Redeeming Sayid

Here’s my thought: Sayid might not have long left to live. According to everything we have learned about life on the Island, Sayid could very well be doomed. Let me try and explain why I think so (and how it might be averted).

Killers don’t do too well on Lost. With recent events from the latest episode, He’s Our You, this point has been brought sharply into focus and made me question the potential fate of Sayid. As we saw, just before he shot Young Ben, he acknowledged to himself that murder is in his heart and part of who he is. Sayid was unapologetic about it, simply regarding it as his truth.

The last guy that acknowledged the truth of his own murderous nature, and remained resolutely unapologetic about it, was Mr. Eko.

As we know, Mr. Eko didn’t last much longer.

Sayid ran off into the jungle after accepting his true nature and shooting Ben. If he were to run smack bang into the Black Smoke after this moment I don’t think he’d get out of it all right. Obviously, since none of us really know by what basis the Black Smoke operates by, that’s a difficult idea to either dispute or endorse. Ironically, it’s a judgement call – befitting the Black Smoke which appears to exist as a means of dispensing final judgement!

But Sayid and Mr. Eko aren’t the only murderous characters we’ve seen. What about Michael? Murdered Ana Lucia and, ultimately, it cost him his life. Ana Lucia, in return, had murdered a guy (Jason, who had shot her unborn baby), and also accidentally shot Shannon – she didn’t last long either.

However, if we follow this train of thought and extend it to other characters then this becomes an untenable idea. Murderers do not necessarily meet certain death. Consider Sawyer as a prime example. Just before he got on Oceanic 815 he tracked down Frank Duckett, the man he believed was ‘the real Sawyer’, and shot him in cold blood.

Not only that, but when Sawyer was eventually confronted with ‘the real Sawyer’, Anthony Cooper, he strangled and murdered him in cold blood. And yet Sawyer lives on. Flourishing on the Island, in fact. But that’s because he changed. It is this very point, as I shall elaborate, which is crucial for Sayid’s survival on the Island.

One of the more popular ideas about Lost, especially in the early days, was that the characters were on the Island to play out some form of redemption. Naturally, the actual concept of purgatory as a reality is not true of the Island, but the thematic notion of redemption for characters that seek to be redeemed still bears out.

Characters usually die when they are ‘done’ – either redeemed or unable to adapt any further for subsequent resolution. Mr. Eko was a full stop, unwilling to yield, to “confess” – and the Black Smoke killed him. Ana Lucia was the reverse – she had reached a point where she could not kill ‘Henry Gale’ and, as such, had reached a form of redemption over her past sin. Michael redeemed his sins by sacrificing himself and destroying The Freighter.

Charlie is a more clear-cut example. The selfish drug-user quit the heroin and learned sacrifice for love – as he drowned he even crossed himself before he died. Never was redemption more clearly presented.

Other deaths – Boone, Shannon, Libby – we can consider them ‘sacrifices the Island demanded’ or argue the merits of their character’s potential for progression as reason for their exits.

If we consider Sawyer we see a man that, after he had killed ‘the real Sawyer’, was given a new lease of life – a chance to be reborn and reinvent himself. Sawyer’s real name is James Ford. He became ‘Sawyer’ when he went on a quest for vengeance. Vengeance fulfilled, soon after he reinvented himself with a new name and a new persona: Jim LaFleur. Point is, Sawyer has shown the capacity to grow, to change, to adapt – precisely the opposite of Mr. Eko and his feet in the ground, adamant unwillingness to change.

Which brings us to Sayid. Because it is this inertia, this incapacity to become something new, to be reborn, that Lost has shown us is what indicates when characters have become dispensable and, more often than not, they are dispensed with.

(Neatly, this idea of characters no longer presenting an opportunity to be taken to new areas and have different avenues of exploration parallels the real world direction the show’s creators take Lost into. Invariably the writers realise they have nowhere else to take characters and so kill them off. Happens all the time on television and Lost is no exception – it’s just on Lost this real life creative necessity just so happens to tie-in to the thematic ideas of redemption on the show! Your character either fulfils their ‘arc’, is redeemed, and is so killed off. Or your character reaches a point where they cannot logically be taken any further, and so is killed off.)

Sayid, during He’s Our You, talked to Sawyer just before he escaped. He talked about how he had woken up on the Island and found no sense of purpose about what he was doing there. And then Young Ben showed his face, and suddenly Sayid forged meaning. . .

Sayid’s new-found sense of purpose was in the belief that he was there to kill Benjamin Linus as a boy, to stop him from being the architect of Dharma-genocide, and to prevent him sending Sayid around the world assassinating people. If Sayid, running off into the jungle, believes he has achieved this – then what?

If Young Ben survives, and fulfils the “whatever happened, happened” concept, then Sayid will merely have to face the fact that he is a murderer who can’t change his own history, or Island history. In effect, this will then put him at a point where he either changes his nature, or dies.

