Desmond: “So what is it?”
Daniel: “I’m a musician. I have no idea. So I took it to a friend of mine at Caltech. He’s a math whiz. He said this is quantum mechanics. He said these equations are so advanced that only someone who’d been studying physics their entire life could have come up with them.”
• Enough teasing. Why are Charlie, Desmond and Daniel all experiencing these moments of “enlightenment” and “Oceanic feeling”? The simplest, most direct explanation is that all three characters have been exposed to massive amounts of electromagnetic energy and/or radiation. Charlie and Desmond were exposed during the Swan failsafe “detonation,” and Daniel was exposed through his experimentation.
Remember also that Jack, Sawyer, Miles, Hurley, Kate, Jin and Juliet were all present at the detonation of Jughead – an event that would have released enormous amounts of electromagnetic energy and radiation, had it worked (and what were Juliet’s dying words? “It worked.”). All of them were at ground zero. The two “flash sideways” characters who have not, so far as I remember, been similarly exposed to these energies, are Sun and Ben. But, Ben was exposed to the energy at the Wheel (and so was the real John Locke – who was also present at the Swan implosion).
What’s the significance of this? Remember the maze.
The idea of consciousness-traveling has been a part of Lost since Season 3, and back in the Rewatch column for The Constant (symmetry!) I talked about what I thought the end-game of the show might be. I discussed Daniel’s experiment with Eloise the rat, and I laid down the crazy like syrup over pancakes:
“We know that it takes high levels of exposure to electromagnetism OR radiation in order to send a person’s (or an animal’s) mind backward or forward in time. We’re told this explicitly by Daniel, and we’re shown this directly as Daniel hits his lab rat (I love that he’s named the rat after his mother – a simultaneously affectionate and insulting gesture) with his Cosmic Ray Gun.
We’re then shown how Eloise the rat is able to run a maze that she’s never encountered before – because her mind traveled forward to later in the day, at a point of time in which Daniel had already taught her how to run the maze. The rat’s mind snapped forward to a point where the rat’s body had already trained to know how to get from one end of the maze to the other without hitting any dead ends. The rat’s mind then snapped back, and it seemed to retain either the actual memory of how to run the maze, or a kind of instinctual subconscious memory. Either way, same result. The rat runs the maze with ease.
Here’s where I lay down the crazy and invite you to partake:
Ben: “I feel for you, John. I really do. You keep hitting dead ends.”
I’d like to suggest that the maze in this scene acts as a metaphor for the lives of the characters on the show – for the events that we’ve witnessed so far, up to and including the Season 5 finale. The castaways are the rats, and they’re running the figurative maze of their lives – a maze that, as every human being can attest, seems complex and fraught with dead ends to them as they move through it, but which would appear more understandable and more navigable if viewed from an elevated perspective (with hindsight, one might say).
With the detonation of Jughead in the Season 5 finale, the castaways have unleashed a massive amount of radiation – the very thing needed to send their own consciousnesses backward in time. That’s what I think is going to happen, and what has already happened before – Jack and Co’s minds are going to go hurtling backward in time, and in doing so they will retain their knowledge (probably on an instinctual, subconscious level) of what they’ve done, right or wrong, in advancing as far as we’ve seen them advance by the end of Season 5 . They’ve been trained – presumably through Jacob – to more effectively run their life-maze, and I believe that part of the Season 6 storyline will require those castaways who were present at the detonation to attempt to make different decisions this time as they run the maze of the show again.
Daniel: “These are all variables. It’s random, it’s chaotic. Every equation needs stability – something known. It’s called a constant.”
But what about “Whatever happened, happened?” Doesn’t that mean that the castaways can’t make different decisions? That’s a good question. We’ve been told, time and time again, that the past can’t be changed. But we’ve also been told that people are variables in the constant of time. If time is a river, then individual actions are like pebbles dropped in that river – each making small ripples and affecting the overall stream in minute ways that don’t arguably ‘matter’ in the greater scheme of things. But, if I understand Daniel’s reasoning correctly from the end of Season 5, if enough pebbles get dropped in a certain place, the cumulative effect of them can cause the stream to change in some way.
