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Nothing is Irreversible: The Season Premiere of "Lost"

"Sorry you had to see me that way."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you reveal the solution to a mystery six seasons in the making. Lost has been criticized in the past by some (not me, fortunately) for stringing viewers along with a series of new mysteries while never quite offering answers to the story threads already long dangling. But this is, after all, the final season of Lost and showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wisely decided to take an approach of beginning to answer questions right from the start this season.

Last night's two-hour sixth season premiere of Lost ("LA X"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by Jack Bender, was a phenomenal start to the season, offering yet another narrative device employed by the duo and pushing the story along while also offering some more of the series' now trademarked serpentine mysteries.

So what did I think of the episode and the latest plot twists being thrown at the audience? Let's discuss.

The biggest thrill the season opener offered was the chance to see the castaways in two divergent timestreams: one in which Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed on the island and one in which everything we've seen on the series has come to pass and the castaways didn't avert their fates but winded up (as I had suggested back last May) on the island in 2007.

Time travel is, after all, a very sticky wicket, especially when you're attempting to change the past. The castaways' efforts to use the pocket of energy underneath the Swan Station in order to prevent their future from coming to pass was an effort to battle fate itself: what's done is done. For them, anyway. Their actions end up creating a divergent reality, one in which the plane never crashes on the island (it's deep under the sea) and therefore they never wind up there, instead safely landing in Los Angeles.

But that doesn't mean that destiny doesn't play a hand in what unfolds for this group of people, who I'll call the Lost-X castaways. They still continue to cross paths, not just aboard Oceanic Flight 815 but also at LAX and likely in other ways once they've left the airport. Even those not glimpsed about the plane (read: Claire) have a way of winding up back in the mess, as witnessed when Kate carjacks a taxi containing Claire.

While certain circumstances are different for these Lost-X castaways, they are essentially the same flawed individuals, plagued by the same fears and doubts and suffering under the weight of the same sins. The one exception to this rule would seem to be Hurley, who is now convinced not that he's bad luck but that he's blessed with good luck. After all, he still used the numbers to play the lottery and win but those numbers lack their power now that the island has seemingly been destroyed. (Loved, by the way, the shot of the Dharma shark swimming through the undersea landscape.) But Hurley's perception of the events unfolding around him have changed now that he isn't followed by a dark cloud: Mr. Cluck's still stands, after all.

Other changes abound: Boone doesn't manage to convince Shannon to accompany him back to Los Angeles so he returns alone, and ends up sitting in coach next to Frogurt and Locke. Charlie doesn't flush the heroin but attempts to swallow it and is revived by Jack when he loses consciousness. Artz recognizes Hurley. Bernard returns from the restroom to sit down next to Rose. Cindy gives Jack not two but one little bottles of alcohol. Sun and Jin appear to be unwed, given the fact that the TSA officer calls her Ms. Paik and not Mrs. Kwon. (Unclear: whether or not Sun can speak English. She appears to understand what is being said but does not intervene when Jin becomes increasingly angry and can't understand them. But she could be concealing her knowledge as in the mainstream reality.)

And, most interestingly, Desmond Hume is on the flight. With no island to shipwreck aboard and no button to push, Desmond isn't down in the Swan hatch (which may not exist at all) and therefore cannot cause the crash of Oceanic 815. But clearly his fate is inexorably bound to that of the castaways.

But while The Incident may have created a divergent timeline for the castaways, that doesn't mean that there aren't still echoes from the life that they had already lived elsewhere. It's Jack who remembers... something. A half-remembered memory, a sense of deja vu, a shadow that casts a pall over him. He grips the armrest of his seat when the plane hits that pocket of turbulence and doesn't let go. An unexpected spot of blood underneath his collar shocks him when he looks in the mirror. When Desmond sits next to him and calls him "brother," there's a frisson in the air that stirs up some deep memory within Jack's subconscious.

But there's another mystery. Just where does Desmond go? He seemingly vanishes from the plane without a trace. Neither Rose nor Bernard claim to have seen him get up but Desmond's disappearance is strangely troubling to Jack. From my perspective, Desmond has already existed in other divergent timestreams (see: "Flashes Before Your Eyes") and Eloise Hawking previously acted as an agent of course-correction in order to push events back into their proper place. Is that what happened aboard the plane? Is Hawking already attempting to maneuver the unfolding of time into its appropriate pattern?

