On LOST

Posted: February 3, 2010 in Braak
Tags: , ,

Did you watch  the season premiere of Lost?  Did you talk about it with your friend?  Did you HUNGER for the discussion that I, Braak!, and my atomic super-brain can provide?  Fear not, fearless reader, for I bring considerable consideration to the subject!

Based on the information available on the two episodes last night, we can see that virtually everything I think is, as usual, completely correct.  Esau was Locke and Alex, the ash was some kind of metaphysical restraint on his actions, Jacob is looking to be reborn in order to re-establish a cosmic order that was demolished.

Evidence suggests that the LOST writers are working with Option 2 as regards to time travel — the one that I dismissed as unlikely by virtue of the fact that it would be confusing and irritating.  This is the one in which setting off the bomb DOES change the future, but it also, in order to avoid ontological paradox, leaves the changers in their own timeline.  So, now, as I said — there is both a 2007 Sawyer and a 2005 Sawyer (or whatever the stupid years are on this show), and they’re the same but different.

This is a problematic construction for a number of reasons.  First of all, the suggestion of multiple viable timelines undermines storytelling capacity.  It’s hard to say “these actions are important” when you’re simultaneously saying, “but also, not really.”  Now, this can be obviated somewhat by paring down the timelines to just the two (which is weird, I guess, but not completely insane?  Maybe to create a divergent timeline, you need to detonate a bomb on top of some electromagnetism.  SCIENCE!).

However, I believe that what we will discover, based on certain unusual discrepancies in the “new future” timeline (for example:  Jack’s dad’s body disappears; Hurley still wins the lottery, despite never getting the numbers; the Island SANK TO THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN) that what appears to be Option 2–two viable timelines–will actually be Option 3–time is broken in a new and interesting way.  I think that, as the season progresses, we (and possibly the characters) will come to understand that there is something wrong with the “new future” timeline, and that the Season 5 finale will be some kind of reconciliation between the two.

(It is possible that the season will progress in such a way that “new future” is just a soap opera with everyone eventually getting happy endings, and “old future” will just disappear.  This would, in my opinion, be unforgivable.)

This brings us back around to a couple more interesting bits.  Has Jacob been reborn into Sayid, you’re wondering?  Yes and no.  Maybe.  I think that yes, that is definitely what happened — however I stand by my assertion that the ultimate rebirth goal is connected to Aaron, and to the fact that the Island won’t let women conceive on it.  Sayid’s resurrection as Jacob is, I believe, a temporary condition that will be adjusted somewhere between mid and two-thirds of the way into the season.

Claire will come back; they’re saving her for a late-season return, I estimate.  She will be Esau’s (who is probably also Christian) ace in the hole.  We need to first recognize the danger that Esau (“Evil Locke”) poses, in his attempt to return home.  This is an interesting statement, which I believe is indicative of one of two things:  either Esau’s home is the temple, and his access to the Lazarus Pit will make him incalculably more powerful; OR Esau’s home is somewhere back in the world, wherever the Island originally left from, back when it was just a mountain.  Either one of these scenarios point towards Esau being massively dangerous to the outside world.

My money is still on:  the Island is the product of ancient voodoo science; it used to be a mountain that was displaced — perhaps for the purpose of keeping Esau chained up somewhere — out into the ocean.  Esau as a paramount threat will become obvious.  Jacob’s plan for rebirth will be revealed.  The “new future” timeline will AT FIRST look really good for everyone, but as it progresses it will gradually decay in horrible and inexplicable ways.

The series finale is:  Jacob is reborn, creating a new cosmic order that destroys/imprisons Esau, eradicates the “new future” timeline, and finally kills Kate.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?

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Comments
  1. Moff says:

    Is his name actually Esau, or is that just your name for him? Not that it doesn’t fit.

  2. Moff says:

    Also:

    1) Ben is ultimately the one who brings down Esau, of course.

    2) Esau’s home is off the island, I think, although the temple may be a way to get there. (Obviously, Jacob could get there, and I feel like he didn’t take a boat.)

    3) If Jacob is metaphorical God and Esau is metaphorical Lucifer, then is Richard metaphorical Michael or Gabriel or some angel?

    4) Why do you think Sayid is Jacob? I mean, it makes sense, but why?

  3. Amanda says:

    Wow. This sounds like one crazy @$$ show…..

    That’s right. I’ve never seen a single episode.

    And what?

