My LOST ending, and a glimpse of how real stories can become

I’ve been pondering the end of Lost for weeks now and I do have an audacious ending idea to share with you. But first on a related note, I had a conversation with my daughter yesterday that highlights just how real stories can seem to us.

Mojo Girl: Mom, I heard a myth that if you say Freddy Krueger’s name three times before going to bed, he’ll come and kill you while you are asleep.

[Brief interlude where I explain that as her Mom I can't even go there with such a gruesome discussion overall, but then I try to dig out as best I can with logic....]

Mojo Mom: It’s just a made-up story. You know that Freddy Krueger is not real. It’s like, if someone told you that if you said Darth Vader’s name three times, he’d come get you. You know that could not happen.

Mojo Girl: But Darth Vader couldn’t get me because he’s already DEAD! PSYCH! I win!

These stories and characters do seem real to us…even if these iconic fables are pure fantasy they play a genuine role in our lives. How about Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, and then the witches in Wicked? How about Harry Potter? These iconic stories and characters are a real cultural force.

This month people are talking about the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and where they were when they first saw it. I can tell you that I can mark my true transition to adolescence embarrassingly precisely to the summer of 1980, age eleven turning twelve, the summer when Empire came out. At first I was really mad that Princess Leia gave up on cute and adorable Luke (not yet her brother!) for that jerk Han Solo. Somehow over the course of the summer and seeing the movie again and again (the first and last movie we had on bootleg video) I came to appreciate the bad boy charms of Han Solo and never looked back at my crush on whiny old farm boy Luke.

So that brings me to Lost, an obsession that has sustained me with six years of storytelling. I was not that interested in Lost when I first heard about it. It was a busy time in my life and I didn’t have a lot of time to take on a new television show, but for some reason I decided to watch the first ten minutes of the pilot. Jack’s eye opened, he walked through a quiet yet disorienting scene in the jungle (a Labrador retriever, a sneaker in the tree?)–then Jack emerged from the bamboo and into the plane crash disaster in the beach, and the show had me, and I have never looked back. The way that the story engaged us in the fiery midst of the action rather than introducing us to the characters one by one and then having the crash at the end, like any conventional story would have done, is the key element that drew me in with such curiosity. We were drawn in by the life and death situation and then came to care and wonder who these people were and how they would survive. That structural choice was carried through the whole series with the flashbacks, forwards, and sideways.

I’ve had many Lost theories over the years, and they’ve pretty much all been wrong, but it’s been an interesting mental exercise to puzzle over every step of the way. I’ve savored it like a long-lasting caramel and probed it like the socket left by a lost tooth.

My Lost obsession may have even helped me grow as a writer, seeing what worked for the show and what didn’t (dead-end distractions with Nikki and Paulo, stalling the forward momentum of the story by locking main characters up in bear cages). I would like to think that it doesn’t matter to me exactly what answers we get tonight as long as they pull it into a satisfying conclusion. My main worry at this point is that they really have not left enough time to resolve the ambitious Sideways world storyline.

Losthas pulled in the audience like no other cultural story I have been part of–if you are a disagreeing professional Trekkie please don’t flame me! From message boards to professional commentators like Jeff Jensen on EW.com, to Comic-Con panels, the conversation about Lost has taken on a life of its own. I am just waiting to see which university gives Jeff Jensen and honorary Ph.D. to make an honest “Doc Jensen” out of him.

So I am going to suggest an ending to the series that really honors the way the show has crossed over into the real world.

Spoiler alert! I am making this all up! If I turn out to be right in any way, shape, or form, it will be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you!

This would be controversial and surely upset a lot of people, but in my mind I see a conclusion where the Island timeline and Sideways timeline have to be reset yet again with a cataclysmic Jughead-like reboot. But this time when it goes off, the castaways are all brought back into a totally new timeline, one in which….they are actors trying out for the show Lost.

Gimmicky, perhaps. But what really blows my mind about this idea is that all along we’ve assumed that we’ve been living in the same timeline/universe as they castaways. We think we have lived through their September 22, 2004 when their plane takes off from Sydney. But what if all along we’ve been living in a post-reboot timeline, and didn’t even know it? What if it could happen again? How stable is our own reality? And no matter what, how different will our own personal worlds feel when Lost ends.

In twenty years I hope that I can tell you all about where I was for the Lost finale. As you can see from the invitation, I have friends who are as fanatical about Lost as I am. (Seat 4F, First Class window seat. Nice, except that part about the plane crashing!)

In the meantime I look forward to ordering the most ginormous box set of DVDs the show’s creators are willing to put out, and I would be perfectly happy to go back to the pilot and start watching season one all again. Imagine how different it will all look now that we’ve seen the whole story.

