The Bad Swan Station

What’s the deal with the Swan Station and the button? What happens when the button doesn’t get pushed? Did Ben really want the button to not get pushed? It’s like the ultimate ‘chicken or egg first’ question, and for me it’s the biggest little unanswered question on the show – and it worries me. Let me explain.

Let’s refresh ourselves with what’s so bad about the Swan Station. Because before we knew Des was down there, going out of his mind pressing the button every 108 minutes, we were inclined to believe that opening ‘the hatch’ would be a bad thing to do. Walt told Locke as much during the episode Born To Run.

“Don’t open it, Mr. Locke. Don’t open that thing.”

Walt clearly had some deep-rooted fear about what was in there; enough to make him flee the Island he otherwise enjoyed staying on. Hell, he even appeared to Shannon – dripping wet via some teleportation trick – to tell her, “Don’t push the button. The button is bad.” (OK he stated this backwards to someone who had nothing to do with the button or the Swan Station, but you get the idea.)

What could cause concern about the Swan Station? I’ve got to assume it’s to do with the button, right? That’s surely the only thing it could have been. Which brings us to Ben. I recall the episode Lockdown, where Locke managed to get his legs trapped under the blast door and relied on Ben (at that time known as Henry Gale) to go through the vent and enter the code into the computer before the timer ran down.

This was the beginning of the mind games. Ben first claimed that he did press the button – “I did what you told me to. I punched in the code and pressed the execute button.” – but then, when it was revealed he had been lying about being Henry Gale, he changed his tune.

“I stood at your computer as the alarm beeped. . . The timer went all the way down to zero, and then some funny red pictures flipped up in its place. . . There was a loud clunking and a hum like a magnet. . . And you know what happened next? Nothing happened, John. Nothing happened at all. Your timer just flipped back to 108. I never entered the numbers. I never pushed the button.”

So we’ve got to call it. Did Ben push the button or not? Given what we saw during Live Together, Die Alone, when the button wasn’t pushed and the Swan Station went haywire – both on the day Oceanic 815 crashed and when Locke purposefully allowed the clock to run down – it’s hard to believe Ben isn’t lying.

If Ben hadn’t pushed the button the electromagnetic malfunction would have kicked off and we would have known all about it.

We have to make a call. I’m saying Ben entered the code during the lockdown. I’m saying he lied about it to Locke to make Locke want to not want to push the button. The question then is why?

Ms. Hawking memorably told Desmond that if he didn’t push the button then “every one of us will die”. This has been confirmed, by the creators, as meaning all of humanity. With those kinds of stakes it’s perplexing why the likes of Ben would encourage the button to not get pushed!

You could take the view that Ben was genuinely ignorant about the Swan Station. He told Locke he regarded the place as a joke and, obviously, he doesn’t have much affection for anything Dharma. So maybe he did enter the code but considered the whole thing another psychological game Dharma once ran that was a waste of time – but at the time he was pretending to be Henry Gale and winning Locke’s confidence so he played along.

This rationale is one that the creators have partially stated is the case. Ben, and The Others, didn’t know about what was going on in The Swan Station. Presumably they knew it existed – they could monitor it from The Pearl! – but perhaps they would have assumed it was, as Ben said, “a joke”, having no knowledge about the electromagnetic anomaly. That, apparently, is the truth. Which makes you wonder what Ben thought of this:

And this:

We’re supposed to believe that Ben had no knowledge of The Swan and what was possible there, yet he knew all about The Orchid and what was possible there! He thought one place was a joke and yet knew the other place was capable of moving the Island? It really places a strain on credulity, don’t you think?

Let’s set Ben aside and consider this from another angle. During the episode ? Mr. Eko had a dream-vision of Yemi (and, as we know, these dream visions are a means by which the Island communicates) which told him to “beware distractions” because, in his words: “The work being done in this place is important, Eko. It is more important than anything.”

More important than anything? Kind of echoes the words of Ms. Hawking to Desmond about how pushing the button would be the most important thing he ever did, don’t you think? So we’ve got Ben and Wet Walt advocating that the button not get pushed, and Dream Yemi and Ms. Hawking stating its importance! Anyone starting to get pissed off yet? I’m having a real crisis of faith about the creators of Lost and the consistency of what they’ve been telling us.

The big problem: What would have happened had the button not get pushed? Desmond intervened with the Fail Safe key which then set off a chain of events that lead to the Island being found by the outside world and The Freighter turning up and Keamy and his men planning to kill everyone and Ben turning the donkey wheel and winding up banished from the Island.

