Lost Wednesdays: Three Choices

Yesterday I wrote a long post on the status of answers in Lost‘s endgame for my own blog, so I’m a bit tuckered out from Lost blogging. Even though this week’s episode regained the momentum and structure of the sixth season, with the requisite character developments, plot twists, and sideways enigmas, I found it less compelling for critical commentary than last week’s wholly atypical episode. Not that “What They Died For” was unenjoyable or lacking in what I was looking for in the penultimate episode of the series, but I’m far less moved to criticism than earlier in the season.

The episode featured a number of excellent character moments, with each of the three (arguably) most central characters making a crucial choice that will undoubtedly set-up their fates for the finale. Jack’s long arc as hero came to fruition as he volunteered to take over Jacob’s role as island protector – while Jack has rarely been my favorite character, he has emerged in season six as a compelling central protagonist. I’m not going to claim that there was a master arc in place for Jack throughout the entire run, but looking back, it’s pretty impressive how he’s developed from arrogant surgeon trying to take control and fix everything, to a crushed addict struggling to find meaning, to a passive follower looking for a leader, and finally to a man of faith taking responsibility for himself and his community without being motivated by ego or proving himself. Given that he was initially slated to die in the pilot, Jack has surprisingly reinvented the hero figure for a serialized story.

On the other side of the moral compass, Ben chose to embrace his villainy once again. I think his crucial moment came in finding Alex’s grave and then seeing Widmore – for him, the title “What They Died For” refers to his daughter, reminding him of his vendetta against Widmore and his lack of other commitments or allegiances (nicely offset by his sideways bonding with Alex and Danielle). He has always been a follower of whomever can grant him the most power, and clearly siding with Locke appears to be his best bargain. Having Bad Ben back just feels right – but we well know that he could switch sides at a moment’s notice if Jack or another leader makes him a better bargain. Ben’s move shooting Widmore just before a possible moment of plot explication is classic Lost, reminiscent of Charlie gunning down Ethan way back in the first season – we can mark it down as probably the last death of a character who seemed destined to be in play later in the game.

And in the sideways story, Locke makes the choice he’s been flirting with since “LA X”: to let Jack fix him, played perfectly by Terry O’Quinn. We’re still unsure what the significance of this choice might be, as Jack and Locke seem like the two characters least able to cut through their fog to see their island lives. Perhaps it will take an intimate moment with Jack’s hands on Locke’s dural sac to awaken them both, but their mutual realization seems to be a key climax on the horizon. We still don’t know enough about the sideways timeline to know the broader significance of Locke’s choice, but it feels equally as weighty as Jack and Ben choosing sides on the island for Locke to let go of his guilt – and possibly his delusion of happiness in a fake world.

This episode was previewed in LA over the weekend for a live audience, and the scuttlebutt coming out of the crowd was that the deep mythology of “Across the Sea” pays off somewhat this week. Certainly Jacob’s explanation of both his ancient mistake and his quest to find candidates to overcome their flaws and choose the mantle of protector resonated with what we learned of his origin story. I was a bit disappointed that Jacob told Kate that her name being crossed out was his choice due to his respecting her motherhood, especially as I’m holding out hope that Kate plays a key role in the narrative to help counter some of the gender critiques I discussed last week.

I had theorized that the cave of chalk names had actually been the MiB’s lair to track Jacob’s choices, but now I think I had it reversed – the more scientifically-minded Smokey seems like the likely owner of the lighthouse, using technology to track Jacob’s candidates and their off-island lives, while Jacob preferred the low-tech chalk. Thus back in “Lighthouse,” Jacob’s manipulations to get Jack to destroy the mirror seems more calculated as a ploy to wipe-out Smokey’s scientific surveillance. Whether this really matters, I’m not quite sure.

In the end, the two candidate lists come to matter little, as what’s most important is that Jack chose to take the job (albeit with a highly abridged job description) as Jacob anointed him “like me.” While many fans have feared that this season would be reduced to the dueling whims of two island gods we’d never met before “The Incident,” clearly the finale is set-up to elevate the stakes of the core conflict established in season 1: Jack versus Locke, but now with each granted supernatural abilities. Thus while we might ultimately see the battle of the gods in the finale, at least they are earthly gods we know well.

Random favorite fanboy moment: Desmond’s manic maneuverings in the sideways timeline remain mystifying, but quite enjoyable as he gets the band back together to set-up his master plan, with an assist from Hurley in a van (alas, not a VW) and a corrupt Ana-Lucia. Is the culminating concert David’s piano recital or the Widmore party? Only a five-day wait to see – and thus next week will feature a Lost Monday!

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12 comments for “Lost Wednesdays: Three Choices

  1. Noah
    May 19, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    Re: whose party. I assumed it was both! Perhaps David did well in that try-out early this season and his orchestra/school/group is playing Eloise’s charity event at Pierre Chang’s museum. With a lot of Lostaways in attendance. Although Sawyer told Miles he wasn’t planning on going, and Locke really has no reason to as of yet. Quite the buildup!

