THESE Are the Lightsabers You’re Looking For

May 11, 2011

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jay, I’ll see you and raise.

Get Lost (If You Don’t Want to See Me Gloat)

June 2, 2010

“They teach you to predict the weather at a box company?”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Sorry I’m so late to the party. I just saw the finale last night.

First let me gloat that I made (I believe) only one specific, concrete prediction, and after over a year of appearing to be falsified it was at long last fulfilled in the finale. The Axiom conquers all.

(OK, OK, it was only sort of fulfilled. But we all know that “moving on” for Daniel is going to include killing bad guys and winning Charlotte. Right?)

More generally, I feel vindicated in having maintained for so long that the real key to the whole show is the question of whether Locke was right to put his faith in the fundamental goodness of “the island.” I didn’t really get it all articulated at the time, but that was the reason I was struggling near the end to figure out, in retrospect, how Smokey fit in with Locke’s story over the course of the show. I wanted to know why they had chosen to incarnate Smokey in Locke’s body. Why remove Locke from the show when he was the lynchpin holding it all together? Now I see – they did it to set up the confrontation in the end between the spiritual Locke (Jack) and the physical Locke (Smokey). Jack had to finally admit, to himself and everybody else, that Smokey wasn’t Locke because he (Jack) was Locke.

On one level, I got what I wanted out of the finale. What I wanted was 1) a knock-down, drag-out knife fight for the fate of the world on the edge of a slowly crumbling cliff, and 2) a noble death. Check and check. I’m a happy guy.

But I think the ending is satisfying on a deeper level, too. I don’t need to know anything more than I now know about Dharma, Widmore, childbirth, chosen ones, etc. (It still bugs me that Walt appeared to Locke, but I can deal.) Those were all just skins the show shed, one after the other. On a show like this, it’s foolish to expect too much from the skins. What you have to do is follow the snake. Or maybe a better image is the old cups and balls routine – the ball moves from cup to cup, but it’s the ball you need to keep your eye on.

Jay is right that the soap opera stuff can’t hold up the show by itself. You need a larger drama to give the soap opera stuff meaning. Well, the larger drama was whether the island was good or bad, and on that it delivered just fine.

I’m not saying it’s the ending I would have written myself. I happen to think that “rejoining your loved ones” and learning to “move on” from the past, simply by themselves, is a contemptible vision of heaven. Even if that’s just the prelude to whatever “comes next,” what makes the afterlife attractive on this vision is having a chance to start again – a do-over. But what makes you think you won’t just screw it all up again – especially given infinite time – and just end up in the same place? Jacob committed the same folly – he kept bringing people to the island to show Smokey that people are basically good, and the people disappointed him every single time. You aspire to an eternity of endless do-overs? That’s the Buddhist conception of hell. I happen to believe that there’s a hell even worse than that, but the Buddhists are right when they say that if the afterlife is just more of the same forever, with periodic opportunities to start over with a fresh slate, then existence is suffering and annihilation is heaven. (It’s ironic that the show had the symbols of all the world religions in the church window. The world religions don’t really all teach the same thing, but there are some things they do all agree on, and the repudiation of this show’s vision of heaven is one of them. They all, in radically different ways, claim to offer an escape from the hell that is our own broken nature.)

But none of that detracts from my enjoyment of the show, because I don’t watch shows to have my own worldview affirmed. The enjoyment of narrative lies precisely in having the opportunity to explore a universe other than the one we really live in. Achilles is a horrible monster committing barbarism motivated by egocentrism in the service of unjust aggressors, but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the Illiad. (I have gotten much help on this subject from C.S. Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism.)

And if you don’t like my analysis, here’s my wife’s, which I think may find some agreement. “I figured out the secret ending,” she said to me this morning. “It’s the subliminal messages they put in the finale that say BUY ALL THE EPISODES ON DVD AND YOU CAN FIGURE IT ALL OUT.” She suggests that they put in references to all the world’s religions “not so that they’ll be equally happy but so that they’ll all be equally frustrated.”

