The Beginning of the End (S4, ep. 1)

Charlie: “I am dead. But I’m also here.”

“Lost” is a lot of things: exciting, puzzling, funny, poignant, mysterious, philosophical, and flippant, to name a few. It’s also, from time to time, pretty spooky. I’ve written in the past about the show’s occasional experiments with David Lynch-ian unease and eeriness (how massively freaky is that video-clip? Laura’s scream is pure nightmare-fuel to me) – experiments that have been largely confined to brief moments.

Not anymore. If I were required to pick one word that best describes the mood and tenor of Season 4’s premiere, one word that summed up the feeling of this episode as a whole, that word would be “haunted,” as in:

1. Inhabited or frequented by ghosts: a haunted castle.
2. Preoccupied, as with an emotion, memory, or idea; obsessed: His haunted imagination gave him no peace.
3. Disturbed; distressed; worried: Haunted by doubt he again turned to law books on the subject.
4. To recur persistently to the consciousness of; remain with: Memories of love haunted him.

Each of those definitions comes into play during Season 4’s terrific premiere. Hurley is haunted by the dead and the living, by the ghost of Charlie and the man called Abaddon. Jack is haunted by the Island, and by the as-yet-unseen meeting between him and Locke. Some of the castaways are haunted by the unknown quantity that is the off-shore freighter. And the persistence of memory haunts them all.

The Beginning of the End is something of a spook house thrill ride – all creeping dread and hairpin story-curves, leaving us with the sense of something vast just beneath the characters’ feet, waiting to swallow them whole.

Thoughts:

• This is the first premiere not to feature an opening eye as its first image.

• Mmmm…Vodka and OJ – Breakfast of Champions. Keep it up, Jack. You’ll be an Olympic alcoholic in no time.

• Hurley’s interrogator in the Police station was Ana Lucia’s old partner. He’s got a good face to play a cop. This episode obliquely sets up the fact that the Oceanic 6 are lying about what happened to them. I don’t remember being entirely clear on/satisfied with the reasons for the lies, but I’m looking forward to revisiting this whole storyline and seeing whether it holds up better for me the second time around.

• Things get freaky quickly in this episode. Hurley’s vision of a hooded Charlie swimming up to smash the station’s one-way glass and seemingly flood the room with water is like something out of Stephen King’s “It.” Charlie’s hand has the words “They Need You” written on it, instead of “Not Penny’s Boat,” but I couldn’t make that detail out while watching the show. Here’s a screen cap of the image that I found when I googled “Charlie’s hand Beginning of the End”:

Who does “they” refer to? It’s not the castaways still on the Island, at least not if their need refers to the Island’s debilitating time-jumps (they need Locke to turn the wheel, they don’t need Hurley). This is another aspect of the S4/S5 storyline that I remain unclear on. Here’s the only scenario that really makes ‘sense’ to me as of now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this also. Use the comments function below this column, the Chud Message Boards, or the Back To The Island comments and let me know what you think:

The Oceanic 6 need to travel back to the Island both the bring Locke’s body and activate the final steps in the MiB’s loophole, as well as to play their potential part in Jacob’s vague, unelaborated plan. As such, both ‘sides’ in the conflict need the castaways – and this is the ‘they’ that Charlie’s hand refers to.

• Can we all agree that Rose’s advice to Claire (“Make sure you treat him reeeeaaaaal good”) is creepy and uncomfortable? Ugh. I like Rose, but the leering look she gives Claire (reproduced to horrific effect above) makes me feel all squirmy and gross. Yes, gross.

• Ben’s attempt to save Alex’s life from the forces on the freighter by telling Rousseau to take her away has an unexpected effect: I feel sorry for him.

Hurley: “I wanna do a cannonball.”

• God, I love Hurley – especially in this episode. Watching the character’s time-shuffled arc from blissful cannonball to squirrelly-eyed mental patient is saddening and (here’s that word again) haunting. Pre-cannonball, Hurley is on top of the world. He thinks they’re being rescued, he’s sure that the ‘cursed’ lottery money has been given away due to his presumed death, and he’s just helped to save his friends’ lives. Post-cannonball, his world is shattered. Never has the clear dividing line between joy and sorrow looked so tropical and inviting.

• Hurley’s ability to cut through the bull-puckey and straight to the point (“HEY! Where’s Charlie?”) remains one of his greatest assets, and his concern for his loved ones over anything else is what makes me love him.

Great Hurley Line: “You don’t wait with warnings – you warn.”

Abaddon: “Are they still alive?”