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I’m still not sure I buy the “Sayid as new Jacob” thing, simply because it (heh) muddies the waters of what is already a fairly complicated and hard-to-swallow end-game involving Claire and Aaron, and with only, what, 16 more hours of show to deal with, that seems like a bad idea.

    And, conversely, the idea of Jacob as body-jumper just seems stupid. Like, Smallville-stupid, and Lost has always had a better handle on itself than that.

    So, in short: Who the fuck knows.

    As for the premiere itself, I think what it did the best was to explicitly confirm Bad Locke as Essau, Essau as the Smoke Monster, and (a little less explicitly, but you’d have to be pretty stupid not to have grasped this by now) the Smoke Monster as any of the manipulative dead people (Christian, Danielle’s expedition team, Alex).

    Ultimately, I think the goals we’re working toward are a) reconciliation of two split timelines, and b) re-establishment of a Jacob/Essau order/chaos dynamic.

    You ask me, I think the key to all of this is CINDY THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT.

  5. Moff says:

    Sayid will be changed, though, even if he’s not Jacob (and I agree with that assessment, Holland, of why he’s not). And I wonder if, like Ben*, he’ll lose some memories, sort of the temple’s blessing for him, since while he was still gut-shot there was a lot of focus on the whole “I’ve done so much evil in my life…”

    I’m not quite convinced Esau is Christian et al., although I’m mostly convinced. The dead people who’ve spoken to Hurley were clearly not Esau. So is that something special about Hurley, and are only those sendings the good ones? Or were any other of the island visions good? Kate’s horse? Was Locke’s dad Esau? I guess it does make the most sense.

    *BTW, Lost: Nice parallelism with putting Sayid in more or less the same position he put young Ben in. You are good at this, show.

  6. Moff says:

    (Please ignore all the questions above that are already covered in your previous Lost post, which I finally just read.)

  7. Jeff Holland says:

    @Moff, re Ben/Sayid: Oh yeah. Good call.

  8. braak says:

    I’m still going with Sayid as a kind of interim Jacob, primarily for the reason that Jacob insisted, both to Hurley and to that random Japanese guy, that it was essential that Sayid be returned to life. Maybe this is purely because he needs Sayid to kill Esau (which I think is more likely than Ben killing Esau; I think Ben is going to go nuts, and end up as a tragic motivating death). I don’t know, that part is just a guess, but the timing is suspicious: Jacob goes to all this work to get Sayid to come back to life, and the plan literally comes to fruition (and, we can only assume that Jacob’s death was part of his own plan) two hours after Jacob dies.

    I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that they aren’t going to muddy some waters. They did pick the most complicated temporal mechanic to work with in this, after all.

    It’s interesting about Hurley seeing ghosts; remember that when he saw Charlie and those guys, they were always trying to convince him to go back to the island–but, as it turns out, that was both Jacob AND Esau’s end game.

    I don’t think it’s exactly right to think of Jacob and Esau as God and the Devil. There’s something that I think is more morally neutral in the way that they articulated their argument in that one episode seems to me to be a much more Moorcockian “order v. chaos” dynamic.

    I have been calling him Esau because it makes sense to me; Carl says that everyone else calls him that, too.

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    Yeah, that’s a generally accepted name.

    I’d choose that over “the man in black” because after Cigarette Smoking Man and Horn Rimmed Glasses, I have had it up to here with ridiculous nicknames in place of actual names.

  10. AEJR says:

    I think Jack’s gonna die at the end. Not Kate. That’s my only prediction.

  11. Moff says:

    Yeah, I’ll recant on Ben doing the actual killing, because, yeah, he’s in the sacrifice-himself-nobly spot. And I can see Sayid as a placeholder for Jacob, but I don’t think he is Jacob, in the sense of having his memories, etc.

    The thing about Hurley’s ghosts is that I’m not sure they could be Jacob, exactly. Maybe his work, in a way? But Jacob’s game seemed to be one of almost total noninterference — until he died, at which point I assume the rules can be bent.

    The thing that makes me thing of Esau as Lucifer — besides all the other Judaic religion analogy shit (Locke as the embodiment of Western civilization, first in its best but naive form, then taken over by the Forces of Darkness; God being dead; etc., etc.) — is, first, Richard’s reaction to him: “You?!” I don’t know — there’s something satanically contemptuous about how Esau treats him, and his crack about Richard being chained up to me sounds like something the prodigal angel would say to one of his fellows who stuck it out. (Although it also makes me wonder if Richard isn’t a take on Prometheus — a guy who wanted to help humanity and was punished for it and now serves more humbly. That might be a stretch, as might be the fact that I feel like I see him with a torch all the time.)

