Lost Top Fives, Part 1
With the strike-induced hiatus causing massive withdrawals in fanatics of ABC's hit show Lost, I find my mind constantly dwelling on the show. For this reason, I've decided that I shall spend this week on a new set of top fives, all centered around Lost. Before I get right on into it, though, know that there are massive spoilers in store for you if you haven't been keeping up with the show. So, without further ado, here are my top fives for Lost.
Top 5 Mysteries
While Lost is clearly a character-driven show, the mysteries also give it much of its direction. The current season, season four, seems to be more heavily focused on addressing these mysteries than previous seasons, which only answered questions by raising five more. However, there are a few key mysteries that probably won’t be answered until the end, even though those are clearly the ones that titilate and frustrate us the most.
|There are plenty of alcoholic fathers on this show, but this one's everywhere|
Jack’s father, Christian, doesn’t seem at first to be one of the central mysteries of the island. Even when he starts appearing to Jack towards the start of the first season in the episode “White Rabbit,” it’s easy to assume that Jack is just hallucinating. After all, at that point, Jack hasn’t slept in a long time, and we are being shown that he has strong guilt issues concerning his father’s death. Even when Jack finds Christian’s empty coffin, you can infer that there is a logical explanation, like maybe his body had never been in the coffin due to some bureaucratic sleight-of-hand at Sydney. Some time after that episode originally aired, the showrunners went on record assuring the fans that Christian is really dead, although they would later fudge a little bit and get all semantical about the meaning of the word “dead.”
It isn’t until the final “Missing Pieces” episode, “So It Begins,” that we get a sense of how huge Christian is to the mythology of the show. Sure, his is not the only vanishing dead body that reappears seemingly alive and well (Eko’s longer dead brother Yemi pulls the same trick in season three), but when he is shown telling mysterious dog Vincent to go wake up his son, Jack, prior to the opening shot of the series, it is clear that there is much left to explain. Shortly thereafter, in the opening episode of season four, “The Beginning of the End,” Christian is seen again, this time hanging out in Jacob’s cabin.
Beyond his strange undead status, Christian does seem to have more past connections to the characters of the show than any other secondary character (and that’s saying quite a bit). Not only is he Jack’s father, but he’s also Claire’s father, has spent quality time in a bar with Sawyer, and went on a life-ending bender in Sydney with Ana-Lucia. It should be abundantly clear by now that we have not seen the last of Christian Shephard, even though he was “dead” before the show even began.
|In Lost, hearing voices is par for the course|
At seemingly random moments throughout the series, a character or group of characters will be wandering around in the jungle and will hear strange, disembodied whispers. Rousseau is the first to mention them, and she thinks they’re the voices of “others” on the island. Sayid is the first of our heroes to hear them, but he guesses he’s going crazy. Eventually, the whispers become a kind of 800 pound gorilla, something nearly every character has experienced but nobody wants to discuss.
There are several theories out there about the nature of the whispers, how they may or may not relate to the Others, and what their appearance signifies, but the best way to confuse the heck out of yourself is to read the transcripts. A few fans have been able to take soundbites of the whispers, isolate them on different audio tracks, reverse them, increase their volume, slow them down, speed them up, and analyse them in just about every other way to come up with readily-available transcripts of what’s being whispered. Before you read the transcripts, you might think they hold the key to figuring out the entire show, but once you’ve read them, you are more confused than ever.
It’s like a running commentary on events by persons unknown, mixed in with dialogue from the story of whichever character happens to be onscreen at the time. There are a few recurring names, like Sarah (Jack’s ex-wife?), and there is a consistent feeling that somebody out there wants to explain things to the heroes, but somebody else thinks it’s a bad idea. This seems like it might be important, but when you try to connect the dots, it all falls apart. When you fail to make sense of the otherworldly dialogue, you want to write it off as the show’s producers just looping totally random things because they never actually expected anyone to decipher the whispers, but that explanation is wholly unsatisfying.
Regardless of whether the transcripts hold meaning, the whispers themselves clearly do, and I’m certain that, before the show is over, this is one mystery that will be, in one form or another, explained.
|Side effects may include a newfound love of Mama Cass, an obsession with snowman jokes, nosebleeds, restlessness, insanity, and time travelling|
Of the five mysteries listed here, the sickness is the one most likely to be explained in the near future. As a matter of fact, we may have been given the main answer already, though there is clearly more to say on the subject.
