Monday, July 20, 2009

LOST Q&A Review

EW.COM recently came up with a list of Lost Mysterys That Must Be Explained. While their list was novel, I wanted to address them in a more personal matter for my own purposes. This may or may not be something I'll return to and refine as we get closer to Lost's return early in 2010. Essentially, EW just scratched the surface and used this as an opportunity to make us click fifteen times so they could get more ad revenue, but the list itself was poorly organized and very little thought was put into precisely what questions must best be answered.

Since at least mid season one, I have been operating under the preconceived notion that discussions among certain Losties (particularly Locke interactions) that have appeared to be innocuous or unimportant could arguably be attempts by the writers to speak to us about overarching plans or goals of the series. For example, when Locke refers to Jack as a Man of Science and himself as a Man of Faith, this can be construed as a looking glass through which to perceive other parts of the series. Furthermore, I believe the writers have been purposefully doing everything with the understanding that there are multiple explanations. Based on what I've read on the Internet, audiences often jump to the conclusion that Locke is correct and The Island is somehow responsible for all these events and occurrences due to supernatural powers. I believe the writers have purposefully led us to believe such a thing, but that everything and I mean EVERYTHING can also be explained via a vaguely less abstract yet still speculative and perhaps even pseudo scientific component. What is happening on the Island is due to sciences that we human beings have only begun to understand. Less than a century ago, authors like Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke were exploring issues of space travel, robotics, nanotechnologies, and a host of topics that at the time were innovative and seemed just out of our reach. Today we take them for granted. Less than half a millenia ago, the very idea of incandescent lightbulbs would have been seen as a miracle from God or the work of the Devil. Magic to human beings is merely science that we have not yet properly learned to comprehend. One can be both a man of science and a man of faith, given proper education and circumstances. In trying to understand these mysteries, one should use both the man of science perspective and man of faith.

Our Losties: By 'our Losties' I am referring primarily to the more significant survivors of Oceanic 815 which crashed on The Island at the beginning of the episode. Occasionally, particularly in latter episodes, 'our Losties' could also refer to survivors of Widmore's freighter, members of the Tail Section of Oceanic 815, the occasional reject from The Others (like Alex, Juliet, Karl), and even Desmond. More specifically when I say Losties, I'm talking about Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, and those in their immediate vicinity who are on 'their side' in whatever scene or setting is pertinent at the time. Charlie, Shannon, Boone, Locke, and others who have been dead or undead at various points are also Losties predominantly in early seasons but less specifically show as the series wears on. In general, how are these individuals significant as a group? Why of all of humanity were these forty some odd people chosen to crash on Oceanic Six? When we are shown how they are connected to each other via chance meetings or blood relations or orchestrated manipulations by various forces, is that coincidence or divinely purposed? To what extent is chance a factor, and how much of this is direct manipulation on the part of perhaps Jacob, Blackie, or others we've yet to meet?

The Others: There appear to be multiple kinds of "Others." In fact, the term has proven to be misleading if not wholly illegitimate. There were of course survivors of various wrecks and crashes that the "Others" accepted into their fold. There were survivors of DHARMA arrested from The Purge and incorporated into their ranks. Before that there were "Hostiles" whom we are led to believe are indigenous to The Island but more pointedly appear to be merely more survivors from previous wrecks and crashes. Beyond that there may be a group of people residing in The Temple whom Richard & others are trying to protect from the outside world.

Jacob & Blackie: Blackie (aka Essau or Jacob's Nemesis) did refer to Jacob as Jacob but we never heard his name. Is this because Blackie's name would be one we recognize, or did the writers purposefully not name him so that we would have yet another mystery? Would these two gentlemen be considered "Others" even tho they appear to be beyond mere human faculties? Or is that more hokum? Are these gentlemen actually a stellar equivalent of Penn & Teller? Are they glorified magicians teasing lowly humans with technology and science that far surpasses ours so that we'd imagine them to be godlike when they merely know the metaphorical equivalent of using a magnifying glass to burn ants with the sun's rays? Perhaps they are aliens from elsewhere in space-time? Perhaps they are evolved human beings from Earth altered by The Island into near immortal and omniscient status? My favorite personal theory is that they are temporally sentient tesseracts from the fourth dimension wallowing in the third dimension like children of gods slumming it in the bowels of an insignificant bit of spacetime for kicks. We are like Jacob's high school science project in his dimension and Blackie is trying to ruin it for him so he can get a better class grade. Something like that. Essentially, all of season six should be devoted to resolving this mystery once and for all.

