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A letter from a Lost writer

I haven’t had the time to write my thoughts about Lost yet, but in the meantime, here is an anonymous post by one of the Lost writers. I’m being told it is legit.
Nonetheless, some of the points listed here are pretty interesting if you want to understand a bit more ‘what just happened’.

First …
The Island:

It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people’s heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a “Protector”. Jacob wasn’t the first, Hurley won’t be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him — even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob’s plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn’t do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet every time he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn’t take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma — which I’m not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interfered by “corrupting” Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben’s “off-island” activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the “Others” killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that’s what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn’t do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB’s corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Candidates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Candidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That’s a question that is purposely not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still … Dharma’s purpose is not “pointless” or even vague. Hell, it’s pretty blatant.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his “candidates” (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of “candidates” through the decades and letting them “choose” which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn’t. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector — I know that’s how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won’t answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he’d always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we’ll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on …


Sideways World:

Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least — because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer’s room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we’re all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it’s not exactly the best word). But these people we’re linked to are with us during “the most important moments of our lives” as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It’s loosely based in Hinduism with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this “sideways” world where they exist in purgatory until they are “awakened” and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show’s concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own “Sideways” purgatory with their “soulmates” throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That’s a beautiful notion. Even if you aren’t religious or even spiritual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It’s a really cool and spiritual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events — not JUST because of Jacob. But because that’s what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith — and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that’s THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosaic.

But the writer’s took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways “purgatory” with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn’t allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died — some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley’s case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are “awakened” and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Rousseau, Alex, Miles, Lapidus, (and all the rest who weren’t in the church — basically everyone who wasn’t in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here’s where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It’s possible that those links aren’t people from the island but from their other life (Anna’s partner, the guy she shot — Rousseau’s husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn’t go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can’t move on yet because he hasn’t connected with the people he needs to. It’s going to be his job to awaken Rousseau, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to atone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley’s number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Widmore, Hawkings etc. It’s really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more “behind the scenes” note: the reason Ben’s not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn’t believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It’s pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church — but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church … and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder — the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ’s ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I’ve been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I’ve loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spiritual questions that most shows don’t touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story — even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.


  1. MiB

    It is not sci-fi, it is fantasy… you all copped out and I am incredibly disappointed at your laziness. I read your whole article and nothing in it has changed my mind. 3 seasons of fantastic writing followed by 3 seasons that meant nothing… You should have cast Bruce Willis in the role of Jack. The series finale was really only a season six finale and frankly I think it sucked and you suck as a writer if you can’t keep your ideas within a realm that you are able to conclude. Mysteries are awesome, however making things weird for the sake of making them weird when they really serve no purpose, well that is just bad writing.

  2. cara

    Thanks so much for the explanation and enlightenment! I watched the finale twice and listened to Christian’s remarks closely but not ‘til I read your article did I get it. Especially since all the talk is they all died together on the plane crash and the island isn’t real etc… So Thank You! One question though…the numbers!!! Hurley lotto, the hatch, and all the other reference…any significance? Then the whole Eloise killing Daniel Farady..? Oh, there are still a lot of unanswered but thank your writing. I love the depth, the significance, the spirituality of it all…..amazing! Epic. One of a kind. Brillant.

  3. Cathy

    It’s much better that all the things that happened and made Hurley the protector, it makes no difference to him. But Jack, he was so sensitive and couldn’t live with his beloved one’s memories.

  4. Shauna W.-S.

    Excellent explanation. Makes a lot of sense to me after reading it.

  5. Rich

    Thank you very much for this. I’m happy to say that this is the way I’ve interpreted the show, and it’s nice to know I’m on the same wavelength.
    I think it was a great show, original and unpredictable, and I hope the networks can keep this sort of thinking coming.

  6. Fan1

    Cool explanation. Just one thing i find it hard to understand. The beginning of Season 6, the island was under the sea. But by the end of Season 6 , this was never revealed or explained. Can some one explain ?

  7. Stephen

    Aah, crap. Even if the chapel scene was written way back, it’s still a copout. There was more resolution in the Oceanic Six getting home a couple of seasons back than there was in this. Yes, the Cain and Abel back story on the island is important, but the sideways stuff is just the ‘long con’ that Sawyer mentions in the finale. Conning the viewer. Who cares about their afterlife – as a viewer I was interested in their real lives, not some waffle about an afterlife where they all get to have a barbecue together and pretend they didn’t bicker the whole time. Looked more like a way to remind the viewer of the core cast from season one, a reunion special. Should’ve invited the Fonz and Ralph Malph too. Cue live audience applause when the chapel door swings open.

