Because I’m a card-carrying member of the Lost Recappers Association of America (better known as LRAA), I’m on a special email list with a direct pipeline to the producers of Lost. Sadly, it’s a one-way communication system, sorta like how it is between Jacob and those he deems fit to summon and/or terrify. So most of the time I sit around and eat Cheeto’s and wait for my super special LRAA emails. It’s a living, people.
But, lo, patience rewarded! This just popped into my inbox at 11:01 EST.
Subject: Didn’t I Blow Ya Mind This Time?
As Nelson from The Simpsons would say, “Ha ha!”
Very cute guys, and yes, you did blow my mind, and the collective mind of Lost fans everywhere. Gunfights! Smoke monster attacks! Crazy ancient doors! Ben in a winter parka in the middle of the Sahara! If this is what happens after unintentional hiatuses, by all means, guys, take more of them. (And yes, that’s a joke. Don’t you dare take away new episodes of Lost midstream, lest I start shaking uncontrollably like that other Ryan on The Office.)
The producers were not kidding around when they said the condensed Season 4 would provide more action and more information than ever before. Sweet Mary in the morning, were they right. As such, allow me to focus more thematically than narratively, as the actual plots are quickly summarized (Freighters Attack! Ben Assembles His One-Man Army! Jack Has an Upset Tummy!).
If you thought you had an understanding of the basic parameters of the overall mythology of Lost, then this episode served to slap people like me in the face with a white glove and offered to duel us an dawn with pistols from ten paces. Or, in Keamy’s case, a bungalow-destroying bazooka. We thought we knew; but it turns out we knew even less than we thought.
“Rules” of Engagement
Let’s start with possibly the most intriguing addition to the show’s mythology: the so called “rules of the game.” Ben mentioned this several times in the wake of Alex’s execution, in reference to Charles Widmore. But what on freakin’ earth does he mean by that? What rules is he talking about?
The implication, I think, is that Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus had dealings previous to The Purge, and may in fact have been co-architects in the planning of it. The way that Widmore spit out the word “boy” in referring to Benjamin, coupled with his assertion that everything Benjamin had was stolen from Charles, inferred a previous relationship between the two of them. Even though Benjamin ultimately betrayed Widmore (either via the Purge or shortly after), there were still “rules” in place based on Ben’s position of power: namely, his ownership of the Island.
What followed, then, was essentially a détente between the two parties, during which Widmore sought alternative methods of accessing the Island outside of Benjamin’s knowledge. I can’t help but wonder if all those pallet drops over the years were part of the rules established by Ben and Charles as part of their uneasy alliance. And one can only wonder if Jacob himself is a victim of the power play between these two individuals as well.
And, oh yes, apparently Smokey was part of those rules as well.
The Door of All That’s Awesome
Over at Zap2It’s Guide to Lost, we theorized to what the mysterious door in the promo for this week’s episode could possibly lead. Some thought it led to the Temple, others to the “real world,” and at least one person thought it led to a Burger King. All good guesses (except for the BK one), but it looks like leads to a place where one can activate the force known as Smokey.
Before tackling that, let’s first take a moment to think about the monumental importance of Ben’s bungalow. He essentially lives in the penthouse of New Otherton. Not as nice as Widmore’s penthouse, to be certain, but it’s nevertheless a place that suggested that bungalow, and indeed the Barracks in general, were situated in that particular place on the Island for a reason. Ben’s bungalow, so near as I could tell, was fitted OVER an existing door, one that was constructed by the same civilization that built the four-toed statue. As such, one can further theorize that whatever is behind this door is fundamentally related to the smoke monster in some capacity.
What we CAN’T overtly say now is that “Ben controls the monster.” I don’t think it’s as simple as that. He might be able to agitate/summon it, but it seemed fairly obvious to me that Ben didn’t want to ride in on it to whup some mercenary butt. The fact that Ben came back covered in soot may not simply mean that he walked through a dusty corridor, but in fact had to use some tactile substance, related to the composition, in order to truly agitate it.
The door to provoke such agitation, marked as it was with those symbols, seems to insinuate that the smoke monster, in some form or another, has been on the Island for a very long time. I say “one form or another” because I don’t want to rule out that its present form isn’t a relatively recent phenomenon, but the show strongly indicated tonight that its basic essence dates back much, much longer that the Dharma Initiative.
That’s as far as I’m willing to go right now, because the true nature of the smoke monster is a Season 6 reveal, so for now, let’s revel in the fact that we saw possibly the largest incarnation yet of the smoke monster, in all its billowy, murderous glory. And that just might be enough for now.
The Hunt is On
In “Meet Kevin Johnson,” we learned that Michael cannot die because the Island still has work for him to do. Turns out, this Island has work for both Benjamin and Charles as well, since Ben apparently can’t kill Charles, mo matter how much he’d like to do so.
