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Lost: The Journey to Redemption, Part 4

By MerlboroMan,

  Filed under: Lost Mythos
  Comments: 34

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

          T. S. Eliott


I bet you were wondering if I’d quote the Doors. Fine, I will.

This is the end, my only friend, the end … of my four part “Journey to Redemption.” This is where we take a brief look back at where we have been so that we may know where we are going. This is where we figure out how “Lost” might end.

In part one I introduced you to the monomyth, or the twelve major steps along the journey.  As a quick reminder they are:

1.       Ordinary World

2.       Call to Adventure (Catalyst)

3.       Refusal of the Call

4.       Mentor/Sidekick

5.       First Threshold (Big Event)

6.       Tests/Allies/Enemies

7.       Approach to Inmost Cave (Pinch)

8.       Ordeal (Crisis)

9.       The Reward

10.   The Road Back

11.   The Showdown (Resurrection)

12.   The Realization (Return with the Elixir)

In part two we explored how the first five steps made up Act One of a story and how Season One of “Lost” was that Act One.  We learned how our four heroes see themselves: Jack – a savior (doctor), Kate – a fugitive (murderer), Sawyer – a con-man (a complicated man), and Locke – a mysterious hunter. Each have been given an opportunity to find their true identities, but because of the wounds they carry with them, they refused and needed outside help in the form of a mentor or sidekick to take the next step and cross the threshold into their journeys.

In part three we made our first startling discovery of what this journey may mean. As Season Two unfolded our heroes were tested with the question of “who are the Others?” Are they friend or foe? After realizing that Benjamin Linus was the man leading the “Others” and manipulating almost all the events on the island it became clear that he is our heroes’ true nemesis.  By the end of Season Three our heroes entered their approach to their “inmost caves” and got what they wanted: apparent rescue or an island community. The will soon learn that what they wanted was the worst thing that could happen to them. It has become clear that Season Four will end with a Crisis, bring Act Two to a close, and things will seem most bleak.

Now, with part four, let’s look at the last steps of our journey and enter Act Three.

9.            The Reward

This is the beginning of Act Three.  By this point our heroes are living their truth with nothing to lose and accepting the consequences.

Both Jack and Locke have accepted their roles as leaders of their respective tribes. 

However, Locke is a step ahead of everyone, as usual. The island has made his purpose clear; he is to protect it. We see him making decisions, under various influences, and taking responsibility for them.  Now if my Season Four predictions hold true then we will find Locke at the beginning of Season Five mounting an insurrection against the islands newest inhabitants. Ben will appear to be his ally, but Ben has already gone through this journey and he now sees himself as beyond merely protecting the island. Ben has developed a God-complex. It is most notable in that he has tried to create life where he shouldn’t; using machines and technology. What would Jacob say? Where does that technology come from? Charles Widmore. So why does Ben want to destroy him? He sees him as another God, competing for control of his universe. As in Highlander, “There can be only one.”

Jack is just starting to assume his true essence as leader. It is already obvious that at the beginning of Season Five he will try to reunite the Oceanic Six and return to the island. The question is why?  As I’ve speculated he will come to despise himself in the Season Four Finale, but that isn’t enough for him to realize he has to go back. I think the first piece of that puzzle will come early in the season (if not the end of this one) when Jack will discover just exactly who Aaron is, or more specifically, who Claire is. It will lead Jack on a Season Five journey to Australia. Where he searches his father’s mysterious past and discovers how he really died (oh yeah, I’ve never bought into the “drank himself to death” explanation).  The answer to that question will galvanize Jack’s resolve to return to the island.

But Kate is harder to convince. She’s free…so to speak. She can’t leave California but her real prison was the deal she struck to get her freedom. She has Aaron in her care because of Charles Widmore.  He is the “him” she was referring to in “Through the Looking Glass.” The whole purpose of her trial was to put the lie on record.  In Season Five Kate will be forced to re-embrace her old identity as a fugitive when she finally chooses to go back with Jack, despite knowing what returning to the island will mean for her (think Eko).

It won’t merely mean returning to see Sawyer. Though at the beginning of Season Five expect Sawyer to have been left for dead and now trapped by the island invaders (who I’m still calling the “Freighties”). Sawyer’s unique situation will give him the opportunity to see just who is on the other side. Now, being emotionally attached to the community he has joined, Sawyer will use his skills as a con-man to discover what Ben’s true goal has been all along. It’s not merely creating new life, but recreating life. The boy really misses his mommy.

With his true purpose uncovered, this will force Ben to leave the island, seemingly defeated, but now he’ll have the Oceanic Six, who are unaware of what has actually happened on the island, and he can manipulate them to his purpose.

However, by the middle of Season Five nearly all of the mysteries will be revealed and the goal will become clear: Save the island and make sure no one will ever find it again. Thus begins the road back.

10.          The Road Back

There is really only one purpose to this point of the journey – rededication. This is where the hero, realizing his true goal, must achieve it or die trying. It is often depicted as a chase scene in most feature films. It will be the second half of Season Five for “Lost”. So expect the action to be at break-neck speed and a finale that will be bigger than any “Lost” has seen thus far.

