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Letting Go Again: Lost Questions, More on "What They Died For"

Welcome to this week's second look at Lost, just a few days ahead of Sunday's series finale of the mind-bending serialized drama.

Once again this week, I'll be taking a second look at this week's episode of Lost ("What They Died For") by answering reader questions submitted via comments, Twitter, and email.

While I discussed "What They Died For" in full over here, it's time to dive deeper and get to some further theories, doubts, and questions that we're all thinking about.

So, without further ado, let's grab a tin cup, whisper some mystical words, and discuss "What They Died For."

I had the chance to watch this episode twice over the course of a few days, the first time and the beautiful and memorable Lost Live: The Final Celebration event at UCLA's Royce Hall (which you can read more about here), and the second being right here in my living room, where I wanted the opportunity to watch the second to last episode on my television with my wife and my dog by my side.

Given my dislike of the previous episode, "Across the Sea," I thought that "What They Died For" was a step in the right direction as the writers finally set up the endgame contained with the series finale (airing Sunday evening, though there's no one in the world that doesn't know that at this point) and positioned the players into their places.

We got an episode that provided some answers, offered some forward momentum, and even had a fair amount of humor as well, a final breather before what's likely to be a shocking and (hopefully) breathtaking series ender. It's hard to believe that we're about to reach that final destination after six seasons and "What They Died For" offered us an opportunity to get our bearings before we reached the precipice...

Richard. Ally wrote, "I don't think that's the last we've seen of Richard. We'd at least see him dead on the ground, I think. His last contribution may be little more than some dying words to someone (Ben? Miles?) but I don't doubt that they will be important." It was a sentiment echoed by reader Crystal, who believed that Richard couldn't be dead because he had gotten a huge backstory episode and we still hadn't learned why he didn't age or die.

I'd like to think that Richard Alpert didn't die when the smoke monster ripped through the barracks and slammed him into a tree. Given that we didn't see him crumbled and bloody, it's possible that the seemingly immortal Richard survived the impact... but I also think that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are clearing the board of the non-central characters at this point.

While Crystal points out that Richard got his backstory-centric episode, that's my point exactly, we already got his backstory and learned his origin. I don't think that's any reason to keep him alive; in fact, I think they signed his death warrant when they wrote "Ab Aeterno." With his backstory out of the way, Richard's plot is done. As for why he didn't age or die, Jacob made it so, just like "Mother" made Jacob and the Nameless One special. If it's Jacob making the rules--whether that be the rules of reality or physics--he's the one who decreed it, thus making it so.

What more is there really for Richard to do? He was Jacob's mouthpiece and Jacob is dead. He believed that the Nameless One wanted him to follow him. In actuality, all he craves is death and destruction, as evidenced by his behavior at the barracks.

Ben. Ticknart asked, "Did you see the look in Ben's eyes when Locke told him that Sayid had lied about killing Desmond? Ben has his own end in mind, I think. He's probably playing it by ear at this point, but knowing that Locke doesn't know everything was a surprise, and a pleasant one at that."

I agree and I think Ben has a plan of his own. Ben has always been on Team Ben rather than truly allied himself with any other cause. He's all about self-survival and I think here he realized, especially after seeing what the Nameless One did to Richard, that he had to go along with the Man in Black's plan... at least for now.

As I mentioned over in the Wednesday post, there's a definite reason why Ben gives the walkie-talkie to Miles, and I believe that Ben will thwart the Man in Black's plan at some point. He's definitely noticing the signs that MiB isn't in control of the situation and can be blindsided, as he was here by the knowledge that Sayid betrayed him, especially as Sayid was swayed to the dark side. (Remember the scene where Ben found Sayid over Dogen's body at the temple pool? If Sayid can betray the Man in Black, given the darkness within him, it means anyone can.)

Likewise, Rockauteur said, "Love your theories on Ben maybe playing Locke. I do think that Ben will end up being the ultimate candidate. But will Jack be able to perform the ceremony to initiate him now that Jacob is just about gone? Or will Jacob be able to initiate Ben?"

Is Ben the true candidate? Would he have been chosen to succeed Jacob if Sayid had never shot him in 1977 and had him claimed by the Others as a result? I don't know. I like to think that we've begun to see the redemption of Benjamin Linus but so many of his actions point towards self-serving ends than true selflessness. I believe he may make the ultimate sacrifice to balance the scales in the series finale, redeeming himself and achieving his soul's release from the island. But that's just me.

