'Letters from the Flame': 'Lost' about 'LA X'? I have your answers
You had a ton of questions about the season premiere of "Lost," and I have a few answers for you today. I couldn't answer every question, but I tried to pick those that addressed the broadest set of concerns you had after the airing of "LA X." On tap today: sideways universes, the state of Sayid, and Smokey's home. Let's get to it!
I am having a little bit of trouble understanding this "sideways" reality that we saw this week on the season premiere. How can Jack, Kate, Sawyer et al. still be on the island if the plane didn't crash as shown in the sideways reality? How can both realities exist? I can let my mind accept a lot of things about this show. Seeing dead people, notLocke, ageless Richard and time travel (which is one of my favorite things to watch in TV and movies), but I can't come to grips with this alternate world. Is there a way you can explain why this is happening to those of us who are completely lost? Even your recap didn't help me to understand this.
Don't worry if you're having trouble understanding the "sideways" reality. If you already understood it, it wouldn't be a very fun narrative technique. I didn't try to understand it fully in the first episode of the season. All I took away from it was the following: 1) this universe has as much weight to the show as the one shown on the Island, and 2) these parallel realities are related. What happens in one affects the other, and this relationship goes both ways. Things that happen in one can carry over to the other, with the best example being the small cut on Jack's neck in Sideways Oceanic 815. Just roll with that for now and let the show come to you.
Have a problem with the Flash Sideways that I was hoping you, with your doctorate in Lost, could help fix for me. I have this fear regarding the Sideways universe that it will be too predictable for hardcore fans who have seen and re-seen all the flashbacks. Now, I understand that that seems like a bit of a silly statement, but I don't mean it as a blanket statement. I know some things will catch us *totally* by surprise, like Jack and Locke's interaction in the airport. I'm just saying that a lot of things that would have caught us off guard in other directional flashes (back and forward) will potentially not this time around...So, anyway, I was just hoping that you could assuage my fears that the Flash Sideways would be too predictable. I just don't like the idea that me and my Lost-savvy friends can generally predict what's going to happen. :)
No way will these sideways flashes be predictable, no matter how "Lost-savvy" you or your friends are. I don't doubt your knowledge of the show, but we're not even seeing flashbacks at this point in the sideways universe. We're seeing what happens after a plane landed that didn't land in the reality we've followed so far. More to the point, we can't take ANYTHING for granted in terms of what's happened to these characters up until the point at which they board Oceanic 815 out of Sydney. Yes, Sun and Jin are married, but did she ever learn English? Why weren't Michael and Walt aboard the plane? Heck, is Claire even pregnant? (We only see her face in the back of the cab.) If anything, these glimpses into the universe will actively take advantage of what you THINK you know in order to continually surprise you.
Above all, these differences are not just fun ways to play "what if": these differences are absolutely vital in helping those on the Island defeat The Man in Black. The interconnected nature of these two equally viable and equally important narratives will coalesce and intertwine ever more as the series reaches its conclusion.
I need someone to tell me Faraday-style how the alternative reality ties into (or even allows the existence of) the world of Island 2007, because right now, I can't see the "What If?" scenario as anything more than a cute but interesting gimmick. From a standpoint other than for the enjoyment/information of the audience, how will this alternate reality affect on-Island actions going forward in a real way?
If it were actually, "What if?" I'd agree with you. But the show isn't treating this as some fanfic exercise, a worry I had going into Season 6. Having Locke and Jack befriend each other off-Island isn't just a way to see how these two might have interacted outside the stressful scenario of a plane crash on a seemingly deserted Island: it's an important relationship that will aid Jack and others on the Island.
Here's my insanely geeky way of trying to explain how the two tie together. Currently I'm playing a game on my Nintendo DS called "The World Ends with You." The combat system features a dual-screen in which one character fights on the bottom screen while his partner fights on the top screen. If the two find themselves fighting in sync, a glowing ball starts to get passed between them, from one screen to another. If they keep fighting well, the ball gets passed between them, back and forth, linking the two characters on different screens towards a common goal. What passes back and forth in "Lost" between the two timelines? Kristin's question below gives us a chance to answer that.
Charlie's reaction to Jack saving him in the new timeline made me think he knew exactly what was going on, and maybe he was attempting to course correct. I'm thinking maybe the people who died on the island in the original timeline actually have their memories. It would certainly shed new light on Boone's conversation with Locke.
In some instances, yes. In others, no. Memories, actions, karma, and other intangible items can pass between Island Jack and Sideways Jack. Not only does the slight neck wound pass through, but so his sense of déjà vu. Also? The universe seems to be conspiring to help these characters make similar choices on a macro level while allowing them to make slight deviations on a micro level. But I don't think everyone's operating under the knowledge that they are supposed to do something different in this sideways universe.
The one exception to all this? Des. Des knows exactly what's going on, and can shuttle back and forth across the two parallel realities in order to aid in the work being done in both. How? Beats the frak out of me. Not sure we're supposed to understand it at this point. But it's safe to assume that he, Eloise, and Charles Widmore had a long, long talk after Des left the hospital in which many things were discussed, many secrets shared, and many plans made.
Riddle me this...Since our heroes are living "double lives", do you think the "doubles" are doomed? OR Do you think that it puts a new meaning on the term "Others"? After all, now there's an Other-Jack, Other-Hurley, Other-Jin, etc., etc.