For the Oceanic Six it will mean enacting a daring plan to return to the island. I believe that through their contact with Charlotte and Daniel, Jack and Kate will discover the many “tentpoles” that hold up the island “tower.” These “tentpoles” are the areas of the world where on-island phenomena have appeared off-island (i.e. Tunisia).  If items can leave the island through these “tentpoles” or doorways, they’ll discover a way to reverse the doorway and go to the island. They’ll discover this at a price, because Ben, the one person already aware of this, will kill the man who gives them this information – Sayid.  There are many other twists and turns that I expect (Ben/Charles kidnapping Ji Yeon, Michael destroying the freighter and himself, Desmond reuniting with the Six and Penelope helping them fight her father, etc.). No one is safe.

This will make the “second purge” by Locke, Claire, Richard, and “The New Hostiles” that much more dangerous. It will be the Season Finale and it will not go according to plan. There’s no gassing the island, so it will be upfront and brutal. Expect heavy casualties – such as Claire, Richard, Charlotte or Daniel, and the outcome will most likely fail though the full outcome will not be revealed unless the Oceanic Six return in the finale.  The main thing will be that the two groups will learn that divided they could not save the island.

And now, this is it ladies and gentlemen. We’re entering Season Six. Grab a Dharma bunny and hold on tight.

11.               The Showdown (or Resurrection)

It’s the big face off and it comes in two forms. The hero faces his nemesis one last time; and, the hero makes one final attempt at living life true to their essence.  There will be many subplots resolved in this Season, but there is only one major goal: Save the island and prevent it from ever being found again.

Ben, the nemesis, knows that he’s been “outed.” No more games. He must also reach his goal or die trying. His only hope is returning to the island to destroy it. Ben will be under the belief that life cannot be recreated unless the whole process is started over. While new life may be created, he cannot bring back the dead unless he forces the island to bring itself back from the dead.

Jack , Kate, Desmond, Hurley, Sun,  and Aaron will return to the island knowing what Ben is going to attempt to do – destroy the failsafe and cause the island to collapse on itself.  Jack and Locke will finally unite as the leaders, but will they remain united? That is what will determine the Series Finale.

Jack will finally accept his role as leader/savior. He has already shown, on many occasions, that he cannot accept defeat. He cannot “let it go.” However…

Locke is a man who sees himself as the island’s chosen protector. Is he willing to share that role with Jack, let alone step aside and allow him to do it?

Their struggle will finally bring an end to Kate and Sawyer’s struggle.

Let me be more precise. I believe that they will fail. Ben will detonate the failsafe and cause the island to begin to implode. They will fail because ultimately, Locke will betray Jack in some manner, but in so doing he will actually allow for Jack to truly save them, because Jack will have to travel back to the moment of the plane crash, but he will be unable to do it alone (perhaps bloodied and weak) and the only person who will be able to help him is Kate. Sawyer will recognize this, and for the good of everyone he will let her go and she will finally make a decision to stay with someone – Jack.

This will bring us to what I have always expected to be the realization of the show.

12.               The Realization (Return with the Elixir)

In the aftermath of the final showdown we see that the hero has changed, grown, or finally figured something out. They have achieved their destiny, their true essence.

If Locke had accepted the purpose he initially sought when he entered the Swan station then none of this would have happened. But if it hadn’t, then the island, and the world, would have been destroyed (according to the Valenzeti equation) if nothing was done and Ben was never confronted. Therefore, Locke’s desire, and ultimate failure, will be his ultimate achievement.  For in allowing Ben to achieve his goal and destroy the fail safe he will provide Jack and Kate with the opportunity to travel back through time and save everyone.

Sawyer’s journey, however, has always been inward. The complicated man will finally be able to put others ahead of himself when he gives up “surviving” for “living.” He’ll place his hope in the belief that if Jack and Kate succeed, and change the outcome, that maybe she’ll choose him.

Jack and Kate, savior and destroyer, will journey back to the island, back to the plane crash, with the realization that both must face their fear. The series will end the same way it begun, with Jack waking up in the jungle, stumbling out to the plane crash, rescuing people, then finding Kate, coming out of the jungle. There will be slight differences, ones that will let us know that this time things will be different. Perhaps Kate won’t be rubbing her wrists where her shackles had been. Perhaps, Gary Troup won’t get sucked into the jet engine. Either way, the end is where we start from.


All will be redeemed or face judgment. I believe Locke and Sawyer both will find redemption, while Jack and Kate are given the opportunity to try again. They’ll most likely discover that in one of the “loops” they were Adam and Eve, or that perhaps Desmond and Penelope are. Which makes us wonder, how will our other favorite characters’ stories end?

PURE SPECULATION (i.e. I haven’t done the research necessary to give a more detailed theory)

Hurley will survive to the end. In fact, he’ll be the one that captures/kills Ben after he detonates the fail safe. Of course it will be too late, but he’ll spark the idea of “creating our own luck” which will lead to…

Desmond, still alive,  telling Jack that if he goes into the “rift” created by the new detonation that he’ll be “unstuck in time” and that in “another life, brother” he might be able to prevent this outcome, or at least delay it.

Sun, who left Ji Yeon with Penelope off island, will be reunited with Jin (assuming he died on island) when she helps…

Michael destroy the freighter, thus, insuring that the only way  to and from the island is through the “tentpoles” that will be destroyed when the island is destroyed.

The whole discovery of the “tentpoles,” as I’ve pointed out will cost Sayid his life. He’ll beat the tar out of Ben once more, but this time, Ben will manage to kill him.

Ben will ultimately be judged by the island. When he comes face to face with Smokey, he’ll wish he got bounced from tree to tree.

The remaining cast – Claire, Alex, Danielle, Richard, Charlotte, Daniel, Juliet….don’t expect them to make it to the end of Season Six. I’ll miss Claire the most…and cheer when it’s Juliet’s turn!

