I would like to ask a question that’s been bothering me for a few weeks, but that’s making me crazy this morning: how can anyone hate Jack and still love Lost?
To me, Jack is Lost. Lost is Jack. The two are inextricably connected and have been since the VERY first shot of the Pilot. My feelings about other characters are tempered by Jack’s relationship to them. Locke? Unbelievably frustrating and kind of a scary freak. Kate? Awesome, hot, soul mate. Sawyer? Piece of shit.
So for me, seeing Lost from a very Jack-ian perspective, I can’t imagine disliking such an integral character and still having the interest in or the stomach for continuing to watch. Hell, I dislike Sawyer so much that, had last night’s episode ended differently, I was prepared to “jump helicopter” myself. And while Jack appeared in four flash-forward episodes, Sawyer didn’t even get a centric episode this season!
It’s like loving Sex and the City while hating Carrie Bradshaw. I mean, yeah, her clothes are sometimes outlandishly ugly and she has a tendency to get annoying with her voice-over articles, but I still want her to live happily ever after with Big and Manolo. It’s like loving Grey’s Anatomy while hating Meredith Grey. Meredith is a self-admitted lame-ass loser, but she’s also the protagonist.
Disliking the protagonist just seems counter-intuitive, because even when you’re watching Lost, you have to know that the hero’s ultimately going to prevail. (He’s also going to get the girl, but that’s a story for another blog.)
Sometimes we talk about the difference between shippers and non-shippers. We know that there are people out there who are watching Lost for the mytharc and are decidedly not interested in the love triangle. That’s totally great; in fact, most of the time, we wish we were those people. So all I can fathom is that if you’re really interested in the mythology stuff—the island, the DHARMA Initiative, Hanso, Charles Widmore, etc.—then you are on Team Locke, so to speak. The “getting off the island” story is second-fiddle to you and is frankly just getting in the way of the bigger stories that happen on the island. You roll your eyes at character-driven episodes like “Something Nice Back Home,” favoring hours that focus not on the emotional journeys that happen post-island, but on the past, present, and future of the island. Am I right?
Up until now, if you’ve been one of these mytharc people, Jack may have seemed kind of irrelevant. He gets in Locke’s way all the time, with his “let’s not go down the hatch” or “I’m not staying on the island with you” or that time he tried to shoot Locke in the face. And while characters like Locke and Ben have some kind of intense pull to the island—as well as the ability to commune with Jacob—Jack is an unwilling resident. He doesn’t believe in your mythology—whether that’s the right choice or not—and therefore he has not taken on a role in that part of the story.
Until now. There have been hints of Jack’s connection to the island this season, but most of that has been dealt with through Claire and Christian—not directly. After seeing the finale, though, I think it’s clear that Jack is about to become incredibly critical to the mythology. He’s encroaching in on that big story, thanks to a visit from Locke and a chat with Ben. I think he’s poised now to begin his redemption and, ultimately, regain the leadership skills he had during the first and second seasons. (As long as he and Ben’s idea about getting the Oceanic Six back to the island doesn’t involve tying up Kate against her will.)
In this fight between Jack and Locke that’s been going on since season one, I tend to take Jack’s side. (Obviously.) I watched a little season two with a friend the other night, and I asked her about her feelings for Locke, to which she replied, “I mean, sometimes he’s awesome and is, like, going to save everyone. And other times, he’s just f—king insane.” Pretty much my thoughts exactly. The thing is, I’m all for staying on the island if you want to. If I was Locke (or Rose, for that matter), there’d be no reason for me to go back to civilization-slash-wheelchair-slash-cancer. But in the beginning of the show, Locke was just kind of, like, this cool dude who could hunt boar and help find Charlie’s guitar and maybe be a little mysterious about it in a fun sort of way. But when he started doing crazy crap like put hallucinogenic toothpaste on Boone’s forehead, feel no remorse for Boone’s death, and destroy the hatch computer, I fell out of touch with Locke. Like I said, I’m all for staying on the island if you want to, but don’t screw up other people’s chance to get off. Jack, as an empiricist, would never have trusted Locke’s suggestion that life off-island would suck. (Neither would I.) Maybe Locke did end up being right, but (A) what’s to say that life on the island is necessarily better, and (B) Jack needed to figure that out for himself.
And which one's still alive, folks?
