Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.05 - Lighthouse

I didn’t need Hurley’s rather blatant shout-out to recognize the old school vibe of this episode. From location nods, to mystery references, to its character-centered heart, Lighthouse was practically dripping with Season 1 nostalgia, and I dug every minute of it. Thematically, Jack’s story here is the perfect compliment to his story in 1.05 (White Rabbit). Haunted by his father’s ruthless assertion that he “doesn’t have what it takes” to make tough decisions, Season 1 Jack struggled with the mantle of leadership that had been thrust upon him by the other Survivors after the crash of Oceanic 815. Now, five seasons later, on-island Jack lashes out at the expectations put upon him, while his Altered Universe self is meanwhile able to right the wrongs of his father’s mantra.

The multiple, diverse, and carefully intertwined connections between this episode's Core Events and its Flashes are as deftly executed as many of Season 1’s best, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see so much strong character and heart injected into the series after the cool but cold intensity that dominated Season 5’s storytelling. It’s a strong sign that the writers have got their heads in the right place as they bring this massive tale to its endgame. Once all is said and done -- after the last answer has been given, and the last theory checked off -- it’s LOST’s inspiring heart and rich depth that will carry its intricately engrossing mystery forward to conquer the test of time.

That said, the mysteries do indeed rule the present:

The Altered Universe:
Even as the stories in the AU remain character-centered, hints continue to crop up that suggest what’s to come. That Jack’s appendix was removed at age 8 in the AU tells us that some things are different not because the Island was sunk, but simply because they are. The shape of destiny and the strength of a given character may be constants in the AU, but appendicitis and perhaps even having a son (the creation of life itself!), might as well have resulted from the role of a die. But even more telling is that Jack seems to suddenly have doubts about the origin of his abdominal scar. Does the name Juliet ring a bell to him? How about Bernard? …Is a certain Island calling?

The Island:
How the Island is connected to the rest of the globe is of central importance to establishing its identity. We know that physically it’s moving around – or at least the spot where one can access it is mobile – but so far any other connections presented have been of the magical vision-inducing (Jack, Hurley) or suicide-preventing (Jack, Michael) varieties. The abilities of the titular Lighthouse to view candidate-related spots all over the globe are no less magical, but are given mechanical weight through the compass-like distribution of the numbers. If the Island and its powers can be so intimately connected to the rest of the world, this only lends credence to Jacob’s insistence that the Island must be protected. And now we can add to that Jacob's declaration to Hurley that Jack has an important role to play in protecting it. For the sake of the series and its general awesomeness, I hope Jacob is right!

Jacob’s Agenda:
The importance of setting the Lighthouse to 108 in preparation for someone’s impending arrival should play out soon enough, but at least we’re here given great insight into Jacob’s own particular brand of manipulation. That he’s been watching Jack all his life might be creepy, but he clearly knows when a light touch is needed – or “a little push” as he told Jack when they met off-Island in 5.16 (The Incident). Unlike Hurley, Jack is not someone who could simply be told what to do by a stranger in a cab, and it’s been important to Jacob’s plan that Jack make his own decisions, influenced or otherwise. Jacob has finally chosen now -- after Jack has been brow-beaten by life and destiny -- to tip his hand and reveal his presence.

The Numbers:
Jacob’s off-island influence on Hurley, however, might not be as innocent as a single cab conversation. Viewers will recall that the Lighthouse’s wheel isn’t the first time the Numbers have been used to reach out from the Island to the world outside: it was the looped recording of “4 8 15 16 23 42” that functioned as a siren song in bringing Rousseau’s science team to the Island in the 1980s, and ultimately resulted in getting Hurley on board Oceanic 815. I’d love to know when, why, and by whom that looped recording was made, but if Hurley’s ultimate destiny is perchance to take over for Jacob, then it will have been the Numbers that brought him to the Island. And if Hurley’s even partially right that his "bad luck" contributed to Flight 815 flying off course and into Desmond’s System Failure… well then it’s the Numbers – the numbers of Jacob’s favorite Candidates -- that were responsible for bringing the lot of them to the Island. I hope these dots are one day connected in-show.

Jacob's Candidates:
The most telling moment of the night may have been Hurley’s refusal to listen to Dogen, and Dogen’s inability to do anything to stop a Candidate. This probably explains why Sayid had to choose to poison himself in 6.03 (What Kate Does), and why these Temple Others hold the free wills of our Survivors in such high esteem. It might even explain everything back to why Ben’s Others needed Michael to bring Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley to them in 2.23 (Live Togehter, Die Alone). Candidates are given special treatment. (Though I guess no one told Pickett back in Season 3). I suspect Dogen’s AU line is very applicable to his and the Others’ current situation: “It is hard to watch and be unable to help.” There must be some reason these guys have to keep their secrets even from Candidates. Probably the same reason they have to be douchebags even to Candidates...

