This post discusses the episodes of Lost thus far this season. If you haven’t watched them yet, or are waiting for the DVD, you probably should avoid this.
We’ve come to the much anticipated final season of Lost. And the big gimmick for this season is that instead of flashbacks or flashforwards, we’re getting “flashsideways” to an alternate universe where the plane didn’t crash.
At the end of season 5, the castaways who were stuck in the past attempted to destroy the Dharma Initiative’s Swan station that would one day be responsible for causing their plane to crash and bringing them to the island. To accomplish this, they detonated a hydrogen bomb at the future site of the station. Being Lost, they decided to end the season there so we wouldn’t know what had happened.
Apparently, there are now two parallel universes: The original universe where the bomb did not succeed and the timeline continued on as before; And another timeline where their mission succeeded, history was changed, and the plane did not crash. In the original timeline, the castaways have been returned to the present. Why did they return to the present when the bomb exploded? Much like all of the other jumps through time on the show, no concrete explanation has been offered.
In the new alternate universe, while many of their circumstances are similar (Kate is still a fugitive, Locke is still in a wheelchair), details are slightly different (Desmond was on the plane, but Shannon was not). And while it’s only been a few episodes, it appears that for the most part, the castaways lives have changed for the better. Instead of being plagued by bad luck, Hurley considers himself to be the luckiest man alive. Charlie is still alive, as he was saved from suffocation on the plane by Jack. John Locke is engaged to be married (to Peggy Bundy!), and instead of loathing his wheelchair-bound life, has a sense of optimism.
Ultimately though, while the alternate universe is somewhat interesting, it’s also somewhat pointless. It would have been far more interesting if they had diverted history starting at the show’s beginning point – when the plane crashed. Part of the appeal of Lost was in the flashbacks, seeing how the characters all got to this point. Since we already know everyone’s backstory, it might have been fun to see how everyone’s lives would have turned out if the plane landed safely.
But that’s not what the alternate universe is really giving us. It’s only giving us a different version of the characters, and since we don’t know their backstories, we don’t really even know them anymore. We don’t know how Locke got crippled. We don’t know why Kate is a fugitive. What happened in their lives to make them turn out similarly yet different? With less than a season remaining, I’m guessing we won’t ever find out. And if we don’t, should we really care about them?
More interesting is what’s happening in the original universe where the bomb didn’t change history. Fake Locke is trying to get off the island. Sayid has been revived, but is apparently tainted. Claire is still alive, but is also tainted in some way. Jacob is dead, and apparently some of the castaways were chosen to be his successor as protector of the island.
These are the questions that the show has been raising for years, and these are the questions we want answered. The show should be concentrating most of its time and energy is answering these questions rather than giving us details about an alternate version of characters that don’t ultimately matter. As it has done in the five previous seasons, the show is slowly revealing answers, but raising more questions at the same time. Since this is the last season, I assume that they’ll get around to answering the big questions at some point. Or they could just leave us all hanging, and give us a Sopranos style ending.
Of course, I could be way off, and events in the alternate timeline might have important consequences in the original timeline. In fact, the alternate timeline could actually be the key to everything. But probably not. I guess, like always, we’ll just have to wait and see.