The Whispers: Sawyer heard it. Sayid heard it. Jack and Kate and Juliet have heard it. Rousseau has spoken of hearing it. The jungle comes alive at night to the sound of curious whispers, sometimes just prior to the arrival of "The Others" and sometimes it just happens. Are these moments when there is a temporal distortion causing the voices echoed in a certain location in one time to waft into other time periods? Is it some otherwise undocumented invisible entity entering a spacetime that happens to coincide with stressful moments in the lives of our Losties? Is there a more scientific based explanation for these whispers? Are there hidden speakers throughout the Island controlled by some unknown indivudal who activate these whispers for specific purposes that currently elude our discovery? Are there creatures indigenous to The Island which are very small, hide in the jungle, and make sounds that humans perceive to be human whispering, but are actually the equivalent of babbling geese? I am reminded of the scene in the Robert Redford movie "Sneakers" where Redford's character mistook a pond filled with chattering ducks for a coctail party. It could simply be a variant of crickets chirping that causes the whispers.

DHARMA: There are some who believe there are still mysteries to solve with regards to the DHARMA Initiative. There may be, but beyond what we already know, at this point further discoveries would be largely academic. In summary we know that DHARMA was an acronym for Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications and that it consisted of a group of people in the 1960s who believed humanity was orchestrating its own demise; a fate that could theoretically be stopped if someone could recalculate the Valenzetti Equation in such a way as to change one of its corresponding variables. Like a butterfly flapping its wings to change the weather elsewhere in the world, if one of these variables about mankind's doomed fate could be altered, it would change the inevitability of self-destruction. Presumably all the experiments being conducted by DHARMA on that Island were intended to serve that purpose originally. However, the people of DHARMA lost sight of their overarching goal, by falling into the minutiae of supplanting their headquarters on The Island. They ended up spending more time protecting themselves from The Hostiles that threatened to overwhelm them, and took their eyes off the metaphorical ball. Benjamin Linus, son of one of the grunt workers in DHARMA, became a traitor to the DHARMA cause, allowed the Hostiles to infiltrate DHARMA's ranks and after The Purge, the DHARMA initiative largely fell in the hands of The Hostiles, who took over the inner workings of the organization for their own ends: to defend The Island against future infiltratiion and interference from the outside world. There may be a DHARMA initiative on the mainland that is still working the equation, but that's doubtful. Anyone that Ben's Others could not convince to join them became their victims. Ben & The Others then used DHARMA's extensive infrastructure both on island and off to manipulate events to their ends. Admittedly, we do not know yet how DHARMA is funded, but that will only be revealed if it becomes integral to the plot. At this point, most anything we are ever going to learn about DHARMA was given to us in season five. We will not revisit that time period, because after the final time hop at the end of the S5 finale, all of our Losties will be returned to their present time periods. Darlton has confirmed that there will be no more time travel. Is the Valenzetti Equation correct? Will humanity cease to be in a brief period of time due to variables in that equation that seem beyond humanity's ability to alter? Only time will tell.