But destiny is, after all, a fickle bitch. Despite getting off the plane without their lives being noticeably changed by their interactions with their fellow traveling companions, the Lost-X castaways are being pushed back together. Sawyer has seemingly already made a mark out of Hurley and assists Kate in her flight to freedom after her escape from Edward Mars. Boone admits to Locke that he would stick by him if the plane went down after hearing the (false) stories of his walkabout in the outback.

Locke has not received the miracle that the island afforded. Paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, Locke suffers the same crippling self-loathing and anger that he felt before the series began. The look of shame on his face as he is lifted out of his seat and into a chair by airport personnel as Jack watches was gut-wrenching. He doesn't believe. Yet an airline screw-up--involving the disappearance of the coffin containing Christian's corpse and a suitcase with Locke's knives--brings Jack and Locke together once more. He offers Locke his card, saying that he is a spinal surgeon. Despite Locke's belief that his condition is irreversible, Jack says the immortal line, "Nothing is irreversible." Which makes me believe that Locke WILL walk again, but thanks to Jack's hand and not the island's involvement. It's an especially ironic comment to make in the face of the fact that for the castaways in the main reality, their actions didn't seemingly reverse anything. And yet...

Castaways. The castways find themselves back on the island, after the events of the first five seasons. Which means that the Swan has been destroyed by Desmond turning the failsafe key and everything they've experienced has come to pass. Strange that it isn't just their bodies that are moved through time. The wreckage at the Swan site travels with them as does the Dharma VW van and Hurley's guitar case. Curious...

Juliet. Somehow Juliet managed to survive the fall down the Swan shaft and was pulled through time to 2007 with the other castaways, living just long enough for Sawyer to make his way through the wreckage to kiss her one last time. (I found this scene just as gutting as Juliet's plunge down the shaft at the end of last season and her lines about getting coffee were heartbreaking.) It's clear that Sawyer did love Juliet and he holds Jack responsible for her death, unleashing a blood feud with the good doctor that will likely carry through this season. Juliet died before she could tell Sawyer "something important," but Sawyer very wisely buried Juliet and then asked Miles to find out just what it was. The message: "it worked." Clearly, Juliet--perhaps existing in the space between life and death or closer to the energies contained underneath the Swan station site--was somehow aware of the creation of the divergent reality. Multi-dimensional awareness? Or just blind faith that their actions did produce the results they wanted... just not for them.

Smoke Monster. We finally got an answer to one of the series' most enduring mysteries, one that has existed since the pilot episode. The nature of the smoke monster has been a source of constant speculation among viewers. Was it a security system? An inexplicable Rover-like entity? Or something entirely different. The answer, we learned, was far more complex: the smoke monster and the Man in Black were one and the same.

Having successfully found a loophole in his never-ending battle with Jacob, The Man in Black used Ben to slaughter him and then pushed his body into fire before defiling Jacob's sanctuary: wiping his knife on the tapestry and then murdering Ilana's team in his guise as the smoke monster. It's a rather canny reveal that should have been obvious since last season's finale. After all, the Man in Black can take on any shape he desires (or at least that of the dead) and that's just what the smoke monster has done in the past. Shifting his appearance from that of the false John Locke to that of the smoke monster, the Man in Black reveals himself to a horrified Ben.

Just what are we dealing with here? Is this the Man in Black's true form? Or just another incarnation of this entity. And if the Man in Black can become the smoke monster... just what does that mean about Jacob? Did he have another form too?

Jacob. Lest there be any confusion, Jacob is definitely dead. He went so far as to tell Hurley this fact before reminding him of the guitar case he gave him in Los Angeles before he boarded Ajira Flight 316. But can he really be killed permanently in a place where the dead walk as freely as the living? Separated from his corporeal body, Jacob still managed to talk to Hurley (who, like Miles, can communicate with the dead) and moved events into motion, telling Hurley to take the critically wounded Sayid to the Temple, where he can be saved.

