What is the plot of Lost, like what happened
February 23, 2016 9:38 AM   Subscribe

what exactly happened in Lost? Please tell me in UNDER 400 WORDS. What happened in that show. i know a plane crashed on an island, then there was a stained glass window at the end, but i don't want to watch it. What was it about. NO MORE THAN 400 WORDS IN A COMMENT, NO MORE THAN ONE COMMENT PER PERSON PLEASE, THAT IS ALL THE PATIENCE I HAVE. spoiler zone follows. thank you babes
posted by Greg Nog to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
 
A plane crashes on a mysterious island not on any charts and the survivors set up a society, beset by 1) supernatural island forces, including a weird smoke monster; 2) other survivors from the tail section; then 3) people who live on the island, who are leftovers from a weird quasi-cult/science project called the Dharma Initiative. Survivors eventually get off, but are haunted by the supernatural stuff so several go back. Some people die. Others don't. No one understands the ending.
posted by norm at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2016 [29 favorites]


A plane crashed on an island, instantly killing all aboard. They all went to Purgatory for a bit. Purgatory is a really fucked up place with monsters made of smoke, pneumatic tubes to nowhere, time travel, and people called "the others." Nothing makes a lot of sense there and nothing in Purgatory gets resolved to anyone's satisfaction.
posted by bondcliff at 9:44 AM on February 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


A plane crashes on a conveniently hot island so people are always sweaty and bare-shouldered and stuff. The island has a ton of MYSTERIES, chiefly that somehow all the women still have access to razors for their armpits
posted by superfluousm at 9:47 AM on February 23, 2016 [137 favorites]


What happened is that the writers had written themselves into a corner (in fact, they wrote themselves into a corner in so many different dimensions that it was practically a tesseract) and so just made up some bullshit and hoped people would buy it. The mysterious island turned out to be Purgatory and the plane crash survivors weren't actually survivors, they were dead all along, or maybe that was just the last season that was Purgatory and they weren't dead for most of it. At the end they went to heaven or something.
posted by kindall at 9:49 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


There is an island. That island is both the source of, and the seal upon a source of great power/energy. Over the millennia of human history, people are drawn to the island so that they can be the island's protector. The island is able to travel across time and space in order to draw the correct people to the island at the right time. During World War II, a nuclear bomb is placed on the island. A mysterious cult-like organization, The Dharma Initiative, sets up base on the island in the 1970s. One day a plane crashes on the island. Through a number of adventures on the island and off, the survivors of the crash end up detonating the bomb, which causes chaos on the island and bifurcates time into two timelines. In one of the timelines, the plane never crashed, and the survivors live their lives as they would have if the plane hadn’t crashed. In the end, one of the survivors of the plane crash becomes the new protector of the island. As the survivors and others close to them die – some in the final conflict on the island, some after a full life and peaceful death – they are gathered together in a kind of purgatory before they can all “move on” together. The ending makes plenty of sense for such an imaginative show.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:57 AM on February 23, 2016 [92 favorites]


That's only 250 words, so I can flesh it out a bit further if that's not quite enough detail for you.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:59 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sure! That's the most informative answer so far!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:02 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Principal characters on the show end up on the same doomed plane because of reasons, revealed in flashbacks. After the plane crashes, certain characters' purposes are revealed to them. There are MacGuffins galore. Some people get to leave the island. Some of those don't come back, but others do. The ambiguous finale implies they were all dead the whole time.
posted by emelenjr at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2016


Everything Rock Steady said, except that there are not two timelines, followed by purgatory. Instead, the characters lived their lives in a single consistent timeline (which did involve some time travel.) Then, after their death, they go to a purgatory where they relive their lives as if the crash hadn't happened, allowing them to resolve various issues that were unresolved in their real lives. Once they have successfully done that, they gather together and are able to move on to the full afterlife together.

