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To the Lighthouse: Through the Looking Glass on "Lost"

I wonder what Kitty and Snowdrop would say about all of this...

Last night's evocative and compelling episode of Lost ("Lighthouse"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by Jack Bender, offered an intriguing--if somewhat polarizing--exploration about the nature of perception, blending together the fantasy of Lewis Carroll with the modern psychology of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse."

While several critics have expressed their frustration with this installment, I have to say that I was just as captivated as I have been throughout this season and I thought that this episode provided some further answers while also bringing up some new questions. It was also a throwback to a simpler time on Lost, when the characters could wander the jungle on a specific mission without the stakes seeming quite so dire. Yes, even then they were caught up in the war between two cosmic individuals, but they didn't perceive it as such. For them, it was about survival and about getting home; little did they know that their actions were part of a larger battle between good and evil, or efforts to balance the moral scale.

As Jack and Hurley retraced their steps from the first season and came upon a mysterious new location on the island, the Lost-X Jack grappled with the responsibilities of fatherhood and the burden his own past as his father's son placed upon him and Jin discovered that living in the jungle by yourself for three years does not make you a rational or sane person.

So what did I think of this week's episode? Get a pen, whip out your Chopin sheet music, sharpen that axe, and let's head to the "Lighthouse."

While not my favorite episode of the series, I felt that the thought-provoking and engaging "Lighthouse," the series' 108th installment, offered a unique opportunity to take a look back and forward at the same time, to again remind us that we are the sum of our experiences and that our pasts, presents, and futures are inexorably connected. We're given three means of exploring the themes of experience and perception: the journey that Jack and Hurley embark on to the lighthouse, Jin's encounter with a much-changed Claire, and the struggle between Lost-X Jack and his son David.

Lost-X. In the sideways storyline, Jack is a divorced father of an estranged teenage son David. He only sees his son once a month and their relationship is about as close as any father and teenage son, built on misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and perceptions of thwarted potential. While Jack blames himself for not being around for his son, for not knowing him, David carries the burden of not living up to his father's potential. But Jack isn't Christian and David isn't Jack: He won't tell his son that he doesn't have what it takes.

The two are able to break the cycle that Jack and Christian were in as Jack goes on a journey to find his son (both literally and figuratively) and discovers that he hasn't quit piano but is auditioning for a place at a prestigious musical conservatory (the audition sign fittingly reads "welcome all candidates") and Jack is able to see his son play Chopin's "Fantaisie-Impromptu," before confronting his errant son and telling him that he loves him unconditionally and that his son could never fail him, a reversal of his relationship with his father Christian.

It's interesting that this Jack would prove to be an unworthy father attempting--and achieving--a positive relationship with his son. In the mainstream Lost universe, Jack's efforts to be a father to his nephew Aaron completely imploded and resulted in him splitting from Kate and leaving Aaron. Could it be that the Lost-X universe is a place where people are able to achieve their heart's desire? A place where the psychological damage witnessed via the flashbacks is undone, where they have a second chance to get things right?

The presence of David also raises some interesting issues, a smoking gun indicating that this universe is vastly different than the one we've been watching all along. The changes made by The Incident didn't just result in Oceanic Flight 815 touching down. Rather, the foundations of the castaways' lives have been rewritten dramatically: Locke and his father are on good terms and he and Helen are about to be happily married, Hurley has good luck rather than bad, and Jack is the father of a teenage son. (Which itself raises the question: who is David's mother? My guess: Juliet Burke.)

But there are other differences here as well. Lost-X Jack also had his appendix removed, but as a child rather than as an adult on the island. (Christian himself wanted to perform the surgery, when Jack was "seven or eight.") The scar is there, he vaguely remembers the surgery, but something is off, something at the back of his brain screaming at him that this isn't "right." Like Juliet back on the island, this Jack would seem to have some inkling about the other world...

And then there was Lost-X Dogen, appearing at the audition, himself the father of a teenage son who offers Jack some sage wisdom: both that it is difficult to watch and be unable to help their offspring (succeed or fail) and that David has a "gift." (In other words: he's special, potentially just like Walt was.) Interesting them meeting like this and I couldn't help but wonder just who the well-tailored Dogen is in this world... and how it's connected to his role as temple master on the island.