Like the whispers, we first hear about the sickness from Danielle Rousseau. She claims that, a few months after crashing on the island, her team fell victim to a madness to which she alone seems immune, a madness that forced her to kill them all. After explaining this, she warns Sayid to watch his people carefully.
As the months pass on the show, it seems like every odd bit of behavior, every hallucination, and every outburst might be a symptom of the sickness. Though none of these ever pan out, we aren’t given the opportunity to completely dismiss Danielle’s story. After all, there are hatches labelled “QUARANTINE,” vaccination guns, hazmat suits, and doctors with very long needles. In the third season, we learn that people who get pregnant on the island wind up dying, and in the current season, we’ve seen that some people who get close to the island get a bizarre and extreme form of cabin fever, and some others wind up becoming mental time travellers.
Desmond, who manages to cure himself of his time travelling, is ironically one of the only people on the show to say the sickness doesn’t exist. In the past, he witnessed Kelvin taking off the hazmat suit on the island, and later he tells Claire that the vaccine she gives her baby is utterly pointless. However, once he attempts to leave the island, he goes bloody insane, starts thinking it’s 1996, and nearly has his brain explode. Maybe poor Desmond now thinks he should have kept taking that vaccine.
If all of this seems a bit confusing, it’s because it is, but I believe this mystery is unravelling much quicker than the others. With all the disparate parts seeming to come together, and with the possibility of a Rousseau flashback sooner rather than later (assuming she’s not dead yet), the discrepancies between what’s happening to the people on the freighter, what happened to Desmond, and what allegedly happened to Danielle’s research team could be clarified within a few short episodes.
Jacob is the only mystery on this list not introduced in the first season, but that doesn’t mean he’s insignificant to the overall mythology of the show. In season two, Ben (then known only as Henry Gale), implied that there was a leader of the others who was a great man, and although he is certainly narcissistic enough to be talking about himself, many fans were convinced, even after Ben was revealed to be a leader, that there was somebody really important behind the scenes.
In the third season, a few slyly dropped lines of dialogue identified a hugely important character named “Jacob,” who was apparently higher than Ben and had made a list that Jack wasn’t on. The name has several Biblical implications, especially when combined with the name Ben, and the show seemed to exploit that with the brain-washed mantra, “God Loves You as He Loved Jacob.”
Then Locke, one of the few people on the island doing what he can to figure out what the devil is going on, manages to convince Ben to take him to Jacob, although he had to kill his own father and beat up the seemingly immortal Mikhail to do it. When Locke is finally introduced to Jacob, craziness ensues, assuring Jacob the number two spot on this list of important Lost mysteries.
The Smoke Monster
|There's no need to count to five like a wussy when you've got a sonic barrier fence|
Of course, the biggest mystery is the monster, that loud, tree-uprooting, Eko-confronting, enigmatic killing machine introduced to us in the pilot episode. It may sound like a weird dinosaur from Jurassic Park at first, but it becomes obvious later on that this thing is something altogether unique. It’s both mechanical and intangible, scientific and mystical, and it only shows up two or three times a season (that we know of).
There are hints that the smoke monster can take on other forms, including Eko’s dead brother Yemi, that it responds to fear with murderous intent, that it can scan your memories, that it might be some kind of security system, and that it was known by previous island inhabitants as “Cerberus.” But whatever it is, every time it comes up on the show, it leaves you frustrated, because you just want to know what that thing is.
It even seems to weigh heavily on Locke’s mind, who may or may not have faced off with the monster in season one (he would later describe what he saw as a beautiful white light, which is pretty much the opposite of what we know of the smoke monster). Just a few episodes ago, when presented with the option to ask anything he wanted to know, the first thing he asks—which would be the first thing I’d ask too—is “What is the smoke monster?”
Top 5 WTF Moments
Every once in awhile on Lost, there is a brief shot—usually no more than five seconds long—containing something very odd. This odd plot device carries a lot of implications, goes unexplained (and often unmentioned) for huge stretches, and winds up being discussed more than nearly anything else at the virtual water cooler.
The Fake Beard
|The Dharma Initiative and Acme Corp. must be related|
When in the underground medical station, Kate uncovers some Dharma-brand theatrical glue and a fake beard. This is the first indication we are given that the others are not exactly who they appear to be. We quickly learn that the others, who often appear in tattered clothes, long beards, and filthy skin, are actually very clean people who live with indoor plumbing, washing machines, and electric shavers. What is not satisfactorily explained, even now, is why they decide to put up a front when they interact with the castaways in season two.
