Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thoughts on Lighthouse...

BIGMOUTH:  I give Lighthouse an 8/10 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology and 4 for character).  The episode offered some tantalizing new information but was ultimately kind of a tease.  The Mirror further illuminated Jacob's mysterious plan to save us all.  Claire reappeared in her new and far more interesting incarnation as crazy "Clairesseau."  In the LA X reality, we glimpsed what Jack's domestic life looks like minus the Island's influence.  We met David, the son he never had, and saw Jack's mother Margo once again.  All these Shephard family ties made the episode feel like a reunion party of sorts.  The problem was they forgot to invite the clan's most compelling member: Christian.

"You just don't have what it takes."

White Rabbit Redux.  The many allusions to White Rabbit just made Christian's absence all the more glaring.  Jacob told Hurley to reassure Jack that he "has what it takes" -- the opposite of what Christian told Jack as a child.  Hurley and Jack revisited the Caves, which Zombie Christian showed Jack shortly after the crash.  White Rabbit ranks among the best episodes of the show due in large part to John Terry, whose performance as Christian was simply riveting.  I hope he hasn't been retired for good now that the Smoke Monster is "locked" in Locke's form.  I would have welcomed one more glimpse of Christian through the Lighthouse Mirror.

At 108 degrees, the Mirror shows the temple where Jin and Sun married.

Mirror, Mirror.  That actually brings me to what I loved about the episode.  The Mirror was an elegant metaphor for the connection between Jacob, his Candidates, and the Island.  On a very obvious level, it resembled the Eye of Horus with its many arms reaching out like rays from the sun to touch the figures in Jacob's Tapestry.  Jacob used the Mirror to keep watch over his Candidates, utilizing the information gained from this surveillance to "push" them when his plan required it.  His reassurance to Jack was a perfect example of this modus operandi.  Jacob no doubt knew everything we've learned from the characters' flashbacks by gazing in to the Mirror.

Ka Is a Wheel.  The Lighthouse also further reinforced the Dark Tower parallel that I've previously noted.  The Mirror was like the Wizard's Rainbow, a collection of crystal balls that show visions of other times and places.  The Wheel of Candidates evoked the concept of "Ka," which translates roughly to destiny crossed with karma.  King describes Ka as a wheel whose inevitable turning can only be disrupted by death and betrayal.  Frank Duckett summarized the concept well when he whispered to Sawyer that "it'll come back around."  Ka's calling card is the number 19, which recurs throughout in the King multiverse.  Same with the six LOST Numbers -- they're the fingerprints of fate.

More specifically, the Numbers represent the Ka of the names associated with them.  As I mentioned last week, these Candidates are a "ka-tet" bound by the Numbers, just like the characters in the Dark Tower are the Ka-Tet of 19.  In that regard, I was wrong to suggest that the Numbers are significant simply because of their connection to the Valenzetti Equation.  They are indeed its core factors, but they're also Hurley's winning lottery combination, the stamp on the Swan Hatch, the code for the Swan computer, the jerseys at the airport, the mileage on Hurley's Camaro, degrees on the Candidate Wheel, etc.  The Numbers are all of these things and none.  They are Ka.

You Broke the Rose.  Even more fundamentally, the Lighthouse Mirror reminded me once again of the analogy between the Dark Tower and the Island itself.  The Tower serves as a keystone for all realities in the King multiverse.  It's located at the nexus of six(!) magical beams arranged like spokes on a wheel and forming the Tower's foundation.  The beams were once protected by twelve animal guardians (actually giant robots).  But these guardians malfunctioned over time, and four of the six beams collapsed.  The Ka-Tet of 19 must prevent the forces of chaos from breaking the last two beams, which would cause the Tower to fall, taking the entire multiverse with it.

Basically, the Island is the Dark Tower, with the Candidates as its beams.  As that comparison suggests, the Island's continued existence depends somehow on these Candidates.  The catch is that they're free to do what they please, as Jacob had Hurley remind Dogen.  The rules of the game forbid coercion by Jacob or the Man in Black, who must win the Candidates' hearts and minds to achieve their goals.  That's what Dogen meant when he said Claire had been "claimed" by the Man in Black.  Candidates who succumb to this "sickness" get crossed off the list.  Same with those who die.  Now only the Ka-Tet of the Numbers remains as the Island's last protection.

If the Island goes, then I suspect both the LA X and Season 1-5 realities will be shattered the way Jack smashed the Mirror.  As the nexus of two timelines, the Island must remain alive and well on at least one Earth.  Otherwise, the mirror histories currently in quantum superposition will collapse.  Interestingly, Darlton signaled these stakes last year in the video revealing "LA X" as the title of the Season 6 premier.  That video contained the line "you broke the rose," which I interpreted as a Dark Tower reference.  In our reality, the Tower exists as a single rose growing in an abandoned lot.  If the rose is damaged, the Dark Tower is as well, imperiling all creation.

