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Pondering the Wheel – Twist or Rip-Off?

By docarzt,

  Filed under: Lost Theories
  Comments: 43

frznwheel.jpgSo the “Frozen Donkey Wheel” has come and gone, and the reactions seem to range from delighted to bemused to downright venomous.  Personally, I thought it was awesome.

From where I’m sitting, the wheel was a big twist in the regards that the Orchid station, as it turned out, really wasn’t responsible for moving the island.  The scene essentially took the thunder from the hands of Dharma and put it back into the hands of the mysterious ‘original’ occupants of the island.

Ben’s comment on the station being for ‘silly experiments’ was the first clue.  He openly acknowledged there was some time travel with bunnies going on, which is far from silly, but the real magic of the place was what it was built around:  an ancient machine that had the capability of teleporting an entire island.

All at once it is easy to see why Ben may have not been that interested in the Swan, let alone the Dharma Initiative’s attempts to control and manipulate the forces on the island.  Someone had already done it, a long time ago, or perhaps a long time in the future if you want to be more surreal about it.   Either way, Ben’s lack of respect for Dharma is well founded.  The Orchid had nothing to do with moving the island, it was merely an attempt to gracefully, and safely, duplicate what the wheel room was capable of doing.

This, for me, was the big point of the scene and the indication of what may come to be the central point of the mythology as the show moves along, that there was a race present who had somehow mastered the island’s special properties, if not created them, and it is the various groups of people (beings?) who have jockeyed to have possession of their boon that comprise the mosaic.   The question is… who are they?  The four toes?  Aliens?  What were the others building on Alcatraz island?  Was Juliet correct when she said “a runway,” regardless of whether it sounded like she was joking?

In every way the scene was dripping with LOST’s device of not-so-subtle symbolism.  Ben punches through the teleportation chamber wall, a wall built by the plundering scientists of the Dharma Initiative, to get to the true magic behind. The scene lives on the pivot between reason and faith, empiricism and magic, yet tips the entire argument over into a more murky discussion.  Whether it is magic or science, there is a machine of some intelligent design that controls it.

It’s worthwhile to think about the true purpose of a Donkey Wheel.  The real device was a Donkey (naturally) powered well pump.  The purpose was to draw water from a deep well.  Could the machine really have no mechanics other than to bring up some ‘magical’ substance?  Is the end all explanation for the island’s magical powers based around a magic potion sort of construct.  Alien jet fuel? Cosmic soup? Leftover lube of creation?  That is a question the cruel masters of LOST will probably save for the end.

  • I agree Doc. The wheel was awesome. Just like the secret room behind Ben’s secret room – at the heart of all things Dharma are the Island’s “original inhabitants”. I think this bodes fantastically for the next two seasons. All of us steampunk fans are loving this. I think Locke in the coffin was great as well. This episode may cause some fans to throw their hands up, but it lifted my heart up because it was an indisputable nod to the mythology and sci fi side of the show.

  • jayh

    LOVED IT! No question about it.

  • boonesghost

    Call me crazy, but when I saw Jack and Ben standing there with John in the coffin, I immediately thought “LOST spin-off- Weekend at Johnny’s.” The plot would center around Jack and Ben parading around L.A. with a dead John Locke, trying to figure out how they’re going to get his body on a plane without anyone noticing.

  • Matt4

    It was much cooler than I thought it would be.

  • Michael

    Of course you thought it was awesome. you are so immersed in this show that for you up is down and down is up. How would you ever be able to be objected. Fans are the worst to seek opinions from.

  • jimmy ze00

    I would watch an entire season of that. Just imagine dead Locke doing that smirk thing he does with a cig hanging out of his mouth, shades, and some kind of wacky hat on while he’s propped in the corner at some rad malibu party, but all dead and stuff.
    The wheel was great. Anything pertaining to the ancient(?)people who built all of the weird machinery and architecture on the island is super-duper with me. I only hope that that particular aspect of the show finally gets explored in depth next season.

  • lockefan3805

    For anyone who does not think that the Frozen Donkey Wheel was just completely awesome….well…you need awesome lessons!

