By the ninth episode of Lost we had all begun to learn the rhythms and the irrationale of the story. We knew the major players. We understood they had been consumed against their will into a world of menace and magic. Their frail humanity was no defense against the terrors that surrounded them. Naturally, they were frightened.
And really stressed out.
Except for Locke, who continued to enjoy his dream vacation.
For the first time we heard The Whispers.
We met our first Other.
The words “Flight 815” were uttered for the first time.
And we heard the first clank of metal against the door of the mother of all hatches, the Swan.
All the building blocks of the mythology were being lifted into position. As with so many mythologies, the core truth could be revealed only in a dream.
Claire’s Dream is one of those first season moments that absolutely must be explained before this whole thing ends. I’m not one who needs to have every loose end untangled. I can live with it, for instance, if we never learn why the painting by Thomas the Deadbeat Dad was in Charles Widmore’s office in 1994
when he didn’t paint it until sometime in the early 2000s.
I’m not asking for perfection. I can let that one go. But if the mysteries unleashed in Claire’s Dream aren’t tied up with a neat, tight bow at the end of this show, then I don’t see how any of the rest of it can ever make sense.
Claire’s Dream was more than every pregnant woman’s favorite fantasy that she’s going to wake up and the whole dreadful waddling fat bellied experience will be instantly over. It was more than just the natural fears of a new mom. Her dream was framed as an omen. The baby’s crib was in the monster infested jungle. The baby himself was a cuddly bundle of thick, red blood.
It’s typical for mythic heroes to have their births announced with dreams and prophecies.
In ancient myth, the hero’s mother was, if not a virgin, at least a very young, pure maiden. Little more than a child herself.
Sometimes the father figure was sinister, like Luke Skywalker’s fatha,
and sometimes he was awesome, like Kal El’s,
but sometimes Dad is just somebody everyone would rather forget.
The child Claire was carrying was not ordinary. If they made nothing else clear to us in Season One, that was it. Claire had been to a psychic, a man named Malkin, who nearly had a stroke the first time he held Claire’s open palms. He was so shattered by his vision of the unborn child that his eyes glassed over, kind of like how Locke’s did when he looked into the Eye of the Island.
The problem with watching an episode like this while looking back is that we know what happened to Aaron. We’ve seen him, in all his ordinary suburban kid normality. And, while he’s cute as a bug and everything, he just doesn’t seem to be all that…special.
It really feels at this point in the story that Aaron could go on living the rest of his life in Australia with his coma-proof granny, and nothing in the entire universe would ever be the worse for it. So what was up with all the portents and omens in Claire’s Dream? Was it, as Jack so condescendingly suggested, just a pregnant woman having a hormone attack?
It’s kind of hard to accept that Claire’s Dream was made of oxytocin when you think about the fact that the person she ran into, in the middle of the jungle in the middle of the night,
sitting at her psychic’s table, under her psychic’s lampshade,
… was the great dreamer, Locke. This time with added extra-metaphorical binary colored eyes.
It’s even harder to dismiss Claire’s Dream as an aberration when you consider that the psychic whose table Locke was sitting at was the same psychic who was ultimately responsible for getting Claire onto Flight 815, even paying for and handing her the ticket. He claimed to have found a home for Aaron. He just left out the important detail that his home was Craphole Island.
There was a reason Richard Malkin worked so hard to make sure Claire would be part of the Flight 815 Plane Crash.He was desperate to keep mother and child together, and this was the one sure way to do it. According to him, it was absolutely essential that Aaron never be Raised by Another.
“Raised by another” is not a random prophetic phrase. Being raised by another is maybe the most common trait that all heroes share, whether they’re mythic or comic or somewhere in between. From Oedipus to Moses,
from Peter Parker to Harry Potter
it’s almost de rigeur that a True Hero be Raised. By. Another. So why did Malkin want to make sure Aaron escaped that fate? Did he want to prevent Aaron from having a properly heroic childhood? If that was his goal, it didn’t work. Despite all his best efforts, Aaron ended up being raised by another anyway. Specifically, this Another.
but thus far, the danger surrounding him has failed to materialize. As things stand, he’s still being raised by another. And so far, no horsemen of the Apocalypse have appeared on the horizon. The state of this story really does force us to look at Malkin’s prophecy with a skeptical eye. Where’s the Big Bad that Aaron’s separation from Claire was supposed to unleash? Aaron being raised by another doesn’t seem to have created so much as a wrinkle in the fabric of infinity. Unless it’s all about to start now that Jack has dropped the big bomb, of course.