Many analogies have been offered to explain the nature and purpose of the mirror realities on LOST.  Some compare them to the tangent and primary timelines in Donnie Darko, others to the alternate dimensions in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I myself have suggested It's a Wonderful Life as a possible model.  But I'm increasingly skeptical that the resolution of the LA X storyline will involve either a choice between realities or their merger into one.   Rather, as the Dark Tower parallel suggests, the goal is actually to preserve both branches of the timeline.  That's my current paradigm for Season 6.  Over to you, Wayne....
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WAYNE: Well, here's the mirror image to White Rabbit, the episode that's the the benchmark for every one to follow. Even though the introduction of Adam and Eve's skeletons was still an episode away, we met Ghost Christian for the first time.  Jack chased his dead dad through the jungle, yelling after him just as the Man in Black did to the blond-haired kid last week. The younger Shephard almost ended up tumbling from a small cliff, but was saved by Locke. The two men had a nice talk, and Locke reassured Jack that it's all right to chase after hallucinations, that no one's going to judge him even if he was re-enacting Wayne Newton's terrible 1972 hit "Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast."

Apophenia, brotha. Seeing patterns in randomness. Patterns like squares and circles and rings. Like LA X Jack taking a key from a hole in a rabbit to get into his nameless ex-wife's pad because he has a son he sees once a month.  Speaking of which, David reminded me of a tween Faraday even before the piano recital. (Bad Tween? Don't go there, I'm serious.) I'm trying to make jokes at my own benefit, because these Lewis Carroll references really mess up my bipolar little brain. (Remember, the dormouse at the Mad Hatter's party said to feed your head. Uppity rodent.) Seriously, though, I swear to Paulo that, if Hurley and Miles had been playing Tic-Tac-Toe with multiple copies of VALIS and Carrie, I'd have... oh, who am I kidding? I'd have kept watching.

Everyone probably knows this by now, but this was the 108th episode. I'll be talking about that number later. For now, let's get back to Dogen talking with Jack as he looks at his rippled mirror image in the Temple Pond. Dogen asks if Jack's pals are returning, and Jack replies that he doesn't think so. Jacks asks if he has the choice to leave and Dogen says that free will is an option, but then says that Jack would be kept from leaving. As they have this talk, Hurley goes into the Temple to look for some chow and instead gets instructions from Jacob, who when first seen, seemes be in that death throes thing, the way he was almost doubled over at the edge of the Lazarus pit. He gives a ton of notes to Hurley, who dutifully records them on his forearm. Dogen finds Hurley scanning the walls in one corridor.  Jacob tells Hurley to say he's a candidate, and Dogen mumbles some Japanese that translates something like how he would cut Hurley's head off for taking that tone with him if he could. Dogen then goes back to his place to start in on Dear Diary with the manual typewriter.

Jack has to come with Hurley, and Jacob tells him what he has to say to persuade him: "You have what it takes." Which takes us back to White Rabbit, when Christian admonished young Jack for not having what it takes. See, Christian does, he's not afraid to act, which is why he's the brilliant surgeon. White Rabbit opened with Jack as a man of action, jumping into the ocean to rescue Boone, who himself tried to rescue another drowning swimmer named Joanna.  Jack is angry, saying that he should have at least known who Joanna was, how they were all still strangers. I'll get back to this later, but the one thing about the cave -- and now the lighthouse wheel -- that bothers me is that there are only last names mentioned. Sure, Jacob is a first name guy when he touches people (at least, he is with Hurley), but having a list of last names reminds me of a stack of time cards. Makes you think of that working man's song by Bob Seger, "Feel Like A Number." I'm not drifting off again, I'm coming back to this, too.

I'm sure the reason that LA X Jack has a son is to reflect the Christian/Jack dynamic.  But does it really matter who the mother is? I rule out Sarah, just on the basis of David's age. I'm sure there are people speculating that Jack's ex is Juliet, and I suppose a clue is in the scene where Jack finds that appendix scar.  (Recall that Juliet performed Jack's appendectomy in Something Nice Back Home.) But does it really matter? We've seen Margo Shephard in all of three episodes now.  And in every one she is either berating him or welcoming him home as one of the O6. 

Jack and Hurley start their old school trek and run into Kate, who wants to come with them.  Hurley, however, insists that it can only be himself and Jack.  So Kate says she'll continue to search for Claire, even though she seems more interested in sitting by the stream than looking for anyone. Yeah, that's just me being mean, as she could have been looking at her reflection and contemplating things, just as Jack was earlier. And for anyone thinking Jack was being a wiener, too, for not telling Kate about Claire being his sister, well, they never shared this information when they spent those few months together after the whole Oceanic 6 thing. I say months, because they couldn't have stayed together long.  I can't imagine Jack not telling Kate the truth about Aaron after Mrs. Littleton gave him the dilly-o on Claire. He started drinking instead, with the beard and the oxycodone coming later.

