I'll begin with a confession: I really have no clue what I'm talking about here.
And by that I mean I have as much of a clue as any other fan of the show Lost does about what the smoke monster is. About the true purpose and dark inner-workings of the Dharma Initiative. About how exactly it is that John Locke is, by all appearances, risen from the dead newly imbued with secret knowledge and a knowing (and creepy! Let's not forget creepy!) Cheshire Cat-like grin. Really, about even the fundamental reality -- or realities rather, as that seems most fitting -- upon which the show is based, and through which the substance of its narrative is woven.
But despite all this uncertainty, opacity, and inscrutability, I have my theories. Indeed, most of us do -- these are the threads by which our delight as fans of the show hangs. Because really, to love Lost is to enjoy lingering in that pause between the question and the answer, in the space between conflict and its resolution. We are connoisseurs of ambiguity, deriving more from possibility -- from what could or might be -- than we ever could from the reassuring solidity of what is.
And so with this season's finale rapidly approaching and the collective excitement of Lost fans everywhere mounting, I thought that exploring the great big labyrinth of this show here alone would not only be too daunting, but ultimately less enjoyable than doing so with another fan. So I enlisted my good friend Jason Avant, MamaPop's resident Lost recapper, to stroll with me through some of the thrilling twists and turns in this funhouse mirrored maze of a show.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Some people can't take Lost at all -- the puzzle of it leaves them cold, it's too frustrating. I've had lots of people tell me they've had to quit the show because it was impossible for them to enjoy being lost in it
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: To enjoy being lost in Lost
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: And then of course for others that's a huge part of the draw
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: I think it's a huge part of the draw for me
Jason Avant: Well, I think what's great about it and why it has gained such broad appeal is that you can enjoy it on several levels. For the geeks, there's layers upon layers that can be peeled away and dissected; we geeks love our shows to have Mythology (exhibit A: The X Files), and Lost has that to spare. For the casual viewer, the show tells a good story with interesting characters, and one can appreciate that and never have to do more with the show than scratch the surface, so to speak.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Really? You think so?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: See I think it would be almost impossible to enjoy it superficially -- it's such a massively wound up and tangled mess of histories and interrelationships and all of those things have meaning and threads that wind their way from one to the next -- I think you'd have to be someone with a serious psychological break to enjoy it on a surface level
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Because it would mean *actively choosing* to ignore so much
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: There's no way to deny its depth, yanno?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Which is kind of why people can't jump in at season two or something, right? Because there's all of this history and backstory and these relationships that things build on...
Jason Avant: The ratings don't lie. This is a show with time travel and smoke monsters and mysterious giant four-toed statues, and yet it's got a big, diverse audience - people who normally would not tune in to YES I WILL SAY IT A SCI-FI SHOW BECAUSE IT IS DAMMIT IT IS THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE AMERICA!
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: DORK
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Yeah and WTF, four-toed statue?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: EXPLAIN THAT!
Jason Avant: It's Homer Simpson.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Dork squared
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: What's your theory, really though? Or partial theory? WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS GOING ON, JASON?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Do you have a theory?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Am I calling you out on your lack of theory? heh
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: God, remember back in the olden days when life was simple and easy, and it was all "they're in purgatory!" or better yet "they're dead!" HA! SIMPLETONS!
Jason Avant: Well, here's the thing: I think that the Grand Unified Theory is actually going to be a lot less complex than people think. I've had to revise my Theory a couple of times: I never thought it was the whole Heaven/Hell thing, but I had a notion that the Island was sort of like Stephen King's Dark Tower, a gateway to alternate universes.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Alternate UNIVERSES or alternate REALITIES?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: There's a difference
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Like, time is one aspect of reality, right?
