Lingering questions from the season finale of ''Lost'': Is Jack's dad alive? Who was in the casket? The Doc shares thoughts on those questions. Plus: a theory from another ''Planet''!

By Jeff Jensen
Updated May 31, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

‘Lost’ (S3): Lingering questions from the finale

In which the finale is analyzed anew, mysteries are flagged and discussed, and a goodbye tear is shed. PLUS! Doc Jensen goes bananas with a new theory that’s pure monkey business.

It sits well. Very well. The season finale of Lost‘s turbulent and ultimately triumphant third season did more than re-energize the series with new possibilities, grander ambitions, and, yes, more mysteries. In bringing together the lingering bits and dangling strands of the year — everything from Hurley’s Dharma bus to the Room 23 film, Desmond’s flashes to Sawyer’s backslide into damnation — the producers of Lost proved themselves worthy of the trust they asked for earlier in the year when they insisted that season 3 needed to be assessed as a whole. Of course, that doesn’t mean the artfulness of their execution isn’t immune from criticism; even I have to agree with the chorus that the fall ”mini-season” fell short. But in retrospect, can there be any doubt that season 3 did indeed have a grand design to it? By its climactic episode, the show earned the grace that faithful fans extended to its most patience-taxing installments. If there was ever a show whose seasons are greater than the sum of its parts, Lost is it.

But the finale accomplished something else, something pretty seismic, at least in my book: It liberated Lost from its mythology — at least for the moment. With some magical sleight of hand, the producers lured our geeky eyes away from the show’s impersonal mysteries and captivated us anew with its people. What happened to Jack? Who is Kate’s mystery man? Who was in the casket? Now don’t get me wrong: We all still want answers about the Island, the Monster, the Dharma Initiative, etc., and the show BETTER give them to us! At the same time, to have the dramatic stakes of the ultimate endgame rooted in relationships and redemption gives Lost a better shot at an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Even a geek like me can see how that would be preferable to having Dr. Marvin Candle show up with a PowerPoint presentation revealing that, yes, the Island really does exist in Lynne McTaggart’s conception of a ”zero point field.”

Bottom line, the finale affected me the same way it affected reader Jilianna Rice of Indiana, who writes: ”I have done the research, played ‘The Lost Experience,’ followed up on [the] Easter eggs, and read so many theories that I feel I could teach a class! But this finale did something to me. It feels like it has released some tension in a way. I have so many ideas of where this can go, [but] I feel like I would rather stop guessing and wait to be hit with it!”

Of course, you needn’t worry: I’ll keep thinking about Lost until brain transmutes into liquid and pours out of my nose. After all, that’s my job! But what do you think? Send me your thoughts in the e-mail window below. And don’t worry: You won’t have to wait seven months for a response. (More on that later.)



What I’ll be puzzling over the most during the looooooong hiatus:


Why I’m intrigued: Because Jack’s Dad should be dead! But in the flash forward, Jack referred to the unseen Christian Shepherd in the present tense.

What you guys are saying: Most of you are intrigued by the possibility that Daddy McDrinksalot has pulled a Lazarus. How can this be? The theories are flying. As all of us have seen, the Island does have unique healing powers. But can it bring the dead back to life? The example of Mikhail Bakunin would suggest yes. (Though you’d think the Island could do something about Patchy’s fused-shut eye.) The Dharma mass grave would seem to suggest no. My hunch is that regeneration on the Island is a function of mind over matter. And since Christian came to the Island dead, I doubt he had the mind to accomplish the task. (Unless you subscribe to the Theosophical notion that it takes decades for consciousness to leak out of a corpse.) Perhaps Lost blogger J Wood is correct with his theory that the drama on the Island is rewriting history. Or perhaps the plethora of alternate-reality theories can explain Christian’s resurrection, not to mention the other inconsistency in the finale spotted by Richard from Alabama and others: ”Why [was] Kate not in jail? I don’t think surviving a plane crash would warrant a pardon for murder. Kate should be behind bars — but she is not.”

