The series finale of LOST was broadcast on May 23, 2010 and was met with total enthusiasm.

At my home.

But everywhere else, it was quite disappointing. What happened? Allow me to explain.

You probably know what the show was about: a plane crashes on a mysterious tropical island, that has mysterious polar bears, a number of mysterious buildings, and mysterious scruffy people that have mysterious modern technology (there is also mystery involved). The few dozen survivors of the crash that try to leave the island, find out it is totally impossible. For reasons.

It was the kind of show where people wondered, theorized, discussed and speculated what it was all about. One of the popular theories during its entire 6-year run was “they’re all dead, and it’s all purgatory“.

NOPE, said the showrunners. Keep speculating at that water cooler!

Oh. Awesome, there’s more to it! Let’s keep watching.

But then the final season came, and the series finale revealed that…..they were dead all along. Purgatory.

A VERY common misconception

WAIT WHAT?!!? THAT IS NOT…..YOU SAID IT WASN’T PURGATORY AND NOW IT TURNS OUT THAT IT WAS, WHAT THE!! YOU STRINGED US ALONG ALL THIS TIME! WHAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT IF IT ALL TOOK PLACE IN PURGATORY?! UNACCEPTABLE IT WAS ALL WHATEVER THIS SUCKS!!!11

And so the legacy of this awesome show was forever tarnished. And that makes me sad. Because I think a lot of people misunderstood what happened. And it made Lost look stupid. Even though Lost was hella smart.

So, if you’re among those people who were disappointed (or even just confused) by the finale, this is the deal:

  • No, they were NOT dead all along.
  • Everything actually happened for realz (within the story’s mythology); the flashbacks, flashforwards, everything in the present (on and off island) was not just taking place in people’s minds.
  • …EXCEPT for the “flash sideways” in season 6. This was a shared fantasy by all those involved (what people would call purgatory).

I don’t know what else to tell you. Most people I’ve spoken to about this finale, hated it because they misunderstood it for what it was. Maybe this changes things for you.

If not, check out this more elaborate explanation from Damon Lindelof, one of Lost’s showrunners (and one of my all-time heroes), where he puts the Verge interviewer guy in his place:

So yes, the ambiguity (what a word) was intentional, but instead of generating feelings of “hmmmm…now how….maybe….hmmmmmm…“, people got “so that’s what it is? DUMB.