As for the other point you made, Jacob is gone. Jack is now the protector of the island. Should the day come where he needs to find a replacement, he'll be able to complete the ritual himself. The opening of his eyes after Jacob's benediction signify a thorough knowledge of the island and its--and his own--abilities. He is like Jacob now and he can create new rules to govern the island, just as Jacob had.

Widmore. Kim Harrington wrote, "I was a little taken aback by Ben killing Widmore, namely because they'd already made it clear in a previous season that--like Jacob and MIB--Ben and Widmore cannot kill each other. It's against the rules. It's not clear to me why that changed. And why Ben was obviously aware of this change. Otherwise, he wouldn't have bothered pulling the trigger."

Yes, but whose rules were those? Were they man-made rules as a result of Widmore's exile from the island years earlier? A sort of ceasefire agreement signed between the exiled Widmore--sent out into the world after he conceived a child with someone off the island--and the new leader of the Others, Ben? I never believed that there were cosmic rules put in place that didn't allow them to kill each other or their respective families. Unlike, that is, the laws that govern Jacob and his Bad Twin (heh), which are rooted in the fabric of the island and have mystical qualities. These are cosmic rules that have a basis in physical reality. The rules of the war between Ben and Widmore have no such basis. They're created and agreed upon by the parties but, like any war, there's nothing keeping either party from reneging on the deal.

Which means that Ben's murder of Widmore is just that: murder. There was no cosmic law preventing Ben from killing him, nor is there any loophole that will prevent Widmore from dying there on the floor of the secret room.

Claire. Carmen asked, "Where is Claire?" It was a sentiment echoed by reader stimpqb1, who wrote, "I also really want to know why they kept Claire from us, it leads me to believe that her role in the finally will be of the [utmost] importance." Rockauteur also questioned her whereabouts this week: "Where was Claire? She vanished into thin air about she was left with Locke aboard the docks... and he didn't seem like he wanted her dead. Wonder if she is just chilling with the other red-shirts at Hydra Station (and in my theory, Eloise is among them as well) that weren't killed by Locke."

A very good question. Claire's absence from "What They Died For" is an interesting one. When we last saw her, she was on the dock and the Nameless One went striding off into the jungle to finish what he started. Given this fact, it makes sense that Claire wouldn't be with the Man in Black as he paddled over to the Barracks on his own. So where is she? Hydra Station with Widmore's surviving flunkies? A likely possibility. She's denied the final audience with Jacob due to the darkness within her. But is she too far gone to come back to the light? Can her brother Jack save her soul now that he's the island's protector?

As for the other point, I'm not sure that Eloise Hawking is on the island... But I do believe that she'll definitely be at the museum's concert in "The End."

Miles. "What is Miles's purpose on the Island?" asked stimpqb1. "I believe he will hear Jack's final thoughts after he is killed and will pass down the job to Sawyer or Hurley. I think it will be Hurley just because he said that he did not want the job."

I thought that Hurley's line about not wanting the job was an interesting one as well. The role of eternal island protector seems tailor-made for Jack, what with his God complex and need to fix everything. But Hurley's not been a leader; while he's been a follower, he's also been a spiritual guide throughout the six seasons of Lost, one who felt that he was doomed to walk the Earth alone as everyone around him suffered horrible fates. (Sounds like Jacob, no?)

I feel like the fact that Jack became the protector in this week's episode--and not the finale--points towards a twist ahead. Can the Man in Black get someone--Ben? Claire?--to kill him and start the cycle over again? Would Jack be able to transfer his responsibilities to someone else before he died? Hmmm...

Lost-X. Jonah Blue asked, "So why is Hurley working toward eliminating the X time-line in favor of the main one, in which Ana-Lucia and Libby, his love, are dead?"

Do we know that that's what they're trying to do? Hurley is aware of the other reality but we've yet to find out what Desmond's master plan is here. While I believe that they are going to have to chose between the two worlds and sacrifice their true happiness in order to help their counterparts defeat the Man in Black, I don't know that Hurley is privy to all that Desmond knows. He recognizes Ana-Lucia and he remembers his brief and unconsummated relationship with Libby but how much does he know about what's going on? About the choice he might have to make?

After all, these individuals might have memories of the island (impossible ones) but they haven't shared the same experiences, those brushes with the profound and terrifying that the crash-survivors did on the island. Just what line is Desmond feeding them, after all?