When Season Four returns from hiatus we can watch closely to see how this journey unfolds. Will I amend this theory? No. It will neither stand nor fall based on one episode, or two, but instead based on the final two seasons. However, I will begin a new series I’m calling, “Breaking Lost” where I take each part of an episode (From teaser to tag) and analyze the structure in order to determine the intent. If each episode is a piece of the mosaic then understanding the purpose of the episode is like looking at the picture on the box to see where that piece should go. In that way, we can continue to follow the subplots while keeping an eye on the big one.

Hope you enjoyed the journey. Leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

From TVFrenzy:

  • Michael

    I really hope this isn’t the way the show goes. First off, it demonstrate a complete lack of growth by Locke’s character. He ends up playing the dupe right up until the very end. Meanwhile Jack gets away from repeatedly demonstrating some of the worst leadership this side of George Bush and is ultimately rewarded for this by saving everyone. Also, this ending reminds me a lot of the Dark Tower series. I certainly hope the creators have a little more imagination that this.

  • kingkrims

    great ending.. here is wat i think, sayid will lve cause he will be the military commander helping the Losties go to war… Desmond and penelope are Adam & Eve skeletons… I think in the end Kate will pick Sawyer, because in my mind, Jack the leader will either love juliet. .. besides that, your take on lost is dead on.. and if im wrong, then that just means you were right… i have to give it to you, u r an amazing thinker to come up wit this..

  • DM

    I don’t think you can do any research to formulate an end game for the show, because the essential pieces have not been given to us. Nor can you claim the story will follow the pattern of the monomyth when we don’t know what needs to be resolved or if there is a fair resolution outside tragedy. A lot of people have been pushing the idea of a time loop, but that doesn’t seem to fit the mechanics of time-travel we have experienced on the show (it’s also a cheap and easy way to end the series– as terrible as it being a dream or the survivors being a bunch of clones).

    I’m not really sure what “failsafe” you are discussing. There has been no display of a second failsafe since the destruction of the Swan Station.

    Nor is a confrontation with the Others negated by Locke’s vigilance in pushing the button. Michael fight for Walt was the catalyst of the confrontation, not Locke’s wavering faith.

    Ben is far from nemesis. If we consider Sawyer and Jin heroes, we can’t forget there origins and redemptive arches. So much of LOST’s character studies have relied on moral ambiguity. As Locke stated in Season Two, everyone is an Other (nor can we forget that everyone is self-interested, and that Locke becomes as much a villian as Ben to those who do not have access to his special knowledge). It isn’t until we explore their motivations that we can begin to place the characters in any kind of moral spectrum (characters who are all flawed and self-interested, mind you).

    The story is pushing Ben further from being “nemesis” to that of hero. The story requires a clear and definable a villian. Even with the introduction of the Others, the show has never had an unambiguous enemy. The question of who is the good guy has been posed since Season Two. At this point, it might be obvious that Widmore will fulfill that role so that Ben can work through his redemptive story– if he even requires one. What we may see is a character that understands and embraces ambiguity.

    I think you’re overlooking major themes in order to fit the story to your model.

  • DM

    I should have reviewed that post before sending it.

    Excuse stupid mistakes like “there” and other typos. That’s usually not my style.

  • Keith Wilson

    Good job man! I thought it was the best LOST articles i’ve read.

  • Jimmy Zer00

    Thank you so much for posting these. I loved them! I can’t wait to see your next post either, thanks again!

  • MerlboroMan

    DM – I think one of the first things you’re going to have to accept is the end of this show is going to disappoint you. Because no matter what, the writers will not be able to live up to the vague ending you have created in your own mind.
    With that said – I didn’t force “Lost” to fit my model. It just does. That’s the great thing about hindsight. I didn’t truly realize how “Lost” was following a monomyth until the end of Season Three. And with what I know thus far, between Season Four development and online spoilers, I am even more convinced.

    The “failsafe” I am referring to is vague primarily because I don’t believe simply turning a key put an end to the Island’s destructive magnetic power. And even if it did, I believe the Orchid will prove to be more dangerous, so either way Ben will have a chance to destroy the island and force it to recreat itself.

    I think you might want to take a second look at Part 3. It seems rather evident that Ben is the nemesis primarily because of the point at which he arrives in the story. He is “not” on of the “good guys.”

    Finally, Walt was not the Catalyst of the confrontation. Claire was. Remember Ethan? However, if Locke had kept pushing that button the island would have not been found (no flashes, no Penelope, no loss of communication among the others)and Ben could have just gone on with his machinations unchecked.

    I did enjoy your critique. A theory is only as strong as the criticisms it endures.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    The Merlboro Man,

    Have you considered that Lost may *not* be monomythic for any one (or even four) characters, but rather monomythic for all of the main characters all intersecting with each other? (Main characters here defined as the majority of the characters that appear on the Island and get character-centric episodes.) Of course, those character journeys all follow the monomythic pattern because, to quote a friend of a friend, everything fits with Campbell’s Hero’s Journey because “Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is vague enough to cover most stories.”

    When you look at Lost’s themes of relativism & perspective – put me in the camp that isn’t convinced Ben is the ultimate villain of the story – as well as the way character-centric episodes switch who the spotlight falls upon, a web of monomyths (a polymyth?) fits Lost best. Just as all of the characters’ pasts, presents, and futures intersect, so do their individual monomyths.

  • DM

    I agree with S.A. Bonsai.