    What woulda been cool – if in the sideways stuff, when Locke was waiting for surgery, if he’d turned into Smokey and scared the bejesus outta Jack. Now that would have been a ‘gotcha’ moment.

  8. JW

    Well said MiB!

  9. Tsarin

    So why was there a polar bear?

  10. Will

    Tsarin – The polar bear was there because the Dharma people had brought the bears there and were experimenting on them and then when the Dharma people were all killed and there buildings taken over the bears escaped.

  11. Noshow

    I believe the island appearing under the water at the start of Season Six was a visual technique to show that the island and the events on it were just under the subconcious (or water) of the characters in the Sideways timeline.

    That was my take on it anyways.

  12. MiB

    Great explanation for those who can think for themselves and don’t need to be hand feed all the answers.

  13. snowbear

    Its a pity Michael and Walter (his son) weren’t in the church together. I must have missed something? Was the dog there? That would have been nice. I liked the ending. The show not so much after awhile, but thank for the heads up. I might just watch it again now. Was the sideways thing a wishful life I wonder because Jack had a son. I guess some of us are too thick to understand. Me included.

  14. Antipodiean

    My two cents? I was 18 when the first season came out, I have bought the dvds and spent countless hours on Lost forums and wiki sites much to my girlfriends dismay; “its just a tv show” she would say, but I knew the truth! It was a moment in TV history and thus mankind’s history! I enjoyed the science as did many many people and enjoyed reading all the theory that people produced. To have the show end with a faith based afterlife scenario made me sick to my stomach. I will never respect anyone who had anything to do with this abortion of an ending and in my humble opinion I was very much tricked into watching a nonsensical religious rant. Lost will always be a “what could have been” TV series.

    @MiB – Why did the chicken cross the road? …well, it’s up to you to come up with your own answer, I have given you all the information now you just need to work it out for yourself. I wouldnt want to hand feed you. Baaaaa!

  15. Unfortunately, no matter what anyone tells us, the ending to Lost is a cop-out. Six years of tight writing, of fantastic acting (Terry O’Quinn is outstanding, but they are all good). From their choice of music (Jo Purdy wash away, Three Dog Night Shambala, Mama Cass Elliot Make your own kind of music); all brilliantly chosen and placed. Some very moving and thought-provoking realistic themes, to Season 6, almost a fantasy – Lord of the Rings style. The best way I can describe this is the Sprinter who attempted the Marathon, basically ran out of steem before the finish line. We all thought there for a while this was going to be another Twin Peaks, a highly woven story line with no way out. Sadly the ending is a copout, most of the early Season 6 episodes were pointless. The Temple and the healing waters, all unnecessary. Ultimately my point is this 5 great seasons of acting and wrting to be ended like this is a major cop-out.

  16. Awesome article, it nicely confirmed what I believed the explanation really was. It’s the kind of ending you need to go have a long think about and it makes sense, which I think is interesting. However I am really stunned and kinda annoyed at how many people hated the ending simply because of the religious themes, saying it was a “cop out”. What kinda show have you guys been watching for 6 years? Surely the fact that there are ghosts and characters like Locke and Ecko who were all about faith, was some kind of hint that maybe the big reveal would be spiritually based. Also you might like to know that the light source within the island could very well have come from space, since it has been refered to by Damon as a “light particle”. The flash sideways reality was simply just a plane of existence where a person’s consciousness travels to after leaving the body. What’s so hard to swallow about that? You believe that someone can shift through time but not that their soul can continue on living? I don’t think I will ever understand the ways of the closed minded.

  17. czerro

    The show was so genius, that it actually wore itself into the ground. I don’t believe for a minute that there was anything behind this show except a concept for a soap opera/sci-fi meld. It was simply about character development and mind-boggling cliffhangers (like a soap) with a crazy sci-fi element. I don’t think it’s right for the writers to pretend that this was ever going anywhere.

    They really had the ending planned out since the beginning when it’s already been established that Abrams never believed the show would last that long? Why wasn’t it a 3 season show then? They filmed many of the seasons back to back, even before they knew how audiences would receive it. That part about the ending being planned is total BS. I wish I hadn’t watched this show get drug through the mud for 3 seasons. The ending comes across as incredibily disingenious. I don’t think any of the Lost actors could get into it either…

  18. I also watched seasons 1 till 5 countless times. But I can’t get to the moment to watch the finale again. People have always said I was crazy for being such a LOST-nerd, now I wish I could erase that church-scene out of my memory. God I hated it. No way around that. And for me as LOST-fan to say that, hurts. It really does.

