On LOST. Reflections, Revelations, and Speculation After 5 Seasons.
I posted this article on my blog last week, but the site is very new and not really LOST-centric so I decided to post it here also. Please comment and let me know your thoughts.
That was the last line of special significance spoken by a character on LOST prior to Juliet’s screeching whimper as she pounded away at a stubborn nuclear reactor that Mr. Fix-It, Sayid, promised would detonate on impact. Apparently, all it took was some good old-fashioned elbow grease to make the thing act right, despite a compelling fall from grace. It’s a good thing she let go of Sawyer’s hand, and I guess those frustrated with the quadrilateral love connection can at least take comfort knowing it was a necessary plot twist that would pave a path towards their expulsion from 1977. I’ll certainly miss our cultish, psychedelic Dharma ladies and gents, but it’s time to move the story forward. Cue the fade to … white?
That’s right, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof can’t take credit for pioneering the technique, but let’s at least pay homage to their use of a mere transition to advance the series into its final season, at the same time reminding us not to forget other television success stories that made excellent use of the effect, including the Sopranos and Six Feet Under. So, what does it all mean? We know for a fact that the creators of LOST have been dangling the black and white theme in front of our faces since John Locke first introduced Walt to the game of backgammon.
There was the discovery of Adam and Eve, when Jack found black and white stones among the possessions of two decomposed skeletons in the caves. Claire once had a dream about Aaron on the beach, with Lock staring up at her sporting black and white eyes and breaking bad news that the survivors would pay the price for her shucking responsibility and giving up the baby. Now, enter Mr. Black, literally. In the opening scene of “The Incident,” we meet Jacob face to face for the first time, and he has a friend. By design, both characters contrast perfectly, with Jacob decked out in a white linen shirt, and Mr. Black wearing, well, black.
Now, we have to assume these two are at odds with each other after Mr. Black tells Jacob that he wants to kill him, implying there is no simple solution to fulfilling this desire. That revelation doesn’t appear to be much of a surprise to Jacob, and you can almost picture a little GW floating above his shoulder and whispering into his ear, “Tell him to bring it on.” Of course, I’m approaching this conversation from the East when it really should be read from left to right. Let me find Richard’s compass.
Okay, after we see Jacob working diligently on weaving a tapestry to decorate the walls of his humble stone hideaway, he heads outside to catch dinner. Next, we see him fillet a fish, cook it, and plop down on the beach to enjoy the meal. He stares off into the horizon as the infamous Black Rock sails a few miles offshore, and Mr. Black walks up and takes a seat next to him. Then, throw in the main ingredient that we all come to expect after 5 seasons of LOST … complete and utter confusion.
Jacob: I take it you’re here because of the ship.
Mr. Black: I am. (pause) How did they find the island?
Jacob: You’ll have to ask them when they get here.
Mr. Black: I don’t have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren’t you?
Jacob: You are wrong.
Mr. Black: Am I? They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.
Jacob: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that … is just progress.
Mr. Black: You have any idea how badly I want to kill you?
Mr. Black: One of these days, sooner or later … I’m going to find a loophole, my friend.
Jacob: Well, when you do, I’ll be right here.
Wow, this snippet of dialogue seems to suggest that these characters are at either end of a philosophical tug of war. One of them apparently has an advantage, and it’s the guy who presides under a larger than life four-toed statue of Taweret, the Egyptian Goddess of birth and rebirth. Meanwhile, I will take a shot in the dark here and say that Mr. Black is a representative of Anubis and Co., the Egyptian God of afterlife and the underworld. As we witnessed when Ben’s daughter accosted him in the temple, hieroglyphics adorning the wall revealed that the smoke monster and Anubis are acquaintances. So, friends, we just might have on our hands a classic battle between black and white, light and dark, life and death or, dare I say, good and evil.
To restate, it only ends once, and anything that happens before that is just progress. Okay, but progress towards what? If you take Mr. Black’s words at face value, the mates aboard the Black Rock are not the first Losties to reach the island, and they will not be the last. Still, let’s start with them. Apparently, they will come, fight, destroy, and corrupt until some sort of end-game scenario. I have a sneaky suspicion that the only person who could likely shed light on this subject, other than our beach bums, is the person whose job seems to be holding his tongue. After seeing Ricardo, or as we know him, Richard, set the sail of the boat in a bottle, it seems safe to assume that he was aboard the Black Rock when it finally landed, literally, on the island.
So, If Richard arrived on the Black Rock, maybe he knows how the statue came to be “destroyed,” and as far fetched as it might seem, maybe a nuclear reactor coupled with a spastic release of electro-magnetic energy just might be what it takes to thrust our Dharma infiltrators through time and space, and back to the day of Richard’s arrival. Maybe, just maybe, the incident thrusts the entire island physically through time, landing just beneath the Black Rock. Inconceivable! But is this Progress?
If you believe Faraday’s theory, humanity’s ability to exercise free will is what makes us unique, and this might just be the constant in life’s awesome equation for humankind. In LOST lure, our survival hinges on a bet between ancient adversaries who represent life and death, a wager that pits humans against themselves to see if they can overcome self destruction by making the right decisions. The island is our casino, and Jacob is the pit boss. As long as he is around to monitor progress, there is no limit to the amount of time the game can carry itself out.
If Jacob and Mr. Black are, in fact, light and dark manifestations of a single entity, call it God, Ra, Apollo, whatever, then they cannot kill each other. Like the yin and yang, they are one and the same. Humans, however, exercise free will, and possess a unique ability to choose between practicing good or evil, knowing right from wrong, turning left or right, going up or down. To be or not to be, kill or be killed, live together, or die alone are all choices we make. These options exist within the proprietary structure of the human brain, and our ability to choose between them makes us unique in the universe.
