“What happened?” Sayid asked, roused from beyond the grave. It’s a question that many a shellshocked viewer might have echoed at the end of Lost's sixth season debut – but Sayid’s resurrection is for the second part of this analysis. Here I shall be focusing on Part 1 of the two-part season opener, up to the point where Locke, in his wheelchair, departed the safely-landed Oceanic 815 (though I may stray ahead on occasion - do forgive me!).
That Oceanic 815 didn’t crash was the opening gambit here, though the big wow was saved for the sky-to-ocean plunge to reveal a submerged Island, Dharma sharks and the remains of a four-toed statue all underwater.
Before we go any further it’s important we grapple with this split between the two plotlines, or realities. As we know, in 1977 Juliet detonated Jughead with the intention of destroying The Swan to prevent the crash of Oceanic 815. Apparently, in one reality at least, this worked. The detonation, fused with the electromagnetic 'incident', resulted in the Island apparently sinking to watery depths. (I am willing to believe that something further could have happened to sink the Island yet if the detonation of Jughead didn’t directly cause the sinking it did at least begin a sequence of events that produced the same result.)
Considering that this is an Island that moves freely in time and space I suppose we have to think of it as capable of being above water, below water, or floating in mid-air. Since the electromagnetic anomaly went haywire, which apparently controls this time-space orientation, it would seem the Island was eventually sunk and, presumably, all who were on it were killed. People like Widmore and Ms. Hawking, for example.
Remember, this was in 1977. And the resulting effects of this in 2004, when we meet Jack and the rest of the gang onboard Oceanic 815, are noticeable. In this version of the world Hurley is always lucky and Boone didn’t persuade his sister to return to LA with him. . .
Maybe Rose didn’t have cancer. Perhaps Sawyer didn’t kill Frank Duckett. It’s difficult to know, but some things remained as we knew them: Jack’s father died, Kate was still arrested, and Locke was still in a wheelchair (and I am thinking that he did, indeed, lie to Boone about that whole walkabout trip – but, who knows, maybe in this version of the universe he was allowed to go!?).
Obviously this whole scenario is fantastical, but we can accept it. History got changed and produced this alternate timeline. A timeline where Oceanic 815 didn’t crash and the Island was rendered to a watery grave.
Of course the problem here is that Jack and the gang that were on the Island during the moment Jughead detonated did not suddenly get erased from existence, or remain on an Island doomed to sink below the depths. Instead they were transported to 2007, to the same timeframe that Sun and Frank and dead Locke were all existing in at the end of Season 5.
So we have an Original Timeline. It’s the one where Oceanic 815 crashed in 2004. Where Ajira 316 crashed in 2007. And where, in 1977, there was ‘an incident’ but it didn’t prevent The Swan from being built and Desmond from being there and everything else we’ve seen and know of. Then there is the Alternate Timeline that got introduced in this episode for Season 6, one where Oceanic 815 didn't crash. Everyone with me? Everyone comfortable so far? Good.
I’m going to keep it simple and state that the reason the Swan hole looks different is because, during the detonation, like Jack and Hurley and Juliet, bits of rubble and some of the construction work got shifted through time also. This does beg the question of what happened to Radzinsky and Pierre Chang and the rest, of course, but for now let’s consign them to being blasted by a massive explosion and rendered to a watery demise back in 1977 on a sunken Island and leave it at that.
I’ve got the feeling this alternate timeline, and the submerged Island, is only a temporary one anyway. Like Charlie’s remarks to Jack after he had saved his life, it was an event that wasn’t supposed to happen. Charlie was supposed to be dead, is supposed to be dead, and this isn’t the first time he has cropped up to say as much despite the circumstances.
Back in Season 4 Charlie was an instance of a character appearing in a place in time that he couldn’t have possibly been, and in LA X there was another:
Since his brush with The Swan Station electromagnetic anomaly the rules of time and space have never fully applied to Desmond, the wild card element, and so there he was, on a flight he didn’t seem to have any reason to be on. There’s a good chance that no one else could actually see or hear Desmond other than Jack, like how only Hurley could see Jacob. It may be that Desmond is fulfilling the role of a temporal police, a bit like how Ms. Hawking once coaxed him towards making the decision not to ask for Penny’s hand in marriage in the episode Flashes Before Your Eyes. Desmond turns up, saying “brotha”, prompting Jack to wonder if he knew him. Of course, once upon a time, Jack and Desmond had met previously. . .