• Enter Matthew Abaddon. As portrayed by Lance Reddick (of The Wire and Fringe), Abaddon appears as a creepy, ominous figure – haunting Hurley like a momentary specter. Later episodes will reveal that Abaddon works for/with Charles Widmore and that, like Locke, he claims to have experienced a miracle. We know next to nothing about his life, his motives, or his origins, but we have his name. On this show, names can be powerful indicators or apparent jokes (see: Mikhail Bakunin, whose name introduced some potentially potent philosophical subtext into the show, as well as John Locke, whose philosopher namesake was almost diametrically-opposed to the man we know from the show). I suspect that Abaddon’s name is the former – an indicator less of his own personality or character than of the potential nature of the Island. Let’s dig in.

“You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Abaddon?” – Psalm 88:8-11

“They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.” – Revelation 9:1-11

The book of Revelation uses the name Abaddon to refer to “the angel of the Abyss.” In Hebrew scriptures, the word Abaddon is interpreted to mean “place of destruction,” or “realm of the dead.” There have been a number of clues to indicate that the Island is a “realm of the dead.” Here are just a few of them:

1) The presence of the name “Apollo” on the show in multiple locations and in multiple situations. We’ve seen it pop up on candy bars, we’ve seen it on the side of homicidal buses, and we’ve caught a glimpse of it on the wall of Anthony Cooper’s well-appointed pad. What does Apollo have to do with Abaddon? Revelation 9 calls the angel Abaddon by its supposed Greek name: Apollyon, a version of the Greek name “Apollo”:

“In one manuscript, instead of Apollyon the text reads “Apollo,” the Greek god of death and pestilence as well as of the sun, music, poetry, crops and herds, and medicine. Apollyon is no doubt the correct reading. But the name Apollo (Gk Apollon) was often linked in ancient Greek writings with the verb apollymi or apollyo, “destroy.” From this time of Grotius, “Apollyon” has often been taken here to be a play on the name Apollo. The locust was an emblem of this god, who poisoned his victims, and the name “Apollyon” may be used allusively in Revelation to attack the pagan god and so indirectly the Roman emperor Domitian, who liked to be regarded as Apollo incarnate.” -Anchor Bible Dictionary

Interesting, eh? I’ve already discussed some intriguing connections between certain Apollonian myths and Lost. You can read those musings right here.

2) The presence of the term “Underworld.” The red-and-black “warning” hieroglyphics seen in the Swan Station whenever the clock ran down past zero translate roughly to mean “Underworld,” the Egyptian realm of the dead. “Underworld” is also a common translation of the Hebrew word “Sheol,” the Jewish “abode of the dead:

It is very deep (Prov. ix. 18; Isa. lvii. 9); and it marks the point at the greatest possible distance from heaven (Job xi. 8; Amos ix. 2; Ps. cxxxix. 8). The dead descend or are made to go down into it; the revived ascend or are brought and lifted up from it (I Sam. ii. 6; Job vii. 9; Ps. xxx. 4; Isa. xiv. 11, 15). Sometimes the living are hurled into Sheol before they would naturally have been claimed by it (Prov. i. 12; Num. xvi. 33; Ps. lv. 16, lxiii. 10), in which cases the earth is described as “opening her mouth” (Num. xvi. 30).

Sheol is spoken of as a land (Job x. 21, 22); but ordinarily it is a place with gates (ib. xvii. 16, xxxviii. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 10; Ps. ix. 14), and seems to have been viewed as divided into compartments (Prov. vii. 27), with “farthest corners” (Isa. xiv. 15; Ezek. xxxii. 23, Hebr.; R. V. “uttermost parts of the pit”), one beneath the other (see Jew. Encyc. v. 217, s. v. Eschatology). Here the dead meet (Ezek. xxxii.; Isa. xiv.; Job xxx. 23) without distinction of rank or condition—the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave… The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life.

… Sheol is never satiated (Prov. xxx. 20); she “makes wide her soul,” i.e., increases her desire (Isa. v. 14) and capacity. In these passages Sheol is personified; it is described also as a pasture for sheep with death as the shepherd (Ps. xlix. 15). As a rule Sheol will not give up its own.

That description of a place that is never satisfied, increasing its desire and capacity, a place which hurls men and women under the earth to a land that has been divided into compartments should sound familiar to a fan of Lost. It evokes the imagery of Rousseau’s crew being pulled beneath the Temple, a place that, as we’ve seen in Season 5, contains many levels beneath the surface. It evokes the image of John Locke being pulled into a hole in the earth by the Monster, as if the earth were ‘opening her mouth.’ It summons up the memories of the many ‘ghosts’ that seem to populate the Island, continuing ‘after a fashion their earthly life.’