Jack and Hurley. Back on the island, Hurley receives another visit from the ghostly Jacob, who gives him explicit instruction for a mission that he and Jack are to attend to, a mission that gets them far away from The Temple and the visitor who is due there. (Which, we can assume, is Smokey.) Together, they retrace their steps, visiting the caves from Season One, the corpses of Adam and Eve (yes!), and the site of Christian's coffin. (Also making an appearance: Shannon's inhaler.) It's only fitting that Jack should have to confront the specter of his dead father (and the lack of a corpse) as his Lost-X counterpart does the same in his world. Echoing many fan theories, Hurley questions whether the bodies of Adam and Eve could in fact belong to the castaways and that, if they hurtle through time again, they could end up being buried in the cave.

The Lighthouse. Jacob's mission has lead them to a stone structure on the edge of the island, a lighthouse that Jacob intends them to use to bring someone to the island by turning the lighthouse's mirrors (more on them in a bit) to 108 degrees, the sum of the repeated numbers, the episode number, and the time lapse between pushing the button in the Swan station. Given the fact that the visitor is a "he," my first instinct is that the man destined to arrive will be Desmond Hume, despite the fact that the 108 degree mark reads "Wallace" (which happens, however, to be a Scottish name).

The fire bowl is surrounded by names at each of the 360 degrees, which reveals that the numbers themselves correspond to a perfect circle, with each degree relating to a specific individual, likely all candidates sprinkled through time. Austen is represented here (at 51), as are the other names we saw in the cave, as well as many, many others that hadn't yet been seen. The presence of the names makes me wonder if the lighthouse belongs to Jacob while the cave--with its darkness and chaotic lists--belong to the Man in Black, representing once again the duality of light and darkness. Here, there is a methodical orderliness to the list, a crisp logic that's at odds with the haphazard nature of the list in the cave. Hmmm...

I don't believe that Jack was brought there to turn the lighthouse on but rather to see and understand that he does have a purpose. He might have been broken after leaving the island but he is meant to be there, meant to be a part of something larger, something profound and ancient that is bigger than just him. Jacob knew that Jack would see the reflection of his childhood home at the 23rd degree... and would smash the lighthouse looking-glass. He's finally understanding that he has a part to play and he must come to his own conclusion about what that is, a sentiment echoed by the ghostly Jacob to Hurley. Jack will come to his own course of action after he "look[s] out at the ocean for a while," according to Jacob (and echoing Virginia Woolf). You can't just jump in everyone's cab and tell them what to do, after all...

Claire. Living on her own in the jungle--or nearly on her own, anyway--has resulted in a feral Claire who looks and acts rather like Danielle Rousseau. Just like Rousseau, she is trapped in a battle with the Others, whom she believes has taken her baby, although they're obviously not to blame. She's descended into madness and likely infection and she was treated by Dogen at the Temple, injected with needles and branded (like Sayid) before she escaped.

Which makes me wonder several things: Why did Claire wander off into the jungle, leaving Aaron behind, in the first place? Where was she in her time before her jungle living? Why would her "father" and her "friend" tell her that the Others had Aaron when it was Kate who had taken him and raised him off-island?

We learn at the episode's very end that Claire's "friend" is none other than the Man in Black, whom she knows isn't John Locke. I can't help but wonder if she's able to perceive him in his true guise or if she just recognizes him even wearing Locke's body. I can understand why Smokey would look to create chaos by tricking Claire into thinking that the Others had her child but why would Christian do that. Unless...

Christian. We believed that "Christian" was good based on the fact that he appeared to be helping Locke and the others and told Locke that he was appearing on behalf of Jacob. But that's very convenient and Christian's advice lead directly to Locke turning the wheel... and being killed by Ben before his body was brought to the island and the Man in Black was able to use his loophole to kill Jacob.

