“You are not meant to do this, Jack.”
The suspense is killing me… and I love it.
When I got to the end of Wednesday night’s stellar third season finale of Lost, I felt a great sadness. Most of that was colored by the events (and twist) that had just transpired – more on that below. But the melancholia was amplified by the notion that we’re eight months away from picking up the tracks of this tale. That’s a cliffhanger for ya’.
Of course, there is that burgeoning subculture of TV groupies who choose to wait until a series has ended where they can then follow the entire run on DVD, uninterrupted and at their own pace. Sure, the patience that’s required to sit out a show for a half a decade is awe-inspiring but I guess I can see some of the impetus in being able to blow through the entire run at our own pace, without being subjected to a killer eight month hiatus. But, given the choice – see it all at once or be left hanging (and wondering) for eight months – I’d choose the latter every time.
Wednesday night’s finale (and in particular – those closing minutes) are exemplary of that. We’re meant to be haunted. I think the impact is lost is you drift from Jack’s final fateful meeting with Kate and immediately pick up the story a few minutes later. This is a turning point worth pondering, worth wondering about, worth obsessing over. And that’s the delicious sweet center to this once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those that get into this show – and really get it – the waiting may be the hardest part… but I think it’s the most vital too.
All right, I have a lot to get to, so I’m just going to begin. I don’t have a clear defined structure as to how I’m going to organize my thoughts, other than I know I’ll begin with the ‘beginning’ and end with the ‘end’. All of the rest will be scattershot, in fact I will probably group my observations into common locales (i.e. instead of following things chronologically, I’ll cover the various events on the beach first, followed by the Looking Glass sequence, then the Fellowship’s trek and finish up with jumpin’ Jack’s ‘flash’. As always, please include your Comments and most importantly, your theories, below.
On with the show.
1. If ‘Greatest Hits’ was designed to set the wheels in motion then ‘Through the Looking Glass’ was devoted to the journey and arrival at several final destinations.
2. First there’s the torture of Charlie. I’ve seen some Internet chatter where people call out the Hobbit as a punk for offering up the info that Juliet had betrayed The Others. When you think about it, Charlie didn’t tell them anything they didn’t learn moments later when Sayid, Jin and Bernard ambushed Major Tom and his posse. One way or the other, Ben was going to set off on his little hike.
3. Regarding that ambush, those were some impressive pyrotechnics on display. That first explosion was brutal, making due on Jack’s promise the week prior that he was going to “blow them all to Hell.”
4. While we’re on the subject of cracking under pressure, Bernard is probably more responsible for providing Ben with crucial intel. Still, Rose did demand early on that he practice his mantra “I am a Dentist, not Rambo” so it was unlikely Bernard was going to sit idly by as Jin was executed.
5. One thing that continues to impress me on this show is the shear sense of scale. Seriously, this is one show that absolutely has to be experienced in widescreen HD as the canvas the creators paint upon is truly expansive. There were a number of shots in this episode that were composed beautifully. I was struck early on with that shot of Jack’s refugees staring off in the distance as two plumes of smoke rose into the night sky (“There was supposed to be three!”).
6. I liked the fact that the finale recalled a number of events that transpired in the past (way back to Season 1), which shows that even if the producers are making some of this stuff up as they go, they are not forgetting the past. On that note, that’s what storytelling is – making it up as you go along. I believe that Lindelof and Cuse have a defined beginning and end point – with a well-defined mythology – and the rest they are coloring in as they go. Sort of like freeform blueprints – they know the structure of the house and some of the interior design but along the way, they’ll let they’re talented writers apply their own unique touches.
7. Anyway, two big recall events occurred on the beach. The first was a nice shout back to the hippie van. It’s funny how the subject of a seemingly stand-alone fluff piece has taken on such significance in later episodes. First it was Roger Work Man’s final resting spot and in this episode Hurley uses it to stage his own death race. Screw Christine – this mystery machine is the real killer car.
8. The second – and one that was equal parts poignant and chilling – was Sawyer’s cold-blooded killing of Tom. I had started to cotton to Tom, thinking he was one of the misguided ‘good guys’ duped by Ben but Sawyer rightly reminded him (and me) “that’s for taking the kid off the raft.” (Off topic – and this is really just for those gamers in my audience – I’m starting to buy into the fanboy hype. Josh Holloway would make a great Solid Snake in the Metal Gear flick.)
9. Enough with the beach – let’s go where everything’s better, down where it’s wetter… under the sea. OK, so a few liberties taken in that awkward transition. Charlie Pace is not exactly having a jolly good time with Thelma and Louise taking pot shots at the poor bloke’s mug. Still, my opinion on Charlie continues to change here at the bitter end. His embrace of his fate brought on a nice cocky, machismo. I liked his line delivery, when he informed Laverne and Shirley, so matter-of-fact, that once the station flooded “I die.” He said that with a slight twinkle in his eye. He knew his fate was preordained and he used that knowledge to wage some psychological warfare on them.