Lost Forever

May 24, 2010

LOST - "The End" - One of the most critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking shows of the past decade concludes in this "Lost" Series Finale Event. The battle lines are drawn as Locke puts his plan into action, which could finally liberate him from the island, on "Lost," SUNDAY, MAY 23 (9:00-11:30 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/MARIO PEREZ)IAN SOMERHALDER, ELIZABETH MITCHELL, JOSH HOLLOWAY, JOHN TERRY, MATTHEW FOX, EVANGELINE LILLY, EMILIE DE RAVIN (OBSCURED), HENRY IAN CUSICK, SONYA WALGER

Here is Brian’s take:

So I think I’m pretty pleased with the ending. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and it definitely succeeded in giving the characters closure, which I think was really what the show was about anyway.  Everything else that happened along the way was just a vehicle to the same inevitable point…”it always ends the same.”  I think this is about as good as they could have done.  I do think it left enough vagueness that people will discuss it for a long time, which is cool really….

Everything that happened, happened. Whoever survived the crash, survived the crash. But they were all dead at the end.

Boone died from the falling plane. Shannon was shot. Charlie drowned. Jack was knifed at the end.

Those that were alive at the end of tonight went on to live their lives, and they died whenever they died.  Bernard and Rose probably lived on the island for a long time before being ready to “move on.”

The Island was NOT purgatory, but the Sideways Reality WAS a kind of waiting room between death and the “next step,” which we saw as the bright light when Christian opened the door. The Sideways Reality was an artificial construct, which did NOT take place in 2004, as we had supposed, but was timeless, it existed outside of time. It was a construct, as Christian said, so that, after their individual deaths, whenever that happened, they could “find” themselves.

What we did not see was Hugo’s long reign as “Jacob,” which apparently he did very well, according to Ben.  Perhaps Hugo and Ben went on to guard the Island for another 1000 years.

Those not in the church aren’t ready to remember and move on yet (Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, etc). Ben remembers, but probably didn’t go in because he wants to move on with Alex. (that’s also why Desmond said that Ana Lucia “wasn’t ready yet”)

Here’s my reply:

I pretty much agree.  The writers did a good job of resolving things given the direction they wanted to go.  Lost was about characters working out their issues and embracing the purposefulness of life — primarily love and sacrificing for others.  And Lost rejected Smokey’s nihilism that there was no purpose to their lives, loves, or sacrifices.  Smokey never worked out his issues.

I loosely guessed this at the beginning of this season: “In the conversation on the beach between Jacob and Esau in the final episode of last season, Esau says that it always ends the same way.  I think he means that we all die.  He repeats this theme when he tells Ben that only Locke understood how pitiful his life was — perhaps all life is.  In Smokey’s view life is futile ending in death.  Jacob agrees that it always ends the same way (we all die) but there is progress.  Jacob believes in the purposefulness of life.”  Then again, I guessed a lot of things.

But I don’t find this kind of storyline fully satisfying.  If Lost is only about characters working out their issues, why bother with the whole Island thing.  They could have had a big group therapy session.  Characters need to work their issues out in a context that really matters — independent of them.  If the story is only about them and their issues, why should we care about saving the Island?  What does it matter if Smokey gets off the Island?  The writers failed to give closure to the plot outside of the characters’ personal development.

One of many unresolved plot items — Did jughead prevent the hatch from being built or not?  Why was Charlie’s sacrifice necessary or important?  Why can’t babies be conceived and delivered on the Island?  What about Michael and Walt?

I’m not asking for details.  I’m saying that the show did a great job of resolving the soap opera aspects of the plot but failed to even address the action aspects of the plot.  Character development without action development is only partially satisfying.

Get Lost – Locke Goes Up in Smoke

May 7, 2010

“I am not dead and you are not Hurley.”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

As we approach the end, I’m thinking back and trying to integrate what we now know with what has gone before. For some reason, what’s engaging my attention the most is trying to figure out how much of Locke’s experience was a result of Smokey’s deception, and how much was real.

