Sundown (S6, ep. 6)
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:8-9
Anti-Locke: “What if I said you could have anything…in the entire world?”
How do you define a “selfless” act? How do you define a “selfish” one?
More than any other, those are questions that, in my addled, twitterpated mind, hang heaviest over “Sundown,” this week’s spectacularly exciting, season-energizing episode. Good and Evil, black and white, moral certainty – these are concepts we embrace, that we champion, that some of us define ourselves by. But such clear-cut concepts are arguably much more nebulous than most of us would like, or would like to admit. God’s Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Kill,”not “Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except…” and yet there are absolutely situations in which the purposeful death of another human being is necessary. Would I kill to protect my wife? My family? I suspect I would, despite the fact that I believe murder is wrong. Black and White morality is comforting, but it arguably isn’t realistic. Not if we’re being realistic about the world.
And that’s as it should be. Real life isn’t a fantasy novel. There are no “evil wizards” out to destroy us (despite what Orly Taitz and her idiotic ilk might have you believe). There are choices – choices that hurt and choices that heal, choices that forge community and choices that isolate; selfish choices and selfless choices that are usually blended together, containing each other and mixing until it can be difficult to tell what “selfless” and “selfish” really mean – which is one reason why the idea of simple, clear-cut morality is so seductive.
Lost’s most impressive accomplishment this season reflects that ambiguity, that lack of certainty and sure moral ground. With six episodes under our collective belts, it’s entirely unclear whether Jacob and his plans can be trusted, whether the Others are the dangerous jungle-hillbilly-ninjas we’ve always seen them as or something more/less, whether the Man in Black’s fury is righteous or un, and what any of this truly means to the castaways and their respective futures.
If this weren’t Lost I’d be worried. But Sundown went a long way toward reassuring the audience that, like Ben Linus, the writers “always have a plan.” We may not be able to tell whether Jacob is “good” or “bad” or (much more likely) something in between, but in the brutal, bloody results of Anti-Locke’s crusade, we can see that this “angry man” will stop at nothing to free himself. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because he’s coming – and they can’t stop him.
• While this week’s episode title serves as a mirror for the Season 1 episode “House of the Rising Sun,” its content actually reflects the Sayid-centric “Solitary.” That’s a nice head-fake on the part of Lost’s writers, since so far each Season 6 episode has directly mirrored the order and the character focus for the first Season 1 episodes.
• Like every other Season 6 episode so far, Sundown features a shot of Sayid gazing at his own reflection. Unlike the other moments of literal and figurative castaway reflection however, Sayid averts his eyes after only a moment. Is this because he sees Nadia coming? Or is it because he doesn’t like looking at himself? Cannot truly face himself? If that’s so, this episode’s ending brings us a Sayid who willingly stares into his own darkness, embracing it like an alcoholic who’s not only tumbled from the wagon, but has willingly embraced the demon in the bottle. Kudos to Chud commenter Richard Dickson, who raised the alcoholism analogy in the Season 6 discussion thread. It’s a good comparison as far as I’m concerned.
• The revelation that Nadia is married to Sayid’s brother in the “off-Island universe” is a tragic one. In fact, this entire episode plays like an extended tragedy. On the evidence of this episode, it seems as though Sayid is fated to fall into the same patterns of solitude and violence no matter when or where he might be. But unlike the past few episodes, Sayid’s off-Island story doesn’t have a tidy conclusion – it’s cliffhanger ending guarantees that we’ll see off-Island Sayid again, and assures us that his story isn’t over. And therein lies just one of the many interesting mysteries that Sundown features. I’ll talk more about this, and about what it might mean, further down in the column.
• Off-Island Sayid appears to make his living by translating oil contracts, reflecting a relative stability that the Sayid we’ve come to know never managed to achieve. But I’m wondering, given his past and his rust-free hurtin’ and murderin’ skills, whether that’s the truth. The job that Sayid claims to have would be the perfect cover for a CIA agent, for instance. It would also be a good line of work for an assassin to pretend at.
• Nadia’s precocious tots find her picture in “Uncle Sayid’s” bag (how weird is it to hear someone call the Iraqi-Attacki machine “Uncle Sayid?”). Note that it’s a cropped version of the same photo that Sayid was shown when he was recruited by the CIA to work for them, as seen in “The Greater Good.” Which is neat, if you ask me. Is it also another hint that Sayid is working for the Central Intelligence Agency?
