February 23rd, 2010
“I guess we weren’t looking for it…”
When Lost adds new elements to its world, acts of expansion that have been quite common early in the show’s sixth season, there’s always a question of why we’ve never seen it before. Why did they wait so long, for example, for us to meet Benjamin Linus, and why did we never learn about the Man in Black until the fifth season finale? They’re questions that have some merit, certainly, but which perhaps miss the point: the reality is that sometimes things sneak up on you, and things that have existed for centuries are only able to be found when you know where to look (and sometimes Michael Emerson blows away the producers and becomes part of the show’s expansion).
“Lighthouse” is a cross-reality investigation of this idea, of what people are able to “see” with the right information and how those viewpoints change those characters. For some, their perspective is clouded by an infection taking over their mind and body, while for others their perspective is clouded by a life filled with self-doubt and personal struggle. And while we’ve yet to be given the proper coordinates to full interested what the show’s flash-sideways structure represents, it continues to offer a unique perspective on who these characters could have been, which remains a compelling counterpoint to the characters they are and – perhaps more importantly – the characters they are destined, or not destined, to be.
As Hurley said at a point in the episode, “Lighthouse” is very much old school in some ways. It featured Hurley and Jack wandering through the jungle, not entirely sure where they’re going and certainly not sure why they are doing it. Freed from the complexity of the Temple, Jack and Hurley’s characters return to their old relationship: Hurley is affable and inquisitive, Jack is straightforward if a bit reluctant to open up, and the result is some fairly definitive answers to some questions that we’ve sort of been struggling with (at least those of us who care more about characters than mythology). So much time was spent in Season Five to set up how Jack and the rest of the Oceanic Six would return to the island, but the why in that equation sort of got lost somewhere over the Pacific. And so here Hurley is a useful tool, the too-curious traveling partner who asks Jack why he came back, and his answer is extremely telling: Jack came back because he was broken, and because he thought the island could fix him.
It’s a great answer, because it reminds us that the island was once considered a place of healing: John Locke regained the use of his legs, Rose’s cancer disappeared, and Jin went from shooting blanks to, well, not. But over time, its healing powers have become more complex: Sayid rising from the dead, infected with some sort of disease, is just the latest reminder that life and death on this island are more slippery than Jack would like to imagine. For Jack, the Temple doesn’t really hold any answers for him: he came back to the island to fix his personal life, which is why he was so desperate for Faraday’s plan to work. While Kate came back to find Claire, to tie up a loose end, Jack came back because he was drinking himself into a pit of despair and he didn’t know what else he was supposed to do.
Jack is a character that, with time, has gotten more and more unlikable (logical when your life begins to fall apart, really), but he is particularly interesting at this juncture. Jack is, as we know, the Man of Science, and yet the show is moving further and further towards this idea of destiny, of these two omni-present figures who have been pulling the strings for centuries. What Jacob wants to show Jack, it seems, is that Jack is part of that destiny, and yet he knows that every egg has to be cracked a certain way: Hurley, with his post-Oceanic Six life being less than spectacular, was all too willing to listen to Jacob’s advice when he jumped into his taxi, but Jack isn’t someone who believes, or trusts, that quickly. And so the episode was, in some ways, a whirlwind tour of Jack’s past: he runs into Kate in order to remind us that their lives off-island drifted apart, he stumbles upon the caves so that he can remember finding his father’s empty casket, and he eventually sees his childhood home in the Lighthouse so that he can piece together that Jacob has been watching them for their entire lives.
Jack gets to see, first hand, the twists and turns of his journey on this island, and I think this is effective for two key reasons. The first is that it provides a refresher for the audience, along with an excuse to dabble in some humorous (and, now that Hurley has spoken them in jest, probably untrue) fan theories surrounding Adam and Eve. The second is that I think that Jack has always resisted the island and its power, and so his desire to return to the island always felt artificial and in some ways selfish. I think, if the character is going to truly redeem himself on-island (we’ll get to off-island in a second), he needs to be confronted by the enormity of the cosmic showdown he is a part of and yet still maintain his identity. While the episode does risk suggesting that Jacob planned for Jack to smash the mirrors, and that Jack needs to wake up and realize his life is driven by destiny, I think it’s more important that Jack stop fighting against destiny and instead finds a way for him to play his role, one which fits who he is and what he believes in. The show has gone past the point where its mythology can fight against the characters, and so Jack’s role as the non-believer had to change: it’s one thing to believe that things can be done a different way or that he’s going to do everything in his power to make things work, but it’s another to doubt everything, to question that there is something bigger going on. Jack needs to evolve from a Man of Science to a Man of Belief, maintaining his lack of trust in the situation while believing that there is something going on that he can’t quite dismiss wholeheartedly.