When Smokey called Locke a “sucker” a while back, I wondered if they were trying to suggest that everything Locke had believed in was a result of Smokey’s deceptions. But that can’t be right.

It all starts with Locke standing up and walking after the plane crash, and I doubt anyone’s going to attribute that to Smokey. That’s Jacob. Or maybe it all really starts when Richard comes to Locke as a boy. That’s Jacob, too – although Richard tried to discourage Locke from following the path that he did.

During season 1 Smokey appears to Locke but doesn’t kill him. We now know why – he was a candidate. But at the time, Locke assumed Smokey was part of “the Island” that had healed him and that he was serving. Ironically, at the same time Locke thought Smokey was with the Island and was therefore good, he was focused on fighting the Others, who we now know to be Jacob’s people! Although Ben seems to have sort of taken the Others off the rails to serve his own purposes, so in a sense they were also evil at the time. Locke’s job, later, was to get them back on the rails.

At the end of season 1 Smokey is dragging Locke into a hole and he tries to convince John to let him go, but John drops dynamite into the hole to save him. During season 2 it’s all about the button in the hatch, and during season 3 it’s all about the Hydra island, so there’s not a lot that I recall that bears directly on the question. At the end of season 3 Ben takes Locke to the cabin, Locke hears Jacob, Ben shoots Locke out of jealousy, then Walt appears to him and saves him, and then in season 4 he joins the Others.  

Then during season 4, in the cabin, Christian tells Locke to move the island. And Christian appears to Locke again in season 5 when his leg is injured, and guides him to the wheel so he can fix the island’s time dislocation. Was Christian Smokey in both cases? Claire was with him in the cabin so that argues for yes.

But here’s what’s really bothering me. At the end of season 3, how did he see Walt? Smokey can only be dead people, and we know Walt’s not dead because Locke meets him in LA in season 4.

“Sorry about all those continuity problems I keep causing.”

What gives?

And what other items are missing from this list? I’m sure I’m not recalling everything.

Love Lost

April 17, 2010

It’s been a while since I last posted on Lost, so let’s review what we’ve learned since then.  Most importantly, we’ve learned that something is horribly wrong with the parallel world.  After the side-flashes for Jack and Locke it seemed like the parallel world was one where everyone had worked out their problems.  But it now seems clear that it was all too good to be true.  Starting with the Desmond side-flash episode and continuing this most recent week with Hurley’s side-flash, we are learning that the parallel world is almost certainly bad.  It’s somehow false and people are detecting that, notably Desmond, Charlie, Daniel, and now Hurley.

One big problem with the parallel world is that it is missing love.  Desmond was missing Penny.  Charlie was missing Claire.  Daniel was missing Charlotte.  Hurley was missing Libby.  Is the show telling us, as I earlier guessed, that suffering and loss are virtuous?  Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

But this doesn’t quite fit everyone’s experience in the parallel world.  Jack and John seem to have great lives in the parallel world, including love.  Nevertheless, I’m willing to bet that the parallel world is somehow false and bad and they need to get back to the Island world.

Desmond already seems to be working on getting the band back together.  He’s manipulating everyone so that they awaken to what they are missing in the parallel world and could get in the Island world.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him getting everyone back on a plane with a dead Locke so that they can get back to the Island.  Maybe that’s why he ran Locke over. 

We learned a few other things that mostly confirmed things that we suspected.  The whispers are dead people who are stuck on the Island because they had done bad things.  And we have confirmation that Smokey really is bad.  Despite my efforts to build a theory where he might be good, it seems obvious that he is not.  We also know that people are supposed to work out their problems on the Island.  Jack and Hurley both made direct statements about how they used to be controlling (or passive for Hurley) but have now changed.  That was bad script-writing to be so direct about it.  Couldn’t they have just shown us without telling us?

There’s still a lot we don’t know.  In fact, we don’t know much about any of the important things.  What bad thing happens if Smokey gets off the Island?  Whose side is Widmore on?  What is the purpose of these people finding love or working out their issues other than the benefit to them?  Why should we care?

