Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: Figuring Out the Others

This isn’t going to be “Lost Week” or anything on The CKT (or at least I don’t intend it to be, though like the rest of you I am eagerly awaiting Lynn Phegley uncut and uncensored in the blog post six years in the making), but I must say I’m finding the after-finale dialogue with fellow fans and observers (particularly over on Sean’s blog) to be in many ways just as enjoyable as watching the show. In this regard, I think we owe thanks to the program’s creators not just for bringing to life something so discussion-provoking and layered, but also—and part of me can’t believe I’m saying this—for indeed leaving so much open-ended so these chats and debates can continue with such gusto.

So if you’ll indulge me, while some of my peers are choosing to veer clear of online chatter and just let the series sink in, I’m really enjoying picking stuff apart and trying to connect the dots that were left somewhat free-floating. I am certainly an amateur when it comes to theorizing what meant what and that whole bag and I’ve got far-less than encyclopedic/photographic recall on six seasons worth o’ mythology, but I have started piecing together in my head some of the nagging mysteries of Lost—and now that the show’s done, I can’t really be “wrong,” so why not put it out there?

To begin with: the Others.

I’ve seen more than one place where a major dangler that bothered folks is why exactly the Others—specifically Ben—did some of the stuff they did in the early seasons, like kidnapping kids or holding Jack, Kate and Sawyer hostage. Particularly, why were they such dicks if they were working for Jacob, ostensibly the ultimate “good guy”? And was Charles Widmore a hero, a villain or what?

I don’t have answers—or really theories rather—for all of that, but I have worked out some thoughts on at least some of it, because yeah, it was bugging me too.

So we know that in the beginning (well, after their Mother went goodbye), there was Jacob and his brother, the dude in black he inadvertently transformed into the Smoke Monster. It’s an important piece of the puzzle to remember that Jacob was hardly infallible—the Smoke Monster being unleashed was ultimately his fault—and had a pretty poor role model—Mother killed a village full of people to prevent her other “son” from leaving the island—as his being kind of a prick, albeit generally well-meaning, has bearing on the later behavior of the Others.

Richard Alpert comes to the island, and after briefly flirting with joining up with Smokey, he becomes Jacob’s right-hand man, with the latter realizing he could better achieve his goals of protecting the island and thwarting his brother if he had followers. Richard becomes Jacob’s indirect pipeline to other people who turn up on the island; their interactions wax and wane depending on what other stuff Jacob is up to.

At some point and for some reason, enough folks now populate the island for the Others to be formed with Richard as their constant guide and a leader picked from within. I’m not sure if the initial Others ended up on the island by chance like (I believe) Richard did or if Jacob guided them there—possibly via Richard, who we know travelled off-island to test people like John Locke—because he needed troops, but that’s not all that important anyhow.

The Dharma Initiative sets up on the island; at this point, Jacob is still taking a relatively strong hand in leading the Others from afar through Richard, so his fear of people he can’t control being on the island inherited from Mother kicks in and he has his people position themselves as “hostiles,” a policy that ends up becoming ingrained in the Others right up through when the castaways show up. They don’t trust outsiders because Jacob doesn’t trust outsiders because Mother didn’t trust outsiders, although Jacob doesn’t clue them in that there are outsiders they should trust…but we’ll get there.

Around this time, Charles Widmore becomes leader of the Others. I don’t believe that Widmore is a fundamentally evil guy, more just a weak man. As a young man, he kills a fellow Other rather than allow the group to be compromised by taking Locke, Juliet and Sawyer to Richard; his fear of being booted from his “family” trumps any loyalty to a single member. Later, Widmore tries to get Ben to kill Rousseau and Alex; I’m not really too sure on the why of this one, but I feel like he may have just been trying to break Ben with a task he knew would weigh heavy on him because he felt threatened (again, Widmore is extremely insecure about his much-valued power). Finally, Widmore is ultimately expelled from the Others and exiled from the island by Ben in large part because he has been leaving frequently and during one excursion fathered Penny with an outsider (who, remember, the Others don’t trust).

Interestingly there were elements of both Ben and the Man in Black in Widmore: he was extremely paranoid about losing his power and place and was ruthless in his attempts to secure them, but at the same time felt somewhat restless on the island and sought to exist outside of it. I also don’t think Jacob ever communicated directly to Widmore, using Richard as a proxy, which contributed to his inferiority complex.

Still, under Widmore the Others were relatively tame and didn’t do much more than rattle the cages of folks like the Dharma gang, keeping true to Jacob’s isolationist doctrine but not crossing the line into mass murder. They had a truce and everything.

Then Ben became the leader.

We know that when Ben Linus was young, a time-travelling Sayid shot him and Richard took him to the temple to be “reborn.” Prior to that, Richard had already approached Ben, which says to me Jacob saw some sort of potential in him. Also at some point, Ben’s deceased mother appeared to him; this was likely the Smoke Monster in disguise, meaning both brothers took an interest in the boy. When Ben was healed by the temple, I think Jacob was asleep at the wheel—he may have been off-island scouting candidates—allowing Smokey to slip in and corrupt Ben at least in part as he would years later with Sayid in the same fashion.

This is a tipping point as Jacob has amassed a group of followers, but because he is imperfect and by all indications a bit flighty, he took them for granted and turned his focus to his candidates, allowing Smokey to slip in and begin manipulating them to his own ends, using Ben as his entry points to gain the pawns he has waited centuries for.