Also, I am a firm believer in live together, die alone. This theory is what brought the camp together and created the group collective. The two characters I’ve come to dislike the most—Sawyer and Locke—have difficulties fully accepting this theory. Locke has the following interests in mind: his own, the island’s, and Jacob’s. I think he thinks that by doing what the island tells him to do, he’ll ultimately save everyone else on it, but as evidenced by Boone’s death, his murdering of Naomi, and the fact that all the redshirts in Team Locke got killed, Locke doesn’t really care what happens to the individuals on the island. While I appreciate how Locke’s trust in the island mystery has served to drive the mythology story for four years now, I myself would never put myself or my co-castaways in some of the situations that Locke has created. And neither would Jack.
So, then, let’s talk about some things Jack’s done that piss you off and that I kind of can understand.
Well, for starters, in “Something Nice Back Home,” Drunk!Jack gets angry at Kate. His argument is ultimately that, “I’m the one who saved you.” She gives him a look that we’ve been trying to interpret since then. Did he mean generally, like in the 100 island days? Because that’s kind of true, considering the events of episodes like “The Hunting Party,” “Live Together, Die Alone,” and “I Do.” But we thought maybe there was some big Jack-Saves-Kate moment in the finale. Obviously, with the way Part 1 ended for Kate, we thought maybe Jack was going to have to deal with the Others on her behalf. He didn’t. The helicopter crashed into the water. I thought maybe he’d have to rescue her there. But it was Desmond who needed mouth-to-mouth. The most heroic thing Jack did in last night’s finale was to grab her wrist and demand she not go back for Jin. As much as we Jaters loved his “I’m not leaving without you,” it wasn’t an epic rescue by any means. (That said, neither was Sawyer jumping out of the helicopter, so zip it.)
There are two conflicting ways to look at the rescue. One is as the result of four seasons of hard work by Jack and the A-Team to get off the island. In this category, you could include events like Jack liaising with the Others, the building of the raft, Jack making the trip to the radio tower to make the phone call to the freighter, Charlie sacrificing himself, Desmond calling Penny, your basic live together, die alone mentality. Or you could see it as the result of a series of happenstance events, mostly occurring in season four, that had absolutely nothing to do with Jack. Naomi parachuting, freighter arriving, several well-timed helicopter events, Michael delaying the bomb for just long enough, Penny arriving, and, well, you know, Sawyer jumping off the helicopter.
Both are valid. The second is probably more relevant to the discussion of this episode, and in the context of this argument, it’s way easier to roll your eyes at Jack in “Something Nice Back Home,” which you may have been wanting to do anyway.
I think it’s important to realize that Jack, at the pinnacle of his current flashforward story, is not the guy that Jaters and Jack fans have fallen in love with. He’s not the man that Kate fell in love with, either; the thesis of her screeching-brakes argument last night was “I love you, but…” He has failed in some respects, and Locke was right about some things. But I think it will be fascinating to see what these “horrible things” happening on the island are. Are they in any way Locke’s fault? Or can they really be blamed on Jack taking the Oceanic Six on the island?
(Also, it’s not really fair to blame Jack for leaving and taking the O6 with him if you’re also ascribing to the theory that Jack is a lameass-loser who played no real role in the rescue.)
We’ve been asking the question all season, as we’ve seen these flashforwards, of are the Oceanic Six really better off in the real world than on the island? I’m hopeful that next season is going to ask are the left-behinders really better off on the island?
Jack’s ultimate failure so far lies in the fact that he only got six people rescued. Six out of seventy-one crash survivors, including Aaron. Six. For as many times as we’ve heard Jack go on about “I’m gonna get everyone off this island,” he kind of failed miserably. What happened to live together, die alone, Dr. Shephard? I think this is definitely part of what’s “eating him alive.”
What I’m trying to say is that I understand why people are frustrated with Jack. He’s made some mistakes, he’s not a great listener, and he has a tendency to be a cocky douchebag, particularly when “stoned on his pills.” (Thanks, Kate, for recognizing that. We’ll sober him up for you and return him to the Lie!Fam ASAP.)
I think those of you who dislike Jack should prepare yourselves, though. Because I think season five is going to ultimately introduce us to a renaissance Jack—off pills and back to being Aaron’s dad—who’s got an uphill battle to win and a hell of a drive. Although I love him pretty much unconditionally, I do hope he becomes more traditionally likable. I’m ready to see him accept his fate and carry on. Grow a pair and get back to the island.