Lost is Back! It’s in the future! It’s in the past! It’s here and now and it’s there and then! Hang on to your flux capacitors, because time travel has swept in to invert the flashback/flashforward principle completely. Previously, we as an audience were one moment in the present then - with a whoosh sound effect - snapped off to a point in the past or in the future. Now it’s our main characters who - with a bright light - are snapped off to a point in the past or in the future, never better exemplified by the opening sequence showing Faraday existing in the same time as Pierre Chang and the rest of Dharma!
Okay. We’ve hit the ground running and, on the Island especially, the ground doesn’t stay still for very long.
So what’s the deal with this time travel? Is the Island moving in time? Or are the likes of Sawyer and Locke moving in time? I think it’s both, and it depends on perspective. I think the Island is moving in time (we saw it disappear, so it definitely went somewhere). Trouble is, Sawyer and co aren’t properly part of it when it moves. From the Island’s perspective, this means Sawyer and co get ‘lost’ in time when it moves. From Sawyer and co’s perspective, the Island appears to change around them. The fundamental point is that the likes of Sawyer and Locke have become untethered from the Island which in itself has become untethered from time.
The Island is unstuck in time. Sawyer and co are unstuck in time. But they are not in synchronisation. The interesting question is: How come Alpert and The Others haven’t become untethered in the same way?
I believe this is where the Oceanic 6 come in. Because they left is the reason why Sawyer and the rest were perhaps ‘rejected’ by the Island, whereas a ‘complete’ group like The Others have acceptance by the Island and so remain upon it. (We must imagine that from Alpert’s point of view it was Locke who simply vanished when the Island moved, but their present remains constant.)
I can’t fully explain why the Oceanic 6 are required to return to the Island to get Sawyer and co ‘un-unstuck in time’, and where the likes of Walt or Frank or Desmond figure, but for now that’s the hook I am hanging on. (By the by, I think Jacob’s Cabin is a microcosm of this same phenomena – being unstuck in time, untethered from the Island, the cabin appears and disappears in different places. Perhaps this lies at the root of Jacob’s “Help me”.)
So Ben’s plan to return the Oceanic 6 drives the ‘Flashforward’ plot (though I guess ‘flashforward’, as a concept, no longer applies). He’s managed to get Jack on board, and off the pills, too. However, he’s managed to upset and lose Sayid along the way. My ‘plucked out of the air’ prediction is that Sayid’s distrust stems from finding something out about Nadia’s death and Ben’s involvement or manipulation as a result. Now Sayid has linked up with Hurley, Ben’s got his work cut out to get those two on side.
Aside: Lost fans may be interested to note that if they look up “badass” in the dictionary they will see a picture of Sayid Jarrah. Seriously, that balcony and kitchen shootout and scrap was ineffably cool. Drug darts? Pah! Sayid eats that shit for breakfast. Have a rack of knives through your chest for your troubles! Aside over.
Meanwhile Kate was on the lamb once more after a maternity test demand threatened to unveil her as not Aaron’s mother. Best guess is that Ben is the client of the lawsuit, and is trying to get Aaron as a means of luring Kate back to the Island. Alternatively, it may be Widmore trying to get Aaron just to scupper Ben’s plans of returning the Oceanic 6 (though I fancy Widmore would surely take the more aggressive straight out kidnap route). Leftfield notion is that Sun is orchestrating the lawsuit, but quite what she’s up to is cloaked in mystery for now.
I still think Sun’s ultimate goal is to bring down Widmore, who she blames for the death of Jin, but doesn’t that just feel a little too straightforward. . .?
What has been attempted to be made as straightforward as possible are the rules of time travel. As Faraday described it, time is a string of events that cannot be changed, or split to a different string. Put plainly: Everything that happened, happened. Everything that will happen, will happen. This links in with Course Correction, being a force that states nothing can be fundamentally changed.
Take Locke as an example. There he is, narrowly ducking down to avoid being hit by a crashing Beechcraft. He finds it perched on top of a cliff, similar to how it was when he would ‘first’ come across it, years later!
Locke starts to climb up. Now, if he managed to get to the top and dislodge the plane then that means, years later, Locke and Boone won’t find it at the top of the cliff and Boone wouldn’t get in it and fall to his death. That would clearly mess up the ‘string of time’ notion. Except, true to the idea, Locke didn’t dislodge the plane; he was shot in the leg by Ethan.
I thought this was a wonderful touch. Ethan meets Locke, who tells him he knows him and was appointed leader by Ben, and then Locke vanishes. That’s got to mess with Ethan’s head. Years later, Oceanic 815 will crash and Ethan will get in with the survivors. There he will meet Locke again. And we’ve already seen, in Season One, that Ethan infiltrated the Oceanic group by joining Locke as a hunting partner. A familiar face, eh?
Suddenly Ethan gravitating to Locke makes more sense. Potentially, if Ethan ever happens to encounter Locke or other Oceanic people in his ‘past’ again, it’s more reason why Ben selected him (he was their only surgeon, remember?) to go and make a list. If Ethan had briefly met them before then he was better placed to integrate himself into their group! Isn’t that just splendid!
But this notion of interactions with the past affecting the future brings me to my last major point of discussion, which was also the last scene of the episode: Desmond woke up and ‘remembered’ meeting Faraday outside The Swan.
There are two trains of thought to this and, for now, I’ll let you decide which one you like best.
Permanent History: Desmond and Faraday had always met. They had always had the conversation we saw them have. That Desmond only just remembered it in his dream is fatefully coincidental, perhaps, but also explicable by him being more ‘attuned’ to time travel discrepancies given his own mental time journeys.
At the time it happened, Desmond was surely sleep deprived – having never slept for longer than 108 minutes at a time. (It’s hard to pinpoint, but I get the impression this moment took place after Inman was dead, after Oceanic had crashed, and Desmond was alone in The Swan.) That he wanders outside to speak with a man – Faraday – who then disappears before his eyes would probably leave him to later wonder if it wasn’t all just a dream. At a stretch, you could say this bizarre encounter could have provoked the sobbing suicide frame of mind Desmond displayed during Live Together, Die Alone.
There he was crying, saying “It’s all gone!”, and in a way you can retrofit that permanent history and see how Faraday’s appearance, and disappearance, in Desmond’s past makes emotional and logical sense. Alternatively. . .
Flexible History: Whilst time is a piece of string of events set down, that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for slight tweaks to the past. If you hold a piece of string between your fingers the two ends are always the same, but you can stretch the string taut or slacken it – hopefully you comprehend the metaphor here.
Maybe Faraday and Desmond never originally met outside The Swan Station, but Faraday considered Desmond unique enough to risk trying to affect his future by tampering with the past. So he meets Desmond and inserts a ‘new memory’, a meeting with Faraday, that a sleeping Desmond will suddenly become aware of. (Why Desmond suddenly had this memory pop up is hard to reconcile. Narratively it works. Logically it makes no sense.)
Whilst this may seem like an infringement of the ‘rule’ that events cannot be changed, it’s perhaps no more a tweak of the past in the same manner that Desmond averting Charlie’s death on numerous occasions was a tweak of the future. The end result was still the same, Charlie still died. Stretch the string taut, or let it go slack – the ends are the same. But Faraday may be using these ‘historical tweaks’ to engineer the salvation of himself and the rest of the ‘unstuck’ people before it’s too late, and possibly Desmond is the only person unique capable of doing so. . .
Faraday instructed Desmond that he needed to go to Oxford, to find his mother. Now as unlikely as it may seem, what odds are there that Faraday’s mother turns out to be none other than Ms. Hawking?