To put it another way: imagine that the past is a maze. Its walls are unchanging, unalterable – a physical representation of “whatever happened, happened.” The choices that a rat can make in running this maze are limited, but there are still choices – pivotal moments that can lead a rat to a dead end or to the exit. Those choices, made by individuals, are variables, and they can make the difference between successfully running the maze and becoming trapped in it forever.
Jack: “We have to go back, Kate.”
Throughout the course of the show we’ve watched as Jack has struggled with a seemingly-instinctual desire to “go back,” to “fix things.” What if this bone-deep drive comes, not just from Jack’s personality, but from the forgotten memory of having done all of this before? On a deep level – a subconscious-memory/Karmic level (depending on how you want to describe this) – Jack is aware that he’s made wrong turns, and he’s aching to put it right. He wants to go back to the beginning of the maze and start again.
Philip K. Dick’s book “VALIS,” which we discussed in the last column, talks about the concept of “anamnesis” – a word that roughly means “the loss of forgetfulness,” a state in which he remembered things that he did not know he had forgotten. This sounds very similar to the idea of remembering “past lives,” and both concepts are nifty ways to describe what the castaways may be experiencing – a feeling that this has all happened before, that they’ve forgotten something important – the looping backward of their minds into their ‘past’ bodies – a process which they may be repeating over and again……
Finally we know that the premiere episode of the final season is titeld “LA X.” I’m going to suggest that “LA X” is meant to be read as “Los Angeles 10” – suggesting that the consciousness’ of the castaways who were present at the detonation of Jughead will be hurtled back into their past bodies, giving them the knowledge of the past seasons while allowing them to use that knowledge in order to make it to the end of the figurative maze, and that this is the tenth iteration of this cycle – a cycle that greatly resembles reincarnation. Why should ‘reincarnation’ sound familiar to a Lost fan? Why, because it’s an anagram for “Canton-Rainer” – a fictional company whose logo appears in Season 5.”
To some extent (emphasis on “some”), that’s what we’re seeing now – people realizing that there’s another “world” out there, recognizing it in ways both large (ala Desmond) and small (Jack’s lingering look at a curbside Kate after the flight lands). There’s an instinctual, “déjà vu-ish” color to some of the castaways interactions in this season, and to their copious “reflective” moments in the season so far. Rather than one universe “winning” over the other, it seems more like the consciousnesses of these castaways are beginning to potentially rise and converge, creating a sense of consciousness that may be similar to Eloise the rat’s “augmented” senses in the maze. This effect seems to be happening most violently/powerfully to those people who were exposed to the highest doses of EM/radiation. Thanks to Daniel’s odd Zeta-beam contraption, the rat’s mind was sent into the “future” and came back with knowledge of how to better run its maze, and thanks to the mention of Quantum Mechanics in this episode, it now seems as if the rat’s consciousness may have experienced a blast of “potential possibilities,” which would also give it the ability to run the maze (since we might assume, in those varying possibilities, that the rat had run all the possible combinations of the maze).
As I’d stated above, this basic idea highly resembles the idea of reincarnation and “past lives” in the way that it functions (because Desmond is slipping “backward” through time when he enters the off-Island universe – meaning that either this other reality lags a few years behind ours, or that Desmond traveled through both time and space).
Daniel: “Okay. Imagine something, something terrible is about to happen. Something catastrophic, and the only way to stop it from happening is by releasing a huge amount of energy. Like setting off a nuclear bomb.”
Desmond: “You wanna set off a nuclear bomb.”
Daniel: “Just listen, what if, this, all this, what if this wasn’t suppose to be our life? What if we had some other life and for some reason, we changed things? I don’t want to set off a nuclear bomb, Mr. Hume. I think I already did.”