Yeah. That’s what happened. But it seems to me that what got forgotten was what could have been had the Fail Safe not been turned. When it comes to this matter the creators of Lost have been depressingly oblique. I mean, Jesus, when the Fail Safe was turned have we been provided any explanation as to why Desmond ran around with no clothes on, and Mr. Eko was in the middle of the jungle and how Locke lost his voice? Have we been given an explanation for this:

The amazing imploding-exploding Swan Station! Sucks everything into a compressed hole whilst blasting out items and people from within! Man that’s just infuriating. And we’re down, at the time of writing, to just two seasons left – seasons filled with flashforwards and Charles Widmore and Jacob and The Whispers and the Black Smoke and the Oceanic 6 and Locke in a coffin and, you know what, I just hope they haven’t forgotten about the Swan Station and the button that didn’t get pushed.

There’s a plot hole here as big as the hole left by the Swan Station. The biggest little unanswered question in the show. Sorry if you came here looking for answers. I don’t have any. I just wanted you to get a feel for the need to know that I feel. So tell me, whilst you’re here. Are you worried? Are you confident this is going to be resolved?

Pressing that button. . . It’s a matter of faith. . . Right? So maybe I’ve just got to have a little faith. Maybe that’s what’s expected of me. It seems like a big ask.


Cosmic said...

I always enjoy reading your comments AC. Nicely done website!

Kobeer said...

I for one would like to thank AC for the write ups and updates on the ARG, Thank you AC, I could read your works all day keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I have always been very confused about the significance of the Swan Station. Thank you for pointing out why I have always found that storyline confusing.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it will be resolved, it was mentioned twice in the season 5 premiere and note was made of the fact that the ultimate purpose of pushing the button was unknown (when hurley's talking to his mother).

I think it was designed by dharma after the first island moving event (caused by the polar bear charlotte finds in the desert)to discharge electromagnetic build up in an approximative safe period of 108 mins; thus preventing the island from skipping through time.

As we have seen however the island doesnt just skip through time every 108 minutes, some jumps occur much quicker ie. when locke meets Ethan.

So I would like to revise my proposal! I'm thinking/writing this on the fly as it were so I hope I make myself clear...

The jumps through time are caused by a buildup of intense electromagnetic energy. This is released by turning the wheel and the intensity of the release bends space-time allowing the island to skip through time.

After the first movement of the island by DHARMA's polar bear the island went haywire as we have seen in series 5, and appeared in multiple spaces on the timeline. Dharma created an electromagnetic reactor in attempt to harness the energy used in moving the island so that it would only move once rather than skipping. They also installed computer systems to attempt to control exactly when the island moves to, essentially making it a time machine.

Lets say that the island was moved again, (or even that DHARMA knew what would happen during the first movement by the bear)so the swan was created to house the energy directly from its source near the wheel (via underground cables or some such) and control the movement of the island. However, they underestimated the strength of the energy released by turning the wheel. Their equipment is destroyed, leaking dangerous substances hence the covering of the swan "incident room" in concrete. While their attempt to control the movement of the island fails they discover that they are still able to safely vent the build up of energy, preventing the island building up enough energy to move - 108 minutes just happens to be the safe capacity for whatever reactor they have used.

So the button is pushed, the energy is safely released and over time diminishes to a point where it is significant enough to obliterate the relatively small swan station, but not powerful enough to cause the island to move.

The island doesnt immediatley spin out of control on its timeline because sufficient energy is not released again until ben turns the wheel.

Im sure there are loads of inconsistencies in this post the most glaring of which being "Why create the swan station so far away from the wheel when the orchid could have been used for controlling the energy?" and I don't presume to have "solved" the mystery of the button, but i do think it plays a role in the movement of the island in some capacity.

barleyherb said...

The problem with the energy underlying the Swan being related to the time travel is, why would that have anything to do with the Oceanic Six being away?

It hardly seems credible that there can have been this force with the potential to destroy the world, and the Swan was the cap on it and a safety vent; but with the Swan destroyed and the force still there it just suddenly behaves itself.

It seems more likely the force was destroyed by the fail safe and is unrelated to the time travel. Buuut, why then is the island invisible again, assuming the cloak was powered by the electromagnetic force?

This is why the Swan being destroyed and the problem of needing to enter the numbers simply vanishing was too convenient. I honestly thing the writers created something too big and complicated with the numbers and didn't know how to get out of it. Oh, I know! Desmond has a key which he's never mentioned before, which takes the whole problem away! Hmmm.

I have to admit for me, the whole Swan thing was a bit of a shark-jumping moment.

Martha said...

the key was mentioned before Kelvin gave it to him.