The Sickness:
Now that we’ve had a chance to get to know the new Crazy Jungle Claire, I’m slightly less afraid for Sayid than I previously was. Dogen told Jack that the Sickness grows inside a person until it spreads to his/her heart, and then all that person is will be consumed. While Claire was certainly changed from the sweet character we remember, I can pretty easily imagine a similar Claire emerging from three years of living alone in the wilderness running from and fighting the Others for her life – with or without the help of an alleged Sickness. She’s still something of the same character: She helps Jin, and still values Aaron (though she doesn’t remember the circumstance under which she and Aaron parted ways). That said, perhaps this darkness Dogen refers to comes in the form of a susceptibility to the Man in Black’s (MIB’s) temptations and ways. Claire’s memory of her leaving Aaron in the Jungle is then fuzzy from the direct influence of the MIB (probably in the form of her father, Christian Shepard) who led her away from Sawyer and Miles back in 4.10 (Something Nice Back Home). If this is the case -- if the loss of all that you are primarily results in becoming a pawn of the MIB -- then I’m guessing there’ll be fireworks if/when he and Sayid meet up.

CharacterWatch - Jack:
By calling back to Jack’s first solo island adventure, Lighthouse allows viewers to look at his story-arch of beleaguered responsibility through eyes both wizened and jaded by the events of the past five seasons. And Jack himself is the most jaded viewer of all. His season 1 heroics and insistence to take control may have been largely self-inflicted to prove daddy wrong, but their impact had consequences for all involved. In taking responsibility for the Survivors, Jack took on the equal-parts-selfish-and-selfless role of leader. He was mayor of cavetown in Season 1, and led the fight against the Others in Seasons 2 and 3. His needs to control and to rescue morphed into single-minded stubbornness in Season 4 when he ignored every warning that the Freighter and its occupants were trouble and practically demanded that he be allowed to save everyone.

But we all know how well that turned out. As Jack tells us in Lighthouse, his days off Island broke him. He failed to get everyone off Island, and those that were lost in the transition weighted on his conscience. He hoped returning to the Island would be an easy fix for his soul, and with no obvious penance in sight, he latched on to Faraday’s plan to fight the future. It remains to be seen whether the Incident was as important or life-defining as Farday insisted it would be, but post-Incident Jack is done with letting his motivations be dependent on the demands of others. He’s had it with trying to impress daddy, he’s through with trying to fulfill destiny, and he most certainly doesn’t want to hear that Jacob has been watching him with the same expectant eye.

Altered Universe Jack learns to hold back on forcing such expectations on his son, but Island Jack can’t seem to fight free of them. We’ll have to wait and see whether staring out at the ocean for a while will ready Jack for whatever lies ahead, but hopefully when it comes, he’ll be able to take action on his own terms – not his father’s, not destiny’s, and not Jacob’s. …even if that’s exactly what Jacob wants ;)

And that’s where we are!


Joan Crawford said...

Yeah, I wonder about this "sickness". Sure Claire axed a guy - which is crazy as a stand-alone act, but, that guy not minutes before was going to snap her neck - which also is a crazy thing to do. I feel bad for Claire but I really believe she is coming to a good end.
Great review!

Sagacious Penguin said...

@ Joan Crawford - Exactly. I think Sayid would have words for anyone who call's Claire's actions crazy. Said to Charlie, from 2.14 (One of Them):

"I feel no guilt for what I did to [Henry Gale]. But there is no way I can ever explain that to Jack, or even Locke, because both of them have forgotten....That you were strung up by your neck and left for dead. That Claire was taken and kept for days during which god only know what happened to her. That these people -- these Others -- are merciless, and can take any one of us whenever they choose. So tell me, Charlie, have you forgotten?"

Teebore said...

I didn’t need Hurley’s rather blatant shout-out

Yeah, it was rather blatant, wasn't it?

I definitely think Claire's a few doughnuts short of a dozen, but it does remain to be seen just how dark the infection has made her.

The fact that she'd be willing to kill Kate for taking Aaron is, for me, more an indicator of her darkness than killing Nathan, whom, it could be argued, had it coming.

Especially since I suspect that the infection and/or Smokey's manipulations (if they're not the same things) will prevent Claire from listening to Kate's reasons for taking Aaron, namely that Claire abandoned him in the first place.