Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thoughts on LA X...

BIGMOUTH: And so the end begins in earnest...

The Season 6 premier lived up to my anticipation, answering some major questions, and raising a few new ones to take their place. It confirmed that the Man in Black is now the Smoke Monster in John Locke's form, and that the circle of ash around the Cabin fenced out Smokey. But does this mean Jacob was its ghostly occupant, or could that still have been the Man in Black? We also learned that Juliet detonated the bomb, resulting in two realities superimposed. But in which reality did the bomb explode, the one seen in Season 1-5 or its alternative where the Island sinks? And why, for that matter, bother depicting this facacta LA X reality at all?

The Man in Black is now Smokey in Locke's form. As Austin Powers might say, that's not John Locke, it's a Man in Black, baby!  Most reached this conclusion after the Season 5 finale, but it remained unclear whether the Man in Black was actually the Smoke Monster as well.  Does anyone still seriously dispute they're now one and the same after the events of LA X?  The scene where fake Locke disappeared, followed by Smokey's appearance, seemed pretty unambiguous.  Any lingering doubts I had were erased by fake Locke's line "I'm sorry you had to see me like that," and his heartbreaking claim that the real Locke's pathetic dying thought was "I don't understand."

The ash circle kept Smokey out of the Cabin.  I'm sorry to see Bram go, but confess loving the way Smokey thrashed his crew like a scene from the red tapestry.  My favorite part about the fight in the Foot was when Bram poured a circle of ash (collected from the Cabin?) around himself, briefly stopping Smokey in its tracks.  In the best LOST fashion, we were shown the answer to something we'd long suspected: the ash circle kept Smokey out of the Cabin like the sonic fence around the Barracks.  This conclusion was further strengthened when the Others poured a similar circle of ash around the Temple.  Speaking of which, can't Smokey just go under the circle and attack the Temple from below?

Who asked Locke to "help me"?  If Jacob's people use the ash as protection, and Ilana's crew expected to find him at the Cabin, the obvious answer is Jacob.  Maybe his ghost traveled back in time and required protection from Smokey.  But there are some major problems with this scenario.  For one thing, we've met Jacob's ghost, and it didn't seem particularly scared of Smokey.  We've also seen Jacob physically transcend time and space when he was alive.  What would the deceased Jacob need to do in the past that he couldn't have done as well, or better, while still in corporeal form?  If he needed Locke's help in 2004, for example, Jacob could easily have asked in person.

My gut still tells me it was the Man in Black imprisoned in the Cabin.  As I noted in Cabin Fever Relapse, he hasn't appeared as Titus Welliver since his talk on the beach with Jacob.  And the ghost therein more closely resembles Welliver than Pelligrino.  It also makes more sense to me that the Man in Black would request Locke's help, given his importance to the loophole.  But there are problems with this speculation, too, now that Smokey and the Man in Black are synonymous.  There was no sign of Smokey when Locke first visited the Cabin (though an ash circle was on the chair) and the Monster seems to move freely about the Island.  Why didn't the Man in Black ask John for help when they met in Walkabout?

The answer is that the Man in Black's essence was missing.  I've described this as his soul, but if that's too supernatural for you, think of it as his memories being trapped in the Cabin.  Remember how Kate distracted Smokey with dynamite in Exodus?  I'm guessing the explosion that destroyed the Statue also separated the Monster from its memories.  Indeed, now that Richard clearly recognizes the Man in Black, I'm more convinced than ever that Alpert helped cause this memory loss.  Smokey's amnesia persisted until the Cabin moved outside the ash circle.  The Monster entered and was restored to the same Man in Black he's always been, as symbolized by his new clothes upon exiting.

The bomb's detonation created two realitiesWhen Doc Jensen interviewed me recently for EW.com, he asked whether I was for or against a timeline reboot.  My answer was "both."  I said that, as a result of the Incident, there were now two possible timelines superimposed like Schrödinger's cat: one in which the bomb exploded, and another in which it did not.  After glimpses of the LA X reality where Oceanic 815 lands safely, I'm confident that's correct.  In one timeline, the Incident results in construction of the Swan Station, yielding the events depicted in Seasons 1-5.  In the other, it sinks the Island, rebooting history from 1977 onwards.

