Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Season 5, Episode 16: "The Incident"

So, like what I've done with the place? I deemed a change was appropriate, given the shocking fade to white we experienced in last week's fantastic Lost finale. The two hours were filled with what we've come to love in Lost: philosophy, fist fights, paradox mind fucks, ghosts, dead people, broken hearts, and hippies (what up Bernard and Rose?!?!). But the essence of the episode - and the series really - can be broken down in two simple colors: black and white.

Call it what you will; Light vs. Dark, Good vs. Evil, God vs. Satan, etc, etc...but the first scene in "The Incident" was the most important we've seen in the series thus far. Two men, one - Jacob dressed in white - and the other unnamed Man in Black are basically playing a game against one another. Just as Locke introduces Backgammon to Walt in the first episode of the series ("Backgammon is the oldest game in the world...Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark."*), Jacob and the Man in Black are on opposite sides of the spectrum. But in this game, the stakes are a bit higher...and the fate of humanity rests with the winner.

The Man in Black believes solely in man's potential for dark deeds. "They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same." He's indifferent about man's potential because he's seen what they are capable of time and time again - and some of the actions of the Losties in the past 5 seasons prove his point in full. The Man in Black literally feeds on their sins ("Want some fish?" "No thanks, I just ate.") But Jacob disagrees. He responds, "You're wrong. It only ends once. Anything that happens before just progress." Jacob implies that we have not seen the ultimate end in the story, and that one day man will overcome his demons and choose redemption. With that our Dark friend issues what I think was the best line of the season; "Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?"

The Man in Black is tired of reliving this loop over and over again and yearns for a way to break the circle and kill his nemesis. But it's not as easy as it seems...there are rules to abide by. Clearly he can't do the deed himself. Just as Ben can't kill Widmore in his London loft ("Why don't you just kill and get it over with?" "We both know I can't do that."), Jacob can't be killed directly by the hands of his foe. What we learn though is that the Man in Black has finally figured out a way to break the loop: he must manipulate man's free will to do his dirty work for him. But it wasn't just Ben that was manipulated in the Man's long con, it was our old friend Locke as well.

This is as good a point as any to state the obvious: the Man in Black and Smokie are one in the same (or as Ilana said in the Cabin that the Man in Black hijacked, "He's using it" ... meaning he's accessed Smokie's power). They are the guardians of the Island, and act as judge, jury, and executioner of the Island's lost souls. He has been able to take many forms, specifically those of Yemi and Alex, but most importantly Christian and eventually Locke himself (all corpses that "reside" on the Island). Smokie has always had the ability to "read" the thoughts and memories of his victims, and back in Season 2 he came face to face with Locke and liked what he saw. He saw an impressionable man that was looking for a greater purpose. He saw a man that repeatedly fell for the ruse. He saw a man filled with pain looking for answers. He saw his loophole.

From that point on the Man in Black uses Locke as the the linchpin in his great plan to take Jacob down. He just needed to make him believe that he was destined for greatness. Step 1: cultivate a leader. Step 2: Make others believe he is their Leader. Step 3: Kill the leader, assume his form. Step 4: Use Leader's unquestioned power to kill Jacob. Sure it's a long and complicated process, but anything that's worthwhile takes time and dedication...just as the Man in Black says, "you have no idea what I've gone through to be here."

Don't believe me? Ponder this: after Locke's meeting with Christian in the Cabin ("Cabin Fever") he believes that his "purpose" is to move the Island. But Christian/Man in Black/Smokie's plan backfires...because Ben turns the wheel instead of Locke. This was not a part of the plan, but luckily there is an easy fix. The Man in Black/Ghost Locke from the future instructs Richard to tell pre-dead Locke in a time flash that he must go back to the mainland and personally see to the O6's return, and conveniently adds that he "must die" in the process. Next, after a fall in the donkey wheel cavern the Man in Black/Ghost Christian reprimands Locke ("I said that YOU needed to move the Island") and reaffirms that he will need to die in order to do the Island's bidding. In accordance to "the rules" Christian refuses to help Locke turn the wheel, because in the end the decision to embark on such a mission MUST be made by Locke, just as Ben's decision to kill Jacob must be his own.