Jacob is confident that humans are destined for greatness, while Mr. Black ultimately believes doom is their destiny. The latter is no longer interested in entertaining Jacob’s failed experiment, and he decides to take matters into his own hands. He concocts an elaborate plan to take advantage of humankind’s weakness, their infallibility, doubt and insecurity, and use it against Jacob to finally put an end to the charade that exists between them. He constructs and employs the smoke monster to seek out the island’s inhabitants and catalog their memories. It documents their secrets, manipulates their emotions, and manifests itself as their darkest fears right before their eyes.
The smoke monster becomes Mr. Black’s eyes and ears, and John Locke becomes his most vulnerable and receptive target. Upon the arrival of our survivors, Black sets in motion a plan to become the unofficial surrogate father of Claire Littleton’s son, Aaron. Many believe that Claire actually died in the explosion back in Dharmaville. If so, it’s quite possible that Mr. Black and Smokey use Claire as a means to convince John that he must move the island to ensure its safety. Smokey’s manipulative capabilities are limited in scope mostly by its mechanical nature. Still, it obviously has the ability to utilize snippets it carries within it’s memory banks, like a digital camera, and manifest itself in other forms, which might explain Claire’s seemingly uncharacteristic behavior in Horrace’s woodland retreat.
Unfortunately, Mr. Black’s “Plan A” flies out the window the moment little Aaron makes it off the island. Then, to make matters worse, Locke allows Ben to knock the frozen donkey wheel off its axis, which eliminates the boat problem but regretfully sends the island flashing back and forth through time. Still, thanks to clever strategy, Black successfully manages to get Locke placed next in line to lead the island’s people, and then convinces him that bringing back his friends will stop the time shift. Oh yeah, John, and don’t forget that you will have to die to make all this happen because, well, your body is very important to me. Unbeknownst to you and everybody else, it will serve as a great mechanism in my plan to make Ben kill Jacob upon your return to the island. Luckily, he who “lies in the shadow of The Statue” also has an ace up his sleeve, and they share common ancestry. Their names are Christian and Jack Shephard.
If Mr. Black has the ability to infiltrate a human being, there should be no reason that Jacob can’t do the same. He finds his loophole in Christian, who’s body landed on the island the day Flight 815 crashed. Through Shephard, he knows Jack, and understands their relationship, regrets, and unresolved issues. Despite his selfish misguidance and irresponsibility as a father, Christian understood Jack to be a great man, capable of great things. He also introduces Jacob to Claire, who will now do everything in his power to make sure her child does not fall into the hands of Mr. Black. He cannot be raised by another, most notably the prince of darkness.
This is precisely why women cannot bare children on the island. With the forces that are currently at play, it would be too risky as long as Black is scheming to find a loophole. It would appear that Jacob manages to successfully hold Black at bay, safely exiled within the confines of the cabin, encircled in ash and powerless to leave. Hence, his need for Smokey, which becomes a sort of elaborate network of underground security cameras that aid in his search for a candidate. Of course, someone eventually breaks the line of ash, and we all saw good Mr. Locke disappear into the jungle while Ben awaited the arrival of Smokey with Sun and Lapidus. That sneaky devil.
Meanwhile, our friends in 1977 are poised to set off a nuclear bomb that will dissolve the island in poisonous radiation, all part of Jacob’s plan to ensure woman don’t get pregnant. Sun becomes the exception to the rule, which should be a red flag that Jacob’s plan succeeds, only after everything is finally said and, dare I say, done. Our Losties manage to eradicate the Black issue, which we are yet to witness, and in all likelihood, this brings back some of our favorite characters including Michael, Walt, Penny, Desmond, and Charlie. I would love to see Mr. Eko again, but his story has already been told, having stubbornly proven to Mr. Black that human beings are perfectly capable of using free will to determine their own destiny. No thanks, scary smoke monster, I have nothing to confess.
The haunting question that remains is how Jack goes about leading everybody to defeat the seemingly unflappable and cunning black crusader, and our clue lies in a simple fade to white. After all this time, it’s Mr. White’s turn to take the wheel. Jacob “lied,” or schemed, in the shadow of The Statue for a long time, planning the eradication of one Mr. Black. Now, in the show’s final season, we will learn how Hawking and Widmore became cogs in the massive wheel that is Jacob’s plan to get his variables to the island.
Jacob needed Mr. Black to accomplish his task, which explains why Eloise put Locke’s body on the plane. He recruited Illana to warn Richard of Black’s ruse, who will dutifully fulfill his role as adviser once “they” arrive. Jacob’s death becomes the culmination of a faithfully executed plan to set in motion events that, he hoped, would lead Jack and our free-will yielding variables to fight and win a great battle. The outcome of this battle serves as a stepping stone in humankind’s progressive journey towards nirvana. He, who will save us all.
In the end, Jacob clears the board for the next game’s pieces to be set and secures the human soul long enough for the next group of Losties to try their hand at fate within the confines of the great snow globe that is the island. Its original inhabitants, the “Hostiles” or “Others,” are simply those who came before, and the decisions they made permeate the jungle as haunting whispers, like memories of past mistakes that lay deep within the human subconscious. Thus ending a carefully concocted, highly successful, television series nod to the mythological story as described by Joseph Campbell in his book, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” Undoubtedly, Cuse and Lindelof will give the book the proverbial product placement that it deserves next season, offering up the same debt of gratitude to Campbell that George Lucas gave when he wrote Star Wars.