Life and Death

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Totally saw that one coming.

No, not the ending, but the fact that the ending would elicit a full spectrum of reactions from “epic” and “beautiful” to “disappointing cop-out.” I get that, I do. That’s actually why I’ve let myself sleep on this (twice) before writing my post. I thought it would be a disservice to try to wrap it up after the six-hour marathon on Sunday night, and Monday night, well, I went drinking. So sue me. But I’ve needed that time to dissect how I felt about, “The End.” And I’m happy to report, I still have no idea.

But this isn’t going to be about whether or not I liked the finale. (I did). It’s about what LOST’s purpose was now that it’s all said and done.

What Happened
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with the events that unfolded. I believe there is some confusion here.

Everything you saw on the Island, that all happened. From the crash to the Others to Jacob and his brother, ageless Richard Alpert and the Dharma food drops. Even the time traveling, that happened. That was all real. Real, mystical and possibly unexplainable. Which is why it wasn’t fully explained.

The alternate storyline was a pseudo-purgatory that our characters created, in their minds, as a place to meet up before venturing into the afterlife. Everybody died at different times. Boone died in that beach craft plane. Jack died at the end of the episode after being stabbed by Locke. Kate, Sawyer, Miles, Frank and Richad (now mortal) escaped the Island on that plane and died sometime later. Ben and Hurley stayed to protect the Island, and died years later. But the Alternate Afterlife was a place free from the confines of time and space where our characters could meet up before going to the afterlife. I’ll explain its significance later. Or try to.

The Island’s light was essentially a life force. My interpretation: it granted mankind mortality, but was used with Jacob, Jack and Hurley to grant immortality. Why do we need something to grant mortality? For the same reason LOST itself needed to announce it’s end date. Without a horizon to drive toward, without a destination in place, without a time limit, we are essentially wandering vessels, doomed to aimlessness. Just look at the MIB. His corporeal form deserted, he was forced to wander the Island as Smokey for centuries. Remember how pissed he was? Me, too. So I think the Island’s light source was the “thing that existed in every man,” that put some sense of urgency and purpose into his daily life. It’s the ticking biological clock we all have that impels us to take risks, to make something of ourselves and seek out meaning and truth. That's why it would've been so catastrophic for it to go out permanently. The light source was also manipulated, one way or another, to have the opposite affect on Jacob, who then passed that on to Jack, who then passed that on to Hurley. They were given eternal life by the light, in exchange for protecting it. Which, as we saw, was a mixed blessing.

At least, that’s what I think. But what did it all mean?

Life and Death
LOST’s epic score (an underappreciated element of the show) is anchored by the iconic theme, “Life and Death.” It’s the song that goes, “Do do doooo, do do do dooooooo, do do.” Oh just google it.

After the finale, that title makes sense to me. Because that’s what the show was about. It was about people who must learn how to live in the face of death. The grim reaper was all over that Island. As Charlotte said, “This place is death.” Our castaways’ arrival was surrounded by death, as the plane crash killed off dozens and left others maimed and beaten. Soon after, Boone, Shannon, Ana Lucia, Libby, Eko unnamed red shirts and more fell off one by one. The castaways experienced death at a much higher clip than the average group of 70-some people do.

In the face of that, they had to learn to live. As Jacob said, they were all flawed, scared, lonely individuals who hadn’t discovered how to live with purpose and make peace with their demons. We saw that develop over six seasons, with all the daddy issues, addictions, lies, etc. These people were not overtly evil, but they were certainly flawed in ways that we, as viewers, could identify with.

And so, one major theme of LOST was forcing people to work under pressure. Put another way, they were forced to examine their life and its ups and downs against the backdrop of certain death. That’s what the Island provided them: a deadline, much in the same way that it’s light provides every man an eventual deadline. Being on the Island, closer to the source, merely accelerates that deadline, or threatens to. And as we all know, we learn a lot about ourselves when we work under pressure.

Bottom line: they were forced to find what their purpose in life was. Only then could they move on.

To aid in that discovery, the Island presented our characters with a plethora of philosophical constructs against which to examine themselves. Like the old nature vs. nurture debate. The show was rife with characters eschewing long-held beliefs in favor of more communally and personally beneficial ways of living. We saw Jack transition from science, to faith, to somewhere in between; and along the way, he ditched his addiction to “fixing” everything. We saw Sawyer learn the actual value of selflessness, after arriving on the Island as a selfish, scavenging hoarder. We saw flighty Kate learn to fight. The examples go on and on. But clearly, part of these people’s ability to grow was contingent on their ability to question the unquestionable and reexamine their own worldviews. Those who did moved on. Those who didn’t are still whispering in the jungle.

Fate and free will was clearly another important concept. I’d say the show put forward the argument that reality requires both. They made that argument, oddly enough, by the use of time travel as a narrative device. As Daniel and Eloise explained, certain things are fated to happen (the universe has a way of course-correcting, etc.), but what people can change is the manner in which those things happen. To use another Faraday explanation, if life is an equation then the constants (fate) are just as important as the variables (man’s free will). But for our characters, what’s more important than the recognition of their fate is their ability to react to it correctly. Throughout the show, they each had to learn to make their own luck while always dealing with the hands they were dealt, simultaneously. For Hurley, that meant exuding positive vibes in the face of adversity. His fate was to land on the Island, but he used his free will to make the best of it and cheer up his friends. Similarly, Charlie was fated to crash in that plane; but he used his free will to overcome his addiction and learn to love (Claire). For Claire, again, it was her fate to crash on Oceanic 815; but she willed herself to make peace with motherhood and convince herself that she was worthy of Aaron. And that’s what I think LOST was trying to say about free will: that life’s not about what happens, it’s about how you deal with it. Plain and simple.

You know what? I could draw a myriad number of conclusions about what LOST was trying to say throughout this show. They certainly extended themselves to touch on every “life issue” they could cover in six years. I could sit here and write for days about what the show said about fate, free will, good, evil, nature, nurture, maternity, paternity, eternity, purpose, faith, science, religion and a host of other things.

But the point of the show was not to make a declarative statement about each of those things. It was to develop a narrative in which they all work together. It was about what the creators always said it was about: the characters, and how they reconciled the contradictions and commonalities between all those over-arching themes in order to find their purpose and learn how to live in the face of death.