The Numbers aka 4 8 15 16 23 42: As I mentioned in the DHARMA section, The Valenzetti Equation was meant to determine the fate of humanty, and with 100% certainty, Valenzetti believed the world would end by the end of the 20th century. The DHARMA initiative's purpose was to find a way to change one of the variables. Whether or not they were successful or whether or not they were right remains to be seen. The world hasn't ended yet, so Valenzetti may have been wrong. Or perhaps the fact they tried to change it only postponed the inevitable and the fate of humanity is ultimately what Lost's season six will be about remains to be seen as well. More pointedly, beyond the Valenzetti Equation, many fans have determined a wide range of examples in which one or more of The Numbers appears on the show. Flight 815 for example, or Room 23, or jerseys from girls on a soccer team appearing as Hurley rushed to the plane. Some reasons for the numbers appearing are self-explanatory once it's known that DHARMA and Valenzetti are linked. However, other times there's no way DHARMA can be at fault. In those situations one can only attribute it to either coincidence, or a sense of humor among the crew of Lost. Writer David Fury admitted that when he wrote the episode Numbers, he purposefully chose to use numbers which had already been mentioned by chance earlier in the series. For example, four was the number of years Locke had spent in a wheelchair. Forty-two was an homage to Douglas Adams. Eight and fifteen were the numbers on the plane. Why sixteen and twenty-three were chosen escapes me, except that accumulatively these numbers sum up to 108, which allegedly is a number that's significant to Buddhist teachings. You can learn more about The Numbers over at LostPedia.

Adam & Eve: The prevaling theory at the moment is that the two corpses found in the Caves by Jack in season one are actually those of Rose & Bernard, who opted not to join Jack and the gang on a hail mary pass to stop DHARMA and reset time. Rose and Bernard may have remained in the past with the dog Vincent, in which case they could have chosen to die in the Caves together for some unknown reason. That's one possibility, but we honestly don't know enough about the two bodies to make any logicl guesses. It's believed that when the identities of Adam & Eve are revealed formally on the show, it will lend proof to all viewers that the writers were not making this up as they went along; that the end of the series was preconceived before they began production. That remains to be seen.

Libby: This is another mystery that arguably has been solved as best as it's going to be, but for many of us diehard fans there will always be questions. Having never had a full episode flashback of her backstory, Libby is largely an enigma. Also, inconsistencies in things she told people indicates either bad continuity on the part of writers, or the character is in some respects a pathological liar. For example, she claimed to be a med student dropout who learned how to set legs in her one year of school, but setting legs is not something they teach first year medical students. We don't even know her last name, which indicates that if we did it would tell us more than the writers wanted us to know in season two. Libby did study medicine at a collegiate level but ultimately chose psychology as her vocation. She once broke her leg skiing. She was widowed by a husband named David who had named his boat after her (The Elizabeth) and Libby gave said boat to Desmond for the race that led to Desmond's arrival on the Island. After her husband died, Libby went into decline and ended up briefly in Santa Rosa Medical Hospital, which was the same hospital in which Hurley resided for awhile. The two appear to have never met directly prior to the 815 Crash, but we are led to believe Libby recognizes Hurley even though Hurley doesn't recognize her. Libby later gave the boat to Desmond, and some years after that was in Australia and took Oceanic 815 presumably to return to the states, where she was with the Tailies for the first forty-eight days and spent perhaps a week with our Losties before she was murdered in cold blood by a surprised Michael Dawson. Her death was unintentional, but very painful as Michael had shot her in the gut. Jack administered heroin to lessen her discomfort and he and Hurley watched her die. Hurley & Libby had managed a brief flirtatious relationship which seemed to promise more intimacy, but it was stopped short by Michael. Darlton has made it clear that there is little to no chance they can get Cynthia Watros back to complete Libby's story. So we may never know for certain where she fits into the Lost Mythology beyond her donating The Elizabeth to Desmond's efforts in the boat race. I like to believe she is Pennelope's half-sister, sharing the same father (Charles Widmore) but a different (unknown) mother. However, that's speculation that may never be confirmed or denied. Somehow she worked for Widmore, and I believe Charles' behavior towards Desmond about his daughter were intentionally confrontational to cause Desmond to rebel and fight for her; a morbid gamble. Charles asked Libby to give the boat to Desmond. I'm certain of this, but have no way of proving it, as it's doubtful this story will be explored further without the involvement of Cynthia Watros. There are some things about this tv series that there's a good chance we will just never know. Was Libby on board 815 on purpose or coincidentally? Why was she in Santa Rosa's at the same time Hurley was? What is her last name? Was her husband David related to the events in any way? Was his death coincidental like Walt's mother or orchestrated like Juliet's husband? We may never known any of these questions.