There have been other Special Boys on Lost. Certainly John Locke meets all the checkpoints: Teenage mama. Absentee dad. Raised by lots of different Anothers. By any metric, Locke is pretty goddamn Special. And yet, so far, all that specialness seems to have ended with a great big pffffffffffffffffffft.
Walt certainly seemed a candidate for specialness at one time, but his star has also dimmed considerably. I have to admit that worries me just a little.
I mean, if they were planning this thing out meticulously from the first moment to the last, you would think the one thing they could have foreseen was the tendency of twelve year old boys to get big.
Maybe we’ve been horribly deceived by this idea of a prophesized child being raised by another. Maybe it’s the other meaning of the double meaning title we should be thinking about. On Lost, we should never ignore the wordplay. It’s not Another who shouldn’t raise Aaron. It’s An Other who shouldn’t raise him. Specifically this Other – the great and powerful Ethan Rom.
What a fun name. It makes me nostalgic for the old days when Lost was still limited to Anagramz 4 Dummiez. Ethan Rom: Other Man. So easy.
Sling Blade Ethan was the perfect introduction to the world of Others. With his square Frankenstein head and his dead, hooded eyes, it’s a wonder we didn’t notice him right away. But initially he blended right in with all the other not-hot no-names that were milling around in Season One. Like Dude With The Rash.
Ethan didn’t stand out any more than RashMan at first.
He was lurking behind Kate at the golf course when she was taking Sawyer’s action.
But why would anybody be looking at Ethan in that shot? It was a classic distraction technique. Watching Ethan go from large anonymous dork to terrifying ogre in the space of two short episodes was another example of how gracefully Season One was written. And of course the hits kept on coming in the following years. Ethan wasn’t just a brute. He was a doctor, of all things, a doctor who had prepared an immaculate subterranean manger for the hero-baby it seemed the Others had been dreaming about for some time.
Ethan’s story would be woven throughout the years, warped and wefted into all the assorted timespaces we’d be visiting. From the creepy looking guy who wasn’t on the manifest, Ethan has evolved into a critical fixture within the ever sprawling plot of Lost.
Other-ness was a concept that felt profound in Season One. If there’s anything worse than being on a deserted island all alone, it’s being on a deserted island with unseen “Others” whispering and hovering just outside your reach. The fear of Others is universal. When Sayid stumbled home from his lost weekend with Madame Rousseau, he uttered the phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of all Earth Men: We are not alone.
Sayid had exiled himself to atone for the evil he’d done. Lost on a deserted island, he sentenced himself to solitary confinement.
His penance was rudely interrupted by that noble savage, Danielle Rousseau – the infamous radio talking Frenchwoman who had been living in her own eerie isolation for sixteen long years.
Somehow after all this time, Rousseau still had charged batteries! Which she had used to create her very own shop of horrors. (Because an electrocution rack is just what you need when you’re living completely alone in the polar bear infested tropics. Natch.) What Rousseau offered Sayid was Instant Karma.
Having just tortured a man days before, for information he didn’t have, Sayid himself was immediately tortured by the crazy French lady – for information he didn’t have. It was, to put it mildly, a bizarre duet between two very solo souls. I half expected it to break down into some kind of kinky sex thing. Danielle had been alone for so long, she couldn’t decide if she wanted to feel Sayid up or stab him with her rusty needles.
Too bad she couldn’t pull herself together a little bit. No romance ever developed between the sexy Iraqi torture meister and the hallucinating French hermit. Consider it an opportunity missed.
Rousseau interrogated Sayid in five languages, asking him “Where is Alex?” in English, German, Spanish, Italian and French. It added to the disorientation as Sayid’s mind spun backwards in time, to another woman whose loneliness had once penetrated his isolation.
Sayid’s great romance with Nadia is another one of those Season One events I found on rewatch that I had misremembered. I had forgotten that, except for some childhood teasing, Sayid hardly ever knew Nadia at all. They had bonded quickly, intimately – in a dirty prison cage. Then, just as they realized they were falling in love, they were separated again.
