This is it, folks. We’ve finally come to the end of the beginning of LOST. It’s taken me longer than expected to finish this Reset Rewatch, but I’m sure you all can understand. What with the job and the kids, the holidays, the houseguests, the online outbreaks of hiatus induced hysteria … nothing is ever as easy as you think it’ll be.
The original purpose of my Reset Rewatch was to go back across old terrain with an eye towards the future, to try and glean some clues perhaps hidden in the Season One pirate’s map that might point towards the buried treasure chest of LOST secrets that’s finally about to be uncovered.
Walt’s capture by the fiendish Others.
The jawdropping awe of seeing the Black Rock for the first time .
Aaron’s first post-birth kidnapping.
The assumption of Arzt into heaven.
And of course, the blowing open of the Swan Hatch –
– the big hole that would be our entrance into the labyrinth which would end up at that same big hole at the end of Season Five, this time being blown up from the inside out.
We watched Walt and Michael grow from angry strangers to a father and son bound by more than mere DNA. In trying to decode the mystery of his very special boy, Michael had begun to unlock the secrets to himself.
is exactly how it all turned out anyway.
Charlie started his journey as the kind of soulless junkie who would beat up a woman for a one inch ball of smack.
Jack’s progress towards becoming the Supreme Leader of the survivors was the most predictable story arc, but it was coherent and also real. People had sought psychological shelter under the umbrella of the AMA approved Captain America, and he had truly grown into the role.
And like the unflappable hero he’d become, Jack took it right in stride when the good Doctor Artz ended up as nothing more than a glob of schmutz on his T shirt.
He had subtly but miraculously morphed over the course of the season from a self centered asshole and destroyer of families
Jack and Sawyer, the yin yang man candy of LOST, had their very own iconic moment in this episode.
Jack and John, the same named pair at the core of the story, together form the two halves of LOST’s true OTP – One True Protagonist.
Neither carries the story alone and neither makes much sense without the other. Their discussion just before opening the hatch may well turn out to contain the whole story of LOST in its nutshell.
LOCKE: Do you think we crashed on this place by coincidence — especially, this place? We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason.
JACK: Brought here? And who brought us here, John?
LOCKE: The island. The island brought us here.
LOCKE: Boone was a sacrifice that the island demanded. What happened to him at that plane was a part of a chain of events that led us here — that led us down a path — that led you and me to this day, to right now.
JACK: And where does that path end, John?
LOCKE: The path ends at the hatch. The hatch, Jack — all of it — all of it happened so that we could open the hatch.
JACK: I don’t believe in destiny.
LOCKE: Yes, you do. You just don’t know it yet.
This conversation felt, at that given point in time, like the distillation of what LOST was going to be about – faith, fate and the eternal question of whether or not there exists such a thing as free will. Years later, and many meandering plot lines under the bridge, it all feels much less clear to me than it did back then. Jack, circa Season One, did not believe in Destiny. Jack, circa Season Five, had so much blind faith in Destiny that he was willing to drop a hydrogen bomblet into a hole beneath his feet just because the Destiny Fairy told him to. I have to admit I don’t get it.
But such an idea is unacceptable to our psyches. We refuse to even consider the possibility that all of the decision making and contemplating and opinionating we fill our lives with is fundamentally irrelevant.
In ancient times, mankind didn’t dwell too much on the complications of this question. They made it simple. Instead of Destiny, they put their faith in the unalterable Will of God. People had free will – they could either choose to obey the Will of God, and be rewarded forever in the land of milk and honey, or they could choose to transgress against the Will of God, and enjoy a nice long vacation in the fiery pits of hell. I’m really not sure if “free” applies to this kind of choice, but that’s as far as the old timers cared to think it through. For them all the free choice belonged to God, and it was up to him to pick which people he’d designate as The Chosen Ones.
This final episode of Season One was named Exodus, after the second book of the biblical Old Testament. This ponderous book begins with the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, exiled – much like our Losties – in a land where they do not belong and are not wanted. When it comes to iconic moments, the biblical Exodus is a book filled with some of literature’s greatest – the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea for the Chosen People, God’s delivery to Moses of the famous Ten Commandments and the endless journey of the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land, the place that Moses is allowed to see … but never enter.
This episode is filled with winks and nods to the great Book. First of all, and most obviously, this was the episode where Aaron receives his name. Claire first blurts it out almost as if someone else is speaking through her. She tells Sun she doesn’t know what it means, and the implication is that she doesn’t know why she has chosen it. It’s almost like her baby was destined to be named Aaron, which would be all the more ironic given that Claire states plainly that Destiny is something that she, like her brother from another mother, doesn’t believe in. But in the Old Testament, whatever else the name may mean, Aaron is the faithful and ever helpful brother of Moses, the great hero of the Book of Exodus.