  • MrKong

    So you must’ve skipped Doc’s review of Meet Kevin Johnson then? Desktop Jockeys are the worst to seek critical feedback from…

  • Michael

    MrKong, get off of his jock. You don’t get a gold star for being the biggest suck up. Show some dignity. Wipe your chin, take your money off the dresser and leave.

  • milo

    I thought it was fine…shame it was one of the things that got spoiled.

  • DocArzt

    I’m completely objective. I’ve been very critical when needed and have complaints now. What I’m not going to do is become one of the Toxic fans that Damon talks about who give a knee-jerk reaction and don’t think things through. Like LF108. According to him Locke is being brought to the island to be resurrected and the wheel was just a wheel. We haven’t heard the last of the wheel. Remember, the snakes and jewish bread products, and now donkey wheels, are the BEGINNING of story lines, not the end. If Damon and Carlton leave it at the wheel, I’ll be back here a year from now bitching with everybody else. But this is the beginning, not the end.

  • Chemicalroad

    Bottom line, the big-ass frozen wooded wheel was awesome (very Conan-like). Did you feel it? What: The struggle of Ben using every once of energy he had, complete with an arm injury (fully varifying the Tunisia landing), crying, knowing this is truly the end of his rule, thinking of his dead daughter, knowing he must do this for the good of the island! Beautiful, and sad.
    All these clues, hieroglyphics, wooden wheel, Adam and Eve, four toe-ed statue foot (probably destroyed by DI since,

  • LostintheUK

    I thought it was great. Raised more questions than it answered whilst simultaneously had you on the edge of your seat desperately hoping the camera would pan up, or around to give you more details, more clues, more thrills – forgive my ignorance, but I’m not sure what more one could want from a scene from a Lost season finale. My eyes were glued………I should know, I glued ’em!

  • LostintheUK

    Maybe Atlantis didn’t sink at all, maybe it teleported….where/when do we think the island has gone? It moves within both space AND time (a la Ben needing to confirm the year with the seriously non-Tunisian receptionist in Tunisia) so would it be preferable to Ben/Jacob to move the island though space OR time OR both?

  • UKLostit

    At first i just though he was going into some sort of Dharma “matter” coolant freezer and had to get to the source, for the big one. Then i seen the hieroglyphics WOW, the wheel made the scene incredible watching Ben struggle his leadership life away like that weeping.Boo Hoo
    Why the mad rush though, Ben knew that the freighter was going down there was heaps of time!

  • Am I only to notice an interesting parallel? Micheal was freezing the battery to stop a reaction while Ben was going to a frozen place to possibly start one. Could the island movingg be some kind of weird chemical reaction?

  • LostintheUK

    For me, I think now one of the most interesting questions is what happens between Ben turning the wheel, and Ben materialising in the desert. He has Dr Halliwax’s coat on, and his arm is still bleeding, so one has to assume that, for Ben at least, very little time has transpired. We know he didn’t get zapped to the desert straight away as Nadia’s funeral is still months/years in the future, so why does Ben look, in the desert, exactly the way he looks at the turning of the wheel? What happens to Ben and the Island in that time? It looks to me as though time has carried on normally for the Oceanic Six and the world at large, but for Ben at least, time appears to have frozen at the moment the island disappeared…(?)

    What do you guys think?

  • Mrs. Desmond Hume

    Again Michael Emerson is incredible! His expression of anguish as he turned the wheel was so perfect. And doc ignore the jerks, you ROCK!

  • LostintheUK

    …..oh yeah and remember all the steam/vapour coming off Ben when is lying on the desert ground – just like when u take something out the freezer…he even has snow on his shoes and by his feet…

  • TaraLivesOn

    The concept/scene was great!

    I just would have liked to seen it more complex/larger
    and perhaps not sounding like cheap plastic when Ben put
    the crowbar through the hole. Did the foley folks mess up?

    They should have made the spokes of the turnstile look more rustic.
    The ice also looked too much like candy glass. Did they rush it?

    Unless perhaps it’s not something old but something alien, like
    a trapped spaceship at the center of the island – but that would
    be silly, right?