    We only need to look as far as Eko: “I only did what I needed to survive.”

    Ben is at the stage in storytelling where we begin to learn his motivations. He may have been villainous to the Survivors, but the viewer must understand the Survivors are outsides in a game in which they have been inadvertently introduced. We are beginning to see a greater battle that explores the boundaries of what one must do for what is believed to be the greater good.

    Some of the Merlboro Man’s statements pin Ben as an irredeemable character. However, he is not the only character to suffer from a manic sense of possession and questionable morality (Sawyer, Jin, Locke and Jack come to mind). The viewer’s perspective of Ben was also that of the Survivor; both suffer from a limitation of knowledge about intent and history. The viewer and Survivor continue to have their perspectives challenged as their knowledge of the Island and the outside threat grows.

    While Ben has obstructed the rescue of the Survivors, we must understand that their presence and rescue endangers the Island community. He is “only doing what is needed to survive.” And it seems some of the survivors agree with him (Sayid and Locke, for example). At some point, we can expect Ben to level with everyone. Anything else would decrease the momentum the story needs to carry to its end– this moment of honesty would also detract from learning Widmore’s intent. Trying to mold Ben as the ultimate villain doesn’t seem to fit the direction of the narrative.

    About the endgame:

    We still don’t understand or know the specific qualities of the Island that define its character. Nor do we know the fates of the characters left behind. I have not made any “vague ideas” of an ending because not enough of the story has been revealed. I don’t know the “power” of the Orchid, if it requires a failsafe, if the electromagnetism was rendered safe after the implosion of the Swam, etc. We have to make extraordinary leaps of faith (and speculation) to accept your vision.

    And the catalyst:
    Claire’s story with Ethan was an introduction to the Others. We might as well say Ben’s cancer was the catalyst if we must look at originary causes– but Michael’s quest for Walt was the catalyst for confrontation because it provided the necessary agency to advance the plot by bringing all the characters and their intersecting motivations together.

    We also have to remember that the Island did not lose communication with the outside world because the Swan imploded; the Island was silent because Ben was blocking communications. The dance between Ben and Widmore existed prior to the crash. Was it the implosion or the journal that revealed the location of the Island to Widmore (you seem to be implying Penny is working with her father– maybe she unwittingly gave the information to him, who knows?) All these events coincide, of course,but where is the definitive cause and effect? Did Ben block communication because he knew the Island was visible or because he knew Widmore was plotting a course?

    It’s tough to make these calls when we have only been given half of the story.

  • gusteaux

    The answer to your last question (“Did Ben block communication because he knew the island was visible [after the Swan implosion] or because he knew Widmore was plotting a course?”)would seem to be BOTH (IMHO).

  • I’m not sure if this is how the show will play out, but I will say this: the cycle you have played out is eerily similar to “The Dark Tower” series, which we all know Lindlof and Cuse are fans of. Does that work into validating your theory, or did you get inspiration from it?

  • MerlboroMan

    S.A. Bonasai –
    To answer your question, I believe that while it may appear that their is more than four protagonists in “Lost” there isn’t. One would’ve argued that Charlie was one of the “main characters” but then they would have had to reconsider that at the end of last season. I’ve already predicted Sayid’s fate, so that is why he was not included. Death is just one facter. I believe in the very first article I stated that everyone was free to argue for the inclusion of other characters. I did not choose Sun, Hurley, or Claire, because I believe they will prove to be supporting characters only.
    In regard to the shows theme, it has never been about ambiguity or relativism, but about redemption. Ambiguity and relativisim is just a way of looking at the theme. Such as, how do you define redemption? Or, exactly how do you determine if someone even needes redeemed?

    DM –
    Regarding Ben, simply because he is Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Locke’s NEMESIS does not mean he’s good or evil. It just means he stands in opposition to their goals. This is where ambiguity comes in because evil people never see themself as evil nor do they have a flashing neon sign telling everyone (otherwise men like Hitler would have never risen to power). Not only that, but been is only as evil as Jack, Kate, Saywer, and Locke are good. So to equate NEMESIS with being “evil” is pointless. However, I do believe the ambiguity will eventually be removed in order for the audience to truly root for the protagonists.

    Regarding Claire…How would the “Losties” have receieved the “Others” had they not had a spy who kidnapped a pregnant woman? To say that that event was not the catalyst is ignoring how it painted a veil over every interaction with an “other”(including the “Tailies”) there after.

    Regarding Penny – I believe she is working against her father, but with the wealth and resources he provides. I believe we will discover that Ben wasn’t as much blocking communication because of Widmore (Otherwise, how would “Patchy” have gotten intel on the passengers or Juliet see her sister) but once Ben infiltrated the Hatch, and saw how it was being used, he began blocking transmission FROM the island. It became visible and therefore outside forces may have tried to communicate with it, but why lie to his own people about it?

    Finally, as I’ve stated in this article, by knowing where we are in the story, based on where we have been, we can make more accurate predictions about where we are going. Everyone is free to disagree with the theories and I welcome the criticisms.

  • MerlboroMan

    auto – both

    To be more exact, I think it is not merely because they are fans of Stephen King, but also because they’re media savvy. Think about it…you got six seasons that when you get at the end you can start over again. 🙂

  • S. A. Bonasi


    “I’ve already predicted Sayid’s fate, so that is why he was not included.”

    Isn’t that a bit circular? Predict Sayid’s fate in such a way as to disclude him from being a main character and from that conclude he isn’t a main character?