    And I’m not convinced the Jacob/Esau dynamic is quite that Moorcockian, because sorry, Evil Locke is straight-up evil. I don’t think, if we look back at all the actions he’s engendered, there’s much that’s morally neutral about them. Whereas Jacob is silent and at best inscrutable, Esau seems to just lie to people. And the gleam in his eye when he talks about wanting to go “home” suggests that there’s a good reason he hasn’t been allowed to.

    I don’t think Jack dies, although if he does, I’d bet on resurrection. (How do you have the last name Shepard, and be the son of Christian, on this show and not get resurrected?) At which point I think he steps into the valence left behind by good Locke. Sawyer, on the other hand, I could see tragically biting it.

  12. braak says:

    Yeah, that could be wishful thinking on my part. I just don’t like good versus evil dynamics. It seems to me to be just a really shitty thing to do.

  13. Jeff Holland says:

    @AEJR: If you’d have asked me during season 4, I would have absolutely agreed that the end of Jack’s story is his death/sacrifice (though at the time, I also had a theory that Jack was ultimately the quasi-villain of the story). But now, I think it will be more interesting to see him live past this, having actually LEARNED SOMETHING for a change – which I think he’s now kind of set up to do.

    But…yeah, I’d say Sawyer’s got a big fat target on his head now.

  14. braak says:

    Also, I am interested in the idea that when Esau says that he is “going home” he is possibly going to take the Island with him.

  15. Moff says:

    I dunno. I get what you’re saying about good vs. evil being shitty, but I tend to think that’s only when it’s done in a totally black-and-white fashion. One big thing I’ll give Lost credit for is handling morality in a way that’s simple enough for mainstream TV but nuanced enough to resemble real life much more than is the case with a lot of stories. Ben alone is one of the more perfect villains in the history of modern storytelling. (I was arguing with someone on io9 the other day who said Ben isn’t evil because he always believed he was serving a greater purpose, and because his actions sometimes benefited others. To which I was like, “SHOW ME SOMEONE EVIL OF WHOM THOSE THINGS ARE NOT TRUE.”)

    I hope the taking-the-island-with-him thing isn’t true, because that would probably mean Space Aliens, which I could convince myself to live with, but which I think would kill the show for a lot of people.

  16. Jeff Holland says:

    Reason #568 I love Frank Lapidus: “In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you they’re the good guys, usually aren’t.”

    Lost has been playing with the notion that “good” and “evil” aren’t black-and-white concepts for a while now – certainly since Ben introduced himself and the Others as “the good guys” at the end of the second season – so I’d be pretty surprised if the Jacob/Essau conflict is as cut-and-dried as that.

    Granted, Bad Locke does seem to be a bit on the malevolent side, but I think until we can ascertain motive, it’s still too early to call.

  17. braak says:

    Ah, no, taking the Island with him could still be the Island is Atlantis, ancient Egyptian super-science.

    I think the problem that I have is with a nuanced understanding of morality actually turning out to be, “oh, no, it turns out that guy is basically just evil.” Sure, some people don’t realize that, but it’s an absolutist frame of reference that’s obscured, rather than the more interesting (to me) relativist position.

    “Evil” of course, is such a tricky word. I’d call Ben a villain, and a sociopath. Manipulative, dangerous, yes. Evil? I don’t know, though. “Evil” has a metaphysical connotation to it that I’m not willing to ascribe. What does it mean to be “evil”? That his actions sometimes harm others? Show me someone who is “good” of whom that is not true.

  18. braak says:

    Also: for as much as LOST has ostensibly played with the idea that good and evil are more complex than we give them credit for, I’m not sure that it’s necessarily true. In a lot of these cases, someone was basically just lying. Or his argument doesn’t make any sense.

    Remember when Ben got all pissed off at Jack when he talked about Ethan?

    “I’m surprised you guys don’t have a surgeon.”

    “We did. His name was Ethan.” MAKING YOU FEEL GUILTY GLARE, YOU BAD GUY.

    “Oh, right! The guy that tried to kidnap a pregnant girl and then got shot by the man he tried to hang. That guy, right? You’re talking about him? The one that promised he was going to murder someone every night until we gave over the pregnant girl to a stranger in the woods? And then started murdering people? You mean him?”

