Some Spoilers follow.
On Feb. 2, Lost began its sixth and final season. To briefly recap the first five season, a flight en route from Australia to Los Angeles- Oceanic 815- crashes on an island in 2004, with 48 people from the fuselage the only apparent survivors. They’d later be reunited with a handful of people from the tail section. All manner of things happen over the course of the next 100 days or so, including an adversarial relationship with people already on the island, “The Others.” At last, six characters, including an infant, get off the island and back to civilization, where, to protect the rest, they lie and say they were the only survivors (a wealthy industrialist named Charles Widmore, who seeks to find the island, had gone to a great deal of expense in putting a fake Oceanic 815 on the floor of the ocean. He’d also sent a freighter to the island with mercenaries on board who had orders to capture one man and kill everyone else).
We see the “Oceanic Six” in a series of flash forwards that ultimately move their story three years into the future (and line them up with the real world timeline), by which time, they decide- for various reasons- that they have to return to the island. Except the child, who is left behind with his grandmother.
Meanwhile, back on the island, certain actions have led to characters bouncing around in time, before things settle down and they get off that time traveling Merry-Go-Round in 1974. They then proceed to live out the next three years with a scientific enclave called the Dharma Initiative.
In attempting to return to the island via a flight to Guam, four of the Oceanic Six, Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), Kate Austin (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews), and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Jorge Garcia), find themselves somehow transported off the plane and onto the island. They soon discover they’re now in 1977, where they eventually reunite with their compatriots. The other member of the Oceanic Six, Sun-Hwa Kwon (Yunjin Kim), remains in 2007 and survives the plane’s crash onto a secondary island near where Oceanic 815 had crashed.
So, some characters are in 1977, others are in the “present day” of 2007. And near the end of the fifth season, a physicist named Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies), argues that those living in 1977 can change history and prevent the electromagnetic accident that led to the crash of Oceanic 815 in 2004. And in so doing, prevent everything that happened afterward. How? By detonating a hydrogen bomb. In the season finale, the bomb is apparently detonated.
Which means what? If the plane never crashed, then nothing the survivors experienced on the island would ever have happened? Well, yes. That follows. But it would also follow that the characters wouldn’t know each other, and would go about their separate lives once they disembarked. Somehow I don’t think season six will involve the day-to-day lives of a group of people who flew on a plane that landed without incident, and then went their separate ways. I have a feeling that Faraday’s plan won’t succeed. It might actually lead to the chain of events that eventually caused the crash.
If it does succeed, then I suspect that somehow the characters will retain an “echo” of the previous timeline and find themselves drawn to each other for some reason they don’t understand.
Guess we’ll learn the answers soon enough.
And I hope we finally learn the answers to some other long-standing questions. Like why “The Others” were so hostile to the survivors of Oceanic 815. Why did Others’ leader Ben Linus take such drastic steps to manipulate people and events so that Jack (a spinal surgeon) would perform an operation on him? Why not approach the survivors openly? And then why not use the submarine to ferry the crash survivors back to civilization? That would get them off the island out of the Others’ way.
Someone familiar with the show might say that Ben didn’t want Charles Widmore to find the island, and that the survivors’ story of crashing on an island after the plane went about 1,000 miles off course (according to one of the pilots) might provide Widmore with the necessary clues to find it. Yeah, that’s possible. If not for the fact that it was established that the island can be moved. Ben’s actions of moving the island after the Oceanic Six left are what caused the time jumps in the first place.
True, whomever moves the island is essentially exiled from it, and Ben might not have wanted to move it under the circumstances I’ve described; but it’s still curious that the Others took such a hostile stance against the crash survivors. Who initially didn’t even know about them.
My guess? The writers hadn’t quite worked out the full background and nature of The Others when they were first introduced. So we ended up with some discrepancies.
Ironically, the Oceanic Six made Ben- a liar, manipulator and mass murderer (he betrayed and orchestrated the deaths of the Dharma Initiative in the late 1980s; stole a baby named Alex and raised her as his own, and was later responsible for the girl’s death; and he murdered Oceanic 815 survivor John Locke. Among other things)- the man he is. Back in 1977, Sayid, knowing what sort of man Ben will become, shoots the 12-year-old Ben Linus. Kate begs Jack to operate on him, but Jack refuses, saying he’d saved Ben’s life once (and that had been under duress). Her pleas that this is a child and not the man they know and loathe fall on deaf ears, and in the end, Kate and James “Sawyer” Ford (Josh Holloway) make the decision to take Ben to the Others (or “The Hostiles”, as they’re known in 1977, believing them to be the only other option.
Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell), an apparently ageless man who holds a high position among the Others, says they can save Ben; but by so doing, A) he won’t remember what happened (which answers a question Hurley asked about Ben not recognizing Sayid when they first met in 2004; B) he’ll have lost his innocence; and C) he’ll be forever “one of us” from that point on.
One mystery seems to have been solved. How and why dead people are walking around on the island. The mysterious Jacob (whom we finally meet in the season 5 finale) has an unnamed adversary with a strong desire to kill him (some fans speculate that they’re the Biblical Jacob and Esau, but something tells me that’s a bit too obvious). In the season 5 finale, we learn that the apparently resurrected John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) is still dead, and that Jacob’s adversary had assumed Locke’s identity to get around a “can’t kill Jacob” clause. Now that we know that someone can change his appearance in this way, we can assume every other dead person, such as Christian, Yemi, Horace, and Alex- whether seen on the island or off- is actually this person. In fact, in re-watching the season 5 episodes on DVD, I noticed that “Locke” was conveniently not around when Ben is confronted by the late Alex.
It still a mystery how Jacob’s adversary can apparently shape-shift, but that’s a far cry from returning the dead to life. As Ben told Sun, “Dead is dead. You don’t get to come back from that. Not even here. So the fact that John Locke is walking around this island scares the living hell out of me.”
It’s not necessary that everything be tied up with a nice neat bow at the end of the series; but I’d like to see this final season give Lost a satisfying conclusion.
From the season premiere, it seems that the plan worked, but not quite as expected. Setting off the bomb thrust Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Miles, Sayid and Juliet back to the present; but they’re still on the island.
Except, everyone also landed safely in Los Angeles, with some curious differences. Desmond, who’d been on the island for three years prior to the plane crash, is now on the plane; and Jack, not Rose, is the nervous flyer.
It seems that— as I believe would be the case when changing something in the past— setting off the bomb created a new timeline, one in which Oceanic 815 landed safely, but for reasons we don’t yet know, the Dharma Swan Station (“The Hatch”) on the island was still detonated. So we have the original Jack, et al still on the island (and now anomalies in the new timeline B), and those versions of themselves, who landed safely and went on with their lives.
Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said in an interview that the scenes on board the plane and after it lands are essentially “what-if?” stories about how the characters we’ve come to know would have interacted in different circumstances. But does that mean that within the narrative, the characters have not succeeded in preventing the crash? Guess we’ll find that out when a character goes to the site of the beach camp and either finds a pristine beach or the survivors’ encampment.
Copyright 2010, Patrick Keating.