10 questions that 'Lost' needs to resolve in the series finale

michael-emerson-lost-0309-320.jpgWith the end of " Lost" just around the corner, fans are anxiously waiting to see how the show will end. Some are waiting with baited breath, and others are looking through their fingers at the approaching finale, simply (and aptly) titled "The End."

With only two and a half hours to go, there's simply no way for the show to answer every lingering mystery still up for discussion. I'm not entirely sure that's a bug as a much as a feature: after all, were every question answered in the final 150 minutes, we would 1) have nothing but a long, boring, series of expositional downloads coming our way this Sunday, and more importantly, 2) we'd have nothing to talk about once the final curtain closes. Some questions raised by the show are so metaphysical that no one program could ever claim to "answer" it, and some mysteries are in the eye of the beholder at home, not the writer in the studio. So, for the final time, let's push aside any expectation of the show answering everything this Sunday. Like John Locke, we should let go.

That said, rather than go on a rant about "mysteries that need to be answered," I think it's perfectly fair to try and analyze "questions that need resolution." I've long favored the word "resolution" over "answer," since as the woman that raised Jacob and The Man in Black would tell us, answers usually only lead to more questions. For instance: the hieroglyphics that have dotted the Island landscape, even creeping into the countdown timer in the Swan? Most likely simple decoration, meant to allude to as aspect of the Island's history rather than be something to be decoded and applied as a type of Rosetta stone to the show as a whole. Time Magazine's James Poniewozik recently called "Lost" a " TV show with footnotes," and I think the hieroglyphics are one such footnote. Yes, they are interesting, but are they really crucial to the show's ultimate meaning or simply extremely cool window dressing meant to suggest rather than explicitly illuminate?

So here are ten current questions in "Lost" that need to be resolved in the series finale.

1) What is the sideways world?

I mean, that's the biggie, right? It's only THE central question at the heart of Season 6, and perhaps the crucial question in the history of the show. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have constructed their climatic season around this complex, "Sliding Doors"-esque universe. They have insisted all along that the events in this world are real and have meaning. Throughout Season 6, we've seen people in this world "waking up" to remember their time on the Island. How are these two worlds connected, and how does that connection feed into the show's endgame?

2) Why is Eloise Hawking so darn insistent that Des stop waking people up in the sideways world?

We've seen the sideways version of our Lostaways slowly realizing that the world around them isn't quite what it seems. But Eloise Hawking seems to remember the Island timeline perfectly well in "Happily Ever After." Did she cut a deal with The Man in Black to create a new timeline in which Daniel Faraday lived? Is the sideways world explained by the guilt of a mother (Eloise) combined the rage of a son (The Man in Black)? Is she, not Jacob, the real reason Charles Widmore returned to the Island this season? All these subquestions lead to the next major one...

3) What is the implication of The Man in Black destroying the Island?

In "LA X," The Man in Black insisted that he wanted to go "home." "Home," we have learned, is an amorphous concept for him, defined not by what it is but rather by what it is NOT (namely, The Island). If he plans to use Charles Widmore's "failsafe" to destroy the energy at the heart of the Island, does that give a hint into the submerged version of the Island in the sideways world? All of this leads to the major question...

4) Is the destruction of the Island actually a BAD thing?

Many fans think that the sideways world shows what would happen if "The Island" didn't interfere with the lives of our Lostaways. On a macro level, it's hard to argue against that. But "Across the Sea" and "What They Died For" complicate (but do not negate) this view. If the energy at the heart of the Island lives inside of us, then the Island might be a geographical, moral testing ground. It's cruel but necessary for human evolution, tempting our basest nature while providing an opportunity to expand our capacity for good. All of which is a way of asking the following query...

5) Would these characters lives have been better having never gone to The Island?