3) Charlotte’s maybe-literal claim that “this place is death,” implying rather colorfully that the Island embodies/augurs death and the dead.

4) The presences of ‘ghosts,’ both on and off the Island, all of whom (with the possible exception of ‘ghost-Walt’) have died on the Island.

5) The hieroglyphic carving seen under the Temple just before Ben encounters the Smoke Monster. The carving portrays Anubis, the Egyptian Protector of the Dead, seeming to charm/command/stand against a shape that could well be the Monster.

All of which points somewhat-persuasively to the notion that, while the Island may not literally be Purgatory/Sheol, it may in fact be responsible in a mythic sense for the stories of afterlife realms which have been created by different cultures over human history. It may be the origin point for the numerous human myths which describe a Sheol/Purgatory/Underworld-like afterlife. This is very much in keeping with what I’d say is one of my central pet-theories about the show – that the Island is meant to represent a place from which myths and legends are born, rather than a literal representation of any one mythical place. That is to say, I believe that the Island is the source of inspiration for such myths as Hades, Atlantis or Dilmun – but that the Island is neither literally Hades, nor Atlantis.

None of the above is meant to suggest that the Island is wholly evil/forbidding/a place of death. We’ve also seen that the Island can be a place of life – a place where men and women are healed and lives are changed for the better. I think this dualism is intentional on the part of the show, and I believe that the Island is meant to contain and represent the ideas of light and dark, black and white, heaven and hell, coexisting however uneasily. Like the name Apollo/Apollyon, a name that is a mirror of itself, and that reflects two sides of a divine ideal – life and death, progress and entropy – the Island can represent hope and change at the same time that it embodies suffering and stagnation.

• Two other things worth noting about this scene: (1) the chalkboard behind them in this photo features an Island, a wooden ship, a shark, and what a sun that’s similar to the sun pictured in the “Eye M Sick” mural from Season 2; (2) Reddick is seated with Hurley in front of a chessboard.

• We see Sawyer making a genuine attempt to reach out to Hurley in the aftermath of Charlie’s death. It’s touching, and while Hurley brushes Sawyer off, there’s the sense that our favorite con man is beginning to ‘wake up’ from the stupor that Kate identified in the finale.

• Returning to the theme of hauntings, Hurley somehow finds his way to “Jacob’s” cabin, and this episode takes another turn at exploring the eerie, Lynch-ian vibe it’s increasingly able to summon up and sustain. 

The way in which Hurley finds himself at the cabin suggests that he’s unconsciously able to locate it, that whatever force inhabits the cabin wants Hurley to find it, or that another force on the Island (Jacob?) helps Hurley to find it. The change in sound and atmosphere as Hurley slips through the jungle and comes across the shambling shack is very effective and sets a mood that would be hard to describe as anything other than forboding/spooky/uneasy. There’s a palpable sense that the cabin is, in some sense, a ‘bad’ place, a sense that will be reinforced when Locke re-enters it and encounters ‘Christian’ – a sense that will seemingly be confirmed by the way in which Illyana burns it down at the end of Season 5.

• The portrait of a dog makes another brief appearance inside the cabin. I’ve theorized that this picture may be hinting at the Smoke Monster/MiB as the cabin’s true inhabitant, given that the Monster is nicknamed ‘Cerberus’ on the blast door map, and that Cerberus was traditionally depicted as a dog (albeit a three-headed dog).

• The lamp that was knocked over during Locke and Ben’s previous visit has been seemingly restored/replaced. This may hint to the nature of time in this place, or it may simply indicate that the cabin’s resident has done some recent lamp-shopping.

• Probably the most intriguing/important element of Hurley’s encounter is the appearance of Christian Shephard in “Jacob’s” chair. He’s visible for mere moments, but his appearance signifies his growing importance to the episodes ahead. We aren’t sure what ‘side’ Christian is on, but I’ve said from the beginning that I get a very eerie, uneasy vibe from the ‘ghost’ of Jack’s father, and I don’t particularly trust him. I suspect he’s the MiB’s main emissary, and we’ll go into more detail on C-Shep as Season 4 rolls on.

• Ahh! The Terrifying Eye! The sudden (and, for this viewer, extremely frightening) appearance of an unidentified man staring back at Hurley from the window serves to plunge this episode even further into spookyville. The actor’s face reminds me Powers Booth for some reason (Cy Tolliver in Deadwood), and what’s interesting is that it’s pretty clearly not Christian. Is this the MiB? I have no real idea. But the feeling of this episode-as-haunted-house is at it’s strongest in this scene.