    “In regard to the shows theme, it has never been about ambiguity or relativism, but about redemption. Ambiguity and relativisim is just a way of looking at the theme.”

    No, relativism and redemption are *both* themes of Lost, although they of course support and play into each other.

  • MerlboroMan

    S.A. –
    You’re right it sounds circular, except that part of my reason for not including Sayid (which, btw, read the introduction where I say you can make arguments for other characters) is that he is not a “game changer.” Sayid is always taking orders from someone even when he likes to think he’s not. Who’s leading team Jack? Who is he taking orders from off island? Kate and Sawyer are exceptions because they’re proven time and again that they’re individualists. It doesn’t matter who “seems” to be in charge. Kate has repeatedly defied Jack. Sawyer has even usurped authority (“Long Con”). I can’t say for certain Sayid will die, but I have a strong sense he will. Now, I didn’t explain that in all these articles, because I wanted to focus on the protagonists and not the supporting cast. I hoped people would read the introduction and get that.

    Relativism is not the theme of this show. You can say that who is good and who is evil is relative, but is that the theme? Are we watching this show each week to discover who is good and who is evil? I’m not saying it can’t be a theme, but…the show is titled “Lost” and they’ve been pointing toward redemption since the pilot. The idea of relativism supports redemption, but how does redemption support relativism without getting into the circular argument you were making. Take Eko’s demise for example. If we were not shown that Eko was unrepentant and therefore judged for his actions how would we know the consequences of NOT being redeemed? His demise is only relative if you consider murder relative. He said, “I did what I had to do to survive.” Did he have to sell the vacines and endanger the people when he simply could’ve taken Yemi’s place in London? Eko proved that to the very end he determined justice for himself. If that’s the case, and relativism was the theme, then why would he need redeemed? Relativism only acts as a backdrop, perhaps even a contrast, to the theme of redemption.

    I appreciate the thoughtful analysis and enjoy this ongoing discussion.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    Sayid has usurped authority/is individualist, too. “House of the Rising Sun” and “One of Them” come to mind. And while Sayid does play second-in-command a lot, this has its roots in that Sayid’s support *can* change the game. See the above two examples, as well as deciding Locke’s fate in “The Greater Good”. Remember, when Sawyer made in move in “The Long Con”, he declared himself the “new sheriff” — thus challenging *Sayid’s* position. (Which was Sayid was neglecting due to grief.)
    A show can have more than one theme, ya know. There’s not one “the theme”. There are multiple themes. Attempting to argue that one theme or another is “the theme” assumes an inherently false premise. One theme – a prominant one – is relativism. It plays out on an episodic basis on a far more complex scale than “who is good and who is evil”. By showing different characters’ backstories from their points of view, the audience is able to sympathize with characters’ actions when they might not have otherwise. The shifting of perceptions as the show has progressed – such as how Ben and the Others are represented – is an exploration of this theme. And, yes, a lot of this has to do with redemption because that’s another prominant theme of the show and themes interact with each other.

  • DM

    S.A. is saying everything I want to say about MM’s argument concerning theme. Redemption is one of many thematic explorations– just like faith/empiricism and relativity. This is what makes the show interesting. It constantly questions whether one needs redemption, if one can trust his or her belief of self or world view. All of these blend with each other. If LOST were solely a story of redemption, I doubt it would carry its weight. I don’t think SA or I are making claim to The Theme, only themes.

    Going back to the issue of The Catalyst (notice the capitalization)– I can’t buy MM’s argument. If we say Claire’s encounter was The Catalyst, we might as well include the Tailsection’s experience with Goodwin. And the Smoke Monster. Wait, what about the disappearance of Locke’s paralysis? Goodwin and Ethan were important in set-up, but the major event that pushed the action forward came later. You really have to ask if Ethan and Claire was comprehensive game changer. As I pointed out, there’s way too much to stuff under the bed if we accept it.

    On the issue of the nemesis: Where do you draw the line? Most of the characters come into conflict of interests. Christ, we need to look no further than Locke– before we were even properly introduced to the Others and a shallow understanding of their intent, Locke was doing his best to stop the Survivors from trying to get off the Island. What about Sawyer? Or Jack? The Jack/Sawyer/Locke rivalry confounded the viewers until Ben became the focus. Now, we have Jack versus Locke/Ben. There has been no steady allegiance throughout the story until the characters find some common ground/common enemy. These commonalities have constantly shifted. Season Four brings a new shift.

    I don’t know if there is much more to say besides MM’s argument is too broad even with the exclusions.

    I guess I do have one more item:
    “If that’s the case, and relativism was the theme, then why would he need redeemed? [concerning Eko]” Did he need to be redeemed? Does this beg us to question the character of the Island and its mechanics? does it also say something of the limitations experienced in serialized television, where writers have to quickly and insufficiently close a part of the story because real life interferes with the fictional world?

  • MerlboroMan

    When a story has more than one theme it risks alienating its audience. People easily become confused as to what is the purpose of the story.
    Sayid, never “usurped” authority. He undermined it. In the “Long Con” Sawyer even made a big speech about why was everyone taking orders from Jack and Locke. I know a lot of people like Sayid, but I see no reason to include him as one of THE heroes. He is a strong supporting cast member.

    D.M. – Again, multiple themes leads to a muddled story. How do you have a clear showdown where the audience knows what’s at stake and what they should take away from it? Are we to assume that by the shows end we’re still not going to know which side we should have been empathic toward? If the shows theme is relativism then you have to ask, “What does it say about relativism?” Themes in every story takes an opinion. If the theme were about oppression then it might be, “Those who oppress others really oppress themself.” That is a visible story with a visible theme. In Lost, while it uses relativism, it says little about it other than it exists. In fact, the theme of “Lost” seems to be that “redemption is relative.”

