Thursday, February 4, 2010

LOST 040: We Are The Other People, You're The Other People Too

Wow. It's been a while. How've you been? Great, me too. Love what you've done with your hair. Let's get down to it.


Wow, they just went and committed to a whole lot of very specific things, didn't they? Too bad we don't know what all those things mean yet.

Easy stuff first.

Appreciation. Terry O'Quinn was marvelous. I feel like we're going to see Real Locke again, but for now he's found the menacing gear. I'd also like to mention once again that Josh Holloway has been nothing but compelling as the writers transformed his one-note character to one of the most complex and fully-realized people on the show. Jack's pretty much too ruined and haunted now for the everyman hero thing. I'd also like to call attention to two quintessential LOST moments. First, Hurley's guitar case becomes yet another LOST mystery object that intrigues at first, then finally fades into "well, I guess they forgot that" obscurity before unfurling just at the right moment. Also, Juliet's final words could be the ultimate encapsulation of the LOST experience. "I have something to tell you. It's very important. [Dies.]" Unfortunately, there, it undercut what has been pointed out is the longest death scene ever, and what should have been a more poignant moment.

Locke's the Monster's the Nemesis. This had kind of been assumed by many of us over the hiatus, given the but it's nice to have it confirmed -- and so early, too! Thanks, LOST! So what does that mean? Well, it means that the majority of the "ghosts" we've seen on the island have been the Nemesis furthering his goal. And that goal has also been confirmed for what we thought it was. Manage to pose as somebody Alpert would accept as one of Jacob's chosen, and bring along somebody willing to kill for him. I'd say that the Nemesis also seems to have a favorite "skin" that he wears for a while. He's been Christian for a while. Now he's Locke. What's very interesting to me is that the Nemesis doesn't just take on his subject's appearance; he can actually access their memories. This is deeper than mere impersonation.

On the other hand, we know that not all ghosts are the Nemesis. I think Jacob's appearance to Hurley seals that deal. (I strongly doubt this is the Nemesis, by the way -- though we clearly must consider the possibility. I think the Nemesis, while able to appear as the dead, actually is a physical being and thus is not appearing in two places simultaneously.) Now, is this ability to still appear to some and walk around applicable to all island dead, or is it specific to Jacob. My guess is the former. I think that the dead are on the island, perhaps attuned in some way to the Jacobians (I'm done with calling them The Others). This would explain why the whispers seem to follow in the Jacobian wake.

Ben's remorseful. Look's like Jacob's own Judas is having a little bit of buyer's guilt with that stabbing murder he bought last season. Too bad the Nemesis isn't big on returns. I did think it was fun to see that Ben can't stop lying even after it is far too late.

Alpert knows the Nemesis of old. And as a slave, one presumes, given the "good to see you out of chains" comment. True, the Black Rock was a slaver, so it's likely that ship that brought Alpert in the first place. However, and not to put too fine a point on it, I must point out that Alpert doesn't much resemble the racial profile that you'd expect to see on an 1860s era slave ship, and, also, Egyptians also had slaves. So, we'll see. I'm guessing that the Nemesis was known to Alpert in his guise as the man in black you see talking with Jacob back in the day. I would also postulate that the man in black is just another "skin" of the Nemesis. Now, it's lucky for you that you are so ageless and stuff, Alpert, because that throat-punch may have been fatal otherwise.

We know what the Nemesis wants for Christmas. He, like ET, just wants to go home. But where is home, exactly. I'm not positive, but the Biblical, Miltonic, and Edenic hints have become so strong that it's hard not to imagine that this is the fallen Morningstar, trapped in his prison and hoping to claw back to heaven. I personally will be fine if it's not, and fine if it is. If you're one who doesn't want a spiritual mystical sort of story . . . I don't know what to tell you. It sure looks to me like that is the story they've been telling the whole time. If I'm wrong, that's fine as long as it all hangs together, but to NOT have it go that way at that point would be a bit of a shift. However, LOST is nothing if not ambiguous and genre/perspective-shifting. I'd be surprised if they presented it in such stark terms, rather than letting the audience draw their own conclusions . . . to an extent.

I can't cross through your burnin' ring of powder. So, here's the thing to remember about the island. If you're going to go there, be sure to bring Smokemonster Off brand Monster Repellant. That's right, only Smokemonster Off will stop a Mystery Island Smokemonster Attack every time, and with that smooth Off smell. It's Toasted! (Warning: Watch out for falling rocks.)