And one thing to understand is that there isn’t a declarative statement on how all those things work together. Truthfully, it varies from person to person. The value comes in finding a balance between the dichotomies and appreciating how others operate within those same parameters.

So that’s what I think the Island was about. Life.

Moving On
The alternate universe, however, was all about death, and making peace with it.

Early in the season six premiere, “LA X,” Oceanic 815 hit some turbulence. Rose turned to Jack, whose knuckles were white as he clenched the arm rest, and said, “You can let go now.” At the time, we took her literally. In retrospect, we understand her deeper meaning. In fact, my little theory is that in that moment, we saw the genesis of Jack’s experience in the Alternate Afterlife. That’s when he died in real life.

The Alternate Afterlife (AA) was all about moving on and letting go, just like Rose said. Understandably, Jack was the one who took the longest to let go. But Hurley, Desmond, Penny, Boone, Shannon, Rose, Bernard, Libby and all the others in that church that night had all made peace with who they were and what they were. They were ready to let go of their earthly life and move on somewhere new.

Do I think this is a Christian parable? No. I don’t think it’s aimed at explaining any certain religion actually. Rather, I think there’s a fairly secular element to the whole thing. What I got from the AA was that these people created this world as a reflection of what was most important to them: the relationships they formed during their ordeals on the Island.

The time that these folks spent on the Island was, as Christian said, the most important time of their lives. I mean, hands-down, no-contest. For all the reasons I explained earlier, for all the themes it explored, for all the ways it made them examine themselves and learn what their purpose was. And for the relationships that they formed in the process. Those relationships were an inevitable byproduct of the challenges the Island presented them, and the way they were formed and progressed made indelible impacts on each of the characters. Would Jack have been the same Jack without Locke? No. Would Hurley have been the same Hurley without Libby? No.

So if the Island taught our characters that life is not about what happens, but rather how you react to it, then the AA taught our characters that of equal importance is the people you surround yourself with when whatever happens, happens. The AA was the place they created to meet up once their personal journeys had culminated, so that they could forever hold onto the relationships they had forged in the process.

The End
And that’s what I think the show was about. LOST used a mystical, magical Island to explore the way that people deal with deep philosophical and emotional issues in practice, and how the relationships they form along the way continue to shape them. They explored it in terms of living amidst the dying, and used astronomical conflict in order to expedite and highlight the struggles of that journey.

No, it didn’t explain the trickier sci-fi elements or mystical happenings. But that’s the point. It’s about how people deal with the unexplainable and the difficult things that happen to them. As Carlton Cuse said in the preview special, the title LOST is not about people being lost on an Island, it’s about them being lost in themselves.

And to me, that’s a much better story. If I had to choose between hearing about how people deal with deep philosophical questions or hearing about how time travel could possibly work, I’d pick the former over the latter, a hundred times in a row. I loved these characters, and I’ll bet you did, too. 
I’m not trying to be an apologist. There were things I didn’t love about the finale. But I’m glad they made it about the people, not the science. Because that’s something everyone can connect to and relate with. And I thought they did an excellent job.

I believe this is my last post. I mean, good lord, I could write a lengthy post about each character and carry this thing through the summer. And I’ll be happy to address questions and whatever else in the comment section here.

But I’m going to leave it where LOST did: I've given you my basic account of things and I'll let you all discuss and think about its specific outgrowths on your own. I think you’ll like it better that way. You wouldn’t want all the answers, would you?

And so, just in case I don’t hop back on here to say hello, let me say this: thank you. I have so enjoyed writing this blog and examining this show with all of you every week for the past few years. I will most definitely miss it as a creative outlet, a place to connect and an intellectual test. You all have made the experience all that much richer, giving me someone to write these posts to. And I sincerely appreciate that. It’s been lovely working for you people, and thank you so much for all the kind words, encouragement and questions over the years.

We made this thing on a whim, and it’s turned into something really cool and memorable for both Maggie and I. You’re why. Thanks friends.


The End

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Only a handful of hours until the finale arrives, and a few more before it disappears. (Cliché alert:) I can’t believe it is here.

I apologize I didn’t get this post up earlier…I blame the bright lights of Las Vegas. And let the record show that as I write this post, I am at about 35,000 feet above the Rocky Mountains, in seat 23 D (I wanted 23 C…) on Southwest flight 1045 from McCarran International to Omaha.

Tonight is the night. Six years of our lives, book ended in a matter of hours. Rather than formally previewing tonight, I’m going to let it speak for itself. After you finish reading this short entry, I encourage you to shut off your computers, go pick up some snacks for tonight’s marathon event, and enjoy the episode for what it is.

The episode title is “The End,” and the description from ABC Medianet is “The series finale.” There has been no released guest star list, no indication of what may or may not happen. And I love it.

The Schedule (in CST – also known as “God’s Time”; please adjust for your time zone)
6:00 PM : 2 hour retrospective on the series
8:00 PM : 2.5 hour finale, “The End”
10:30 PM : Your local news (read below for info if you’re in the Lincoln area)
11:30 PM : Jimmy Kimmel’s “Aloha to Lost”

I, too, am bummed that the local news will interrupt the momentum going into Jimmy Kimmel. However, I highly encourage you to not go to bed and power through until 11:30. Perhaps you could take a walk around your neighborhood to decompress? Maybe smoke a cigar in honor of the finale on your back porch? Maybe get on The Dharma Blog and provide your instant thoughts in the comment section? There are several options.

…but if you’re in the Lincoln area
Have we got an exciting opportunity for you! Perhaps you heard about The Dharma Blog’s second brush with fame in the Lincoln Journal Star on Thursday? Well, we managed to get past the nerd filters at our local paper again for another article about the show, the finale, and our thoughts going into tonight. The local ABC affiliate, KLKN, called up Charlie on Thursday afternoon after seeing the article and asked if they could come film our finale watch party at Charlie’s house tonight. And in a moment of insanity, Charlie said yes. Welcome to local news on Sunday nights, folks - - it’ll be a riveting piece, I just know. So, if you’re in the Lincoln area and need a laugh to help get through the sadness you are feeling post-finale, switch to channel 8 and watch The Dharma Blog watch party kids make fools of themselves on local television.

