Season 5 Overview

So how are we to classify Season 5 of Lost? Now the Island has stopped hopping in time and the nosebleeds have ceased and the Oceanic 6 are back on the Island, in whatever timeframe, how are we to view this fifth outing? Was it the season of time travel? Was it the season of Dharma? Was it the season of Ajira? Was it the season of family connections? Was it the season of Jacob?

Well, it was all of these things, and more besides, which is what makes classifying it difficult, but I think the defining trait of Lost’s fifth season is to consider it the season of liberation. Now heading into the home straight, and guaranteed finance for finishing with its sixth and final series, the creators had been liberated to take the show exactly where they wanted, when they wanted and how they wanted. This meant it was a season where the longterm Lost fans were well-catered for, and any Johnny-come-latelys were left out in the cold.

Marginal characters were given greater prominence, from multiple encounters with Ms. Hawking. . .

. . . who turned out to be closely linked with this phantom menace of the Lost universe. . .

. . . who was the father of this woman. . .

. . . who was now shacked up with this time-averse, button-pusher. . .

Not to mention the revelation that Eloise and Charles were the parents of this guy. . .

. . . who was in love with this Freighter-arrival. . .

. . . who had been on the Island as a little girl. . .

. . . along with this sixth-senser. . .

. . . whose father turned out to be none other than Pierre Chang. . .

. . .who we had, since Season 2, only ever seen in old Dharma films. . .

The amazing thing about all this mass entanglement is that none of these characters were even in the show during Season 1, and scarcely, if at all, in Seasons 2 and 3. By the time of Season 5 we were neck-deep in their lives and happenings and forced to weave them into the Lost world we had settled in. Not only that, but we had to keep up with all of this whilst the Island jumped around in time zones with giddy abandonment.

Season 5 was, for the first third especially, a time travel show – but from the first episode to the very end of the finale it concerned itself with one question: Can history be changed to create an alternate future?

This paradoxical matter was the driving debate of the whole series and has yet to receive a resolution, given we have yet to learn whether Jack and his ‘Bomb The Swan’ plan merely facilitated ‘the incident’ we had already heard about, or fundamentally changed a key factor in what caused the crash of Oceanic 815 and so averted the course of the whole show thus far. (The smart money would gamble on the former.) Whilst this matter may have initially felt like a major leap into sci-fi, it fundamentally concerned the notion of fate versus coincidence, a theme prevalent on Lost way back from when Jack and Locke used to butt heads over whether it was their destiny to have crashed on the Island or just an unfortunate accident.

Season 5’s new-found liberation also saw it pretty much dispense entirely with the narrative device of flashbacks / flashforwards (instead episodes tended to flip between what was happening in 2007 against occurrences “thirty years earlier”) and didn’t particularly concern itself with ‘character-centric’ episodes of old (after some episodes you may have struggled to remember who had been the main focus). If Season 5 episodes felt different from previous Lost episodes I would argue that this was the key reason for it.

There were some definite winners this year – Season 5 could arguably be deigned as the Season of Sawyer. Quite staggeringly, Sawyer had never had an episode devoted to his character since Season 3, Episode 4. That was over thirty episodes out of the spotlight! Season 5 saw him boosted right back to the fore.

He got an episode named after his new persona (La Fleur), became a leader for those left behind on the Island before forging a new life, and major respect, as head of security for Dharma. Sawyer invariably found himself at the epicentre of all on-Island happenings, from time-jumping to the birth of Aaron, coming face-to-face with young Widmore, marshalling Jack and co into the Dharma Initiative and resurrecting his love triangle with Kate, this time with Juliet drawing the shortest of short straws. Sawyer was thrust back into the fold as one of the chief characters, a position the likes of Jack and Kate hold by default but weren’t really given as much presence to justify.

Longterm fans of Lost were also well-served by Season 5 and its new liberation. In symbolic terms, we were once given this. . .

. . . whereas in Season 5 we were given this. . .

Not to mention the long-awaited fulfilling of Rousseau and the story of her science-team, major Black Smoke action, some serious face time with the illusive Richard Alpert and even, for the purists, a ‘never thought it would really happen’ introduction to the near-mythical figure known as Radzinsky. That the man who created this. . .

. . . would turn out to be this uptight imbecile. . .

. . . is something you’ll either consider a terrible disappointment or a gleefully sour punchline.