We know Ben never spoke to Jacob until he eventually killed him, but I think Smokey was influencing him from the moment he was healed in those waters. I think Smokey pushed Ben to oust Widmore recognizing him as a potential thread back to Jacob; with Ben in charge and bluffing that he could speak to Jacob; Richard stopped asking questions and accepted that the orders being given by Ben were Jacob’s orders.

This is when the Others start really becoming nasty folks because they are being led by Ben, who in turn is being played by Smokey (I think Ben knew in his heart the guy in the cabin wasn’t ever Jacob, but didn’t realize it was the Smoke Monster; as he says in the second-to-last ep, the Smoke Monster was “summoning him” or something like that). They wipe out the Dharma Initiative—because that’s an x-factor Smokey doesn’t need—and move into their digs.

Jacob doesn’t really notice any of this is going on because he is completely occupied by moving the people he needs into place to crash on the Oceanic flight. Jacob does not strike me as a multi-tasker—he’s quite childlike and probably in a bit of an arrested development state—so it’s not hard to believe he got outmaneuvered by his brother here.

The Others start tormenting the castaways pretty immediately because Smokey knows that these are the people who his brother has earmarked as the island’s protectors and also that he needs them eliminated in order to get away from the place, still his ultimate goal.

We found out in the finale and the build to it that Desmond had abilities that would enable him to either destroy or liberate Smokey. I believe Walt had these same capabilities, which is why Smokey wanted him either under his control or gone, hence why he initially has him abducted by the Others and then later sent away. Heck, this could be why they wanted Aaron as well.

In season two, we learn that the Others have a list of names—much is made of it, but we never really learn what it is. I think it’s safe to say now, knowing what we know, that this was the list of Jacob’s candidates and again, Smokey wanted them under his control, thus he had the Others on retrieval duty. I don’t think, however, Smokey fully understood what role the candidates had to play at that point, he just knew that his brother wanted them, thus so did he. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley are the four people abducted by Ben and the Others at the end of season two as well as the final four candidates later on—Smokey was catching on, he just lacked some final bit of intel.

But this is where Jacob comes back in the picture.

Ben develops a tumor on his spine and needs Jack’s help in order to survive. This ultimately ends up being how Jack, Sawyer and Kate are able to escape the Others with their lives.

I think Jacob had something to do with that tumor; I think he finally caught on to what his brother was up to and needed to save his candidates without directly intervening. Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch, but for whatever reason, it makes total sense to me.

You also notice it was around this time that Richard started being more of an active presence in the Others again after being absent the first two seasons; I don’t think Jacob spoke to him directly or at least not at length—not sure why not—but I think he gave him enough indication that things were spiraling and he needed to reel Ben in.

Not long after this is when Widmore re-enters the picture, searching for the island. His first gambit is Desmond, a strategy I’d wager he was fed by his far more attuned former lover Eloise, who definitely knew the score to a greater degree than he did. Eventually, he does find the island again. I think Widmore’s initial Ahab-esque pursuit was fueled by those old feelings of inadequacy as well as a deep down realization that he bobbled the ball during his time leading the Others, and of course a healthy desire for revenge on Ben.

However, I think after Widmore’s initial freighter plan failed and after Ben visited him and threatened Penny, he was indeed approached by Jacob, either for the first time or at least the first time in awhile; I believe Widmore was on the level when he said right before his death that Jacob had guided him back to the island. I think when Widmore was helping Locke try to get back he was indeed on the side of angels and working on Jacob’s behalf. I also think he brought Desmond back to the island at Jacob’s behest when the end game was approaching and he knew he needed a failsafe. I think in the end Charles Widmore was indeed one of the good guys; a deeply flawed and broken man who embraced his chance to make good after a lifetime of screwing up not totally unlike Jack did in the finale.

So I think that pretty much covers the Others, their leaders, and why their motivation was all over the place: they started out as Jacob’s enforcers, but when he was focused elsewhere, Smokey took over via Ben and made them his hit squad to take out his brother’s chess pieces.

Oh, and why was Dogen special? Because he was the only one Jacob was actually communicating to in the years leading up to the castaways’ arrival; not Richard, not Widmore, not Ben, not even Locke—Dogen, like Ilana, was one of the few people Jacob trusted with setting up what he needed in order to ultimately defeat his brother.

Make sense? I know, probably not, but it was fun to try and puzzle out. Tell me if I’m a moron or not in the comments if you wish and I may give this another go in the future.


OutriderC said...

But why did Hurley jack off into Ben's coffee?

Anonymous said...

I liked a lot of your ideas, but I think there are a few things you missed. I think Widmore became the leader of the others only because Hawking left to raise her son/become a mystical timeline cop-thing. She left Widmore in charge; he never earned it. I don't think Widmore was one of the "good guys" simply because he was such a basterd to everyone.

Also, I always figured the others took the kids because kids are Ben's kryptonite. He didn't want them to be killed by the smoke monster, so he kept them safe in Dharmaville. Later, after the tail-section kids realized they couldn't get back to their mom, they asked for the flight attendant to be rescued. So the others took her.

Also, I think Jacob's List in Season 3 was whatever Ben made up to appease his followers. Ben knew that Juliet, Hurley, Kate, Jack, Sayid, and Sawyer would be transported to the 70s at some point so he tried to keep them under his control on the island when he could. Except for Sayid, who he was afraid of since Sayid f-ing shot him as a kid.

Olive said...

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