That Christian would be telling Claire that the Others have Aaron and whispering lies to her makes me believe that the Christian we've seen has been either the Man in Black directly or working in his employ. The fact that Christian's corpse is still missing, even after six seasons, seems vitally important, as does the fact that Claire differentiates between Christian and Smokey. If Smokey wasn't using Christian's appearance, then is it possible that Christian is a recruit for Smokey? And just where is he now? Hmmm...

Jin. In an effort to save Justin's life (pity Claire killed him anyway), Jin attempted to tell Claire the truth about Aaron and reveal that Kate had raised him, thus subverting the prophecy that Claire had been told about not allowing Aaron to be raised by anyone else. But demonstrating her new streak of cruelty, Claire killed Justin anyway and then forced Jin to recant his statement, saying that he lied in order to protect harm from befalling Justin. Which is probably a smart move as Claire is now completely mad and told Jin that she would have killed Kate if that had been the truth. Which presents a real problem as Kate is headed right for them and will likely come clean to Claire as soon as she sees her. Not very good for Kate Austen, that.

The Looking-Glass. It's only fitting that Lewis Carroll's fantasy masterpiece "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There" should hover over the action here. Both adventures tell the story of an individual who finds themselves in a fantastical world where they cannot manage to comprehend the rules that exist around them, rather like the castaways on the island. Like "Through the Looking-Glass," we're given a portrait of a world that on the surface is like ours (the Lost-X universe) but with some distinct differences, a topsy-turvy universe where not everything is "right."

Lost has dealt with "Alice" before: two episodes were given titles straight out of Carroll's work ("White Rabbit" and "Through the Looking-Glass") but the Victorian novels are decidedly important to this specific episode, which--like the others in question were--was a Jack-centric installment. In the Lost-X universe, Jack's son David is rereading "Alice in Wonderland," a book that Jack had read to his son when he was a child. Mention is made of Alice's two kittens, Kitty and Snowdrop, a pair reflecting the white-black duality so prevalent on the series.

Jack locates a key to his ex-wife's house under a statue of a rabbit and David plays Chopin's "Fantaisie-Impromptu." (The latter is fitting given the fantastical nature of both "Alice" and Lost.) But the references to "Alice" don't just play out in the Lost-X world. As Jack and Hurley retrace their steps, Jack remembers how he found the cave: led by the ghost of his father Christian, the figurative white rabbit, down the rabbit hole and to the location of his coffin.

And, even more significant, is the actual looking-glass that exists within the mysterious lighthouse to which Hurley leads Jack at Jacob's behest. While the building appears to be a working lighthouse, albeit one without electricity, the angle to which the mirror is turned reflects not the light but rather someplace else, someplace other. We're given glimpses of the temple where Sun and Jin were married, the church where Sawyer's parents funeral was held, and Jack's childhood home.

Jacob has long maintained that each of the individuals assembled has a purpose and was brought to the island for a reason. He visited several of them at key moments in their lives, appearing as if by providence to offer his guidance and offer his blessing. The reveal that the lighthouse is able to display places off-island is perhaps a very important and significant one. Jack is frustrated by the fact that he has been observed all along, been watched, and perhaps been pushed into place. Jacob's knowledge of the castaways is built on years of surveillance.

But why display Jack's childhood home? A sign of a formative time or something deeper? While he may not have lived in that house since he was a child, the foundation of his character was built there and his defining traits forged in the fire of conflict with Christian. Additionally, the house is an important stop on the journey this week of Lost-X Jack, as he returns to help his mother Margot track down his father's will... and learns about the existence of his sister, Claire Littleton.

My current (and possibly off-the-wall theory) is that the flashbacks we've seen over the years were in fact the moments that were seen by Jacob at the looking-glass. I've long wondered if Jacob either exists outside the boundaries of time and space (thus able to manifest as both his past incarnation--the bloodied teenage boy--and his ghostly adult self and appear off- and on-island) or is able to perceive the world through the veil of time, perhaps aided by the looking-glass. Just as Smokey was able to scan the castaways upon coming upon them (as seen when he "reads" Mr. Eko way back when), Jacob is perhaps able to watch these key moments unfold. Which would therefore make the flashbacks not only key plot points but also integral to the larger narrative, giving us an plot-based explanation for why they exist within the series and making Jacob not just a player in the larger game but also one of us as well: a viewer, privy to these characters' pasts in a way that only an omniscient narrator can be. Curious...

