Last week I predicted that this episode was going to be a Sun-centric one. Turned out I was flat out wrong. And you know what? I don’t mind. This episode was all about wrongfooting the audience so it could smack us upside the head with its knockout surprise sucker punches towards the end. From my personal entertainment point of view being wrong never felt so right!
Sayid, the torturer with the tortured soul, just before he ‘died’ wondered about where he would go. Given the life he has lead and the things he has done his heart of hearts knew he could only be going someplace bad.
Sayid: “I’ve tortured more people than I can remember. I murdered. Wherever I’m going, it can’t be very pleasant. . . I deserve it.”
Whilst this episode apparently dispensed with the ‘flashback template’ of Season One, it did have tie-ins with Sayid’s Season One focused episode Solitary. In that episode we saw his journey after he had imposed banishment on himself as a punishment for having tortured Sawyer. Thematically Sundown retread the same ground, with a banished Sayid venturing out into the wilderness hoping to find redemption on his own terms – only this time he had ventured out into the wilderness of death and the Sayid that returned had, as Dogen described it, an imbalance between the black and white sides of himself.
I’m still not clear on how electrocution and branding with hot metal displayed the findings Dogen was so certain of but, by the episode’s end, I think it’s fair to say that the test was proved fairly conclusive: the dark heart of Sayid had very much taken hold.
So let’s look at the events leading up to the best double-murder jaw-dropper since, well, a certain Michael Dawson pumped a few rounds into a couple of unsuspecting tail-end ladies in The Swan, and let's give some credit to how this episode so excellently swept the rug out from under us.
The Alt-Timeline story was, as it turned out, a parallel of the on-Island events, showing us for the first time a character in that timeline who wasn’t particularly any better off. Here Sayid was clearly still devoted in his heart to Nadia but, like exiling himself from the group as a form of penance as he did in Solitary, he had pushed her into the arms of his brother as a result of his belief that he wasn’t worthy of her.
Of course the episode kind of lulled you into believing that Sayid was being a little too hard on himself and that Alt-Timeline Sayid, like Alt-Jack and Alt-Locke, was surely worthy of a better life. One where he could be more of a father to his nephews than his brother was, and more of a husband to Nadia. But when pushed, when drawn to the fundamental nature of kill or not kill, Keamy and all his egg-making skills tipped the scales towards murder.
Whilst it’s still difficult to rationalise exactly how these Alternate Timeline forays are going to tie in to the Island events it almost felt like something tangible was being touched on when Sayid encountered Nameless. Under Dogen’s instructions Sayid took the special dagger and, first chance he got, stuck it in Nameless’ chest to absolutely no effect.
Did Nameless not die because he got the chance to speak? Or was it really like he suggested, that Dogen had sent Sayid out on a pointless mission in the hope he would be killed for his murder attempt?
It’s hard to say. I’d like to think Dogen held hope for Sayid (tragically for him it was that belief that caused him to lower his guard and therefore be surprise-dunked and drowned in the pool). We learned that Dogen hadn’t been on the Island all that long. He wasn’t some all-knowing templar of the Island. He was there, like Juliet on the promise that her sister could be cured of cancer, so the son he felt responsible for seriously injuring would be saved.
Like Sayid, Dogen was serving a self-enforced penance for personal sins. This is interesting, because it’s only through this angle of thinking does Sayid being made a candidate by Jacob make any kind of sense.
Let’s face it, Sayid isn’t exactly the first name that springs to mind when you consider who ought to make ‘candidate’ material. A once-torturer turned ruthless assassin, he’s not anything like approaching good and wholesome. Yet Dogen was a drunk-driver that almost took his own son’s life. Again, hardly a great role model. But what he and Sayid share is the character trait to exile themselves to work out their own morality.
Dogen referred to every man harbouring a black and a white element within them, and it being a balance of power over domination. Note how Dogen also contains this struggle – in the (absolutely bloody awesome!) scrap he nearly delivered the fatal strike, but held himself fast. A murderer nestled in Dogen’s soul, too – unlike Sayid he managed to rein it in.
Original Sayid might, maybe, have been able to do the same thing. But that was before he was brought back after two hours being dead, returned by some force surely connected with Nameless but not fully explained. This made Sayid susceptible to Nameless’ instructions, more pliable, and less resistant to prevent a black imbalance within him. If Nameless is said to exert control over people it is in this internal struggle does he wield his power. But before we get to that, let me briefly return to the matter of him speaking with Sayid.
Similarly to telling Sawyer that he could provide the answer to the most important question of all, Nameless told Sayid he could give him the thing he desired most of all. (Was it just my interpretation of Nameless here, or were there visible signs of him conjuring up the right temptations before he spoke his selected words to lure Sayid in?) What Sayid most desired was, surely, Nadia – but she’s dead. Except not in the Alternate Timeline. . .
Like I said earlier, it felt here in this moment there was almost some tangible connection being hinted at between the Alternate Timeline and how it may come into play for the Island Timeline. It feels just out of reach, but there’s a sense that maybe it’s something Nameless can show Sayid, or give him the possibility of having as real? It infuriatingly feels so close and yet so far removed from what seems plausible.
What I do think is interesting is that these Alternate Timelines do seem to reflect, or exacerbate, the fundamental elements of our main characters. Jack came to the Island with father issues – in the other timeline he is making efforts to be a good father. Locke came to the Island restlessly seeking purpose – in the other timeline he has reconciled hope with reality to find happiness. Sayid? Came to the Island wanting to absolve himself of his past and find Nadia – in the other timeline he wanted the exact same thing. I believe this may be the fundamental reason why Nameless’ battle to claim Sayid’s soul won through.
