Six Ideas From Lost I’m Glad They Didn’t Use
Last Lost post from me, I promise. It’s either this, or I write about BP and the Gulf of Mexico — but only one of these two topics will make me suicidally depressed. I’ve got to pick my battles here.
So, the Lost finale didn’t end up the way that I wanted to, but this is actually potentially good. It’s one of the reasons, in fact, I spend so much time imagining how a show could be, even though that show will never happen:
Every idea I thought of that Lost didn’t use is an idea I get to keep (HAH! SUCKERS!).
In no particular order, here are some ideas that I’d been kicking around that, because the Lost writers went the route of hokey spiritism, are now unequivocally mine.
Why Can’t Jacob and Esau Kill Each Other?
Assuming that the answer is not “because: magic”, what might be a good reason for this to exist? And why might it extend to the candidates as well?
Something I’d been kicking around is the nature of the evil itself; presumably, it’s not something that just wants to kill everybody. I mean, genocidal is pretty high up there on the evilometer, but while it’s monstrous, it’s not exactly existential. The Devil wants more than to just KILL everyone, right?
If the smoke monster doesn’t want to murder the world, maybe what it really wants is vindication. Killing is ancillary — it doesn’t mind killing, because who cares about humans?, but it’s not really the point. What the smoke monster really needs to do is prove that it’s right, to whoever the guardian of the Island is.
Esau can’t kill his brother because it would defeat the purpose of his position — namely, that human beings are so innately evil that, no matter what else, they will eventually compromise the Island themselves, by eliminating its protector. In the same way that the DA could end a trial by murdering the defendant, yes, Esau COULD kill Jacob; but neither of these scenarios actually solve the problem.
Likewise, Esau can’t kill any of the candidates, either, because he doesn’t know which one is going to take over. He can kill any number of other people (they’re beside the point) but he can’t risk accidentally killing Jacob’s immediate successor.
In retrospect, I think that this again let’s us explore the Free Will theme; Jacob believes in Free Will, he just knows that he doesn’t have it (I will go into this later). Esau doesn’t believe that Free Will exists; he believes that human beings don’t choose evil or good, they just do whatever their circumstances dictate.
What’s Different Now?
Jacob and Esau have been fighting for a thousand years. Why is NOW the time that this has come to a head? My opinion is: John Locke. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Smoke Monster and Esau aren’t precisely the same thing. The Smoke Monster is an evil that existed on the Island, but was a kind of mindless malevolence — a hate that was, let’s consider, able to act, but not able to think of a way in which to act. What it can also do is assume the form of dead people on the Island — and when it does this, it absorbs not just their shape, but also, in a way, receives an imprint of their soul. Once Esau’s corpse is thrown into the pit, Esau and his overwhelming desire to get off the Island is imprinted on the Smoke Monster, and it now has an aspect that is, for almost all intents and purposes, Esau (but eviller).
So, what about John Locke? Well, the Smoke Monster can’t change itself (it’s not a human being — it doesn’t have Free Will), and for as cunning, ruthless, and desirous to leave as Esau was, one thing he wasn’t was a believer. It can’t become a megalomaniac with material like Esau. But John Locke is a believer, and the Smoke Monster now finds itself not only persuasive, but also committed to its position in a way that it never was before; Esau as Smoke Monster wanted to leave. Locke as Smoke Monster wants to destroy the Island itself.
The Rules Can Change
I just have had an idea buzzing around, about why the Smoke Monster, if it has a boat, just doesn’t go. Skipping the arbitrary “I can only leave if all the candidates leave with me.” I mean, we know you can leave the Island if you have a boat, or a helicopter, or whatever.
Let’s think of it a different way. Back at the beginning, Jacob and Esau agreed on the rules of their game, and one of the deals that they made was that Esau can’t leave the Island by ship. I think this is interesting, because as soon as a plane crashes (and let’s assume that Esau doesn’t really get what’s going on in the outside world the way that Jacob does), suddenly Esau has a new plan. If he can get a plane to land on the Island, he can leave without breaking any of the rules.