In which reality did the bomb explode?
  In that same interview, I predicted Miles was correct that the '77ers were always the cause of the Incident, meaning the Season 1-5 timeline actually depends on the bomb exploding.  I think failure of the bomb to negate the Swan anomaly was what sunk the Island in the LA X reality.  I can, of course, also see the logic of contrary speculations that the combined effect of the explosion and electromagnetism was what destroyed the Island.  Indeed, Team Darlton have implied as much with comments that "when the bomb went off, there was a reset," and that Faraday failed to consider the unforeseen effects of detonating a nuclear bomb.

Still, when asked point blank in a recent interview, Damon equivocated: "Should you infer that the detonation of Jughead is what sunk the island? Who knows?"  In the LA X podcast, moreover, he describes this speculation as "pervasive" and promises it will be revisited later in the season.  This careful parsing of words practically screams "head fake" to me.  Indeed, there are intriguing hints that the bomb detonated in the S1-5 reality.  Notice, for example, how Kate and Miles both flashed back to the future with hearing loss, as if they'd just heard a loud bang.  No one else experienced hearing loss during the time flashes, suggesting to me it was the bomb.

Remember how Richard said he saw the '77ers "all die"?  I think one major twist of Season 6 will be that Alpert saw the bomb explode, complete with telltale mushroom cloud.  In fact, this may be what they originally planned to show us at the end of Season 5.  In an interview from the Blu-Ray DVD extras, you can see a dry-erase board behind Damon that purports to describe "SCENE 11" of the Incident.  It says "JULIET * BOMB * BOOM," then "SEE JACK'S GROUP ABSORBED BY WHITE LIGHT," followed by "ALPERT POV * SEES EXPLOSION FROM A DISTANCE."  For the time being, therefore, I'm sticking with my speculation that the bomb detonated in the S1-5 reality.

Why bother depicting the LA X reality at all?  To my mind, that's the million-dollar question.  In It's A Wonderful LOST, I suggested that the Incident would blast Juliet's consciousness into the LA X reality, where she would be given a choice which timeline survived.  That didn't happen...or did it?  Like Charlotte, Juliet seemed to mind travel just before dying, mumbling something about getting "coffee sometime" and going "dutch."  I think she was experiencing the LA X reality, which fits with Miles's revelation that Juliet's dying thought was "it worked."  In fact, what if that coffee conversation was between her married self and Sawyer (or even Jack) in the LA X reality?

I'm not sold on Juliet being the one who chooses.  I could see Sawyer or Jack having to decide between a timeline in which Juliet is dead versus one where she's alive. Admittedly, this knowledge probably won't be the result of mind travel, as I'd originally surmised.  But I still believe some character will get to see what their lives would be like if they'd never crashed and fate had been allowed to take its natural course.  After this glimpse the LA X reality, he or she will conclude that the crash of Oceanic 815 served the greater good, and choose to preserve the Season 1-5 reality.  That choice is the ultimate purpose of the second timeline on the show.

* * *
WAYNE: Richard Alpert was not first mate on the Black Rock. He was a slave. I had intended meander through this first post differently, until I saw the Man in Black Locke do the smackdown on our ageless friend. Interesting that it paralleled how Richard pulled Ben along the sand and shove him down to stare at the Dead is Dead Locke. the Man in Black brought up the fact that Richard was out of his chains. Added to the scenes at the Temple, there was more outright hatred in this episode than...well, since Pickett had Sawyer on his knees in the pouring rain, ready to execute him as Kate watched.

I’ll say right now that I’m not going to search for little things like the book titles because I’ll likely be led into Spoilertown. So I’m just sticking with my notes. At least this one time.