  • LostintheUK

    Hey Tara, if you want unconvincing effects, check out the shot of Sayid looking out his window for fuel leaks in the helicopter…..yikes! 🙂

  • Jon

    I thought it was great… and yeah, extremely tragic at the same time.

    The fact that a simple wooden wheel seems to play with a rip in the fabric of space-time is far more potent dramatically than if it was some behemoth of a machine, with blinking lights and whirs. At least in my opinion anyway. The latter has been done to death and is a bit cheesy 🙂

  • WLN

    It’s really very simple. The wheel is designed to hoist the anchor that is securing the island to the bottom of the ocean. Turn wheel, anchors away, island moves…

    … oh, I forgot to mention. We didn’t see the part where Ben started up the inboard jet motors causing the island to speed off into the sunset. That’s a flashback in Season Five.



  • Charlie’s Ghost

    “BarstowSteve said: Am I only to notice an interesting parallel? Micheal was freezing the battery to stop a reaction while Ben was going to a frozen place to possibly start one. Could the island movingg be some kind of weird chemical reaction?”

    -i think this is a brilliant observation man. i totally missed the connection. well done!!

  • sk8rpro

    Well, I’m going to go against the flow and say I didn’t like it. While I understand Lost is unrealistic – everything they have done seems believable (even the Swan station because it had this Cold War feel to it) – but the Donkey Wheel being in charge of moving the Island does not suspend my will of disbelief. I’m not going to criticize people for liking it, but for me, it didn’t seem believable.

    However, Michael Emerson did a GREAT job acting that scene – props to him for that.

  • The Professor

    I am pro-donkey wheel. It had a great Promethean kind of vibe to it, which was nice played against by Michael Emerson, the little-man-who-can. I wish we’d been able to see more of it. And am I crazy, but did the sounds/visual closely resemble what happened when the Swan station imploded? Was the Swan there partly to keep the Island from moving by harnessing that electro-magnetic energy?

  • AliKzam

    I, too, loved that scene. The impression I got from the wheel, however, was that it was one of those devices on a ship to raise the anchor. This sort of explained to me why the Black Rock was in the middle of the Island.
    By the way, has anyone seen Brigadoon? The priest of Brigadoon prayed to God to bring his village a miracle to save it from the evils of the world. In order for that to happen, a sacrifice had to be made, and the priest could never return to Brigadoon again!
    Loved it!

  • Clickjaw

    Why does everyone assume that when Ben walked throught the broken-open back wall of the orchid time pod that he didn’t step through a wormhole to the north pole or something. Kind of like the vile vortices theory.

    Who knows maybe depending upon what substance one puts in the pod dictates where one can go. The north pole just happens to be the place that a person can turn the gears of time and change up the vortices.

    I don’t know?

  • talkingwires

    “I’m completely objective. I’ve been very critical when needed and have complaints now. What I’m not going to do is become one of the Toxic fans that Damon talks about who give a knee-jerk reaction and don’t think things through. Like LF108.”

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  • jimmy ze00

    Keeping with the anchor theory, my thought is that when the wheel is turned, the island is sort of released from spacetime. What I think I mean is, the island temporarily ceases to be grounded to any one point in space or time. It’s not nessecarily “moving,” it may just be adrift. And since the island has popped out of the timeline, once it returns, the planet will have rotated at least a little bit and therefore, the island will physically reappear elsewhere on the planet. It would probably only have to be moved about 5 feet to either side to effectively recloak it and change the safe entry bearing.

    Another theory that I’ve seen around here is that when activated, the wheel will possibly flip the island to the other side of the planet, More or less the exact OPPOSITE side of the planet than where it was before. That’s a cool theory and sort of plays into the duality thing.

    One last little thought. Perhaps the island is like a person in a fashion can’t temporally unstick itself and restick itself safely without a constant? And since this is a huge, possibly sentient island we’re talking about, maybe it needs a whole lot of constants.

  • jimmy ze00

    Clickjaw, have you considered that Ben was loading the pod with metal in an attempt to destroy it, so that Widmore or Dharma or whatever wouldn’t be able to somehow use it to find or reach the island? That’s how I saw it.