Having said that, I do think it's going to come down once again to free will: will these individuals sacrifice everything for the greater good? Can they tear down this world to save another?

Desmond. Rockauteur asked, "Who rescued Desmond? I'm guessing that happened off screen (and we'll see it next week) as Jack finds him and brings him up from the well. I'm still not exactly understanding his role in the end game though I like your theories about how he may have to sacrifice himself to return his energy to the source. I only wish he is able to reunite with Penny and his son Charlie before then! Their romance is the true heart of the show!"

We never saw just what happened to Desmond after Sayid decided not to kill him in the well. The presence of the rope over the side indicates that someone threw it down there to help him out. Was it Sayid himself? If it was, why did he tell Jack to find Desmond at a well, knowing that he would have likely left that place and hidden elsewhere? And if it wasn't Sayid, who else would have known of his whereabouts? The real question to me, however, is: since Desmond has left the well, where did he go?

And I'm glad that you like my theory about Desmond sacrificing himself an entering the Source. I have a feeling that will play a very large role in the series finale.

Answers. Rockauteur wanted to know what happened to the Dharma Initiative and the Hanso Foundation: "My biggest question is: where is dharma and hanso? I know its not the most pressing question but I still want a bit of dharma and to finally meet hanso. and find out what happened to all the dharma people in 1977 in the mainstream storyline... i know we aren't supposed to care about that but its still important to me (much like the question we'll never get answered about what Amy was doing in the jungle). Oh well."

This goes to the heart of the answers vs. mysteries debates that have been raging the last few weeks. Lost has built its intricate story on the back of demanding and complex mysteries and engaging characters. But with so little time before the end, some things will have to remain unanswered. This might frustrate some viewers who have built up some of the mysteries into more than Team Darlton originally intended. What Amy was doing in the jungle will likely not be answered in the series finale, nor likely will the identity of the shooters targeting the time-strewn castaways in the outrigger in Season Five (as much as I would like it to be).

The Dharma Initiative seemed to have been co-opted by the Others after the Purge. Given the fact that Eloise Hawking had control over the Lamp-Post Station (as seen in Season Five) and the Others were using Mittelos Bioscience as a shell company makes me believe that they absorbed the Dharma Initiative leftovers at some point after this, moving into the Barracks, seizing the Lamp-Post and the Flame, etc. The polar bears also escaped the Hydra, likely due to lack of supervision there.

So who kept the provisions dropping on the island? Was it Dharma Initiative-backers the Hanso Foundation? Did it continue because they knew about the existence of Desmond Hume in the Swan and the need to press the button every 108 minutes?

Kelvin Inman did join Dharma after the Purge and was the one pushing the button before he chose Desmond to succeed him and attempted to leave the island... and the provisions kept dropping like clockwork thereafter. Which not only helped Desmond survive for as long as he did, but the passengers aboard Oceanic Flight 815 as well. Could it be that Jacob is behind keeping the supply drops coming? And, given that he's now dead, does that mean they've stopped?

Sadly, I don't know that we'll see Alvar Hanso or the Dharma Initiative in the season finale as the plot has moved away from the earth-bound and into the spiritual.

Epilogue. Kim Harrington wrote, "I also think his bloodbath we've seen in the final episodes won't stick. I'm hoping that the theory of the happy sideways world being the epilogue--the end game--is true."

I actually hope it isn't... and I don't think that the previous episodes have allowed for this at all. Desmond's mission--and the crossing-over of his consciousness--indicate that these two words are unfolding at the same time and Desmond is able to access his collective consciousness in both of them. Yes, the individuals are waking up and remember things that happened on the island but I don't believe that the Lost-X world is the end of the series. Rather, it's unfolding concurrently and Desmond's actions in both will have major effects on what world is left when everything is done and dusted. Will the Lost-X individuals be able to sacrifice their lives and those of their loved ones for a higher purpose?

I think the end of the series will have to involve our core characters, the ones we started this journey with back in 2004 when Lost began, rather than their counterparts in a divergent reality where the island is at the bottom of the ocean. Given Lindelof and Cuse's preponderance with the mystical and profound, I also don't see them ending the series in a world that's empty of "magic," for wont of a better word. Like Oz and Narnia, the island has to be out there somewhere, an impossible place that we all dream of and aspire to, a place where we can cast off our past traumas and become the people we were always meant to be.

