Lost: How, What, and Why

Here’s the problem with Lost. It asks “why” but answers “what” and “how.”

Spoiler alert!

In tonight’s episode, for example, the last before a month-long break, we see Michael, in flashback, go through the steps that led him to pose aboard the boat as a deckhand.

He’s told of the fake plane, and is informed that the boat’s crew have been ordered to kill everyone on the island. But when he’s given this information, he doesn’t ask the obvious question: Why? Why would anyone want to kill the people on the island? Why would anyone think the island, or its inhabitants, so important as to stage such a ridiculously complex hoax? It answers the simple why — why Michael would go to the island (to atone for his sins) — but not any of the whys that really matter. There’s no reason for these questions not to come up, no reason for Michael not to want to know the answers. The show just ignores them.

The same thing happens in the beginning of the episode, when Locke tells his people that he’s discovered that the boat crew intend to grab Ben Linus and kill the island’s inhabitants. Not one person asks the obvious question: Why? What would motivate this sort of mass slaughter? And why, in specific, do they want Linus?

Instead we get a lot of what and how answers: How Michael finds himself on the boat. What position Locke is taking as a result of the revelations. This is a pretty common pattern. Season two ended with a spectacularly useless revelation about how, exactly, Oceanic 815 was knocked out of the sky. It tells us a lot about what occurred, but after three and a half seasons, very little about why.