The Temple. Jack, Hurley, and Kate brought Sayid to the hole in the wall where Montand lost his arm and the French research team went crazy. But they didn't encounter the smoke monster down in the catacombs beneath the Temple but rather some Others who were less than pleased to see them. Dragged out into the central courtyard, they beheld the Temple for the first time and met its overseer, the mysterious Dogan (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his right-hand man Lennon (John Hawkes). While Dogan ordered the intruders killed, Hurley managed to save their lives by telling him that Jacob sent him and producing the guitar case that he had been given... a guitar case which contained a large wooden ankh. Inside the ankh: a piece of paper containing their names and a message that if Sayid dies they are all in serious trouble.

After learning that Jacob is dead, the Others take extreme precautions to bar the smoke monster from the Temple, reinforcing walls and spreading protective ash around the entrance. It's this same ash that encircled Jacob's cabin as seen several seasons back and likely protected Jacob until the circle was broken. Bram attempted to protect himself below the four-toed statue using this method but when he was struck by a rock, he fell just outside the circle, making him easy prey for the monster.

Cindy. I was beyond thrilled to see a resolution to the subplot of flight attendant Cindy and the tailie kids taken by the Others. Cindy seems to have assimilated herself into the culture of the Others and, despite recognizing Jack, seemed more than willing to let them die, should that be the wish of Dogan. She's vastly different and almost recognizable from her previous life as a perky flight attendant. Just what happened to her during her stay with the Others remains to be seen.

Dogan. I'm already deeply intrigued by Dogan. Speaking in Japanese, Dogan refused to communicate directly to the castaways, instead forcing Lennon to translate his words. But Hurley realized this and forced Dogan to speak English (which he said was insulting to his tongue). He seems to hold a position akin to master priest and it was Dogan who oversaw Sayid's body beng placed into the healing pool. Just who is he? How long has he been on the island? What is his relationship to Richard Alpert and his tribe? There's a distinctly Eastern-meets-Egyptian theme going on, from the hieroglyph-laden walls of the Temple to their vaguely Asian style of dress.

The Pool. Now where is Ra's al Ghul when you need him? The Others have a healing pool capable of saving Sayid and a ceremony in which he must be submerged in the waters (while Dogan watches black and white sands flow through an hourglass); it definitely reminded me of the Lazarus Pit from the Batman comics. But something was wrong with the waters, which were tinged with red instead of clear. A sign that Jacob had died and his healing influence was no longer flowing through the island? Perhaps. Dogan tested out its healing capabilities by cutting his hand but the waters did not heal him.

Was this the same ceremony used to heal the teenage Benjamin Linus back in the 1970s? Were the risks that Dogan spoke of the same ones afforded to Ben? Could it be that, if successful, the pool would heal Sayid's body but corrupt his soul? Curious.

Sayid. With his life slipping away, Sayid was brought to the pool and then held under the water until he drowned... and Jack was unable to revive him. Dogan writes him off as dead and leaves but Jack is summoned by Lennon for a private talk away from the pool. What he wished to discussed remains a mystery for now as they were interrupted by Sayid coming back to life. Hmmm, another island resurrection? But while Sayid whispered, "what happened?" a chill ran over me. He didn't sound quite like Sayid, now did he? (Or am I overthinking?)

Richard Alpert. Meanwhile, the Man in Black strolled out of Jacob's sanctuary and berated the Others, saying he was "disappointed" in them. After the incident in the sanctuary, I was glad that Richard urged Ilana and the others not to shoot him (he now knows just what False Locke is), but Jacob's Nemesis has plans for Richard, punching him and then carrying him off into the jungle. Just what did he mean when he said that it was good to see Richard out of his chains? A clue that perhaps Richard Alpert was aboard the Black Rock, a slave that came to the island and engaged in yet another round of the war between Jacob and his dark brother? Interesting...

Home. Just where is home for the Man in Black? And what does it mean that he wants to get there? Has he been exiled to this island and have all of his actions been leading up to an attempt to flee the island and escape? And, if that is the case, just what does it mean for the Lost-X castaways that his cage--the island--has been destroyed?

Lost Literary Allusion of the Week: Montand was reading Søren Kierkegaard's 1843 book "Fear and Trembling," a philosophical discussion of the relationship between faith and morality that circles around the Biblical story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac (fitting given Ben's sacrifice of Jacob). And, aboard Flight 815, Desmond was reading Salman Rushdie's 1990 magical realist children's novel "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," which contains such fantastical elements as the Ocean of the Streams of Story. (Fitting again, given the island's location beneath the sea.)