Lost Time

March 26, 2010

I apologize for the absence of a Lost post over the last few weeks.  Much has happened and we know much more than when I last posted.

My speculation that the show may flip and have Smokey be the good one and Jacob be the bad guy seems very, very  unlikely at this point.  That being said, I think it would be a mistake to see Jacob and Smokey as simply good versus evil.  They are not gods representing pure evil or good.  It’s clear that they are/were human beings with all of the complexity that human characters have.

What we know is that Smokey wants to get off the Island and Jacob is determined to keep him there.  Jacob says that if Smokey get’s off the Island some very bad things will happen.  He’s probably right, but we don’t know for sure.

The only way for Smokey to get off the Island is for Jacob to be killed and not replaced.  Jacob is already dead so now the issue is whether one of the 6 candidates will replace Jacob before Smokey can leave.  Smokey can’t directly kill any of the candidates but he can corrupt them or perhaps kill them through proxies. 

Smokey’s method of corruption is to know people’s minds and histories and offer them something they really want.  Often the thing he offers is to be reunited with a dead loved one.  Smokey can appear in the form of that dead loved one to tempt the person.  As I’ve suggested before, all dead people we see walking around the Island are actually Smokey.  The only exception to that is that Hurley has the power to see actual dead people, like Jacob and Isabella at the end of the last episode.  If only Hurley can see the dead person, it really is that person. 

Smokey probably needs some physical item from the dead person to appear as that person.  Most often the body of the dead person is on the Island.  But in the case of Isabella, he probably used her cross to appear as her.

Smokey has offered other things to corrupt people.  He offered Ben power to rule the Island after he leaves, but Ben refused.  He offered Sawyer transport off the Island.  Smokey appears to keep his word, but often his deals are less attractive than they seem.  Generally, what he offers is bad.

Just because what Smokey offers is generally bad and just because his escape from the Island may lead to bad things, does not make him pure evil.  First, Smokey has reasons for being as he is, which we will learn over the next several episodes.  We already know that he has a “crazy mother” and is still “working on” things related to that.  I’d be surprised if Smokey’ mom were someone other than a character we’ve already seen, since that would be introducing a major character very late in the story.  It’s possible that Claire is really his mother and he is Aaron.  Another possibility is Eloise Hawkins, but my money is on Claire.

Second, it’s not clear that Jacob is less manipulative than Smokey.  Jacob says that he wants people to be good without his intervention, while Smokey corrupts everyone.  But Jacob is the one who hands Sawyer the pen to write his revenge note.  Jacob is the one facilitates Kate’s running ways.  Just because Jacob does some of his manipulation through proxies, such as Hurley or Richard, doesn’t make him less manipulative.  Also, Jacob says that he believes in choice and free will while Smokey believes in fate.  Smokey says the opposite.  We don’t know exactly how this all will play out.

Third, while Smokey killed Jacob, it also appears likely that Jacob (or a proxy) killed Smokey.  We know that Smokey lost his body and had to take over Locke’s form.  Both Smokey and Jacob’s proxy, Dogen, sought to kill the other with a special knife before the person could speak.

It’s not clear how Widmore and Hanso (the owner of the Black Rock and the backer of the Dharma project and Sun’s father’s company) fit into this struggle between Jacob and Smokey.  I would guess that they are not on either side and are in it for themselves.  The Widmore and Hanso connection to the Island also goes back a long, long way (did anyone else notice that the man who took Ricardo as a slave was named Widfield — pretty close to Widmore?).

Someone or something is in the locked room on the sub.  I’m guessing it is Aaron or baby Kwon.

I also don’t know how the parallel world will merge with the Island world, but they somehow will.  The parallel world looks generally better and that is the one where the Island is underwater and the 6 candidates never went to the Island.  This raises questions about Jacob’s claim that the Island is a stopper keeping bad from the world.

Ultimately, I think we are going to learn that both Jacob and Smokey play necessary roles in the world.  There is a balance between choice and fate, good and evil, so both of them need to exist.  There is also a recurring theme about people needing to work out their issues.  The good people work them out while the bad people can’t let go of their problems.