This week
Watch for a few posts this week from Charlie and me as we digest what just happened and provide some final, parting thoughts. After this week, The Dharma Blog will retire. We are going to miss it, too, but we can’t bring ourselves to start up another blog called “The Final Rose” or “Seattle Grace Unscripted” or “Mr. Schuester’s World”.

We’re so appreciative of the encouragement and enthusiasm from everyone during this wild ride. Thank you for allowing us to nerd out with you a few times a week.

Namaste, and enjoy tonight,

Everything in Concert

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LOST Season Six. Episode 16. What They Died For.

I needed that.

After last week’s polarizing, ambiguous mythology exploration, I needed an episode that perfectly reset our characters’ situations and advanced the plot. In my opinion, “What They Died For,” delivered, equaling the accomplishments of other near-the-end-of-the-season episodes such as “?”, “Man Behind the Curtain,” “Greatest Hits,” and “The Variable.” No character was left untouched – from the all-encompassing alternate storyline to the Island-hopping reveals and murders. Multiple moving parts complemented each other instead of distracting from each other. Next to “Sundown,” this was my favorite offering of Season Six. It was everything I hoped Across the Sea was going to be, and it made me appreciate that episode a lot more.

All Together Now
Desmond resumed his role as puppet master in the alternate universe last night. Plain and simple. The dude was working all the angles, “orchestrating” the reunion necessary to his mission. Watching it, we were – at times – as much in the dark and unaware of Desmond’s intervention as the characters themselves. But that only made the revelation that he was in complete control all the more credible.

The Siblings Shephard
Papa Jack, son David and Auntie Claire. All living in perfect harmony. Sitting down to a breakfast of Super Bran only to WAIT A MINUTE. “Super Bran.” That’s got to be an anagram, right? S-U-P-E-R B-R-A-N becomes…”Spear Burn!” Yes, Spear Burn! It has to mean something right?! Right? Hello…

Okay fine. They’re just bran flakes. Good to see the Shephards staying regular. And good to get the nugget that little David is set to perform at a concert that evening, where Jack, Claire and David’s mom will be in attendance. I was hoping we’d learn who David’s mom was last night, but in light of the awesomeness of the episode as a whole, I’ll let it slide. But it’s probably Nikki.

The important thing: those three are heading to the concert, and they’re not the only ones. But what was with Desmond calling Jack, pretending to be an Oceanic Airlines employee and claiming that they had found his dad’s coffin? If Jack’s headed to the concert anyway, what does Desmond need to pull that string for? I don’t know, but don’t forget about it. I get the feeling that Jack’s mission isn’t going to be as simple as showing up to hear David tickle the ivories.

The Great Escape
Desmond further manipulated the mainland with his brilliant prison break of Kate and Sayid. I loved this. There’s not much to analyze here, it was just a sweet move by my hetero-man-crush Desmond. The old pose-as-the-prisoner gag, complete with a Hugo Reyes bailout, a payoff of Officer Ana Lucia Cortez (who “isn’t ready yet” for spiritual alternate reality awakening) and a dress that I’m pretty sure Kate will look phenomenal in. Because Kate is hot.

Most importantly: they, too, are on their way to the concert.

Teachers Lounge
Working the longest substitution gig ever, Locke goes back to school to resume work. But waiting in the parking lot is his assailant, Desmond Hume. Before Desmond can put the pedal to the mettle (pun alert!), he’s intercepted by Mr. – excuse me, Doctor – Linus. Desmond proceeds to beat the hell out of Ben, the same way he did when Ben visited and shot him at his houseboat during the Oceanic Six ordeal. In fact, so keen was the parallel between those two scenes that a few blows to the head woke Ben Linus up, and he saw glimpses of that life in the same way that Hurley, Charlie and Desmond had before him.

Of more importance was Desmond’s explanation of his attempted Locke-acide. He told Ben he was trying to help John “let go,” and when Ben communicated that to John, it resonated soundly. If the parking lot rundown and the hospital run-in didn’t awaken John Locke to the existence of his alternate self, this short conversation with Ben did.

Side note: Good to see Rousseau and Alex again. I have nothing to say about that. It was a nice aside, and good to see the kind of parent Danielle Rousseau could be, given the chance to be one in more normal circumstances. That is all.

Bedside Manor
Freshly awoken, Locke decided to pay a third visit to Dr. Shephard. Here we saw that Mr. Locke wasn’t just awoken to the possibility of his alternate self, but also to the the reincarnation of his Island-born faith. The scene was laden with heavy remixes of some of LOST’s most storied dialogue. “But what if all this – maybe this is happening for a reason,” John Locke said of his chance encounters with Jack and other Oceanic 815 passengers – echoing his sentiments about his chance crash landing with Jack and the original Oceanic 815 passengers. “I think you’re mistaking coincidence for fate,” Jack said about Locke’s newfound faith, spinning Mr. Eko’s Season Two warning about the importance of the hatch.

It was glorious, really, the way this episode came full circle to an alternate reality conversation in which whatever was said, was said. Just like certain events cannot be avoided by messing with time and space, apparently certain truths are meant to be delivered to our characters by very particular, precise, pointed dialogue. And that conversation with Jack and Locke last night was the universe’s way of course correcting their conflict, setting them back up as strong personalities on ambiguous and ever-changing sides of the debate over faith versus reason.

In another plotline that seems to complicate Jack’s alternate reality mission, Locke agrees to do the surgery. Again I wonder, if they’re all headed to The Desmond Hume Philharmonic Orchestra, then what’s important about Locke agreeing to do surgery or Jack thinking his father’s coffin has turned up at LAX? Questions for Sunday night, I suppose…

The Drama Initiative
We finally caught back up with Ben, Miles and Richard last night, as the unholy triumvirate made their way back to Dharmaville to procure some C4, in order to blow up the plane. Spoiler alert, fellas, Widmore beat you to both the plane and the Dharma cabin. I really liked Ben’s quick aside that he was going to the place “where I was told I could summon the monster. That’s before I realized, it was the one summoning me.” I’ve been harboring this feeling that Ben – whether he knew it or not – was following Smokey all those years, instead of his beloved Jacob. This line seemed to confirm that. And perhaps it speaks to the perils of unwavering, unquestioning faith. For five seasons, we watched Ben blindly execute the will of what he believed to be Jacob. All it got him was a massive purge of the Dharma Initiative, the death of his own daughter and the demise of the Island’s inhabitants. Last night, Ben seemed to acknowledge the fallacy of his loyalty, and its very real consequences.