In a clever narrative trick, the show cut back and forth between the real timeline and the purgatory timeline, making it seem as though they were happening simultaneously. It was only revealed at the very end that one timeline showed the events as they actually happened in the characters' lives, and the other showed the alternative timeline they got to live after they died. Many people misinterpreted this as meaning the two timelines both occurred in life, or that everybody had been dead for all five years of the show.
posted by yankeefog at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2016 [47 favorites]


OK. Here is an edited down version of the 1600 word Wikipedia summary, that is pretty good if you can spare another 1200 words or so.

The series begins with the aftermath of a plane crash, which leaves the surviving passengers of Oceanic Airline's Flight 815 on what seems to be an uninhabited tropical island. Their survival is threatened by a number of mysterious entities, including the island's malevolent inhabitants known as "The Others". Meanwhile, flashbacks centered on individual survivors detail their lives prior to the plane crash. We follow the growing conflict between the survivors and the Others and continues the theme of the clash between faith and science, while resolving old mysteries and posing new ones. A mysterious hatch found by the survivors is revealed to be a research station built by the Dharma Initiative, a scientific research project decades earlier. A had been living in the hatch for three years to prevent a catastrophic event from occurring. Several survivors (and other characters ) end up stranded with the Dharma Initiative in 1974. They eventually are told that if they detonate a nuclear bomb at the hatch's construction site, the electromagnetic energy below it will be negated, and, thus, the hatch would never be built and, thus, their future could be changed, and they succeed in doing so. This creates two timelines. In the first timeline, the survivors are sent to the present day. The second timeline, called "flash-sideways" narrative, follows the lives of the main characters in a setting where Oceanic 815 never crashed. In the final episodes, a flashback to the distant past shows the origins of the island's power and of the conflict between twin brothers who seek to either destroy or protect the island. After an attempt to “turn off” the island, one of the survivors becomes the new caretaker of the island. The series finale reveals that the flash-sideways timeline is actually a form of limbo in the afterlife, where some of the survivors and other characters from the island are reunited after their deaths. In the last scene, the survivors are all reunited in a church where they "move on" together.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


And yeah, yankeefog does a better job explaining the (admittedly very confusing) alternate timeline situation. It is also important to emphasize that while a lot of people incorrectly interpret the ending to imply that all the survivors were dead all along, that interpretation is not supported by the text of the show.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


With flashbacks and dialogue toward the end of the show's run the audience learns that the island, of supernatural origins, is protected by Jacob, the agent of the island, against internal and external influence (eg. the Dharma Initiative) to prevent a force, personified by The Man in Black (TMiB), Jacob's brother, from leaving the island. TMiB is of the opinion that people are inherently evil. People across many generations get stranded on the island as pawns in a war between Jacob and his brother, including the passengers of a plane that crashed at the start of the events of the show.

After a complicated series of events over 5 seasons, some of the people leave the island/come back, some still stranded on the island are sent back in time and prevent a cataclysmic event, and some remain on the island in the present day and are instrumental in ending the war between Jacob and TMiB. Jacob and his brother die, one of the passengers becomes the new protector of the island.

The show narrative implies during the final season that there is a parallel timeline due to the time travel that makes it seem like the island was destroyed in the past and this is where everyone is. This is later revealed to be incorrect and they are all in Limbo/Purgatory after their deaths which occured at different times. The people who prevented the cataclysmic event in fact died doing so. In the final scene everyone meets (in a Unitarian church).
posted by Green With You at 10:25 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK, final answer. 375 words. Combines my first crack at it, Wikipedia and yankeefog's explanation of the final season.

There is an island. That island is both the source of and the seal upon a wellspring of great power and energy. Over the millennia of human history, people are drawn to the island so that they can serve as the island's protector. The island is able to travel across time and space in order to draw the correct people to the island at the right time. During World War II, a nuclear bomb is placed on the island. A mysterious cult-like organization, The Dharma Initiative, sets up base on the island in the 1970s and conducts a number of bizarre experiments. One day a plane crashes on the island. Through a series of adventures on the island and off, the survivors of the crash (along with some other characters they meet on the way) discover and investigate the truth about the island’s history and the Dharma Initiative. Due to the island’s time travel abilities, a number of them end up stranded with the Dharma Initiative in 1974. They are told that if they detonate the bomb they can change the future so they never end up on the island at all. They are able to do so, which causes chaos on the island and brings to the fore a long struggle between the current protector of the island who believes that humans are generally good and worthy of salvation, and his twin brother who believes people are inherently evil. He wishes to “turn off” the island’s power so that he can be free of its control over him. In the end, one of the survivors of the plane crash becomes the new protector of the island. We come to learn that as the survivors and others close to them die – some in the final conflict on the island, some after a full life and peaceful death – they experience an alternate timeline in which their plane never crashed. This alternate timeline offers them a chance to work out some of the issues that plagued them in life so they can “move on” in the afterlife as more complete and healthy people. Many of them are finally gathered together in what appears to be a church once they have all died so they can all “move on” together.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2016 [56 favorites]