Only 7 more episodes to go — until there is another 2 hour episode (and probably a movie sequel).


February 26, 2010

Maybe I have it all backwards about Lost.  Maybe Jacob is actually the bad guy and Smokey is the good one.  At the very least, Lost is going to make is wonder about who is really good and bad.  A twist at the end, where Jacob turns out to be the villain would be quite a shocker.

Here’s the case for Smokey being good and Jacob being bad…  Perhaps the trap that Smokey says he is in is being condemned to a world where the same mistakes are committed.  In the parallel world we can see what it would look like if everyone got out of that trap by never coming to the Island.  Kate would stop running.  Locke would accept his disability.  Jack would resolve his daddy issues.

Smokey wants to release everyone from the traps of their mistakes and let them move on.  Jacob tricks people so that they never learn from their mistakes and stay ont he Island.  Jacob gives Sawyer the pen so that he writes his pledge to seek vengeance.  Jacob enables Kate to shoplift, so that she never learns to live within the law.  Jacob heals Locke but perhaps in a way that he never accepts his disability.

Smokey is an advocate of free will and choice.  Jacob seems to be manipulating everyone so that they do what he needs them to do. 

Yes, Smokey has killed people, but Jacob may have killed many more.  If the purge was done by Jacob order(and it seems to have been, given Richard’s loyalty to Jacob and involvement in the purge), then Jacob is a mass murderer.  Jacob’s people also tortured Claire and Sayid.  That doesn’t seem very nice.

Jacob may well be the good guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lost flips on this issue.

Getting Lost

February 20, 2010

My theory from last week still seems to be holding up with the new episode, The Substitute.

Smokey is all dead people and seeks the destruction of the world (and all life), while Jacob is associated with life and particularly babies.

In The Substitute we learned that Jacob is searching for his replacement and that there are six candidates for that job, each of which is represented by one of The Numbers.  Smokey’s game is to get all 6 off the Island and to kill Jacob and then he will succeed at destroying the world.  We’ve been told in the past that The Numbers are related to the destruction of the world and now we are starting to learn how.

Smokey was close to getting them all off with the freighter.  He managed to get Jack, Hurley, baby Kwon (I’ll bet it’s the baby, not Sun or Jin who is the candidate), and Sayid off in the helicopter.  He tricked Locke to leave by posing as Christian (remember, Smokey is all dead people we see on the Island) in the cabin and by the wheel to convince Locke to move the Island and be transported off the Island.  If Sawyer hadn’t jumped from the helicopter we would have had all six off the Island, could have killed Jacob through Ben, and would have destroyed the world. 

Interestingly, sacrifice and suffering are essential to keeping the 6 on the Island.  That is, life requires sacrifice and suffering.  Sawyer sacrificed to stay.  And we see in the flash sideways that everyone’s suffering is getting resolved.  Locke comes to terms with his disability.  He has good relations with his dad, who is coming to his wedding.  He’s getting married to Helen.  Hurley has good luck in the parallel world.  Kate is innocent.  We can see what the world would be for them if they were never drawn to Island and it looks pretty good.  But their personal happiness is associated with global destruction.

And when Jacob visited each of the 6, he ensured the suffering that would draw them to the Island.  He brought Locke back from death so that he would be disabled, futiley go to Australia for a walkabout, and end up on flight.  He gave Sawyer a pen so that he would write his ledge to kill the man responsible for his parents’ deaths.  That quest drew Sawyer to Australia and onto the flight.  Kate was saved from being caught for shoplifting by Jacob.  If she had been caught at that young age, maybe she would not have been always on the run and ultimately a murderer.

Even though Smokey represents death his appeals are seductive, especially to people suffering.  Sawyer’s current gloom is precisely what makes him vulnerable to Smokey’s attempts to get him off the Island.

Over the rest of this last season, each of the six will die or leave the Island.  But baby Kwon will save the day because she is really the candidate, not Sun or Jin.  And she and baby Aaron (who now appears to be on the Island with Claire) will somehow become the Adam and Eve in the cave.