What are your thoughts about the end of Lost? What has to happen tonight for you to be satisfied? And if it’s not a perfect ending, how can we get over any sense of disappointment as soon as possible, to remember what a great ride we’ve had for six seasons? Abrams, Cuse and Lindelof have given us such amazing season finales, especially the Season Three “getting rescued by the Freighter Folks” storyline intertwined with “it’s been flash-forwards….and WE HAVE TO GO BACK.” I am hoping to be blown away tonight, and prepared to forgive all if the finale itself falls short of our completely impossible to meet expectations!

Will “Lost” get its narrative mojo back tonight?

The latest episode of Lost starts in just a few minutes but I like to let the TiVO get ahead so I can skip the ads. I can’t believe there are are only four episodes left! I admit that I will feel a genuine hole in my life when it’s over. As much as I love the show, I feel that it’s lost some of its narrative momentum lately. My spoileriffic guesses (made with no insider knowledge) follow.

I wish I were more familiar with The Hero’s Journey so that I could analyze Lost’s final act through that framework, but I’ll just say this season has been incredibly ambitious, and kind of a mess. The Sideways world narrative actually works for me, but there has been an intolerable amount of ambiguity in the plotline. Is the Man in Black good or Bad? Is Jacob Good or bad? Are both of them lying to us on a regular basis? Is Charles Widmore GOOD or BAD? Was Smokey really the apparition known as Jack’s father–some of the time, or all of the time?

There are many other questions of truth, such as, “Was ghost Michael telling Hurley the truth about what the whispers are?” but it’s those larger questions about whom the Castaways should trust and what they should be doing that have lost steam.

With four episodes left we should have more of an idea of what the goal should be. Although I can appreciate the Lost writers wanting to do a delicate dance between the concepts of good and evil, I think they’ve gone too muddled here. So far I’d say the play Wicked does a much better job with this theme!

Lost has done a masterful job of juggling complex story lines for its entire six seasons and I can’t figure out why they’ve dropped the ball here. Their triumph was intermingling the stories of Jack getting the Oceanic Six off the island with his surprise flash-forward declaration to Kate that “We have to go back!” Brilliant.

Somewhere between the Tunisian desert and the Temple with Zombie Sayid, the complications with the Ilana crew, the Widmore crew, and all of that, I feel that the main thrust of the story got off course. And that’s before we threw the literal characters of Jacob and the Man in Black there. (I actually love them whenever they interact, I just want to know what the deal is, after all this.)

I still hold hope for a solid wrapup–one that makes sense in this universe! Yes, I do care who the Candiadte is and who takes over from Jacob. I love anything with Desmond, Ben, and Locke. I wish Jack would get his leadership mojo back ASAP. I can’t stand a wimpy Jack. I do believe that he and all the other castaways will have to make heartbreaking choices when it comes time to figure out which universe and timeline will prevail–I do believe that one will continue on and the other will have to go POP.

My favorite image of a final scene is Ben and John Locke sitting on a beach, knowing they will be there together in eternal opposition that also represents eternal balance. Who has taken over for Jacob who for the Man in Black? I don’t know, and I think it’s kind of delicious that it could go either way at this point.

My other bold prediction is that we’ve had a whole lot of time traveling but never really seen anyone come from the future. I think that Mr. Abbadon is grown up Walt. And in fact I think it might be that in the end the whole scenario was engineered by Walt somehow, to make things come out right. I’ve been sensing an Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None vibe lately and I will go out on a limb and say that before the show ends, we’ll find out that one of our original core castaways was someone far different than the person we perceived them to be. This will enable us to fill the hole in our lives by going back to rewatch the whole series again starting with Season One, because we will see the whole show in a new light. I am voting for Walt to be that game-changer because at some points, he was very important to the story but it never came full circle.

Like Wicked. Once again, I can’t help but compare. I’ve read the book and seen the show once, but now that we’ve listened to the soundtrack 100 times in my car, because the show is playing in Durham and we’re going to see it again, I am amazed that every time I listen through the CD, I get new insight. And that’s without even seeing the show again.

Given that we’ve had “Henry Gale” (really Ben) saying he flew in on a balloon, and the season 4 finale called “There’s No Place Like Home,” I don’t think that show runners JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carleton Cuse or my Lost guru Doc Jensen would mind the comparison. Here’s hoping they can come up with a finale we will want to watch as many times as we’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz.

Forgive my “Lost” obsession

I know this blog is supposed to be about motherhood and transformation. But on Lost we have crazy-ghost?-mom-Claire going commando in the Island jungle. Is that enough of a connection? No? Too bad, because I am obsessed with Lost–and therefore I blog.

Writing about Lost can make the best of us sound nuts

The only person I know who is more obsessed with Lost than I am is “Doc” Jeff Jensen on EW.com. And he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty with his analysis! Someone should give him an honorary degree, and he should be sure to take his wife out for a nice dinner on a regular basis during this last season. [Note to other Lost obsessives, of course I know you are out there and I am not trying to start a fight!]