Jason Avant: Realities, sorry. No aliens.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Dude, no aliens? DISAPPOINTED.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: But what about all the science-y stuff about not being able to change things in the past? I mean, there does seem to be a single narrative "reality" happening right?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: We don't go back and see Jack as a lounge singer. Or Kate as a trailer park Mom or whatever
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: There IS one layer at which things remain constant. A thread that no variable can break
Jason Avant: Yeah. Like the place makes it possible for you to experience what Gwyneth Paltrow did in "Sliding Doors"; a whole alternate reality where people are the same, but the events of their lives are different. And in those other realities Gwyneth Paltrow does not exist. I want to go to there.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Hence "The Constant"
Clip from the Lost episode, "The Constant"
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: But doesn't Gwenyth Paltrow HAVE TO always exist? (Unfortunate, I know)
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: It's sort of like there's a finite amount of "stuff" in the world -- stuff that includes people, places, structures, physical artifacts -- and these things are immutable. Their existence is. But the envelope of space-time and the events that happen in that envelope can shift, change, develop in a wholly different manner
Jason Avant: I still think that there's more to the time travel piece than just the ability to go back in time. Because I don't buy Daniel's concept that to the Losties stuck in '77, the past is their present. If that were true, that would axiomatically prevent what we've already seen - Miles seeing baby Miles, Locke watching himself get fixed up by Richard, and Daniel being dead and a fetus at the same time.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Yeah that was markedly weird -- last night's Locke observing Locke bit
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So the Losties back in 1977 are creating a new narrative -- the thread they were on that brought them to the island snapped, picked up in a different part of space-time
Jason Avant: Like I said, I don't think it will be all that complicated. And I'm not convinced that the writers will even full explain the Island's mysterious properties. After all, we found out last night that really, no one knows what the place is REALLY all about - certainly not Ben. The fact that none of The Others have seen or talked to Jacob is pretty huge. In fact, the only guy who seems to have a clue is Richard. And I'm betting that he knows one hell of a lot more than he's letting on.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So you think they will sort of leave some of it as 'magic'? Fantastic happenings that have no basis in reality and aren't understood or explained...
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: (I'd actually kind of like that)
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: (I mean, isn't part of this, the beauty of it, the inexplicable? If they break it all down for us -- show us The Man Behind The Curtain -- doesn't that kind of ruin it?)
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: I don't know that I want to know everything. I like the idea that some things are just unknowable
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Jacob = Godot
Jason Avant: Not magic - I just don't think it'll get the Brian Greene treatment. What I see unfolding is this: a power struggle between Widmore, seeking to use The Island for his own diabolical purposes, and...
Jason Avant: ...the people who've been redeemed in one way or another by it.
Jason Avant: And who will eventually become its new guardians.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Locke? *Creepy Locke*, that is
Jason Avant: The Oceanic survivors.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So The Others were its guardians before. And Ben was what Locke is becoming
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Except... Locke's relationship to The Island, whatever THAT is, is different
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Deeper? Spiritual almost? (Not to go THERE, but it's hard to not go THERE on this show)
Clip from the Lost episode, "Follow The Leader"
Jason Avant: Not spiritual. Scientific. Locke's crazy. My theory is that The Island is NOT some sort of sentient power. It's just there. It's Power, but it's a tool, waiting to be picked up and used.
Jason Avant: I think Ben was on to something regarding Richard.He's been there the longest. And he's - until proven otherwise - immortal. So why is that?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Oh no doubt, Richard is going to sneak up on all of us and bite us on the butt
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: He's oddly unassuming for someone WHO DOESN'T FREAKIN' AGE AT ALL
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: OMG IS RICHARD JACOB?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: And see, I disagree, I think there is some THERE there with the island. There is some consciousness behind it
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Even if that turns out being, like The Wizard Of Oz, a man hidden backstage pulling levers to make visible things happen
Jason Avant: We'll see. I think Richard's the man behind the curtain.
