Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Lost and Found: Interpretations and Insights
Based on Sunday’s closing of one of the most captivating series in television history, the Lost finale is receiving some very mixed reviews hitting every shade of the positive/negative spectrum. I personally loved it but I could understand why some were left wanting more or feeling a little shortchanged. I will attempt to offer my best explanations and interpretations.
So let’s talk about the story structure and the plot devices. It used a fully circular method of ending where it started. However I feel it worked extremely well if you looked at it in the most literal way possible. The blink of an eye. This in an ingenious device in summing up everything the show talks about. Illustrating what seemed like a timeless stretch on the island where time literally has no meaning. The full circle aspect could be seen as Jack, the one who led everyone, was the one who was led to his final place in the story by everyone. He was LOST and he FOUND everyone, including most-importantly himself. Action-Reaction, Good-Evil, “To push the button or not to push the button”, these were parallels that this series thrived on. Jack is Cain, Able, the Prodigal Sun, Moses, Abraham, Buddha, Homer and Luke Skywalker all in one or even a literal Shephard as a shepherd. The epitome of hero. The parallel “sideways” timeline was a purgatory-like state (if you want to call it that). However, who is to say when this alternate time-line began or ended? Had they been living from birth in this new time-line or did it start the second we the viewers began to observe. Many of the flash-back-forward-sideways elements put us in an omnipresent role, seeing things about specific characters even before they were conscious of what was going on around them (this alludes to character connections, foreshadowing, past-lives, etc.). Jacob may have been watching, but so were we. I feel the sideways line started as soon as we saw it and perpetuated itself to serve a purpose, just as the island did. What purpose? That is relative to the needs of each specific entity. One person’s heaven could be another’s hell based on where they were coming from. So although characters (Kate, Claire, Sawyer) may have gotten off the island and died much later in life, they all returned to the perpetual state of “island self” to return to the “most important points of their lives” as Christian stated. The “connections” and “awakenings” they find in the afterlife could simply be the illuminations of their kindred spirits, their soul mates or however one chooses to describe the term. What of the light? It could be “heaven.” It could be the light in the heart of the island. They could all be going back to relive the experience. What it truly is would be up to our own unique interpretations.
Jack was the central figure, this whole series could be a biography of his character, and the other passengers/connections he made were all secondary but filled the roles to how to facilitate Jack’s personal evolution. The island was the second most important device (or even character) in the story; it contained good, evil, punishment, redemption, dharma, nirvana, everything and nothing. Seasons 1, 2, 3 where all about them being stuck on it, season 4 was jack desperately trying to get back to it, season 5 was Locke dying and facilitating the explanation behind Jack’s change of heart, 6 was explaining as many pieces to this seemingly unending puzzle as possible, many dealing with the origin of the island.
I noticed many people have been griping about “what of the island’s origin? The magic of the witch? The healing/birthing/telekinesis/supernatural/electromagnetic/time issues?” These were all mysteries of the island. Think of how many people died, where drawn there, killed, and sacrificed because of it. They never found out as first hand witnesses. So why would we? Their interpretations were as good as any of ours be it Eloise Fisher, Charles Whitmore, Alvar Hanso, Ben Linus even, to some extent, Jacob and Nemesis. Think of “the Shining.” In that film and to some extents the book, we see that there are certain people who “shine” in certain places and we generally accept it. It never goes into the origin or the cause of shining and we don’t seem to care. It’s a power that people have and that it that. This story, taking many elements of King’s work, also seems to follow that structure. Some people got it, some people don’t.
The main idea was it was a supernatural force of good and evil which completely could manipulate the laws of the world. Some, such as Whitmore, to some extent the Others, the U.S. army (the H bomb subplot), the Dharma initiative, wanted to exploit those forces. This was something that could not be, hence Jacob pulling the strings of the Others to do his bidding in exchange for them to be able to live “off the grid.” Walt was special because he already was special and the Others, who knew of the islands power, wanted to find out if it was because of the island directly or if Walt was a story in and of himself. It was the latter, apparently, because during the Room 23 issue when Walt was being tested, the Others were scared of what he was able to do there. This is a fantasy fictional world so who’s to say if there aren’t telepathics around the world already which the flashbacks illustrate is a truth… (Remember the psychic who won’t read Claire’s palm???) Hurley’s numbers were more a device for us the viewer to make easier connections to the supernatural world, almost like highlighted portions of a book. The birthing issue had something to do with the statue which was a symbol of Taweret or Isis, both Egyptian symbols of fertility. The statue was standing in the beginning but was taken down, or broken down… I’m guessing by the MIB to prevent potential candidates from being born on the island. Hence, the statue comes down, no more babies… Until the chosen candidates arrive (Sun who would have had the baby if she stayed or Claire) Ever think why the Others had so many medical professionals in their ranks or why they were so hard-up to get Juliet in their ranks even killing Edmund Burke (hit by a bus) to get her there.
Now, regarding a little more detail to the “sideways” time line. I have read repeatedly that many viewers considered it a waste of time. Not so, in my opinion. Take it from Faraday’s time continuum. There are simultaneous time-lines going on all over the place. For Christ’s sake, the Losties going back to the 70’s would mean in real-time their childhood or infant selves would be alive at the exact same time in the rest of the world. This apparently does not alter the flow, or did it? Remember the nose-bleeds. Charlotte and Daniel were the first to really react negatively. So even though they were inherently connected to the island even from young ages, maybe their extended stays or familiarity with the island were why their bodies couldn’t handle the stress of the “time storms.” Remember, Charlotte and Miles being there during the Dharma initiative as children and Daniel being possibly conceived there and even murdered by his own mother while she was pregnant with him! (Wrap your mind around that)
Eloise and Whitmore where in the know but even their perspective was limited. Although they were thinking on higher levels of consciousness, to another degree so was Lennon and Dogen, even the most knowledgeable character was still limited in their perceptions… They were just a tab further down the road than everyone else. But I’m getting tired of theorizing and I hope some of these things seem a little clearer. The whole point of the show is mystery. I know I rambled and got hung up on some details but this is fitting for a show that tended to ramble and was completely detail-centric. If you were demanding more, I don’t know how the show could have ever done that job because for the numerous questions it posed, you would literally be watching 5 hours of answers with no more new questions, and that, frankly is not at all what Lost is about. Socrates main method of teaching illuminated the philosophy by answering a question with an endless cycle of questions. Through this method, some of the greatest philosophers created explanations to the human condition that hadn’t even been touched before. Even look at all the scientists and philosophers who get name-dropped just in characterization along, Locke, Bentham, Alpert, Faraday, Burke. Lost used a system of touching on (or diving head on) into some of the best plot, philosophical, symbolic, religious and story-telling devices we know. This may be why we love it so much. It uses things we already know and love and subconsciously touches on our own personal nostalgia. I mean do you think it was coincidental that so many things clicked, when they dropped a Star Wars reference or if you noticed the copy of Sawyer reading “Watership Down” on the beach, Aldo reading “A Brief History of Time” outside room 23, Sawyer reading “The Fountainhead” in prison, or if you noticed the Dharma Stations “Pearl” and “Looking Glass” are two stories from our adolescence? There are so many “shout-outs” to things we all love, it almost impossible based on any personal taste not to get a “nod” on at least one thing you’re into.
Point is, If you left by getting something from this series, good. If you left scratching your head, better. If you left overjoyed or enraged and dying to talk to someone about it, congratulations, you got the point.