I wasn’t concerned with the flight itself, I was looking at the pairings. Boone, complaining about his leg, and Locke, who discussed in detail the walkabout he supposedly completed. Hurley and Sawyer, with Hurley getting advice about not blabbing about being rich and happy. I made a comment in an earlier post that I hoped that the ALT reality would play out like this, subtle clues like the ones we saw in all of Locke’s dreams. (I think the dream Locke had in the sweat lodge, the one with Boone wheeling him around LAX was superb.) While I was off the boards, I thought about how, if Juliet detonated Jughead at the exact moment the Island chose to move again, a pattern might be involved, however random. This would explain the ALT reality, and since everyone flashed to 2007 with Juliet not being blown to bits, at least for right now I’m going with the idea that the Incident did and did not happen. And I think we were all (well, some of us) expecting Juliet’s last words to Sawyer would have been that she was pregnant.

The favor Ilana fulfilled for Jacob was to gather Bram and the others to act as protectors, but they were too late. Certainly it took time for Ilana’s burns to heal, and I’m wondering if the scene in “The Incident” with Ilana in the hospital bed happened as far back as 2004. Bram and company weren’t effecient at all -- I was reminded of Keamy and crew minus the Christopher Walken-ness -- and Bram tried to protect himself by making a circle of ash from Jacob’s pyre. I’m sure he’s not dead, just as a few of the freighter dudes survived with minor burns. And now we know, as Ben does, that the Man in Black is Smokey, which was pretty much hinted at when Ben was being judged by Alex. I wouldn’t doubt that before the Man in Black Locke emerged from the jungle while Ben and Sun were on the porch of Ben’s old house that he had just come from the Temple wall where he had weakened the very spot Ben fell through.

It’s election night here, so I missed a few seconds because of a robo-call (with the polls closed, welcome to Cook County, Illinois, where you vote early and often), but I gathered our gang was ambushed and taken to the Temple. You got me on why they were going to be killed, maybe it was the DHARMA jumpsuits and the Hostiles having an idea as to what happened between 1977 and 2007 in their own territory. I would think ex-stewardess current-Stepford mommy Cindy Chandler would have had something to say. And what’s with Hurley wearing a red shirt? I’ll bet it’s a dodge, he’s not going anywhere. Besides, he made it past the hole Ben fell through just fine.

At the point the flare went off, that was the start of the war. You got me who is going to fight whom, at least until next week. When the Man in Black told Ben about his pitiful old self, I recalled one of my favorite scenes, when Locke beat on the wall of the Pearl, realizing that his belief in pushing the button meant nothing, Eko looking at him with compassion. And he wants to go home. Where is that, the underwater foot? Did anyone else think we were going to see footage similar to what the Christiana I filmed of fake wreckage? In this strange reality of the flight where Charlie tells Jack he should be dead (by lack of oxygen, no less), did the Island sink?

Even before that final ALT reality scene, I knew Locke and Jack would be the last to leave the plane. Interesting that both Christian’s body and Locke’s box of knives are back in Sydney. And I had to laugh as Jack talked with his mother -- an you imagine if he were the youngest of five kids? He’d be a car salesman or something, he’d have so little self-esteem. Speaking of sales, Locke’s comment regarding the knives: is that an ALT reality tell of some sort? Locke didn’t answer Jack directly about why he had a box of knives – one of which I’m certain Ben used on Jacob – rather he simply agreed with what Jack had thrown out there, that Locke was a salesman. He certainly didn’t take the walkabout and ALT reality Boone didn’t see him in the wheelchair as Jack did. I never understood why Locke had that box of knives in the first place, way back when, because we all know that everything happens for a reason. Well, for right now they have a purpose, being in the same place as Christian in Earth 14's version of Sydney. Man, I could make a terrible pun on The Purpose-Driven Knife, and add that to the late Juliet’s book club.

I know more than a few of you know some of what is to follow in future episodes. Will Claire go into early labor because Kate is waving around that gun? If Desmond is in L.A., does he even know Penny? How the hell is this going to course correct?

I thank you for your time.

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