I don’t hold out much hope for Sayid ever getting back to the ‘white side’ now. Like he told Ben, it’s too late for him. Yet by the end of the episode Claire and Kate were counted amongst the ranks of Nameless’ legion of followers.
Claire, I believe it’s fair to say, through a mixture of manipulation and who knows what else over the years has had her mind and soul converted, bent over the loss of Aaron – but I don’t think she is lost like Sayid. She did something very important before she marched into The Temple. Something incredibly demonstrative. She questioned Nameless’ command. She asked him why he didn’t just do what he was making her do. If Claire’s mind was wholly surrendered to Nameless, if her will was not her own, she wouldn’t have done that. And, also, she is going to eventually realise he lied to her about Aaron. That’s not going to go down well.
Kate was the more confusing conversion – apparently entranced by something she saw in the Black Smoke as it zipped over her head, after this she adopted similar mannerisms and vacancy of stare as the rest of Nameless’ followers. Question is: Is she really converted, or just playing along?
Nameless seemed a little surprised to see Kate emerge and join the group, suggesting for one thing her conversion was not intentional. Potentially he’s complacent with his power and casually accepted her joining the ranks, which is understandable. Plenty of other Others have swiftly joined up, why not Kate? And Kate, let’s not forget, has not been marked out as an official candidate so, for Nameless, she really doesn’t afford too special a place of importance. That may be Nameless’ big mistake and Jacob’s quiet triumph.
I am literally 50/50 on what to believe about Kate. I feel like she seemed to change as a result of what she saw in the Black Smoke and, as such, I believe her joining Nameless’ group was not an act of subterfuge. However, if she really isn’t faking it I don’t believe the grip will be as tight on her as it is on, say, Claire. A meet back up with Sawyer (what is he up to at the moment!?) might be enough to jolt some ‘sense’ into one, or both, of them and give the ‘good guys’ a couple more allies.
There is the argument that Nameless isn’t the bad guy, of course. That all of what he says – that he was once a man that was betrayed, that all he wants is to be free and to tear down the machinations of Jacob and the world of the Island, that he will lead everyone to freedom and a life of free will – maybe it’s all true. Maybe that’s exactly it. Not good vs. evil. More fate versus free will. Jacob controlling fate, Nameless endorsing free will. There’s merit in that view, for sure, but I’m still not buying.
Dogen referred to him as “evil incarnate”. Richard Alpert certainly knows something that has him running scared. Maybe their beliefs are entirely because of Jacob and are wrong? Hmm, maybe. But then I remember this kid. . .
. . . and the look in Nameless’ eyes, in the body of the man with the last pitiable thought that ran ‘I don’t understand’ telling Ben that all he wanted was to go home. . .
. . . as well as the manipulation of Ben into committing murder for the sake of the loophole he had been seeking for many long years. None of this strikes me as good. Jacob’s trouble is that his benign, almost passive-aggressive silence means he isn’t making a good case as to why we should really be getting behind him.
Right now we’re listening to the devil, who has all the best tunes, and it’s tempting to tap your foot and nod your head along with the music. Jacob drives a hard bargain, for sure. Too hard? Preventing Dogen from ever seeing the son he saved? Yes, that’s hard. But we don’t know Jacob’s endgame. As stated, he isn’t making a very good case for himself so far but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one.
In a classic good versus evil war, though, it’s only dramatically right that Nameless is gathering power. If he wasn’t formidable then the eventual triumph of our heroes wouldn’t be so remarkable. Jack’s staring out to sea right now – unaware of the gathering threat. But he’s got what it takes. Have faith.
Couple more points to make, though they’re more like highlights of the unknown. The first, and probably for me the one element of Sundown that really stuck in my craw, was Dogen’s death seemingly allowing Nameless, in Black Smoke form, to storm The Temple and cause carnage.
I don’t understand why it was purely Dogen being alive that was what afforded the Temple protection when we were previously lead to believe it was the circle of ash. I don’t have any good answers to this. Possibly it was that a ‘candidate’, Sayid, acting on the word of Nameless, had murdered Dogen – kind of like effecting another loophole exploitation.
No, I’m not thrilled by that either.
More thrilling, yet equally mysterious, was this:
What the hell is Jin doing in a fridge? Evidently held there by Keamy and his men, it would follow that he met with them and they turned on him. If the reason why he was making the flight on Oceanic 815 to LA was the same as in the Original Timeline (that he was delivering gold watches as part of a business arrangement courtesy of Sun’s father, Mr. Paik) I can hazard speculation. That Mr. Paik was somehow in business with Keamy and his people (or maybe whoever Keamy answers to – Widmore again?). Unimpressed with the gold watch, or whatever else Jin represented as an offer (perhaps he was sent there to kill Keamy and it backfired?), Keamy and his men captured Jin and, almost literally, kept him on ice for later.
Whatever the way of it, one thing is evident: In the Island Timeline and the Alternate Timeline Jin cannot catch a break.
I suspect Jin being imprisoned in the fridge strongly suggests he has also been bound and held by Nameless over at Claire’s camp, potentially whilst he works out whether it’s this Kwon, or Sun, who is a genuine ‘candidate’. Maybe Ilana and Miles and Sun will get to him first, but I doubt it. They’ve proven surprisingly incompetent every step of the way so far! Yet they are still in the game. Like Jack and Hurley. Like Alpert. Sundown has fallen on the Island as events move into their darkest ever phase, but those white pieces are scattered around trying to take shape against surmounting odds. There’s everything to play for. Maybe really seriously everything to play for. Sundown is over, a showdown beckons.