Brian of the North
I'm not sure we should be looking at it as the doubles being doomed, because after all, that assumes they are the less important version of these characters. I know it's tempting to look at it that way, but until we see more of how this plays out, I don't want to make that assumption. What we're seeing in the sideways universe is not one of a million gajillion ways things could have played out: it's the version that's most vital to the story on the Island, and perhaps the story OF the Island as well.
Whatever happened may have happened...on the Island, and in the universe we've seen until now. But that's not what happened in the sideways universe, and that's not what will happen. For now, it's a neat sidestep and allows for change while not wiping the slate clean and reducing the previous stakes to nothing. Maybe later I'll cry BS on this, but for now, I'm in.
Two more things before moving on from the sideways universe. Firstly: while I've suggested the two universes run parallel to each other, the actions are not happening concurrently as the show presents them. Kate's not both in a tree with hearing loss at the same time Sideways Kate is stealing Jack's pen. Secondly: many are declaring the sideways universe to be the coda to whatever happens on the Island. In other words, everything that we see from Sideways Oceanic 815 onwards is what will happen after events on the Island get resolved. That seems to me cool in theory but ultimately breaks down to a post-modern "Scouring of the Shire" for me. I want to have the two storylines contribute to one singular, interconnected ending, whatever ending that may be.
Jacob said it only ends once. I tend to believe him. Doesn't mean it will end just once, and maybe the coda theory's right. Just wanted to throw my two cents in and explain why it feels off to me.
Some people are saying that Sayid is now inhabited by Jacob... assuming the whole impersonating others thing works out similarly for both Jacob and the MiB, then it's not about entering the physical body of the deceased, but rather appearing as them. NotLocke did not use the actual body of Locke, since one was in the box, and the other was running around killing people and stuff.
So, if we accept that this is how it works, then the MiB impersonates dead people, but not using their actual bodies. Now to the question: do we think that the MiB was impersonating all of the dead people the Losties have been seeing?
Sayid does not equal Jacob. Sayid is no longer Sayid as we knew him, but he's not Jacob. Sayid, like Ben, has work to do. Both needed to be saved to perform this work, even if the method by which they were resurrected in the Temple means a fundamental shift in heir physical/psychological/physiological makeup. There may be a greater connection between whatever Jacob was and whatever Sayid is, but we should refrain from making a one to one connection here.
In terms of all dead people on the Island, the "Light vs. Dark" series tried to address this more fully. I'd say not all, but many, of deceased people that reappear have some relationship to The Man in Black. They are fundamentally different entities from what he is now, in that they all exist pre-loophole, but they are either tryouts of the eventual, successful iteration of notLocke (or Smocke, as a reader called him last week) or just a fun trick to mess with people's weakest points and deepest fears. People like Yemi and Dave on the Island? Totally Man in Black. But Charlie's visits to Hurley off-Island in Season 4? Doesn't make sense to be TMiB's work.
So TMIB=Smokey=notLocke. Got it. Of all the questions this brings up about Smokey's actions/motives/appearances, this one comes to mind: What was up with Ben flushing the Smokey toilet? In other words, why was Ben able to summon Smokey at will, was he aware of who/what Smokey actually was, and what does that say about TMIB's relationship to the Others? (Okay, so that's 3 questions in one, but mostly I want to know why Ben could "control" Smokey.)
I've been wrestling with this question as well, and I think it comes down to two words: "security system." That's the phrase used by Danielle to describe the monster in Season 1, a phrase she picked up from her fiancé after he encountered it in 1988. And that phrase, coupled with the events in "LA X," have me mulling the possible scenario.
For a while, we've been told The Temple was the "last safe place" for people on the Island. That's what Ben told Danielle, Alex, and Karl in "Meet Kevin Johnson." That seemed to make no freakin' sense when we learned (or so we thought) that the monster lived in the Temple ("This Place is Death," "Dead is Dead"). Why would the place where the Monster lives be the last safe place on the Island? Did the others have a stash of smokey doggy biscuits to sooth the savage psychic beast?
Well, in "LA X," we learned a few things. We learned what we saw before was merely the outer walls protecting the Temple, not the Temple itself. So, the Monster guarded the Temple. Ergo, "security system." But who said it wanted to guard it? Who said it wanted to come when Ben flushed the magical hieroglyphic toilet? Think the monster enjoyed being the Island's Roto-Rooter man? Think it enjoyed always being on the outside of the temple, never inside? Why do you think The Others can move so silently? Years of trying to move past the monster without it noticing you while allow you to get the drop on just about anyone.
Finding the loophole for the monster/The Man in Black could be analogous to a genie trying to get out of its bottle. It had to rub things the right way (apologies, Christina Aguilera) for decades in order to achieve. Sick of always having to obey, sick of always being subservient, sick of always having to live underground with the Island's most hallowed ground just steps away can fray the calmest of nerves.
One thing I'm looking forward to seeing: the history of The Man in Black and Richard. Seems like these two have quite the history together. Then again, if you were onboard a slave ship that calmly drifted to shore only to be freakin' hurled/dragged a mile plus inland by a smoke monster and somehow survived that experience, I guess you'd be afraid every single time you saw the perpetrator of that action again.
Coming soon: something we've never, ever done on the blog. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!
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Photo credit: ABC