• What to make of the cabin’s reappearance after Hurley runs away from it? Or the way in which it’s door opens for him, as if inviting him inside – or suggesting that someone is about to step out of the doorway? Hurley’s ability to see/find the cabin obviously has significance/meaning. I’m hoping that this rewatch may help to tease some of that meaning out.

• In the column for the Season 3 finale, I wrote of my theory that the Island itself is the “magic box” that Ben referred to previously in his conversation with Locke, and that a person’s mind may be able to affect the reality of the Island in some ways. I think Hurley’s actions give us two big hints regarding this during this episode. First, he seems to will away the cabin on the Island. Second, he seems to will away the ‘ghost’ of Charlie. And speaking of which…

• Jacob comments to Hurley that perhaps his ability to see dead people like Charlie is a ‘gift.’ If so, it’s a spooky gift that lands people in mental institutions. It may also be a gift that is somehow connected to mental illness and/or instability. Hurley isn’t the only one who sees Charlie’s ‘ghost’ in this episode – making this sighting different than his visions of “Dave” in Season 2. One of his fellow patients at the Santa Rosa facility sees Charlie as well, and seems to find him threatening.


• Charlie’s reappearance to Hurley sort of blew my mind the first time I watched this episode. This is the first confirmed appearance of a ‘ghost’ manifesting itself off the Island, but it won’t be the last. It’s impossible to tell whether Charlie’s appearance here is meant to help or hurt Hurley, but it certainly disturbs him. I’ve theorized that the ‘ghosts’ on the Island are manifestations of the Island itself – that, like the planet Solaris, the Island creates these apparitions to communicate with the castaways.

Charlie seems to be physically present (he slaps Hurley, hard), but so did Dave (who also seemed to slap Hurley). I’m not sure what this says about whether or not these ‘ghosts’ are corporeal. Notice, finally, that Charlie’s dressed like a rock star, not a castaway. He’s sporting some serious sunglasses (ones that, perhaps notably, hide his eyes from sight when we first see them) and appears to be extremely comfortable with the idea of suddenly appearing in front of his old friend. His demeanor isn’t dissimilar from Christian’s. Both ‘ghosts’ are remarkably nonchalant.


JACKFACE!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted some good Jackface – I fear the joke will wear thin if I go to the Jackface-well too often. But this is great Jackface, and it’s one hell of a dramatic moment. Jack’s become so unhinged (somewhat inexplicably) that he’s willing to shoot Locke IN THE FACE without hesitation. And I’m honestly not sure why. Locke hasn’t prevented their ‘rescue’ – just impeded it. The freighter folks are coming; Locke was unsuccessful.

• The episode gives us a mirror-image of Season One’s split between the beach and the caves, with some of the castaways opting to hide from the freighter foliks with Locke, and some of them opting to stay with Jack at the beach. I’m entirely unclear as to why Rose would suddenly want to leave the Island or why Bernard would so easily support that stance, knowing that she’s apparently cancer-free while she’s on these strange shores. Can anyone explain that to me?

• Speaking of Jack’s emotions and well-being, the show seems to be making a point of showing us that Jack is “off” somehow. When he and Hurley play an impromptu game of HORSE, we’re literally shown that he’s off his game and unable to sink a single shot, whereas Hurley sinks every rock he puts up.

Hurley: “I don’t think we did the right thing, Jack. I think it wants us to come back. And it’s gonna do everything it can – ”

• In an episode full of hauntings and the haunted, this line stands out. Hurley is suggesting here that the Island itself has begun to haunt the castaways – that ‘it’ wants them back, that ‘it’ will exert effort in order to ensure that they return. The ambiguity of this – being unaware of why ‘it’ wants them, what ‘it’ wants from them – is delicious. It’s my sincere hope that some of this ambiguity is preserved all the way to the show’s final episode.

• The episode ends with our first glimpse of one of Lost’s most popular characters – Daniel Faraday. Faraday is enormously important to Lost’s narrative in a number of ways, and we’ll be discussing the importance of his name in the next column.

• Final note: One of the Rewatch column’s readers passed along a nice copy of the “Letter of Truce” between Horace Goodspeed and Richard Alpert, which was included in the Dharma Initiative Special Edition Season 5 DVD box set (that’s a mouthful). I’ve written a brief commentary on the letter and the hints/clues contained within it. You can read about it by clicking this link.

*****

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Season 3

• Through The Looking Glass (S3 ep. 22 & 23)
• 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

• 
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)