Ultimately, "LA X" offered a fantastic opening installment for the final season of Lost that was filled with a tantalizing combination of answers, mysteries, and divergent realities. If Jack is right and nothing is irreversible, then it means that anything--and everything--is possible this season on Lost as the road to the endgame rapidly approaches.

Next week on Lost ("What Kate Does"), Kate finds herself on the run, while Jack is tasked with something that could endanger a friend's life.

Comments

The CineManiac said…
Jace,
I agree, I think this was an amazing first episode and I hope the rest of the season stays as good as this one was.

I also agree that Alpert was a slave on the Black Rock and I'm guessing he took Jacob's side.

As for MIB's home, I was wondering if his home wasn't the Temple and Jacob had done something to keep him out, but as I think about it, it doesn't add up completely. But maybe whatever the ash is that keeps him out, also somehow keeps him trapped on the island.

As for the 2 timelines, I have a theory which is based on something Faraday apparently said last season (I vaguely remember it, but I'm going off of what someone else told me). In discussing his plan to detonate the bomb and change the course of history Faraday compared it to a stream of water.

He said if you place a rock in the way of the stream one of two things will happen: 1)If the rock (or in this case the bomb) is big enough it will completely alter the course of the stream, which is what he hoped the bomb would do.

The other alternative was 2)If the rock was not big enough it would simply split the stream in two, and the two stream would eventually converge and continue on their same path.

So my theory is that the bomb split time in two creating the alternate timelines and that they will eventually converge. How they will come together and what that will mean for the castaways, I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.
Unknown said…
The voice coming from Sayid sounded like Charlie to me.
Jace Lacob said…
JonahBlue,

That's what I initially thought too! It sounded more forwardly British than Sayid's normal voice. Curious, no?
Steve said…
I have a theory:

the Smoke Monster is the First Evil from Buffy. I mean, it can change forms, it can apparently take the form of anyone who has died...we're gearing up for a massive Buffy/LOST crossover!
S Broggie said…
Well, another AMAZING assessment by you Jace. Now I'm not only digesting the show, but what you've written (happily, of course). At this point I have one burning question, do the Man In Black and Jacob exist in the parallel universe they've mistakenly created? This opens up all kinds of new metaphysical/mythological possibilities I don't even want to breach at this point.
Just a note, I had a moment of clarity when the crew was sitting around in the temple and Miles was glaring at Sayid's "dead" body. I think it was Hugo asked Miles what was wrong and he nervously said, "nothing". I believe Miles knew Sayid wasn't dead, but also wasn't Sayid.
Also thanks to CineManiacs's reminder of Faraday's theory.
frank1569 said…
Couple of things:

Bad Jacob can only enter the bodies of the dead, apparently - which means dead Jack's dad Christian has got to be Bad Jacob in the mainstream ("Are you Jacob?" "No, but I speak for him.") In Season 1, when Jack found dad's coffin, it was empty, remember? And now both coffin and body are missing?

Small point: in the alt timestream, Sayid is carrying an Iranian passport, not an Iraqi passport...?

twitter.com/frank1569
Kevin Sole said…
Considering the grandeur of the show, my mind instantly jumped to a weird thought regarding Richard:

Prometheus.

Chained up for giving humankind fire, constantly being eaten by carrion, but NEVER DYING.

It was a quick leap, completely absurd, but wow it made perfect sense somehow last night. lol.

Also, Sayid? That's Jacob in his body. Hell yeah, I called it! :)
Bella Spruce said…
Sayid's voice definitely sounded strange to me. Interesting you thought Charlie. I thought, maybe, Desmond? (If he said "Hey, Brother" we would have known for sure!)

Love your Lost write ups and think I am going to miss them as much as the show when it ends!
Pearl said…
Fascinating write-up and definitely something to think about. I knew something about the end was weird. And thank goodness I know you always bring up points that I need to reassess, so I didn't erase the recording yet.
I definitely think the idea of two universes running simultaneous is possible after Juliet said "It worked."
Can't wait to see what happens next.
Thanks as always for your insight Jace.
Marissa said…
I totally missed the fact that, in the alternate timestream, Sun and Jin weren't married (or at least went by separate surnames). I don't know how you catch all of the little details but thank god, for the rest of us, that you do!
ticknart said…
"But can he really be killed permanently in a place where the dead walk as freely as the living?"