As I mentioned before, Virgina Woolf's novel "To the Lighthouse" also plays a significant role here beside for the obvious overlaps of titles. Woolf's novel concerned the ways in which we perceive both the universe around us and our selves. Like Lost, Woolf's novel unfolds in a non-linear fashion, with characters offering shifting perspectives and stream of consciousness: the past blends into the present, which blends into the past. Likewise, the flashbacks aren't just relegated to the past of the castaways but connected concretely to their present experiences, as if they were unfolding concurrently.

Woolf's novel has three sections, the first of which is "The Window," which corresponds to the lighthouse's looking-glass (and to Carroll's as well) and Jack and Hurley's travel. It's a means to view something separate, a portal to somewhere else, but it's the means of perception that's just as important for each of us sees and perceives the world around us--and ourselves--in very different ways. The second section, "Time Passes," deals with the matter of temporality, a subject very key to Lost itself, as characters die, change, and are altered. (In other words: the Claire section.) The third and final section, "The Lighthouse," deals with the actual journey to the lighthouse, a journey that is based around a shared experience between a father and son (much like Christian and Jack and Jack and David), in which the son is praised rather than scolded. Much like Jack encourages and supports David, telling him that he loves him unconditionally, instead of castigating him. (The Lost-X Jack section.)

Lost's Lighthouse functions in a similar fashion to Woolf's, offering a means to perceive the world outside the island and--quite potentially--the other possible worlds as well. It's fitting perhaps that Lost-X Jack is aware of something being "off" about his world just as our Jack stumbles onto a means of otherworldly perception. Coincidence?

As for why the castaways never saw the lighthouse before, Hurley offered a succinct explanation: stating that they couldn't see it because they weren't looking for it. If that's not a thundering example of the power of perception, I don't know what is. In other words: seek and you will find your answers, just as Jacob knows that Jack will have to find his own path to understanding.

The Temple. Something bad is about to befall the current inhabitants of The Temple and I can't help but feel that it involves Smokey in a bad way. He's been recruiting followers and now has Sawyer, Claire, and (reluctantly) Jin with him and I dare say that the ash that Dogen has placed around the Temple gateway will matter little, especially if Sayid is in fact infected. I can't help but feel that the infection will spread the closer that Smokey gets to the Temple and that, quite possibly, everyone in those walls, including Sayid and Miles, are utterly doomed.

All in all, another intriguing and emotionally complex installment of Lost that offered some answers, raised some further questions, and made me anxious for next week already. Now where did that white rabbit get to?

What did you think of this week's episode? Agree with my theories? Curious about Jack's ex-wife? Who is the visitor arriving on the island? Discuss.

Next week on Lost ("Sundown"), Sayid is faced with a difficult decision, and Claire sends a warning to the temple inhabitants.


OldDarth said…
I'm down with the episode because of Hurley. He owned this episode and I really, really, really hope Hurley gets to play a MAJOR role in the endgame.

His character has been the comic relief dude for most of the series and despite all the various flashback/forward/sideways/whatever directions the story has put the characters through, Hurley has come out untarnished.

He is the heart of the show.

I eagerly await/dread Hurley's journey,here and in the sideways flash.

And I liked Jack's sideways flash storyline too.
Bella Spruce said…
I also really liked this episode and don't understand the complaints and grumblings. Sure, it wasn't the greatest episode ever but I loved the "old school" storyline of Jack and Hurley's journey and also was happy to finally find out (at least partially) what the heck happened to Claire.
James said…
Fantastic review, Jase.

OldDarth: Hurley as the Samwise Gamgee of Lost? I've long thought Sam was the heart of LoTR -- the thread that runs right through it all, the only one who carries the ring but emerges unscathed.

Hurley as Sam? I could buy it.
DoctorDonna said…
I can't imagine why critics would have an issue with this episode -- I thought it was chock full of information and incredibly poignant. I've been waiting for six seasons for Jack's redemption arc, loving the character even when all of my friends abandoned him to pledge their allegiance to Sawyer or Locke. The reflection back to White Rabbit, when Christian crushes his young son by telling him he doesn't have what it takes, seeing Jack's face when Hurley passes on Jacob's message -- it felt emotionally epic.

