I'm a good kid. Oh, wait, I've killed a chicken to help my brother. I'm a good soldier. Oh, wait, I've been manipulated into being a torturer. I'm a good veteran. Oh, wait, I've crashed on a wacko-crazy magic Island and ended up torturing a redneck con-man. But, I'll atone for my sins. I'm a good lover. Oh, wait, Shannon's been killed and I beat the crap out of Ben Linus and killed a bunch of mercenaries. At least I can get off-Island and start anew with Nadia. I'm a good husband. Oh, wait, Nadia's been killed and I've been manipulated into being a serial killer for Ben Linus. Screw this, I need to join a charity organization to right my wrongs. I'm a good Samaritan. Oh, wait, I've been dragged back to the Island through time and have shot the child Ben Linus. For shame! At least I'll get what I deserve in death. I'm a good corpse. Oh, wait, I've been brought back to life by the Sickness, and am now a darkness-filled disciple of a mass murderer. THERE IS NO WINNING ON THIS SHOW!
Can Sayid ever find redemption, or is he Evil with a capital E now? It's all in the details...
The Altered Universe:
Still as big a mystery as ever, the Altered Universe was treated a bit differently this time around. For starters, Sayid seemed worse off to begin with than when we first met him in the Original Timeline. When OT Sayid first boarded Oceanic 815, he certainly hadn't had it easy, but at least he was on his way to L.A. to seek out Nadia and presumably try to start a life with her. AU Sayid had already written off the possibility of a real relationship with Nadia by the time Flight 815 passed over the sunken Island. Plagued with guilt for sins past, he'd long since come to the conclusion that he didn't deserve her and had encouraged her to marry his brother -- a very different outlook from that of OT Sayid. But, like the Sayid we know and pity, AU Sayid just can't seem to escape his ability and inclination to kill as a means of helping those around. Where Kate, Locke, and Jack were able to find at least temporary freedom from their characteristic shackles in the Altered Universe, AU Sayid both begins and ends a prisoner of his guilt and dark nature. Maybe this isn't the Universe of Happy Endings after all...
The Island & It's "Magic Box" Ability:
When the Man in Black (MIB) offered Sayid anything he wants -- anything in the entire world -- my mind was instantly transported back to episode 3.13 (The Man From Tallahassee) when Ben told Locke about the Island's metaphorical Magic Box. Ben, attempting to tantalize Locke with the nature of the Island, said: "Let me put it so you'll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don't you, John? What if I told you that somewhere on this island, there's a very large box... and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it, when you opened that box, there it would be." As always with our big bads, there's a chance both Ben and the MIB were merely telling their victims what they wanted to hear, but I'm inclined to believe the Island really does have a "Magic Box" ability. Yes, Richard and Ben may have just kidnapped Locke's father Anthony Cooper after his car accident in Tallahassee and dragged him to the Island as a test for Locke, but between Kate's Horse, Sawyer's Boar, and Sayid's Cat - we know this Island can manifest things from our heroes' lives. If the MIB is telling the truth and he really can give Sayid a living, breathing Nadia, I'm guessing she'll come out of the same "Magic Box" from which Richard and Ben pulled Locke's father, and from which our various heroes' pulled their respective animals. Jacob and the MIB simply might be the masters at controlling this Island ability.
Well, I got answers to my query last week regarding just how crazy the Sickness makes people. Clearly, being infected allows the MIB to get his hooks completely into a person. While it might not be as pedestrian as mind control (for Sayid and Claire still DO appear to have much of their own, natural inclinations), it clearly overrides a person's moral compass and aligns their wills and needs with those of the MIB. Sayid and Claire still require motivation from the MIB -- Claire is told she'll be reunited with Aaron, Sayid with Nadia -- but they act against the best interests of the majority, and against any conception of what is "right," giving into a degree of selfishness and inhumanity that neither would have previously been capable of. Sure Sayid’s murder of Dogen and Lennon might have been palatable (and given how many times they tried to kill him, perhaps even commendable) with or without any Sickness, but knowingly welcoming the Smoke monster into the temple to commit mass homicide… that’s not quite the Sayid we all remember.
The big questions that remain regarding the Sickness are how one initially contracts it, and whether or not can one be cured. If a person has to die to contract the Sickness, does that mean Claire was killed when Widmore's mercenaries blew up her Dharmaville house in 4.09 (The Shape of Things to Come)? Even so, what were the common circumstances that she and Sayid experienced that lead to their infections? Regarding a cure, I've always been inclined to believe that Claire is one of the characters that can and will be saved on this show. Many of our leads are likely candidates for tragic heroes (Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Sayid), but Claire has always been one of the "ordinaries" to me – one of the characters that the tragic heroes need to make sacrifices for in order to save. Much of Kate’s, Jack’s, and Charlie's redemption arcs revolve around Claire being reunited with Aaron, and if this is ever to come to fruition, then there must be a cure of some degree for the Sickness. For me, the central question is whether Sayid will have the opportunity to snap out of it in time to end his story as a tragic hero rather than a tragic villain.
