Through The Looking Glass (S3, eps. 22/23)
Charlie: “So much for fate.”
Welcome to the longest Rewatch column yet. Season 3 leaves us with the sight of Moses, exiled from the Promised Land, yearning to return to something that he’s only begun to discover he’s (L)lost. Despair and hope comingle in “Through The Looking Glass,” as the characters and the audience pass through from one side of the narrative to the other, becoming mirrored reflections of everything they knew and were. Its damn good television – but you knew that already.
• Faith and trust loom heavily over Season 3’s finale – faith lost and found, trust renewed and shattered. In particular, what’s notable over the course of these two hours are the number of Others who appear to struggle with, and/or lose, their faith.
• Technically, “Through The Looking Glass” is two episodes, split into two parts on the DVD. But it’s really one long amazing episode, and I’m going to refer to it as such. It’s confusing enough discussing the show as it is, without having to try and refer to ‘Part I’ and Part II.’
Jack: “Forgive me.”
• When this episode first aired, the thought that we were watching a post-Island Jack during the ‘flashbacks’ never occurred to me. It’s to the show’s great credit that they manage to pull this slight of hand off as slickly as they do – especially given the fact that we’ve never seen Jack sporting a Grizzly Adams beard*. Off-Island Jack is the exact opposite of On-Island Jack – the two sides of his character mirror each other and reflect what Jack has been and what he will become. Jack has literally passed “through the looking glass” into another world, both within himself and outside of himself. This ‘mirroring’ has been a steady constant (no pun intended) throughout the course of the show, between characters, events, and even seasons, so I feel pretty confident in commenting that this all feels deliberate and very intentional.
We’re seeing what I think amounts to ‘Jack, interrupted,’ a portrait of a hero removed from his heroism, from the Island’s opportunities for self-definition and strengthening. Grizzly-Jack is a beaten, broken man. And while there may be some kind of spooky Island connection to this total change in attitude and appearance, I suspect most of it boils down to Jack’s continued inability to ‘let it go.’
Naomi: “What did you do for a living before you became Moses?”
• Once again, Jack is specifically identified with the Biblical character of Moses, just as he was in the Season 2 finale “Exodus.” We see him leading his people to safety, away from the threat of the Others, just as Moses lead his people away from the threat of the Egyptians. We see that Juliet has marked tents in white chalk so that the Others will know which tents to visit – a mirror-reversal of the Israelites marking their homes so that the Angel of Death will know which homes to pass over (thus the name of the holiday – Passover).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” – Numbers 20:12
Finally, we see that, like Moses, Jack is denied a place in the ‘Promised Land.’ This analogy works whether you view the Island or the world off the Island as the Promised Land (to Jack, rescue and America equals the Promised Land. To Locke, it’s the Island).
• I like Naomi. It’s a shame she didn’t stick around. She could easily have taken Charlotte’s entire storyline.
• The Looking Glass ladies refer to Charlie as “one of them” – which continues the show’s theme of characterizing the conflicting sides on the Island as “Others.”
• Apparently, some industrious soul decided to screencap and decipher Ben’s diary entry in this episode. Major kudos to you, whoever you are. I reap the sweet, lazy rewards of your hard work.
• The raid on the castaways’ camp is such exciting television – tense and action-y and well-staged.
Great Rose Line: “If you say ‘live together, die alone’ to me, Jack, I’m gonna punch you in the face.”
• Julie Bowen pops up again like a bad penny, playing Jack’s perennially ‘concerned’ ex-wife. It’s a great character detail to have had Jack keep her listed as his emergency contact despite their divorce. Another great choice: Jack literally can’t say goodbye to her. Watch the scene. She tells him goodbye and he swallows his own words, simply nodding.
Bonnie: “But if this station floods, what happens to you?”
Charlie: “I die.”
• Chilling, amazing work from Dominic Monaghan here.
Kate (to Sawyer): “You don’t care about our friends? Fine. But it’s like you don’t care about anything anymore.”
• Sawyer, aka James, is still reeling from the murder of Anthony Cooper, aka the O.G. Sawyer. But Sawyer’s detachment doesn’t last long. It seems to me that Sawyer’s decision to help the castaways is, even more than the death of Cooper, his defining moment this season.
