LOST Discussion: What the heck is up with the flash-sideways?

27 03 2010

So…as we move past the halfway point of LOST’s final season, one of the biggest questions on my mind is what the heck we’re supposed to be getting out of the flash-sideways.  Depending on your point of view, they’re either a fun diversion, a minor distraction, or a complete disappointment.  Personally, I think the typical viewer’s level of tolerance for the flash-sideways stories has nothing to do with the level of quality of the stories themselves.  I’m more inclined to believe that your interest in the flash-sideways is directly related to how much good will the show has developed with you over the years.

Jack on Oceanic 815 in the flash-sideways

Quite frankly, in the most objective sense, the writers have not given us any reason to be emotionally invested in what happens in the flash-sideways.  Without understanding exactly how it relates to the storyline we’ve been following for six years, or knowing the consequences or stakes, it’s hard to decide what to hope for.  Additionally, with the plot in the main timeline being so intriguing, and promising to untangle the web of six years of mystery, it’s only natural for viewers to feel as though the flash-sideways are a distraction or even an annoyance.

So what to do with them?  Sit back idly and hope that the next episode will somehow tie the two storylines together?  That hasn’t worked so well for me so far.  I think I’m going to try to do something different with them, and that is to theorize on what they might actually be.  This way, when they appear in episodes, I can apply the theories to them, and see which ones might hold up, and which ones don’t seem to make any sense.  Of course, these are only my theories.  If you have any that I didn’t list here, please explain them in the comments!  I’d love to hear your explanations.

Theory #1: The timelines will merge

This theory seems to have the most momentum from the online community, but in my opinion, is the least viable.  Things in LOST have slowly moved from Season 1, with nearly everything explainable via modern science, to Season 6, with time travel, possession, and reincarnation all having happened with little to no skepticism.  So merging alternate timelines could be the icing on the cake.

Kate helps a pregnant Claire in the flash-sideways

The problem I’m having with this one is the logistics of it all.  If they come together, which universe “controls” the other?  In other words, is it flash-sideways Jack that retains consciousness in the merge, or is it the Jack from the main timeline?  Or do both get to exist in the same timeline?  And beyond that, what event will trigger such a happening?  It just seems like an overly complicated and contrived plot device for a storyline that appears to be very simple at its heart.  I’d have to think that we’re moving to less complication as we come closer to the end of the story, as opposed to more.

Theory #2: The timelines are connected, but separate

This theory seems to be a variation of the first one, where the timelines themselves don’t actual merge in some way, but instead, the characters have some unknown psychic ability to transfer their consciousness to the other timeline.  This could, for example, allow Locke from the alternate timeline to transfer his consciousness to the Locke in the main timeline, thus taking over his body and forcing MIB out.  Or, Sawyer and Juliet could transfer from the main timeline to the alternate timeline and have their happily ever after.

Hurley throws Locke a bone in the flash-sideways

While this theory would go a long way towards explaining Juliet’s last words in the main timeline, doesn’t it lessen the magnitude of what happens on the island if anyone can simply escape to an alternate timeline to get their happily ever-after?  It’s not like I’m rooting for a bad ending for our characters on the show, but it trivializes those that get a good ending if the ones that don’t can simply escape their fate by flashing to a different timeline.  This theory is somewhat more palatable to me than the first one, but it still leaves me wanting.  It’s just too much a cop-out.

Theory #3: The alternate timeline shows the consequences if Smokey wins

Especially in light of the events of “Ab Aeterno”, this is the explanation that seems to make the most sense to me.  The logic goes like this: what happens if the Man in Black wins?  What if he escapes the island and gets to do what he’s been aching for years to do?  I think it’s a compelling “what if”, but not compelling enough to actually see our LOSTies lose in the end.  So how do you relay the consequences of losing this battle?  How do you show what happens if Smokey wins?  Well, what if we were shown an alternate timeline in which something happened to the island…something that stopped it from being that “cork” to hold the evil where it belongs?  Maybe a scenario in which the island is submerged?

Jack has a son David in the flash-sideways

This seems to make the most sense after recent events.  The major negative to this explanation is that if Smokey’s off the island, why has the world not already succumbed to his evil?  But it’ll be interesting to see if things slowly progress in that fashion in the alternate timeline now that there are only 8 episodes left.  

Theory #4: The alternate timeline is an epilogue for the show

So think for a second about an alternate Season 6…one in which the great conflict ends somewhere around episode 10, and the remaining 6 episodes are used to explain what happens to all of our LOSTies after everything gets all wrapped up.  Yeah, kind of an anti-climactic way to end the show, isn’t it?  But what if you felt as though you had to explain how the characters ended up, to give final resolution to the show?  Perhaps a solution to the dilemma is to show the ending in parallel to everything leading up to it.  Perhaps this “alternate” timeline isn’t alternate at all…perhaps some major event happens at the end of the show, and these flash-sideways are an explanation of what happens after that event.  It’s just being shown to us out of sequence.

Sayid chooses not to be with Nadia in the flash-sideways

This theory seems highly reasonable to me, but the event at the end would have to be pretty amazing in order to create the events we’re seeing in the flash-sideways.  Not my favorite theory, because it creates aother escape mechanism for our LOSTies, but it’s certainly a pretty clever twist if they use it.  It’s also a fun theory to keep in your head as a sort of “play along” as events unfold in the flash-sideways.