My pet theory about the Dharma glue and the costumes is that they were originally employed to create the hostiles. That’s right; I think the hostiles were part of Dharma, a fake gathering of actors whose sole purpose was to instill fear in the regular Dharma folk and prevent them from accessing the secret parts of the island. The “purge,” therefore, was not a bunch of island natives rising up against Dharma; it was more like a Dharma mutiny.
Of course, that’s just my theory.
|You know they've all got WTF on their minds|
In the pilot episode, a bear comes running at the newly-arrived castaways. Sawyer, who lifted a handgun off of the soon-to-be-dead U.S. Marshall, points the gun at the charging beast, fires, and we are suddenly given the revelation that this isn’t just any bear; it’s a polar bear. This wouldn’t be so strange if Oceanic Flight 815 had crashed near a glacier, but obviously they didn’t.
This is one of the first enduring mysteries of the show, but it’s eventually explained in small bits in the subsequent seasons. Once we learn about the Dharma Initiative, we learn that they ran experiments on animals, and we are shown an image of polar bears to illustrate. We even eventually are shown the cages where the polar bears were kept (and there’s something about those cages that gets Kate “all weak in the loins”), and by then, we know pretty much the whole story. One could still ask why the Dharma folks would want to bring polar bears to a tropical island, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.
However, just when you stop caring about polar bears, a skeleton of one—with a Dharma collar—shows up in the desert of Tunisia. There are only three letters for that kind of a discovery.
The Four-Toed Statue
|Maybe they just worship Homer Simpson...|
During the second season finale, Jin, Sun, and Sayid get on Desmond’s sailboat and sail across the island’s coastline. For one brief moment, they notice a broken statue on the shore—a giant foot—and look at it through their binoculars. Sayid puts it best when he then notes: “I don’t know what is more disquieting—the fact that the rest of the statue is missing, or that it has four toes.”
Of course, after that very brief scene, the four-toed statue is never seen, mentioned, referenced, or even hinted at again on the show, even though the showrunners smile and assure us that it’s important.
The Blast Door Map
Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see in season two’s masterful analogy for religious faith, the Swan Station, something most unusual happens: a lockdown. The blast doors Michael noticed earlier come crashing down on Locke’s legs, a pallet of food falls from the sky, and the counter ticks down to zero. Suddenly, the lights go out and a black light flicks on, and for the briefest of moments, Locke sees a map painted in laundry detergent on the inside of the blast door. Then the lights come back on, the blast doors recede, and Locke is freed in one way, only to be caged in another.
There are so many questions that can be asked about the blast door map. While it makes sense that the stir-crazy inhabitants of the station would want to make a map of the island, why would they go through all that effort to paint it on the inside of a blast door that only comes down on rare occasions? And why would they paint it with invisible laundry detergent? Why did they write things in latin all over it? How accurate is it?
We even see later on, in Desmond’s first flashback, how it was done, but we are never given the why. In that same episode, of course, the entire thing is blown to smitherines along with the rest of the Swan Station, but the singular image of the blast door map, seen only for a few seconds on the show, has been studied by fans more intently than any other Lost image.
|May contain dead parents|
The aforementioned Jacob has about five frames of screentime on Lost. When Locke goes to meet him with Ben, our first thought is that Ben is either completely insane or is toying with Locke as he starts to have a conversation with an empty chair. This is disappointing, to say the least, and it is clear that John feels the same way. But, just when Locke turns to leave, we hear a disembodied voice moaning for help, and then some things happen that simply cannot be explained.
After seeing Jacob for those five frames or so, John runs out of the cabin, with its newly shattered windows and a roaring fire burning the place down, only to turn around and see Ben calmly walk out, lantern in hand. The cabin is no longer on fire, the windows are no longer shattered, and John Locke has to change his shorts.
We see Jacob’s cabin again, this time through Hurley, and if the first encounter wasn’t confusing enough, this one shows that the cabin can move around and contain supposedly dead doctors rocking away in nonchalant white tennis shoes. WTF is an understatement.
Top 5 Most Shocking Moments
While there are plenty of brief moments with enigmatic clues thrown at the screen, there are also several moments where a crazy plot twist or revelation makes your heart skip a beat or two. Occasionally, a moment will be so shocking that it will take your mind several minutes to fully recover. I remember in the recent episode "Ji Yeon" when Hurley appeared at Sun's door, and for a split second I thought maybe he and Sun were somehow romantically involved and my brain completely shut down from the confusion and disbelief. Luckily, my crazed notion was totally incorrect, so there's little chance of a future sex scene between the two, which is something nobody wants to see.