Egyptian Influence: This is not so much a mystery as a choice on the part of the writers. In season two we saw that if the numbers are not punched into the computer, the countdown clock changes from arabic numerals to Egyptian hieroglyphs. Later in the series we were told about "ruins" and a "temple" whose architecture insinuates Egyptian influences. There's also a statue of an Egyptian god which stood proudly once but in the Lost present day time line all that's left in "The Shadow of The Statue" is an ankle; which Jacob made his home. Still, fans would like to know what Egyptian buildings are doing on The Island, and also why the Donkey Wheel has deposited Locke, Ben, and at least one polar bear in the middle of the Tunisian desert.

Claire: She disappeared cryptically late in season four. It's believed she will return in season six and we will learn why. We may also learn the significance of her blood relation with Jack & Christian.

Walt: He was special enough for The Others to spend unnecessary resources collecting him from Michael. They kidnapped Walt, did experiments on him, and then ultimately decided to give him back to Michael saying "he was more than we bargained for." We know Walt is able to glean information from people by touching them. We know that when stressed, sometimes birds around him fly into walls and glass doors. We know Walt has made astral appearances to Shannon and Locke. We don't know why. We don't even know if Walt knows why. The last time Walt was seen, in the episode Live & Death of Jeremy Bentham, we got the indication that at least Locke felt Walt had been troubled enough by The Island and should be left alone. The Island may have other plans for him. It's also possible the writers have chosen to write Walt completely out of the storyline for the series, due to unforseen circumstances of involving a child actor in a show that takes the breadth of his experience with puberty to tell the general public. This may be another of those mysteries that's best left unsolved.

Smokey: What is a smoke monster with sound effects that sometimes bring to mind the roller coaster on Coney Island, that tends to kill people or at the very least scare the crap out of them? This will probably be a secret that the writers of Lost will put off answering as long as they possibly can, because it's one of the oldest questions of the series, seeing as how to the best of our understanding it was Smokey that ate the pilot of Oceanic 815 in the series pilot.

Richard Alpert: Eyeliner? For the last time, no. That's naturally how the actor Nestor Carbonell looks. If you ever saw him in a beer commercial for the latino television networks, you'd understand more clearly. When not playing Richard Alpert, the guy is an hispanic heartthrob. As for while the guy doesn't age, that will also probably be addressed in season six, but due to temporal instability on The Island, I believe his apparent immortality is due to anomalies caused when three dimensional entities dabble in fourth dimensional physics.


la isla d'lisa said...

Having "Lost" faith in the series a couple seasons ago, it'll be interesting to see if the writers can restore it. Right now I sort of feel as though they're making it up as they go along (which is okay, but OWN IT dadnappit!).

ZachsMind said...

Strangely enough that's how I currently feel about Heroes. The first season was great but the last couple of years have disappointed me, and I'm not sure if the writers can restore my faith in them. It does feel to me as if Heroes is making it up as they go, and worse than that, not being consistent about what they've done in the past. I hate it when a tv series breaks its own rules, but if there's one thing you can say about Lost, it's that they have had rules from the beginning and are holding true to them now, even to a fault. Many have given up on the show because the ride's gotten bumpy here and there. Expose. Jack's tattoos. Dropping the ball with Libby's back story. It does feel sometimes as if Lost's writers make it up as they go. I feel that with The Incident this past season, we can now see that they have made up some things, but other things they had planned a long time ago. This last season promises to reveal things that will bring the more iffy parts of the past five years into sharper focus. Either that, or it'll jump the shark and we can give up on this kind of entertainment. I hear tell there's this new thing called "reality television." ...j/k