Shall we receive Good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive Evil? – Job 2:10
When Sayid woke up after being drowned to death in the dirtywater pool, he didn’t seem any different than we’ve known and loved him to be all these years. He was the same coldblooded killer with the same impeccable manners and the same big soulful eyes. But this episode set us straight about what happened to him. He didn’t come back as the same old Iraqi torturer with the ambiguously noble heart. He came back more like the way that Buffy came back. He came back wrong.
When someone has killed as many people, as gracefully and fluently as Sayid has, it’s hard to pinpoint what made this week’s killing spree somehow different. We’ve seen Sayid kill a lot of people, a lot of places. He’s done a country club assassination.
A post coital bullet to the belly.
He shot a hole into the heart of an innocent kid.
Killing is Sayid’s gift.
But he mostly felt really bad about it. His big brown eyes got all sad. Sometimes he even cried.
This Sayid was different. When Ben discovered him by the side of the bubbling sulfur pit where he killed Dogen and his hippie friend, he looked like a wild animal that has just ripped someone’s intestines out with his bare teeth. He looked like he’d been interrupted in his feasting on a still steaming corpse. This Sayid isn’t conflicted about the killing he just did. He enjoyed it.
” A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” – Joseph Conrad
Now, I’ve got to preface this recap by stating outright that I haven’t got the faintest idea what is going on with LOST this season.
I’ve always found it remarkable how LOST, at least until now, has avoided the trap of moral absolutism. LOST has been a show where we can watch a man like Sayid terrorize, betray and butcher his fellow human beings … but we can still love him and want to see him happy.
LOST’s Season One finale was a beautiful episode called Exodus. I watched it and reviewed it just recently, as a matter of fact. In that episode the Island child was given the name of Aaron, the brother to Moses – the great Hero who led the Chosen People to the Promised Land, with the help of a column of Holy Smoke.
It was an episode that plunged us into the dark, scary hellfire and brimstone of the Biblical Old Testament – literature’s first great horror story. In the Bible, the Lord God established his dominion over mankind by smacking the shit out of them at every opportunity, or by having his Candidates do it. He helped murder little boys for making fun of Elisha’s bald head, he helped David rip off 200 Philistine foreskins so he could buy himself a wife, he helped Samson slay thousands with just the jawbone of a donkey. The Old Testament Lord was a badass, mean-ass monster and he seemed to thoroughly condone mass murder, so long as it was being done in his name. It was, like LOST, a story where Good and Evil kept getting called out as if they were opposites, but one where most of the time, the difference between them is entirely unclear.
In Sundown, Evil and Good have retreated to their mutually exclusive corners. The office machine Dogen kept in his inner sanctum was a custom model Evil-o-Meter, designed to probe a person and pass judgment on their pH balance of moral righteousness. As guessed, this medieval contraption had previously diagnosed Sayid as a bona fide Evil Being, causing Dogen to want to do the right thing and make him dead.
On his righteous right hand, Dogen wears a gleaming silver bracelet. On his sinstre, or wicked, hand, he wears a fingerless black glove.
It’s a little disconcerting how simple this has suddenly all become. What are they telling us? Black is bad and white is right? Seriously?
Sayid defends himself against the verdict of the Evil-o-Meter by saying that neither man nor machine can tell what “kind of man” he is. So what kind of man is he? Using our new parallel story world to compare and contrast, we get to ask another question as well: what kind of a man is OtherSayid?
In any reality, Sayid is the kind of man who loves Nadia.
According to Omer, he’s the kind of little brother who he still counts on to choke his chickens for him.
And although he claims otherwise, although Nadia does what she can to persuade him away from violence, OtherSayid is still the kind of man who kills with ease.
Of course, when it’s Keamy’s insipid mug that’s getting waxed, it’s hard to pass judgment on Sayid. It’s not as if killing Keamy can ever be a bad thing. There’s just something satisfying about watching that gigantic Gary Busey/Chris Walken love child bite the big one.
OtherSayid’s story is different from the OtherStories that we’ve watched in recent weeks. He didn’t contemplate his reflection in a clear mirror, as his friends had done. Instead, there was only a passing glance of his distorted image captured unexpectedly in Nadia’s front door glass.
OtherSayid was an interrogator for the Revolutionary Guard, just like Original Sayid. He was still fearsome and violent. Still a passionate lover separated from the one he loves. There were no radical departures from his story as we knew it, except of course that he’d apparently manipulated Nadia into becoming the wife of his brother, and it’s unclear if the two had ever bonded in a torture cell, the way we’d seen them do. Unlike the previous Other-flashes, Sayid’s story seems much the same. He is still an assassin. He doesn’t rise above. He doesn’t conquer his demons. He doesn’t solve his problems. We can tell that OtherLOST isn’t going to be merely a mirror story of redemption, because there isn’t any redemption there for Sayid.