    There’s no moral complexity here; the writers just can’t fucking decide who the bad guys really are. Their confusion obscures what they’re ultimately working towards: a basic good-evil conflict.

  19. Moff says:

    M. Scott Peck was a little crazy but I think also fairly wise about this stuff, and in People of the Lie, he defines evil pretty well — essentially, it’s a full-on, consistent unwillingness to grapple with tough realities because doing so would hurt one’s ego too much. Here’s the definition. Obviously, life is nuanced, but I agree with it. And I’d say it describes Ben pretty well (and Sarah Palin! No, seriously!).

    And I get what you’re saying about lack of moral complexity, but c’mon, it’s still a network TV show. I think it’s just better than most network TV shows have been in that respect. I don’t think it’s been a mistake on the creators’ part that the show’s male and female lead are roundly disliked by viewers. I think the idea is that Kate and Jack both sometimes try to do the right thing, and often are complete jackasses, and that their redemption will come when they STEP THE FUCK UP and stop wishing the universe would make things easy on them. We got a more unfavorable glimpse of what an asshole Jack can be than ever before with the Season 5 finale, when he blamed his dad for embarrassing him instead of thanking him for helping him save his future wife’s life.

  20. Moff says:

    Or more to the point: STEP THE FUCK UP and see that the choices they have made, not external circumstances, are the reason for so many of their problems.

  21. Jeff Holland says:

    Correct, there is no moral complexity in that one example.

    (Also, Ethan was just a fucking baffling character.)

  22. braak says:

    I can’t abide that definition, because evil is also the word we use for the Devil, Sauron, Ahriman, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Skeletor. I’ll give you that definition for “narcissistic”–and, surely, there’s a lot bad about a narcissist, and a lot of good reasons to accept the word as a pejorative–but can you rightly put Sarah Palin’s personality dysfunction in the same category that you put the Devil’s compelling desire to cause all souls to burn in fire for all eternity?

    I think the discrepancy in magnitude warrants a new schema; I think the word “evil” is bandied about so readily that it’s lost most of its meaning.

    Besides all that, how does that define Ben? Sure, he behaved evilly in many respects, but in many other respects his life was entirely about him making hard choices and suppressing his ego. It could be argued that his personal problems with Juliet and his final explosion against Jacob were, in fact, the consequence of an opposite problem.

  23. braak says:

    @Holland: and all of the many examples of basically anything to do with Ethan. Like, ALL of the others were pissed off at the castaways for killing him. And fucking SERIOUSLY? I get that you have a mission that you believe is good and maybe you even believe that Ethan’s plan to murder the shit out of some people was to the good–but you actually DON’T UNDERSTAND why someone might have killed him?

  24. Jeff Holland says:

    I think maybe we just see Ben’s response to Jack’s question differently. I took it as, “As a matter of fact we DID have a surgeon Jack, and he may have been a nutcase and a psychopath but we HAD one – we’re not stupid. Don’t judge us like we’re HICKS.”

    Which really takes moral judgment out of the equation entirely, and makes it more about class warfare.

  25. Jeff Holland says:

    Jeez, 24 comments and it’s not even noon. I should do some work.

  26. braak says:

    Also, haha, it’s basically just the three of us.

  27. Jeff Holland says:

    Well, yes.

    Can’t stop thinking about Ethan now – and thanks for THAT, Chris, I was just fine ignoring him in the larger scheme of things, but – why the hell could he fight like that? I mean, we’ve seen some of the Others who are charged with security and shit who can’t even fight like that. Ethan moved like a damn demon, and he’s a surgeon?

    Was it just that in reality, a fight between two surgeons probably wouldn’t be very awesome at all, so we watched a heightened version of what was essentially a slap-fight?

    Probably not. So I have developed a theory: the guy who trained Ethan in jungle warfare was Spooky Asian Guy in the Temple.

    Why? No reason, other than he reminded me of Shiwan Kahn.

  28. braak says:

    The Temple scene was weird; I kept expecting that Japanese guy to come out and be all, “Yes, here is a giant snake, filled with smaller, more delicious snakes, for you to heat. Hahahahah!”

    And–ha, oh shit! Ever since I saw Ethan fighting like that in the very first episode, all I could think is, “He can’t be human.” and “That shit looks really familiar. He looks like that freaky guy from Threshold.”