I think Rock Steady's done a pretty good job of summarizing the plot and also clarifying the big issue that confused many people about the ending. When the key characters died -- whether they died just after the plane crashed, during the adventures on the island, in the final battle for the island, or many years in the future (including, for the character who becomes the island's new protector, potentially a limitless number of years in the future) they gather together in what appears to be a church but is actually a place outside of our normal definition of time (meaning, none of them had to wait around for, say, the thousands of years it might have taken for the new protector to die). The word "purgatory" gets used as a shortcut meaning "a place you go after you die before you go to heaven/hell/wherever" but this isn't actually the purgatory of the bible.

Also, whatever happened happened.
#4815162342
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


[A number of comments deleted. Folks, I know a lot of people were dissatisfied with the ending, but that really doesn't answer the question in a helpful informative way.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:03 AM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


This explanation I posted shortly after the finale is about 900 words, but it's also my 4th most favorited comment ever, so you may find it useful.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


The so-called "alternate timeline" or "flash-sideways" doesn't really show events as if the plane had never crashed, though. Things like Sawyer being a cop instead of a conman or Daniel being a concert pianist rather than a physicist or Jack having a kid with Julie Bowen show alternate life paths for them that aren't just the result of the plane not crashing.
posted by roosterboy at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


None of this explains the polar bear.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


The polar bears were brought there by the Dharma Initiative for experiments. I believe a LOST ARG explained that the reason was to see if the bears could acclimate to a warming climate, but that wasn't made explicit in the show.

However, one of the polar bears was once used to turn the Frozen Donkey Wheel that allowed the island to relocate itself to a different place and time. That bear was teleported to the Tunisian desert and died. :(
posted by ejs at 3:51 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


It only just occurred to me that I really should have started with

Previously on LOST...
posted by Rock Steady at 9:32 PM on February 23, 2016 [22 favorites]


what exactly happened in Lost?... i don't want to watch it...
...one of the polar bears was once used to turn the Frozen Donkey Wheel


I never had much interest in that show either, but if it includes wheels made out of frozen donkeys it might be worth watching.

p.s. Thanks to that comment by ejs I looked around and found a short video of an unfrozen donkey wheel, which includes this wonderful explanation: "Training a donkey to walk nowhere takes 12 months."
posted by LeLiLo at 2:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in Hawaii except instead of witches there's a smoke monster, supernatural beings, and pirates. And a bomb. At the end, everyone finds out they're dead.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:51 PM on February 24, 2016


These are some excellent summaries, but they all leave one bit unexplained, and it's the bit that has always bothered and eluded me.

"That island is both the source of and the seal upon a wellspring of great power and energy." Power and energy to do what? What is the purpose of the island? Is it holding this energy back? Harnessing it in someway?

If this was explained in-show, or in the ARG, or anywhere at all, I completely missed it.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2016


It was never explicitly explained - it was really just a MacGuffin, for the most part - but I read a fairly convincing fan theory that the "island" is the source of the flow of time into our universe, and that various groups (ancient Egyptians, The Others, the Dharma Initiative, Charles Widmore) over the years attempted to restrict, harness or alter that flow, resulting in the weird anomalies and effects seen on the island. Note that I don't believe it to be the "true and secret" intentions of the creators of the show - I really don't think they put that much thought into just what the "light" represented - it's just an interesting explication.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:30 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


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