This final season is doing something that we usually don't get with a television series -- a chance to revisit our memories from the past five seasons in a way that helps augment the current narrative and inform the way we read the new life and the existing one. It's a show that rewards us for paying attention and immersing ourselves in the experience -- last night's episode was a great example of that.

And feel free to sign me up to watch the Jack and Hurley show, because I love the interaction between those two characters.
Great review! As it winds down, what we really always have been shown in LOST is beginning to make sense - as it should. Only after "Lighthouse" did I realize what is really going on, and how it will all end...
Harleypeyton said…
I dunno. Other than Hurley, it was a sub-par episode. And there's nothing more aggravating than smart characters doing stupid things cuz the writers made them do it. LIke finding a mirror that allows you to look into your past -- and your past is the source of much angst in your life -- and deciding that the very first thing to do is break it into a million pieces.


Was there a sign outside the piano auditions that read WELCOME CANDIDATES? Heh.

The end seems clear. Jack takes Jacob's place, and remains on the island.
The CineManiac said…
I'm with you guys, I don't understand all the nonsense about this being a "bad" episode.

I loved getting back to Season 1, returning to the caves, finding Shannon's inhaler, etc. As Hurley said "This is cool dude. Very old school." And I loved it.

Also loved Jack-X getting to redeem himself with David, and Jack hopefully, finally getting over his father's harsh words and understanding he DOES have what it takes.

In fact the part that I was least interested in last night was the Claire storyline. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it a lot, I'm just saying of the 3 stories, that was the one I was least involved in.

All in all a great episode.
frank1569 said…
'The Incident' happened AFTER Jacob had already 'touched' his 'Candidates' in timestream A. Which means he's still pushing them towards whatever bigger thing they're intrinsic to in timestream B, right? (No reason to accept he was 'killed' by the nuke yet.) 20+ years after 'The Incident' and they're all on the same plane again... it would seem that, though the Candidates' lives may be different in timestream B, Jacob is still captain of their ship. Which suggests Jacob's mission spans ALL timestreams...?
rockauteur said…
Great episode, unlike what the critics are saying, though I am getting a little tired of the flash sideways, and hopefully we'll get some connective tissue soon.

I do like your theory though about the lighthouse looking glass connecting to the flashbacks... That's an insane but wonderful theory that grounds them much more in the narrative structure of the show than ever before. Interesting also about his special powers vs. Smokey's. So did Ben not know about Smokey's exact powers when he went to be "judged" last season? Confused.

Have Team Darlton talked about whether or not we will see more Dharma this season at all? I kind of wonder what happened to everyone in both timelines after Jughead exploded. How come Miles doesn't seem concerned about what happened to his father? Miles has barely gotten screen time this season but I'd be wondering that if I were him! Also, is he a candidate?

I didn't catch Kate's name on the lighthouse compass... Was her name crossed off? Is she still a candidate? Does Jacob know something that Smokey does not? Or vice versa? I definitely believe that the cave is not Jacob's cave, its definitely Smokey's domain. Were there other names on the wheel besides the Oceanic crew that were NOT crossed off?

Annoyed we didn't get to see who was 108, but I do believe it was Desmond. It wouldn't be Widmore and there's no one else that really matters. Too bad Walt isn't a candidate! Haha. Though do you think that "special" children are all candidates in their own way? Which could explain why they were all taken in the first place.

Interesting theory about Jack's ex-wife. I don't think its gonna be Juliet though.

Didn't Justin seem more articulate this episode than he did last season? He seemed really stupid in the previous installment.... and seemed to have gotten smarter under pressure. Even so, how did those idiots become Others anyway?

At what point did Jacob start crossing off people on the list? If the numbers were on the radio signal when Hurley's old pal heard them, has he known for years (like since the 70s or so) that Jack, etc were candidates? ANd how come they weren't on the Others list when they first got to the beach in season 1?
Annie said…
LOVE the flashbacks theory! I think we have a winner here. Would explain alot about the show.