• Jack’s off-Island scenes are D-to-the-E-pressing. Knowing that he’s mourning the death of John Locke – aka ‘Jeremy Bentham’ – makes these flashforwards even more poignant in retrospect.
Mikhail: “I thought you were on assignment in Canada.”
• Oh, Canada. Why do you keep popping up? The Looking Glass ladies were supposedly there ‘on assignment.’ Ethan claims to be ‘from Ontario.’ Ben’s fourth season passport is Canadian. In addition to this, the passport issued by Charles Widmore to “Jeremy Bentham” is also Canadian. I’ve suggested before that Lost’s occasional war-on-terror subtext may be responsible for the mentions of Canada. The flag for U.S.’ northern neighbor was used by American backpackers traveling abroad during the height of the Iraq conflict in order to avoid tension and hostilities with ‘Others’ from foreign countries. Travelers advised other travelers to say that they were Canadian to avoid potential hassles. I have no idea how much of this was apocryphal, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
• I love Mikhail’s cyclopean look. So badass.
• The idea of Mikhail Bakunin as a ‘loyalist’ is kind of amusing, given the beliefs of his Russian Philospher namesake. Then again, the Others are essentially (in theory at any rate) a collectivist utopian community of sorts, and that’s the sort of group that the real Bakunin might have been loyal to.
Ben: “This Island is under assault by forces stronger than anything it’s had to deal with in many, many years.”
• What does that really mean? We know that Ben is the objective for the freighter team – their orders are to extract him from the Island – and we know that rescuing the castaways isn’t on the freighter crew’s list of priorities. We don’t know anything about Widmore’s plans, if any, for the Island itself (if regaining the Island was such a burning priority for Widmore, why wasn’t he on the ship?). Much more on Widmore, Ben, and their possible motives as we roll on into Season 4.
• Juliet tells Sawyer that he and Kate were breaking rocks at the start of Season 3 in order to build a runway – the same runway that the Ajira flight carrying the returning castaways will use in Season 5. This is awesome.
The Ajira flight is three years in the future, relative to where the castaways are in the Season 3 timeline. This implies an ability on the part of Jacob, Ben or Richard to see/experience the future, either in whole or in part (this implication will be underlined by the arrival of another portentous name at the end of this episode – Minkowsky). Since Ben seems genuinely shocked by the existence of the freighter, since the freighter is instrumental in getting the castaways off the Island, and since the castaways need to use the Ajira flight to return to the Island, we can guess that either Ben isn’t the one who is privy to visions/information about the future, or that, if he is, he is receiving only bits and pieces of information. Otherwise, he’d know about the coming freighter just as he seems to have known about a future plane flight.
It’s even possible that Ben somehow knew which plane would crash – and that knowledge would explain his eagerness to group people together quickly, his insistence that there wasn’t much time, and Hawking’s explanation of a ‘window’ that would only be open for so long. All their patter about needing to reunite the Oceanic 6 in order to assure a successful trip to the Island may have been a smokescreen for this knowledge.
Sawyer: “So, you screwin’ Jack yet?”
Great Juliet Line: “No. Are you?”
Alex: “You locked Karl in a cage. You put him in a room and tried to brainwash him.”
Great Ben Line: “I didn’t want him to get you pregnant. I suppose I overreacted.”
• I love that exchange for several reasons: (1) it confirms that Room 23 functions, at least in part, to ‘brainwash’ its occupants (though we don’t know why, or what for); (2) it shows Ben’s actions as being rooted in fear for his daughter’s life and future, very relatable motivations that simultaneously comment on the dangers of getting pregnant on the Island; (3) it’s funny.
Walt: “You can move your legs. Now, get out of the ditch, John.”
Walt: “Because you have work to do.”