Jack’s Flash Sideways is no more revealing in terms of the “purpose” of the structure than any previous one, except for Jack misremembering how precisely he had his appendix removed (hint: it was on the island) and the bizarre appearance of Dogen, but it was the return of a Jack that is kind of, you know, likeable. It’s clear that Jack still had problems in his life: unlike Locke’s father, Christian appears to have still been a jackass, and Jack still went through some troubles with alcohol if his mother’s reaction to his polite refusal is any indication. However, Jack is also a father to teenaged David (played by Dylan Minnette), or at least plays the role of father once a month as part of a custody agreement with his (unseen) mother. And so the episode plays out a fairly predictable story of Jack’s relationship with his father having kept him from truly getting to know his son, the distance of the divorce/breakup having changed the context of their relationship to the point where David hides his piano audition in an effort to keep from failing in front of his father.
I’d be annoyed that the story was so predictable if it wasn’t the first time in a while that Jack has really seen the world around him clearly, and if Matthew Fox wasn’t so great throughout. For so long now, Jack has seemed almost close-minded, so focused on this plan or this idea that he never quite sees clearly. And so it was nice to see Jack very clearly understand what David was going through (even if he had to have his Mother and Dogen interpret it for him), and Jack finally got one of those moments where we remembered what kind of character he used to be before things became too complicated. There’s been a number of scenes of Jack looking into mirrors throughout the first few episodes, and their significance is only growing with what he saw in the Lighthouse. However, more important is that he was capable of opening his eyes to what his son was feeling, and how his actions were being interpreted, a sort of self-awareness that demonstrates a side of the character that has been absent for too long. So long as his actions on the island begin to reflect that type of character, one that is self-aware enough to see destiny and find his own personal way to confront it rather than contradict it, then I feel as if Jack is on a far better track as a character than he was last week or last season.
I’m perhaps burying the lede here, as we now have a more definitive answer of what the numbers mean. We learned that they were connected to people before, but we’ve now learned that the numbers are coordinates, ways for Jacob to peer into the lives of the various castaways in order to see who they are, what they might become, and how he might be able to contact them. We saw a brief glimpse of the temple, what looked like a Church (either the one where Sawyer’s parents had their funeral or where the Lamp Post is located), we saw Jack’s childhood home, and we learned that 108 degrees (which is the coordinates required to safely get to the island) was where Jacob wanted the mirrors pointed in order to help “someone” get to the island. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Desmond is the individual in question, but Jack’s destruction (important for his character, in terms of demonstrating his autonomy) sort of keeps us from learning much more. For example, we still don’t get to know why Kate isn’t included (although Hurley was quite adamant that she wasn’t invited on their journey), and we wish Jack had stuck around at the top long enough for us to get a glimpse of every name on that wheel, but the show is still driven by how these human beings respond to the mythology. Jack, in that moment, is more defiant than curious, so of course he doesn’t wait to see where 108 degrees points or which Kwan it seemed to point to. Jack’s questions aren’t our questions, and I don’t know if any character but perhaps John Locke would have been curious more than angry in that situation.
And, of course, we got to learn a bit more about just what Claire Littleton has been up to. Although it’s clear that the Flash Sideways universe has more to offer for Claire (in that she is a beneficiary in her father’s will, much to Jack’s mother’s surprise), her real role is on the island, and Emilie de Ravin gets to have a lot of fun playing an unquestionably creepy character. Claire is about as unhinged as Rousseau was, living in a temporary tent filled with dynamite and willing to wield an axe when necessary. She is the same person she was, yes, but she has a singular focus: she wants to find her son, and she believes the Others have him (since they kidnapped her and branded her, which we now know is the infection test). It isn’t clear what happened at the Temple (the kidnapped Other suggests that she is misremembering what happened, which leaves room for disagreement), but Claire is convinced they have Aaron, and is doing everything in her power to get him back.
