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The 7 Greatest Wrong Lost Theories Ever

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Lost series premiere. We are rerunning this article about the show’s finale, first published on May 18, 2010.

If Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are feeling generous, this Sunday’s Lost series finale will finally answer the one question viewers have been asking for the past six seasons: What the hell is this damn show about, anyway? Or, more likely, they’ll tell us nothing. Either way, now seems like an appropriate time to look back on all the awesome unofficial explanations concocted by impatient fans these past few years. Each week we round up the best of the Internet’s realistic-seeming theories, but today, we appreciate the craziest, unlikeliest, and most thoroughly debunked hypotheses viewers have floated since the show’s 2004 premiere. Herewith our list of the seven greatest wrong Lost theories ever, complete with our guesses on how the show would have ended if they’d actually been right.

The Theory: Admittedly this theory — which says the castaways are the unwitting stars of some evil, elaborate reality show, like Jim Carrey was in The Truman Show — is totally lazy, and if Lost’s final reveal were that the Island is just a big sound stage, viewers would probably riot. But if the show’s ending is going to be a letdown anyway, at least this one would give us the satisfaction of seeing Locke freak out and stab a bunch of producers. Why It’s Probably Wrong: Remember that time they left the Island? Hypothetical Series Finale: An enraged Jack surgically connects Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and J.J. Abrams into a human centipede.
The Theory: This popular one — which says that Smokey is a DHARMA-created, thinking cloud of tiny evil robots, exactly like the villain in Michael Crichton’s 2002 thriller Prey — has persisted even though it’s been repeatedly debunked by Lost’s makers. Its greatness lies in its hilarious assumption that J.J. Abrams would be bold enough to steal one of Lost’s central mysteries from a two-year-old bestseller. Why It’s Probably Wrong: Damon Lindelof: “I don’t know how many times you can go on record saying that the black smoke is not made up of nanobots before you stop getting asked that question.” Hypothetical Series Finale: The Island is bombed by the Costa Rican Air Force, like at the end of Jurassic Park.
The Theory: The show is loaded with biblical references, especially ones to Genesis. Might Lost’s writers be subtly trying to tell us that the Island — with its healing powers, various immortals, Adam and Eve, and serpentlike smoke monster — is actually the Garden of Eden? EW’s Doc Jensen has occasionally half-entertained this theory, recently wondering whether Sawyer’s biting into an apple while interrogating Sideways Kate was an allusion to the Tree of Knowledge. Why It’s Probably Wrong: We don’t recall Eden having any four-toed statues. Hypothetical Series Finale: A pissed-off God shows up and banishes the Island’s inhabitants for taking so long to pick up on all the symbolism.
The Theory: Before Lost premiered in 2004, the world’s most famous hard-to-find mythical landmass was Atlantis, which, according to legend, was home to some advanced, magical technology before the place disappeared. Could the Island be Atlantis, or a broken-off piece of it? Some say the lost continent was located near the Canary Islands, which we recently learned was home to Richard Alpert. Why It’s Probably Wrong: Seems a little too obvious. Hypothetical Series Finale: The Island sinks. Hey, maybe this one is right after all.
The Theory: It’s way too complicated to do justice to here (read these sites for details), but this is the gist: Lost is an elaborate, six-level, point-based game being played between Jacob and the Man in Black, each of whom “scores” by manipulating the show’s characters into certain positions. Why It’s Probably Wrong: It might not be! But for it to be correct, presumably Lost’s writers would have had to have conceived of Jacob and the MiB from the very beginning, which they didn’t. Hypothetical Series Finale: Jacob wins a million dollars and a record deal.
The Theory: Some years ago, inspired by Lost’s subtle, possibly imagined allusions to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, crazed superfan Andrew Smith concocted this insane, multi-part explanation for the show’s mythology — as in Seal, Smith says Lost is one big metaphorical chess game with Death — which is still awesome even though it has since been shown to be totally wrong. Our favorite part: The Island is composed of “shadow matter” and “shares the same physical space as Manhattan.” That thing knocking down trees in the pilot episode (later revealed to be Smokey)? That was an invisible L train. Why It’s Probably Wrong: Even before it was proven wrong by the show, it still seemed too crazy. Hypothetical Series Finale: The castaways pack up their babies and move to invisible Park Slope.
The Theory: Jason Hunter’s elaborate, Primer-esque theory supposes multiple overlapping timelines and posits that Ben and Richard are using the Island’s time-traveling ability to prevent some grisly, world-ending event in 2007. In 1996, they find a way to sync the Island with the computer in the Swan station so that every time Desmond pushes the button, the Island goes back in time by 108 minutes. Thus, many weird things about Lost’s first and second season — Locke’s ability to walk, the Others’ infertility problems — can be explained by the Island’s being stuck in a repeating 108-minute time loop in 1996. Why It’s Probably Wrong: We’d tell you if we actually understood it. Hypothetical Series Finale: A scene-by-scene remake of Lost’s original pilot.
The Theory: The classic. When Flight 815 crashed, all passengers were killed. But before their souls are sent to Heaven or Hell, each is given a second chance on the Island to right the wrongs of their past lives. Why It’s Probably Wrong: J.J. Abrams shot it down even before the Oceanic Six left the Island in Season Four. (LIAR!) Hypothetical Series Finale: The remaining castaways off themselves with dynamite so they can finally join Frogurt in Heaven.