Season 5 probably holds up better in retrospect than it did during week-on-week viewing. Every episode fairly rattled along, throwing out sense-defying zingers right between your eyes (Faraday inserts a new memory in Desmond’s head that only pop up years later!), barmy plot gambits (replicate Oceanic 815 to crash back on the Island!) and that ever-present Lost trait of generating more questions when, really, surely, they ought to be doling out answers to the mysteries already in existence (why why why enter 4 8 15 16 23 42 into a computer every 108 minutes to reset a timer!?). Every episode we saw the show doing figure 8s on thin-ice and entertainingly managing to keep on moving. I don’t think the show has ever been as consistently entertaining and packed since the final third of Season 2 (every episode in Season 2 from episode 14 to the finale, barring S.O.S., was a cast iron knockout in my opinion). It may not have always been enjoyably entertaining but, man, you gotta admire the show’s guts to just really go for it.

The ultimate function of Season 5 was, naturally, to lead Lost to a place where it could unfurl its grand finale swansong series and we were fundamentally given two major elements that will take up the baton for Season 6. The first was Ajira 316. . .

Amidst all the time travelling and multiple plot threads, the hints towards a forthcoming ‘war’ perhaps felt like too little to take seriously and too big to ignore – as such it didn’t function to create any drama nor did it work subtly enough as foreshadowing. To compare: in the last episode of Season One there was a flashback with Jack at the airport that introduced us to the character of Ana Lucia.

It was a brief scene, and an innocuous meeting, but it served to give us our first glimpse of a character that would be a major player in the next season. In short, it worked incredibly well. The introduction of Ajira, and Ilana and Bram (and, even more regrettably badly, Cesar) felt like a more protracted stretching of the same conceit that so successfully worked with the Ana Lucia scene. It was unavoidable, of course, since Ajira was needed to get our main characters back on the Island, but the newcomer’s introduction to the show was clumsier than Frank’s emergency landing on that runway The Others were building back in Season 3 (another point that flew right over the head of the casual Lost viewer). Better implemented, and potentially set to be Lost’s biggest and best game-changing revelation, were these two:

In just one scene, with these two apparent immortals hinting at some eternal struggle in their beliefs being played out on the Island, Lost shifted the boundaries about what the whole show has been about since the beginning. That it was utterly surprising was key to its success, but that it felt right was the real winner. With its new liberation, Lost and its creators may have casually shown us the scale of the stage this show has been playing on and now everything is set for the final act.

My own personal feelings towards Season 5 are that it was my feelings that were left unengaged. Logic was confounded, plot threads were ravelled and unravelled and then tied up in a bow, theoretical paradox debate was stimulated and fanboy-pleasing show mythology was burrowed into like a fervent white rabbit down a hole. Season 5 was a banquet for the brain and it’s been a hell of an enjoyable feast, but I hope the last season serves up something to satisfy my heart.

Damon Lindelof: “Season 6 will feel a lot like Season 1. The focus comes back to the characters with whom we began. . . We’re getting down to the end now.”

Sounds good to me. Namaste!

Sunny Solution

In the Lost ‘special episode’ (i.e. filler edition) - A Journey In Time - Damon and Carlton discussed the crashing of Ajira 316 and how that event resulted in the majority of the Oceanic 6 being transported back in time whilst the rest of the passengers and crew, including Sun, remained in 2007.

Carlton: “Eloise Hawking has said that you have to replicate the circumstances of 815 exactly – they were not able to do that.”

Damon: “Which is what triggers some of them to move to 1977.”

This, as an Anonymous commenter pointed out recently, is about as good as explanation as we’re ever likely to receive about why it was Sun remained in her present whereas everyone else went back to 1977. As that commenter said, “Pretty lame, I’m sure you’ll agree.”

And, initially, I did.

Initially, I watched that special edition ‘filler’ episode and heard Damon and Carlton calmly extol the above quote and I was outraged. “What a load of bullshit!” They think that is a good enough explanation as to why Sun has found herself completely set apart from the rest of the Oceanic 6? Because the flight of Oceanic 815 wasn’t properly replicated?

But then I allowed it to sink in, and tried to process it fairly, and you know what? I’ve come around. Now I think it’s actually a perfectly reasonable explanation. Fundamentally, I think the problem was that I was mistaking coincidence for fate.

There were all those potential ideas that Sun didn’t go back because she was working for Widmore, or because she wasn’t supposed to go back, or because she’d left Ji Yeon behind. . . I think the problem was entirely that we were trying to rationalize something we already had explained. I mean, we already bought the principle Eloise Hawking was, well, hawking. She said that if the Oceanic 6 could reproduce near-identical circumstances to Oceanic 815 then Ajira 316 would get to the Island. And the fact is, it did.

Truth of the matter is the Oceanic 6 nearly replicated the circumstances of 815. They had original passengers, and then the likes of Ilana doubling as Agent Mars, and Hurley taking a guitar case representation of Charlie. . .