That acknowledgement was reaffirmed when the trio traversed some hallowed ground, where Miles’ sixth sense needle went off the page. Turns out, they were walking over the spot where Richard had done Ben the favor of burying Alex. Maybe he did it so Smokey couldn’t assume her corpse and use it to manipulate Ben. But we all saw how that turned out last season in The Temple, when Alex’s ghost persuaded Ben to follow Flocke into the dark. This moment and the acknowledgement of Smokey’s power before it would prove to be Ben’s motivations for the remainder of his episode. He laid out what might be last bargaining chips and asked Smokey to call. But Smokey raised.

Widmore – squatting with Zoe in Ben’s old home – intriguingly alluded to an off-Island encounter with Jacob, who he claimed showed him the error of his ways and put him on his current path. If Ben was looking for one final reason to let go of his faith in Jacob, he got it when his arch-nemesis claimed to be acting on Jacob’s orders. If there’s one thing Ben knows at this point, it’s that whatever side Charles Widmore is on, he’s on the opposite. So if Widmore is acting on Jacob’s directive, then Jacob’s nemesis is right. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And who should come rowing ashore to expedite the conflict? Flocke! Widmore and Zoe hide to protect themselves and their Jacobian motives, embedding themselves deep in the home of Jacob’s former acolyte to draw a physical parallel to their usurping of Ben’s position as Jacob’s right hand man. But Ben doesn’t care. He and Richard are off to the front yard to confront Flocke once and for all. I thought Richard’s death – considering it took hundreds of years to accomplish – was rather unceremonious. But hey, if Frank Lapidus doesn’t get an epic death, then neither do you, eyeliner boy!

Besides, Flocke couldn’t be bothered to draw out Richard Alpert’s death. He had an apprentice to mold. Ben, waiting like a dog on the front porch for his master, agrees to a deal with Flocke: he’ll help him leave the Island by killing some people in exchange for carte blanche Island dominance.

Ben served Flocke much in the way that Sayid served Ben, as an emotionless empty vessel assassin. The first name on his list was Charles Widmore (well technically Zoe was first, but as Flocke said, she was “pointless”). Flocke and Widmore engage in a tete a tete, with Flocke threatening to kill Penny before giving Widmore a chance to explain his mission. Before Charles can get into specifics, Ben draws on the recently remembered painful memory of what Charles’ men did to his daughter, and then pumps Widmore’s chest full of lead from the entry of his once-sacred secret room. “He doesn’t get to save his daughter,” Ben said mercilessly.

I loved it. Ben’s aimless search for purpose has been the driving force of his character, so his directionless mood in Season Six has seemed unfulfilling. But now, he has a purpose again. And even though that purpose serves bad intentions, it’s a purpose nonetheless. For Ben, an evil purpose is better than no purpose at all. We first learned that when he purged the Dharma Initiative. And we had it confirmed last night, as he turned to Flocke and said coldly, “Did you say there were some other people to kill?”

Finally, Ben and Flocke venture to the well, where they see that Desmond has been freed. It might not be important, but I don’t think Sayid freed him. Sayid seemed to be telling the truth when he told Jack, two weeks ago, that Desmond was in that well. So who freed him? You guessed it, Vincent the dog. Okay, I don’t know who got him out of that well. Perhaps Sting dug him out. If you get that reference, we should hang.

Regardless, I loved the measured reintroductions of Ben and Miles and the resolutions of Richard, Zoe and Charles Widmore. It was the tying up of loose ends, but it was done purposefully, with Ben being redeemed with a new sinister purpose and Richard and Charles being murdered once their usefulness had run out. Put another way, the Island was done with Richard and Charles. It’s not done with Ben Linus quite yet.

The Once and Future King
The four castaways who found themselves on Jacob’s list at the end of Season Two (Hey! Remember when Michael had that list? Turns out the Others kind of knew what they were doing!) continued to mourn the death of their friends on the beach. But Jack wasn’t going to let them wallow in it for long. To quote his father, they had “work to do.” In Jack’s view, that meant it was time to exact revenge on Flocke for killing his friends. Quickly though, I liked how Jack was sewing up Kate’s wound on the beach. It was a nice skewed mirror version of the Pilot episode, in which Kate stitched up Jack in the jungle. I also liked how Jack made the very Jacobian move of using fresh pain to motivate action. Sawyer, Kate and Hurley followed Jack like it was Season One all over again, as he tactfully utilized the deaths of Jin, Sun and Sayid to move them toward a greater purpose. It was a nice foreshadowing of Jack’s later transformation into the new Jacob.

The most important breakthrough of the night, in this story arc, was that Jacob could be seen and heard by Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Hurley, for one, seemed happy to be relieved of his role as interpreter. Likewise, we as the audience had to feel some sense of relief that the communications barriers were coming down, and answers were about to be given. As Jacob said, “We’re very close to the end, Hugo.” And because Hurley acts as the audience’s surrogate, we could safely (and correctly) assume that Jacob was reassuring the audience that resolution was within reach.

Jacob unloaded answers on four castaways who were all ears, promising to explain to them what their friends had died for and why they had all been chosen. But Jacob was interested in more than debriefing his candidates. “Then I’ll tell you everything you need to know about protecting this Island, because by the time that fire burns out, one of you is going to have to start doing it,” he said, inviting them into the gnarliest group job interview ever.

Jacob explains that he made a mistake when he threw his brother into the light, and that the error of creating Smokey was the impetus for his recruitment of our castaways. He knew immediately that his brother would seek revenge on him for separating him from his corporeal self (a fate “worse than death” as we learned last week), and he needed the candidates in place to take over in case his brother ever succeeded.

Why them, though? “None of you were (‘doing just fine’). I didn’t pluck any of you out of a happy existence. You were all flawed. I chose you because you were like me, you were all alone. You were all looking for something that you couldn’t find out there. I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.” If ever a single line of dialogue has synthesized more in this series, I haven’t heard it. That line from Jacob was perfect. It was addressed as much to us as it was to Jack and his friends. And it reaffirmed the notion of the Island as a kind of Purgatory without making that direct biblical parallel. Jacob sought souls in need of saving, but with potential for triumph. He looked for those whose loneliness led to a quest for purpose, which would explain why John Locke’s soul was always considered particularly special. Hell, he even threw us a bone and explained that Kate was only crossed out because she was a mother, but that the job was hers for the taking. Thanks Jacob!