So. We now know what that powder around "Jacob's" cabin was. But to what purpose? There's really only two ways to read this; either it was meant to imprison the Nemesis within, or it was meant to keep somebody safe from the Nemesis within. Neither reading seems to fit. It certainly seems as if the Nemesis had been imprisoned there for a time. and it seems highly likely that it was he manipulating events within the cabin on both occasions that Locke visited it. However, the smoke monster was roaming the island the whole time. I guess we'll just wait for further hints for now, but the idea of keeping the Nemesis in a prison within the island prison is fun to consider, and might explain the "Help me" Locke heard from Fakob.

The temple is real. And it looks Mesopotamian. So maybe the ancient Sumerians were able to get in on this action after all. We've now seen the pool that almost certainly gave Alpert (and, I presume, most/all of the other Jacobians) eternal life, and which almost certainly saved young Ben Linus' life. However, it wouldn't ever cure death. Sadly for Sayid, the Jacob power just left the pool and it looks like they've been peeing in there for eons, and thus he dies of a golden drowning. Or "dies." For a little while. I imagine that will make Sayid a Jacobian for life. I hope they teach him the gang sign soon. What's not clear is how that made Ben lose his memories and his innocence, as Alpert claimed.

By the way, I believe that Jack's attempt to bring Sayid back represents the first time in LOST history that CPR didn't work its magic.

Sayid is alive! Isn't he? We really do have to be skeptical. The last person who miraculously came to life turned out to be the Nemesis. But you don't really think they're going to play the same trick twice, do you? And again, I don't buy that the Nemesis can be in two places at the same time. It certainly might be that Jacob took Sayid's body, but that doesn't really wash for me either. Jacob appeared to take his death as more of an irrelevance, perhaps even an inconvenience. I would say there is about a 1% chance that Sayid is the Nemesis, about 5% that it's Jacob, and I'll give the rest over to a true miraculous return to life. Let me break down why:

1) Utility of plot. Look here, we are not going to spend five years following John Locke's quest for meaning just to end up with him pathetically dead. The story practically demands the return of Real Locke, to fulfill his destiny. Remember, he was called to the island by Jacob as well as the Nemesis. Hence, there has to be a way to bring him back to life. Everybody in the pee pool!

2) Because Jacob died. But but but but dead is dead! Dead is dead! True. Ben told Sun that. I think he was being sincere. Certainly the Jacobians seemed amazed at Sayid's resurrection. I think Locke's re-appearance totally freaked him out. He'd seen the pool do amazing things, but never bring anybody back from the dead. However, that was before Jacob had died. I think perhaps the rules have changed now. If we really are dealing with the Edenic/Miltonian dialectic of good and evil (as I believe we are), then it would stand to reason that after the Christ figure dies, his followers can live again. And the Sayid drowning looked a lot -- a lot -- like one of those old-school, Oh Brother Where Art Thou type baptisms. So the pool of healing becomes a pool of resurrection. And I bet the Nemesis didn't know that.

Oh and if you're playing Edenic/Milton bingo, that's the pool of life. So were is the pool of knowledge of good and evil?

I think it is also clear why Ben, knowing Widmore's mercenaries were on the way, would evacuate his followers to the pool of ultimate healing on the other side of the ambush labyrinth. I also think it is interesting that that labyrinth was home to . . . the Nemesis himself. That's where he drug old one-armed Frenchie to snack on him. So just how close to that pool did/could the Nemesis get, anyway? Because MAN were the temple folks freaked out to think of him out there once Jacob was dead.

OK, now for the hard part.

We have a parallel timeline. I know some of you don't like it, but there it is.

We have a parallel timeline.

We have a parallel timeline.

I personally believe that we have infinite parallel timelines (or at least as many timelines as there are possibilities at every moment throughout all of the universes history), but never mind that. If you're interested in why I think this, listen to this great RadioLab podcast (pertinent part starts around the 20 minute mark). Then listen to ALL the RadioLab podcasts. If you are REALLY curious and want to know how this pertains to LOST, feel free to read my timeline posts. Take your time.

But never mind my infinite possible universes theory. Sticking to the evidence at hand: we have one parallel universe. At least one.

No, the Oceanics aren't going to figure out a way to negate the entire show, and thus we are seeing the results of that. If that happens, the show is, as Hoy put it so elegantly (while arguing the counterpoint, I believe) dead to me. First, that would erase everything we've watched, reduce it to nothing, and be the most disgustingly awful story-foul imaginable. Second, we've already seen some fairly clear indicators that this isn't the case. But let me unpack all this baggage.