    Regarding the Nemesis – The nemesis isn’t the person who is “on the outs” with the hero. The nemesis is the person that stands in opposition to the hero obtaining his GOAL. The capital goal. The big overarching purpose for the hero through the whole story. If you just look at Locke you’ll see that the one person standing in his way of finding his true purpose is Ben. He continually lies to him, manipulates him, and taunts him, so that Locke is listenging to Ben and not the Island. Take another look.

    The theory is broad because it’s an article and not a book detailing each and every piece of evidence. It’s broad because it’s based primarily on one source and speculation. And, it’s broad because it was intended to invite differing opinions.

    With all that said, I welcome the criticisms. It shows that you guys are passionate about the show and you’re willing to ask tough questions. I don’t feel it’s necessary for us to agree and my theory may be proven wrong, but we’ll just have to wait until the show ends to know for sure.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    See, I always figured Lost to be one of those shows that didn’t assume it’s audience was stupid and was willing to trust us to handle multiple [interconnecting] themes and ambiguity. So yes, I not only think but darn well hope that by the end, there will be multiple interpretations as to what we should take away from the story and which side we should be empathetic towards. Yes, writers explore a theme a certain way. However, that exploration doesn’t have to be cut-and-dry ‘this is what the audience should think’. What I love about Lost is that it doesn’t offer cookie-cutter simple answers to complex themes.
    As for the difference between undermine and usurp, I have to go to class, so I’ll leave another comment tonight.

  • DM

    MM– you’re still drawing arbitrary lines in the chain of causation.
    Most literature has multiple themes. I don’t know why this is up for argument.

  • MerlboroMan

    DM –
    Lost is a television show, and not just literature. As such, it plays to a greater audience and therefore must narrow it’s theme. The fact that it has so many other elements to it is the very reason why it is often criticized as “hard to follow.” If it did not have one unifying theme it’d be even more difficult to follow and the need for an “endgame” would be moot.

    S.A –
    I couldn’t agree more. It’s not a cookie-cutter show and it’s use of relativism to explore redemption is just one piece of how, despite using a well known formula, Lost is very unique. It is a non-linear story set to a monomyth.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    Concerning the difference between changing the game with an usurption of power and changing the game with an undermining of power, I don’t think there’s a relevant difference; both are examples of changing the game/directing the plot/whathaveyou.
    Particularly since Sawyer’s bid for power in “The Long Con” doesn’t really go anywhere; Jack has first the medicine and then the guns in short order. (Mind you, Sawyer *does* challenge authority on a regular basis; I just think that his gambit in “The Long Con” is ultimately a poor example of that.) For that matter, while Kate frequently defies Jack, she’s really not much of a gamechanger. I mostly put this up to poor writing – the writers are good but not without their slip-ups – but it is nevertheless something that must be accounted for. When has Kate defying Jack’s authority led to an actual consequence of changing the game? I’m having trouble thinking of one, but if you recall one I don’t, I’m happy to hear it.
    Further, what about Hurley? While certainly less prominant in the story in terms of screen time, there’s no question that he changes the game in a big way. Initially, he takes the role of Manager: obtaining the flight manifest, building the golf course, getting the batteries from Danielle, et cetera. Over time, this developes into the role of Kingmaker: putting first Sawyer (“Left Behind”) and then later Locke (“The Beginning of the End”) into power.
    Again, my argument is that Lost is a polymyth, a web of interconnecting monomyths. Thus, characters can assume multiple roles. Locke, for instances, is both the hero of his own individual monomyth and the mentor figure in the monomyths of a number of other characters. Heck, you could probably even make the argument that Locke is the father figure that Jack must reconcile with with regard to Jack’s specific monomyth.
    As for Lost having multiple themes, I’m at an honest loss as to how I can argue my point further. Frankly, you’re the first person I’ve come across who’s insist that a television show need a single core/dominant theme in order to be understandable. If I think of something later, I will respond then.
    DM — just wanted to say I like everything you’ve said in this thread.

  • MerlboroMan

    S.A. – Sayid is a character who has always taken orders from others. From the Republican guard, to the American Counter Terrorists, to Jack, to Ben, it’s the main reason why he is not a “game changing” character. He reactive as opposed to proactive. Even when he “undermines” his leaders he ultimately comes back to their way of things. Does this mean he or Hurley are lesser characters? No, but they’re not the heroes of this monommyth.

    And why is it a monomyth. It’s not that “a television show” needs one them, it’s that THIS television show needs one theme. There are so many rabbit holes this show could go down, and sometimes does, that it loses all but it’s hardcore fanbase. Many themes are explored from episode to episode, but the overarching theme, from beginning to end – the one that holds the whole enchilada together-is redemption.

