First, no analysis of any element of Lost can be responsibly handled without a giant one of these:
Ah, much better.
Next, it must be acknowledged that this isn’t one of those tidy stories that focus on about three main characters. Lost is an ensemble series, so this isn’t the most insular of triangles. In the third season, it intercepts the original, first season Kate/Jack/Sawyer triangle and spends some time as a love parallelogram, with Jack getting involved with both women as well, and all four of them have other love interests of varying levels of seriousness over the course of the series.
I’m going to go ahead and call it a triangle, though, on the grounds that it involves two characters who are both in love with a third who has feelings for them both, for an extended period of time, to an extent that overshadows all those characters’ other connections. Sound right?
You already know who’s first in line.
She’s the original, though, the first connection we see Sawyer make, the one who’s with him through his evolution from one of the most detestable to one of the most trustworthy people on the island. Whatever Kate’s general shortcomings, there’s no denying the chemistry between these two.
That’s how special Juliet is, though, enough that all of that quickly stops mattering. She’s strong enough to be a villain, but she’s not, and that strength covers heartbreaking vulnerability. She’s a fertility doctor who was lured to the island by the Others with the promise of participating in groundbreaking research. Since then, she’s been prevented from leaving or even forming close on-island relationships by Ben, their leader, thanks to his unrequited obsession with her.
So how does this one get resolved?
As is only possible on a show like Lost, both ways.
When the escapees do come to rescue the group including Sawyer and Juliet, Sawyer doesn’t want to be saved, but Juliet can’t shake the programming that tells her that her happiness is impossible, and she sees Kate’s return as the end of the illusion. She conspires with Jack to change time so the crash that brought most of the characters to the island will never happen, by setting off a nuclear bomb, believing that if Sawyer never comes to the island, he’ll be happy, and if she never meets him, she’ll never have to lose him.
Trust me, it makes sense on Lost.
This results in Juliet having TWO of the most heart-ripping death scenes you’ll ever see, one in the season five finale, when she falls down a well with the bomb and ends up lying at the bottom, hitting it with a rock, begging it to go off, and then another in the season six premier, when it’s revealed that the next time jump separated her from the bomb just as she detonated it, before it could kill her, and Sawyer digs her out of the demolished well just in time to watch her die.
This is Lost, though, and things aren’t that simple. The final season also includes what turns out to be an afterlife timeline that I’m sure most of the people reading this are waiting for me to rip into with a hacksaw, but I’m not going to. The afterlife plot is neither the best nor the worst way to end a great long story, and it’s not the point of this post. It only requires mentioning because it’s where Sawyer and Juliet find each other again, and after his implied lifetime with Kate, Sawyer spends eternity with Juliet.
It’s a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too ending, but I love it anyway, because it explores the way people heal and grow and adapt to multiple possible ways of living their lives, but unlike so many triangles that play with this, the second love isn’t second-best. Juliet is Sawyer’s soul mate, even though it took being separated from Kate for him to find that out.
Oh, and the fact that the smart, less elvish-looking blonde gets the guy?