  2. May 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    Yeah, I wasn’t really underwhelmed by this, but have little to say — the penultimate episode of the season seemed, like previous seasons, to be the first part of the finale, so it’s hard to assess it without seeing the next two hours. That said, I’ve finally come over to appreciating Jack’s story arc — having rewatched the entire series in the past 2 months, it actually seems much more calculated than it probably really was. So many of the early whiny-Jack moments work better for me on second view now that we know where he ends up.

    Re: Ben, I was frustrated by his abrupt “back to the Dark Side” flipflop, and I’m not convinced he isn’t just playing Smokey, and much more cleverly than James was capable of doing. Like Sayid’s team flipping this season, it just doesn’t make much sense, so I’m withholding judgment until the finale. By the way, there’s no way Richard’s dead yet, right? He was just a pawn swept off the chess board yesterday, I’m assuming.

    Finally, Jason, I can’t believe you seriously wrote the sentence “Perhaps it will take an intimate moment with Jack’s hands on Locke’s dural sac to awaken them both.” You do realize you’ve just created the genre of spinal surgery slash fanfic, don’t you?

    • May 19, 2010 at 9:08 AM

      Just because I wrote the dural sac sentence, don’t assume I wrote it seriously! Jorge Garcia’s been having fun with the dural sac fixation on his Geronimo Jacksbeard podcast…

      Ben could be playing Smokey, but clearly it’s not for an allegiance to some “good guy” team – as always, Ben is playing for Ben, and taking out Widmore is a key motive. And I agree, Richard can’t be dead, especially as I believe the rules disallow Smokey directly killing him.

  3. Jim
    May 19, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    But regarding Kate’s candidacy, note that Jacob also told her that it’s just a line of chalk on a wall. Seemed to me that he crossed her out because he figured she wouldn’t want the job — she has someone off the island to live for now, unlike before — but she still could have stepped forward and volunteered if she liked.

    • Zak
      May 19, 2010 at 10:48 AM

      Ok- I have found issue with the title- “What they die for”, Kate’s questioning about why Jin and Sun died, and Jacob’s reasoning for removing Kate from the list- because she ‘has a child’. My argument- Jin and Sun were crossed off the list because they, too, had a child. They didn’t die because they were crossed off the list, nor were they crossed off the list because they were going to die. They died because of human error by Sawyer. When Kate approached Jacob and asked “Why Jin and Sun”, he responds only with a ‘sorry’. It’s my understanding that the chalk list is merely his check of people, and controls nothing with their destiny- so Jin and Sun died because of Sawyer, and he is starting to live with that guilt, which (i think) will cause him to step up and take over the role of island protector to be closer to his girl and live with his decision. I know, Jack has stepped up. But, in his sideways life (regardless of how we see this sideways life), he, too, has a son. I dont see him being the final protector.

      Just my musings. Found this blog today from Doc Jenson- love it. Thanks!

  4. May 19, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Locke’s “letting go” in the surgery scene with Jack mirrors Jack’s in his decision to replace Jacob. For me this means that both will likely die in the finale and that Kate will indeed become the guardian of the island. (What does this mean for Aaron? Remember when grand theories centered around him?) Hurley will likely live, and anything could happen with Sawyer.

  5. Jen Our-Bee
    May 19, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    I really like this theory and would have never considered it myself: ‘Thus back in “Lighthouse,” Jacob’s manipulations to get Jack to destroy the mirror seems more calculated as a ploy to wipe-out Smokey’s scientific surveillance.’ Like you said, not sure it really matters now, but it’s one of those “huh, that makes sense” moments that I seem to be having a lot of lately. Great blog. Sorry to just be discovering it today!

  6. May 19, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    First off, I’m sorry I didn’t find your blog until the last week of Lost. @DocJensen pointed you out on Twitter.

    OK…on to the posting:

    Probably a Driveshaft concert at the Widmore Estate, since they have to get Claire to Charlie. Charlie knows he’s looking for Claire.

    Hurley will show up with Sayid after picking up Shannon (hat tip to my friend Andy for the Shannon observation).

    Even money on Juliet being there (as Jack’s ex), Sawyer and Miles showing up for the fugitives.

    Not sure if Bernhard and Rose will show up too. Still waiting for them to show up on the island again.

    What I really want is an explanation from Ms. Hawking. Hope we get that on Sunday.

    • Zak
      May 19, 2010 at 11:30 AM

      Awesome party.

  7. Mason
    May 19, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    To me, Ben shooting Widmore so hastily is what suggests he’s trying to stop Flocke. Emerson is an excellent actor, and I don’t think that the contrived evil was coming from him – it was coming from his character.

  8. Mason
    May 19, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    And I believe Ben gave Miles a walkie-talkie, which suggests he does indeed have a plan

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