Dogen: “For every man there is a scale. On one side of the scale there is good. On the other side, evil. This machine tells us how the scale is balanced. And yours – tipped the wrong way.”
• Dogen and the Others apparently have a “evil detector.” That’s handy. And if we’re honest, it’s a little…lame. That is, unless what we’re hearing is the “myth,” as opposed to the science. Assuming that the machine really does detect something troubling in people, I don’t think that Dogen’s magical evil machine actually registers “evil.” I’m inclined to think that it instead measures energy – electromagnetic energy to be precise. Did you know that the electric charges can be either positive or negative? Neither did I, but I know it now. Thanks, Lost!
I’d like to propose that Sayid’s been “negatively charged.” That this is what the machine is measuring. And that charge has been building since Sayid’s return from the grave. I suspect that it’s responsible for reanimating him, in the same general sense that a defibrillator revives someone with a stopped heart.
Sayid: “You think you know me but you don’t. I am a good man.”
• This is the first real hint that something is “wrong” with Sayid (and really, how sad is that?). Just a few episodes ago, sure that he was dying, Sayid had resigned his own soul to hell. Now he’s a good man? There are two ways to interpret this: Sayid, like Eko before him, has come through his guilt and found acceptance of his past and a renewed desire to be a better man. Or, Sayid isn’t totally the Sayid we’ve known – he’s changed in some indefinable way due to this “negative charging.” Given what we see by this episode’s ending, it seems safe to say that it’s the latter.
• The Sayid/Dogen fight is blissfully long and so much fun to watch. Up til now, Sayid’s most worthy opponent was Martin Keamy, but Dogen raises the bar way over that actor’s ridiculously tall head. I’m old, so I’d have preferred a few less quick cuts, but the choreography in this sequence, and the way that both Andrews and Sanada sell their characters’ conflict, make it damned thrilling.
Anti-Locke: “I always do what I say.”
• We rejoin Anti-Locke, aka the Man in Black, aka the Smoke Monster aka Cuddles McSweetski, and his ZombieClaire acolyte as they stand outside the ring of ash which protects the Temple in some undefined way (except that, apparently, it doesn’t, at least not in-and-of itself – more on this below). We learn that Anti-Locke has promised to return Aaron to Claire in exchange for her help, and Anti-Locke assures her that he’ll make good on his promise by telling her that he always does what he says. Only, that’s a lie.
We know it’s a lie because we’ve seen him lie at least twice before. He told Sun that he’d help her find Jin, and then promptly told Ben that he had no intention of doing so. He was lying to one of them. Next, Anti-Locke fibbed again by telling Claire that the Others had her baby (or her “baybehhhhh” in Claire-speak). He isn’t the straight shooter he’d like people to think he is.
• Anti-Locke tells Claire that he’ll only hurt the ones “who won’t listen.” That leaves me wondering why? Why does he offer armistice to the Others who are willing to join him? And why does he then kill the remaining Others? What’s the reasoning behind this? It seems to me that Anti-Locke needs to do something in order to leave the Island or he’d have left already. He’s following a specific course – “rules,” one might say – in how he’s going about accomplishing this something. So what does he need a group of people for?
Let’s wander off into speculation-ville for a minute. It seems reasonable to me to assume that whatever Locke needs to do in order to leave the Island probably involves descending into the Island’s “underworld,” at least in part. After all, we’re going to need to learn something about the spaces beneath the Island in order to learn more about the Island itself – its “purpose,” if any, its history – and one way to do that organically is to follow Anti-Locke down the “rabbit hole,” so to speak. There are a number of caves/passages that we’ve seen leading into the underworld before, but none of them seem to go deep enough for what I assume are Anti-Locke’s purposes. So where might that entrance be?
It might be buried somewhere on the Island, as yet unearthed, just as the Swan Hatch was buried in Season 1. Recall that Locke discovers the Swan and unearths it, recruiting Boone to help him open the Hatch. Will Season 6 echo that event? I suspect it will. And if you’ll allow me to edge out just a little further on the treelimb of sanity: remember the Question Mark, i.e. the Pearl Station? It was the Station supposedly used to observe and record the behavior of the Swan Station team. It was marked by salted earth, which created the shape of a Question Mark, and it was covered by the beechcraft plane.
It occurs to me that the Black Rock – another unusual vessel located on the Island – would be a perfect, enormous barrier to anyone who tried moving it on their own. Anything located beneath it would be unreachable, really. You could try blowing the ship up with the dynamite it carries, but I imagine that would risk collapsing whatever passage might be under it. So, short of gathering a large group of people to shift that ship, you’d be out of luck.