In my Sideways-world I co-host the “Totally Lost” series with Doc Jensen. Too bad it can’t last.

You see, this final season of Lost took an audacious turn when time-traveling Jack and company set of a hydrogen bomb in 1977 and destroyed the Island–creating a “Sideways” timeline, in which the island is gone, and therefore Oceanic Flight 815 never crashes in 2004, there are no castaways or Island adventure. It’s important to note that with the Island’s destruction, the timeline has therefore been changed significantly since 1977 and not just the supposed day of the plane crash. And then the other timeline matches back up with the past five seasons we’ve watched–when the bomb goes off they castaways are propelled back to “current” island time (2007) and remember the crash and their time on the Island and all that happened.

Confusing? Yes, but that’s barely getting started. Last week I went on a long road trip and thought about Lost for several hundred miles. Sometimes I think I can pull together a mental picture that almost all makes sense. Darn it though, there are always loose ends. But here’s my basic theory:

I think it’s fair to say that blowing up a hydrogen bomb is never a good idea and always causes a mess. So I think that in 1977, when Juliet detonated the “Jughead” bomb (Jack’s idea, but Juliet actually did it), that created a split in the timeline and created a “bubble” universe, a real but parallel timeline that is unstable and starting to come apart at the seams. And why is it unstable? Because the Island is gone!

I think the Island is essential to the stability of “our” whole overall universe, which in itself is not a terribly original idea, but I draw on the titles of the episodes, “The Variable,” “The Constant,” and the recurring Numbers that keep showing up to construct a quasi-scientific explanation. Here’s my more original thought about what’s going on: I think that our universe is almost stable but requires a “fudge factor” to make it work out. So the people who are associated with The Numbers are like the remainder in a cosmic division problem–for whatever reason, the whole equation of the universe doesn’t quite work out if they are in it, so they have to be brought to the island (by plane crash, shipwreck, orchestrated by Jacob). This idea connects to some Creationist theories that I heard presented in campus lectures way back in college–now I am not a Creationist but with Jacob and the Man in Black running around messing with people’s lives like stones on a cosmic backgammon board, I think we can assume a Creationist universe-view might apply to Lost, with the Man in Black as an important but bored “god”/symbol of chaos who is ready to “win” to end the whole game. I think that Jacob isn’t purely “good,” but represents the continued tinkering needed to try to keep order. Humanity’s free will–to set of the bomb or not–is the wild card.

I don’t even know if Google can help me bring this up, but the gist of the Creationist argument was that if gravity or the speed of light or any one of many other scientific values (constants, if you will) were even a little bit off, then the universe could not exist in its current form. The Creationists concluded, see, we barely exist so there must be a God orchestrating it all to make it work out. Scientists might say, that’s right, if the constants were different, we’d have a radically different universe.

So that’s why the castaways are brought to the Island that exists out of normal space and time–whether they are good or bad people, the overall puzzle pieces just can’t fit with them in the world!

And here’s why I think that our reluctant hero Jack will be brought back into the ultimate resolution of the series: the bubble universe is unstable, growing more so as the timeline progresses past the the point at which Oceanic flight 815 was “supposed” to crash. The wires are getting crossed–so now Sideways Jack, Kate, and John are really getting confused by echoes of their other existence. But what will the central conflict be? Jack has a son, David, in the Sideways world but is childless in the Island world. For a guy with lifelong Daddy issues this is a huge deal! And now his son’s universe cannot hold–ultimately, the Island is necessary and if one universe prevails, it will be the one in which the Island still exists. Jack will do whatever it takes to save his son, even bringing David to the Island and reluctantly but voluntarily taking over the “Jacob” caretaker role himself if need be.

The Remainders

There are loose ends, of course, just like the remainders in my Numbers theory.

One loose end I really cannot tie up may seem minor but it’s bugging me–how Benjamin Linus survive the Jughead explosion in 1977? He was present on the Island then in kid form. Did Richard Alpert and Eloise Hawking evacuate the Others in time? However Benjamin ended up teaching history with John Locke as a substitute teacher in the Sideways world–I love it, hilarious, but clearly that’s not their ultimate destiny!

A time-traveling coda

I predict there will be a good two or three twists to come between now and the end of the show that will totally change the way we look at the whole series. (So don’t hold out for the end of the series to start watching DVDs–watch it now!)

There has been enough time traveling in this show that I think we haven’t seen the last of it. Someone has to end up “being his own grandpa” or some other paradoxical time travel twist. My choices:

Penny and Desmond’s baby Charlie is actually supposedly-villainous Charles Widmore.

Or, mysterious dude Matthew Abbadon is actually grown up Future Walt come back to try to fix things.