• We finally return to Locke, gut-shot and laying in a mass grave filled with moldering Dharma Initiative corpses. Once again, his legs seem to have failed him (it looks as though he’s been shot centrally, perhaps indicating that the bullet hit his spine). In a mirror of Season 5 he attempts to kill himself, but instead of Ben it is Walt who appears to him in order to stop him from self-destruction. Walt, who now looks significantly older than he has before. Is Walt really the Man in Black, aka the source for all the Island’s eerie ‘apparitions? Is he somehow an emissary of Jacob? Is he actually Walt? It’s completely unclear to me. Really, ‘Walt’ could be any of them. But, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to break my brain and try to figure this out:
Let’s pretend that you and I are having an imaginary argument about the meaning of Walt’s presence here. You and I agree that we still have next to no information about the MiB/Faux-Locke’s supposed ‘loophole,’ mentioned twice in the finale of Season 5. We have no real understanding of what the MiB’s plan is, just what he did in order to engineer the plan, or which, if any, of the ‘ghosts’ on the Island have been working in order to implement this plan.
Here’s what we do know: The MiB, whoever or whatever ‘he’ really is, used the form of John Locke to fool Richard and Ben in order to get to Jacob. We also know that people who die on the Island are the ones that tend to come back as ‘ghosts,’ and that, with the exception of Walt, there has never been the ‘ghost’ of a living person sighted on the Island (See: the ‘Island ghost theory’ for more brain-baking details). Knowing both of these things I tell you that if Locke had died in that ditch (assuming I’m correct with my ‘Island ghost theory’) the MiB could have then assumed his form and attempted to talk his way to Jacob without all of the shenanigans of time travel, off-Island angst, etc. If that’s the case, I don’t see why the MiB, impersonating Walt, would want to keep John alive.
But if Locke dies there, you argue back, then he isn’t able to turn the wheel and send himself away, setting into motion the events that lead to his apparent ‘resurrection’ – said-resurrection being the thing that seems to convince both Richard and Ben of Locke’s total badassery and specialness. So maybe the MiB needed Locke alive, and maybe it appeared to Locke in order to keep him going long enough to do what was really needed to activate this loophole thing. Maybe, in point of fact, the MiB is doing the same thing that Desmond has been doing all season with Charlie – helping Locke to side-step death until he arrives at the kind of death that the MiB wants and/or needs in order to achieve the loophole thing. And if he is, then maybe Desmond’s vision is part of the MiB’s grand plan as well – both Locke and Charlie being manipulated (through the MiB’s potential knowledge of the future due to the qualities of – remember this name – Minkowsky space) to die at the moment the MiB needs them to.
Holy s#!t, I reply. That’s kind of brilliant. You are some kind of genius. Well done! Except that, wait, Walt gets him out of the grave so that Locke can attempt to stop Naomi and the freighter folk from reaching the Island. Had Locke succeeded in doing so there would have been no wheel-turning, and thus no off-Island death/resurrection/Jacob-killin’. Presumably, the MiB wants all of those things.
But wait, you say.
If Jacob and the MiB experience time in Minkowsky space – if they somehow experience time in the same way that Dr. Manhattan experiences time in Watchmen, with the past, the present and the future happening all together (and the building of the Ajira runway suggests that one of them can do this on some level), then isn’t it possible that Locke’s failure to stop Jack from calling the freighter is he sum total of what he’s “supposed to do”? That, rather than being summoned from the ditch in order to actually stop Naomi/Jack, Locke is being summoned simply to play his part in what must happen (because “whatever happened, happened”), and that part involves him failing to stop Jack, in the same way that Charlie is summoned to shut off the jammer and fail in his attempt to summon Penny’s boat? After all, we never learn what work it is that Walt wants John to do, do we?
But, I point out, struggling to somehow combat this line of reasoning,Walt is very much alive and – with absolutely no exceptions – the ‘ghosts’ we’ve seen on and off the Island have all been dead people.
• Whoever chose “Scentless Apprentice” to open the second hour of the finale was a genius. I’d love to say that lines like “Every wet nurse refused to feed him/Electrolytes smell like semen/I promise not to sell your perfumed secrets/There are countless formulas for pressing flowers” have any bearing on Lost whatsoever. But they don’t.
• The name of the funeral parlor that Jack visits in a low-rent, sketchy neighborhood is “Hoffs/Drawlar.” It’s an anagram for “Flashforward” – a cheeky hint that we’re watching one as we follow Jack around and a hint of what’s to come next season. But Hoffs/Drawlar can also be arranged to spell “Dwarf La Frosh,” which is….well, it’s nothing. It is funny, though. Try exclaiming it authoritatively in a French accent: DWARF LA FROSH!