• So, if we’re to believe in the potential truth of what Daniel is saying, then the Jughead explosion somehow either caused the off-Island universe, or shifted it in dramatic ways. If I’m even close to right, it may be that their exposure to EM and radiation has allowed their consciousnesses to contact the Oceanic state, and this in turn gives them a sense of slight deja vu, of befuddled recognition and of knowledge that seems to come from nowhere (“His name is Aaron.” “It’s a boy.” “Because I bloody doooooo!!!”).
• Back in the Rewatch Column for Some Like It Hoth, I theorized that the Jughead detonation might function as a kind of “Black Swan” event:
Daniel returns to the Island dressed in an ominous black Swan suit. “Black Swan” is a term used to refer to highly improbable, highly unpredictable events. The term originates from the 18th century, where it was “common knowledge” that all swans were white until it was discovered that Australia (!) contained black swans. The term became used to signify an improbable event that may come to pass.
The successful alteration of history would certainly qualify as a “Black Swan” event. We’ve been told again and again how history can’t be changed. We’ve seen that “whatever happened happened.” In effect, we’ve been told its impossible. But, as The Variable is about to suggest, maybe there are black swans in Australia after all.
If Daniel’s right and the Jughead explosion did work to create a “new” timeline, then it acted in effect as a massive Black Swan event. What’s interesting to me about this, again, is the fact that Daniel, Jack and Co. created that event intentionally – they wanted to change things so that Oceanic 815 would not crash. In at least one sense they were apparently successful. And yet, despite this, Daniel is left yearning for what he “left behind” as a result of this. Again, the grass is always greener on the other side.
What will this ultimately mean, in terms of the end-game of the show? Yet again: no clue. And I don’t particularly want to speculate. It’s more fun to simply follow the multitude of breadcrumbs that the show drops throughout the episode for us to find and chew over.
• Desmond returns to the stadium where he was introduced, and we get a shot reminiscent of that Season 2 episode. The disorientation of the Season 2 stadium’s opening shot (it’s filmed so that it isn’t clear at first glance what we’re looking at and seems almost abstract) remains one of my favorite simple, individual, directorial choices on the show.
Widmore: “I’m really sorry we had to do this to you, Desmond. But, as I told you, your talent is vital to our mission. So, if you just let me explain….”
Desmond: “It’s all right. I understand.”
• What is it that Desmond understands? What has he taken away from all of this? Widmore clearly needs him for a purpose that involves the Island’s electromagnetic pockets – will that connect with whatever goal it is that Desmond seems to be moving toward?
Lost doesn’t make these easy questions to answer, because almost as soon as he’s been “enlightened”….
Sayid: “Desmond, I don’t have time to explain, but these people are extremely dangerous. We need to go, now.”
Desmond: “Aye, of course. Lead the way.”
• What just happened? Sayid showed restraint and let Zoe live after roughly and efficiently snapping the necks of her two Insurance Salesmen associates. Why? Can he not kill her because of the “rules”? Is he, despite his “dead” emotional state, still capable of mercy? I hope so, because it suggests Sayid may not be beyond redemption.
Last week I talked about Sayid’s strange condition – his cool, detached demeanor and his self-diagnosed inability to feel. Last week on Chud’s message board I’d theorized that the infection was something that might render the subconscious self more powerful that the conscious self; that would allow all the “darkness” that we keep tamped down to rise up, and result in a loss of the standard controls that keep us all in check, eventually “deadening” a person to stimuli and making them pseudo-puppets of the MiB (and this ties in nicely with the free will debate that’s been a running thread in this season’s tapestry).
For Claire, that would result in paranoia and aggressive, even murderous impulses centered around the part of her life that causes her the most fear and worry: motherhood. For Sayid, that would result in a deadening of his emotions, reducing him to the cold killer he tried to avoid being. As Citizen K, a commenter on Back to the Island put it: “I think that’s what Lost has always been about: humans fighting their own dark impulses, to better themselves. So, coming back to the infection, I don’t think it really changes you, it just takes away your choice whether or not to give in to your worst impulses or as Germans like to call it “Innerer Schweinehund” (an idiom meaning inner pigdog. I like the metaphor of a filthy beast of your own making that tries to hinder personal transcendence).”