Oh wait – now Anti-Locke has a large group of people.
• Sayid’s brother asks him to hurt the men who are threatening Omer’s family, in what can only be an intentional echo of the moment we witnessed in Season 5, when a young Sayid killed a chicken for his brother when Omer could not bring himself to do it. And might I add that Omer is a jackass in this scene? I understand (in the theoretical sense only thank God) his desperation, but the way he talks to Sayid is still awful.
Great Sayid Line: “Apparently, I’m evil.”
• Miles tells Sayid that the Others didn’t save his life. He was dead for two hours. So what brought him back? Was it Anti-Locke? If so, how? Was it the Island itself? If so, how?
• Claire enters the Temple and tells Dogen that Anti-Locke, aka Smokey, wants to talk to him but Dogen refuses to leave. He tells Claire that Anti-Locke will kill him, and while this seems like a selfish act, it will turn out by episode’s end that it’s actually also a protective act. Somehow, Dogen’s life maintains a protective “aura” around the temple, whether figurative or literal, and until Dogen is dead the Smoke Monster is unable/forbidden to enter the Temple. Notice that this is the second time that Anti-Locke has relied on someone else to do his killing for him. He seems to have no problem in dispatching random Others and mercenaries, but cannot kill certain specific people. Instead, he’s needed to talk other people into murdering on his behalf – first with Ben, who slew Jacob, and now with Sayid, who drowns Dogen. It’s as if each death allows Anti-Locke/Smokey to proceed along to the next step in leaving the Island – as if he’s using these deaths to help unlock his cage.
• When Dogen refuses to go, Claire tells him to send someone who Anti-Locke won’t kill – so Dogen looks for Hurley and Jack. Which is interesting. Hurley and Jack were specifically summoned away from the Temple by Jacob, in part to protect them from Anti-Locke (as we learned in Lighthouse). Dogen’s seeming choice to send them first makes me wonder whether he would have asked Jack or Hurley to go all stabby on Anti-Locke the way that he asks Sayid.
Dogen: “She’s a confused girl under the influence of an angry man.”
• Dogen appears to know that Anti-Locke/Smokey was once a man. Again, this leaves me wondering about the power structure on the Island. Richard and Dogen both know Smokey’s basic nature. Ben did not. Is this connected to the fact that Ben was brought to the Temple to be healed? To the fact that Jacob never showed his face to Ben?
Dogen: “He will come to you as someone you know. Someone who has died. As soon as you see him, plunge this deep into his chest. If you allow him to speak…it is already too late.”
• Dogen’s warning confirms for us that Smokey/the Man in Black has been taking the forms of the dead on the Island, something that I’ve been theorizing since I began the Rewatch Column last summer.
Dogen: “You said that there is still good in your soul. Then prove it.”
• Here’s where my real confusion sets in: If Dogen knows that the knife won’t kill Anti-Locke, then he’s got know interest in letting Sayid prove his goodness. He’s sending Sayid out intentionally to be killed or “claimed.” That’s a truly crappy thing to do and I’d like to believe that this isn’t a possibility, but we’ve already seen that Dogen was willing to kill Sayid through a surrogate when he gave Jack a poison pill for Sayid and called it “medicine.” So, to quote the great Vizzini, I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
And yet, we watch as Dogen unearths an intricately-carved box from a hiding place beneath a flower bed, we see him remove an ancient-looking ceremonial dagger that qualifies as a pretty elaborate sham, and we know that Dogen probably does want Anti-Locke dead. So perhaps he’s being sincere when he offers Sayid a chance at redemption, meaning I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. This second option actually seems somewhat likely, since I can’t imagine Dogen being comfortable letting Jack or Hurley get talked over to the “dark side.”
Let’s assume that he is sincere, and believes that this dagger can kill Anti-Locke. It clearly doesn’t do a very hot job of it. Meaning that either (1) Sayid let Anti-Locke speak, which someone renders him invulnerable to being STABBED IN THE CHEST with a carving knife, or (2) Dogen has been lied to by Jacob, and led to believe the dagger would work when it would not, or (3) the knife has worked, in some mysterious way, and we just haven’t seen it yet. Maybe being stabbed by the knife “infects” Anti-Locke in a reversal of Sayid and Claire’s “infections.”
What do you think?
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