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Recorking the Bottle: "Lost" Questions, Series Finale Title Announced

I don't normally dive back into a single Lost episode twice in one week but after this week's episode ("Ab Aeterno") brought up many reader questions--and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse announced the episode title for the series finale--I felt like it merited a second post this week.

While I discussed "Ab Aeterno" in full over here (along with quite a few mythology- and story-based theories I had about the bottle metaphor, the Dharma Initiative, the Man in Black, and more), I thought that it would be a good change of pace to answer some questions and concerns about this week's Richard Alpert-centric installment of Lost right here.

We'll also get to the issue of the series finale's title after the jump, so as not to spoil those who don't want to know. (Though, in all honesty, it's not at all spoilery.)

So without further ado, let's turn that bottle of wine over once more.

Hell. Over on Twitter, several readers seemed confused about Richard's belief that they were all dead and were in hell, taking his words at face value and believing them to be a validation of that old fan theory that had the island as purgatory or hell. Truth?

Not so. Richard's words stem from the Man in Black's century-plus-old manipulation of Richard, preying on his religious beliefs and attempting to push him into his service (as a recruit of the darkness) to kill Jacob, setting up his adversary as the Devil himself. Following the death of Jacob and Richard's inability to kill himself, these same thoughts and pressures reemerge and Richard reverts to his old way of thinking. But the castaways aren't dead nor is the island hell itself.

They are all very much alive and what is happening is happening in the real world, on Earth, albeit a quite magical corner of it where anything and everything is possible. This isn't hell but rather a place of containment for the world's evil, a Pandora's box that holds the true nature of evil and prevents it from spilling over into the rest of the world. Which isn't to say that there isn't already badness in the world because there is but it's a mere shadow of the true evil that the Man in Black would seem to represent.

So short answer: nope, it's not hell, and they're not dead.

The Cork. Seat42F asked, "If the Man in Black needs Jacob to die to leave the island..... why is he still there? Something just doesn't add up. Man In Black complains for hundreds of years about leaving and we learn last night (which we sort of knew already) he has to kill Jacob to do so... yet he doesn't leave. Why?"

It's a good question and I answered it briefly in Wednesday's write-up of "Ab Aeterno" but it's worthy of some longer thoughts.

As I said then, "The warden may be dead but he still needs to scale the prison wall." What I meant by that was that Jacob's continued existence meant that the Man in Black couldn't escape his island prison. The first step to escape would have to involve Jacob's death, thus removing one barrier from achieving his end. But while Jacob might be dead, it doesn't mean that the Man in Black can simply now swim off the island.

After all, it's extremely hard to come and go from this place. It took two plane crashes to bring the castaways here and the island disappearing from space/time for them to leave. Hell, the sub has to follow a specific trajectory just to escape the mystical "fog" that surrounds the island and keeps it hidden.

Ajira and the sub represent two possible escape routes, both for the survivors and for the Man in Black. He clearly can't just swim--or in the guise of Smokey, glide--over the ocean and therefore needs some sort of conduit. And he needs help or he wouldn't need to recruit an army of followers. Someone, after all, has to fly that plane or pilot that sub, if he has any chance of getting off that place.

Kate. Jonah Blue wrote, "Jace, you refer to Kate as a candidate. She was on the lighthouse wheel, and she was touched as a child by Jacob. But her wheel number (51) isn’t among the “six remaining candidate” numbers, nor was her name on the cave wall. You have great theories – would you mind sharing your theory on Kate’s unusual candidacy?"

Correct, Kate doesn't appear to be among the six remaining candidates that Ilana speaks of, nor was she assigned one of the so-called magic numbers (4-8-15-16-23-42) that have populated the series since the beginning. First, it's worth noting that Kate's assigned number (51), as shown from the lighthouse wheel, is a reflection of Sawyer's number (15), which seems very deliberate indeed. Second, while Kate isn't a candidate any more, she clearly was at one time and then had her name crossed off the list.

Which begs the question: just what did she do that got her invalidated from candidate-hood? Was it because she broke the prophecy of Claire alone raising Aaron? In taking Aaron--the first child born on the island in quite some time--away from that place, did she undo part of the greater plan? Was that her crime? Or is the fact that she still hasn't come to terms with the issues that she's shouldered since she first arrived on the island in 2004? Why is she still running, even after all of this time? Why hasn't she forgiven herself? Hmmm...

Lost-X. Usagi wrote, "I don't see how the Lost-X storyline could mean that MIB escaped. Apart from Sayid (and Kate, to a certain extent, but i so don't like her that i don't care, really), they all seem to have redeemed and obtained whatever they were after. So how is this hell? Could you explain?"

Certainly. I theorized in yesterday's post that with the island under the ocean, it appeared as though the bottle had been broken and the Man in Black may have escaped (or had somehow survived the flooding of the island). Given the metaphor that was used in the episode and the fact that the Nemesis smashed the bottle at the end, it seemed to be a clear indication that the Lost-X universe was the result of that bottle smashing. While it's true that some of the castaways have achieved their heart's desire, others have not (particularly those who seem to have sided with the Man in Black over Jacob).

