the mirrors in the Lighthouse to watch the candidates from afar before they finally arrived on the Island. The numbers correspond to the specific degrees on the Lighthouse dial for observing different candidates. Locke was 4, Hurley was 8, Sawyer was 15, Sayid was 16, Jack was 23, and 42 was either Sun or Jin Kwon. Jack ultimately became Jacob's replacement, and was then succeeded by Hurley.
Were They Dead The Whole Time?
Fans were theorizing from the very first season that Lost was not about a group of survivors. Instead, the Island was actually a form of purgatory that gave the folks who died on Oceanic Flight 815 the chance to redeem themselves before being sent to Heaven or Hell. The theory went out the door in Season 4 when the Oceanic Six got off the Island and returned to the real world, which was very much filled by the living.
Still, the flash sideways of Season 6 felt very purgatory-ish as dead characters turned up alive and interacted with their former Island pals. The finale revealed that the flash sideways were actually glimpses at a sort of afterlife waiting room as people who were important to each other in life reunited in death. The characters weren't dead the whole time, but they were dead in their final scene.
What Were The Post-Credits Images About?
Some of the factors that led viewers to wonder if the survivors really were dead the whole time were the post-credits images. After Jack and Co. moved on to the next plane of existence and the credits began to roll, pictures of the Oceanic 815 wreckage on the Island beach flashed across the screen. Certain fans interpreted the images as a clue that the plane crash really had killed them all despite everything we'd learned to the contrary.
The truth is surprisingly simple. The pictures of the wreckage were inserted into the credits by ABC in order to give viewers a soft transition from the scene of Jack's death and the evening news. The theory was that fans would need to come down from the emotion rollercoaster that was the finale; the images were not a clue from the executive producers.
Why Was Desmond Aware In The Flash Sideways?
The concept of a "constant" was established back in a Season 4 episode that wrung tears from even the driest of eyes. A person's constant anchors his or her consciousness as it travels back and forth through time and realities. Desmond's constant was his lady love Penny, and Daniel Faraday's constant was Desmond.
Desmond's ability to latch on to multiple realities enabled him to become aware of the nature of the flash sideways before any of the others, and he was then able to help them realize that they were actually in the afterlife. He was as dead as the rest; he just knew it sooner. He got to head off to the next great adventure with Penny at his side. It was such an oddly happy ending that I wasn't even bothered by who strange he looked in Season 6 without stubble.
Where Were Michael And Walt?
The final church scene in the flash sideways featured the returns of most of the major characters from the early seasons, but two notable absences were Michael and Walt. They were key players in the first few seasons, so it would have made sense if they too made it to the reunion in the church.
Unfortunately, Michael's spirit may not be able to move on to any afterlife. He was last seen on the Island as a "whisper," unable to move on to the next plane of existence because he killed Ana Lucia and Libby. Walt ended up in a mental institution after his experiences on the Island. An epilogue revealed that he was retrieved by Hurley and Ben to return and use his special abilities to help his father. By the time of the church reunion, it's entirely possible that Walt was simply still alive and hadn't yet freed Michael's spirit.
Was Richard Still Immortal?
Richard was another notable absence from the church at the end, leading some to wonder if he was still dealing with immortality. His deal with Jacob after landing on the Island in the 1800s meant that he would remain ageless, but the agelessness seemed to end when Jacob was killed and the Island was temporarily without a living Protector.
He did not regain his apparent immortality even when another Protector began working to defend the island. Miles noted a gray hair on Richard's head in the finale, which indicated that his time as a young man was coming to an end. He undoubtedly died at some point between the Ajira escape from the Island and the reunion in the church. Richard may have been absent because he reunited with the spirit of his wife.
Where Did The Polar Bears Come From?
One of the first "WTF?" moments of Lost came early in the first season when a group of survivors was charged by a polar bear that emerged from the jungle. Sawyer managed to shoot it dead before it could kill any of them, but the mystery of where they came from and how they survived on a tropical island lingered.
As it turns out, the bears were brought by the DHARMA Initiative as test subjects for the electromagnetic properties of the Island. They were chosen due to their adaptability and memory. The bears were evidently modified on a biological level to survive in the climate that should have overheated and killed them; following the Purge that ended the DHARMA Initiative, some of the bears escaped and survived in the jungle to attack and mystify Oceanic 815 survivors many years later.
Why Did The DHARMA Food Drops Keep Coming?
The folks of the DHARMA Initiative survived on the Island thanks to periodic food and supply drops. The coordinates of the Island were automatically calculated at the Lamp Post station and transmitted to DHARMA employees working at a supply warehouse in Guam. Nobody ever told anybody at the supply warehouse about the Purge that resulted in the deaths of most of the members of the DHARM Initiative. So, they kept on sending supply drops to the Island, one of which was enjoyed by the Oceanic 815 survivors who were running low on what supplies they scavenged from the airplane wreckage.
Ben finally visited the Guam warehouse after Hurley became Protector of the Island to let the workers know that DHARMA was gone and they could stop sending supplies. It was a simple answer to a big question, but it makes sense.
Why Did The Pregnant Women Die?
Pregnancy on Lost was a hot topic from the very beginning when the very pregnant Claire survived the crash of Oceanic 815. The show would later reveal that pregnant women who conceived on the Island experienced complications that were often deadly. Claire was an important variable for study as she had conceived and spent most of her pregnancy off the Island. She safely delivered Aaron with surprisingly few complications, all things considered.
Sun became pregnant on the Island and was told by Juliet that she was likely to die if she did not escape; she did, and she delivered a healthy baby girl in a South Korea hospital. As it turned out, it was the extreme electromagnetism of the Island that interfered with pregnancies and resulted in so many deaths. Claire and Sun survived because they spent most of their pregnancies off-Island.
What Major Questions Were Never Answered?
Who built the four-toed statue and the chamber? The easy answer is that the Egyptians were responsible for the statue of the goddess Tawaret, but the show never explained how or when Egyptians were on the Island to erect the statue.
Who was in the other outrigger? While Sawyer and his group were time-shifting while on the water in a time shift, they encountered another outrigger that opened fire on them. Evidently, we're unlikely to ever know the identities of the shooters. Showrunner Damon Lindelof has revealed that an answer was written; the folks behind the scenes decided that it would be "cooler" to leave it out.
What were the rules? Characters often referred to a set of rules that dictated what could and couldn't be done on the Island. The show was never clear about what the rules were, who exactly set them, and whether or not they're the same for everybody.
What Else Is Left?
A lot of questions are still unanswered, although some are more pressing than others. Was Aaron doomed to stay a baby in the afterlife forever? What was up with Kate's horse? Who finished the donkey wheel? Why did Desmond see Claire escaping with Aaron? Why did it take so long for Mikhail to die? How did the Others come to be on the Island? What was the Man in Black's real name? Will we ever find out all the answers?
Take a look at our breakdown of what the cast members of Lost have been up to in the years since the end of the show, and check out Netflix if you're in the mood for a rewatch of Lost. Don't forget to have a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else you can watch in the near future.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).