    Of course it does; William Mapother was in Threshold–he was the human that turned into the superman alien in the very first episode, and was especially notable for moving in a way that had a pronounced alien quality.

    Frankly, I think the problem with Ethan’s character is that he was introduced before the writers were sure of who the Others were; at first, they thought the Others were going to be some kind of supermen, but as the series progressed and they developed them more, they kind of tried to phase that idea out.

    Alternately, the preoccupation with pregnancy could still have some relationship to genetic engineering and breeding.

  29. Moff says:

    Dude, you always want words to have just one definition. I appreciate why in principle, but in practice it’s not the case, we’re not going to come up with a new schema, and I think there needs to be a word for the attitude that leads to genocide or gay-bashing or torturing cats or unabashed bigotry, because those things are real. I’m not going to take a word out of the discussion just because people also use it in a much simpler fashion in stories, because just calling it “personality dysfunction” dials it down too much, and doesn’t mesh with what I’ve encountered in the few people I’ve met who match the definition. They’re not people who are hardwired in a way that they don’t understand what they’re doing; they’re people who are clearly capable of understanding morality (and demonstrate it by hiding their bad behavior) but willfully refuse to engage with the problems it creates, not just sometimes like all of us do, but over and over and over again.

    I don’t think Ben ever suppressed his ego. We’re given to sympathize with him because of his mean dad, but c’mon — lots of people have mean dads (most of the characters on Lost do, it seems like!), and they don’t wholesale slaughter the people they grew up with. We’re supposed to believe Ben is “serving the island,” but (1) that’s based on Ben’s telling of it, and dude, that guy lies; and (2) it seems pretty clear that Ben really likes being in charge of the Others and has done everything he has to maintain his position. He killed the Dharma Initiative and his father to join a club. He attacked and killed 815 survivors over territory and to get his cancer cured. He stole two babies. And then we find out that he’s doing it all in the service of an entity he’s never actually met. There’s no indication that at any point Ben stopped and said, “Hey. Really? This is what you want me to do? Because it seems Not OK.” On the contrary, he seemed eager to do it because it would advance his standing.

    He gets some credit for not letting Widmore kill Alex as a baby, but that’s pretty much wiped out when he lets Feeney do it when she’s an adult. And he consistently says over and over again that he’s making these “sacrifices” for a greater purpose, but again, that’s what all fanatics do. They rationalize so well that they convince themselves.

    What seals it is when he meets Jacob. Ben wants credit for everything he supposedly did in the service of the island. The point is, you do it or you don’t, but you don’t do it because you want a reward; the island is very clearly a stewardship, not a business operation. Jacob suggests that Ben not only has a choice not to kill him, but that Ben has always had a choice (and made some terrible ones, which is why, I think, his cancer wasn’t cured in the first place). Then Jacob says, “What about you?” and Ben flies into a rage, because it’s a full-frontal dismissal of his ego.

    I’m not saying Ben is not sympathetic. He clearly is (much more so than Sarah Palin). And so he’s ultimately redeemable. The funny thing is, it’s actually because he acknowledges his evil behavior fairly easily as the series goes on. So you’re right — the definition doesn’t exactly apply to him. His behavior is in line with it, but he ultimately recognizes that, and that’s his saving grace.

  30. Jeff Holland says:

    Yeah, there’s a lot of Others stuff that boils down to “the writers weren’t sure what The Others were.”

    Part of me wishes the writers would take just a little time this season to try to reconcile some of the early weirdness (the costumes, the mind-control room) with the later suburban life, but…I feel that way lies madness. Or at least Geoff-Johns-style writing.

  31. Moff says:

    Agreed on the Ethan thing and other stuff being an early-writing issue. I would be pleasantly surprised if they wrapped some of it up in a way that wasn’t totally bonkers.

  32. braak says:

    I will accept the second part; I still can’t accept the use of the word evil, if we’re going to use it both in a personal human sense (Ben’s sociopathic behavior) and in a cosmic sense (Jacob versus Esau). It’s confusing, for one thing, and for another, it’s not hugely useful. You can say someone’s “Evil,” and that’s fine, but because there isn’t one definition (or, rather, because the numerous definitions are not immediately clarified by context) anyone having a conversation with you still has to say, “Evil? How do you mean, precisely?” And then you have to say, “narcissistic” or “sociopathic” or “malicious” or “genocidal” or “the metaphysical embodiment of the destruction of the human race” anyway.