    Both you and DM are welcome to disagree with this conclusion. I understand your points, but I disagree with them (for example, neither of you have explained what Lost is saying about relativisim, if it were a theme the show would do more than point out that it exists, it’d take a point of view on relativism). If neither of us can make the other see his point then we’re at an empass and it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the show.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    “Sayid is a character who has always taken orders from others.”, “He reactive as opposed to proactive.”, and “Even when he “undermines” his leaders he ultimately comes back to their way of things.”
    I sharply disagree. Sayid takes orders in the Republican Guard (well, it *is* the military) until he defies orders to help Nadia escape. Sayid takes orders from the CIA *in order to protect Nadia* but is still willing to let Essam escape. Sayid is certainly taking orders from Ben, as a result of circumstances that have not yet been revealed, but this is not a dynamic that appears on the Island. (Personally, I suspect that Sayid taking orders from Ben is similar to Sayid taking orders from the CIA; there are people Sayid needs to protect.)
    To say that Sayid is simply a guy who takes orders simplifies the role he plays among the survivors. To start, Sayid does *not* come back to leaders’ way of things after undermining/challenging authority.
    1. In “House of the Rising Sun”, Sayid challenges Jack on Jack’s desire to move the camp from the Beach to the Caves. By the end of the first season, it is *Jack’s position* – the Cave Camp – that has been abandoned. Even in the fourth season, the Beach Camp is still the Beach Camp, although obviously some of the survivors have gone to the Barracks.
    2. In “One of Them”, Sayid makes the decision to interrogate/torture Ben. While Ben remains captive, the treatment of Ben does not change. In fact, in “Dave”, when Sayid & Ana are in the room with Ben, Jack – who previously opposed Sayid in “One of Them” – now condones their actions. Again, it is Jack who abandons his position.
    So when Sayid challenges authority, his challenges sticks.
    Further, Sayid taking orders from whatever Leader is conditional.
    1. Sayid is willing to challenge authority if he disagrees with the leader. I gave two examples above. If he holds off on a challenge, it’s because he sees a challenge as counter-productive. “I Do” is a good example, when he doesn’t call Locke out for lying about Eko’s death until the two are alone.
    2. As Sayid takes orders, he also gives advice to leaders, and his advice is followed. Some examples.
    a. In “Live Together, Die Alone”, Jack wants to confront Michael immediately and tell Kate, Hurley, & Sawyer what is happening. Sayid, however, tells him not to do so. Sayid’s plan is followed.
    b. In “Greatest Hits”, Jack wants to be one of the shooters who stays at the Beach Camp. Sayid thinks Jack should lead everyone to the radio tower, and Jack does.
    c. In “The Economist”, Jack wants to go on the mission to the Barracks. Sayid tells him to stay behind. Jack does so.
    Sayid, then, is a proactive character, as the above examples demonstrate.
    If I had to summarize Sayid’s character, I’d say he’s someone with a smart political side. He has established himself as competant, intelligent individual who’s counsel is worth taking. He has proven that he can and will successfully challenge authority but doesn’t do so without consideration. He then uses the two proceeding points to establish himself as an influencial second-in-command who’s support is extremely beneficial to any leader that emerges.
    Ever noticed that no matter who is in charge of the Beach Camp, Sayid is always part of the inner circle and frequently second-in-command, even if the Leader in question doesn’t even like/get along with Sayid? (Locke in “The Cost of Living”, Sawyer in “One of Us” and “The Man Behind the Curtain”.) That’s not a coincidence. Heck, before Hurley endorsed Locke in “The Beginning of the End”, Locke makes a very clear appeal for Sayid’s support.
    Point being, to say that Sayid is a “character who has always taken orders from others” completely misses the very specific way that Sayid wields power and influence, particularly with regard to the Island-portions of the show. Sayid *does* direct the plot and *is* a game-changer.

  • MerlboroMan

    We all have our favorite characters. And I am not demeaning Sayid’s role in the least bit. I have stated the reasons why I believe he is not going to survive the series and I stand by them. I fully understand and appreciate your views (in fact, while you may not see it this way, you’re points underscore my belief as to why he is not one of the main protagonists), and I see no reason to change my own on this theory.

  • S. A. Bonasi

    I’m afraid I don’t follow. You stated Sayid is not a game-changer, presented your arguments as such, and placed this as a reason why you don’t consider him a main character. I countered the arguments you presented and offered my own as to why Sayid is a game-changer (and thus a main character.) If we are to continue discussion here, you really should either counter my counter-arguments and/or offer new arguments.
    But I wanted to say something about relativity as a theme. For Lost to say that relativism exists – that is to say, that it is a valid concept – *is* for Lost to take a position on the theme of relativity. Of course, that’s simplifying things a bit, so I will expand in a moment.
    Lost could, for instance, take the position that relativity is an invalid or unimportant concept because there are absolute standards of morality and the context is irrelevant. In that case, Lost would be also have relativity as a theme, but be taking a different position on the matter. I write this to demonstrate via contrast how Lost *is* taking a position on relativity by advancing it as a valid concept.
    To elaborate, Lost explores how relativity influences the audience’s perception of actions and events. Lost presents a character’s action, often without context. Audience members, with the limitted information, are allowed to judge for themselves the morality/acceptability of the character’s action. Lost will then offer more information that offers a new perspective on what the character has done. Lost then allows the audience to decided whether or not the new information changers their view on the morality/acceptability of the character’s action.
    Given that the audience frequently *does* find that their opinion has changed, it’s defensible to argue that Lost supports relativity as a concept. Nevertheless, Lost does allow for the viewers to decide for themselves whether or not what such-and-such character did was right in light of the full context. This all is, in a broad stroke, how Lost explores relativity as a theme.

  • MerlboroMan

    S.A. –
    Most of your arguments for Sayid entailed, “Jack wants…Sayid does.” I failed to see how that counters my point that Sayid is a supporting character. Is he an intelligent, complex supporting character? Yes. But he’s still a supporting character.