In Exodus 2:22, Moses calls himself “a stranger in a strange land” and I’m not sure if you remember, or if you want to remember, but that just happens to be exactly the title of the episode where we learned the meaning of Jack’s sexy and beautiful tattoos.
We’ve also heard Jack referred to directly as Moses – by Naomi, in Through the Looking Glass. Is it possible that is a connection we’ll see revisited? Or was that whole cultural reference played out the first time Jack (didn’t) lead his people off the Island?
Once the Israelites were given the ok to head out across the Red Sea, the Lord took on the form of “pillar of smoke” to lead them along the way.
And all the people saw the smoky pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man at his tent door. And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. – Exodus 33: 10-11
Smoke is all over this episode – in the way Arzt disappears in a puff of it, in the way the Hatch is blown, in the way the Raft is obliterated.
Rousseau identified the Smoke Monster as the Island’s “security system”. Locke had a different experience. First the Monster stared straight down into his soul through his goggle eyes, as it had in Walkabout.
It might be a good place here to go into all the ways Rousseau’s story was later illustrated for us, all the way from Montand’s stray arm to the murder of her crew, but sadly there just isn’t time to cram in everything that might be said about this episode. Suffice to say the writers could have made Rousseau’s story consistent with the past version, but they chose for whatever reason to make it slightly different. But the tragic essence remains: one way or another The Smoke ate Rousseau’s crew.
“I had no choice. They were already lost. What would have happened if we were rescued? I couldn’t let that happen. I won’t.”
Jack was more successful than Rousseau in freeing his man. He had the bright idea to drop a stick of dynamite down the hole … which miraculously caused the Smoke Monster to race through its tunnels and flee back out into the jungle sky.
This plan worked so well for them that I wonder why they never followed through on the implications. If the Smoke Monster could be chased away by common explosives, didn’t that indicate a certain vulnerability to natural forces? Or maybe I’m not giving Jack enough credit. Maybe he did remember it. Maybe deep in the back of his mind, he had retained the idea that dropping massive explosives blindly into open holes can somehow make things all right.
“That same night I will pass through Egypt and kill the first-born son in every family and the first-born male of all animals. I am the Lord, and I will punish the gods of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:12
The Old Testament is a tale dripping with blood and gore. When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, the Lord connived with Aaron to mess with his head. The Egyptians were afflicted with boils and lice and blood pouring out of the sky like rain, but it wasn’t until the Lord commanded the angel of death to slaughter the firstborn males of each Egyptian family that Pharoah’s heart was finally turned. Of all the loathsome plagues that the Egyptians were willing to endure, it was only the loss of all the little boys that was too much to bear.
The Old Testament God was a fearsome, heartless God of draconian lawgiving and smiting and punishments and damnation. And yet the story of the Israelites is that, through the suffering they endured in their long exile, they came to worship and exalt him. They built him a tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, to carry His laws that they’d sworn to uphold.
And even though we haven’t been able yet to determine which god the Islanders are meant to serve, it seems pretty clear that they’re being forced one by one to submit to the Will of a higher power. We can call it Destiny if we like, but it’s really just semantics. The only “destiny” that Jack is learning to follow is the Destiny that the Island’s higher power wants him to follow.
The Israelites exalted God after the Red Sea had parted for them. They celebrated the death of their enemies in the famous Song of the Sea. Another guy who sang a song about the Exodus was the great Bob Marley.
Working happily on the raft, Sawyer sang a few lines from a different Marley song, “Redemption Song”.
Sort-of-bad ones have gotten off mostly scot free.
I can’t even think what redemption would mean anymore for most of them. Perhaps it will come back around somehow. Or maybe they’re going for something entirely different. In “Redemption Song”, the singer is seeking the redemptive power of freedom – not freedom from his own sins, but from the sins of his oppressor.
Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit. – Redemption Song
We have yet to learn the story of the Black Rock, of the slaves that were on it, how they were brought there, whether some of them lived, and maybe thrived, and maybe became the ancestors of those we know now as The Others. But we did see people trying to break free.
These songs of freedom
Are all I ever heard. – Redemption Song
Before boarding the plane, Jin has a very unpleasant encounter with a creepy dude in the men’s room.
Time is one of the major, major themes of LOST – though in what way, and to what end, none of us understand. Hurley seems to be a kind of TimeMaster, the keeper of the Numbers with which we count the seconds, minutes, hours of our lives.
There are dozens of theories out there as to what these time travel spirals are all going to mean in the end. To make sense, to have been worth our while, it needs to tie in somehow to the other themes of the show – to the concept of Destiny and Fate and Free Will and Redemption and all that other good stuff. So, how could that possibly work?
One theory that appeals to me is the Block Universe theory of time, where all points in time are relative to one another. A moment is in the past only with respect to some other moment, which we can arbitrarily call the present, but relative to some other moment in the past that same moment could just as easily be in the future. Similarly, that which we call the future can only be experienced as it exists in some moment that will exist in the present, and will be the past to some other moment we designate as future to it. I know it sounds really complicated, which is why I always like to let Billy Pilgrim explain it.