Back on the mainland Ben kills Locke and boards him - in a metal crate - onto Ajira 316 which crash lands onto the Island. Once a dead version of Locke arrives back on the Island, the Man in Black can take his form and parlay his "Other Leader" role to convince Richard to lead him to Jacob. Even though Richard seems apprehensive of the "new" Locke ("Something seems .... different" he says of Locke upon his return), he does what his leader says. Then, in the final act of manipulation, the Man in Black/Ghost Locke leverages Ben's feelings of isolation and jealousy for being "ignored" by Jacob to his advantage and has him commit the murder that he so desperately wants. Ben strikes down Jacob with his own hands and the Man in Black's extravagant plan has come to fruition. He found the loophole, utilized man's free will to kill his own maker, and won the battle of Good vs. Evil.

Or did he?

We'll get back to that. First, let's visit what Jacob's been up to between weaving tapestries and cooking McFilets on the beach. We learn in the various flashbacks that he visits a number of our Losties at crucial moments in their lives. And in all of those flashbacks, one common theme prevails: he physically touches them all. He taps Kate on the nose, hands little Sawyer a pen, pats Sayid on the shoulder, seemingly shakes Locke back to life, passes an Apollo bar to Jack, embraces Jin and Sun after their wedding, and takes hold of Hurley's arm in the cab outside the jail. Additionally, the timing of his visits corresponds with major life events: Kate's initial forays into crime, Sawyer's growing feelings of hate, Locke's ultimate betrayal, Jack's moment of weakness, Jin and Sun's confirmed love, and Hurley's realization that he's anything but crazy.

So what is the significance of all of this? Clearly, Jacob is "bringing" them to the Island just as he brought the Black Rock to the Island way back in the day. These are the characters he has chosen to play out the loop that he and the Man in Black watch over time and time again. It explains why these characters, once on the Island, cannot be victims of the Man in Black/Smokie. It would be against the rules. These characters are Jacob's pawns in this version of the never ending game. These are the characters that Jacob will use to prove the Man in Black wrong.

But in a turn of events that we are all familiar with, the O6 leave the Island and upon their return on 316 land in 1977 as opposed to 2007. I have some far fetched theories as to why this happened, but for now, I think it's better to keep them at bay to spare your sanity. What is important is that they are seemingly out of the picture. And without his players, the Man in Black deems Jacob as vulnerable to defeat. He implements his plan and has Ben kill Jacob, but in his final words Jacob issues his own checkmate, "They're coming." Who, you might ask? None other than Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley, Jin, and Sayid. They represent the metaphorical Black Rock on the Island's shores. The loop has come full circle and the Man in Black is back to square one. With a knowing look of disgust, Ghost Locke kicks Jacob into the fire, and understands that he's been out maneuvered. It's far from over, instead the war has just begun.

I'm not going to go into the details surrounding "The Incident" because, quite frankly, I don't think they matter. For what it's worth, I think the Incident happened the way it always did; the pocket was breached and the bomb went off. The energy generated from both events somewhat cancelled each other out, but caused enough damage to kill a bunch of folks and...oh, I don't know, blow 90% of a huge statue away, leaving just the four toed foot. Dharma then poured layers of concrete within the Swan to try and suppress the radiation the blast caused and kept a core crew underground, going outside only when necessary in hazmat suits - again to protect themselves against radiation (everyone remembers that the inside of the Hatch door read "Quarantine" right?) Nothing changed...everything happened the way it was supposed to happen...except for the disappearance of our Losties. Because after all, the fade to white wasn't a just clever TV gimmick, it was the final time flash sending Jacob's players back to 2007 to finish the game. (Sorry Juliet...but I think your dead.) So, in my opinion, all the questions we may have had about Dharma and the past are irrelevant. What's done is done. All that matters is what will happen next. (Lost writers: 1, head scratching viewers: 0)

And that brings us to what will be the end game for this series. As the writers have said all along, Lost is a show about redemption. Our characters will have the chance to show that humans can rise above deception, jealousy, violence, and hate. Instead they have the opportunity to express truth (Hurley), love (Jack/Kate; Jin/Sun), selflessness (Sayid), and loyalty (Sawyer). Jacob was correct in stating that "there is only one end," and it is the ending that we will see nearly a year from now when this fucking awesome series comes to a close.


A few things that didn't fit above but are worth noting:

-Q: "What Lies in the Shadow of the Statue?" A: "He who will save us all."

-According to Lostpedia, "the tapestry depicts a pair of wings outstretched from an encircled Eye of Horus, and what appear to be seventeen long arms emanating like rays out from the eye. The hands at the ends of the arms grope for human figures who appear to be at the mercy of the hands, while on either side a king sits in a throne and observes." Across the top of the tapestry, a quote from Homer's "Odyssey" reads "may the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires."