Regardless, reader Angela Peach took exception with my TV Watch suggestion that the (alleged) time-warp clues of season 3 were actually pointing us toward the flash-forward twist, not a literal warping of time: ”Isn’t it possible that one of the things driving Jack to his drug addiction and despair IS the frustration of having to repeat the same activities over and over again?” Adds Droobieboy: ”We still don’t have any convincing explanation for why Naomi and Locke’s [father] believe the crash left no survivors. As a result, I’m thinking we could still be dealing with all that parallel universe stuff that makes me wish I studied harder in physics class.”

Doc Jensen says: You’ve won me over! While I’m still not convinced that madcap quantum mechanics explains the mysteries of the Island, I have to admit the possibility is still in play. So here’s my far-out theory: Jack’s ”Dad” is ”alive” in the off-Island future, but he’s not really Jack’s Dad — he’s an Island manifestation of Jack’s Dad, conjured by Jack’s subconscious. What if at some point prior to leaving the Island, Jack finds his father on the Island, brings him home with the castaways, and lives to regret it in a scary Pet Sematary kinda way?

NEXT PAGE: Mystery No. 2 — who was Jack mourning?


Why I’m intrigued: Because clearly, I’m SUPPOSED to be wondering who was in that casket! It was neither ”friend” nor ”family,” nor was it someone who was particularly well liked. And yet it was someone whose death could move Jack to tears and bridge-jumping despair.

What you guys are saying: The likely suspect is Michael, followed by Locke, Ben, and even the mysterious Jacob. Curious: According to several eagle-eyed super-sleuths like Maria Rotella, the name of the deceased in the death notice that Jack saw in the newspaper is partially visible. The first name begins with ”J” and the last name ends with the letters ”ntham.” (However, there MIGHT be a second reference in the obit that spells the last name ”Latham.”) Many of you believe that this clue points to ”Jeremy Bentham,” a name that happens to be shared by…yet another Enlightenment-era philosopher! And as Ryan McGee pointed out to me, one of Bentham’s claims to fame was designing a prison known as the Panopticon, which has a Wikipedia entry sure to fire the imaginations of all you theorists.

Doc Jensen says: Shout-outs to Ramon Valera and Arma Marquez for hooking me up with Bentham research. But I also like the idea advanced by Dan Cymarron and Johnny Utah that the obit points to ”John Latham,” a conceptual artist who subscribed to Lost-ish-sounding notions regarding the interrelationship of past and present called ”Flat Time.” (Again: see Wikipedia.) But how about the reference to the name of the building mentioned in the newspaper clipping? It was ”The Tower.” Hiatus homework: Read Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga, then investigate the Tarot card significance of ”The Tower.”

Hyperlink allusions aside, which (dead) castaway is hiding behind the curtain of this pseudonym? My money is on Michael. Gobstopper feels the same way, and offers this savvy read on the real reason why Jack would be so distraught over the castaway traitor’s death: ”I don’t think Jack actually cared about Michael. I think he cared about what Michael knew. Let’s assume Michael escaped the island. With his suicide, he would have taken with him the knowledge of how to return to the island. It’s possible that Jack is devastated now that his only [possible source of direction to the Island] is now dead.”


Why I’m intrigued: Because it seems to suggest that between now and when he leaves the Island, Jack will make a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Is Ben right? Will calling Naomi’s freighter prove to be a tragic, bloody ”beginning of the end”?

What you guys are saying: Many of you were troubled by this dark turn for Jack. Reader Vicki Hobb was so bothered, she came up with some theories designed to reverse Jack’s downward spiral. ”I have 3 theories. 1. The flash forward is a ‘possible’ [future], not set in stone a la Desmond prognostications. 2. The flash forward is a bad dream a la Bobby Ewing. 3. The flash forward is real, which would really bum me out because unlike some people out there, I really like Jack.” Indeed, while most of you LOVED the flash-forward, Robert St. Laurent worries that the show may have made a strategic mistake by revealing that post-Island life for the castaways will be exceedingly bleak. ”If this is the case, how do we stay invested in this group of people? We want them to live, to get off the island, to find redemption. If the show is three seasons more of the characters’ slow, tortuous decline to despair or death, then this really was, in the words of Ben, ‘the beginning of the end.”’