  • What can I say? I just loved the fact that the “frozen donkey wheel” was literal! I had to pause the TiVo I was laughing so hard at that. 😉

  • 1miletogo

    I like the thought that the wheel actually is like a pressure valve, when opened it caused the island to time jump. We can assume that others have been there since there is a lantern hanging there. Maybe the wheel moved by itself at one time and was frozen to stop the island from shifting through time.

    I like the thought that the island appeared under the black rock causing it to be land locked. I wonder if when the Swan imploded if the island at that time was shifted.

    I think DHARMA was in over their heads…

  • Dan Berry

    I’m never reading spoilers again. Not worth it. I loved the episode. It was different, mainly because the show is changing, but I didn’t expect another WE HAVE TO GO BACK. That’s once in a life time. But I can say that next season will be intense and Dharma coming back makes me happy.

    I’m going to actually/coincidentally be at Comic Con when the Octagon Recruiters are there!!!

  • DustinCahill


  • johr77

    i think they used polar bears
    to turn the wheel at some time 🙂

  • Charlie’s Ghost

    Do you guys notice the smaller rocks sitting on the shelf, right above where the wheel turns? (in the pic above, in this post) I wonder if these are markers of some sort to indicate how many times the island has been moved previously. Maybe just a stretch…

  • SithLord

    May the literal frozen donkey wheel live forever! Better than that though, was the fight between Sayid and Keamy. That was awesome.
    I was dissapointed that Smokey or Jacob never made an appearance.
    It wasnt as good as last seasons finale, but Hurley coming to the rescue in a VW is hard to top.

  • oyvind

    I don’t think the donkey wheel is ancient, or, it depends. I think it was created in the far future, when science was hugely ahead of 2004. The island was then moved far back in time, to what we call ancient times, explaining the hieroglyphs. That may have been when the donkey wheel was put in, if the high tech stuff was broken.

  • DocArzt

    Look at it Oy… it’s old. Like me. 🙂

  • i-spie

    Two points of interest to me:

    1. The glyphs

  • heythereyourself

    Crazy theory here, what if the island is an alien spaceship. All the Dharma stations seem to be cover-ups for something else, i.e. the Swan Station for what ever was behind that cement wall, in Ben’s house (and oddly enough John Locke’s house) in New Otherton, has a secret room behind a secret room where presumably smokey is either controled or released either way the room is tied to smokey, and now the orchid which Dharma used for time-travel expeierments, but low and behold it is actually a coverup for a place that has the capabilities to move the island. All of these places have the same heiroglypics and seem to appear pretty primative but at the same time seem to house extremely advanced technology.
    I believe that this was mentioned before, but a lot of people believe that there was alien involvement in the Mayan and Egyptian cultures or at least in the creation of the pyramids. note that these civilaizations also used heiroglypics. Now I’m not talking little green men, but some sort of alien life form, because the Others obviously have some powers that are a little out of this world. Also there is a cover-up nobody off the island is to speak of the island and everyone on the island(the others) do whatever they can to keep the islands location a secret. The reason that the do not want anyone to find the island, because of the fear of what “man” will do will all the power that the island provides. As usual I am all over here, so I apologize for the randomness. Jeremy Bentham, which apparently is John’s off-island alias, I have read (see Nik at Night blog) was a man, in very short, who came up with this idea of a prison where the prisoners where being observed constantly, but did not now when or where. I know that is a pretty loose desciption, but someone mentioned it before after last year’s seson finale. At the time I thought it that sounded like the station (I forget the name)where all the other Dharma stations were being observed. Now I think that the island is the “watchmen” and the “prisoners” are everyone else on earth. That would explain why they have extremely detailed files on everyone and i mean everyone. I know that this thoery leaves room for a lot of holes to be poked through, but I really think I may be on to something. Thoughts?

  • maddie

    someone above mentioned that polar bears may have pushed the wheel in the past, this would make sense as to why a polar bear ended up in tunisia, and ben as well. Maybe Dharma were the people who kept the polar bears, maybe they knew more than we give them credit for.