Jacob ultimately sells the job by giving the candidates the one thing he never had: choice. Here, we might’ve just gotten the best explanation of Jacob’s modus operandi that we’ll get. The reason he believed so strongly in man’s ability to choose was because he wanted to give them what he was never granted. He believes that man is capable and worthy and deserving of free will, and that given it, they can achieve anything – including protecting The Island and all mankind from the forces of evil. That’s an optimist for you.

So how do you do this job that Jacob has described? Why you just have to kill a walking corpse who’s impervious to bullets and cannot be killed once he’s spoken to you and has been plotting this fight for thousands (?) of years while carefully manipulating all the variables in his favor. And he also just recruited the Island’s preeminent carpetbagger wunderkind to help him out.

It’s a tall order, but Jack Ignatius Shephard is up to the task. Okay, I made up Ignatius. But in a move that surprised nobody, the “god complex”-afflicted good doctor finally got the patient he’d been waiting for his entire life: the human race. Jack drew on a combination of his newfound faith and his long-held pragmatism, reasoning that he was best-suited to protect the Island while simultaneously avowing that, “This is why I’m here, this is what I’m supposed to do.” It was a long overdue marriage of faith and science in my opinion. Scientifically, logically, Jack was the best choice to take over the Island. His natural-born protection instinct is a perfect asset. But mystically, faithfully, he’s also the perfect choice, as he truly believes that it’s his ultimate purpose. Not a means to an end, not a stop on the journey, but the destination. Finally, we saw Jack do what so many characters have not been able to – abandon extremes in favor of a middle ground that can yield actual results. People of the Island, rejoice!

Jacob consecrates Jack’s decision by blessing water from the stream, having Jack drink it and declaring – in the same way his own mother did to him eons ago – “Now you’re like me.”

Water, water everywhere. And finally, it was time for Jack to take a drink. I loved this scene for a lot of reasons, but here’s my main one: in Season One, Jack hiked into the jungle in search of water when he realized that the bottled supply on the beach was not sustainable. He found his answer in the caves, where stream water provided a constant cycle of refreshment and sustenance for the people he was tasked with saving. Last night, that same stream water was given to him to grant eternal life, with the intent that he use its power to continue to save his people and people everywhere by protecting the Island and its light from the smoke monster and its evil. Jack thus completes the circuit from once-king of a small fledgling empire of castaways to future king of all mankind. It’s the reincarnation of Jack’s fix-it mentality, retooled and refocused for a much broader, more important purpose. Meet the new Jacob.

The Next Stage
“What They Died For,” was fittingly all about setting stages, both figurative and literal. On the Island, the stage was set by the final alignment of our characters toward Good (led by Jack, with Hurley, Kate, Sawyer and Desmond following) and Evil (led by Flocke, with loyal Ben Linus at his disposal). Off the Island, a stage is literally being set for a piano concert starring the son of Jack Shephard and attended by the fate-stricken passengers of Oceanic 815.

But for a set-up episode, this one delivered more than enough punch for me. I dug the closure on Widmore and Richard, I dug the development of Ben’s final mission as Flocke’s accomplice in exchange for Island dominance, I dug Jack’s inevitable acceptance of the role of Island Protector.

And I think if you were one of those people who worried about LOST’s ability to bring closure after last week’s episode, you were probably converted to a Viewer of Faith last night. LOST proved it could deliver answers without beating us over the head with it and still deliver an enthralling character-driven episode.

That’s why, instead of trying to predict how to tonight’s happenings will play into the end game, I’ll leave this as an analysis of a stand-alone episode. An episode with messages about the perils and rewards of faith, the fine line between coincidence and fate, and the very LOSTian worldview that whatever happens, happens. As players on the board, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. That’s what I plan to do until Sunday, when we get to sit back up and enjoy one last offering of the greatest story ever told.



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There are three and a half hours left in the story of Lost.

Gone are the days of pushing a button in the Swan Hatch, finding fresh water to stay alive, burying the bodies of survivors past, wondering whether or not Mr. Friendly was the leader of a renegade sect living in the jungle, and arguing about Richard’s alleged eye liner. We have reached a point of no return, and are faced with the reality of time: three and a half hours until the final fade to black scene.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this inevitable week, wondering how I’d be feeling, how much we would ‘know,’ and curious about whether or not we’d be able to see what was coming. Truth be told, a lot of people are fairly cynical about how many mysteries are still out there and how much time is left, claiming there is no way everything could be answered and tied up by Sunday night.

The truth? I think those people are right. It simply won’t happen.

And I think this is how the producers want it. I have moved past the “I need answers and I need them now” stage and accepted the fact that the ending of Lost is very likely to have some closure, but a lot of ambiguity, too. I believe the ending will mean different things to different people, and that the producers are going to leave questions out there so the conversation continues. So the story continues. And so Lost continues.

Which, I’d like to point out is fairly ironic, seeing as the Dharma Blog arose out of a need Charlie and I noticed to have a central place to talk through this show. To discuss. To theorize. To research. To process. I believed (clearly naively) that if enough people got together and talked about this whole story, we might be able to figure it out…or come pretty darn close to it.

And now, I’m realizing that it might not be figure out-able. It might not be concrete.

And because of that, the story of Lost might never end.

Who knows: when Charlie and I are celebrating our 50th Class Reunion (go Knights), we might still be arguing about whether Locke or Mr. Eko was right to not push the button in the season two finale…about whether Sawyer’s character came full circle or was left unfortunately abbreviated…about whether Jack was ever able to really forgive himself for what happened to his father…about whether or not Man in Black was the victim of circumstance and not purely evil...and about who the hottest female character really was (nevermind…only Charlie will want to talk about that).

By providing an ending that is not concrete and open to interpretation, I truly believe the producers have given us a wonderful gift: Lost will still be ‘our show’ after the series finale. It will be our show, our theories, our bizarre knowledge of the time-space continuum and electromagnetism, and our memories of a great six seasons of television. The best show there ever was.

