Lost Ending Explained

It’s one of the most polarising series finales of all time; when Lost’s final episode aired on May 23, 2010, viewers either adored or despised the convoluted finish.

The final episode of ABC’s popular fantasy series left many viewers wondering what happened to the passengers on Oceanic Flight 815. Were they deceased throughout Lost’s 121 episodes?

In the Emmy-winning series, which debuted in September 2004, a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles crashes on a desolate island, and the survivors try to stay alive while looking for a route home. They quickly realise they are not alone on the island, and “The Others” — the people who call it home — are not particularly kind or hospitable to visitors. Viewers and the Oceanic Six subsequently discover that the island possesses extraordinary abilities: it can heal people and provide them immortality, and it serves as a barrier between evil and the earth.

The show’s growing mysteries and complex, ever-deepening mythology—there was much confusing stuff about a numerical sequence, 4 8 15 16 23 42—made Lost one of the first true internet sensations, with fans scrutinising every minute detail. Because viewers were so immersed in the complicated plot, some expected every clue given over the six seasons to be explained and every loose thread neatly tied up when the characters’ journey drew to a close.

That did not happen; instead, the finale concentrated on the characters’ ties and provided a vague happy ending. The series’ last episode raised more doubts and left many feeling cheated out of a definitive resolution. PEOPLE described the climax as “emotional and frustrating,” while critic Tom Gliatto said, “I won’t spoil it for you, except to say that it was so mistily open-ended as to be pointless.”

In recent years, as the show’s creators have revealed more about what transpired in the last episodes, many have grown to see the ending as better than their initial reaction.

Jimmy Kimmel, a huge admirer of the show, told Vulture in 2021, “The thought that people would place so much emphasis on what happened at the conclusion is missing the point. The objective of the show was to have fun, solve mysteries, and figure out what was going on. And maybe that’s part of the joy, that we still don’t know exactly what’s going on.

The show’s last season featured various timelines. In season 5, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) were all living with The Dharma Initiative, a group of scientists striving to comprehend the island’s components.

Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid (Naveen Andrews), and Sun (Yunjin Kim) were off the island in the present day, attempting to return to assist their friends — with the self-interested encouragement of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Ben (Michael Emerson), who wanted to return to the island in order to rule it and harness its power.

In the sixth and final season, most of the characters return to the island, including a hesitant Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), and the lingering mysteries begin to surface. Viewers ultimately learn who Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) is—he’s the island’s protector—and more is revealed about his relationship with his antagonist, the Man in Black, who wants to destroy the island and unleash the evil it’s keeping at bay. When not in corporeal form, the Man in Black has also appeared as the Smoke Monster.

Meanwhile, two timelines continue to exist. In one, the surviving survivors are on the island: some are attempting to flee, others hope to be chosen as the next protector, and some intend to destroy the island. In the alternate scenario, which showrunners referred to as a “flash sideways,” the plane never crashed, but the survivors’ lives remain inextricably linked.

“The fundamental mystery of season 6 is, why are we showing you these two stories and what is their relationship to each other?” executive producer Damon Lindelof told PEOPLE in 2010. “The audience is gonna have to be very patient.”

Locke transformed into the Smoke Monster, who continued his goal to destroy the island by removing a rock from the bottom of a sacred well, which served as the island’s power stopper. The ultimate battle pitted him against Jack, who had succeeded Jacob as the island’s protector.

Jack defeats him, but to rescue the island, he must replace the rock, although knowing that going into the well will kill him. Before descending, Jack appoints Hurley as the island’s protector. In one of the show’s most unexpected developments, Hurley enlists Ben, the survivors’ longtime antagonist and leader of The Others, to assist him in caring for it.

Jack restores the boulder and saves the island, but is severely injured. As he takes his final steps towards death, he finds himself in his alternate timeline, in a room with the spirit of his deceased father, who informs Jack that he has died. When Jack opens the door to that room, he finds himself in a church, surrounded by practically all of the show’s important characters, including those who are still alive in the island timeline and others who died in previous seasons, such as Boone (Ian Somerhalder) and Charlie (Dominic Monaghan).

They all hug and welcome one another. Locke approaches Jack, shakes his hand, and says, “We’ve been waiting for you.” On the island, Jack dies when a jet flies overhead. As the scene fades to white, he sits next to Kate, his longstanding would-be spouse, smiling.

Because of the church sequence, which strongly implied that all of the characters were heading to the afterlife, many viewers concluded that all of the passengers on Oceanic 815 had died all along. The final credits of the finale, which showed the plane fuselage on the beach as it appeared in the first episode, provided more credence for that theory; many saw this as confirming that they had all died in the accident.

However, the showrunners insisted that the survivors were not dead the entire time. They elected to use the material to ease viewers out of the broadcast, making the shift to commercials less abrupt.

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