Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost: The Finale Conundrum

You could argue that the big questions surrounding the Lost season five finale was what exactly is Jacob, who is his "frenemy" and what is their game, but since that would be like asking what is God, who is his "frenemy" with the pointy tail and what is his purpose for this world, it would be far easier to concentrate on the more tangible questions.

Like who is dead? Who remains dead? And who gets a reprieve.

But more importantly, questions of whether or not time travel can alter the course of history, or whether it truly is written exactly as it goes on, infinite possibilities delicately woven into a set fabric by our decisions creating a tapestry that exists to be admired.

And can it be destroyed?

What exactly are the consequences of detonating a hydrogen bomb over a large pocket of electromagnetic energy? It seems to be a question that has plagued Lost fandom for the better part of the past season, focusing the ideas in the existing body of Lost mythology as it stands of debate over whether destiny or free will frames our story, and what part course correction plays in it all.

So does this bomb alter the course of history, creating a paradox in that altering the course of history would also alter the course of the future which – given the time travel – in turn, alters the course of history, which negates these events ever even happening, thus changing nothing?

The belief of many on the show is that it can alter history, or at least the hope of a lot of characters is that it can. Jack's overall theory is that it can turn back for them all the events of the past five years. That those they have lost because of crashing on the island would still be alive, that those who have been separated can be reunited, and that they might have a second change at normalcy – something they've been lacking since arriving on the island.

But more directly, as Sawyer wrenches out of him, Jack hopes that given a second go around, maybe things between him and Kate would work out differently, that he'd never have to lose her. And he believes he will get a second chance with her, as confirmed by his line, "If it's meant to happen; it's meant to happen." His proclamation moments later, that blowing up the hydrogen bomb is the most right thing he's ever felt in his life, could easily be applied to his relationship with Kate. THEY are right; they just got the TIMING wrong.

Similarly, and yet oppositely, Juliet hopes to change things because she hopes that if she never has to meet and fall in love with Sawyer, she never has to lose him the way she feels she's going to lose him to Kate. Given her childhood experience of seeing parents who claim to love one another ultimately decide to divorce anyways, compounded by her ex-husband's infidelity, and her own transformation into the adulteress, it's easy to see why Juliet has lost faith in love. It's also easy to see why she'd be so eager to alter her past, even if it means she might die in the process.

Sawyer, meanwhile, doesn't WANT to change anything because he's finally been privy to a life where he's loved (by Juliet) and accepted (by the Dharma Initiative) and is upset Jack and Kate returned and disrupted that life. His childhood interaction with Jacob though, oddly enough, was the only one that held no encouragement for good behavior, simply a push towards his vengeful nature, something that may factor into whatever happens next season, especially if Juliet dies and nothing is changed. The fight between him and Jack might only have been a taste of what's to come.

And Kate? Kate trades in her mantra of "we have to stop Jack" for "we have to help Jack" fast enough to inflict whiplash upon viewers (especially those who hate her), but she's a character who lives on whims to disguise the fact that she's made a choice, she just struggles with committing to it by running from it. Kate was given the line, "I have always been with you," earlier in the season, with regards to Jack, to set up her place now as a point of conflict. Would anyone ever actually imagine a scenario in which Jack and Kate are rivals? Part of the excitement of the finale was wondering whether she would stand her ground in deciding Jack is wrong – but the question is: does she think he's wrong because he's RIGHT and WILL change the past (erasing THEM) or does she think he's wrong because he might kill them all (the adamant claims she made most of the night)?

The answer lies in how he convinces her to help him: they can change the past.

By bringing up Aaron, bringing up the fact that Jack knew she returned to the island for the boy and her confirming that she came back with the hopes of being able to reunite the true mother and son, Jack reveals that Kate's greatest fear is truly change. She's been given a glimpse at a life with Jack and she would rather keep that glimpse and hope for more than risk losing it altogether. But she sacrifices her chance with Jack (possible with the same hope as Jack, that if it's meant to be, it's meant to be) for giving Claire a chance with Aaron.

Of course, there are also other possibilities to consider, other than 'death' or 'changing the past'.

Most creatively, the Magnobomb could create a parallel timeline, killing all our characters in the actual timeline (explaining why Richard says he saw them all die – unless that's an even bigger clue) while simultaneously kicking a copy of themselves into an alternate timeline that branches off in 1977 in which the paradoxes of changes through time travel are encapsulated in this alternate timeline because the timeline only begins at The Incident.

Does this keep our people in an alternate 1977, or would it throw them into an alternate 2007, where they could view the consequences of their actions, should they have CHANGED something, before being reunited with their proper timeline, where nothing has changed. It would work to give incredibly insight into who these characters are, and into how destiny and free will would work. The problem with this story, oddly enough, is time.

Just like the previous option of having it actually CHANGE the events of the past, you could easily spend multiple seasons (and spin-offs) exploring the possibilities of all of these characters following different routes to the same end, or different routes to different ends. Another problem is that it's also a choice that allows previous characters to return as main characters again, something the actors portraying those characters probably won't be able to do (through scheduling conflicts or residual bad feelings). It's something I would enjoy seeing as a premier, the possibilities, and the outcome being the understanding that the grass isn't always greener… before returning "home" to the proper timeline.

The most probably premier scenario (or post-premier scenario, because I would really love to explore the 'alternate future' storyline for at least one episode) is for this event – like the key-turning in the season two finale – BE The Incident, avoiding timeline issues of cataclysmic proportions by setting off everything that we know to be true up until this point, simultaneously catapulting everyone who shouldn't be in 1977 forward thirty years to 2007 to continue the journey exactly as it stands.

Maybe I stand firmly in the camp of Destiny, or maybe I stand in the camp that provides that free will leads one down a path towards their Destiny. But I don't believe we've just spent five years with these characters just to hit a re-set button on it all and jump into the final season as a complete blank slate. I also believe Jacob's, "They're coming," is indicative of all those he's "touched" along the way – his own "loophole", and his last chance to prove that people can co-exist and be peaceful. And "win" the war.

3 Responses to “Lost: The Finale Conundrum”

Anonymous said...

Lovvvvvvessss it. You're a genius.


Anonymous said...

Love reading your thoughts, as always. But here's my question - how can Jack and Co. detonating the bomb BE the incident? We saw the incident start to happen before Jack tossed the bomb down. The drill hit the pocket of energy, all hell broke loose, Chang lost his arm, Radzinsky got away alive so he could be around years later to blow his brains out in the hatch.

It was all happening just as it was supposed to...and THEN Juliet detonated the bomb. So, how can they have caused the incident? Doesn't that mean that the bomb HAS to do something else?

mysticxf said...

@suzzzette I think that assumes that we knew all there was to know about The Incident. And we don't know what effect the bomb will have... again, we're assuming it's going to "explode", but what if the combo of the energy and the bomb is what they've been pushing the button to keep at bay?

Who knows, we just have to wait until 2010. Heh.