Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
LOCKE: My understanding is that baptism is about making sure that children get into heaven — should anything happen. Call it spiritual insurance. There isn’t any danger, Claire. Charlie is just …. Charlie just feels like he has to save the baby because he can’t save himself.
I’ve done everything you asked of me, Lost. I’ve watched you closely, dutifully, following your many trailing threads wherever they might lead, extolling unto others the virtues of your narrative – the soaring redemptions, the jungle adventure, the ingratiating, multi-layered characters – so why are you doing this to me?
(pounds figurative Hatch)
…Have I mentioned that this season is depressing?
It’s not that I’m complaining (and yes, I’m aware that people who start sentences like that are always complaining), but Season 2 sees the colors and it wants to paint them black. I mention this, not just for the opportunity to craft a weak joke, but because I’m seeing more clearly now why some folks decided Lost wasn’t for them in this season. Taken on a week-by-week basis, doled out in installments – well, for anyone who wasn’t invested in the journey, who was watching instead in hopes of seeing some hot Monster on castaway action, this Season 2 must have been a total downer, man.
For me, though, especially this time around, I’m finding deeper appreciation for the risks this show took on network television. To go bleak for this long is not, as a general rule, the recipe for continued financial success. Lost took the momentum its first season success gave it, and ran like [insert topical figure] in a [insert humorously incongruous event].
Some of these episodes are tough, but not because they’re dull, or because they’re poor. They’re tough because Lost has a different agenda this season, one that’s more complicated than the relatively straightforward redemption arcs of S1.
Which brings us (at long last) to Fire + Water.
Fire and Water isn’t a well-loved episode but I enjoyed it, frankly. I particularly enjoyed the way the episode examines the notion of protection from so many angles – Locke’s surprisingly Alpha male protection of Claire, Charlie’s at first personal, then cosmic, instinct to protect Aaron, Charlie’s ingrained protective relationship with his brother, Douchebag Liam (I’m pretty sure this is how he’s credited on imdb), Ana Lucia and Jack’s implied army-planning sessions, and Hurley’s awkwardly adorable, self-protective interactions with Libby.
• Baptism practically bookends “Fire + Water. The first image of the episode is Andrea del Verrocchio’s “The Baptism of Christ,” and one of the last is of Aaron and Claire being baptized in the surf.
• This is at least the third episode of Season 2 to begin with a dream sequence. This implies either laziness on the part of the writers, a simple fondness for a good freaky dream sequence, or a larger purpose.
• Just what is it, moving in the trees as Charlie looks into the jungle in his dreams? Is it the Monster? Or is it the Island itself – its vast presence felt by the subconscious?
• Sawyer comments that he’s seen Jack and Ana Lucia walk out of the jungle together three times – are they off playing army?
Charlie’s Mum: [talking at the same time as Claire] He’s in danger. You have to save him. The baby’s in danger. You have to save him. The baby’s in terrible danger. He’s in danger. You have to save him. He’s in danger. You have to save him. Danger. You have to save him. He’s in danger.
CLAIRE: [talking at the same time at Charlie’s Mum] You have to save the baby. Charlie, only you can save him. The baby. You have to save the baby, Charlie.
Charlie’s second freaky Lynch-y dream involves Aaron in a cradle at sea, crying and floating away. Then, because things aren’t quite weird enough, his mother and Claire appear posed as the women in Verrocchio’s painting, complete with brass-toned, brittle lighting and a trippy dove.
….except that it isn’t a dream – not entirely at least. Charlie’s been sleepwalking, or so it seems, and he’s cradling little Aaron by the water. It’s unsettling, this. What, exactly, was sleepwalking Charlie going to do with Aaron? All that water imagery in the dreams…Aaron drifting out to sea…watching him wash away…well, it’s unsettling. And it brings to mind a man we’ll meet in a few episodes’ time – Hurley’s imaginary friend. There’s the same sense in both encounters of being led, of being guided. I’d like to drill down on these thoughts, but they’ll swallow up the rest of the Rewatch column if I do so here. If you’re interested in my speculation regarding the purpose of the visions, the true identity of the Man In Black, and other esoteria, click HERE – just make sure you come back here to Chud afterward. Every page hit counts!
Sawyer (to Hurley, re Libby): “I’m sure you got a load you need to drop in – don’t you, Jethro?”
Dirtiest Lost line ever? I say yes.
• Sawyer and Hurley are playing ‘21’ with Dharma-brand cards.
• Locke is surprisingly cold and suspicious of Charlie (albeit for good reason, given that Charlie’s lying about having destroyed all the heroin), given that Charlie makes some very good points about the strange visions on the Island. Of all the castaways, shouldn’t Locke hear some truth in Charlie’s claim to be having prophetic dreams/visions? It isn’t as though Locke hasn’t also had a vision – one with far more disastrous consequences than Charlie’s.