Jack's Attempted Murder
|I don't care what anybody else says; that guy's cuh-razy!|
In the first episode of season four, “The Beginning of the End,” Jack once again confronts John Locke. This time, even though Jack assumes rescue is less than a day away, Jack steals John’s gun, points it at John’s head, and pulls the trigger.
What amazes me is that few people seem to think this is a big deal. I’ve heard people say they can’t forgive Michael for killing Libby and Ana-Lucia, can’t forgive Ana-Lucia for killing Shannon, can’t forgive Sawyer for killing Frank Ducket, can’t forgive Locke for thwacking Naomi in the back, etc., but when Jack attempts to kill Locke in cold blood by shooting him in the face, they shrug it off as immaterial just because the gun wasn’t loaded. Jack didn’t know the gun was empty when he pulled the trigger, so in my mind, that makes Jack a cold-blooded killer, even though he didn’t succeed.
Ben's Dharma Genocide
Still, compared to Ben, Jack is as vicious as a bunny rabbit. Until we are given Ben’s flashback near the end of season three, the possibility that Ben isn’t such a bad guy still exists. Perhaps he doesn’t lie, as he asserts when he is pretending to be Henry Gale, and perhaps he is doing the right thing through motives that are largely unknown to us. However, during his flashback, we learn that he was lying when he told us he was born on the island, and we learn he was lying when he said he wasn’t a killer.
He participates in the “purge,” a sudden genocide of the Dharma Initiative. While Ben himself is only directly responsible for killing his abusive and emotionally absent father, he was obviously in on the plan (if not a primary orchestrator of it) to eradicate at least a hundred people on the island. The results of this are shown in all of their brutality, and it is the most shocking sequence to occur in a flashback.
Eko's Sudden Death
|Talk amongst yourselves; I'm just a little verklempt|
For the time that he was on the show, Eko was my favorite character. And even though it became pretty apparent early on in the episode “The Cost of Living” (even the title was a giveaway) that Eko was going to die, I kept hoping it wouldn’t end that way. When Eko did eventually die at the hands of the smoke monster after his pseudo-confession to an undead not-Yemi, it was violent and heartbreaking.
It was wholly appropriate, both thematically and narratively, and it wasn’t completely unexpected. Still, the way in which he died—being tossed around (in a Catholic cross shape) and then discarded as a bloody lump of flesh—was nonetheless shocking.
Jack's Need to Go Back
|"We have to go back, Kate. We have to go baaack!"|
The final scene of season three is, to the unspoiled, a masterful moment. Using a narrative device that has been a staple of the show since the first episode—the flashback—we are shown Jack in a miserable state. Throughout the finale, we are shown his descent into drug use and attempted suicide, and there are subtle things like his drunken comments about his father that keep the audience from intuiting the truth, that all of this is really happening in the future.
When we are finally shown him talking to Kate by the airport, we learn that Jack and Kate not only get off the island, but that something has gone terribly wrong. This got a lot of people excited in the show again, just in time for the long wait for season four.
|It's better than shouting Walt's name all the time|
The most shocking moment of all, however, is when Michael reappears near the end of season two and, once the moment presents itself, suddenly shoots Ana-Lucia, Libby, and himself in order to free Ben (known then as Henry Gale) from the castaways. This jaw-dropping cliffhanger has repercussions into the most recent episode of the show, and is a defining moment for Michael, whose character has now become an interesting study in guilt and free will.
While Ana-Lucia’s death is neither shocking nor disheartening, Libby’s certainly is. We had been given clues that her past contains an interesting backstory, and there had been a lot of discussion in the fan forums about whether she were some kind of compulsive liar or Dharma plant. It seemed inevitable that we’d eventually get a Libby flashback, and the fact that she was getting romantically involved with the most lovable character on the show put her character square in the limelight, only to have her unceremoniously shot and killed before any answers could be provided.
This is an important moment for Lost, because it keeps the audience off-balance. All of the deaths on the show up to that point seemed to come at the end of a particular character’s arc, so the audience was no longer fretting over the possible deaths of their beloved characters. This kind of shocking twist made it possible for Eko and Charlie to die in season three and sets up the possibility now for almost anyone to die.
Luckily, however, as can be evidenced by Libby’s reappearance on the most recent episode, death is almost never the end for any character on this show.
-e. magill 04/14/2008
Check out the other installments:
|PART 3:||Least Fave Minor Characters|
Least Fave Major Characters
Favorite Minor Characters
Favorite Major Characters
|PART 4:||Most Underwhelming Episodes|
Most Underappreciated Episodes