• The sight of Jack alone with Locke’s coffin is the Saddest Thing Ever. Unless you count Jack doing the junkie-shuffle for Oxycodone. That’s also way up there.
Bonnie: “I trust him, and I trust Jacob, and the minute I start questioning orders this whole thing, everything we’re doing here, falls apart.”
• That’s a pretty apt summary of any trust-based power system, be it political, religious, philosophical or scientific. Those kinds of power structures are littered all over Lost, and we’re going to be talking more about their use and their potential ‘meaning.’
• The code for the Looking Glass was programmed by a musician to the tune of “Good Vibrations.” Several people have suggested that Charlie himself somehow programmed the code, thanks, in some way, to the wonky time-travel aspects of the Island. But I’d like to suggest that Dharma was full of musicians and music-loving people (Is that Geronimo Jackson? Well, turn it up, man!) who were capable of doing that. What makes this detail significant to me: Charlie was the only castaway capable of figuring that code out based on the song title. Is this more evidence that the MiB or Jacob was keeping him alive long enough to ‘play his part’?
• I love that Alex and Rousseau’s first mother-daughter bonding experience is the act of tying Ben Linus up.
• How do we know that Sayid Jarrah is an utter badass? He kills a man with his ankles!
• Tom dies hard and mean in this episode, and I’m sad to see him go despite his role as Walt-napper and creepy Other. For most of his on-screen time, he’s been portrayed as kindly (in comparison to the rest of his crew at any rate), and his death feels wrong. Sawyer kills him in cold blood, and while that’s a viscerally-thrilling moment for me as a viewer (remember, he promised Tom that “you and me ain’t done, Zeke”) it’s also a troubling one. Sawyer’s reinventing himself alright, but some of what’s spilling out as he does so is dark, dark stuff.
• In the flashforward Jack demands that the hospital bring his father down and see if he’s drunk. Only problem? His father’s dead. This is the first hint we get that Christian is appearing to Jack off-Island, as well as a good indication of just how troubled Jack’s mental and chemical state is.
• Once Charlie manages to shut off the Looking Glass jammer, Penny pops up on the screen of the station. What is that all about? How does she have access to a Dharma computer? Why is she just sitting there, seemingly waiting, if she has no idea that a freighter (claiming to represent her) is idling 18 miles off the shore? Is it possible that Widmore initially helped to fund Dharma? That he brought Dharma to the Island? Is that why Richard agreed to a ‘truce’? Whatever the case, we know that it isn’t Penny’s boat now.
• The Indestructible Mikhail takes a harpoon to the chest and goes for a dive afterward, making me wonder just what the heck is up with the healing power of the Island. We saw him ventilate Naomi’s lung, allowing her to heal surprisingly quickly, and we’ve now seen him take a HARPOON in the CHEST, yet that only seems to slow him down. Why is Mikhail the figurative energizer bunny? And why is it that Naomi, who’ll take a knife to the back soon enough, can’t shrug that particular wound off? We haven’t seen Mikhail since this moment, so I guess we can assume that being blown up by a grenade was enough to finally kill him – but I can’t help wondering if bits and pieces of his body are slowly knitting themselves together on the ocean floor.
• Notice, also, that the shape surrounding the porthole in the picture above is VERY similar to the shape branded onto Juliet’s back, and the symbol that marks the tree with medical supplies.
• And speaking of Naomi – why is Locke able to knife her through the back, but not able to kill Cooper when it counts? I’d suggest that, partly, it may be because of the emotions that Locke feels toward Cooper, and the lack of emotion he feels for Naomi.
• And speaking of Locke – how is he walking again? I’ll suggest again that I think a person’s will can be focused on the Island in powerful ways. The ‘quantum box’ that Ben refers to isn’t, I don’t think, an actual box. It’s the Island itself. And the desires of people on that Island have the power to make things happen. We’ll get what seems like confirmation of this in the Season 4 premiere.