The Others and Their Obsession with Good and Evil:
Dogen referred to the Man in Black as “Evil Incarnate” in this episode. I’ll admit the MIB is clearly one bad dude -- but the “Evil Incarnate” moniker doesn’t hold much weight coming from a key member of a tribe of self-proclaimed “Good Guys” who kidnap, kill, lie, threaten, and torture to get what they want. In fact, if we hadn’t already witnessed the MIB’s own murderous deeds, I’d consider Dogen’s slur a mark in the MIB’s favor.
And Dogen’s accusations of “Evility” don’t stop at the MIB. Apparently the torturing device used in 6.03 (What Kate Does) actually assesses where a person falls on the Good-to-Evil scale. But, again, how can you trust a machine built and maintained by folks so utterly obsessed with letting people know they’re the Good Guys? Ethan later insisted to Claire that he and the Others are “good people” in 2.15 (Maternity Leave). Ben then declared “We’re the good guys” to Michael in 2. 23 (Live Together, Die Alone). They might have some good motivations for their behaviors – after all, Dogen was absolutely right that it was in the best interest of a LOT of now-dead people that Sayid be poisoned – but if that’s they’re definition of being “The Good Guys,” then I imagine their classification of the MIB and Sayid as Evil is just as shaded in gray.
Remember also that the Others have been rendering their good/bad judgments upon everyone who’s arrived on-Island throughout the course of the series. It all began with Goodwin telling Ana Lucia that he killed her fellow tail-section-survivor Nathan because Nathan “was not a good person” in 2.07 (The Other 48 Days). Ben (as “Henry Gale”) told Locke he’d come to fetch him because Locke was “one of the good ones” in 2.20 (Two For The Road). Locke told Kate he tried to convince the Others she was a “good person” in 3.15 (Left Behind). The Others’ definition of “Good” is clearly just “people we like” and/or “people likely to follow and/or be susceptible to our cause. According to Ben in 4.06 (The Other Woman), Goodwin tried to make a case for Anna Lucia’s entry into Otherdom but she wasn’t deemed worthy. More likely it was determined that she’d never buy the steaming pile of bull crap the Others have fed their ever-dwindling myriad of followers.
If this notion of “Good” equaling susceptibility to the Others’ cause reminds of you of “The Sickness” equaling susceptibility to the MIB’s desires… well I’m betting that’s not a coincidence. Whatever the Others did to young Ben in that Temple Spring to make him lose his innocence (Richard’s words in 5.11 [Whatever Happened, Happened]), I’m betting it’s the “pro-Jacob” version of what has now happened to Sayid. Has every one of the Others been dipped in that Spring and revived as a follower of Jacob? If so, I’m betting folks who come to this Island are apparently generally either susceptible to either Jacob’s side or the MIB’s side, and the Others are perhaps in a race to collect the “good” and weed out the “evil” to keep their ranks flowing. And what of those balanced in between? I’m guessing they’re the ones who are still Candidates.
Jacob & His Agenda:
Adding more gray to Jacob’s agenda – even as the MIB is declared Evil Incarnate – is Dogen’s back-story. Would the man who supposedly leads the side of “Good” really for all intents and purposes blackmail his key followers into providing their services? Dogen having to remain on-island to save his off-island son is VERY reminiscent of Juliet having to remain on-island to save her off-island sister in 3.16 (One of Us). It was a slimy situation when Ben laid it out for Juliet, and it’s just as slimy a situation now. Jacob seems easy-going enough in his conversations with Hurley, but if he only offers his and the Island’s healing services when it’s to his direct advantage, then he’s not much better than the MIB. And if it was really on his orders that the entire Dharma Initiative was purged… well then he’s just about the same as the MIB, isn’t he? The terms Good and Evil are the Others’ red herrings. What we have here is a feud between two very human entities who have somehow become the protectors of the Island and gained the ability to tap into its powers -- one free (Jacob), one trapped (MIB). Perhaps the goal of protecting the Island IS indeed noble, but Jacob is only as much a “Good Guy” as his followers.
Again we get more evidence that the Others aren’t allowed to harm Jacob’s candidates. Dogen wanted Sayid dead VERY badly, but stayed his hand at the drop of the baseball – perhaps a reminder of his deal with Jacob. Even now that Sayid has been claimed by the MIB, Jacob’s no longer around to cross his name out and make him fair game for Dogen’s knife. Similarly, I think the MIB isn’t allowed or perhaps even able to harm the Candidates by the Island’s own Rules. Creepy vision of The Kid in 6.04 (The Substitute) told the MIB “You can’t kill him,” and I’m still holding to the theory that The Kid was referring to Sawyer. Now, at the end of this episode, the MIB looked very disgruntled to see Kate tagging along with his party, and I don’t think there’s anything he can personally do about her presence there. Here’s betting he tries to egg Claire into fulfilling her threat to kill Kate.
The Man In Black & His Agenda:
So if the Man in Black simply wants to leave the Island, how come he needs so many followers? He’s clearly very ready and willing to massacre everyone else, but was this simply revenge for their denying him in the past, or was it all a necessary part of his plan? I don’t think we quite know the extent of his agenda yet. There’s more at work here than simply escape.
And that's where we are!