Impulsively, Sayid sacrificed everything so that Nadia could go free. It’s a kind of love story we’ve seen elsewhere on Lost – a sudden romance and an heroic sacrifice followed only by endless separation. Despite the fact that Sayid soon fell ever so deeply in love with the nearest available blonde cutie,
we in the audience have always accepted that Nadia was his one true love.
The last thing Sayid and Nadia shared, before being parted for most of the rest of their lives, was a quickly scrawled promise on the back of a photo. Nadia wrote to Sayid, “I will meet you in the next life if not in this one.” And although we know they did meet again, very briefly, it is still the next life where their best chances of happiness will lie.
Sayid’s story, like Rousseau’s, like Nadia’s, is one of human isolation, of loneliness endured stoically and heroically. But that is not to say there weren’t windows of happiness in the dark cells of those lives.
He reattached her to her lost humanity by fixing her little Intermezzo music box, the gift from her lover Robert. In Season Five, we finally met young Robert, and we watched Rousseau kill him.
She used the same trick on him that she later used on Sayid – the old remove the firing pin trick.
Except for some reason, she decided to spare Sayid’s life. Why? Rousseau’s memories of what had happened to her crew did not jive exactly with what we later saw in Season Five. The way she described it – that she had to kill her crew because they had become “carriers” – it sounded like they all turned into zombies that had to be destroyed before they destroyed the world.
But what really happened to Danielle’s crew? We saw that they were all sucked, or that they jumped, into the lair of the Monster. And we know that they later re-emerged and tried to explain to Danielle what they had witnessed.
In what way had the Monster “infected” them? Was it like the way the Man in Black “infected” Locke’s empty corpse? What evidence did Rousseau see in her crew that they had been changed into alien beings? Although we’ve seen their fate, we still don’t know what it was that made Rousseau so sure her friends and her lover had to be put to death.
Rousseau was the second character we’d so far met who had been named after a philosopher from the Age of Enlightenment. It was those kind of details that made people start digging around into the minutiae of Lost. In hindsight there really aren’t much about Rousseau, aside from her backwoods camping skills, that bore much resemblance to the philosophy of old Jean Jacques.
There is an interesting interview available with David Fury, where he reveals that the purpose of Rousseau’s scientific expedition was …
“… in an early draft of “Solitary” when Rousseau tells Sayid she had been part of a research team. Sayid asks her what they were researching. She replies: “Time.” “
… but the reference to “Time” had to be deleted for fear of scaring off the sci-fi-phobics in Season One’s mega-sized audience. If this is true, then it’s more evidence, if any is still needed, that time travel discombobulation was what this story was always intended to be about. They just didn’t want us to know that right away.
Keeping us in the dark is Lost’s trademark, but sometimes it strains credibility. Knowing all we know now, it’s hard to see how Rousseau managed to stay so alone for so long. In our years watching this show, there have been jeeps, vans, bulldozers, construction rigs, freighters, sailboats, brigantines, submarines, Beechcraft, Boeing 777s, helicopters, hot air balloons and for all we know flying saucers with little green men in them, traveling on, over, under and around the Island. How did Rousseau miss it all? Sixteen years and she never bumped up against Othertown’s sonic fence until Sayid, Kate and Locke brought her there?
The real reason Danielle was so alone was because the last piece of her, her baby Alex, had been taken away – by Ben, as we now know. And that’s a bleak little substory that has come to a permanently unhappy end. Her child grew up without her mother ever knowing her.
Miraculously, they were one day reunited.
Then Rousseau got shot in the heart.
And her baby was murdered execution style.
With that, the entire crew of the Besixdouze was finally extinct.
It’s a story that won’t be coming with us into Season Six, at least not as anything more than an echo. It was a poignant reminder of the human toll taken by the Island, and of the damage done to the human soul by being too much alone. But it was also an interrupted melody, like so many of the meandering hitchhiking trips this story has taken. It joins the great long list of unanswered, half answered and maybe-never-asked questions of Lost.
Like: Why does a soldier’s conscience torture him when he has done something shameful
but a doctor’s conscience remains clear?
How do we know when our apophenia is getting the better of us? Were we meant to notice the little kid’s shoe
and the little kid’s glasses in these episodes?
Were these subtle hints reminding us of the children that had gone missing?
When the census was being taken in Mr. Reyes’ Neighborhood, how come he didn’t notice there wasn’t anybody named Sawyer on the manifest either?
What exactly did Charlie use to brew the tea? Was it palm frond chai?
