Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost Speculations and Observations: April 2010 Edition

As there's no new Lost this week, I'm happy to provide all you fans with some Lost-themed entertainment... and reading my post won't even take an hour. You might be done in time to tune in to the "Ab Aeterno" rerun and watch the "cork" analogy again!

The biggest question that season 6 has raised is the question of the flash-sideways. Not "what are the flash sideways?" per se; that was easy enough to answer as early as "LA X". They're fragments of another reality, one in which Jughead's explosion sank the Island and ultimately allowed Oceanic 815 to land safely in Los Angeles. No, the bigger question has always been "so what?" Why do we care, what's the significance, how does all this matter? The past four episodes have finally started to put those pieces in place. As soon as Widmore revealed his "package" to Jin, the flash-sideways has slowly started to make sense. (And really, Charles Widmore, are you trying to intimidate Jin or pick him up at Blake's in Midtown?)

The biggest reveal so far (regarding the flash-sideways, at least) is that the flash-sideways reality is very much... real. It's not a hypothetical, "what-if" exercise in character contrast that I figured it might have been back in February. Instead, experiences from the Island timeline can surface as "memories" in the flash-sideways, and at least if you're Desmond, experiences from the flash-sideways can translate back to knowledge on the Island.

Let's talk a little more about Desmond. Over the objections of several fellow fans, I've echoed Eloise ever since "316" and insisted that the Island isn't done with Desmond yet. Apparently Charles Widmore agreed, kidnapping our favorite Scotsman and bringing him to the Island to conduct some electromagnetic experiments on him. The result of all that was Desmond getting torn away from Penny yet again... and reuniting with Penny, his constant, in a different universe. It's no coincidence that Desmond's constant, the love of his life, and the force that brought him to understand the simultaneity of the two realities are all the same person.

As moving as Desmond-Penny scenes always are, Penny was not the only important person to trigger Desmond's epiphany. Charlie and Daniel, in welcomed cameo appearances, provide important stimuli to Desmond as well. Notice that they both died in the original timeline. Who was responsible for Daniel's own revelation? Charlotte, who died in the original timeline. And then when Hurley starts to "remember" the Island? It's Libby that jogs his "memory", Libby, who died in the original timeline. There's some connection here, as if death in one world opens you more to remembering it in another world, but what that connection is we don't yet know. Another natural question to ask here is what happens if you die in the flash-sideways but you're alive on the Island? Do you start to "remember" the flash-sideways on the Island?

A little speculation: if Charlotte sparked Faraday into "remembering" the Island, and Libby did the same for Hurley, then how about Sayid "remembers" the Island when he meets Shannon in the flash-sideways, and Sawyer when he meets Juliet? It would fit both the established pattern of recalling the Island, and the motif of bringing back old dead characters for season 6 cameos.

That, of course is a matter for the third act of season 6. If "Sundown" closed the curtain on the first act by wrapping up the Temple storyline, then "The Last Recruit" opened act 3 by moving everyone into their right place. It's one of those necessary-evil sorts of episodes where nothing dramatic is happening, so it's naturally going to be open to criticism from fans (and mid-season multi-centrics do seem to be disproportionately weak; see "Namaste")... but I thought all the positioning was sort of cool.

On the Island, we have Ben, Richard, and Miles traipsing through the jungle on Mission Blow Up the Ajira Plane; Locke, Jack, Desmond, and Sayid are hanging out (mostly against their wills) at Camp Locke; and Sun, Jin, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Claire, and Frank are not finding Camp Widmore too hospitable either. In the flash-sideways, Creepy Desmond, Sane Claire, and Ilana (though I'd imagine her appearance in the flash-sideways is more Faraday-style cameo than necessary condition of reconciling the two timelines) are at the law offices; Sawyer, Miles, Kate, and Sayid are at the police station, some freer than others; and Sun, Jin, Jake, Locke, and Ben are at the hospital. Hurley is unaccounted for here, but I imagine he'll find a reason to head to St. Sebastian soon enough.

It all has the distinct air of battle lines being drawn, and I think "battle lines are drawn" is as fine a theme and summary as any for act 2 of season 6. That makes act 3 the final battle, and "The Last Recruit" fired the first shots of that battle with Zoe's bombardment of Locke's beach.

Before we get ahead of ourselves speculating about the rest of act 3--the last five hours of Lost ever!--there were two important revelations from the two most recent episodes. The "whispers" reveal didn't strike me as the most brilliant thing Lost has ever done. It's not even that I didn't buy it. We've been accepting for five seasons now that it's possible for the Island to force you to stick around if it's not "finished" with you yet; why not force the spirits of dead people to stick around in the same case? No, it was more that the reveal was clumsy. Hurley's "oh, I think I know what the whispers are!" came from pretty much out of nowhere--its sudden insertion into "Everybody Loves Hugo" didn't help it as an episode, and I don't really see the greater significance of those dead spirits in the storyline or mythology of the setting.

The next reveal went down much better. Jack asks the Man in Black if he was impersonating Christian, and the answer is a simple "yes." One of the oldest mysteries from the show, dating from episode 4, has finally been put to rest. (Oh, some fans will continue to speculate about it, never being satisfied with a direct answer, but the rest of us should be content.) The character of the Man in Black is fitting for this stage of the narrative, even becoming a symbol of it. Instead of getting fleeting smoke, we're finally getting something concrete, though we may not like what we hear.