Truth of the matter is that Ajira 316 made for a fairly close approximation of Oceanic 815 and, as Hawking stated, it meant the plane could get to the Island. But it wasn’t perfect. And, as such, not everyone on the plane landed perfectly on the Island exactly as intended.

Technically, it wasn’t Sun that didn’t get to where she was meant to get to (the 1970s), it was Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid that were spat out in the wrong decade as a result of an inexact replication of Oceanic 815.

They almost got it right, but it wasn’t right enough, and the imperfect means meant an imperfect result. Like it or not, if you can swallow the basic principle of Hawking’s plan to get the Oceanic 6 back to the Island then you can accept the fact that it went a little awry and that’s the explanation we have been given. It was a balls-up, basically. They went in their half-assed and got a half-assed outcome.

Like I said, initially it totally irritated me, but now I’ve let it sink in I am happy to accept it. One less mystery to worry about. It wasn’t a grand design. Sun being kept apart was just one accidental happening keeping her apart from Jin until they overcome the odds to get back together.

But in all this goodwill and understanding, let's make something clear: Hawking’s replication of Oceanic 815 to crash back on the Island plan is still logic-defying dumbness in action.

Unless Darlton can manage to put a spin on it that convinces me of otherwise!

Analysis: 5.17 The Incident - Part 2

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” – The Usual Suspects

Dead is dead. There was an episode named after this idea. Ben stated it. Alpert said as much. People that are dead do not come back to life on the Island. And then there was Locke. . .

The living dead. A walking miracle even more miraculous than his being able to walk after his back had been broken. If anyone could come back from the dead, courtesy of the Island and destiny, we’d all believe Locke was that man. And that was the great trick that got pulled, foreshadowed in Sayid’s remark to Jack about how they could escape The Barracks – by HIDING in PLAIN SIGHT. Once Locke’s dead body was revealed, having been found by the ‘Ajira Acolytes’ (as I am now terming Ilana and her group, given their devotion to Jacob), the ruse Nameless had been employing, the loophole he had sworn to find, was already in motion.

Let’s see if we can’t look behind the curtain and try and work out how this trick got pulled. And, perhaps just as importantly, why.

Nameless was frank and upfront about his intentions. He plainly told Jacob that he badly wanted to kill him, but this wasn’t exactly news to Jacob. If we take the view that Jacob is the supporter of the good in humanity, a champion who has faith in man, it’s actually curious that Nameless would oppose the arrival of people to the Island. Nameless bemoaned the approaching Black Rock as yet another instance of people turning up with their corruptive, disruptive ways – same as it ever was. Yet it strikes me that if he was a reveller in human badness then he ought to relish new arrivals and all their destructive corruption.

In Part 1 of this analysis my idea was that Nameless resisted new people coming to the Island, this personal playground, purely because each new person represented someone that might just be the one to tip the balance in Jacob’s favour and win this personal battle of theirs. I’m sticking with that idea. Black opposed to white. Good versus evil. Same as it ever was.

It seems certain that the game, and their existences, are bound by certain rules. Nameless cannot just throttle Jacob on the beach, no matter how much he wants him dead. It harkens to Widmore’s remark to Ben, back in The Shape Of Things To Come:

Widmore: “Have you come here to kill me, Benjamin?”

Ben: “We both know I can’t do that.”

This creates a link between Island Chiefs, and Jacob and Nameless; potentially a pertinent one. Put simply: Ben couldn’t kill Widmore because, somehow, the ‘rules’ dictate that one Island Chief cannot kill the other, the same way these ‘Island Gods’ Jacob and Nameless cannot kill one another. There’s a sensible streak of logic there, intangibly hard to articulate with a practical explanation, but it promotes the role of Island Chief as one with genuine, high Island level importance. I think that’s crucial. Because it was only an Island Chief, ex or current, that has the power to kill Jacob. The loophole Nameless exploited.

The logic, I suppose, would be that an Island Chief would be a complete advocate of Jacob and therefore ‘falling’ from that place to become a murderer of their own idol would represent a grand failing in Jacob’s faith in humanity. Thus that would be a major victory for Nameless. Hence: Ben and his knife.

Ah, some of you may be thinking, if one Island Chief cannot kill another then how does such a ‘rule’ account for this:

Well, I have an explanation, and if I am close to right then it’s a pretty comprehensive explanation about much of what we have been seeing on Lost right from the start, and gives a breakdown of how this ‘trick’ from the arch-trickster Nameless played out. It all comes down to John Locke.