Come back Monday to discuss next week's episode and head to the comments section here to discuss any of the above thoughts and theories or pose additional questions...

The two-and-a-half-hour series finale of Lost ("The End") airs Sunday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.


Anonymous said…
Has anyone ever considered that maybe the supply "drops" were actually coming from somewhere on the Island itself, and just being made to look like they were dropped from an airplane to keep the hopes of the hatch inhabitants up? That's sort of been my working hypothesis ever since I saw that episode. I suppose that just raises more questions though.

I watched seasons 1-4 in a marathon before season 5, and I have to admit the Alvar Hanso thing never seemed that important to me. Certainly it seemed like something they could've come back to if they wanted to, but not something that was necessary for the story. I'm sure it felt differently to those watching week-by-week though.
Sharon C said…
I completely agree with you that, since Jack took over for Jacob in the second to last episode, there is going to be a major twist and someone else will have to take over for him. Which makes me very worried for Jack...
noizangel said…
"I believe he may make the ultimate sacrifice to balance the scales in the series finale, redeeming himself and achieving his soul's release from the island. But that's just me."

Not just you, Jace! The minute Ben turned I though he might have a plan - and his timing for shooting Widmore was a little too convenient. I have no doubt that Ben killed Widmore out of vengeance, but I think he did it /then/ to try and keep Smokey from learning about his plans.

Ben's a smart guy and has been on the island forever. Who's to say he's not aware of Desmond and what he can do, and how he's important?
Unknown said…
What is the deal with Walt? He seemed like an important part of the story line at the beggining, but disapeared and then we seen him a few times later in the show but with no explanation of his importance.
rockauteur said…
Yeah what was the deal with the special powers of all the kids, like Walt, and possibly the two kids that may or may not have been killed by Widmore's mortar attack (though likely rescued by Cindy and scattering into the jungle).

Also, how important of a role will the Other red shirts play in the final end game (along with Widmore's red shirts)? Will any of them be seen again? Was Cindy always an Other or just drafted into the Others after being kidnapped upon landing?

I still think Eloise is on the island. I still don't think the polar bears just "escaped." Since Charlotte found that polar bear in Tunisia, near the "drop off" point where both Ben and Locke landed when they turned the frozen donkey wheel, it still makes sense that someone once moved the island before and used the polar bear to do it. And then the remaining polar bears escaped from the main island holding station (where we saw the one from Walt's comic book near the bamboo fields).

Did Kevin join The Others led Dharma or Dharma in a different form post-purge? What happened to the Michigan scientists post-purge? We have to get some Dharma! Or Maybe that will be the comic book series that we know we will ultimately get.
Jace Lacob said…

I definitely believe that a polar bear was used to move the island once in the past, depositing the bear in the Tunisian desert... which means that someone found a loophole to moving the island. They shifted it within time-space without having to leave the island as a bear was the one doing the actual moving. But who did the turning? Hmmm...
Anonymous said…
Smokey promised Ben if he helped him he would let Ben become king of the island, then at the end of the episode he tells Ben he will use Desmond to destroy the island. I expected Ben to say, "But... but... you promised!" For a guy who's been around a few millennia, Smokey doesn't seem very bright.
Kevin Sole said…
Anybody else think Widmore would be an idiot to not be wearing a vest?
Anonymous said…
Dude, here's the deal. They are going back in time one more time to sink the island and thus "cap" the cork permanetly. Desmond is the key to saving everyone by awakining their island memories/other selfs so that there is life after death and everyone is alive again in the alternate, now main, universe. They are going to enter the light and stop smoky at the very beginning. Ben has one last trick up his sleeve to stop Smokey, too, and will play it at a key moment. Richard might be dead, by this show really should get in the habit of showing people's bodies after death given how many twists occur and how often people aren't really dead after all. I like someone's idea of him still having a few breaths left to to talk to someone before finally passing on.
I don't think there is going to be another candidate, but Jack dying early in the finale would be an interesting twist, leaving it all up to Kate, Sawyer and Hurley... who seem far less capable than Jack. Plus, he was supposed to die in the pilot in a big twist so there could be something to this idea.
Anonymous said…
I think the food supply drops came from Dharma, but with all the time shifts and what not on the island they just landed in the wrong time.
Anonymous said…
It was Rose who threw the rope in the well...

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