Jin is pretty much the perfect character to help introduce us to this new Claire, because we discover that Claire isn’t the least bit interested in anything but Aaron’s safety: she doesn’t question why Jin is suddenly able to speak near-perfect English, she doesn’t ask about any of the other castaways, and she makes no attempt to get any information out of him about where he’s been or what’s been going on. It doesn’t seem like she was jumping through time like everyone else, but we don’t get any answers, and Jin’s injury keeps him from pushing the questions with what appears to be a psychopath. And Jin is also still not quite “connected” with the mythology, still very laidback and sort of trusting of it all. And so doesn’t raise his eyebrow in any particularly meaningful fashion when she says her father told her that the Others have her baby, nor did he start quizzing her as soon as she says that her “friend” (who we later learn is Smokey) was behind it. Jin asks questions, no longer the near mute he once was, but he doesn’t push those questions in search of “bigger” answers, and that helps keep the focus on letting de Ravin plumb the depths of Claire’s insanity.
And, in true Lost fashion, we get the great moment when we learn (as we could sort of expect) that Claire’s friend is the Man in Black, as both Terry O’Quinn and Emilie de Ravin channel creepy smiles that I’m still shivering over now. The episode didn’t answer any questions about what it means to be infected: we still don’t know what Sayid’s fate is (he appears briefly to learn from Jack that they had intended to poison him), and Claire’s fate is still uncertain. However, what’s interesting is that we do know that the Man in Black is misleading Claire: Aaron, as Jin tells Claire before recanting out of fear for Kate’s life, is back in Los Angeles in the care of her grandmother (he unfortunately doesn’t know all of that information, as I don’t think anyone but Kate knows the whole story), and yet Smokey seems insistent that he is with the Others (likely to keep Claire on his side, militant and dangerous in order to keep the Others at bay. And yet, Claire is so set on her goal that she trusts Locke, just as she trusts Jin when he says he was lying: all of her skepticism seems to be gone, so focused on a single goal that she ignores everything else around her.
In that sense, perhaps, she and Jack really are brother and sister. But while Claire’s one-mindedness seems to be the result of her infection, Jack had no excuse, and I like that the show is drawing a distinction between those who are being manipulated by the island those that are being led by the island. There might perhaps be some hope for Claire on the island, even though it seems like she’s too far gone to be saved, but there is unquestionably hope for Jack, and a chance for the character to redeem himself if not, perhaps, heal himself of the pain that drove him back here. “Lighthouse” does a lot for reintroducing us to these characters, situating the mirrors (if you will indulge me) such that we see parts of Jack that we haven’t seen for quite some time, and so that we search for parts of the Claire we knew in that Claire that is. We may not have found answers in the mirrors, perhaps, but I feel like we have a much better understand of where the characters sit in relation to the greater story at hand, and Jack (at least) might have also gained part of the same understanding.
And I look forward, as always, to seeing how it plays out.
- Claire’s “if there’s one thing that can kill you out here, it’s infection” was played with such a brilliantly sly smile from de Ravin, totally selling the double meaning for us as an audience without making it seem too out of character.
- It’s interesting to remember that Hurley has always been something of a messenger: he was the one, after all, who was sent back from his rendezvous with the Others to tell everyone else about Jack, Kate and Sawyer being abducted, so the idea of Hugo as secondary is something that the show can potentially play with (and sort of tapped into when he first tried to go on the mission himself in order to prove he doesn’t need Jack’s help to do it, not realizing that it was more Jack’s mission than his own).
- Note that the key to Jack’s ex-wife’s house was hidden under a rabbit: no real significance, I’m sure, but rabbits are an important part of Lost’s universe, so just a little sidenote.
- I’m sure someone with more knowledge of classical music will have details on the piano piece David was playing, and perhaps find some sort of hidden meaning behind it. All I know is that it was, you know, good. And I’m pretty sure written by Chopin [Look below in the comments for the full details from EgyptNation].
- I wanted to focus on the character above, but Claire’s fake Aaron made out of animal skulls and pelts? So creepy.
- Hurley wins the episode’s “best line” competition with “I just lied to a Samurai!” – it was a pretty great episode for Jorge Garcia overall, really, with even a Star Wars reference thrown in there.
- My one big question from the episode that only time will answer: it could have just been so that Hurley would find the moment awkward enough to raise the issue, but I got the sense from Kate and Jack’s brief moment before parting that this could be the last time they see each other for quite some time. It was random happenstance that they ran into one another (and that Kate wasn’t being more careful seemed a bit out of character) that I have to presume it wasn’t just an excuse to raise the point of whether Jack would be a good father. It felt like something more, lingering just long enough to feel a potentially inadequate goodbye.
- The presence of an “annotated” Alice in Wonderland is just mean: what we wouldn’t give for annotations on Lost some days, eh?
- Where did Hurley get a pen? (Just sayin’!)