Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lost S1E7 "The Moth" in light of S5

"I'm a bloody rock god!"

For those foolish enough to read this without having first seen Lost up to the fifth season finale? You deserve to be spoiled. I'm talking about season one in light of knowledge of season five, so it's impossible for me to write about the one without spoiling the other. if you need a spoiler warning I got news for ya, you're already too late. Just sayin'.

@LOST_WFTB over at Twitter has started a kinda ongoing marathon of reviewing all the previous episodes of Lost during this nine month long hiatus. Others are doing similar things. I'm trying to participate where I can cuz it's fun. Tonight I watched "The Moth" with a lot of other people in the TwitterVerse. We all turn our DVDs and online views at ABC.COM (or elsewhere) at the same time and comment in Twitter as we view it. Silly fun but whatchagonna do? @ASHATL had a question in light of all this that @LOST_WFTB highlighted over at his blog. Here's what she said as @LOST_WFTB reported it:
One of the purposes of #WFTB is to see if our perspective of past episodes change w our understanding of happens on Season 5. Have you seen anything on these past episodes that allude to that?
Also, the producers said that they always knew where the story was going. Now that we are #WFTB do you agree with that or do you feel that they are trying to piece/tie the story together.
I'll tackle the second question first, because doing so should also answer the first. Any good writer knows how the story is ending before they begin it with an audience, just as any good comedian knows his punchline and has it in his sights before he starts to tell the joke. You stand at Point A, and aim for Point B. Everything in between is the journey. However, the punchline is NOT the story. The punchline's when it's over.

The journey is the story.

So when in some seasons it looks like they're wallowing in between milestones? They're not wallowing. They're telling the story. The writers are enjoying the bed they've made for themselves. Unfortunately, we're always like a jockey trying to make the horse go faster. We want to know how it ends. The writers are not interested in how it ends, cuz they already know. They wanna wallow in the journey. Cuz for them that's what's fun.

If what I just said made no sense to you, I strongly recommend watching the movie The Aristocrats. Not the Disney movie about cats. I mean the film where a bunch of stand up comics tell the same raunchy joke over and over. It's not for the faint of heart, easily offended, or anyone under the age of consent. However, at its heart, the movie is about the craft of telling a story. You know the punchline. It's not about the punchline. Telling any joke is about how you get to the punchline. Once you get to the punchline, it's all over. So if you're enjoying how the story is going, you really don't wanna know how it ends, but you think you wanna know how it ends because that's the release after all the ups and downs and ins and outs and oohs and ahhs of the story itself.
John Locke: "What do you suppose is in that cocoon, Charlie?"
Charlie Pace: "I don't know. A butterfly?"
John Locke: "No no. It's much more beautiful than that. That's a moth cocoon. It's ironic. Butterflies get all the attention, but moths spin silk! They're stronger. Faster."
Charlie Pace: "That's wonderful but-"
Now we just got done watching S1E7 "The Moth" for the LOST_WFTB project. In that episode, Locke tells Charlie about how a moth has to fight to get out of its cocoon, and it's that struggle which makes it strong enough to survive outside the cocoon. If you help it get out, you might think you're doing it a favor, but you're not.

@Nyakototo pointed out that in dream interpretation, white moths are seen as a symbol of death. To be more specific, it means a terrible sickness, and that you might blame others for it when it's your sickness to own up to. Coincidentally that's a good metaphor for Charlie, considering his drug usage. Now, did the writers of The Moth do that intentionally? Or is that coincidental? We don't know. On the surface it appears they were just talking about metamorphosis, but I remember thinking back when this episode first aired how curious it is that they didn't use the caterpillar and butterfly to convey this - because that's almost always what a writer does when they want to use this metaphor, especially if it's for TV or film or some visual medium. Why? Because butterflies look prettier than moths. So it seems somehow significant that the writers opted to use a white moth instead of a multicolored butterfly, and they don't focus on showing us the moth's previous incarnation. We are introduced to it already in the cocoon. Again, that's significant.

At one point in "The Moth," we literally see Charlie follow the moth to safety. A symbol of death and disease bringing Charlie from the dark death of the caves into the light of the jungle. We are treated to a scene where Charlie literally crawls out of the Earth. The powerful image of his hand breaking through the ground is ominous now, given that we know he eventually dies by drowning, after using that same hand to give Desmond a clue, and help him on his journey. So in effect, Charlie becomes Desmond's moth. He becomes what Desmond uses to find Penny - his shaft of light in the jungle.

Did the writers plan all this, or is it just happy coincidental happenstance? It's hard to tell. We know they know their EndGame. We don't know just how many place markers they've set for themselves along the way. However, after watching "The Moth," I have firm reason to believe the writers knew Charlie's character was expendable this early in the storytelling. They knew they were eventually going to kill Charlie off. They just maybe didn't know exactly when or how.

Now the reverse of the scenes about the Moth is Locke. He's the one telling the story of the moth to Charlie. The moral of this story is very telling, considering what we now know about Locke's own journey. Locke tells Charlie that he could use his knife to help the moth inside the cocoon. He could carefully pry the cocoon open and help the moth go free, but it's the struggle inside the cocoon that allows the moth to strengthen its tiny muscles. Helping the moth out of the cocoon would spoil the moth, and so it wouldn't become strong enough to survive its encounters with its environment once it leaves the safety of the cocoon.

This mirrors a similar statement that Locke makes to Sawyer in season five. They witness a shaft of light in the jungle, and Locke makes a point to have the group with him avoid that and go around it. Later Locke reveals he knew what we the audience knew: that shaft happened the night Locke lost Boone and he turned to the Hatch and asked it what it wanted from him. Now, he coulda gone over there and warned himself about all the bad stuff about to happen to him. However, that would have spoiled him. He tells Sawyer he needed all that pain to make him what he was now. So metaphorically, Locke IS the Moth! Coincidentally, Locke had knocked out Sayid as he tried to triangulate where the signal was coming from, and later on he started blowing up stuff and generally causing all kinds of trouble - killing Naomi, stuff like that. He IS a sickness of a sort. He IS death. And we learn that after The Life And Death of Jeremy Bentham, Locke literally BECOMES DEATH! He still lives, and yet he is dead.

When you take all this in, and then look at the very last scene at the end of "The Moth" between Charlie and Locke, it makes that final moment all the more ominous. We now have reason to believe that Locke died when his father threw him out that eight story window. Jacob brought him back to life. So ever since then, Locke's been living on borrowed time, and he's unwittingly had Jacob to thank. He thought he was his own man, but something else was perhaps already subtly guiding him. This something became more prominent on the Island. When Locke first encounters the Monster in Walkabout, I think Locke was 'converted' in a way similar to how Danielle's peers were changed after their trip inside the bowels of the temple. Locke has never been on the side of the Losties. He's always been on the side of The Island.

So when Charlie is looking up at the moth as it flies up into the night and disappears, and then Locke looks at Charlie looking at the Moth? I had a smile on my face five years ago.

I'm not smiling now.

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