• The sight of Charlie crossing himself as he dies is haunting – seriously haunting to me. The cut to a crying Aaron is heartbreaking. I sincerely hope that Charlie’s sacrifice has larger redemptive meaning at the end of this story.
Locke: “Jack….You’re not supposed to do this.”
• Does Locke mean that literally? Is Jack ‘breaking the rules’ by successfully contacting the ship? Is he changing ‘destiny’? How can we possibly know one way or the other without some idea of what’s motivating Locke?
• The man on the freighter-end of the satellite phone is George Minkowsky (soon to be played by Fisher Stevens, although it isn’t Stevens’ voice we hear in this episode). As already mentioned, the name Minkowsky has some serious relevance to this show. Let’s take a quick minute to talk about time.
“The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.” –Hermann Minkowski
Hermann Minkowsky was a mathematician who, among other accomplishments that didn’t involve writing hyper-detailed columns on his favorite television show (take that, Hermann!) developed the concept of “Minkowsky space.” In Minkowsky space, the three dimensions of space are combined with a fourth dimension (“time”) in order to create “spacetime.”
If I understand it correctly (and I think I get the gist, but should warn you that I’m terrible with math), part of what developed as a result of the development of the “space/time” concept is the notion of past, present and future existing simultaneously. I’ve described this phenomenon in the past as a book, and I think that analogy still works. We see that concept in action during Season 5, and I believe that the MiB and Jacob’s plans depend, to some degree, on a Minkowskian view of time as evidenced, to point it out one last time, by the preparation of the Ajira runway.
• “Through The Looking Glass” will probably be remembered as the best Season finale that the show ever did. No matter how great the end of the show turns out to be, the moment when we all realized that we’d been tricked – that this wasn’t a flashback but a flashforward – is inarguably stellar. It’s a fantastic way to end the season and to continue making the journey of these people interesting in new ways.
Jack: “I want it to crash, Kate. I don’t care about anyone else on board.”
• During Season 5, some folks were upset by Jack’s apparent callousness toward human life. What kind of a hero is Jack, they asked, if he’s willing to kill a bunch of innocent people in order to return to the Island on Ajira? Distasteful as it might seem, that aspect of Jack’s character was grounded early on in this episode where Jack reveals that he’s been flying back and forth desperate to land on the Island again. Say what you want – I like this aspect of Jack. It humanizes him and gives him such welcome shades of moral grey.
Thus endeth the season. I’ve heard mixed things from people regarding their opinion of Season 4, but I cannot wait to revisit it. I remember even less about it than I did about Season 3 (if that’s possible). Thanks for reading, and remember that you can comment here beneath the article, on Chud’s venerable Message Boards, or on Back To The Island.
* “Grizzly Adams did have a beard!”**
**What a weird reference to decide to include!
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Missed a column? Catch up here:
• Greatest Hits (S3 ep. 21)
• The Man behind The Curtain (S3 ep. 20)
• The Brig (S3 ep. 19)
• D.O.C. (S3 ep. 18)
• Catch 22 (S3 ep. 17)
• One of Us (S3 ep. 16)
• Left Behind (S3 ep. 15)
• Exposé (S3 ep. 14)
• The Man from Tallahasse (S3 ep. 13)
• Par Avion (S3 ep. 12)
• Enter 77 (S3 ep. 11)
• Tricia Tanaka is Dead (S3 ep. 10)
• Stranger in a Strange Land (S3 ep. 09)
• Flashes before your Eyes (S3 ep. 08)
• Not In Portland (S3 ep. 07)
• I Do (S3 ep. 06)
• The Cost of Living (S3 ep. 05)
• Every Man for himself (S3 ep. 04)
• Further Instructions (S3 ep. 03)
• The Glass Ballerina (S3 ep. 02)
• Season 3 Premiere
• Season 2 finale
• Three Minutes (S2 ep. 22)
• ? (S2 ep. 21)
• Two for The Road (S2 ep. 20)
• S.O.S. (S2 ep. 19)
• Dave (S2 ep. 18)
• Lockdown (S2 ep. 17)
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
• One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
• The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
• Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
• The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
• The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
• What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
• Collision (S2, ep. 8)
• The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)