10. Of course, when Charlie’s angel Desmond arrived, all bets were off which built some suspense into the equation.
11. I do not believe for a second that the Mad Russian Mikhail is dead. We’re in Roadrunner territory here, with our Chechnyan Coyote bounding back up from a sonic assault, a Locke down, and a spear through the heart. This calls back to Mikhail’s initial toss through the sonic fence, where he thanked John for ‘freeing’ him. I think Mikhail shares a lot in common with the forever young Richard. The two have drunk deep of the island mojo and continue to live to not talk about it. Mikhail’s holy hand grenade may have deep-sixed Dominic but it’s merely a flesh wound for our craft Commie. As a famous announcer once said, “Sorry, Charlie!”
12. My glib comments aside, Charlie’s death was touching and poetic. As I said in my ‘Greatest Hits’ post, I am a sucker for sacrifice and Charlie hit all the right beats to my heart. Gasping for his final breath, he managed to pass along a message to Desmond. ‘Not Penny’s Boat’. Now, granted, that’s a bit cryptic, but Dezzie has proven quite adept at piecing together puzzles so I think its just enough of a clue for our great Scot.
13. I have read a couple of minor quibbles online with that final Charlie sequence. The first centers on why Charlie shut the door rather than dash out and dive through the moon pool. I think it’s quite obvious. He had become a true believer in Desmond’s prophecy and like Desmond, believed that all events had to occur exactly as Desmond described them or they risked losing the full picture entirely. Desmond’s flash called for Charlie to die by drowning and Charlie made sure that happened. He also made sure that Desmond did not suffer the same fate. He went out a hero even if it appears it may be all for naught.
14. Leading to the second quibble people have voiced which I admit, I don’t have an answer or theory for. Once Charlie killed the jamming device, a transmission came in from Penelope. The question out there is how did Penelope contact the Looking Glass and why (and also, why at that particular moment). I honestly have no idea although Penelope clearly states “How did you get this frequency?” implying that it was the Looking Glass which contacted her despite the fact the button said inbound transmission. Could someone have sent a transmission to Penelope at some point – set on a continuous loop (ala Danielle’s recurring signal) and due to Ben’s jamming tactics, it only went out at that particular moment and then beamed back Penelope’s response? Given the attention paid to Ben ‘jamming his own people’ (both Mikhail and Monica & Rachel questioned it), I’m thinking that may be the most likely solution. But who would have sent it?
15. Last thought – that was some damn good makeup effects on Mikhail’s eye. Geez, put that patch back on. I think I’m gonna’ be sick.
16. Now to the Fellowship and their march through the shire to Mount Doom to place a collect call. Here was another shout out to Season 1. We finally got to the source of Danielle’s recording – a message she set in motion 16 years prior.
17. But first, Jack’s declaration of love for Kate. He said it so conversationally “Because… I love you” and then was on his way. I’m not sure I read that as He Is In Love With Her so much as he loves her as you love anyone who is truly close to you. What do y’all think? Of course, if he does truly love her, then the events that transpire later are made all that more poignant.
18. If I have one gripe (and really – I only had this one gripe during the entire two hour run) it’s that Danielle’s reunion with her long lost daughter was very stilted and unemotional. It was sort of building to a crescendo and then Danielle coldly offered “Want to help me tie him up.” I know she’s a bit stir-crazy after so many years on that island but I just expected a little more in that reunion. In fact, the sequence where she spied Alex for the first time in the Others camp (back in ‘The Man from Tallahassee’) was more emotional in its few fleeting seconds then the final reunion. Regardless, it was but a minor event over the course of this episode so no big deal. I did like Ben’s defeated introduction though.
19. Of course, the main event was Jack and Ben’s summit meeting (literally) where Ben revealed Naomi is not who she says she is. Ben cautioned Jack that should he call for help from Naomi’s vessel, then he would initiate a catastrophic purge of “every living person on this island” – echoing his own “tough decision”. He referred to Naomi’s people as “very bad guys” which Jack flippantly remarked “Oh I forgot… you’re the good guys.” You know, as evil as Ben has been painted, I wonder if there is a method to his madness. He talks on and on about doing everything in service of the island – to protect the island from exploitive elements. Could this be an ‘ends justify the means’ situation? In his own warped way, could Ben be a ‘good guy’ or at least, living proof that ‘the enemy you know is better than the enemy you don’t’?
20. More support for the island’s self-preservation tactics. We only had two brief Locke scenes but they were potent. In the first, Locke’s darkest hour, we witnessed a defeated Locke choosing a swift death over suffering. Just as he was about to pull the trigger and off himself – an octogenarian Walt (that, my friends, is why you don’t work with dogs or kids) appeared to guide Locke from his despair. My interpretation of this event – I think the island, knowing what resides in Locke’s heart, sent a spirit guide to him to give him the strength. The island effectively healed him yet again. The whole sequence underscores Ben’s notion that the Island needs protection. While Ben and Locke are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they serve the same master.