This is something that I've been pondering on and off since last May, do the dead walk on the island, or were they all the Man in Black?
HipHopAnonymous said…
Are we sure that this is indeed a parallel universe we are seeing? I wonder... The whole alternate timeline thing seems a bit too 'STAR TREK' for me. Perhaps what we are seeing off the island is actually occurring AFTER the events that are currently transpiring on the island? Do we even know for sure that this is actually 2004 again? If they did succeed in changing the past, then all bets are off in terms of what happened before getting on that plane.

All we know for sure is that the island has been destroyed and is now underwater. But was it Jack's nuke that did that back in 1977, or maybe something else that is yet to come for those currently on the island? And if Juliet was correct when she tells Sawyer (via Miles) that "it worked," then she was either seeing this alternate universe, or instead knew that they succeeded in changing the past, but for some reason it just hasn't manifested itself yet, possibly because there is more left for them to do on the island before they are truly 'free' of it.

And I know that Darlton have expressed their admiration for the finale of MASH in talking about this season. So I'm starting to wonder if we're possibly seeing the big 'MASH finale' play out in one storyline, while the other storyline is essentially AFTER MASH (a short-lived series following the characters after they return home from the war).

Nah, probably not. More likely that they're just riffing on the whole parallel universe stuff going on in FRINGE and the STAR TREK movie. Nevermind... ;-)
wooster182 said…
I don't think Juliet's story is over. I assumed that she mentioned coffee and that it had "worked" because she was slipping out of 2007 and into the X world...which would be 2004? I think she was talking to Sawyer about coffee in *that* reality.

Question about MIB, if the Others knew to keep the smoke monster out, why can he go in the temple? And why was Ben never afraid of him before? Where they really afraid of MIB? Or are we to assume that they are and it's really something else?
James said…
@ Kevin Sole,
I like the idea that Jacob could be Sayid, also I have a big feeling that Christian and Claire have a big role to play in all this, they haven't shown up for a while and Kate's reason for coming back to the island is to find Claire for Aaron.
rockauteur said…
Great episode, great commentary that pointed out a lot of stuff. My questions, which may echo some of the commentators above:

1) If the island was blown up in the 70s, that means Rosseau never got stranded on the island, and she never changed the radio broadcast, which means that guy never heard it and told Hurley the numbers. So how did Hurley win the lottery? Or does it not matter?

2) Does Jack remember "something" from the other reality? Or does Jack just remember Desmond from meeting him on the steps of the stadium?

3) Why didn't Cindy care if Jack et al were killed? Have they been hiding out at the temple for the past three years? Was great to see her and the two kids though, as I have been annoyed that they dropped that loose plot strand until now.

4) Where was Jacob's corpse in the fire? It seemed to disappear...

5) Why does it matter that MIB is using Locke's body? Didn't he have a choice of many bodies to use? What makes Locke "special" (which he is, as we all know) that his body is now MIB's host?
Ally said…
Nothing much to add, except - loved it.
Anonymous said…
What's with Locke cutting out the left square corner of the red tapestry? Didn't Illana's team find a red tapestry square pinned to the wall of Jacob's cabin with a knife in Season 5? And wasn't there tapestry hanging on the wall of one of the Island fortresses with the left corner cut out? Hmm.
Annie said…
Best write up I've seen about the ep. Thanks for breaking it down so perfectly and carefully. It's beginning to make sense now!
Mazza said…
Very confused by the island being under the water. Did Jughead sink the island or was it something else? And what happened to Jacob and MIB then and Ben and the Others????
Barbara said…
What a jammed packed episode! and I also appreciate your thoughtful, thorough review. I always experience your write ups as a master class that offers me the chance to think through the complexities from various points of view. But a point nags at me, and it seems that neither you nor any of the other commentators addressed it. What do you think Cindy means when, amongst those other Others, she identifies Jack as from the "first plane, the one I was on" ? (I don't think those are her exact words, but close.) Do these Others "know" something about the differing reality? Or have I forgotten some detail from an earlier season, and this comment of hers is not at all revealing?
Jace Lacob said…
Barbara,

Thanks for the kind words! As for Cindy's comment, she's referring to the fact that she and Jack were on the first plane that crashed on the island, the other one (the second) being Ajira Flight 316, which crashed in Season Five. No other meaning than that. :)

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