The mirror parallels weren’t as strong this week. The pattern of symmetrical character centrics was broken. This episode was called Sundown, which mirrors the name of its Season One counterpart – House of the Rising Sun – but it was Sayid’s episode, not Sun’s. However, symmetry was not completely abandoned.
Just as Ben Linus had helped create a massacre in Dharmatown, his life partner in contract murder, Sayid, helped create one in this episode.
And when Ben came to find Sayid by the bubbling pool, it was a revelation to him just how completely Evil had claimed his once and future assassin.
Evil was the theme of the week. Dogen tells Sayid that the Man in the Monster is “evil incarnate”. Then he sends Sayid out to kill the Evil Thing. Many seem to believe that Dogen was lying to Sayid, that he really intended for the Thing to kill Sayid. Maybe he was hedging his bets, and hoping that whatever happened, at least one of his problems would go away.
He also does not kill Sayid. He’s not even that angry about being attacked. Instead, he benevolently offers to give Sayid whatever his poor tortured heart may desire. If you stay on his good side, it seems like the Monster can be quite a kindly friend.
Sayid is convinced in a flash to jump over and join up with Old Smokey and he kicks off the kill party with some coldblooded retribution killing in the same pool he was himself murdered in.
“And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” – Deuteronomy 19:21
Unhappy spirits that fell with Lucifer,
Conspir’d against our God with Lucifer,
And are for ever damn’d with Lucifer. – Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
The song, Catch a Falling Star, is not idly chosen.
In Isaiah 14:12, there is this passage: ?”How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! “ Lucifer, the word for “morning star”, was the first damned angel that fell from Heaven. Biblical scholars will argue whether Lucifer is Satan, or the Devil, or just the most prideful angel thrust out of Heaven by the Lord, but the core concept here is that Lucifer is a baddie. That’s not in dispute. And the version of Catch a Falling Star that played at the end of this episode sounded a whole lot like a hymn of praise to the Lord of the LOST Underworld, Mr. NotJohnLocke, the Smoke Monster.
The question we’re being forced to deal with on LOST now is this: If the Monster is indeed an evil, vile thing, if he’s really “evil incarnate”, then what does that make Jacob? We can’t really call the Monster Evil if there isn’t some counterpart moral entity that represents Good, can we? Evil isn’t Evil unless it’s defined in terms of its Other. So, is Jacob all that is Good?
Let’s review. Jacob has been using a lighthouse to seek out Candidates, in order that he may manipulate them, each one individually, to emigrate to his hellhole of an Island home. He does this in order that he may use them in some fashion, to do some thing that we still don’t understand, and that none of them understand either. He does this knowing that his bloody brother will in all likelihood recruit them, and that their odds of survival are approximately 1 in 360, and that they are far more likely to end up as a smoking corpse than they are to ever see their loved ones again. So, the first question is: How can someone like him be a Good Guy?
Kate is thrown down into the pit by the arrival of the Smoke Monster.
She has no freaking clue that the girl she has heroically devoted herself to saving is now a murderous lunatic. In her blissful ignorance, Kate seals her fate with Claire, by confirming that she did in fact “take” Aaron. It’s possible a more judicious word choice might have helped matters, but then again, given Claire’s state of mind, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference.
He killed anyone who hadn’t taken him up on his generous offer to join him or die. Kate, by hiding in the pit with Claire, was spared. Or maybe she was spared because she was a Candidate. Only I can’t tell if she’s still a Candidate since her name wasn’t shown on the wall and her Jacob touch wasn’t revisited when Smokey explained the cave to Sawyer. Is she a Candidate but not a Recruit? Is she as confused as the rest of us?
I don’t know, but I was happy to see that she remembered to snag a rifle before she joined the pod people. I have a feeling she’s gonna need that.
What plans does the Monster have for Kate?
He looked her up and down and seemed to be sizing her up very carefully when she came out of the temple, looking dazed and confused.
This group is headed back to wherever Jin and, most intriguingly, Sawyer, are being kept on ice. How the Monster makes use of having Sawyer and Kate together in his camp is a plotline I’m down with. Bring it on, and while you’re at it … please don’t keep Sawyer offscreen for two episodes in a row ever again, mkay? Thx.
Like everyone else, I’m trying to understand the symbiosis between Jacob and his Monsterly twin. It reminds me of how, in the Old Testament, Yahweh and Satan often passed their time by rolling dice with the lives of human beings.