Kate Claire ought to be an interesting reunion.  Speaking of Claire, wasn't that boar skull baby just all-out creepy? It reminded me of Simon in Lord of the Flies. (People talk about me having a Norman Bates action figure on my desk, but in my defense, I also have one of Steve McQueen as Bullitt.) I think that, somewhere down the line, Sun will find some of the old Claire by showing her Charlie's DriveShaft ring. I wonder if this might piss off the Man in Black, as he was right there at the beach camp having a one-on-one with Ben when Sun was rooting around. I'm struck by the contrast to Jacob, who's all about order and patience. The Man in Black is sloppy and doesn't always pay attention to details. It reminds me of a scene in The Stand where Randall Flagg takes the form of a crow to spy on the Judge out in Oregon. The Judge takes a shot at Flagg, but the gun misfires. The Judge was old and arthritic, and yet if he had actually hit that crow, who knows what might have happened. With the Man in Black in Locke's form, it's a mixture of sloppiness and cockiness.

Hurley and Jack make it to the Lighthouse, and Jack questions why they've never seen it before. But I'm not surprised -- its not painted white and red, and it could easily blend in with the many trees when seen from a distance. Hurley is probably the candidate to have seen more of the Island interior than anyone besides Locke. Hurley's seen the cabin, the mass grave, the Black Rock, you name it. I wonder if, just as the mirrors allowed for the guidance for ships, maybe the Lighthouse itself can only be seen when needed for guidance of an individual.

When I saw the wheel with the names, I realized with absolute certainty that I just don't care for Jacob. This guy is all about determinism, and we know Kate is determined to find Claire, Sun to reunite with Jin, and Sawyer to con the Man in Black. There is the Jacob/Hurley dynamic going, as he is the only one Jacob offers an explicit choice to return to the Island or not. And I'm certain it is all about Hurley being able to see and talk to dead people. Hurley starts pulling the chains that adjust the mirror -- could Richard have been chained in the lighthouse? -- and tells Jack to tell him when they hit 108. Oh, I forgot to mention that, at one point, Hurley tells Jack "It doesn't work that way," when questioned about Jacob. Ben said that same thing about the Smoke Monster last season.

At the caves, Jack tells Hurley that he was broken and thought coming back to the Island would fix him. Then he starts seeing images -- the church where Sawyer wrote his letter, the temple where Jin and Sun got married -- and it makes you wonder if when the got up to the name (Brother) Campbell if we'd have seen the monastery where Desmond was a monk. It should be noted that the Jin/Sun image was well past the number 42, suggesting that Kwon is Ji-Yeon after all. Jack demands that the mirror be moved back to his number, 23, and freaks out after seeing images of his childhood home. Then what does he do? He breaks the mirrors, one after another. (There were four of them, one for each direction, but I'm thinking 4 as in 4th dimensional spacetime.) Jack doesn't need to fix things anymore. He breaks all the magic stuff, just as Locke destroyed all the science stuff, the Swan, the Flame, he even blew up the sub. And what is magic but science that we haven't come to understand yet?

Austen is 51, and back in the cave, it didn't matter that we didn't see Kate's name. Everything was written all over the place. Like Faraday's blackboard. Like my notepad right in front of me. But the Man in Black did make a point of saying names out loud to Sawyer, and James was listening. "Reyes." "You mean Hugo?" So Sawyer might be having something pulled on him, as well. Any thoughts on the numbers and the names from other visits? If Jacob can watch people from as far back as childhood, might he be choosing candidates based on individual abilities? I made me think of the Superman storyline where Brainiac's robots imprison the inhabitants of Kandor by shrinking the city and placing it in a bottle. The same thing happens to Argo City, which is found after Krypton's destruction.  But the robots kill anyone whose powers are already available. No duplicates. Does this mean there is no chance of a good twin or a bad twin on the wheel?

Apparently, 108 belongs to someone named Wallace. Again, no first names, which has always been so damned maddening when it comes to the Faradays, Hawkings, Coopers, Lockes. And the Wallaces. Who? Well, you can assume that Jacob has been watching a lot of people, and that "it only ends once" means there won't be another wheel starting at 360 again. Well there's this guy who did paintings very much like those found in the mural and in Widmore's office. Claire's boyfriend with no last name, Thomas. Could 108 be Aaron Wallace? Long ago, I was taken to task for bringing up the Swan mural, someone replying that, oh, all these paintings were by Jack Bender from the show. Well, yeah, but we can easily see the number 42 above the eyeball (Patchy's?) and next to the Black Rock. The original M SICK is faded away just below the hull. There are definite parallels between the mural and Thomas's painting of the crazy woman with the number 125. On the wheel, that number is assigned  to Owens, though I couldn't find any obvious connection.

On the mural, the top left clearly shows us the caves, and the stick figures are candidates. The chicken scratches are lines the Man in Black makes on his cave wall. There is a red line drawn from one of the sticks -- oh, let's just call them candidates and get it over with already -- connecting it one of the spokes to the sun which reads 108. There is what might be another 108 outside the sun, possibly signaling two realities, but it might actually be the number 16. I don't know. But I know who is in the upper right corner. Claire and her new friend, the Man in Black.

Two quick concluding thoughts. First, where do we see Jack at the end of the episode? On the rocks. Isn't that how Christian drank his whiskey? Just sayin.  Second, I described White Rabbit as a "benchmark" for all other episodes.  That word actually refers to a surveyor's mark on a permanent object of predetermined position and elevation used as a reference point. Interesting that we now have a kind of Island benchmark in the form of the Lighthouse.
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