And, Jack’s Grandpa Ray whom we met in the retirement home is actually his son David, saved from the unstable bubble universe by the magic of time travel. (A loophole that Jack finds and negotiates in return for staying on the Island?)

And most going out on a limb, our friend Desmond, who somehow operates out of the rules that govern everyone else, is a Christ-like figure who is a roving constant who can operate in the real world, usually unaware of what he’s doing.

Okay, enough crazy theories for one day. I hope that at least some of what I have said hits the mark!

–Doc Tiemann

Mojo Mom’s LOST obsession–Countdown to Season Six!

"Lost Supper" My mind has been taken over by Lost this week–delightfully so, obsessively so. Regular readers of this blog may not care, heck, maybe no one cares what I think, but I am writing about it anyway–because today and tomorrow are the last days that we can write about Season Six without knowing anything about what is going to happen.

I just rewatched last season’s finale, “The Incident,” and I am not going to write a whole Doc Jensen-like dissertation right now, but I will start out by listing the pop culture references that the show is making me think of now.

[A Dharma-influenced] Wizard of Oz: The classic film was given a serious name-check in “Henry Gale,” Ben’s assumed identity, when he said he’d arrived on the island in a balloon. I think that the whole show’s eventual theme will turn out to be “There’s no place like home,” but “home” will turn out to mean accepting your life as it is and being comfortable in your own mind. Of course the characters are just as far away from this as they could be right now as they set off a hydrogen bomb to reset the future!

Star Wars: The episode “Some Like it Hoth” was a funny and self-conscious Star Wars homage but there were flashes of Star Wars in the finale–Sawyer shooting out the submarine communication system a la Han Solo in the original Star Wars. Jack giving Kate meaningful “I love you” glances without saying it, a la Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.

Carrie: Not only was the Stephen King novel the book club selection at The Others’ camp, the finale with the magnetic flux disturbance that caused all the metal to fly around and impale people was very Carrie. Poor Juliet. (To this day, Carrie is still stands out in my mind. Very well done, not just a typical horror movie by any means, and scary as hell.)

The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” That’s basically what all these characters need to learn.

Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody:” The whole operatic saga and sense of reality/unreality, destiny/doesn’t matter any way, seems very Lost.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Any time they go into the temple it reminds me of Raiders, especially the scene in which Ben gets judged by Smokey. He’s lucky his head didn’t explode.

As for the Jacob/Man in Black conflict, I am the first to admit that I am quite confused. Sometimes it almost all comes together in my head, but not in a way I could articulate! I definitely don’t think that Jacob is “good.” I think he’s meddling to prove a point, almost like a Greek God gone rogue (aren’t Gods supposed to avoid intervening directly in human affairs?). I think Jacob is on the one hand telling people they have free choice, but at the same time going and interfering with the past timeline to try to make things turn out differently this time. The Man in Black talks about a “loophole” and I think Jacob may have the castaways in a time loop. Who knows how many times they’ve been through this before, with similar outcomes, as Jacob tries to direct them to a “better” fate, not because he cares about them, but just because he can? He seems really old and bored to me, like he’s seen it all, and messing with humanity is his little project. In the flashback when Jack met Jacob in the hospital, and Jacob got Jack’s stuck Apollo bar out of the vending machine, Jacob said the machine was stuck and “Maybe it just needed a little push.”

I also think that the Man in Black has been the same spirit appearing as Jack’s dead father this whole time. He was also trapped in what was called “Jacob’s cabin” but was really the prison that Jacob created for the Man in Black. Not such revolutionary guesses, but there it is for the record.

I will say that I think that since Jacob knew of the Man in Black’s plan, namely that Jacob couldn’t be killed directly by the Man in Black but could be killed by a true believer acting on his own free will (Ben), Jacob put in an extra twist so that if this ever happened, he wouldn’t really be killed, but would transform, just like Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Darth Vader “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

And that, my friends, could be the ultimate “Long Con,” a theme talked about in Sawyer’s story line. After hundreds of years of looking for a way to kill Jacob, the Man in Black thinks he’s found one, but he ends up giving Jacob the ultimate final victory, causing the very thing he is trying to prevent, as Miles wondered about Jack setting off the hydrogen bomb.

So where I get confused is thinking about Richard and the Others, Eloise Hawking, Daniel Faraday, Charles Widmore vs. Ben, etc. Categorizations will go beyond good or bad but not clear whose side will “win.”

I do think the show’s creators are intelligent and mature people who will come up with an ending that works and has a meaningful message. I do think they believe in destiny, or else the whole show’s premise and existence wouldn’t be worth exploring. But the resolution they choose and how they get there will be very interesting. And if they reboot the timeline, any character could come back and anything could happen.

I hope they are done with the time travel shifting storylines for now, but I would not be surprised in the end if Jack ends up being his own grandpa….