    I think if you feel like calling something a personality or psychological disorder “dials down” too much the magnitude of what you’re describing, then it’s because you’re not giving human psychology enough credit. Especially because what you’re describing IS a personality dysfunction, it’s basically the very definition of a personality dysfunction.

    Moreover, it’s a hampered definition, I think. Look at Trujillo–that lunatic dictator that ruled the Dominican Republic for all those years. Yes, his evil caused problems, problems that eventually resulted in him being assassinated. Were those problems the reason that he was evil? Or was his completely casual cruelty what made him evil? Did he even recognize the suffering of other people as a problem that his immorality led to?

    Hitler’s all of the same way. Saying that someone “refuses to engage” with the problems that their “evil” causes suggests that there is a way of arbitrary way of saying “yes, this is definitely a problem, and some people just refuse to acknowledge that it’s a problem.”

    So, what do you mean when you say the evil people that you’ve met are fully capable of understanding that what they’re doing is immoral? In the sense that when you explain a moral situation to them, they’re able to apprehend what the moral response to the situation is? That is not comparable to recognizing human suffering as an essentially undesirable outcome. Even if you asked them if they thought suffering was bad, and they told you “Yes”, what the shit does that mean? Sociopaths learn to function very effectively in human society; one of the ways they do that is by aping morality.

  33. Moff says:

    Eh, in stories like this I see it as “Esau is evil in a metaphysical/mythic sense,” which means for him it is not a reversible choice; and the difference with Ben’s evil is not one of behavior or attitude, but that he’s not fully consumed by it. I accept that that makes Esau and the whole story more boring, but only because those of us having this conversation have consumed so much entertainment based on the idea of a Big Irredeemable Evil and human beings Having a Choice.

    I wasn’t saying so much that “personality dysfunction” is inaccurate as that it removes much of the sense of urgency (and responsibility) from the subject. Yes, evil is a personality dysfunction. But what Peck means (and I mean) is not something like anorexia or a neurosis. He distinguishes, too, between evil and psychopathy, saying that a lot of serial killers display almost an innocence about what they’ve done, like they don’t actually appreciate how wrong it is and don’t go to extreme lengths to hide it; I don’t know that I buy that, and I’ll accept that they could be synonymous. Certainly the examples in his book seemed like sociopaths; I just don’t know that I fully understand the medical definition of a sociopath.

    I don’t anything about Trujillo, but if he was evil, I’d say it was his casual cruelty that made him so. With the people I’ve met, it was that they clearly understood social codes and affected the proverbial veneer of respectability; but when confronted with a choice they had made and a logical laying out of some of the consequences, they refused to acknowledge any responsibility for it, consistently. Or they listened and sort of superficially acknowledged, but then repeated the behavior and then once again refused to acknowledge responsibility. It was often small things, not atrocities, but it was consistent. They wouldn’t take responsibility for their actions, complained about the consequences of them, blamed those consequences on other people, and shut down and roadblocked when confronted.

    It’s hard to explain, because I don’t have a great memory for stuff like this — I stew over it for a short period afterward and then let it go. But it’s creepy being around such people — they feel wrong. As to whether they recognized that suffering was an undesirable outcome — well, yes and no. Like I said, there’s some stuff that was similar to my stereotypical take on sociopathy. But it was a little different, in that instead of being cold or neutral to suffering, they seemed to revel in it, viscerally not detachedly; they seemed like clearly unhappy people themselves, once you got to know them just a little, and they seemed pleased when presented with a situation where other people were unhappy. It wasn’t “Oh, they have feelings I should care about?” so much as “Heh, causing someone else pain makes me feel a little bit better.”

  34. braak says:

    In any case, I think there’s an interesting complexity to Ben’s…well, I still won’t say evil. Villainy, let me say. If his goals had only been personal power, then I don’t think his explosive resentment towards Jacob really follows; if all he was doing was cynically exploiting the idea of Jacob in order to get what he wanted, I’m not sure that he’d feel so clearly and deeply hurt by Jacob’s lack of communication. What’s interesting is that Ben clearly did imagine that he was serving a greater, more important purpose–but that purpose was also clearly tangled up in his own goals: controlling the Others may have been to the “good” in his mind, but it was colored by his belief that only he could do the best job of it; moving the Island may have been to the good in his mind, but it was inextricably linked to his decision to go and get revenge against Widmore.

    The point of all this is that there is a villain that believes he serves a higher purpose, and there is a villain that recognizes no purpose higher than himself–I think that these are distinctive kinds of villainy, and one of the things that’s interesting with Ben is the way he blurs the line between the two.