But let’s say that, not just when they began, but continually thereafter, Esau and Jacob can get together and bargain for new rules. Maybe Esau picks up some kind of leverage, and so he demands that he be allowed to use ships again; maybe Jacob needs to be able to leave the Island in person to get his guys in, and so his concession is that the Smoke Monster doesn’t have to be bound by the ash circle anymore.
I still like the idea that Jacob is immortal because his timeline makes a loop. He is, at all times, precisely the same person that he was and that he will be — and, when he’s killed, he ceases to exist in both the future and the past. This lends two more interesting ideas into the mix: the first is that Jacob’s death actually throws time out of joint, maybe creating a host of parallel universe that aren’t supposed to exist (maybe they even crash into each other, and mess each other up). The second is that Jacob, because he can see all along his own timeline, recognizes that he can’t be the person to run the Island; even though HE won’t (and, by virtue of being eternal, CAN’T) change, both Esau and the rest of the world are going to. Which means he recognizes that he has to die, so that a different Jacob can always have been in charge of the Island. Jacob in this sense permits us to explore the interesting paradox of Free Will when you can see the future.
The Island Was A Mountain
Sent out to sea by Neanderthal super-scientists. Charlotte could have explained how, after 3 million years, practically anything that we would recognize as evidence of a civilization would be gone; there could have been innumerable pre-human civilizations on Earth and we’d never know. The only evidence for their existence? Well, we’re standing on it.
In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Stephen Donaldson has a neat bit in which he talks about how the Creator accidentally let evil get built into the universe, and now he can’t get it out without destroying the whole thing. I feel like the Island is something similar; it’s got some powerful Source on it, and, to protect it, the ancient guys built a way to teleport the whole mountain out to sea — but, for some reason, the Smoke Monster was inadvertently stuck with it. Now at least the Source is safe, but they can’t get the Smoke Monster off.
In fact, what if the Smoke Monster really was what Ben always thought it was? A security system, put in place to defend the Source; only, after how many millions of years, it started to break down, maybe go a little crazy. And then, when it imprinted on Esau, it really lost its mind, and found a whole new purpose — completely misunderstanding its own nature, and believing itself to be locked in battle with the Island caretaker, rather than part of a hierarchy that saw the Source at the top.
The Source Is Life
Not just alive, but a kind of avatar for the engine of life, the tendency for systems to become complex, the driving force against entropy and behind evolution. It heals people, sure, but it also makes pregnancy complicated — since your body is so hopped up on LIFE, it will immediately start messing up anything perceived as an infection (like babies); but if you got pregnant off the Island (so that you came onto the Island with the baby inside), maybe your body doesn’t respond as poorly to it.
The Others were desperate to have children, probably because their plan was to actually build a society on the Island, and they can’t do that if they can’t figure out how to have babies.
I think the ghosts are probably the same way. I don’t like all this Heaven and Hell and moving on stuff; I’m more interested in the idea that the Island is such a powerful force for being that it tries to replicate even the dead. Michael’s ghost isn’t stuck on the Island; the Island has just made a persistent copy of him.
But It’s About the Characters, Who Cares About This Stuff?
I don’t know, me, mostly, I guess. Though if it was just about the characters, that kinds of begs the question as to why there needed to be a Smoke Monster in the first place. If the Smoke Monster wasn’t an idea that you wanted to use, and could have been replaced by anything sufficiently evil, what’s the point of not just doing it with terrorists, or something?
I don’t think I really believe in “characters” on the TV, anyway. I mean: think for a minute about how you’d describe a character on the show. A lot of times its with sort of more generic categories of character — like, Sawyer, for instance, is a “con-man.” But what does that mean, exactly? It means that, when push comes to shove, he will look out for himself, probably by tricking people.
That is, it’s essentially a suite of imagined responses to hypothetical situations. So, you know, I don’t think you can have character without all of those plots and things like that. And, for god’s sake, there’s plenty of shows about people and their feelings that DON’T involve things that I like, like time-travel and questions about existential conditions and consciousness.