I think that’s nicely put (and I love the German word for “inner pigdog – I’m using that at my next available opportunity). But Sayid’s apparent mercy toward Zoe, and his recognition of, and (maybe sincere, maybe faux-sincere) concern for Desmond throw that idea into doubt. Will Lost EVER tell us what’s going on with this “infection”? I’m going on record now to say that it’ll tick me off if they don’t.
• I had a terrific discussion with an impressively-intelligent fellow from Germany regarding my comparison of Sayid to a “philosophical zombie,” and I’m going to be putting that exchange up for folks to read. Check in at Back to the Island over the weekend if you’re curious.
• And what should we think about Desmond’s calm decision to follow Sayid? Is he on a “path” now that he can see clearly? Has his “enlightenment” simply made him open to anything, since he’s “destined” to end up in the same basic place no matter what he does, as he was shown in his “flashes”? Or has he come to the conclusion that the Man in Black is the “good guy” in the Island’s conflict? It’s entirely unclear, and that lack of clarity, coupled with real forward movement in the narrative, made this one of the season’s most exciting episodes for me as a viewer.
GEORGE: So, did you find what you were looking for?
DESMOND: Yes, George, I did. Corner of Melrose and Sweetzer, please.
George: “You got it. And if there is anything else I can do for you, Mr. Hume, you just name it.”
• Anyone else get a “Mr.Destiny” vibe off of Minkowski at the end there? I had the feeling that Desmond could have said “bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia,” and Minkowski wouldve obliged. Just me? That’s two characters over the course of this episode who’ve implied (directly or subtly) that this world is a kind of “wish fulfillment.” But for who? Mrs. Widmore? Everyone? And is it a trap or a reward or simply another possible life – a “past life” explained scientifically?
Desmond: “Can you get me the manifest from my fight from Sydney, Oceanic 815, just the names of the passengers?”
George: “Sure I can. Do you mind if I ask you what you need it for?”
Desmond: “I just need to show them something.”
• What is it that Desmond is going to show them? Is he going to spend an episode lightheartedly attempting to kill them all so that they’ll have the same “enlightenment” experience that he’s had (this would be hilarious)? I’m really looking forward to finding out. Thanks for your patience in waiting for the column – this episode felt so stuffed with goodness that I wanted to take the extra time to give it the attention I thought it deserved. As usual, I’m positive I’ve missed things, so please let me know what they are in the comments section. I’m always interested to read your thoughts, and I sincerely appreciate them.
Three Brief Notes:
1) As Lost heads toward its ending (Le Sigh) I’m spotlighting independent artists who’ve done Lost-inspired work that I like/admire. Last week you saw Gideon Slife’s episode-specific Lost posters. If you’re interested in checking out Gideon’s work (and you should, because it’s awesome), you can click here.
This week I’m turning the spotlight on a gentleman named Yehudi Mercado, who has created a series of character postcards featuring cartoonish takes on some of Lost’s characters. They are amazing. Here are three of them:
’d totally watch an animated Lost spinoff with these designs. You can see all of Yehudi’s cards by clicking this link. And, if you’re interested in purchasing Yehudi’s hard work and nifty visuals, you can do so here for the low, low price of $3.00 (I don’t get a cut of the sales, if you’re wondering).
2) If you know of an artist that’s created something Lost-inspired, whether for sale, just for admiring, or so bizarre that it must be remarked upon, shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com and provide a link to their work. I’ll feature my favorite suggestions up through the end of the show. Support the creative impulse and your fellow fans!
3) If you haven’t contacted me about potentially purchasing my to-be-self-published book on Lost’s themes, philosophical, literary and pop cultural references, its characters and minutia, you can shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com to be added to the list. You will not be bound in any way, just notified on the book’s progress, as well as where and when you can buy it. The first five people to do so will win the pleasure of knowing that they’re one of the first five people to do so. You will also become 50% more attractive to the opposite sex, by virtue of your munificence.
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To view the complete Rewatch archive and related articles, please visit Back To The Island.
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