Quick Hits: LOST S6, E16 — “What They Died For”
Oh, where to start. I like to jump into a semi-developed theory when kicking off one of these Quick Hits, so let’s take a look at Jack Sheppard as Rick Grimes. Who, you ask. Well, anyone with a purported awareness of Zombie fiction or AMC’s upcoming fall lineup can tell you. Rick Grimes is the Cillian Murphy-like character from Robert Kirkman’s epic comic series The Walking Dead. Grimes wakes up in post-apocalyptic America… a changed world where Zombies have emerged and killed virtually all that Rick knows and finds. Somehow, he travels through the Southeast to discover his wife, son and a small band of survivors who have come together in efforts to merely live on.
A policeman by trade and an alpha male by nature, Rick is to Kirkman’s America as Jack is to the Producer’s Island. He is the natural leader to whom everyone turns and is driven by a passion to survive and try to save those around him. He also is one whose every success comes with a price and who is surrounded by inevitable failures. Much like Jack, his decisions are well intentioned and guided by decidedly benevolent intents, but often stray from moral standards. With Jack, one might point to his torture of Benjamin in Season 2. With Rick, one might point to the outright murder he commits in Book 3. In each case, it’s hard to argue with the reasoning behind each act, but the justification is decidedly dirty.
But what makes Jack very much so like Rick is his self awareness. Jack is torn asunder internally by both his past transgressions and his own self doubt. Both he and Rick feel directly responsible for the repercussions of their actions and eschew leadership roles… but do so only temporarily specifically because they are simply hiding from their true destinies and fated roles as leaders. The thing with both men is that they cannot be convinced of the need to forgive themselves their failures and the importance of their reassuming decision making roles. Instead, Rick tries to push leadership upon Terrence and Dale while Jack does the same for Sawyer and Hugo. Eventually, circumstances dictate their re-assumption of duties.
More on this and my quick hits, after the jump.
In “What They Died For”, we see from Jack his eventual moment of true acceptance of duties. Not yet in the sideways universe, but truly in the Island world, Jack has move forward toward accepting his new role. One has to wonder if this is really permanent, though. Perhaps it’s premature to make the call that Jack will be sitting on that log, the recipient of the new Man in Black’s dictation of “You have no idea how badly I want to kill you.”
In The Walking Dead, we also saw Rick Grimes accepting his role as well as the larger relevance of the changed world of Zombies. Much as Jack learned to accept that the Island world truly did have a place for the LOSTies, Rick opined on the true nature of survivors in Zombie-filled America. He went all intellectual, noting that the survivors themselves could only try to keep going, but that in doing so they truly were the walking dead… playing out their final role with death walking around every corner. On the Island, for some time now, Jack has been mounting that clarion call, turning away from escaping the Island and, instead, pushing for the return to it and choosing to stay behind while the others escaped. Jack accepted his own status as one for whom the Island has chosen a purpose. It should, however, be noted that Locke accepted this well before Jack… and it didn’t end too hot for him.
Now for some Quick Hits.
- I want to note off the bat how important for my viewing pleasure the concept of Desmond as catalyst has been. For the first few episodes of the year, the coincidences of the sideways world simply bothered me. They were too random and without a driving force. But now we have Desmond, walking around like a sideways Jacob, touching and colliding the LOSTies with a purpose. Much better.
- If anyone was looking for an appropriate tribute to Sun and Jin, the waking eye of Jack… groggy, slow and decidedly sad was powerful and moving. You felt a tinge of sadness that someone might have been distracted from by “Across the Sea“. And the reality of what occurred in “The Candidate” was made clear by the scene of Jack sewing up Kate on the beach. The pain and mellow anger with which she rages against Locke, hammered home by reference to Ji Yeoun, reset the viewers with a reminder of what must be done… killing FLocke. My only real question is why they’ve reverted to framing FLocke as Locke and not Smokey.