When Locke first landed on the Island he immediately got up on his feet, no longer paralysed. Now we know that Jacob had touched him – he was one of the chosen few on that flight. I can’t say the healing was exclusive to this, though (we have to remember Rose and her cancer cure, for example) but it seems like a key element.

And not long after, Locke was confronted by the Black Smoke – and walked away from the experience not shaken or scared, instead imbued with a sense of importance and wonder about his destiny on the Island. He would later claim that he looked into the Black Smoke and saw a beautiful white light. Now, here’s the big question: Is Nameless the Black Smoke?

The mechanical sounds Smokey make dissuade me from thinking so, and if it really was Nameless that had been trapped in Jacob’s Cabin by the circle of ash (shown to be broken, but that’s a discussion for the comments or another day, I’m afraid) then how did he roam the jungle as a Black Smoke? That doesn’t feel right, and yet. . . Jacob offered Nameless some fish and his reply was a sly, “I just ate.”

Hm. And Nameless’ inhabiting of dead bodies is certainly linked in with Smokey, being the Black Smoke has invariably been around, or heard, when dead people have appeared to the living on the Island (I am thinking specifically of Mr. Eko’s encounter with Yemi and Ben and Alex). But this is not a universal truth; Christian Shephard, for example, has appeared off-Island – something Jacob can do so no doubt Nameless can also, but I doubt Smokey can manage overseas trips. So whilst I am retaining an open mind to the idea of Nameless being Smokey I am also willing to accept that he merely has a very good understanding of what the Black Smoke learns of people when it scans them, and knows how to use this to his shape-shifting advantage.

Prime example: When Locke (but really Nameless) led Ben to The Temple to face the Black Smoke it was suspicious at the time that ‘Locke’ wasn’t around when Ben had his encounter.

In this scene there was both Black Smoke and an apparition of the dead. It could be figured that the Black Smoke did the scanning work on Ben, Nameless learned what he needed from it, and then shape-shifted to appear as Alex and win Ben as his faithful servant by having Alex demand he follows John Locke no matter what. Nameless and Black Smoke working well together, don’t you think?

If Nameless is a Devil-like figure, then calling Black Smoke ‘Cerberus’ – guardian of the underworld – very much paints the picture of Smokey being his pet dog. And hey, what’s that in Jacob’s Cabin?

Well, you can go too far with these connective ideas! But you get the point. And Locke, when he looked into the Black Smoke, first saw a white light (is this because the Black Smoke shows you what it sees within, and the ‘touch’ of Jacob reflected back this beautiful grace Locke had been imbued with?) whereas Mr. Eko didn’t see any such thing. If Nameless can know what the Black Smoke learns, that would have been him realising that Locke was one of Jacob’s ‘chosen’ people. (It may also explain why Smokey, the next time he encountered Locke, tried to drag him down a hole – Nameless commanding that one of Jacob’s disciples be snatched away?)

Locke has had a whole life of being a sucker, used, “amenable for coercion” – from his dad conning him out of a kidney back to growing up and convincing himself he was a hunter sportsperson rather than the farmer he really was. On the Island he was lured in to the belief in ‘pressing the button’, and then ultimately not pressing it and eventually became a willing tool in whatever Ben/Alpert/Christian told him to do next. This continued right up to his death – and the Locke that appeared post-Ajira crash, knowledgeable and confident, it turned out wasn’t the same man. It was Nameless, equipped with memories and manner of the man, but altogether a different animal – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Alpert claimed to have visited Locke three times, off-Island, before the crash of Oceanic 815 and never saw anything special about him. (We’ve seen two of these instances – Alpert at Locke’s birth, and when he played the object test on him as a child.) It seems he should have listened to his instincts, because Locke – convinced by the machinations of Nameless and his own desire to be something important – managed to work his way into the role of Island Chief. And then Christian (probably, again, Nameless in disguise) got him off the Island (after Nameless, in disguise of Locke, had told Alpert to relay the fact that he had to die!) and delivered him to Ben where he was, indeed, definitely killed. (Doesn’t that moment hold more power now? It was the genuine death of John Locke.)

Locke, as Alpert wondered, was never supposed to be an Island Chief. He got tricked into the role. And this explains why Ben was able to kill him.

Without spending ages trawling through all the details and plot turns and characters interactions (probably a subject for a long post in the season hiatus!) that’s the overview, as I see it, of Nameless’ ‘trick’. That it seems Jacob allowed this trick to play out – to almost encourage Ben to stab him – certainly has a quality that suggests this ploy from Nameless wasn’t the success he thought and there is something he has overlooked.

What lies in the shadow of the statue? Turns out it was Jacob. “He who will save us all,” is the translated answer to the Ajira Acolyte’s riddle. We have to have faith Jacob knows what he is doing. “They are coming,” after all!