• Locke eventually extends some honest, good advice, but Charlie sees it as being brushed off because, let’s face it, Charlie is needy as hell. We can see more clearly than ever why it is that he fell into his heroin addiction. He supports those around him, and the impression we get, time and again, is that those people let him down (see: Douchebag Liam, over and over again). Drugs deaden his neediness, his pain at being left behind, at being used. They put a hazy salve over the gaping wound that is Charlie’s emotional desperation.
“You all every-Butties” = CLASSIC.
• Hurley asks Libby again if he knows her from somewhere – and he does. It’s never been made clear what Libby’s full story was, and Lost has announced that it won’t be exploring this plot thread any further, so we’ll probably never know just why Libby was in Hurley’s institution. I’m sorry for Libby in advance now – knowing what’s coming makes her flirting with Hurley bittersweet.
• Charlie confides in Eko about his dreams, and Eko fulfills the ‘spiritual guide’ role that Locke has traditionally held, suggesting that the dreams aren’t crazed hallucinations, and that maybe Charlie is meant to save Aaron. But save him from what?
• Locke is changing. He’s feeling protective of Claire and Aaron, but we’re not really sure what the motivation is. We know that Locke featured prominently in Claire’s first spooky Island dream, and that he was far from a comforting presence there. Should we trust his judgment, given how thoroughly Locke is in denial about his own self-salvation?
• Locke’s definition of Baptism isn’t wrong as far as Catholic belief goes, but it isn’t complete. Eko will provide the other side of this coin near the episode’s end, giving us two sides to the concept – one dark, one light.
• Charlie plunges off the deep end here, morphing quickly into a prophet who isn’t believed – yet another instance of Lost toying with the conventions of religion.
• During Charlie’s flashback a banner for Widmore Construction can be seen hanging on the Battersea power station. This is a nifty easter egg on two levels: (1) it’s the first appearance of Widmore’s name on the show, hinting at a character who will become increasingly important to Lost’s larger story as the seasons progress, and (2) Battersea power station is the building featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals,” a seminal rock album.
• In the scene where Charlie and Liam momentarily bond over Charlie’s new song there’s an extremely creepy moment where Liam’s eyes go bright red, like in a flash-photograph.
• Liam sells Charlie’s piano without telling him – if Liam were a country singer his name would be Chris LeDouche.
• Charlie and the camp have a final confrontation, with Charlie protesting that he isn’t trying to hurt Aaron, just protect him. Locke punches him into the surf for his trouble and takes Aaron away from him – but despite the personal pain this causes him, Charlie’s work is done. He’s planted the seed in Claire’s mind, and Aaron will be baptized on the Island.
• Charlie’s Darth Sidious hood makes its next appearance, echoing the black hood that fake-Locke will be shown wearing when Ajira Airlines crashes on Hydra Island in S5.
• Jack’s ‘flaw’ – his need to fix things – also enables him to reach out to those who have been ostracized. He’s reached out now to Ana Lucia and to Charlie.
• Jack stitches up Charlie’s face – in close up! Hardcore, Lost.
• Locke shuts the remaining Virgin Mary statues in the gun closet and changes the lock on the door. If there’s one thing that every gun closet should have, besides guns, it’s a significant amount of illegal narcotics. Why doesn’t Locke destroy the statues and the drugs? It’s not clear.
Claire asks Eko to baptize Aaron after all, telling Eko what Locke said about the act of baptism. I like Eko’s response:
EKO: Do you know what baptism is?
CLAIRE: It’s what gets you into heaven.
EKO: It is said that when John the Baptist baptized Jesus the skies opened up and a dove flew down from the sky. This told John something — that he had cleansed this man of all his sins. That he had freed him. Heaven came much later.
Again, there is the notion of sin – that each human being has within them the capacity for ‘evil,’ and that baptism is, in a sense, a way to cleanse the newly born of this. It should be noted that Eko somewhat mangles this story – according to the Catholic Church, of which he is supposedly a member, Christ was born without sin.
Eko is, in the eyes of the earthly Catholic Church, a fake priest. As such, by their rules, his baptism of Aaron is not sanctified by the church – and for Catholicism, much of the purpose of being baptized centers around the notion of the parent(s) committing themselves to the responsibility of raising their child in the Catholic tradition.
But what’s really interesting about this baptism, to me, is that it’s silent. We hear none of Eko’s words as he pours the waters of the Island over Aaron and Claire. This is an interesting stylistic choice. It also strikes me as a potentially significant choice on the part of Lost’s writers and this episode’s director. Some folks have been speculating that Aaron’s true significance will be revealed in the final season, and some have gone so far as to suggest that Aaron will grow up to become Jacob.
If this is true (and I’m not advocating for it, just pointing out the possibility), or if Aaron will turn out to be important to the Island in another, equally significant way, then his baptism on the Island – with Island water, on Island sand, blessed, specifically in this place, the first newborn child on the Island since Rousseau gave birth to Alex years earlier, carries a profundity that’s only possible to appreciate on Rewatch.