And so, folks, it’s time to prepare for the final journey. Following tonight’s episode, we have a mere 5 days to process and prepare for Sunday. And Sunday will come to fast, and Sunday will leave too soon. Monday morning will arrive. We will walk into work/school, bleary-eyed for the last time, and head to the Dharma Blog. We’ll shake our heads no if our boss asks if we want to talk about it (and secretly want to say “Yes, please, I need to talk about it!”) We’ll probably go to Chipotle, which is an ideal place for comfort food and a guaranteed food coma to numb the pain…

And so will begin the next chapter of Lost…a chapter of our lives defined by our own understanding of what happened, things both seen and unseen. We’ll continue to live it. It will still be our show.

Call it a loophole.

Where we left off…
Prior to the Jacob / Flocke flashback of last week, we were at a pretty hard-core point in the storyline. As you’ll recall, the episode prior had a small catastrophe/tragedy with the explosion of the submarine and subsequent deaths of Sayid, Sun, and Jin. (And for all of you who are saying to yourselves “How do we know they are dead????”, I have no proof or reason or evidence to answer your question. I just think they’re dead. Their stories had come to a close. Hate me, but that’s what I think.) There is inconclusive evidence about Frank, but I’m leaning more towards the “he’s dead, too” column than not. That being said, I’ll probably roll my eyes and nod in agreement when/if he emerges to save the day and fly the Ajira jet off the island.

Moving on.

So the submarine exploded and killed three main original characters. Shocker! But right before the explosion, Sayid shared highly important and valuable intel with Jack about Desmond. Remember? “Listen carefully. There’s a well on the main island a half mile south from where we were just left. Desmond is inside it. Locke wants him dead, which means you are going to need him. Do you understand me? … Because it’s going to be you, Jack.” Then, BOOM.

Post underwater explosion, Jack, Hurley, Kate, and passed-out Sawyer washed up on the beach (to be determined if they are on Hydra beach or main island beach…I vote main island…), exhausted and overwhelmed. A highly emotional scene followed where the information was shared about the fate of their friends. Tears were shed, both on screen and off screen (at Charlie’s house in particular…). Let’s face it: that scene was a doozy.

Meanwhile, back on the dock, Flocke and Claire watched for the reemergence of the submarine. When it didn’t happen, Flocke seemed to be both angry and a little nervous when he said “It sank” to Claire. Claire asked if that meant everyone was dead. Flocke responded “Not everyone.” As he walked away, Claire asked where he was going. Flocke responded “To finish what I started.”


So where do we go from here?
Tonight’s episode is called “What They Died For.”

Can I get an AMEN?

In the context of “The Candidate,” the obvious ‘they’ reference is the trio of Sayid, Jin and Sun. Yet, in the broader context of the show (and the mere 3.5 hours remaining), perhaps the episode title is referring to all of the individuals who have died since the Marshal’s death on day 1? What did everyone die for?

Now that’s an interesting question.

Some of the survivors seemed to have purpose in their death. Best example of this would be Charlie. Charlie’s death was preceded by his selfless act of opening up communication with Penny, finding out it was “Not Penny’s Boat”, sharing that with Desmond, leading to contact with the freighter, leading to getting off the island, leading to returning to the island, leading to the loophole, etc. It was absolutely for the greater good.

But what about all of the innocent people who died on Oceanic 815 to get the ‘candidates’ to the island? What did THEY die for?

With all of the death during the last six seasons, I’m hoping justification comes in the form of the end game of Lost somehow involving SAVING THE WORLD. Otherwise, I’m not sure if it has been worth all of the loss. If the show proves that man is innately good? Meh. If it proves that redemption is possible? Bah. If it proves the island is the Fountain of Youth? The Source of all Life? (Yawn.) Nope, saving the world. S a v i n g t h e w o r l d. If that is what they died for, I’ll carry the torch of Lost to my grave.

But back to tonight. Jack is going to figure out (with Desmond’s help) how to stop Flocke (and save the world?). They will make the choice tonight to follow through on whatever that task is (perhaps sacrifice and death?). And if they succeed, they will save the world. And I will be happy.

As we race towards the series finale, we are getting a lot of answers, in rapid fire, about some very crucial characters. In light of this reality, The Dharma Blog would like to issue a simple disclaimer about the next section. The following information you are about to read is Maggie’s somewhat-insightful-and-never-completely-accurate, opinion about the Guest Stars on tonight’s episode and what might be on the horizon for these fine folks. Maggie consults a number of websites, including the press releases issued by ABC Medianet, to uncover this information and speculate, but she never consults any spoiler sites. So, if you are a Lost purist and want to know watch tonight’s episode without the knowledge of the Guest Stars or what might happen, you should stop reading now. However, if you do want to know (even if it is just to tease Maggie tomorrow about how horribly wrong her predictions were), by all means: continue reading.

Guest Stars
Michelle Rodriguez as Ana Lucia, Mira Furlan as Danielle Rousseau, Alan Dale as Charles Widmore, Tania Raymonde as Alex, Mark Pellegrino as Jacob, Dylan Minnette as David, Sheila Kelley as Zoe, Kenton Duty as Teenage Boy, Wendy Pearson as Nurse Kondracki, Ashlee Kyker as Student, Ernesto Lopez as LAPD Cop.

Maggie Says
Making their final curtain call, we have Ana Lucia and Danielle. It seems logical, as this season has provided opportunities for characters-gone-by to bid a parting adieu. Watch for Ana Lu Lu to pop up in a Sawyer-the-cop scene in the alternate timeline. With Danielle, I’m wondering if she still is Alex’s Mom in the alternate world?

We have both Jacob and Young Jacob (or as the press release says, “teenage boy”) this week. Interesting and confusing. I wonder when the action will take place on-island this week.

The rest of the list seems to point to the alternate timeline plot moving forward. Jack’s son David is back (will his Mother be revealed??). Alex is back, which means we might get a little more Ben in the alt-world.

Finally, there’s Dirty Tina Fey (Zoe) and Widmore. Thanks for showing up, guys. Where were you when the submarine exploded and everyone died???

Episode Guide Says
While Locke devises a new strategy, Jack’s group searches for Desmond.