Doc Jensen says: To Rob and Vicki, I might suggest that instead of alienating you, the future twist has brilliantly hooked you. Two reasons: 1. Now, more than ever, you find yourselves invested in these characters. 2. I think you were so distracted by Jack’s jarringly dour circumstances that you failed to recognize that what we REALLY saw in that flash forward was the beginning of a new Hero’s Journey. I like reader Michael Peters’ projection of where Lost is headed; he thinks that over the course of the next three seasons, the Island-set stories will reveal how the castaways got OFF the Island, while the flash-forward stories will track Jack’s efforts to get back to the Island with several other surviving castaways: ”Season 6 will be the return [to the Island], and THAT will close out the series. Am I out of control?” No way! Sounds wonderfully (in)sane to me!

(And if Jack could find it in his heart to shave that unkempt cat off his face between now and the end — even better!)

NEXT PAGE: What Planet of the Apes has to do with it



Using Planet of the Apes to analyze where Lost has come from.

Introduces the world. Establishes a central conflict between castaway visitors and the Others, the seemingly hostile inhabitants of the Island. Ends with the discovery of The Black Rock, a symbolically loaded landmark that speaks ironically to various deep themes.
Introduces the world. Establishes a central conflict between castaway visitors and the Apes, the seemingly hostile inhabitants of the world. Ends with the discovery of the Statue of Liberty, a symbolically loaded landmark that speaks ironically to various deep themes.

The dramatic arc of season 1 is revisited and reinterpreted through a separate group of castaways, the Tailies. A subterranean-based culture is discovered, one that blends science, religion, and doomsday weirdness. A character of monumental importance (Desmond) appears at the very beginning, vanishes, and then shows up at the very end to activate a bomb. The season ends with an explosive event that sets the stage for a time-travel story in the next season.
The dramatic arc of the first film is revisited and reinterpreted through a new group of astronauts. A subterranean-based culture is discovered, one that blends science, religion, and doomsday weirdness. A character of monumental importance (Charlton Heston’s Taylor) appears at the very beginning, vanishes, and then shows up at the very end to activate a bomb. The movie ends with an explosive event that destroys the world and sets the stage for a time-travel story in the next movie.

A dramatic change of setting and focus: Three castaways — Jack, Kate, and Sawyer — are abducted and relocated to the world of the Others, where they are held against their will in a zoology facility. A time-travel storyline introduces the possibility of a circular framework to the entire saga. The climactic conflict hinges on the future survival of the Others, the ostensible antagonists of the first two seasons.
A dramatic change of setting and focus: Three protagonists — a trio of refugee chimps — travel into the distant past of their ”Others,” the humans, where they are held against their will in a zoology facility. The time-travel storyline introduces the possibility of a circular framework for the entire saga. The climactic conflict hinges on the future survival of the entire super-sentient simian species, the ostensible antagonists of the first two seasons.

(Uncanny, huh? And I didn’t even tell you yet how all of this also correlates to Hegel’s five-step Master/Slave myth! Come back in late July for my first special hiatus edition of Doc Jensen, when I’ll show you how the last two Apes flicks — Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes — and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes will correlate to the final three seasons of Lost!)



1. Watch the films Lost Horizon, Event Horizon, and What the BLEEP! Do We Know?, which all my readers keep telling me have SOMETHING to do with Lost.

2. Send return e-mails to all the readers who’ve written to me this season.

3. Send candy bars (or an equivalent prize) to EVERYONE who entered my ”What was the symbolic meaning of Sawyer’s bare feet in ‘The Brig’?” contest.

4. Post at least ONE new Doc Jensen column per month, beginning in late July, prior to Lost‘s annual newsy panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con 2007.

5. Offer my deepest thanks to ALL OF YOU for reading the column this season. Thank you for indulging my silliest ideas (The Others are human-animal hybrids!) and plain silly philosophizing (Lost is a critique of postmodernism!). Thank you to executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for providing us with insight and weekly teases. And thank you all for the well wishes you sent my wife during her cancer treatments this past spring, and thank you for allowing me to share that with you. With a tear in my eye, I bid you all a Happy Hiatus, and look forward to passing through the looking glass with you next season.


Doc Jensen

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