But, to play devil's advocate here, achieving your heart's desire is a prison in itself. Remember, it's the Man in Black who is offering Faustian bargains to the castaways (and to Richard Alpert) seemingly without strings attached. Jacob's agreements inherently involve a level of sacrifice (Dogen's son is saved from death but he can't ever see him again; Juliet's sister's cancer is allegedly cured but she can't return to her; Richard is granted eternal life but as an act of repentance) while the Man in Black seems to make false promises, offering the castaways exactly what they want without seemingly asking for anything in return (save maybe their souls): Sayid to have Nadia once more, Sawyer to leave the island, Claire to get Aaron back, Richard to be once more with Isabella.

What if the Lost-X universe is one in which they have achieved whatever they wanted and the world is trapped in complacency and therefore unable to rise up against the Man in Black? It's harder to turn away from your heart's desire when you've achieved it, isn't it? It would, in fact, require an unearthly level of sacrifice, no?

(This also answers one of Frank1569's questions, "Maybe he has the power to send you to a timeline where 'dreams come true?")

Pylons. Rockauteur wrote, "There's the story of the pylons, but who's to say that it just keeps MIB out? It could also keep Jacob out - or his replacements - as well."

I still maintain that the pylons are either to keep the Man in Black/Smokey out... or, as I surmised last week, to keep him trapped on Hydra Island after they are activated, trapping him on the smaller island and keeping him away from the main island itself.

Magic Box. Frank1569 asked, "what ever happened to Ben's magic box, which promised the same type of things Smokey does?"

There's no physical magic box, just slight of hand here. Ben's magic box was a manipulation attempted to prove his power and supernatural abilities to Locke after he "magically" produced Locke's villainous father Anthony Cooper out of thin air. Of course, we learned that it wasn't at all magic that had brought him there but that Ben and several of the Others had the ability to leave the island at will, thanks to the sub. Ben himself later admitted that the magic box was a ruse as well as a metaphor for the entire island. Things do seem to appear here but they're more likely manifestations of the Man in Black (Yemi, Isabella, Ben's mother) or the island itself (i.e. Kate's horse).

The Others. Charlotte K asked, "Who built the temple, the statue, the underground vaults, if the Others didn't begin until after Richard came?"

Answer: others did. (Notice the lower-case "o" there.) It's clear that there have been people living on this island for centuries, if not millennia, and Jacob refers to people who have arrived on the island prior to Richard, all of whom are dead. When I said that we were perhaps seeing the birth of the Others with Richard's arrival, I meant the modern group of "Others" or "hostiles" that we've seen in the six seasons so far, those who had the benefit of Richard Alpert as an emissary for Jacob and the advice he offered as a spiritual adviser to them.

Given the structures on the island, it's clear that people did live there and construct such locations as Taweret, the Temple, the tunnels, the lighthouse, etc. These all predate Richard's arrival on the island by significant periods of time. Whether any of them survived or were killed by the smoke monster remains to be seen. Jacob certainly maintains to Richard that they all died out. Maybe because they couldn't reproduce? Hmmm...

Isabella. Ken wrote, "When Hurley told Richard that Isabella had said that they had to kill the Man In Black or they would go to hell, Isabella was no longer there. Is it possible that Hurley made this part up just to keep Richard on their side?"

No, I don't think so. I think the direction was such that we were allowed to see what Richard was seeing, which was that no one else was there from his perspective. I don't think Hurley made that up at all, just that we didn't need to keep Isabella there for that bit. That was the message she passed along to him, which Hurley then delivered to Richard.

Richard. Rustle asked, "If Richard is immortal, then in the "sideways" universe is he still alive, at the bottom of the ocean with the rest of the island?"

We've yet to see Richard Alpert in the Lost-X universe, so anything is possible: he's either under the ocean (did he and Jacob move into the Looking Glass Station?) or had left the island when he began to sink or at an earlier date. After all, we know that Richard was free to leave the island when he needed to: he met Juliet when she was recruited to the Others and visited John Locke when the latter was a child. So he could have been off the island when it sank...

Series Finale Title. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse yesterday announced the title for the series finale of Lost, which is--wait for it--"The End."

I think it's the absolute most fitting title for the end of a series that has produced so much speculation and theorizing and thoughts about the past, present, and future. This is the definitive end of the series and, regardless of what rights holders ABC Studios does with the franchise after this, this is how Team Darlton ended the series and these characters' struggles.

There's a nice simplicity and poetry to that title, coming as it does on the final page. Will everyone live happily ever after? That's highly doubtful, given that this is Lost, after all. With only eight episodes remaining (including "The End," the two-hour series finale), I think we're in for a final battle between good and evil that will likely kill off several beloved characters before the very end. Only time will tell...