Interesting that Flocke needs a new strategy. Leads me to believe his old one wasn’t working. So, despite 1,000’s of years of planning, Flocke is thinking on his feet and improvising. Hmm. And will Claire be at his side? The second half of the description is where the action is going to be…and is the scene I have been looking forward to: Jack’s reunion with Desmond. There’s lots of information and intel to be transferred in those coming moments, so prepare for another onslaught of knowledge (What is Desmond’s deal? How does he know what he knows? Why is he so ZEN right now?) from these two.

Parting thoughts
Stop worrying. Start enjoying.

It’s always a pleasure, folks.


One Crazy Mother

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LOST. Season Six. Episode Fifteen. Across The Sea.

If, six years ago, you would’ve showed me five minutes of this episode, I wouldn’t have believed it was LOST. But in a show that can only end once (and is about to), Across The Sea was progress.

We learned that Jacob and MIB were brothers (and…and twins!), that their centuries-old battle was based on free will and the concept of belonging and – in the worst Mother’s Day tribute of any show ever – that their adoptive mother was out of her damn mind, though possibly well-intentioned.

I’m going to tackle this a little differently. First, I’m going to recap the action in play-by-play style with some minimal side-analyses. Because this episode was so thick, I want to make sure I’m on the same page as all of you. Then, I’ll get into an analysis of what those events might tell us about the grander story of LOST. Here we go.

Showcase Showdown
Remember that Hole in One game on Price is Right, where the contestant would have to putt? But if they missed, they learned that they had another chance because the game was actually called…wait for it… Hole in TWO!

That’s kind of what happened to shipwrecked Claudia, who both arrived in and was a vessel. She was also pretty trustworthy, allowing that mysterious woman who rescued her to get all up in her business when her water broke. Bad move. Because after Claudia popped out two babies for the price of one, that mysterious woman swaddled one in white cloth (Jacob) and one in black (unnamed. Damn!). Then, she straight up killed that mother.

Quick tidbit: I liked the parallel in this scene – intended or not – of this woman serving as midwife to Claudia much in the way Kate did to Claire. And it continued, in a sense, in that the midwife ended up raising the child(ren) while the biological mother was left behind (or killed).

Also, I know it’s a TV show. But damn. Child birth looks effing hard. Thanks for taking the bullet on that one, ladies.

The Rules Change…!
Jacob and his brother like to play games. When MIB finds one washed up on the shore, he invites Jacob to play. He makes up the rules, manipulating the game to his advantage and greedily hoarding it from his mother, lest she “take the game away.” Later, he cryptically tells Jacob, “One day, you can make up your own game and everyone else will have to follow your rules.” More on that in the analysis section.

Later, in what would constitute a more significant rule change in a much more significant game, the boys’ “Mother” reveals to MIB that she has imbued them both with something that will cause them to never have to worry about dying. Also, they can never hurt each other. As we learned later, that might not have been entirely true. But what definitely was a lie was Mother telling MIB that, “there is nowhere else. The Island is all there is.”

This was a mistake. One that Mother could not have known she was making, but that would shape our three characters’ lives. When a kid that age finds out he’s been lied to his entire life by the only adult authority figure in his life, the consequences are bad. And as we saw, as soon as MIB got an opportunity to act on that resentment, things got ugly.

It’s The Light That’s Breaking
When the boys come across jungle men killing a boar, they get curious and ask “Mother.” By that point, she can’t lie anymore. She tells them that those men are bad, that they’re not like them, and they don’t belong here.

Out of escape hatches, Mother breaks down and takes them to what she calls “the reason” for their existence. She blindfolds them, making them look like Teenage Mutant Ninja Others, and explains about the men: “They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same.” That sentiment would be echoed verbatim, centuries later, by Smokey. Which makes sense, because didn’t you all get the impression that MIB was a lot more like his mother than Jacob was? Jacob almost seemed to resent them, transforming into a black sheep before becoming the only option to succeed his mother.

But learned mother-child relations were not the point of this journey. A small cave glowing with eternal light was. The boys’ Mother explained to them that they must ensure that nobody ever finds this bright, warm light. That this light was present inside every man, but man’s inherent greed always causes him to want more, which could cause them to douse the light and end it. “If the light goes out, it goes out everywhere,” she says. And then tells the boys that one of them will be selected to protect it.

Homeward Bound
During afternoon game time, MIB is drawn away by the ghost of his mother, who he chases through the jungle. She reveals to him her camp of people, and that they had come from across the sea. She also tells MIB that she’s his mother.

That’s a pretty loaded pill for a teenager to swallow. And it didn’t go down smooth for the MIB. This conversation planted anger, cynicism and a longing to go home in the Man in Black. Ghost Claudia shattered his ignorant bliss and opened his eyes to a reality and a sense of belonging that he didn’t know could possibly exist. Suddenly, he longs to be born again into this “real world.” He wants to know where he came from. And most importantly, he’s finally able to define and pinpoint the detachment and lack of belonging he’s felt his entire life.

Actually, this scene was tragic. Poor kid. To have the rug yanked out from under your world like that.

As we would see though, different people handle a situation differently. MIB chose to run. Jacob chose to stay the course, for better or worse. And that choice would have serious consequences.

When MIB tried to get Jacob to join him, claiming that their Mother had lied, that these were their people, and that their Mother didn’t really love them, Jacob attacked MIB. It was here that the schism was formed, where these two twins chose to react in very different ways to the possibility of their origins. To MIB, the tribe of people represented potential belonging, comfort and home. But Jacob claimed this Island was his home. Essentially, he may or may not have believed his brother. But he didn’t care. Home was what he had made it: a nice cave where he could weave tapestries with mother and live out that existence in pursuit of “the light” he was shown. That’s Jacob “normal,” by this point. But it’s not his brother’s.

The disagreement between MIB and Jacob regarding the nature of home, family, belonging and purpose became – and remains – the heart of their conflict. It was really cool to see its genesis last night.

Family Reunion
30 years later, MIB is entrenched with this tribe, searching for family and a way off the Island. Jacob is living in his mother’s basement. But neither man is completely content.

When Jacob goes to visit, MIB confirms what Mother had said about man. That they’re indeed bad, that they’re, “Greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy and selfish,” and that Jacob only can’t see that because he merely observes them from on high. This fundamental disagreement is also, obviously, at the heart of the twins and their battle.

But never mind them. They’re “a means to an end,” says MIB, who proceeds to explain to Jacob that he’s leaving the Island to find his real home. When Jacob relays that to Mother like the blindly faithful servant he is, it sets in motion a series of events that serves what we now see between these two men.