I can't help but think that we're not going to like a lot of what we see, either. A lot more than Locke's beach and Ilana are going to explode in the next five episodes. Who's safe, and who's doomed? My take is that your chances of survival increase proportionately to your time on the show. Obviously it's not a perfect correlation--Miles has lasted way longer than I thought he would have, and it still surprises me when I remember that real John Locke has been dead for over a season now--but it looks generally true, especially if Ilana is any indication. My take:

Characters who have a good chance of living:

Jack has always enjoyed a sort of "first among equals" status, the closest thing to a "main character" that you'd see from an ensemble cast. I've said before, and I still believe, that Jack is going to be the "winning" candidate, the man destined (or doomed, if you prefer) to replace Jacob as guardian of the Island. Whether Jack is still alive at the end of the series is a completely different question... I can easily see the Island requiring him to sacrifice his life for its protection.

Kate has been the most consistent female character in a setting where female characters' job prospects are about as strong as those of a Whig politician circa 1856. (For the sake of comparison, Kate and Sun are the only two female characters to have been main cast every season; compare that to Jack, Sawyer, Jin, Locke, Hurley, and Sayid on the male side.) If any female character sticks around, it's going to be Kate, and at least one has to to keep the finale from being a total sausage-fest.

You absolutely, positively cannot kill Hurley. He's got the season 1 thing going for him, the candidate thing, and the comic relief thing, all of which help his chances considerably. But the thing that guarantees Hurley's survival is his role as the everyman. Where Jack rushed to the leadership position he always wished he could assume back in St. Sebastian, Sawyer became the Leader of the Opposition just to provide a check on Jack's power, and Kate got caught up between them; where Locke started pontificating about fate and destiny; where Sayid consistently toed the line between redemption and falling back into his dark past; Hurley has been just a normal guy. Sure, a normal guy who is enormously rich and who talks to dead people, but one that doesn't assign any special significance to either of those things. He's always been the one character who can step back and look at the situation without any assumptions, as if he still wanted it to make sense with the non-Island world that he knew. That analysis has been invaluable trying to make sense of the series, and it will be equally as important trying to digest the finale.

If any character deserves his happy ending, it's Desmond. Lost and "happy ending" are not really things you put in the same sentence a lot, but the Desmond-Penny relationship has been one of the most emotionally rewarding aspects of Lost and one that we've been cheering for since the second season. Desmond has been through so much and yet remained so loyal to Penny that when all is said and done, it wouldn't seem right if he were apart from her.

I can see either Jin or Sun living, but probably not both. The last string of episodes is going to be full of tragedy, and I think this one is going to hurt.

Sawyer might stick around. He has "candidate" and "season 1 character" and "historical ties to Jack" going for him, but I'm not sure what else he brings to the table. I see Jack a lot easier than Sawyer in an endgame showdown against the Man in Black.

There's a good chance that Sayid will live long enough for his redemption to happen. When Hurley made the analogy to Anakin Skywalker, he didn't even know how accurate it was. Powerful warrior shows great potential but also an affinity for the dark side, tragedy befalls the woman he loves, he is reborn as a servant of the dark and does some terrible things. But even through all that, Anakin retains his humanity enough to overthrow the Emperor at the end of the Star Wars trilogy. Maybe Sayid will be the one to defeat the Man in Black.

Characters who have a less good chance of living:

Ben and Richard were the subjects of the two best episodes so far this season, and I think that hurts their chances of staying alive. Both of their stories concluded intelligently, resonantly, and logically, both characters have been "de-mythologized" like I talked about last month, and both have come full circle in terms of explaining their greatest mysteries. They represented themselves as the most important servants of Jacob--and perhaps that was true, for a while. But now that Jacob is down to five candidates, Jacob is finished with both--and consequently the Island is finished with both. I can't help but assume that Ben's worry about what will happen to him once the Island is done with him (after it clearly showed it was done with Ilana) was foreshadowing more than it was idle speculation.

I've grown to love both Miles and Frank, and they're the only contenders to Sawyer's long-held title of "most hilariously sarcastic character", but it seems to me that they're both a little late to the party. If some people die, it would make a lot less sense for Miles and Frank to be the ones left standing than for Sawyer and Hurley--and some people are going to die. Frank has a narrative use as a pilot, and maybe Miles has a narrative use as someone who can commune with the dead, but we're rapidly approaching a point in the story where having a narrative use is no longer good enough--you need a mythological purpose as well.

Absolutely no chance that Widmore lives. Despite not being a candidate, and not really having been involved with Island leadership for twenty-five years, he's sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong and proclaiming himself savior of the Island--without Jacob's approval. There's still a chance that Widmore will die a hero, saving himself to protect one of the candidates, or something like that--but the only question is how will he die, not will he.

In the second-most heartbreaking moment of the next five hours, I think it's likely that Claire will die. She's getting turned around, to be sure--Kate has picked up Ilana's torch of providing respite and acceptance for people who feel like they've been cast out. We can expect that turnaround to continue just long enough for Claire to achieve redemption. I can see her sacrificing herself to protect Jack (now that the brother-sister thing is out on the table), or maybe Claire's unrelated death at the hands of the Man in Black will be Jack's ultimate emotional catalyst to accept the mantle of candidate.

One final theory on the role, purpose and nature of the Island, and it relates to the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. In those books--a major influence on Lost--the eponymous Tower is the linchpin of all reality, and the only physical constant among all possible worlds. It can only be entered through one specific world--Roland's native All-World--but a manifestation or representation of it exists in all worlds. Then, the reality where 815 crashed on the Island (that is, the "main" timeline from seasons 1-5) in is the only one where it's possible to interact with the Island, although a manifestation of the Island is present in every conceivable universe (such as the sunken Island in the flash-sideways). The 815 survivors' realization of this (and probably a pilgrimage to that sunken Island) is going to be critical to reconciling the two realities.


Currently listening: "Fourside" from from Mother 2 - Giygas' Counterattack

1 comment:

Amy said...

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