1) Realize that having a parallel timeline is very dangerous, precisely because it risks so much. It risks negating the last five seasons we've invested in this show. It also risks not meaning much to the "main" timeline. So the first thing to realize is that this narrative wrinkle is a real tightope act without a net. They need to pay this off in a way that honors the story that has come before. Otherwise, why should we care? They must do this. They have chosen a very risky path to the end. Hats off to them. I hope they pull it off, and have reason to believe they will. They've been magnificent so far.

We need to ask the right questions to make sense of this. The question is not, IS this a parallel timeline, but WHY a parallel timeline? What function does seeing this serve the main story arc?

I have some ideas. They're half-formed. We really need to see more before we can tell exactly where they are driving.

2) The bomb sank the island! Didn't it? I say probably not.

Let's walk through our parallel timelines.

In one, Oceanic has crashed, we've had five seasons of running and shooting and destiny and time travel, culminating in a bomb detonating in 1977 due to the efforts of a few people, most of whom had first come to the island years later when Oceanic Flight 815 had crashed, or were there as a direct result of that crash. The bomb went off because of time travelers. Time travel happened because of a threat to the island, threat to the island came because of Jack's will to get his people rescued, and because the island became visible, island became visible because Desmond blew the hatch, Desmond blew the hatch because of Locke, Locke and Jack came to the island because of Oceanic. Right?

Within this bomb exploding timeline, the bomb exploders find themselves immediately back in their proper time, ears still ringing from the detonation, but apparently time jumped away right at the moment of detonation. The island is still there. The Swan was built. They came to the island after all. It's the same. And we even know they are still in the "main" timeline, the one with Alpert and dead Locke and recently broiled Jacob and the rest. The writers make damn sure we know this, because the beach Jacobians see the temple Jacobians' warning firework flare. That was a distinct choice on the part of the writers to tie our bomb-detonators with the beach scene. Thus, "main" timeline. In which a bomb exploded during the incident. Of course it did. The bomb is not an anomaly in the sequence that brought them to the island. It's an integral part of the process.

Jack was convinced by Faraday that blowing up the bomb would change events. I suspect Faraday had his reasons, but there's a fairly obvious paradox that Jack may not have grasped, but Faraday must have.

They detonate the bomb assuming it will keep the Swan from being built. No Swan, no button, no button no crash, no crash, no terrible woes, no terrible woes, no time travel, no time travel . . . no bomb. No bomb . . . then the Hatch is built. Then the button is pushed. Then Oceanic crashes.

The only way to resolve this paradox is if the bomb is an essential part of the whole sequence. What I'm saying is this:

It is not with the bomb that the island sinks.

It is WITHOUT the bomb that the island sinks.

Alternate timeline is indeed a timeline in which Oceanic never comes to the island. And, because they never come to the island, they never time travel. And because they never time travel, they never set off that Jughead bomb at the precise moment of the breaching of an electromagnetic singularity of unimaginable power. And so the Incident, unchecked, puts the island on the bottom of the sea.

Think I'm off? Look, I do not know how an island can be put on the sea floor with all of its architectural structures still standing, but whatever method accomplishes that, it's not an H-bomb. You ever seen those old stock films of the houses blowing over? You think that an earthquake caused by a submerged detonation would settle the surface of the island gently to the ocean floor?

Leaving the hopefully-to-be-explained physics of it out, we still need to resolve the paradox. This is the only way I can see.

Now, I can only begin to speculate why we are being shown this timeline. But here is my guess: Jack thinks that the main goal of all of this is still survival, a restoration of normalcy after the crash. These were the big questions of Season 1: will they get off the island? How will we get off the island? Will all the people be saved? How will they be saved? In a real way, that's still Jack's reasoning: How can I save all these people for whom I feel responsible? How can I make all this not happen?

We've left all that behind. If rescue from the island is the sort of resolution you're hoping for, I think this is going to be a very frustrating Season 6 for you.

I suspect that the real question now is not: How can we make this all not happen? or How can normalcy be restored? Rather it is, Why were these people brought here, and for what destiny? and Would normalcy be desirable?

I think what we will see with this parallel universe is precisely what Hawking tells Desmond, and what Desmond tells Charlie, and what Faraday tells everybody. You can't change your destiny. We see Desmond able to see many parallel universes for Charlie, and to help him choose a good one, one with purpose. But he can't change the shape of Charlie's destiny. Charlie's gonna die, brotha.