Job passed the test. Even though all his oxen and his asses and his sheep and his servants and his sons and even his camels were brutally taken from him, even though he got covered in sore boils and had to sit in his filth scraping off the scabs with a broken potshard, Job remained faithful to the Lord and praised him nonetheless. Job was clearly not a Man of Science. He was the ultimate Man of Faith. And in the Bible, in the Old Testament, that is all that God wanted from his human toys. He was the Puppet Master. Theirs was not to question why, theirs was just to do and die … and not to bitch about it.
It’s a kind of “morality” that makes no sense to our ultra civilized psyches, but it’s the kind of morality I think we may be seeing on LOST in this grand finale season. Like Yahweh and Satan, Jacob and the Monster are running a battery of tests on their candidate-recruits. And the test appears to start with a Choice. Or at least the pretense of a choice. When Sayid re-enters the Temple after meeting with the Monster, he offers the inhabitants there a Morton’s Fork of a choice. They can either stay in the Temple and be slaughtered, or they can leave and join up with the Monster who would gladly slaughter them. Most choose to leave, some stay and die.
Now, Sayid himself is acting on the basis of the choice the Monster has offered to him. The Monster is forthright with Sayid. He offers him the simplest and most desirable thing of all. He offers him “whatever your heart desires”. Really, you can’t beat an offer like that. What Sayid’s heart desires is that Nadia should live.
It raises an interesting point. We have seen that in OtherLOST, in fact, Nadia is alive. Sayid can see her, he can talk to her, he can care for her children.
Making deals with the devil is another time honored tale. The most famous such deal was made by Dr. Faustus, when he was tempted by Mephistopheles to sacrifice his immortal soul if only his dearest wish might be granted.
But on LOST, it’s not only the devil who is making deals. Jacob is double dealing as well. He has offered Dogen his own kind of Faustian bargain.
We’ve seen the same kind of bargain given to Juliet in Season Three, although as always with Juliet, it’s hard to see what she did to deserve such cruelty.
“And oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” – Shakespeare, Macbeth
We know that Jacob is a manipulative bastard, but how far will he go? Was Jacob the architect of the infamous Wishing Box that brought Anthony Cooper to the Island to be killed? Did he give Juliet’s sister cancer just so he could manipulate her to come to the Island? Did he plan for Dogen’s son to be nearly killed, just so he could manipulate his father by saving him? When did he start manipulating his candidates? Is he the reason Hurley won the lottery, the reason Christian Shephard came to Sydney to drink himself to death, the reason Sawyer killed the Shrimp Guy? Just how deep does Jacob have his claws into these people anyway? And why didn’t he help Dogen, who had faithfully carried out his will? Not to keep beating the same drum, but how can such a creature ever be called “Good”?
What’s more, if Jacob isn’t Good, then how can the Monster be Bad? The Monster talks of freedom. Jacob’s manipulations have stolen the Free Will of his candidates, and the Monster seems to think he’s restoring that. Of course, his choices aren’t any less manipulative, and to make matters worse, he’s a bloodthirsty animal who seems to exult in mayhem and chaos.
When Sayid goes into the jungle to confront the Monster, the first thing he says is that he wants – you guessed it- Answers! Not that he gets any, and he’s easily persuaded to want something else, but that’s what he asks for at first. When the Monster tempted Sawyer he did not offer to bring Juliet back, as he offered Nadia to Sayid. Apparently that is not Sawyer’s deepest desire. Apparently the one thing that Sawyer really wants is … Knowledge.
And the reason Jack goes ballistic on Jacob’s mirrors is because he’s so enraged that Jacob won’t tell him what the hell is going on.
Who actually claimed Sayid? The Temple folk were genuinely surprised at his resurrection. How did Jacob’s Temple create a new disciple for the Monster?
Who are all these redshirts that have been living in the Temple? And this Cindy chick with the children. It’s been years now. Is there ever going to be a reason for them to be here?
Why did we see Jack Shephard at the hospital where Sayid’s brother was taken? Was that just to inform us that Omer lives in the same L.A. neighborhood as St. Sebastian Hospital, or was that a way for Matthew Fox to get his quarter mil per episode payday?
And speaking of paydays, how sad is it to see the wonderful Yunjin Kim still being reduced to just one sad “Jin?” per appearance? Didn’t this character used to have a storyline?
And how about Jin showing up in Keamy’s restaurant? Random!
Where did Ilana and the rest of her Scooby Gang escape to when they pushed through the Stargate magic portal? I hope it’s someplace cool!
Why did Kate go back to the Temple? Didn’t she just say she wasn’t going to do that?
When NotLocke and Claire, exchange little smiles and nods at the end of the episode, is that Monster code-speak for “yes, you can kill her now”?
The cards are being reshuffled, the players are moving again around the board. All we can do is come back next week and see what game they feel like playing with us then.