. . . but that was back in the old timeline. In this new timeline there is no indication or reason to believe Jack and Desmond ever met at that sports stadium. Desmond was only there running to train for a race around the world on a yacht to win Charles Widmore’s favour to earn the right to Penny Widmore’s hand in marriage. But Charles Widmore may have died on the sunken Island, or even if he didn’t he’d not be the same man, so it’s highly improbable Desmond would have ever even met Penny. The whole ‘history’ of Desmond as we know it would be very different. Yet despite this Jack’s memories still prickled with the hint of recognition and I believe this was very much Desmond’s purpose and intention. To prompt Jack into recalling the reality he averted. Like how he bumped into Kate outside the toilet, familiar recollections may have been distracting him whilst she was pickpocketing his pen! And what about the little cut on his neck?
Actual physical residue of a different timeline, a different universe? It’s inexplicable yet must be significant and it’s these such things which convince me this alternate reality can only be temporary. It’s a timeline produced from a freak event in the Original Timeline that probably can’t be sustained. Either one will ultimately collapse, or they’ll collide. Personally I think this offspring timeline will eventually falter. I suspect that Jack may have a full awakening and realise this alternate reality is worse than the one he tried to erase and it will bring the whole thing to an end. He’s a stranger in a strange land at the moment – he walks amongst the alternate timeline but he is not fully part of it.
Symbolically, the Island being submerged works on the level of Alternate Timeline Jack's psycholoogy; like the Island has been pushed down to the depths of his unconscious mind.
Meanwhile, back on the above-water Island in 2007, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Miles and a dying Sayid remained to shake out the ringing in their ears and dig out the trapped-under-rubble Juliet (I always had her marked out as dead, but she surprisingly hung around into Season 6 anyway) who was somehow in possession of the knowledge that her efforts at changing history had succeeded.
Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if those bizarre remarks she made about grabbing a coffee were not her mind lapsing into this alternate world and we will witness, at some point, Juliet suggesting getting a coffee in the other timeline. That would be cool.
Meanwhile Jacob appeared to Hurley to, as ever, cryptically bestow guidance from his apparent omniscience beyond the grave. We find out that at this point. . .
. . . Jacob had already written down a list of the exact people that would show up at The Temple, stuffed this paper in an ankh and then sealed it in a guitar case. Even after death Jacob proves he’s got a magician’s showmanship and further validates what we probably all suspected: everything that is happening is exactly how he intended it to happen. Meanwhile, his counterpart, in the body of John Locke, blew open a whole new set of speculation and revelation for us.
It was revealed that the man in black, Nameless, and the Black Smoke are, indeed, one and the same. Probably not that big a surprise for most of us. But what I found interesting was how the ash was used as a potential defence, by Bram, when ‘the monster’ went on the rampage.
I don’t believe that Nameless has always been the Black Smoke that we’ve seen rampaging through the jungle. I think the circle of ash that we saw surrounding Jacob’s cabin, that Ilana and her people discovered had been broken, clues us in to this idea. I believe that, at some point, Nameless was trapped within the circle of ash, in the cabin. The ash served as a barrier that prevented him from ‘rejoining’ with the Black Smoke, and so this destructive and powerful force remained apart from him. Perhaps it was operating under its own ‘instinct’, or it was part-controlled by the will of Nameless.
I think of the Black Smoke in the early seasons now like a dismembered limb – a restless element cut adrift from its host, Nameless, that had been incarcerated in a weird wooden shack.
The Black Smoke still functioned via similar rules to Nameless. Note how Nameless didn’t attack Bram and the rest until they fired at him. They needed to do a terrible act before he could inflict judgement and death upon them. Consider that alongside, say, the death of Eko and his defiance at repenting. Indeed, this may quite simply be the reason why Nameless could not kill Jacob – Jacob never did anything bad to him to deserve it! Maybe it was that very same lack of sin that was the very source of the hatred Nameless felt towards Jacob.
Ben’s realisation of who ‘Locke’ really was will, I feel, represent a major turning point for his character. There was always something very telling about the “What about you?” remark Jacob hit Ben with at the end of Season 5. Ben, now realising what he is dealing with and what he has done, will be forced to ask himself that question. I’m staking a prediction that Ben’s atonement will come in the form of self-sacrifice for a greater good.
“They are coming,” Jacob remarked, meaning Jack and the rest of the people he once touched in the past. As of the end of LA X – Part 1 they have arrived in the same timeframe as Nameless, but there’s a long way to go before they comprehend the scale of the battle they are involved in. The foundations for war appear to be marked out at The Temple – a place we’ll see up close in LA X – Part 2 where, in grand Lost tradition, answers always come with further mysteries. . .