- There were a couple of very good lines in this episode that really have a bit of a deeper cut. First, Jack’s statement to his son, Kevin, that “You know, technically, opening a box of cereal isn’t making breakfast.” I’ve not really quite figured out where to go with my thought process on the line, but there’s some kind of subconscious call to action therein. Maybe it was sideways Jack’s parallel call to action (rather than just showing up) that Island Jack later met. The second line was Jack saying to Locke “Don’t mistake coincidence for fate.” This line was an homage to the same delivery from Eko to Locke in “What Kate Did” and from Locke to Desmond in “The Cost of Living.” In this, it was a bit more interestingly placed. There’s been a tidal wave of moving Jack toward the realization that there is more than coincidence, particularly in the sideways world in which he makes the comment. Particularly in his interaction with Locke and investigation of his injury, Jack must have realized that there is too much coincidence and moved beyond a detached sense of self. Perhaps he’s just not ready to merge his two worlds as of yet.
- Jack’s bloodied neck was a stark reminder of the rapidly colliding worlds of the Island and the sideways universe. We were welcomed sideways by his initial catching of a perceived shaving cut on Flight 815. The opening of that cut to a near lesion sized splot is reflective of the dimensional tear being wrought by Desmond.
- There were a couple of good cameos in this episode. They weren’t perfect, but they were enjoyable. First, we had Benjamin confronted by Alex and Danielle in the sideways world. I’ll admit that a cleaned up Danielle seemed too, well, removed from her character. It almost seemed like it was the actress and not the character, and her sexual tension with Ben was a bit off-putting. That said, her role was important in providing a potentially false subtext for Ben’s actions (along with Miles interaction with Alex’ ghost on Island). The second solid cameo had far less depth but was more enjoyable. Ana Lucia, for all the hatred she spurned, was never like Paolo and Nicky. She was the actress we loved to hate and her appearances were well played… especially her being paid off by Hugo.
- Ben has a serious decision to make with respect to the choice given him by Locke. If you recall, in the temple, Alex’ apparition purported to tell him to listen to whatever Locke says. Ben knows that to not be her, at least one thinks. But the stark reminder of what happened at Keemy’s hand (driven home by Ben’s deadpan line of Widmore not getting to save his daughter) should not be discounted in Ben’s calculus. Will he choose his Island or what is right. And did he off Widmore as a revenge of sorts or in order to protect information from FLocke?
- Zoe’s fate was along the lines of Paolo and Nicky. For those two, the producers granted the audience wish for them to meet a fate worse than dead (burial alive). Meanwhile, the viewers revolted over the comments made by the actress playing Zoe (who famously quipped of the importance of her own character in interviews). She met her end OJ Simpson style, being scolded to silence by Widmore and permanently shut by FLocke.
- Widmore’s death at the hands of Benjamin was a little more surprising. I think I wasn’t alone in suspecting that FLocke and Widmore were working together in some capacity. Ultimately, though, seeing Widmore stumble at the thought of Smokey going after Penny (when he showed such little regard for his children, previously) was just out of character. And seeing his role and that of his team come to an end so quickly was surprising. For them to be so inconsequential to the story’s conclusion just surprised me. I know Desmond was to be the key, but Widmore seemed like he would be a tool of sorts. Or maybe Des just needs to be popped into the stream as the Yurugu (aka, MIB) was to reset the Island.
- The presumed death of Richard Alpert was, well, a tremendous buildup with no payoff. Yes, we benefited from seeing Benjamin’s reaction, followed by the epic scene of FLocke sharpening his nails, literally, with a Bowie knife and plying Ben with a promise (again) of control of the Island. Nonetheless, Richard’s untimely fate was just too abrupt. That feeling of incompleteness must have many thinking that he’ll reappear in the season finale, but I just wonder if there is time to even address him.
- FLocke’s line about why he walked (that he enjoyed feeling his feet on the ground and that it reminds him that he was once human) was a bit reminiscent, in a polar opposite kind of way, of Dogen’s statement that he disliked speaking in English because of the taste it left on his tongue. Clever, understated and powerful. But when reminding himself he was once human, was he thinking of when he was Locke, when he was the MIB or – quite possibly because FLocke was never really Locke or MIB in corpus – something or someone entirely different.