    The point about Trujillo–hm, let me try and make it about Hitler. What you and Peck describe sound like a kind of, again, sociopathy, narcissism, &c: a recognition that human suffering is “undesirable” at some level, but no real experience of that fact. If we’re accepting that “human suffering” is the problem that the evil person ignores in favor of ego satisfaction, and then we look at Hitler: Hitler didn’t “ignore” the problem of human suffering; he literally did not perceive it as undesirable. Hitler considered the suffering of the Jews and Gypsies &c to be a positive outcome.

    Is that evil? Well, yes, I guess so. Sure. But it’s also distinct from, say, some of his underlings who saw the positive outcome as a powerful Germany, and human suffering as a sort of irrelevant side-effect. Is that evil? Sure, I don’t know.

    What about individual Nazis, though? Who, by virtue of propaganda or misinformation, &c., doesn’t actually know that his actions are yielding human suffering? Is he evil? What happens when he finds out, and doesn’t do anything differently, to prevent himself getting sent to a concentration camp? Is THAT guy evil? Shit, I don’t know.

    Here, I guess, is the question: is suffering the signature of evil? Or is it malice?

    I can only understand “evil” as a sort of catch-all term for a suite of antisocial behaviors–kind of, only the very most distant descriptor of a thing, and not wholly useful by itself.

  35. Moff says:

    Sorry, I don’t think I was totally clear — yeah, I agree exactly with your first graf. I think Ben’s service of the island was entirely to serve himself, but he lied to himself about it; he convinced himself he was doing it for a greater purpose, and when Jacob didn’t seem to view it that way, he was understandably enraged. So I don’t think there was anything cynical about it (although I can see how my comment above might have made it sound like I did). I just think that deep inside himself, Ben knew what he was doing was wrong, or might be wrong, and opted not to explore that possibility too deeply. He took the path of least resistance, because really, he thought he should be a father, and he wanted to punish the Dharma Initiative, and he wanted revenge on his dad, and he wanted to keep being in charge of the Others, among many other things. And since Ben is obviously an incredibly intelligent person who is capable of thinking things through very carefully, it’s tough to excuse him because he really thought he was doing the right thing. He believed he was doing the right thing, but I think he avoided thinking about it almost entirely.

    As far as Hitler goes, like I said in my last graf above, the people I’ve met who I thought were “evil” also thought suffering was desirable. It’s like they hated themselves, and therefore thought their suffering was appropriate, and then projected that onto everyone else. And they were just willful about having their construction of the world challenged. Personally, I think malice is the signature of evil, because suffering can result from all sorts of causes; suffering is inevitable. Whereas evil in the sense I understand it can exist even in a person in isolation, with the individual still hating him or herself.

    You know, it’s a broad topic, OBVIOUSLY, but I’m not sure not being able to pin down the definition of evil doesn’t make the word useful; I would imagine there are plenty of words you use every day, especially in terms of other philosophical issues or questions about art, that would start to look like most distant descriptors after a few minutes under the knife. My point (and Peck’s) is that it might useful to have a word for people who are capable of consistently rationalizing away their own consistently life-negating behavior, not because they can’t distinguish that it’s wrong, but because they’d rather live with the lies than deal with the truth of their own imperfection.

    But anyway, you should check out the book from the library if you have a chance. I think you’ll yell at it, but it’s interesting and quick, and it gets into issues like the corporate evil you mention.

  36. braak says:

    NO MORE TALKING! I HAVE DRUNK ALL THIS WINE AND AM DISINCLINED TO DISCOURSE!

    You win, it’s fine, I don’t mind.

    Cardinal Zin is a potent spirit.

    (“WIN” isn’t even a comprehensible term, under the circumstances.)

  37. Moff says:

    YES. This is how I win all my arguments.

  38. braak says:

    I am coming to Madison, Wisconsin. I will bring spirits. THEN WE WILL SEE HOW THIS ALL TURNS OUT.

  39. Moff says:

    CLEARLY, that is the only way this will be settled. Because I’m not allowed in Philly since the incident.

  40. Jeff Holland says:

    Have you tried dropping a nuclear device on some electromagnetism to erase the incident?

    Or you can just put some nondairy creamer in a microwave. That worked pretty well for Pinky and the Brain, if I recall. It’s the same basic scientific principles.