Lost for Life

February 12, 2010

This time I really think I’ve figured something out.  Really.  I mean it.

The Island has two particularly strange characteristics (among several others):  babies can’t be born on it (with important exceptions) and dead people walk around on it.  We know that one of those dead people, Locke, is actually Esau (Smokey).  I’m willing to bet that all dead people we have seen walking around on the Island are in fact Smokey, including Christian, Claire, Boone, Harper, Ecko’s brother, etc…  Smokey is death.

I’m also willing to bet that babies born on the Island, including Aaron and Alex, are somehow connected to Jacob or are Jacob.  Jacob represents life.

In the conversation on the beach between Jacob and Esau in the final episode of last season, Esau says that it always ends the same way.  I think he means that we all die.  He repeats this theme when he tells Ben that only Locke understood how pitiful his life was — perhaps all life is.  In Smokey’s view life is futile ending in death.

Jacob agrees that it always ends the same way (we all die) but there is progress.  Jacob believes in the purposefulness of life.

Remember that Ben brings Juliet to the Island so that they can have babies, perhaps expanding Team Jacob.  Widmore, on the other hand, wants to kill baby Alex and ultimately does through the mercenaries.  Widmore is part of Team Esau.

Also, the dead Alex appears to Ben under the Temple scaring him into doing whatever Locke says, but Locke is actually Smokey at that point.  Alex has to be dead so that Smokey can appear as her and trick Ben into following Locke’s orders to kill Jacob.

I don’t know what the “infected” people, Sayid, the new Claire, and Rousseau’s colleagues, really are.  Perhaps they are being drawn into Team Esau.  Remember that Rousseau’s colleagues went under the Temple, where Smokey attacked them, and Rousseau did not.  Perhaps Smokey infects people there, maybe because they went into a spring like Sayid did.

We also know that Ben summoned Smokey to kill the mercenaries by draining a spring, again suggesting that Smokey and the spring are connected.

I don’t have it all figure out — not by  a long stretch — but I’m pretty confident that this death/life theme will help tie the plot together.

Lost Change

February 8, 2010

No, not that kind of change. 

I’m talking about whether the course of time has really been changed on Lost when they detonated a nuke on the Island.  In the first episode of this season we are led to believe that things have changed.  We see the Losties back on their Oceanic flight but this time it doesn’t crash.  Maybe it worked!

But we also see the Losties on the Island after Esau (Smokey) has killed Jacob and nothing has appeared to change.  Which one is the real timeline?

The answer, I suspect, is that they are still part of the same timeline and nothing was fundamentally changed by the nuke.  Yes, Oceanic landed safely in LA, but I’ll bet that all of the Losties will make their way back to the Island over the next few episodes and the two timelines will merge.  You can’t change time.

This seems to be the major dispute between Jacob and Esau.  When the two of them were sitting on the beach watching the ship, Esau said that it always ends the same way.  Jacob agrees but says that the process is always different and that is progress.  We’ll somehow learn that Jacob is right about this.  We’ll see that there has been progress even if the ending is the same.

Some evidence for this theory is that Juliet seems to be dangling between the two timelines as she is dying.  She talks about going to get coffee and wants to tell Sawyer that it worked.  Also, Desmond appears and disappears on the flight.  I bet things are changing in the alternate timeline to course-correct already.

Some other questions to ponder:  Where is home for Esau (Smokey)?  he tells us that he finally wants to go home and I’ll bet that is the Temple from which he has been banished and will now attempt to recapture. 

Also, is Jacob inside Sayed?  It seems like Jacob gave Hurley the guitar case as an insurance policy.  He knew that he could visit Hurley even after he was killed and deliver the message to his followers at the Temple.  The message may well have been to use the pool to transfer Jacob into Sayed so that Jacob could help defend the Temple against Esau.

Even though Jacob seems like the good guy and Essau as the bad one, I’ll bet that they are both actually mixed in character.  Each has done good and bad things.  We will somehow learn that both are correct — fate cannot be changed but there is still room for free will and human progress.

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