Next week on Lost ("The Package"), Sun and Jin desperately continue their search for one another while Locke confronts his enemy.


Tyra said…
Thanks for revisiting this week's episode. This was a treat!
Russ said…
I have to disagree with you about Isabella I think that came from Jacob, I think this for two reasons, one Hurley had said she was gone and then said she had one more thing to ask him. Also the crescendo of the music makes me feel like there is something underneath. This is all conjecture of course but I am curious to see if anyone saw what I did. Thanks for the write up, it is well done and quite in-depth!
Sara said…
Anytime my friends/family have a Lost-related question or are confused by an episode I just direct them to your site. You are truly a (if not THE) Lost expert!
Laura said…
Thanks for this second post!

I do have to agree with Russ, that it was Jacob saying that last line, not Isabella. I saw the same thing he did. I don't know, maybe I just can't let go of the idea that MIB is not totally evil. That would be such a disappointment at this point. I still remember when Bram told Frank that they (Jacob's people) were the good guys, and then Frank said that anyone who says they are the good guys are usually the bad guys.

btw, I am seriously awaiting an episode dedicated to Frank. His name is on the top credits this year and we still haven't seen too much of him, but I think he is wiser than most.
Jace Lacob said…

I don't know that we'll get a Frank flashback episode before the end. While, yes, Jeff Fahey's name is in the credits, it's more because of his contract with ABC Studios than anything else. I'd be very surprised if we get a Lapidus FB, though I expect he'll turn up in the Lost-X timeline eventually.
Laura said…
Jace - thanks for that info. I can see why he wouldn't get his own episode, although I'd love to see him someone else's episode, kind of like how Miles was in Sawyer's.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure I buy the idea that the Lost-X universe is one where the Man In Black has escaped, and therefore brought evil to the world. The latter event is viewed in fairly apocalyptic terms by Jacob, and there is no evidence of that in any of the sideways flashes. And let's face it, the notion of a parallel universe (string theory, etc.) allows for a great deal of wiggle room when it comes to plot development, ie anything is possible, and that would include a completely different dynamic between Jacob and the MIB in that particular universe.

As for the notion that in killing Jacob, the MIB only took out the warden, he still has to scale the wall....?

Uhm. Okay. But what exactly is the wall other than a metaphorical conceit. It may be hard to find the island, but it isn't exactly impossible to leave it. Heck, the castaways managed that feat themselves. And the MIB doesn't really need an army to accomplish this -- unless, unless, a new candidate takes Jacob's place and must be defeated before he can leave.

Or something like that.

Also, why can't Smokey glide over the ocean?
Unknown said…
Awesome! Thank you for the extra post!

"Lost" analysis and hypothesizing is so much fun. Then fans can watch the reveals and see how right or off-base they were. Team Darlton are such amazing story tellers!
Nicole said…
You mentioned that they cannot reproduce on the island...and that has been true, EXCEPT for one instance. I have been re-watching season Five and in the beginning, When Sawyer and Juliette first go back to the 70's Horrace's wife (curly hair girl, can't remember her name). Delivers (with the help of Juliette) a baby. It seemed to me they conceived the baby on the island...Even Juliette says, the reproducing problem must not have happened yet. What is your take on this? I just figured that the "incident" was what started this problem with babies.
Sarah T. said…
Regarding other others. It seems that the MIB and Jacob have been bringing people to the island for centuries (i.e. hieroglyphics on the temple wall.) In the past, humans have probably all killed each other (Lord of the Flies style.) Think about when the Black Rock crashed. The first thing the officer did was begin slaughtering everyone else on the ship. It was "every man for himself" from the start. (Live together, die alone.) But with the Black Rock, it was the first time that the MIB spared one. Perhaps the MIB saw that Richard had killed before for something he desperately wanted (to save Isabella.) It seemed that this was the first time that the MIB recruited a person to attempt to kill Jacob. Didn't Jacob seem astonished over Richard's appearance at the statue? Jacob also stated that he brought the ship to the island, not just Richard. Again, Jacob and the MIB are playing a game to see how human nature play-out on the island. This time, Jacob won and he gloated over his Black Rock win by sending a white rock back to the MIB with Richard.

I loved this episode. I'm glad you added to your original post. Your despondency in the first post over a less-than-fulfilling episode almost got the better of you. You have redeemed yourself. Thanks!
Workman said…
What if Kates candidacy wasn't revoked...? What if there are reciprocal candidates for the man in black, and he needs a replacement before he can leave the island?

Worth loooking into? Do the numbers work out so we can speculate? I have some more thoughts but I'm working right now and don't have time to put em down.

What do you think Jace?
Usagi said…
Hey! Thank you so much for that second post!!! I now understand your theory on the lost-x storyline, though I'm not sure I agree with you - but I still don't know what to believe. Can't wait for next weeks episode!

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