  41. Moff says:

    Can we discuss the nuclear device for a second? Lost has strained credulity numerous times, of course, but for some reason, for me the breaking point was when Jack had to get the hydrogen bomb within inches of the patch of energy for it to work. As a plot device I understand it. But I still wish someone had said, “What? We could just detonate it from over here behind the trees, dudes.”

  42. braak says:

    I am still unclear as to why the Volkswagon Minibus came forward in time with them.

  43. Moff says:

    How do we know it didn’t just sit there for 30 years?

  44. braak says:

    Because they’re still in the first timeline — the non-divergent one. And the bus wasn’t there for all of the other scenes around the hatch.

    And if there’s one thing LOST teaches us, it’s that you can’t change history. Except by detonating a hydrogen bomb directly on top of some electromagnetism.

  45. Moff says:

    Ah, yes. OK. On that note, one does wonder why Eloise Hawking didn’t try subtly mentioning to her son that if he ever found himself — you know, it probably wouldn’t ever happen, but if it did — walking into a potentially hostile group’s campsite, he should (1) not carry a gun in, and (2) stand with his back to a tree.

    But one wonders a lot of things. Still way less dumb than BSG.

  46. Jeff Holland says:

    Abandoning all technology and medicine and going to live with cavemen is a PERFECTLY VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO WAR.

  47. K. Liebert says:

    @ braak: The Minibus had to go since Jin was inside the bus. The explosion blew the Kate into the tree, Miles into the Forest, Jack & Sawyer into the grass… So, if Jin was in the bus, he wouldn’t just appear in the middle of the air- the bus had to go.

    (This was shamelessly ripped from my comment on io9’s liveblog answering the same question CJA asked about the bus/van.)

  48. Moff says:

    @K.: I’m not sure that answer is realistic enough.

  49. braak says:

    I am not sure what you’re saying. Do you mean it had to go from a logistical point? Like, the writers couldn’t think of a way for the bus not to go?

    I’m also not sure why Jin couldn’t have appeared in mid-air.

  50. K. Liebert says:

    Well, it’s consistent with the Lost-verse. When they were skipping through time, the boat/raft they were on went with them. Just like the rope that Sawyer is pulling on in one flash, rope stays in his hands, backpacks, clothes, guns, etc… The boat, rope, bus, etc all go as natural extensions of everyone’s “being.” As a natural extension of Jin, or even Hurley (since Hurley was reclined against the bus,) it travels. It is tugged on through.

  51. K. Liebert says:

    I guess the bus couldn’t have gone… Regarding the writers: it essentially had to go for them to tug the one beam out of the way so that we could see that Juliet was still alive, and that Sawyer could bury her when she did die & make Miles talk to her, all so he could hear “It worked.” Sawyer has a lot less reason to not kill Jack aside from his spite, which meant that Kate can still fret about her decision between which one she likes more…. “It worked” could mean that origi-Losties might have an idea that the plan worked, so that they are aware of the possibility of new-Lostie versions of themselves out in the world. So when/if the two realities collide it can tie up quicker? Wow, that’s damn convoluted…

    The greater question I had was why was Juliet so close to the surface now. When she went down the hole, it was really deep. When Sawyer gets to her in the wreckage she moved to within what seems like 30 feet of the surface, and under a beam, instead of way down in the hole. All I could come up with was she had to be close so that Sawyer could hear that “it worked…”

  52. Moff says:

    I like to imagine Jacob telling Richard to drive the bus through time. All these clocks whirring past him as he checks his watch and steps on the gas.

  53. Jeff Holland says:

    I think “Richard Alpert and his Time-Traveling VW Van” is a spinoff we can all agree on.

  54. braak says:

    Well, it’s consistent, though also inconsistent. I mean, they don’t take trees with them, or dirt, or anything else. Though that part is kind of consistent.

    Of course, needing the van in the first place — to move the beam — was the result of an arbitrary condition created to require the van. If they’d just been able to move the beam by hand, they wouldn’t have needed the van at all.

    I assume that Juliet wasn’t as deep because the bottom of the hole that she was at represented the bottom location of the hatch, which was all blown up. In the future, they’re not in the pit, they’re in the crater that was left behind when the hatch blew.

    @Moff & @Holland: Yes.

  55. K. Liebert says:

    @ Moff & @Holland: Yes.

    @ braak: There are a lot of arbitrary conditions that the writers seem to have to work around. At least they are consistently inconsistent.

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