Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Through the Looking Glass – The Lost Season Three Finale: Theories & The Lost Books

Note: If you haven’t yet seen the Season 3 finale of Lost (“Through the Looking Glass”) you might not want to read this – major spoilers…

Season 3 of Lost ended with last night’s “Through the Looking Glass” and as the producers promised, it changed everything. As predicted, it left viewers wondering how the show can continue for its remaining three seasons considering that the castaways appear to have gotten off the island.

I’ve been saying for about a year (ever since I started studying the Lost books) that we were dealing with some kind of alternate or parallel timestream. Books like A Wrinkle in Time, Alice in Wonderland, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” The Wizard of Oz, and The Third Policeman all point that way. Some of this season’s books – A Brief History of Time, On Writing, and Through the Looking Glass (all links go to my posts on the books) – only reinforced that notion. And that’s just the books; I’m not even going near all the other alternate time references.

After “Through the Looking Glass,” I’m convinced that Lost is a time travel show. I started to see it about half way through last night’s episode when I began to suspect that the flashback wasn’t what it appeared to be. It was neither a flashback nor a flash-forward. In fact, the scenes on the island were the flashbacks and the stuff with Jack as a bearded drug-addled nut were the “present.” Surely Jack will start reading some Philip K Dick in Season 4.

The problem for Jack is that somehow he seems to understand that he didn’t come back to the same world he left. He is in a world where Christian Shepard is still alive (“Go up and get my dad, if I’m more drunk than him you can fire me” or something like that) and Kate is driving a nice car, apparently not a fugitive. It’s the world that Naomi and her rescue ship came from looking for Desmond. The world in which Oceanic 815 was found along with all the dead bodies.

Here’s how. The island exists between timestreams or parallel dimensions/universes (“snow globe, brotha”). The only way on or off the island is to go through the looking glass station (or possibly also along a very precise set of coordinates which would explain the Dharma food drops and Michael and Walt’s escape last season).

We know this because Charlie talked to Penny Widmore in the looking glass station – the link to the original timestream – and Penny had never heard of Naomi. I actually believe Ben is telling the truth when he says that Naomi isn’t who they think she is. Ben knows she didn’t come through the looking glass station and therefore can’t be from the universe/dimension/timestream that the survivors came from before being sucked onto the island when Desmond let the counter run down in the Swan Hatch as revealed at the end of Season 2.

Somehow Future Jack knows this. This is why he so desperately wants to get back to the island. He knows that he didn’t return to the world he left and his life is a shambles – or more of a shambles than it was – as a result. The only survivors whose stories we can glimpse at this point are his and Kate’s, and Kate seems to have it better than when she left Australia in handcuffs bound for the US under the watchful eye of that federal marshal who died in Season 1. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, this new timestream must look pretty good to Kate. I wonder if we won’t see Ben washing her fancy new car for her next season.

So who was in that coffin? Whose death would have such a terrible impact on Jack that he would lose all hope and come to the verge of suicide? I say it was Ben.

Ben left the island because he couldn’t stay. Everything blew up in his face (or rather the faces of The Others sent to steal the pregnant women) and with Locke still alive, The Others would know that Locke can communicate with Jacob now. They would also probably be pretty annoyed about the fact that Ben’s plans wound up killing so many of The Others. Ben’s only hope would be to leave the island and take his chances in the ‘real’ world. Probably by pretending to be John Locke, who probably doesn’t need that name anymore now that he can be the Wizard of O(ther)z.

Once Jack realizes the he has not returned to the world he left, I think Jack would understand that Ben was right about leaving and he has probably come to regard Ben as his only hope in getting back to the island so that they can escape correctly – back through the looking glass – and into their own timestream.

With Ben’s death – unmourned by the other survivors – Jack is on his own. So where does Lost go from here? Jack’s still lost, but not on an island. He’s a castaway in time and in order to save himself, he needs to get back to the island. But first, he’ll need to figure out a better plan than riding around in planes getting drunk and hoping they’ll crash. Fixing time itself seems the perfect thing for the man who always needs something to fix. There are certainly three seasons worth of stories there. At least.

I suspect that much of Season 4 will take place off the island, and we’ll get to see our survivors trying to decide if they like their new lives or their old ones better. We’ll see Jack trying to find information about Dharma, Widmore and Hanso. We’ll also see who stayed on the island. I’m betting Locke, Rousseau, Carl, Danielle, Rose, and Bernard stayed.

There are still many mysteries to solve. Why hasn’t Alpert aged? What was Libby doing in the mental hospital (perhaps that’s where they put people who claim to have come from another dimension)? What is the smoke monster? What about the four-toed statue? Jacob? The temple?

This show isn’t over by a long shot, but it’s following in the footsteps of Battlestar Galactica’s third season when the whole show took a radical change of course, if only for a while. The rest of Lost will be about some of the survivors getting back to the island. And perhaps, The Others trying to prevent that from happening. Or, maybe the returnees will team up with The Others to keep the outside world off the island.

This was a brilliant episode. In fact the last two months or so of Lost have been the best television I’ve ever seen. It’s depressing to think it won’t be on again until February 2008, but I still have some books to tide me over:

  • From Season 1, there’s The Mysterious Island
  • From Season 2, I still get to meet Our Mutual Friend and Island
  • From Season 3, I’ll be wading into The Moon Pool, The Fountainhead, Evil under the Sun and, of course, rereading Through the Looking Glass.

I’ll read these between now and February, but I’ll probably hold my posts until then and do a kind of lead-up to the season premiere.

Here’s the link to the index of my Lost book posts.

For more good analysis of “Through the Looking Glass”, and predictions about Lost‘s future, please see:


  1. Thanks for the spoiler warning — I used it as a reminder that I needed to go watch last night’s episode. Wowsers! I can’t wait 9 months for it to come back. Thanks for the thoughts, though. It seems clear you’ve been on the right track. Now to see where that track goes…..

  2. James, this is just top notch analysis! We’re obviously on much the same wavelength, and I really dig your suggestion that Jack was fixated on Ben, the one guy who could get them back through the looking glass. A couple of questions for you:

    1) Why would Jack think Kate would show up at Ben’s funeral?

    2) Why would Naomi’s reality be different from our Losties’ when neither arrived through the Looking Glass?

    Again, really provocative analysis — many thanks for this grist for my intellectual mill!

  3. Bigmouth, Thanks for your kind words. To answer your questions:

    1. I suspect that Jack would just assume that everyone wants to go back to the correct reality. Kate, of course, may not be a fugitive and might even still be married to Captain Mal who has probably promised to whisk her away to the border moons 🙂

    2. I’ll have to ponder this one a bit, but it might have something to do with the Hatch being what brought 815.

    Thanks again, and I’ll be keeping up with the theorizing on your blog especially once the next season starts.

    Heather, I’m very curious too. Although, I won’t mind being wrong, simply because then the surprises will be greater.

  4. It does seem, though, that the Lost naysayers have missed out on some really interesting stuff. I have enjoyed watching the mysteries unfold and change and be added over the first three seasons. In a serial, I want to be challenged and entertained, and Lost has certainly lived up to that.

  5. It’s the only show that’s ever done that for me. I’ve converted a few people over the past year. A few coworkers are planning to watch the DVDs over the summer and get caught up.

  6. Hello This as helped alot just one thing thats been buging Whats is on that newpaper what jack ripped off and he showed to kate???

    If anyone as any idea it would be at great help


  7. The piece of paper was the eulogy which lead him to despair / the funeral home.

  8. I am so excited about this season. Words cannot express my immense, anticipatory glee!!!

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