Ah yes, amidst all this high-concept trickery of good and evil it’s easy to forget there was a season finale going on featuring our main characters, and ‘the incident’ was in full flow with some devastating consequences – and we’ve been left ultimately none-the-wiser about the result. But that won’t stop me making some stretching speculation!

Jack made the unexpected announcement of his feelings for Kate, claiming that he was trying to change the past and wipe out the horrible things of the Island in the hope, or belief, that destiny would see to it that he and Kate would still, somehow, get together in the unknown course of a future where Oceanic 815 lands in L.A.

Meanwhile, Kate also had a hold of Sawyer’s heart. Even if Sawyer wasn’t willing to admit it aloud Juliet could see it plain enough. It was Juliet that led the submarine escape and set her on a fateful course to be at the very epicentre of ‘the incident’ – but before that there’s some old school, old-fashioned character business to attend to. Like Jack and Sawyer, finally, laying some smackdown on each other, and both of them came out bloody.

With Locke out of the way Jack no longer has to be the man of science, so instead he has become the man of fate and he’s got a practical “what’s done is done” Sawyer kicking him in the nuts. It’s an antagonism set to run right into Season Six. With Juliet gone, pretty much a martyr to Sawyer’s true feelings for Kate, I expect Sawyer will feel the need to earn Kate’s love to justify Juliet’s sacrifice. But Jack evidently wants Kate too. The love triangle is back in the frame! Place your bets! (I always thought Jack and Kate would couple up (Jater alert!) – and still do.)

So. Was Jack successful and manage to change the past? Or did he merely, as Miles amusingly proposed, just fulfil his part in history? Was setting the bomb off what created ‘the incident’, rather than preventing it from occurring? Or, to put it another way, did Jack always deliver Jughead to The Swan the same way Pierre always lost his arm and Radzinsky was always the biggest asshole in Dharma that deserved the penance of pressing that button underground for years until he finally did what he should have done a lot sooner and turned the gun on himself.

There was an episode called Dead Is Dead, and that proved to be true. And there was an episode called Whatever Happened, Happened and my gut tells me that will also prove to be true. Pierre lost his arm. There was an electromagnetic ‘incident’ at The Swan where they’ve drilled too deeply and will need to keep the discharge in check. It all seems historically intact. Jughead detonated as the white light electromagnetism was kicking off, and I think that implosion effect may have directly quashed the mass gravitational pull.

Put another way. There was a major imploding event happening, and the exploding nuclear device might have served as a counterbalance to that.

The side-effect of this may have been the catapulting of Jack, Sawyer and the rest to 2007, where Jacob has just died (maybe his death served as a means of drawing those he had touched to him – who knows?). That seems like the simplest and most effective way for Lost to progress (even though it does mean Dharma is left behind to nothing more than potential flashbacks to explain all the stuff we still don’t know about them – like why use a computer code to reset a timer!?). Except. . . oh. . . there was this. . .

Right at the moment you wanted to throw your shoe through the TV screen when Lost and the fifth season ended about one minute or so earlier than you needed it to, you ought to have noticed the final title card was, for the first time, inverted from white on black to black on white. Now how much do you want to read into this? Just a nice transitional ending flourish to compliment the whiteout of the ‘the incident’ filling the screen? Or a symbolic representation that something fundamentally permanent in the Lost world has been flipped over and changed?

If that’s the case, if Jack did somehow succeed and change history, then all bets are off and all the wildest speculation in the world just won’t be wild enough. I still don’t see how it could be, though. 2007 is happening. Jacob. Locke. Ajira Acolytes. . .

. . . they’re all standing in the shadow of the broken statue at a killer dramatic moment, and Jack changing a fundamental part of the past, like Oceanic 815 never crashing, means none of this can come to be. So, as alluring as the idea is, I don’t think Jack was successful. Nothing’s changed for me. Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Sayid (dying, but won’t die), Jin and, somehow, Miles – perhaps only because he was born on the Island – are heading for a rendezvous with Alpert and the Ajira Acolytes.

“They are coming.”

And, hopefully, there’s a happy ending already tucked away, with Rose, Bernard and Vincent living out their days untroubled by all this talk of war and time travelling.

They’ve got a good 27 years before the fuselage wreckage of Oceanic 815 will turn up on their idyllic, peaceful retreat. Unless, of course, Jack really did change things. We can only wait the long, long time until Season 6 to learn about. Never has a cliffhanger been more annoying since that time we were left with Jack and Locke staring down an open hatch – but it kept us coming back for more ever since. . .