Sayid remaining a cold-blooded killer from here to the finish is surely an untenable proposition.

So where I think Sayid has hope is that, like Sawyer, he can progress and develop himself into something else. If Sayid can meet up with Ben in 2007, maybe he can come to the realisation he played his part, fulfilled his destiny, and then – like Ben suggested – allow himself to become free to be whatever he chooses. Rather than just join a charity foundation and make a half-hearted attempt at doing good, he could fundamentally change his nature and perspective. To “want to want” to better himself. To adapt. To be reborn. To have room, creatively, to be taken to new places.

Ironically, Sayid’s darkest hour is the moment before a new redemption dawns. Let’s just hope he gets to see it before the Black Smoke gets to him first!


Acharaisthekey said...

Nice write up! I like this piece. I have a couple points though that I'd like your opinion on

#1. Let's say the redemption card is being played out. For all intensive purposes I agree with you. However, how does the role Ben have work then within the island. Ben isn't exactly free of Murders. Take aside the Purge and the Freighter explosion...he had two gals at the looking glass hide a secret...then was able, upon making a miscalculated move that got Alex killed...summon the monster...who I think now will ultimately be judging Ben as well here pretty soon...anyways...he has been a murderer for quite some time now....does he have the same fate of Eko and (as you wrote here) Sayid? I would hope so....but is there another controlling interest determining a good kill vs a bad kill? I would think so since Ben had been ruling the island for 14 years or so

2. If Ben doesn't die...does the Attempt on Ben's life constitute the same guilt as the actuall murder itself? Remember, Jack tried to kill John Locke...John Lived...but assuming Ben lives as well...would Jack be in the same position as Sayid?

3. When the Eko scene was the unrepenting that ultimately ticked SMOKEY least that's how I see it your conclusion as well that if Eko would have said
"I am sorry for what I have done...and it is you who I ask for forgiveness" that smokey would not have killed Eko?...and that the island then would be able to use him to complete what the island now demanded from him? I guess what I'm asking is what would have been Eko's fate...based on the thought you have laid out here if he would have asked for forgiveness?

AngeloComet said...

Achara, big questions for grand concepts that are tough to grapple with!

I guess my intent here was to dismiss the notion that 'bad' people are condemned. It's the capacity for change that matters. Sawyer was my prime example - being a clear cut case of a murderer redeeming himself through change.

The real point is that it is inertia, a standing still, that seals their fate (whether it be Black Smokes, bullets or the stroke of the writer's pen!). The biggest issue for Sayid, I thought, was that his character may have hit a brick wall. Where else does he go once he acknowledges he's a murderer? Become nothing more than a killer? There's only so much drama in that, and audience-empathy, before he will have to go.

As such, he has to change. A character's survival on the show, on any show, demands they have a dramatic future.

Ben is an interesting case in point, though. He's ostensibly a servant of the Island and yet that service has prompted despicable acts. I guess the interesting questions we must face are this: Is the Island a benevolent entity? Does the will of Jacob lead towards a happy ending? Is it a metaphorical lost paradise? Or is the Island a place God cannot see because it's a dark blight on the Earth?

How about THOSE for some big concepts to grapple with!? Any takers?

StitchExp626 said...

What I find fascinating about the whole young Ben/Sayid scenario is that Sayid actually did what young Ben asked him to do.

Young Ben asked Sayid to take him to the hostiles and to Richard Alpert in particular in exchange for breaking Sayid out of the cell.

This is what young Ben wanted and Sayid, unintentionally, did make it happen.

So far Sayid has actually not been shown yet as a cold blooded killer, at worst he has been shown as a vigilante, Dexter style, hunting down the bad guys that he believes were part of the murder of his Nadia.

Who is to blame for young Ben becoming older Ben, it is sadly young Ben's choices themself.

Tim said...

"Who is to blame for young Ben becoming older Ben, it is sadly young Ben's choices themself."

I dunno...I'd say abuse from his father, being shot, and Alpert saying "he'll always be one of us now" (or some such) and wandering off to some mysticism at the Temple had the biggest effect on who he'll turn out to be.

AngeloComet said...

Stitch - I feel Sayid, as presented, has kind of duped us all into thinking and feeling the same way about him as he feels about himself.

He justifies the life he has lead - of torture and murder - as being on that was forced upon him. The way he sees it, and the way it has been presented, was that he was put into situations where he had no choice but to torture and murder.

And yet, just a moment's thought allows us to know: Not EVERYONE could do it. Given Sayid's circumstances, other people wouldn't kill.

The same way the child Yemi could not kill - and Young Eko stepped up and did it for him. Some people can, some people can't. Some are killers. Some aren't.

Sayid IS a killer. It's at the end of the He's Our You episode did he actually acknowledge his true nature, free of all the mitigating circumstances and 'I had no choice' protestations.

No one made him step up and kill the chicken. He did it of his own volition. Everything else was the same story dressed up with excuses.