Mother, dismayed that MIB could have found an actual way off the Island, goes to confront him. He explains to her the donkey wheel, how it harnesses water and light, and that when he turns it, he’ll be able to leave. He even turns her words against her, citing her description of him as “special” as proof that his plan will work.

Fed up and out of options, Mother snaps. She knocks her bad twin out, drags him to the surface, crushes the well and proceeds to burn down the village and kill its “very smart” people.

This act, more than any other, set in stone which son would be on which side of the pending war. MIB’s angst was solidified, and Jacob moved from second string Island protector to the varsity squad.

The Backup Plan
When Jacob, now an adult, asks his mother what’s in the cave, she replies, “Life, death, rebirth. It’s the source, the heart, of The Island. Just promise me, no matter what you do, you won’t ever go down there.” Why? “It’d be worse than dying, Jacob. Much worse.”

Believing himself to be his Mother’s back-up plan, Jacob discusses the role of protecting the Island. “My time is over,” claims the Mother, who continues, “It was always supposed to be you Jacob. I see that now and one day you’ll see it, too. But until then, you don’t really have a choice…Now, you and I are the same.”

With that, the torch was passed.

Best Served Cold
After awakening to find his well destroyed and his people killed, MIB goes medieval. He storms up to the cave, and before letting her speak, pierces his adoptive mother through the back with that damned dagger. When he asks why she wouldn’t let him leave, she replies that it’s because she loves him, before thanking him for killing her. If you can explain why she’d think that, please have at it in the comments section.

But the revenge wasn’t over. Jacob returns, beats the hell out of his brother just like he did when they were teenagers, then drags him down to the river.

Fully enraged, Jacob is willing to subject his own brother to a fate that his mother called “worse than dying.” He knocks him out cold and sends him down the river. Seconds later, the Smoke Monster emerges for what I assume is the first time ever. Jacob runs from it, then finds his brother’s body in the creek. He takes it back to the caves, and sets it next to his mother’s, placing the black and white stones from the game next to them and creating the Adam & Eve that Jack and Kate found in Season One.

And…. L O S T.

So what the hell was all that about? I’ll try.

Okay not everything. Here's a stab though.

Let’s just start with free will. Last night we saw the characters faced with all kinds of opportunities to make life-altering choices – and more importantly, we saw what happened when they weren’t given choices.

Jacob was given a choice on whether or not to play the game with his brother. MIB created for himself the choice to live with the people on the other side of the Island. And they both chose how they would react to the various hands they were dealt.

But those choices had consequences. Jacob stayed with his mother and basically gave up on any chance of ever leaving the Island and experiencing his real home. MIB was forced to deal with the reality of man’s corruptibility and burdened with the feeling of never being “home.”

That’s the root of what fragmented these two brothers, who now use the Island as their playground for that debate. But what grows from those roots are some pretty fascinating arguments.

Last night, the concept of choice – or free will, put another way – was explored by the two men as they tried to discover how they felt about human nature. Both boys were initially told that man was inherently bad, but they took different paths to discover it for themselves. MIB didn’t believe his mother, but instead wanted to believe that the people were good, and that following them would lead to his enlightenment and acceptance into a “real home.” So he chose to entrench himself with mankind. Jacob believed his mother, initially choosing to stay with her and observe mankind from on high.

What both men learned, through their choices, was the ability to change their mind. MIB eventually called his men “Greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy and selfish,” while Jacob seemed to disagree. But most importantly, they got to choose those opinions for themselves.

And those things – taken with the whole concept of finding home and family – are what were revealed to lie at the heart of Jacob and MIB’s end game.

It would appear that the game is indeed about MIB getting off the Island and learning what lies across the sea. We knew that.

What we learned last night is that the reason MIB can’t just up and leave the Island is because his physical body is no more, which would explain why he said a few weeks ago that Jacob had “stolen” his body away from him.

So last night, when we saw the origin of Smokey, what did that tell us? I kind of took it to mean that the “fate worse than death” was to have one’s soul separated from one’s body. The Smoke represents MIB’s dark, troubled, cloudy, destructive soul. But his physical body is the one lying dead in the cave next to his mother’s.

So how does that tie in with the free will stuff?

The Mother said that the light existed in every man, but that if man gets greedy and tries to get more of the light, then the light will go out everywhere. It would appear then, that the very existence of man can be threatened by man’s own corruptibility. So if Jacob is right, and man is inherently good, then the light is protected. If MIB is right, and man is inherently bad, then the light is always at risk. The difference, really, is that Jacob believes the light can always be protected, while MIB sees its exploitation and expiration as inevitable.

When some characters have talked about the world “ceasing to exist,” I wonder if this if what they meant. Think about it. If the “life force”/light in all of is extinguished, then we all cease to exist, right?

So if Smokey’s escape would cause the world to cease to exist, then I might infer that Smokey’s escape is predicated on his possession of or knowledge about the light. What if Smokey’s escape involves removing all the obstructions (Candidates) so that he can harness the Island’s light? As we saw last night, he believes that harnessing that light will allow him to leave the Island – that’s why he built the Donkey Wheel. So maybe he’s just trying to get rid of all the Candidates so that he can selfishly, greedily exploit the light and deliver himself to his “home.”


The one big roadblock on that plan: Desmond. He’s stuck in a well, which we know is built upon that same kind of “light” or “energy” or “electromagnetism” that Smokey wants to harness. And we know that Desmond was being tested by Widmore to withstand a massive jolt of such energy. So what if Desmond’s job is to somehow prevent or diffuse Smokey’s access to and exploitation of the light, so as to save everyone in the world?

In doing so, we have to consider our other characters. Is there survival from the Island and Desmond & Smokey’s Great Electromagnetic Storm dependent on their ability to “wake up” to their alternate realities?

And if one of them (my money’s on Jack) is selected to replace Jacob, they won’t have MIB to contend with any more. But as the Mother said last night, man’s greed will always be a threat to the light. The protector will always have something to protect against, which would seem to ironically support MIB’s position that man is inherently evil.

It is a wonder I don’t do drugs.

Okay, that’s what I’m going with, for tonight anyway. But honestly, this has been a really hard review to write. I’d love to know what you think. Thanks for the comments, keep ‘em coming.