21. If only Jack could look beyond Locke’s actions and see them for what they are. Jack is always talking about his mission – to save others – when in fact it is he that needs saving and not in the physical sense. As Locke says to him before skulking off, “You are not meant to do this.”
22. And all of this culminates with the game changer – the big twist – the jaw-dropping reveal which some people called before it happened but never-the-less, I’m not sure it loses its potency even if you know the outcome. What appear to be flashbacks are actually flash-forwards. Actually, I’m not sure that’s the right description. I think the flash-forwards are actually current events and every thing we see on the island is the flashback. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
23. A couple of things here – I’ll start small and work my way up. In regards to Jack’s request to call his Dad down for a little drinking contest to see who is the most drunk, it served two purposes. First, this was further anecdotal evidence of the ranting and rambling of a depressed junkie who had stooped to using his dead pappy’s stationary to score some more Ocycontin (or Oxycone in the Lostverse). Second, it was a red herring to throw us off the big reveal in the final moments. If you notice, when Jack says to go get his Dad, the Chief of Surgery throws a worried glance to the nurse nearby. That last outburst solidifies it – Shepherd has lost it. This is the same tact Shamyalan has followed in his flicks, where things seem one way and then when you rewatch knowing the big twist, they look a bit different.
24. Because I’ve been asked to I’ll address Jack’s really bad beard. You know, I have actually been impressed at how the make up department mocks up Desmond with his beard and Jesus locks (as we always see in flashback – he’s clean cut with a close-cropped do). Why, in this very episode, we had a very convincing makeup job done on Mikhail’s sealed skull. So the only thing I can offer for Jack’s busted beard is that someone raided The Other’s supply cabinet and liberally applied the spirit gum.
25. Now for the big mystery – who is in the coffin? I froze the image of that obit a couple of times and came up blank. Then I found that my fellow webizens have pulled some details by blowing up the image. They don’t grab a name (just a first letter – ‘J’) but they do pull details from the accompanying news story. The cause of death is suicide by hanging (it’s actually a news item – not an obit). Anyway, this leads to my theory which I’ll get to in a moment.
26. So again, who’s in the coffin? First name begins with J. Jin? Juliet? James Ford (Sawyer)? John Locke? I think we can discount Jin – he wouldn’t be buried in LA and I’m sure Sun would be there (unless she’s gone too – again, more in a moment.) When Jack says he expected to see Kate at the funeral, she looks pretty dejected and replies tersely, “Why would I go to the funeral?” That seems to indicate perhaps it is Sawyer and that he has done something to cause a rift. However she also claims that someone (Sawyer?) is waiting for her at home. To shoot a hole in this theory, the funeral director asks Jack if he is friend or family and he replies, “Neither.” Based on their rapport, I think Jack may consider himself a friend of Sawyer’s, unless the love quadrangle drove them all apart. So, Sawyer seems to be a front-runner. I also thought of Locke because Jack is neither friend nor family to him, but I can’t see Locke being rescued from the island. I think he is still there, alive and well. Juliet is a possibility for the same reasons I laid out for Sawyer.
27. That last sequence, when Jack meets Kate at the airport and cracks the window to his shattered soul, was heart-breaking. Once you get beyond the big reveal, that some contingent of people have been rescued, the sad truth begins to settle in. Jack is Lost. The prophecy Ben warned him of has apparently come true.
28. So here’s my theory. Ben said their rescue would be the beginning of the end. This harkens back to Danielle’s dire warning to Sayid in the first season where she spoke of the sickness that took over her crew – whom she killed to prevent it from spreading beyond the island. I’ve long posited that the island is the nexus – or birth place – of true good and evil on the planet – that a balance exists there and that those that live there and service the island work to keep that balance in check. That all good and all evil in the world emanate from this one fantasy island. And that as long as the island remains undisturbed or as long as it remains in check, the world moves on swimmingly. I think that’s where Ben comes from. He can’t let them be rescued for fear that the balance will be disrupted. I think Jack is now starting to see the ripple effects of his actions. That funeral he attended may be one in a long line of people he has seen depart since they returned. Perhaps madness has gripped the so-called survivors and they are beginning to take their own lives. They’re cursed. Their return has thrown off the balance and brought about the beginning of the end that Ben warned about. Which is why Jack, upon reading the news and attempting suicide, asks for forgiveness before killing himself. Which is why Jack spends his weekends flying through the Pacific on his Oceanic Airways Golden Ticket praying that each bump will bring him crashing back to Earth. To the island. To home. Back through the Looking Glass to Wonderland.
29. Anyway, that’s my fantastic approach. My realistic approach is that he is a man obsessed who cannot readjust to life back in the real world – sort of like Jeff Bridges’ character in Fearless (great movie!!!) or Tom Hanks in CastAway. While I think there is something there, there are enough hints given that Jack’s actions have started something dire in motion.
30. I’ll say this, while Jack can be a complete ass from time to time, Matthew Fox acted his ass off in that episode. Just give him the Emmy now.
31. Those last, tearful words to Kate haunt.
“We have to go back!!!”
We’ll be waiting.