- Jacobs lecture at the burning bush was one of those moments that ought to please the mythologists and action seekers alike. This was not some convoluted explanation to be interpreted by referring to wine bottles or, gasp, Klein bottles. We were getting real substance, not something which looks like a container but really holds no volume other than that which we perceive mistakenly. This was a tool that replaces the distinct narrator. In literature and film, a third person narrative stream is the lazy tool, but it can also be a powerful and important means of explanation (especially when one is running out of time). I refer back to Primer, a film that would be completely incomprehensible but for a direct explanation from one of the leads. So, yes, the tactic might not be accepted by high art, but it works.
- The idea of Jacob providing the candidates a chance for purpose and salvation comes back to one of the most important early themes of the Island. Fresh beginning and individuals finding themselves at their core. In the past two seasons of Flash forwards and sideways, we’ve moved beyond that as we’ve looked at what the survivors became or what they might have been, rather than who they actually are. But LOST itself is a story of character development and Jacob’s message that he brought the survivors to the Island in order to both fix them and allow them to find themselves is fundamental to the core of the story itself.
- Kate seemed very relieved and at the same time fearful of learning that she was not truly eliminated as a candidate. Jacob said that he removed her solely for her becoming a mother. This was interesting on a couple of levels in that is reflected the lack of importance for the wall itself and that it again placed emphasis on motherhood. Except unlike with Sun or Claire, Kate’s motherhood was the adoptive variety. She took over, or from Claire’s perspective stole, her child, much as Benjamin and Janney (adoptive mother of Jacob and Yurugu) did before her.
- The scene of Jack transmogrification had strong religious overtones. There was both the communion-like drinking of the blood of Jacob (really the blood of the Island, from the river) and, more importantly, there was the cleansing of sins ceremoniously performed by Muslims bathing their hands. Jacob was attempting to cleanse his actions as he passed from the Island and Jack assumed his duties. I have no idea what exactly it was that Jacob said while cleansing his hands, but I don’t doubt the translation will have some religious significance.
- I’m not quite sure what to make of the importance of the scene in which Locke comes to sideways Jack and states that he’s ready to be fixed. It should be noted that, of all the sideways characters, Locke is the only one for whom the Island counterpart has not been alive. He has been touched by Desmond in this world. In the Island world, it was Jacob reaching into the candidates pasts to touch them and lead them on their ways. It is this which again leads me back to the idea that Jack isn’t the one. At least not in the way we think he will be. Perhaps Jacob is mistaken in his belief that the defender of the light can choose his path or have it chosen by another. Janney was incorrect in trying to choose the fate for the MIB and perhaps Jacob is incorrect in thinking Jack could choose it for himself. Just maybe the Island and fate itself has chosen Desmond.
- My argument as to why Jack is not going to be replacing Jacob can best be summed up by the faith I have in that the producers knew what they were doing when they started out this run. I know stories develop over time, but I like to think certain basics were planned out from the start. Well, the producers revealed that the initial plan for the pilot involved Michael Keaton starring as Jack and being killed by Smokey at the end of the two hours. ABC put the kibosh on the plans because they felt that the audience’s emotional connection to Jack would be so well established that the pilot would face an immediate backlash. So, yes, JJ and Darleton capitulated and gave Jack a second chance, but there is no doubt that the initial concept did not involve Jack as some immortal guardian.
As a final homage before the finale, I want to throw out this parallel. In Ghostbusters, Sigourney Weaver was possessed by Zuul, the Gatekeeper, while Rick Moranis was assumed by Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster. They were segregated to avoid the appearance of Gozer, the Destroyer of Worlds. Now, I don’t for a moment believe that FLocke is the Island’s Gozer. But is it possible that some combination of Jacob and MIB/Yurugu, in one instance, and Locke and Jack, on the other, are somehow the Gatekeeper and Keymaster that will bring the Destroyer of Worlds? Is, as Locke speaks, Desmond the Destroyer of Worlds? Or, as Faraday and Widmore advised, is Desmond the Constant or Fail-safe.
If you’re looking for a more immediate parallel, let’s go directly to the concept of a protector of the light. Again I come directly back to Desmond but stay on Island this time. What, if anything else, is pushing the button every 108 minutes if not a never-ending task of protecting the light. Desmond has played this role and it led him to spurt out each time he (and his predecessor) met someone “Are you him?”, meaning his replacement. What, if not a giant “Are you him?” has this entire process by Jacob been? Well, I guess we’ll find out in under five days.