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No, They Were Not Dead The Whole Time

That’s not an interpretation, that’s what the showrunners explicitly state not just in interviews but on the damn show. It's not subtext, it's actual text. In the Flash Sideways world-- yes they are dead there. But everything on the island actually happened. It had all the real world stakes and consequences that we witnessed over the six seasons. We know this because Christian actually comes out and tells us exactly that. It’s actually one of the few times the show bothers to explicitly state what the nature of something really is.

If you don't feel like watching, here is the actual text:

Jack: Are you real?

Christian: I sure hope so. Yeah I’m real. You’re real, everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they’re all real too.

Jack: They’re all dead?

Christian: Everyone dies some time, kiddo. Some of them before you, some long after you.

Jack: Why are they all here now?

Christian: Well there is no “now” here.

Jack: Where are we, Dad?

Christian: Well this is the place that you, that you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.

Jack: For what?

Christian: To remember and let go.

Jack: Kate, she said we were leaving.

Christian: Not leaving, no. Moving on.

The show is not being coy. That's what happened. They’re all dead in the Flash Sideways. Not the island. They didn’t die when the plane crashed. Aside from the characters we saw die throughout the course of the show, most likely died of old age long after the events depicted. Christian's real, Jack's real, and everything that happened to Jack and everyone in the church was real. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.

You may not have liked the Flash Sideways thing and I get it. It was sappy. Lost was sappy if we're being honest. Beautifully sappy. Some were upset because it was purgatory-esque element after the showrunners promised that the island wasn’t purgatory-- which is 100% a promise they kept but it's okay. That’s fine. I personally liked it. I always got the sense that Lindleof and Cuse loved these people and I felt that they wanted to have a way to send off beloved characters in a dignified fashion, instead of, for instance, leaving John Locke's last appearance being that of a broken man who was just murdered by Ben Linus. So Locke, and everyone else, including the main character who was about to die on screen, gets a happy ending.

But they were not dead the whole time. Stop it.