Jason Avant: Because what we've seen is that with these two opposing forces - DHARMA and The Others - there's no Good Guy. They're both trying to possess the island.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Right and both think *they're* the good guys
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Like those men in the van who kidnapped Ghostbuster dude: "you're on the wrong side"
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Good/evil, meh -- too simplistic. Especially for this show :)
Jason Avant: Neither worthy. And that's what I think Richard's about - he (and I don't think he's working alone) is looking for people who are worthy of being the island's caretakers.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Yeah I see that. Richard may just be a manifestation of whatever the Island is...
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: As Jacob is?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Wheeee!
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So you think Richard's someone who looks for people worthy of being the island's caretakers?
Jason Avant: Yep.
Jason Avant: Kind of in a Willy Wonka style: Richard observes how these people deal with the Island's power - at some point, the "leaders" (Widmore, Ben) become corrupted.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So they need to be replaced.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Ok, slightly different from my theory. I think Richard is a manifestation of whatever the island is, as Jacob is, and that it IS sentient
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: And I don't think Locke is crazy. I think Locke has a wee touch of the "Pet Semetary" about him. Ben: "You don't come back from death"
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: MAYBE LOCKE IS NOW A MANIFESTATION OF THE ISLAND ("The Island" -- clearly it's NOT an island whatever IT is)
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Willy Wonka & The Wizard Of Oz. Those are the comparisons we've both made. Interesting, huh?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: So how do you think this is all going to end? What do you see as the end point for this show?
Jason Avant: Well, first I think that of course Jack and the '77 crew are going to fail in their attempt to stop the future from happening. I'm guessing that what will happen is that they'll be zapped back to the present, and the last season will revolve around them facing off with Widmore; I think we'll find out fairly quickly what The Island's secrets are, all of them, and the Losties will find that they're the only ones capable of stopping Widmore from taking over The Island, and using it to hold the world ransom for ONE BILLION DOLLARS.
Jason Avant: I see this happening simply because it's a logical conclusion to the redemption arc that all of the main characters have been going through. At some point, each of them will realize that however horrible the experience has been, it's changed them all for the better.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: But why does that necessarily end with them as *caretakers*? Couldn't the island's MO just be the redemption, the reconciling of things that need to be reconciled?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Like the island is The Scales Of Justice -- It takes the measure of you, generates scenarios by which you have the opportunity to redeem yourself, and those that do get spit out mended
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Because, think about it, all the characters came to the island broken
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: (Well as most people are, but the narrative made a point of setting in bold and underscoring that brokenness -- physical, mental, emotional, psychological....)
Jason Avant: And clearly we've seen that Ben and Widmore and Eloise have all gone down a dark path. And Locke's going that way as well - which is why I think we got that reaction from Richard. And I know, good/evil is oversimplistic, but remember that scene in season 1 or 2, with Locke and the black eye/white eye?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Yeah, but that doesn't have to translate into GOOD/EVIL; it's a dichotomy, yes, but that could be BROKEN/HEALED, FALLEN/REDEEMED, etc.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: You know what I hope DOESN'T happen? I seriously hope that all the secrets AREN'T revealed -- the secrets of the island or anything else for that matter
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: And I know that would piss some people off, but I can't stand neat, tidy little packages
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: That more than anything else would lower, reduce this show in my eyes in the end
Jason Avant: I hope that we don't get The Island as some sort of deus ex machina; that all of the weird apparitions and even Smokey are results of people tinkering with this supernatural force. I like the idea of the Island just being this power, not some omniscient intelligence pulling all of the strings. And I think it fits in nicely with the idea of destiny that the show plays with; that the choices that Jack, Kate, Sawyer, etc. make are what will matter, not some invisible all-powerful force.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: Waaaaah now my head hurts.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: How about this: And they lived happily ever after, THE END
Jason Avant: And then they found five dollars.
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: GAH. Fin
*MY FELLOW LOST FANS! What's your take on all of this? Agree, disagree, have your own elaborate, brain-breaking theories? Tell us in comments!*
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