    I never denied that relativism is a part of Lost, but it is not the OVERARCHING THEME. The overarching theme, the one thing that ties everything together and doesn’t send us all into tangents of numbnuttery, is redemption. What is “Lost” about? A group of strangers uniquely connected on an island that provides them the opportunity for REDEMPTION. Do you see it that way? No. You like the tangents -the mini-themes if you will – and that’s great. But I didn’t write “Lost: The Many Tangents We Can Go Off On.” If you read all the parts of this article then you know I based this on the monomyth as it is described by Vogler and Hauge. I explained each step to support that theory; however, I feel it seems you’ve only read the conclusion and disagree with it.

    This is my last comment on this because we’re going nowhere…as I think I stated several times already…I understand your views, I appreciate the criticisms, but I see NO REASON to change my theory. Let me repeat that…I UNDERSTAND YOUR VIEWS…you feel that relativism is a major theme equal to redemption and that Sayid is such a well developed character that he is as equal to “hero” status as Jack,Kate, Sawyer, or Locke. I get that. I’ve read all of your comments and I STILL SEE NO REASON TO CHANGE MY THEORY. I hope we can leave this at “agree to disagree.”

  • MerlboroMan

    Jimmy, Keith, roomforhumans – thanks for the kind comments. Sorry it took me so long to show my appreciation for you guys taking the time to read and comment on my articles. When Lost returns look for my weekly reviews called “Breaking Lost” where I’ll take a stab at looking at the show from the “writers room” point of view. I recommend reading Alex Epstein’s “Crafty TV Writing” on the nuts and bolts of writing for television.

  • DM

    You said relativity wasn’t a theme. I think you’re looking for “thesis” or “thematic” in place of theme to describe the place of redemption (Turn to a trusty book like “a Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory” by Jeremy Hawthorn). However, if we must qualify what is appropriated identified as a “theme,” using your method, what does the show say about redemption? Very little. Redemption acts as a motivator. It pushes the characters forward, but the idea of redemption faces very little contemplation.

    Moral ambiguity/relativism and faith/empiricism have been explored, on the other hand. We see the writers asking and answering: “Should one engage in morally/ethically questionable acts if his/her community or well-being is threatened?” We see this in the Islands ‘state of exception’ and the Survivors as Homo Sacer. This is a very relevant topic of discussion when compared to issues of security, politics, and war (or even everyday life which has been thoroughly examined).

    To say relativity is a “mini-theme” or tangent is, frankly, ridiculous. It is tied so deeply to narrative structure and content that it cannot be diminished.

    You repeatedly mentioned the show should only have one theme. This is different have the fact that it has many themes. It seems the writers of LOST are trusting the viewer’s ability to weave through the work’s complexity. I know it’s primetime television, so a regulated depth is demanded, but you’re really not giving credit where it is due.

    I don’t think anyone is going to argue the story doesn’t follow the monomyth formula to a degree (again, it’s pretty general and most stories follow it), but considering the divergence from formula that modern story-telling is experiencing, it’s difficult to consider the predictive value of clinging to this model. The story can take elements of the model and play with it. There is no obligation to adhere to form.

    Does anyone ever think of the book “the Good Soldier” when thinking about LOST?

    p.s. You have a hypothesis, not theory.

  • DM

    Ugh. I really really hate when I don’t proof read.

  • MerlboroMan

    If you had said that the theme was “science vs. faith” (or empiricism/faith) was the theme, you’d have a better argument. To say that the show says little about redemption proves what I’ve believed all along: You only read Part 4, didn’t like the conlusion, and have placed all your criticisms on it.

    Or if you actually had read all four parts then you missed how I was focusing on the character archs of the main characters over the entire series to understand what was their deepest need (i.e. why do THESE characters need to be on THIS island).

    To insure that the horse is dead, I have not dismissed “relativism” as “a” theme, but it’s not “the” theme. When you’re dealing with multiple complex characters and their archs, how would you NOT use relativism? Or, let me put it another way – Is Paul Haggi’s film “Crash” about relativism or racism? Could he have told that story without using relativism, or shifting P.O.V.? It’s a non-linear story, but it has no monomyth. There are small character archs through out and they each revolve around the theme of racism. Lost is similiar except it does have a monomyth, there are four characters that are hitting each of the 12 steps I’ve outllined and their archs, or “inner journeys,” all revolve around redemption. That is one of the things that makes Lost so unique in television and it’s one of the reasons why I love the show.

    My point that Lost needed to narrow its focus was not lost on the producers. Again, I’m going to point to the need for a defined ending. As a writer, when you’re approaching the climax of the story your goal is to keep you audience emotionally engaged by driving toward a showdown they’ve been dying to see all along. I did not focus on faith vs. science as the theme, because that would only explain why Jack and Locke would be at odds in the showdown. By understanding Ben’s role as Nemesis and both Kate and Sawyer’s need for redemption it is clear that they would have to be a part of the showdown. While other characters (Micheal, Sayid, or Sun for instance) might also need redemption, they are supporting characters and their subplots act to serve the major plot theme. They will play a role in determining how the showdown is played out, but they won’t be a part of it.

    Finally, its a theory if its been tested. This has been tested. The fact that neither you or S.A. agree with it, does not diminish it. You both are welcome to continue disagreeing with it, but for my part I have said all I need to say to both of you on the subject.

  • Hlyons

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and theories. I like what MM said and it makes the most sense to me. Just because you personally don’t agree or understand doesn’t mean it is wrong or right.

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