-Jacob, to Jin and Sun at their wedding: "your love is special, cherish the time you have together and never let it go."

-Did anyone else notice that Bernard's invitation for tea to Juliet seemed to hold some serious gravity? Bernard seemed to know what was in store for her. His eyes seemed to plead with her to stay. Again, more proof that Bernard and Rose are somehow above all of the shenanigans going down on the Island, and are the "model" of what love should be. Seems more and more likely that they will turn out to be the Adam and Eve skeletons in the cave.

-So really, what is in the Hurley's guitar case? Was it just a prop used by Jacob to give Hurley the final push to return to the Island? Or, does its contents hold the key to Jacob's resurrection?

That's all I got for this year, folks. And I'm more than willing to admit that the interpretation above is filled with its fair share of holes so let me know what you think in the comments below. Lord knows we will have more than enough time to debate, seeing that Season 6 doesn't start until early 2010! Thanks for all the thoughts and well wishes throughout the's been a lot of fun trying to figure this shit out with you week to week. Have a great summer, and see you in 8 months...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Season 5, Episode 15: "Follow the Leader"

Well, here we are on the verge of the Season 5 finale and I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen...which is awesome. Will Jack succeed in blowing up Jughead and change the past forever? Or will Locke succeed in his death march mission to the one and only Jacob? Is Ben playing Locke (again), or is Richard playing them both? Will Sawyer really just take off and make millions on the '78 Cowboys or come back to help his friends? And for the love of God, WHERE THE HELL ARE BERNARD AND ROSE!?!?! I certainly won't answer any of these questions, but let's at least figure out what we're dealing with moving towards what should be a great finale this week.

First off, the season of role reversals continues in "Follow the Leader." First we saw Jack and Sawyer flip flop in terms of Lostie power in Dharmaville, then we saw much of the same with Locke turning into Mr. Know It All and leaving Ben in the dark. The final reversal we're left with is with our two oldest polar opposite characters: Jack and Locke; Man of Science versus Man of Faith. But this time it's Jack that is taking a Leap of Faith, and Locke is the one following the "rules."

As we know, Jack has been looking for a purpose ever since he returned to the Island. And after a while mopping hallways and cleaning toilets he came across Faraday and realized why he came back: to prevent all of this from ever happening. He explains to Kate that "this is their chance to change it all" and that blowing Jughead is "their destiny." Strong words for a man that never believed in such things, even when a certain "crazy" bald man would preach fate and destiny on a daily basis. But this time Jack sees that his only way out of this mess is to take a leap of faith by detonating the bomb, which will hopefully erase this entire period from his and the other Lostie's lives, and land Oceanic 815 safely in LA. But there is no way to know how that will really happen when that bomb blows, and what Jack seems to forget is that if he's wrong, everyone could die. And isn't that exactly what Richard Alpert claims to have seen?

And what about Locke? The man that exclusively acted on what he "was destined to do" is now acting in an entirely different manner. He is approaching the world empirically, doing things that have a direct effect on what is to come next. For example, his first "chore" is to have Richard visit a past version of himself, to tell him to round up the O6 and bring them back to the Island (and don't forget to die in the process!). Locke is closing a time loop in a very "whatever happened, happened" kind of way. He clearly seems to know what to do next, which is very different from his past self, who simply assumed what to do next based on a gut feeling (which - more often than not - was wrong. See: Hatch digging, button pushing, father trusting, etc, etc). The next errand will be to round all of the Hostiles up and take them to Jacob because he wants to "see" this person that is supposedly ordering them all around and ask him direct questions as to what his motives are. It no longer is enough to follow in blind faith as the old Locke would is instead time for answers. Whether Locke intends to physically kill Jacob or just kill the "idea" of Jacob remains to be seen, but it's clear that he is not putting up with his mythical shit any longer. Sounds very Jack-ish to me.

That being said, we are reaching an end to the season and the idea of "whatever happened, happened" and "you can change the past" are coming to a direct head. If Jack is successful in changing the past, we could see a cliffhanger ending where the Losties land successfully LA without incident. And while that might be just fine for Jack, some other folks may have an objection to such a chain of events...specifically Kate and Sawyer. Kate, if you remember, was a handcuffed fugitive being transported back to the US to stand trial for murdering her (step?) father. Furthermore, if she never gets to the Island, she never ends up having her motherhood experience with Aaron, which is something that was very important to her. Along the same lines Sawyer can't be too psyched about erasing the past either, seeing that he would then never fall in love with Juliet (not to mention that he didn't have too many positive things happening on the mainland himself). The prevailing theory then is that on the sub Kate will tell Sawyer and Juliet what Jack is intending to do, which will cause them to turn that rig right around and head back to the Island to save their friends (and themselves).