Were we meant to notice that Christian Shephard’s children
both had life altering experiences happen in big conference rooms?
Were we meant to notice that sister Claire’s pen refused to embrace her destiny when she was asked to sign away Aaron to the “nice couple” in Sydney?
Were we meant to notice that brother Jack’s pen worked just fine when he was asked to sign on the dotted line swearing to his father’s integrity?
Since Ethan’s family name was Goodspeed, why come he calls himself Rom? Is he ashamed of his pops?
Was it a joke or a clue when Rousseau told Sayid that “there’s no such thing as monsters”?
Wasn’t it strange that Locke didn’t know the Star Trek origins of the term “redshirts”,
when he’d been a Starfleet Commander in a previous life?
These early episodes were filled with foreshadows. The cable that Sayid found on the beach
would one day lead Charlie to his watery grave in the Looking Glass hatch.
There was a sad foreshadow feeling when Kate told Shannon that the safest place her brother could possibly be was with Locke.
Years later Desmond would remind us that he’d been inside that hatch the day Locke and Boone were topside thumping on his geodesic ceiling.
And we didn’t realize they were punking us with a big inside joke when Hurley promised Walt that he was good for twenty thousand buckaroos.
There was no secret about the way the anti-Hero was starting to steal the show in Season One, even in episodes where he only got a few moments of facetime. He gave Hurley the manifest with nothing more than the price of one cute Ghostbusters insult. He flirted with Kate using a righteously witty punchline.
And when he came upon his torturer Sayid, flat and helpless on his back, he held no grudge. He forgave the man who tried to separate his cuticles from his fingertips and he even offered his own atonement. He knew he’d been a jerk.
He let Sayid know he’d been keeping the signal fires burning and showed us that for some people, this whole redemption process maybe wasn’t going to be all that complicated after all.
A Season One mystery that we still don’t much understand is The Whispers. It seems some geniuses, owners of high quality sound equipment, have analyzed and transcripted The Whispers for the edification of us low tech types. I’ll have to take it on faith that this is what the whispers are saying around Sayid:
Male Voice- “Just let him get out of here.”
Male Voice- “He’s seen too much already.”
Male Voice- “What if he tells?”
Female Voice – “Could just speak to him?”
Male Voice- “No.”
Who is the suspicious man and his lady friend who wants to speak to Sayid? Are they people we know? Are they, maybe, another manifestation of the Island’s Adam and Eve?
It wouldn’t be Lost if there weren’t Games being played. Walt and Hurley play backgammon.
Ethan drops Charlie’s finger letters to throw his trackers off his trail. It was like Ethan was a fan of Hangman Spoiler games, only with extra added sadism mixed in.
And of course there is The Golf Game: the prototype for all the daffy, inconsequential sideplots that Lost would use throughout the years to chew up extra screentime.
This was an opportunity for Jack to look cool,
for Charlie to be silly,
and for Noble King Kameha-Hurley to hold court.
Michael lost track of Walt during the golf tournament, giving Walt the chance he’d been looking for to finally bond with his spiritual soul daddy.
There was a kind of father-son-father triangle going on between Locke and Walt and Michael. Michael was clueless as a pater familia, but despite never having a father of his own, Locke knew exactly what a boy needed to learn to become a man,
and he was willing to teach it.
That brings us to the final theme of these episodes, the mythic element that was missing from Claire’s prophetic, heroic dream. The one thing missing from Aaron’s story is the thing that overwhelms the story of his Uncle Jack: the overshadowing spectre of dear old dreadful, drunken Dad.
There are few myths that could get past the first paragraph without some kind of dreadful daddy issue. Daddy Issues are the meat and potatoes of the stories on Lost, but we were just working our way around to all that in Season One.
When Jack gets all suspicious of Kate because she’s a good tracker and he wants to know WHY SHE’S SUCH A GOOD FUCKING TRACKER!!!! (you all remember how adorable these two were in Season One, doncha?), it gives her an opening to tell him the whole “truth” about how her “dad” taught her how to track crazy monsters through the forest,
except for the part where the Army tracker dude wasn’t really her dad and the part where she barbequed the guy who was.
The first time we heard Claire’s baby-daddy bitch about her “daddy abandonment crap”, I’m sure none of us took any special notice. But on a rewatch, that comment sticks out like a very sore thumb.