Is David's mom Juliet? It would make sense in a twisted sort of way.

Great ep regardless of what some critics are saying.
Anonymous said…
I don't get what you mean about Kitty and Snowdrop. Why are they important?
mck said…
I'm also a big fan of the Alice in Wonderland references and comparisons. The following quote from the book keeps coming to mind when the characters experience deja vu or look at themselves in the mirror:

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"
Jace Lacob said…

Kitty and Snowdrop aren't important at all, per se. They're Alice's kittens in "Through the Looking-Glass" and one is black and the other is white, reflecting the duality of light/dark, white/black that's been at the heart of the series since the beginning.
Jenni Lou said…

Kate was 51 and not crossed out. 108 is listed as Wallace. And yes there were other names as well. For example, I spotted (Tom) Friendly at 109 and (Michael) Dawson at 124.
Manic D said…
Just wanted to leave a note to say "Thanks Jace!" I love the Televisionary blog.
Trevor said…
Great assessment. I love this show but its so vast that it makes my head hurt sometimes. I'm looking forward to watching the entire series once it's all over but I think it'll be awhile!

One point: I suspect that the Christian that we saw in the jungle (back in the beginning) and in the shack was actually Smokey (Man in Black) and not Jacob.

In the season opener, one of Jacob's followers tried to protect himself from smokey by surrounding himself with gray ash/powder. The cabin was surrounded by that powder as well. At one point last season, we were shown that the ring of powder was broken and it seemed like things got worse after that.

I could be way off base but I think that Man in Black was essentially being contained in the cabin but could sometimes seep out in smoke form and briefly take on the appearance of corporate beings. He's been trying to weed out the Losties (and helping to cause some of their deaths) so that Jacob would not have a successor.
breliedtke said…
@Frank1569: Loved all your comments. However, I think the numbers were being broadcast over the radio since WWII. I went back and watched the episode where Hurley goes to the house in Australia and meets with the guy's wife. She mentions that he was on duty in the Pacific when he heard the numbers come across the radio. That would mean that the numbers preceded the birth of everyone of the "candidates." Weird.
Nikki Vee said…
I think David's mom is Kate. I don't think it was unintentional to cast a young person with the right kind of blue eyes. I thought it was a dead giveaway!
Nikki Vee said…
Oh...and did anyone else notice the number on David's mothers house was 23???
Jace Lacob said…

It's not Kate. Besides for the fact that Kate was on Oceanic Flight 815 with Jack and there was only a brief moment of recognition between them outside the airport, David's mother is away on a business trip... not an escaped felon on the lam. Not even remotely within the world of possibility. I'm sticking with Juliet Burke as David's mom.
James said…
I don't think there is a visitor coming to the island. The someone is Jack and whats needs to be found is his purpose. It's going to get pretty croded at the temple soon. Claire's party will be going there, Ben's party is going there, I wonder what Jack and Hurley will be doing instead.
Perry M said…
What if all the others, not the ones from Darhma, but the original others were all canidates at one time or another? And then what if, Richard Alpert was the first canidate that was rejected? That could explain why last year the man in black said the others would be upset when the sailing ship was brought to the island, because they knew they would not be Jacob's replacement.
With all the ancient items on the island, I still believe that the island is/was Atlantis.
Anonymous said…
Kate wouldn't be old enough to be his mother anyway. If David was 13, he was born in 1991. As we saw in "The Incident", Kate was about 10 in the late 80's. So it can't work, unless you also have a theory about Jack...

As for Christian, I think he must be Smokey. Remember in "Namaste" when Sun and Frank arrive at the Dharmaville dock and hear Smoke Monster noises? Then they meet Christian, who tells them to wait there for Locke. Smocke appears on Hydra Island beach after that, and he and Ben meet up with Sun and Lapidus just like Christian said.
Sarah T said…
I appreciate you doing all the heavy lifting. Wonderful writing!

Jacob and the Man in Black are playing out their own game of chess (more black and white) by bringing their pawns to the island. I was thinking about this theme and noticed in the episode that Miles and Hurley played tic-tac-toe, and... "tied again."

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