Well, we’ve heard a lot over the past few days from the Jaters, the Skaters, and the hatahs here on the “Lost” blog. And boy, it’s just been a big group hug, hasn’t it? But let’s just to push beyond all that as we continue Kate Austen Week into what I feel is her most compelling storyline and her ultimate purpose on the show: reuniting Claire with Aaron.
Let’s sketch out the quick spine of the important bond between Kate and Claire over the years. In terms of the defining moments in their relationship, we need look at four key episodes:
“Do No Harm“: Kate helps Claire deliver Aaron in the jungle, a moment amazingly revisited in Season 5’s “The Little Prince.”
“Maternity Leave“: Worried over Aaron’s illness, Kate and Claire find Danielle in order to discover what happened to Claire after Ethan’s abduction
“Eggtown“: A subpar episode as a whole, but nevertheless vital in understanding Kate’s bond with Aaron later on.
“Whatever Happened, Happened“: Kate reveals to Claire’s mother the true identity of Aaron, and announces her intention to return to the Island and rescue Claire.
The latter nearly single-handedly saved Kate’s character for yours truly, which I described at the time as having, “…Evangeline Lilly’s finest moments in the history of the show.” To me, her reason for returning to the Island was the most surprising as well as most emotionally resonant. I had been struggling all season with the Island’s coordinates and this vague notion of recreating the Oceanic crash and Locke’s footwear. Not only did I not understand it, but the characters didn’t seem to understand it, either. Even Sun’s reason for returning (to find Jin) was clouded by her decision to leave the offspring of their relationship behind in order to find him.
But Kate’s decision to find Claire simultaneously came out of left field and yet made absolute perfect sense upon closer analysis. You need not merely watch the episodes listed above to get an understanding of the bond between the two characters, but those four in particular highlight the type of kinship not often seen on the show. I hesitate to call it “soft,” because that word might produce the wrong connotation, but in a show where so many relationships are based on either antagonism or competition, Kate and Claire formed a uniquely warm relationship.
Kate and Sun also formed a tight, female-centric bond, but Sun’s inherently a tougher cookie than Claire. (At least, she was until her seeming lobotomy halfway through Season 5. But that’s another topic for another time.) I always viewed Kate’s stance towards Claire as a protective one. It wasn’t condescending, but was informed from their respective life experiences. Despite the marshal’s opinion, Kate wasn’t a hard woman, but was hardened by her life on the lam. That life did not squelch Kate’s maternal nature, but it certainly preempted it. There was as much room in her life for babies as there was for Taco Tuesdays with Kevin Callis.
If I have a gripe about Kate’s storyline with Aaron after leaving the Island, it’s in the show’s ultimate reason for her keeping him. In “The Little Prince,” she and Jack have this exchange on Penny’s boat:
Kate: We could say that I was six months pregnant when I was arrested and that I gave birth to him on the Island. No one would ever know.
Jack: Kate, no. You don’t have to…There’s other ways too this.
Kate: After everyone we’ve lost–Michael, Jin, Sawyer… I can’t lose him, too.
Now, this may be not the most clearheaded way of approaching things, but certainly understandable. Holding onto the one positive thing from their time on the Island as a way to hold onto all that was left behind? It could eventually turn into a daily reminder of the horror of those three months, but at the time, it made sense to her and made plenty enough sense to me.
But in “Happened,” we learn that in fact the reason Kate kept Aaron was to dull the pain from Sawyer jumping off the helicopter. In discussing the incident in the supermarket where Aaron temporarily wandered off, Kate and Cassidy have this exchange:
Kate: I mean, why would I expect him to be taken?
Cassidy: Because you took him, Kate.
Kate: No, I…Claire was gone. I mean, she left him. I had to take him. He needed me.
Cassidy: You needed him. Sawyer broke your heart. How else were you supposed to fix it?
At which point I expected Kate to slap Cassidy and declare that the dumbest thing anyone’s ever said on the show, but no, Kate completely agrees, which means this is the actual explanation we’re supposed to swallow for Kate pretending to be Aaron’s mother. I’m not here trying to start a flame war about the legitimacy of Kate’s feelings for Sawyer. I’m just trying to connect the dots between the two in a way that makes sense and keeps Kate’s integrity in check. Because currently, I’m failing miserably at doing so.
I would have preferred they stuck with the reasoning in “Prince,” a reasoning that would have sickened over time as guilt ate her from the inside out until she realized that Aaron’s place was with his mother. Or maybe the show would have shown the fruits of Richard Malkin’s prophecy, and danger/death surrounding the child without his mother around. But none of that happened. Instead, we learned that Kate was so devastated, so hollowed out, so weak from Sawyer’s departure that she sought solace in a child that belonged to one of her closest companions rather than fill out an eHarmony profile.
Regardless of my personal feeling about the reason for taking Aaron, I’m terribly interested in seeing Kate’s pursuit of Claire in Season 6. It not only gets away from the romantic triangles that have hampered her character over the years, but gives her a truly heroic, truly SELFLESS task to perform. To repurpose Jack’s famous phrase from Season 1: Kate is willing to die alone so that Claire and Aaron might live together. And that’s a powerful arc for both Kate and “Lost” as a whole.
As we approach the endgame of the show, it’s time to look at how “Lost” will resolve certain characters’ storylines. While we can safely assume it won’t be happy endings for all around, we need not assume it will be pain and misery across the board, either. But a few major characters will undoubtedly not be alive when the curtain closes. This, however, need not be a bad thing. Kate’s purpose is not in finding happiness for herself, but achieving peace by reuniting a mother and a child. Maybe she lands on one side of the Sawyer/Jack divide along the way, but that’s not her end goal. It’s not what defines Kate as a character, and it’s far from what defines her importance for “Lost.”
When Jacob told her at a young age to be good, I think this is what he had in mind all along. What about you?
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