“It’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors.” It’s what we say when a magician moves mirrors forwards and backwards to deceive the audience into thinking an object just suddenly appeared or disappeared, or uses a poof of smoke to hide his gestures so we think we just saw something extraordinary, when in fact it was all sleight of hand.
And now, I think we’re starting to see that much of what we’ve been told on Lost is the same thing: Between the Man in Black and Jacob, we’ve got the smoke and the mirrors. Neither one of them is telling the truth; they’re just using sleight of hand to make the people on the island (and the audience) try to figure out exactly what they’re doing. Check out the Wikipedia entry on the phrase, and you’ll pretty much see a perfect description of the Lost writers:
Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians’ illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception.
Many fans expressed anger and frustration at Jack’s impetuous destruction of the mirrors. In much the same way we were angry when Locke blew up the Flame station in “Enter 77” after we’d just seen the Dharma binders that could help explain a lot of what’s going on, now Jack’s just smashed mirrors because he caught a glimpse of his childhood home in there and saw his name on the dial. I’ve read a lot of comments this morning from people asking why he’s only thinking of himself, and not noticing all of the OTHER names of people that he knows written on that dial. But I think the bigger thing here is that after everything he’s been through (in a nutshell: a difficult life under his father’s thumb; plane crash; deaths; heartbreak; return home; heartbreak; return to the island; death) he’s realized it was all orchestrated right from the beginning. He’s a puppet, and there’s a much larger puppet master that’s been pulling his strings. All of his talk of free will seems to have gone out the window when he can see his name written alongside many others, just waiting to be crossed out.
So he did the only thing he could in that moment: he smashed the mirrors. He’s removing the magician’s tools of deception and refusing to allow him to put one over on him. I don’t think he’s ruined their chances at figuring anything out; I think Jacob wanted him to do that. (It might have been nice if he’d given any notice to the fact that poor Hugo’s name was there, too.) I think Jack smashing the mirrors is actually a good thing: it’s a sign that he’s not about to put up with the island’s crap anymore. He’s not going to allow the magicians to pull their parlour tricks on him or anyone else, and instead he wants to know their secrets and what those numbers mean that are written on the rabbits they’re pulling out of the hats.
Just as Unlocke was not able to kill Jacob on his own, I wonder if Jacob is unable to just hand out the answers… like he said in the episode, he needs Jack to ask the questions. And the only way for Jack to do that is to literally destroy the implements the island is using to play with him, and to smash the hold that the past (symbolized by the image of his childhood home) has over him. He needs to move on, stop dwelling in what the past has done to him, and ask the correct questions that will lead him to salvation. And beginning to destroy the island’s smoke and mirrors is an excellent start.
Nikki Stafford is the author of the Finding Lost series of books, which offer episode-by-episode guides to each season. The guide to season 5 is now available at Amazon.com, and is currently working on the season 6 book. She posts regularly on her television blog, Nik at Nite.