Theory #5: The alternate timeline is really the main timeline

So here’s one last theory that’s a bit off-the-wall.  Perhaps this whole alternate timeline thing is actually not an alternate timeline at all.  Maybe what we’ve watched for the past 6 years is the alternate timeline, and the timeline we’re seeing this season is what really happened.  When we get to the end of the “alternate” timeline, some major decision point will come into play that will either propel the LOSTies into the timeline from the last 6 years, or allow the non-island timeline to stick.

Ben works at the same high school as Arzt (and Locke) in the flash-sideways

Of all of the theories I’ve heard, this is the one I’m least fond of.  It basically invalidates the entire storyline from the last 6 seasons, and is even a bigger cop-out than the merging or transferring theories.  But it certainly would be a twist of epic proportions, and something that would be talked about for some time to come.

What’s your favorite?  What did I miss?

Miles and James Ford (Sawyer) are cop partners in the flash-sideways

Alright, so that’s how I see it…but I’d love to hear what you think!  I title these posts “LOST Discussion”s because I’m hoping you’ll be inspired to write in the comments and talk about the details with all of us.  So don’t be shy if you’ve got something to share!  Let’s see if we can figure it out together before the big reveal happens!

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4 responses

28 03 2010
DDay

Thanks for the theories. They save some thinking… 🙂

OK, Farraday’s rest detonation of Jughead in 1977 makes it so that the Swan is never built, the button is never pushed, Desmond Hume doesn’t come to the island and isn’t there to inadvertently help bring down 815- which now lands safely in Los Angeles. The main characters now lead similar but not parallel lives in the “flash sideways”… (FS)

We’re halfway through the season and the most distinctive thing we can see in the FS is its’ simplicity. The characters seem to have rather common problems and lives. They’re teachers that care for parents, doctors with marital issues but hopeful relationships with their kids, cops with painful pasts, etc. Nothing special has really happened- no one is flashing around. No odd people are touching anyone, etc. BUT, everyone who died on the island post-crash- are now alive- ie Charlie, Arzt, etc and we can assume that Ana Lucia, Libby, Michael, etc are alive in the FS.

I begin to wonder if the FS isn’t the “real” timeline now- after the “uncorking” of whatever it is. And the world hasn’t become what we know it to be- evil and good etc. Let’s face it, the idea of the “good guy” entity bringing subjects to a hidden island to test themselves against evil incarnate in order to keep evil caged isn’t exactly reality TV. So I wonder if the submerged and destroyed island and the rather mundane lives of the characters in the FS isn’t the writers way of expressing an ending to Lost reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz or even Back to the Future when Doc Brown told Marty- “the future is what you make of it- so make it a good one”… Obviously, Lost is a little darker and the emphasis is on personal choice.

Here’s the thing, if 1977 was the fork in the temporal road, then whatever happened prior is still relevant- including Jacob visiting some of the Losties as children BEFORE 1977. I think this means Sawyer only. Jacob reached out to Kate in the late 80’s early 90’s, and Jack, Hurley, Sun and Jin and Sayid as adults. I don’t know what significance if any this has.

28 03 2010
hablodepablo

Good points as always, DDay. Especially about Sawyer…I hadn’t run through the timeline and noticed that his visit with Jacob comes prior to 1977. And I would absolutely agree that the fork has to be the Jughead detonation. We know that Ben & Roger went to the island to work for Dharma at some point, but then left.

So what does it mean that everything going on in the flash-sideways is “simple”? I think my issue is that I’ve ben trying so hard to fit in my theory of the flash-sideways being what happens if Smokey wins, that I haven’t thought about what that might mean. In other words, I think it’s OK to still assume that Smokey has won and escaped the island in the flash-sideways, but perhaps waiting for the world to fall apart is the wrong way to go. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jacob is lying when he equates MIB to evil. Maybe if Smokey gets off the island, he simply “goes home”, and the world is none the worse.

If this is the case, I guess the question is, why show us the flash-sideways? I think a brief epilogue showing where MIB goes would be sufficient enough.

Perhaps there’s some other theory that I haven’t read or thought about that pulls all of this together a little better. Regardless, I sure hope that now that we’ve crossed the mid-way point, that we’ll start to get at least a little bit of info regarding what it all means.

28 03 2010
DDay

I meant to say “Farraday’s “reset” detonation…

28 03 2010
DDay

OK, the Flash Sideways obviously means something important to the story. I can’t believe they would just run a parallel sort of “normal life” next to the island adventure for no reason. Maybe the idea is that with the island “destroyed” and with Smokey freed, the venue may change but the roles and objectives of the Jacob-MIB relationship will just take a different form? Something that has puzzled me since LAX was Desmond. Was he on the plane? Who saw him? Rose apparently didn’t. Jack had a normal conversation with him.

But they shook hands if I recall? What if in the flash sideways, Desmond has assumed Jacob’s job? If the bomb was the fork in the road, then maybe Desmond was recruited in some other way after Jughead? Don’t be surprised to see Desmond popping up here and there in the FS…

The problem I have with the FS is that they have taken great pains to hide it so unless they REALLY nail the ending, the payoff may be jeopardized because they have opened way too many tangents in the FS to tie them up with a cheesy sci-fi universe swap thing or some kind of portal connection between the two universes. There has to be a connection, the players will know it, but the two universes will be separate but equal.

They sure do keep us guessing though.

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