Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"LOST: LA X, pt. 1 & 2"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"LA X, parts 1 & 2"

As a perfect preface to any discussion which might contain spoilers, I refer you to an article from, entitled "Surprise fan reaction to leaked 'Lost' hour". Apparently, the prescreening in Hawaii of the Season 6 premiere had some pirates in attendance. The entire first part of "LA X" was made available on YouTube via cellphone bootlegs. However, much to the credit of LOST fans, many refused to watch the episode until it aired. Now tell me there isn't something magical about a story that inspires that kind of loyalty!

And tell me there aren't principles in the show to emulate as we move forward. In my recent post, I discuss two concepts of "truth of events" and "truth of existence." I believe that existence—that is, the philosophical realm of man—must of necessity be accurately captured in any story to elicit the type of loyalty that LOST has earned. One can earn superficial loyalty through truthful events like sexual themes or compelling murders, but if the motives behind these actions are not accurate, eventually the stories will fall flat. Truth of existence liberates the author to take the viewer on a fantastical journey of mystery and imagination. And that is precisely what makes this show so good.

So what about this season?

Season 6, as you are likely aware, is the final season of LOST. Basically, this is the writer's most challenging season yet. The show is driven by dynamics between characters—and I include the Island as one of the characters—with most of them being in the dark about what is happening to them. Given that the show has a hidden mythology and that revealing secrets (slowly) is the basis of its plot, this season becomes a question of how they are going to reveal the remaining secrets while keeping us fans guessing until the last second.

As it stands, the show has deftly explored the concepts of "science" and "faith," (see "Man of Science, Man of Faith" [spoilers]). Essentially, these words embody the epic philosophical struggle between "thinking" and "feeling," or what could be called "Reason" vs. "Passion." Jack Shepard, the main protagonist, has been the champion for the concrete, refusing to believe in miracles and their kin—at least until Season 4. John Locke, Jack's antagonist by default, has been the champion of destiny, believing that the Island is "a place where miracles happen" ("There's No Place Like Home" [spoilers]).

Toward the end of Season 4, when a certain major "Earth-moving" event transpires, this philosophical train is brought to a close. Season 5 opens with a new direction, driven by a mysterious conflict between a man named Jacob and his unnamed nemesis. Jacob seems to represent the concept of free will, having told at least one character that he has "a choice." Despite this undercurrent, Jacob has been represented as a meddler in history, if for no other reason than to bring people to the Island. By contrast, Jacob's nemesis, who I will refer to as "Nemesis," seems do be a manifestation of force. In conversation with Jacob, Nemesis reveals his opinion that people are always corrupted and cannot change this basic nature, while Jacob asserts that progress is being made long-term.

So what about "LA X"?

LOST have been defined by its non-linear narrative structure, which has featured both flashbacks and flashforwards. Due to time traveling introduced in Season 5, it even featured two different times (1977 and 2007) running concurrently. In Season 6, this narrative structure is being called "flashsideways." As "The Incident" has apparently created two parallel time streams. The story now flashes back and forth between the characters who safely landed in LA X (hence the episode's title), and the same characters who continue to exist on the Island (though they've jumped from '77 to '07). [Good luck following this season, Dad.]

In "LA X," we learn more about the nature of Nemesis and his presence in previous seasons, as it is confirmed that he is the "Smoke Monster." We also learn more about his relationship to the confused character of John Locke, who he has apparently been manipulating since Season 1 ("Walkabout"). Nemesis describes Locke as pathetic and "shouting at the world" not to tell him his limitations, "even though they were right." I personally find it a bit disturbing that we, the audience, invested so much time in the story of Locke's struggle, just to have him end up dead as a pawn. This is where an element of faith is required by the fans. True, he is still alive in LA X, but if that Locke never switches places with the dead Locke, then his story is in vain and the Nemesis was right to kill Jacob. But if Jacob is right, it seems that Locke must also be more "special" than Nemesis thinks. Which is why I think the two streams will overlap (or something along those lines), and dead Locke will resurrect. It is this sort of reasoning that is [hopefully] possible because of the writers' integrity to the truth of existence.

More importantly however, we learn that Nemesis wants to go home, which presents the underlying motive power to his actions. It also suggests that Jacob and his disciples, "The Others,"are not as innocent as they make themselves out to be. Nemesis's home—presumably the Temple—seems to have been stolen from him by Jacob and/or his people. This opens the question of who has the greater right of ownership—something I'm certain we will be discussing again.

This brings us back to the question of free will vs. pre-destiny. We get a unique glimpse into the consequences of different choices, which seems to indicate a trend toward free will. The show has, in past episodes, demonstrated the theme of an unchanging universe. In Season 3 ("Flashes Before Your Eyes"), Desmond Hume learns of the universe's ability to "course correct," meaning that small things can be changed, but the large ends are still the same. In "LA X," Charlie Pace nearly dies choking on a bag of heroin. When Jack saves him, Charlie says he was supposed to die—a theme that was dominant in Season 3, ending with his drowning in the Looking Glass station ("Through the Looking Glass").

The interesting thing to ponder as we go through this season is: what net effect have the little changes made, despite the large course corrections? After all, Charlie not dying at any one of several moments when he could have, ultimately let to major movements in Season 4, despite the fact that he did die as he was "supposed to."

I look forward to digging into this season, and hope to hear your comments!

The Final Season of LOST!

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