The examples above also lead me to believe that the "whatever happened, happened" theory has to be the winner in the end. Because if you look at the underlying themes of this show you'll see that it's ultimately about our characters finding out who they really are, and righting the wrongs that they caused for themselves and others. For many, this has already happened or is well on its way of happening. So why waste 5 seasons of redemption just to erase it all in one moment? Where's the happy ending in that? But then again, some huge "wrongs" would be avoided if the Island wreck never happened; most obviously the deaths of Boone, Shannon, Claire, Mr. Eko, Charlie, Michael, Goodwin, Anna Lucia, Libby, Alex, Karl, Rousseau, Dr. Aartz, Frogurt....I think you get the point. So who wins out in the end? Will the past be erased or will the time loop be held intact as it has happened time and time again? (See, I told you I had no answers).


-So do you guys remember when Walt showed up soaking wet talking gibberish to Shannon in Season 1? Well not sure if this really makes sense, but after seeing the Hostiles' secret underground tunnels (accessed by diving through a pond) I'm guessing that the tunnels were the way that the Others got around the Island so quickly when they were spying on the Losties in past seasons. It doesn't necessarily explain the whispers, but it does explain why Walt was wet during that encounter and also why Harper showed up out of nowhere to tell Juliet to stop Daniel and Charlotte from getting to the Flame in Season 4 (she was dripping wet too, but to her credit, it was pouring rain).

Speaking of the Tunnels, if the Hostiles didn't swim the bomb down through the pond like Jack asked, then how exactly did they get Jughead down there? The only way would be through a larger entrance to the ancient cavern...could that larger entrance be what's in the shadow of the statue? Or did Smokey take it down?

-When Widmore and Eloise were quietly discussing how to handle the Jack/Kate situation, Widmore placed his hand over Eloise's stomach and mumbled something about "her condition" - most likely trying to dissuade her from helping Jack. I think it's safe to assume that he was referring to her being pregnant with Daniel, which means that Daniel was around 30 years old at the time of his death. It also means that she technically killed her son before he was born. Trippy. (Of course, we know that will not cause a paradox because Daniel's "present" was killed, not a past version of himself. Right? Let's just move on.)

-In the beginning of the episode, Richard was shown building a ship in a bottle. This has led many to deduce that he is in some way tied to the Black Rock - either by being a crew member on board or a transported slave. I'm not sure I agree...I see him as being even older than that. But time will tell, I suppose.

-Phil is going to die, and he's going to die hard. So far I think the best "kill" in this show was when Sayid impaled one of his tranquilizer assassins onto an open dishwasher bin filled with sharp knives (seriously, that took some quick thinking)...but I think Phil might have an even better death ahead of him. No one slaps Sawyer's special lady friend and lives. No one. Hope you enjoyed your time on the show, Phil, cause you are done.

Big Finale Questions:

-We still know very little about Bram and Ilana. Are they Widmore agents? Are they working for Ben? Descendants of the ancient Egyptians? What is in that case? I think a good chunk of the finale will be dedicated to this new group and hopefully we will understand what their motives are moving into Season 6.

-Is Jacob real, or is he just a faceless god created to instill fear in those who follow him? We know that Ben has probably never seen him, but Locke HAS (as have we), so there must be something real about him. Personally, I'm sticking to an old theory that was posed shortly after we saw him beckoning for help in the cabin a couple seasons ago: Jacob is Locke, and he's stuck in a never ending time loop. And now the "new" Locke is hear to kill that version of himself, and free himself to lead beyond the borders of that cabin.

-And seriously, where are Bernard and Rose? Richard mentioned that there was another group of people at the Temple...could they be with them? There is another long standing theory that the "Adam and Eve" skeletons found in the caves back in Season 1 will end up being Bernard and Rose. I like that idea, seeing that they were the first couple on the show to represent a true love, and were never going to leave the Island after it saved Rose's life. Maybe they flashed back to the past and just stayed there? Who knows, but there is no way we are done with them.

Add your burning questions below and we'll see if we get any answers this week. It's been a long ride but I can't wait to see how they leave us's going to be tough, but hopefully we'll have plenty to discuss in the months following the finale. Enjoy!