This of course begs the question, “Why not?” But before even attempting to answer that, let’s look at one of the greatest “close up of eyes opening” sequences ever, as the quick cut back from commercial just kept going up…and up…and up. Ben Linus. With smoke/cold air burning off of him. In a Dharma winter parka adorned with what looks to be the first shot of the symbol for the Orchid Station. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the name Halliwax is written across the front left of the jacket. If “Orchid” and “Halliwax” don’t mean anything to you, well, check this out.
Looks like Ben’s been doing a little teleportation/leaping action, courtesy of this yet-to-be-fully-seen station. (Maybe via the same mechanism that sent a polar bear to Tunisia, no?) Moreover, it’s unclear if he knew where he would end up, or more intriguingly, WHEN he would end up. His conversation with the front desk clerk at a local hotel seems to indicate a great deal of confusion. Now, it’s always best to take everything Ben says with a grain of salt, but I don’t think we can take either his shocking look at arriving in the Sahara nor he general confusion at the front desk as anything other than genuine.Thus, we have a whole host of new questions. Why didn’t he leave with the Oceanic 6? Why did he pick that time/place to arrive? Did he in fact plan either one of them? Did he leave at the same time on the Island, but arrive at a different time/place than the six of them? Given the cut on his arm, it looks as if a struggle occurred before arriving in the Sahara Desert.And let’s think about those nightmares Widmore’s been having. When exactly did they start? And of what do they consist? Looks like Charles hid Penelope away soon after the events that are unfolding on the island in “real time,” whatever that really means on the show anymore, as a preventative measure to avoid retribution for Alex’s death. Smart guy, that Widmore.
For whatever reason, these two are prohibited from directly affecting the outcome of the drama they are producing. They both need to manipulate people, either through influence or cash, in order to produce the results they want. Widmore uses people such as Desmond to find the Island; Ben uses people such as Sayid to enact his revenge. (Among a myriad of permutations, too many to fully list here.) If you look at actions taken by both men, it suggests they themselves are relatively powerless. Benjamin needs to recruit Juliet; Widmore needs to recruit Abaddon. These are men caught in the literal grip of the Island, using those not similarly bound to affect the desire outcomes.
This is all heady and abstract stuff, but it’s important, I feel. There’s an actual narrative reason why Benjamin doesn’t simply off Widmore in the final scene of tonight’s episode. There are forces much larger than themselves at work in these flash forwards. These are the same forces that call to the Oceanic 6 as well. The Island is fundamentally damaged by the end of Season 4, and it’s calling out to anyone and everyone who can hear for help. It just remains to be see exactly who inflects this wound, and how.
One way to think about the inability of certain people to die, the inability of them to change their fate in any meaningful way, is to look at the time discrepancies inherent between the Island and the real world. If you were to look at this show for what it is, a postmodern narrative, then such discrepancies are not only expected but perhaps dictated.
After all, Lost is a show about the inability to see things correctly through a mere linear narrative. Everything that happens is both shaped what’s past and shapes what’s to come, forming a life that’s but a series of temporal and emotional resonances. As such, the title of the episode, “The Shape of Things to Come,” is perfectly described in the Orchid logo: a rippling of waves from a central source, ever expanding. Nevertheless, these ripples have a boundary, described by the 8-walled outline of the Dharma logo. These ripples are therefore not infinite, but finite. They have a beginning as well as an end.
And this end, I think, dictates a large amount of the forced “inaction,” as it were, amongst the various characters on the show. Because there’s a finite level of action, there’s almost a cosmic conservation of energy going on in the show, where only certain people can do certain things at certain times. And you can attribute this to fate, you can assign it a higher power, or you can go off the assumption, from a postmodern perspective, that certain people have already seen the end are seek alternative ways to amend it/affect it.
Since we’re so obsessed with shapes at this point, let’s look at one as I end this week’s recap: the 8-spoked wheel that is the dharmacakra. I’d suggest looking long and hard at this wheel. Think about the different spokes. Think about a man named Isaac who was extremely interested in this symbol. Think about the various points on earth he mentions, and how that might provide a clue to the globe-trotting Benjamin Linus. Think about how it wasn’t just enough for Jack to perform spinal surgery on Ben, but how Jack had to WANT to perform the surgery. Think about all this energy, all that action, contained on a finite number of ripples forming these series of interconnected lives.
And then, friends, you’ll start to see the shape of things to come on Lost.
But I’m only one man, people. I need your help in deciphering that shape. What did you think of Ben’s appearance in the desert? Smokey’s appearance in New Otherton? Penelope’s disappearance off the face of the earth? Leave your thoughts, theories, and comments below!