“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. – Slaughterhouse Five
It feeds very neatly into the discussion of fate and free will that LOST has dwelled on. If all points in time are fixed, and we only traverse across them willy nilly, then there isn’t much point to making choices. Is there?
I’ve often thought that this, in some form or other, is where LOST is headed, but they’ve left themselves so many open doors, I’m no longer sure of it. There’s also the idea of alternate realities, of parallel universes coexisting simultaneously, but I admit that makes even less sense to me. Which makes it all the more likely that the writers will be springing exactly that brand of mind frak on us next season. I guess we have to keep an open mind going into the finale season. What it always comes down to on LOST is learning to think outside of the box.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear of atomic energy,
Cause none of them can stop the time.– Redemption Song
Speaking of boxes, and of atomic energy, and of time, it all brings us back around to the place this story has so often returned to: The Swan Hatch. When that hatch was opened at the end of the episode, and LOST’s gigantic Season One audience realized they were going to be kept on edge for months before they’d learn what was inside, there was a collective howl of frustration that you probably could have heard out on the street if you’d listened for it. It’s different for us now. We know that this guy was down there.
“…But truthfully, when we started it, we didn’t know exactly what was in the hatch. We had ideas, but we didn’t know to what extent it would be. The notion of The Others was there, but we didn’t know exactly what that would mean. Damon hadn’t come up with the idea of flash forwards yet. To see where we are and what they’ve created is insanely gratifying and it’s something that no one could have predicted, at the beginning of it. The evolution of it is really part of their glorious experiment of taking a show that we were all, at the beginning, saying, “How do you make this a series?”
Do you realize what that statement means? They really were making it up as they went along! They could have done anything with that Hatch!
Luckily for us, they chose wisely. And considering the epic work of imagination they managed to spin out of the raw materials of Season One, it doesn’t really matter that they didn’t know where they were going. But it does make you wonder, as you try to read into the many motifs and themes and apparent symbols within the story: What did they know and when did they know it?
Hurley guessed that the Hatch might be filled with clean socks and hot showers and food, and whaddayaknow? He was totally right.
Locke believed the Hatch was filled with Hope. I’m not sure if that was just a careless remark or if it was a meaningful reference to Pandora’s Box – the box that unleashed all forms of evil and pestilence upon mankind, due to the careless act of a stupid, curious girl, but which was slapped shut just in time to trap one thing inside it – Hope. It’s one of mankind’s many misogynist creation myths, and it kind of fits with the anti-woman vibe LOST has often adopted, but was it an intentional reference or a one off? After all, the Hope inside Pandora’s Box isn’t a particularly useful kind of Hope, since – you know, you’re not allowed to ever open the box.
What about some of the other mysteries we’ve seen? In this episode we see Locke, with characteristic LOST style irony, waiting to board the plane because the airline could not find it’s “special” wheelchair. Simply put, Locke pre-815 was defined as “not special”. It was the Island that had made him “special”. That was his whole story, right?
Another big question: For all the parsing and philosophizing that’s been done about the meaning of black and white on LOST –
– given that this is the least morally absolute storyverse I’ve ever visited … is it possible we’ve overlooked the most literal interpretation of black and white? The simplest one that they laid out for is in Season Five’s finale.
Here’s another question that bugs me:
It was so freaking important in Season One. Don’t you ever wonder where it is now? Does Kate carry it around in her pocket, like Jack’s Adam and Eve stones? Will it turn up someday for a big Oh, Snap! moment? Or did they just decide it was too stupid to mention again?
Speaking of Kate, why do the writers hate her so much? When she drew the short straw, that meant she’d be one of the two carrying the dynamite from the Black Rock to the hatch.
And clearly they had plans for this couple. Look at this ad campaign that they filmed between Seasons One and Two.
What were they going for? It made it look like Season Two was going to be about Jack having a threesome with two greasy lesbians.
But enough with the quibbles. This was a magnificent episode and a superb capstone to an historic television season. The Book of Exodus opens with an episodic section where plague upon plague is visited upon the Egyptians, in an escalating iteration, until finally the Pharaoh gives up and allows the Chosen People to go free. This episode of Exodus borrows some of this episodic feeling by threading the various stories of the survivors through the story, showing us what each of them did in the hours and minutes before they boarded the plane.
The Book of Exodus is about, more than anything else, a journey.
The beach crowd is traveling to the caves, to be safe from the smoke bearing Others. The gang of four on the raft is trying to escape – hopelessly it turns out – the snowglobe of the Island’s immutable Will.
Jack’s crew journeys into the jungle to find the dynamite and they discover the wreck of the Black Rock.
But no worries. The end is nigh. And no matter how we feel about, whether we love it or hate it or never ever understand what the hell it all was about, one thing we can count on. It’s ending. And for better or worse, we’ve been promised: It only ends once.