    LOST always been about science vs. faith, okay, I always thought it was more about mystery, the island and characters. But I always believed it was the faith to believe in THE ISLAND and THEMSELVES and a REASON THEY’RE ON THE ISLAND. Not in a God / Religion / crappy fairytale afterworld. To just leave it to that is just plain wrong for a show this good. I believed in a good ending still 15 minutes till the real ending.

    I’m happy you (the lost writer) like the sideways world (you reaaaaally really really like it!) but sorry, I can’t believe this was the original ending planned from the beginning. Especially since they said in S01 already that they wouldn’t do purgatory.

    Some sidenotes:
    Sayid’s true love isn’t Shannon, he was over her a week after she died.
    Eko not being in the church? If someone deserved moving on, it was him.
    Dharma was there to destroy MiB? Come on…

  19. Grant – Nothing to do with religous reasons, if they want to be all airy fairy with the ending that’s fine – no issue. I have an issue with the journey the show took versus the outcome. Yes fantastic – man of faith/man of science – great – no issue. They basically wasted the sixth season, with what I would call “filler” episodes to make up the number of episodes for the season. Although American shows are nutoruous for telling you how to think, and try to justify, this show has gone the other way. It lead you on a journey that ended at a destination that didn’t make sense. Think of it this way, I live in New Zealand someone tells me they are going to take me somewhere, but not telling me where, so I get taken to Australia – then papua New Guinea, then sinagpore then Iran, and now we are up to sesaon six and I would naturlly think I could be heading to England, or Europe or Russia, near the end of season 6 I am in Europe,, So I think which counry in Europe will I end up in? Or will I end in Scandinavia? Or England. Gotta be somewhere in this area cos it’s the double episode finale. But actually end up in Alaska. HUH???? WHAT???? After that fantastic jounrney, how the hell did I end up in Alaska, we were no-where near freakin Alaska!!! That’s what I am talking about! The journey versus the outcome – just not plausible. i loved the show so much I watched Season 1 5 times – 2 3 times 3 2 times 4 2times 5 certian episodes twice – 6 once. God I am a sucker.

  20. Danny1131

    The ending may have done justice to themes of unity, survival and science vs. faith which was lovely. But, lets face it, what made the show unreasonably compelling and popular was its mystery. Unlike great mystery stories, Lost was unable to give answers that where either just as, if not more rewarding, than the questions they raised.

  21. MikeD

    Wow, after reading the comments here, I think the best way to describe most of the people leaving them is to point to the name of the show.

    Someone complained and whined about the church being in the final scene. It was significant and needed because it was a way to get all the characters together since Jack’s father was in the coffin on their plane that crashed. Wouldn’t that make sense?

    People complain about how there’s no way that the ending could have been written that early but yet there’s many characters not there that deserved to be…yet mysteriously there’s really only the people from the FIRST season there (notice Ben wasn’t in the church??).

    Someone asked why Walt wasn’t in there. The only significance for Walt was to make Michael do the things he did. He wasn’t even an important character although really big events in the series happened because of him…but that’s exactly it….he was there to cause major events involving his dad. That’s it.

    Also, an afterlife doesn’t necessarily imply that this was a religious ending. All they said was that they were here until they were ready to move on. You guys look way too far into this when one of the writers explains it clear as day. Besides, having any religion at all in the show doesn’t devalue it. It only does if you’re close-minded and can’t just see the show for how good it was.

    This show is definitely a lot better than most of the garbage on TV today. I’m just glad I waited until it was over to watch it via NetFlix and Itunes. I couldn’t have made it waiting from one season to the next, especially during the Writer’s Strike.

  22. Desmond wasn’t in season 1, and Penny wasn’t until the last episode of S02.
    Same goes for Juliet (S03E01) and Libby (S02E02). I know that they’re there because
    they are the “soulmates” of Sawyer and Hurley but Helen isn’t there either…
    And then it’s “clever” that Ben’s not in church?

    And can someone tell me what’s NOT religious about this??
    Or am I too close-minded :)

  23. Grant

    I don’t know why you guys are so mad about a religious themed ending but Lost has always been about faith as well as science, to hate the ending simply because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted is stupid. The writers weren’t lying when they denied the suggestion of purgatory, because that is not what the island is, it is a place that exists in the real world and the flash sideways reality isn’t purgatory either, it is an original idea. Remember when Charlotte Malkin said she talked to Yemi when she was “between places”? That is what this world is, a reality between life and death. When Locke had his dream visions his consciousness was visiting this reality. Remember when Boone took the mute wheelchair bound Locke to the airport in his dream? Same thing, it isn’t real but the people who’s souls reside there believe it is. Try to understand something before deciding to claim that it sucks.

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