And he's still gonna die, brotha, despite Jack saving him this time. And Locke will still get to walk again. And Jack will still struggle with his issues. And so will all of them. The island is not the enemy. They themselves are their enemy. Their fate is their fate, and it will come. It may just be that what the island gives their fate is some kind of meaning. The comparisons may be stark. Certainly so far the Oceanics don't seem to be leading very happy existences.

Now, that doesn't mean that this parallel universe won't intersect in some tangible way with the main timeline. I can't imagine how, but it may happen that the timelines merge in some way beyond theme. The fact that Jack seems to be aware that something is wrong in his universe speaks to that possibility, as does Juliet's awareness upon death that "it worked" (for now I am assuming like everybody that she's seen parallel Oceanic fail to crash, or parallel Lost Island underwater).And, again, it is absolutely crucial for this parallel timeline to be more than just a cute little game that ultimately means nothing. Certainly it will be interesting to see what a world without the island since 1977 will be like. The Oceanics have no idea to what a profound extent the island shaped their fate before Flight 815, though we have a sense of it, and already we notice small differences between this world and that, which clearly extend far before Flight 815 takes off. What will become of the world without the island? What became of Desmond (no idea what he was doing on 815 at all - except we know that time/space is unique for him) without Jacobians running his life? What happens with Widmore and Hawking and unborn Faraday presumably dead and Penny presumably never born? What about Jacob?

And, in this brave new world, where did the Nemesis go?



Riggstad said...

I would suggest contacting a publisher and getting all these
L O S T posts together and write a book.

Although they would probably make you cut about H A L F of it down for it to be marketable.

How about L O S T for dummies? Although I think that your material would be beyond "for dummies" and wouldn't translate to the masses.

I would listen to all those podcasts and read all of those back posts but my 12 year old will be graduating from college in 10 years and I have a party to plan.

OK enough cryptic S H O T S.

I think the show is being more and more elusive to the Edenic/ Miltonian plot, almost screaming that this has everything to do with Christ, the Devil, good v. evil/ greater power, you can fix all of your past transgressions and be accepted into the kingdom of God type horseshit. Absolution is near people!

I can't wait for them to spring it on us that this was all a dream that Locke had during his surgery that Jack performed on him, pro bono, after meeting him at LAX.

or something gay like that.

Bayne_S said...

"I can't wait for them to spring it on us that this was all a dream that Locke had during his surgery that Jack performed on him, pro bono, after meeting him at LAX."

I will accept this as ending and get on with my life

HighOnPoker said...

When the Nemesis told Richard that it was good to see him out of chains, it could have been a metaphor. Richard is obviously beholden to Jacob, so maybe Nemesis meant that now that Jacob was dead, Richard was free. Hence, out of chains. BTW, based on my last LOST post, I'd simply add that Alpert is likely another deity or angel like the Nemesis (fallen angel), and both may have been made of Jacob (God), which would also match the "free of chains" comment. That would also explain why Richard does not age; when he was asked about it, he explained that it was because of Jacob. He may've even said, "Jacob made me this way."

You did another great job, Goat. Keep it up!

Julius_Goat said...

Thanks, Jordan. I will say that I think that Jacob probably won't turn out to be explicitly God, though he definitely represents the side of God, however the show decides to represent that.

Also, while Alpert's chains may be metaphorical, I think that we'll find that they are real and actual chains.

pokerDegen said...

great Lost analysis... better than wading through random fuselage posts for sure. Aggree with Riggs to seek out a publisher.

It'll be interesting to see Sayid's take on things now that he's "back from the dead," after what he said to Hurley while dying (about the unpleasant place he's likely headed to) - this should give us a good idea whether they're going with the 'clean up your past transgressions' type theme...

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

It really should not be Smokey inside of the resurrected Sayid's body, because we saw his actual dead body suddenly wake up right in front of us. As seen by Smokey's use of Locke's body, he doesn't actually take the actual body of those he "impersonates" (witness Locke's corpse there all the while on the beach while Flocke was in the statue watching Ben kill Jacob). Smokey merely "copies" their shape, more like the bad guy in Terminator 2. Although that bad guy normally only impersonated someone after killing them with a sharp object formed out of its hands and arms.

So since it was actual Sayid's body that woke up in the temple after being drowned, it would be a cheap narrative ploy to now make the resurrected Sayid also the smokey man.

BLAARGH! said...

Awesome post as always goat.

Dawn Summers said...

Yes, a Lost for Dummies, please!! Like a book of just pictures of Sayid and Charlie.