So last time out I posed a question I think every “Lost” fan should be asking: do we actually want to see Oceanic 815 land successfully in Season 6? It seems like it’s a question about plot, but to me it’s really a question about character. Or, rather, characters.
In looking at the answer to this question, I proposed the following assumptions last time out:
“There are two angles one must examine when trying to answer this question on a more than surface level. The first? The nature of the character’s importance to the overall endgame of the show. The second? Looking at the possible lives of those characters had Oceanic 815 gone as smoothly as just about every other flight in the history of aviation.“
Today, I’m going to analyze the first angle. To me, it speaks to the unique place that these particular people hold in the history of the Island and their unique role in shaping its ultimate fate. Jacob’s visits to various parties, seen in “The Incident,” denies any semblance of assigning happenstance to their eventual seat on Oceanic 815. Jacob has been enabling “progress” in the human race through his successful attempts to draw people to the Island for centuries, if not millennia. But “Lost” has shown us this particular iteration of Jacob’s efforts for a specific purpose: these particular individuals are inherently different than their predecessors.
In terms of what makes them unique, well, that’s for Season 6 to truly illuminate. Stephen King, a hero of the show’s writing staff, often calls disparate individuals together for a singular purpose they only gradually understand. Some would call it “kismet.” George Lucas would call it “the Force.” Stephen King would call it “ka.” “Lost” calls it “fate.” For the moment, let’s look at the events in “Lost” not as the mere eventuality of a series of random occurrences that led mathematically towards a singular outcome. Rather, let’s look at the show as a morality play in which certain individuals are placed into a metaphorical as well as topographical stage in the hopes to enable the meeting and/or exceeding of their best selves.
Now, the notion of “best selves” is vague and slippery. What is “best” for one may not be “best” for another. Not everyone can be good at the same things. Empathy, skill in medicine, maternal instinct, writing insanely pretentious blog entries about television shows…these are all hypothetical outcomes of someone’s “best self.” However, its snowflake-like limitless iterations works to our advantage when looking at the show, since Jacob needs to find the right combination of best selves in order to achieve his goal. Our job should be to identify the traits that Jacob seeks to elicit from the survivors of the plane crash.
Rather than look at every possible character iteration of this idea, let’s look at one. Let’s take Jin as our test case. Important character? Maybe. Fan favorite? More likely. But in any case, he’s an ideal person for us to analyze when looking at why “Lost” fans by and large are so resistant to “The Incident” rebooting the show.
Remember, it’s not in Jacob’s nature to give orders; he allows for possibilities. Jin’s inner self is caring and loving; his married life created an impenetrable shell of rage and regret around that core. Only on The Island could that shell be finally punctured. But for Jacob, re-establishing an emotional connection with his wife is only the first step. What Jin does on the Island is informed by 1) his feelings towards Sun and 2) his feelings towards his unborn child. As I alluded to at the outset, character informs plot.
Put aside the fantastical notion of blooping through time via painful waves of white light. Let’s focus on possibly the most important thing Jin did after arriving on the Island: saving Danielle Rousseau from going into the Temple. It’s not enough to simply say, “Whatever happened, happened.” That’s a cop-out. He didn’t react to her as “crazy French lady who kidnapped Aaron.” He responded to her as a young and terrified mother-to-be. And in her, he saw Sun. But the Sun he saw was not the one who boarded Oceanic 815; rather, it was the one he got to know for real once on the Island.
Why is this is important? Because if he doesn’t stop her, she gets brainwashed or smokified or whatever it is that happens down in that Temple. She does not end up alone with a child when Charles Widmore orders a young Ben Linus to kill them both. As a result, this pivotal moment in Ben’s life never happens. Oh, and there’s the little thing of her never changing the frequency on the radio tower from broadcasting The Numbers to her distress call.
If you’ll recall, when Frank Lapdius crash-landed Ajira 316, we could hear those Numbers broadcast in the cockpit. You’ll recall a camp and a Barracks that look similar to what we remember, but might be suffering from more than mere neglect since Ben turned the donkey wheel. If Oceanic 815 lands safely in Los Angeles in September 2004, Jin never gets to play his small but vital part in the events of the Island’s history. All this suggests that the Island upon which Ajira 316 landed might have had a similar, but crucially different, history from the one that we’ve watched for the past five seasons.
In summary, when thinking about a scenario in which Oceanic 815 lands successfully, think about who benefits from history being rewritten. Think about the fact that the Island, while isolated, is intrinsically linked to our own world through the pockets of similar energy scattered across the globe. Does the Island benefit from Jin’s sudden absence? Does Jin himself benefit from being able to deliver a watch at the precise moment at which Sun is delivering herself into a safe, solitary, anonymous life in the United States? We’ll try and answer these questions in the next installment of this series.
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