"Ka is a wheel."
-Stephen King, The Dark Tower
"They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same."
"It only ends once. Anything that happens before that, it's just progress."
LOST, Season 5 Finale
Now let's talk about The Dark Tower.
No, not the unfinished C.S. Lewis novel about time travel and inter-dimensional travel. No, no, no, I'm talking about a work that has even more parallels to LOST. Besides, my CS Lewis prelude post is forthcoming.
No, I'm talking about Stephen King's Dark Tower series. If you haven't read it, um . . . major, major SPOILERS here. You've been warned.
Roland is a gunslinger, half Clint Eastwood, half knight of the round table, who is chasing a man in black across an endless desert. When he catches him, he discovers his true quest. He needs to find the nexus of reality, and save it from unraveling. He'll need to sell his soul on the way.
The story deals (and this may seem familiar) with time travel, and with interdimensional travel, and with certain numbers that keep cropping up everywhere, with two sides – dark and light – in opposition, and with an inescapable collective and individual destiny. Especially with destiny, which Roland and his company refer to as ka. Time is a wheel, we learn, and at the end of the book we discover that Roland is fated to go back and live it all over again.
Only for an instant does he realize how long he's been doing it, and then it's gone. It's hinted that Roland has walked this hard, hard road nineteen times. Elsewhere, it's hinted that Roland has walked it 1,999 times. As the book ends/begins, we are told that just one thing is different now. He has his ceremonial battle horn with him, the one he lost when civilization fell. Just one little change. A small, almost insignificant reason to hope that this time . . . this time . . . the cycle will break.
Time is a wheel, you see. It keeps coming around.
Which brings me back around to LOST. I don't think our friends kept Oceanic from crashing. But I now do think that they changed something. Maybe some little things. Maybe when we start Season Six, much will be familiar, but smaller things in the grand scheme will be different. Penny is in the hatch instead of Desmond. The plane in the tree is red. Hurley has a violin case.
You see, Jacob and his brother seem to hint in this conversation that it's all happened before. And it will all happen again. And yet Jacob keeps trying, keeps reaching out to these flawed people, keeps asking them to come to him, to follow him. Every time it goes wrong. And Jacob's brother hates him for the trying.
Each time it ends the same, complains the brother. It only ends once, Jacob insists. And in between is the progress.
Can destiny be changed?
Do you have a choice?
Jacob thinks we do. He plays white's side, as humanity's Advocate.
His brother disagrees. He plays dark's side, as humanity's Accuser.
How many times has Jacob tried? If I had to guess? I'd say 108 times. And if, next season, Hurley's numbers add up to 109 instead? I won't be a bit surprised. It's Roland's ceremonial battle horn. Little changes, you see.
Oh, and if you think I'm making a stretch in my allusions here, go see what JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof are doing when they wrap Lost up.
Prelude 01: Bad Twin