In this week's episode, Jacob suggested a symbiotic relationship between The Island and those that find themselves upon its shores. Both, on a fundamental level, need each other. But it's also a hard place, a violent place, a place that Charlotte Staples Lewis once called "death" incarnate. It's a place in which Charlie Pace died trying to protect Claire and Aaron. It was a noble death, a sacrifice made out of love borne out of his experiences on the Island. But it's also one that might not actually have meant anything should The Man in Black succeed. Over in the sideways world, Charlie is back to being a junkie, but he's still alive, and in the same city as the girl of his literal dreams. Or is he? By which, I mean to ask...

6) Are these familiar faces in the sideways world the same people, or something different entirely?

How the show answers this question will directly inform how the final 2.5 hours play out. Let's look at both scenarios, using the players in the previous paragraph. Option A) Charlie and Claire can meet in Los Angeles, fall in love, raise Aaron, and get the chance to be a happy trio in a way that they didn't get on The Island. Option B) Charlie's flash to his times on the Island showed him just how unreal his life in the sideways world is, and even if he stumbled across Claire in a Sideways Starbucks, he would merely stumble upon someone that looked a lot like the girl in his vision but on a fundamental level is not the same person AT ALL. They were meant to be a trio, but only for a short time, and only that short time. Let's carry this over and broadly apply it by asking the following...

7) In what form(s) will sacrifice occur in the finale?

What's maddening about the two universes in "Lost" this season is also its greatest strength: it's still very difficult to decide as an audience member which one you want to "win," for lack of a better term. It's hard (although not impossible) to imagine the show ending with both timelines continuing into the narrative sunset. Depending on your perspective, both sides offer compelling views on what it means it live a life. But no matter to which viewpoint you subscribe, there will be things that must be given up for that universe to continue. Neither the Island timeline nor sideways timeline will be immune from this. On the Island, we're looking at the literal destruction of what may lie at the heart of humanity. In Los Angeles, Desmond is gathering people to the mother of all cosmic concerts. Speaking of music...

8) Does Mama Cass explain everything about "Lost"?

When talking about all-time great "Lost" sequences, it's hard to omit the opening sequence of Season 2. It's a bravura segment set deep inside the Swan Station, with little to orientate the audience and a little song called "Make Your Own Kind of Music" scoring the whole endeavor. In a subtle yet tangible way, the concert in the sideways world is the most explicit expression of Mama Cass' metaphor. Coupling Mama Cass' song with the revelations in "What They Died For" paints a scenario in which fate and free will are not opposites but simply perspectives. If a simple line of chalk doesn't discount Kate's candidacy, what does that say about the rules (and "The Rules") under which our characters have arbitrarily been living under for their entire lives?

9) Will Bai Ling appear in the finale?

Just making sure you're paying attention.

9) Why can't we find Christian Shephard in either timeline?

What started in "White Rabbit" has kept going, Energizer Bunny-esque, into the finale. Christian's absence has formed a palpable presence in Jack's life in both timelines. An astute commenter recently wondered if Jack's ascension to the rank of Island Protector now means The Man in Black can start shapeshifting again, and, if so, could take the form of Christian in order to confront his new nemesis. It's a pretty powerful thought, but even if that doesn't play out, look for Christian's involvement in the lives of the show's major players to finally pay off this Sunday. And, finally...

10) Are we seeing the start of a new Age of the Island or the start of something else entirely?

In "Across the Sea," we saw protectorship of the Island pass down from Mother to Jacob, in a ceremony that predated them both by possibly tens of thousands of years and countless other iterations. In "What They Died For," Jacob and Jack performed the latest version the ceremony, with the former officially passing the torch off to the latter. Have the passengers of Oceanic 815 been brought to The Island merely to push the cycle into its next iteration, or to create an entirely new scenario altogether. In "The Incident," Jacob told The Man in Black, "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress." Given the title of the finale ("The End"), and given Desmond's wildcard status in these proceedings, how exactly will "Lost" sound its final notes about the War of the Island? Will things remain status quo with new faces replacing the old ones, or will "the end" give way to the next phase of humanity itself?

Those are our ten burning questions that need resolution in the series finale. What's burning in your mind? Leave your thoughts and predictions below!

Photo credit: ABC