And in Jack’s episode, the over-titled All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues (subtitled The One Where Jack Kills His Father and Brings Charlie Back from the Dead), center stage went, as it so often did in Jackbacks through the years, to Lost’s Number One Dad:
the illustrious Dr. Christian Shephard, Chief of Surgery at St. Sebastian Hospital, King Ghost of Craphole Island and lifetime member of the Pickled Liver Club.
In most myths, the father of the hero shapes his story. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad, and we won’t run through another whole list of them again, because this image is as good an archetype as any for our purposes here.
The Drs. Shephard had come to a crossroad.
Christian had been drunk, had operated sloppily, and a young woman had died. But before her inevitable death, Jack had been forced to intervene, and had been the doctor on the scene who had to let her go. It was a well chosen moment of conflict between Hero and Father. It embodied two of Jack’s biggest psycho-issues, namely the thing where he can’t stand to fail and the thing where he wants to rip his father’s heart out for being such a heartless, unethical waste case.
It became clear as Jack chased Ethan through the forest, that the whole quest was another metaphor, as most of Jack’s story has tended to be, for the son who wants to hunt down the father and finally make him pay.
Everyone Jack encountered in this episode was a stand-in for Christian. He was getting pissed at Locke for trying to be a know it all about tracking Ethan through the jungle.
Ever since Zeus stopped his father Chronus from cannibalizing his own children, the age old competition of father and son has shaped the story of men.
It’s not uncommon in these myths of manhood for the son to end the madness by finally putting an end to daddy, by killing him. In this Jackback, the second, we watch Jack commit the act of metaphorical murder on his desperate, frightened father.
It’s an interesting ethical dilemma to trace.
At first Jack has agreed to cover up his father’s latest misstep. He surrenders to his father’s frantic pleading. Blood is thicker than whiskey, after all. It’s true that Jack owes all he has and all he is to this man, no matter how decrepit his Hippocratic oath has become. So Jack agrees, reluctantly but of his own free will, to swear to testimony he knows is a lie.
And nothing changes between the moment Jack agrees to protect Christian and the moment he decides to expose him. Jack discovers only that his father kept a piece of information from him, something not medically all that relevant, but just something that Jack didn’t know. The dead woman had been pregnant. And that word – pregnant – always a loaded word on Lost, is the cut that lets Jack drop the guillotine on his father.
You can see Christian’s shock. It really is as if he’s already dead, even though we know he’ll take a long roundabout walkabout before he finally hits the Kings Cross morgue. But for all practical purposes, this is the moment when Jack kills him.
The resolution of father and son doesn’t happen before death for Christian and Jack, the way such myths require.
If they’d resolved things, then there really would never have been any need for this whole big story. That’s the part that’s coming up around this final bend. If we know nothing else, I think we all can feel safe in predicting that the final showdown between Christian and Jack will be a moment to remember in the final moments of Lost.
Jack having the biggest bestest daddy issue marked him once again as the central hero of the tale. But just to make it a little clearer, in case any of us hadn’t yet noticed that the uber-jackiness of Lost was going to be a permanent feature, the hero performed his first miracle.
Ethan had had it with being tracked, and he had no use for the dirty blonde hobbit, so he dispensed with the metaphorical killing and just strung him up by the neck. When Jack and Kate found Charlie hanging from the tree, there was great suspense while they cut him down and Jack tried desperately to revive him. Would this be the first important death on Lost? It certainly seemed like it. Jack’s efforts seemed to be in vain, but he pounded and pounded and pounded and pounded (and somehow didn’t splinter every rib in Charlie’s tiny chest)….
until just when all hope seemed lost, one massive punch finally hit the sweet spot and Lazarus came back to the land of the living!
Resurrection would become a theme of Lost. In fact, Richard Malkin, the same mystic who steered Claire on to Flight 815, showed up in a later episode, in one of those fascinating pre-crash connections between otherwise unrelated characters.
For now, Charlie’s return was just a joyful moment, almost like a Nativity scene for the little trio. And Jack got to cry some happy tears for once, which was a pleasant change for him.
The fun of this mid portion of Season One is watching them build and craft the mythological maze that we all find ourselves still trapped in. We can see some of the dead ends in the labyrinthe now. We have eliminated some of the wild goose chases and are starting to hone in on the goal. Watching these early episodes, seeing how densely they had populated their mythology, it begins to feel even more exciting to think that we are finally about to have this whole mystery revealed to us.