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February 2, 2010

LOST: The Place Where 'Nothing Is Irreversible'

The season premiere for Lost's last season was rich with spiritual imagery

It's been just a few minutes since the season premiere of Lost's sixth and final season ended, and I think I'm going to be scratching my head on this one for a while.


I don't think we've solved the mystery of Locke/The Man in Black/The Smoke Monster yet, but hopefully those answers will continue to unfold in the weeks ahead. This much is certain, though: Nothing is certain. Not on this island, and not in this unpredictable universe. Reality isn't, unreality is, dead people are alive, and living people are dead, and I don't even think 1.21 jiggawatts could send me far enough into the future to figure it all out. At least not yet.

Three images/scenes near the end of this episode really caught my attention . . .

I'm intrigued by what these three scenes might mean. (Again, there be spoilers ahead.)

1) When Jacob (alive or dead?) tells Hurley to bring the dying Sayid to the temple to save Sayid's life, he stresses that Hurley should bring the guitar case. When the guy at the temple opens the guitar case, he finds a large Egyptian symbol called an ankh, which represents new life and/or immortality. The sign is carried by many Egyptian deities in their mythology. Hmm. Jacob seems to have been alive for a long time, Richard never ages, and they're bringing Sayid to this place to give him new life.

2) When they bring the apparently dead Sayid out of the pool, he is in the position often depicted of Jesus when taken off the cross -- prostrate, arms outstretched. I don't want to read anything too messianic into this imagery, but golly -- first a cross-like symbol of eternal life, then sort of a "baptism" in the holy water (baptism represents Christ's death and resurrection), and then, well, the stunning ending. As Hurley would say, "Dude."


3) When Jack meets Locke in the "alternate reality" (I'm not sure what's real, and what isn't) near the end of the episode in LAX, they're both in the Oceanic baggage claim area, looking for "cargo" that the airline lost on the flight (Jack's dad, John's knives). When Jack tells John he's a spinal surgeon, Locke says that his condition is irreversible. Jack, who has always believed he can fix anything, retorts, "Nothing's irreversible." And hoo boy, just a moment later, we find out how true that really is. (Right, Sayid? Dude!)

All three add up to a favorite story about how even death itself isn't "irreversible," in certain contexts. When Aslan comes back to life near the end of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Susan and Lucy ask him, "What does it all mean?" In his reply, Aslan tells them of a "deeper magic" that the White Witch (who had killed him) didn't know about: "Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

No, Sayid's no Aslan; he wasn't a willing victim, and his past life is full of treachery. But I am interested to see what the show's creators are getting at with all of this imagery, all coming within minutes at the end of the episode. So I echo Susan and Lucy by asking, "What does it all mean?" We probably won't know for months, and even then, all of our questions probably won't be answered. But it's fun to speculate.

What do you think it all means?

Related Tags: Lost


Excellent discussion-starter, Mark. A few thoughts:

1) Isn't it interesting that inside the symbol for everlasting life is a list of "chosen ones?" What does this say in the show's continued exploration of free will/predestination?

2) An important point not to miss on Sayid's dip into the water: It's color. The temple folks were shocked to see the water was no longer clear. It was now a blood red. What they didn't know when they saw this is that Jacob was dead. We can guess that his blood spilled into this pool. And that blood saved Sayid. Some will certainly speculate if that pool also made Sayid "into" Jacob as Locke is now the Man in Black...

3) My two cents on a couple of your questions: I think we do know quite a bit about Fake Locke now. He is certainly the Man in Black who also is certainly Smokey. And is he is not a what. He is a who...one that wants to go home. To me, this echos again of Satan vs. God. Satan wants to re-enter Heaven. Also, I think Jacob is definitely dead. After all, Jacob is the one who told Hurley that his ability to see the dead is a blessing...a blessing because Jacob knew it would come in handy! Now whether Jacob STAYS dead is the big question. (And I say no....)

There are also a great deal of assumptions being made based on things the writers are showing us. Color of clothing, bits of dialogue, lighting, etc all are influencing our assumptions about Jacob and MIB. We don't really KNOW who is good and who is evil. They are working very hard to make us THINK certain things but, as we've learned with this show, things aren't always as they seem.

Excellent thoughts--the black smoke mimics the cloud and smoke with the Israelites in the wilderness. However, the fact that it's evil in this context is possibly satan imitating God's power (only perverting it into an evil way, of course).

I agree with the idea that the physical Sayid is now really Jacob, in the same way Locke is now the guy I call "Esau".

I think that Jacob is crucial, the leader or symbol of "good", we'll see if that means "God" or not. In any case, it seems Jacob and Esau were "old friends", but now Esau wants to kill Jacob. Esau also says his goal is to "go home"? Is home... like a heaven that he has been kicked out of? Similar to God and Satan?

On the island you have those that follow Jacob, however sometimes they are confused and end up taking orders from Esau. They never SEE Jacob, and yet he guides them. Jacob believes there is one end to everything and he guides humanity towards that end, unperturbed by the various apparent mishaps that happen along the way. there seems to be a sort of sovereignty that is able to guide the ultimate end of what seems to be acts of free choice along the way.

Esau has to find a "loophole" to kill Jacob - and yet Jacob also seems to have helped things come to this point, and he seems to die quite willingly. Like Jesus? You have already pointed out the symbolism in Sayid's death and resurrection.

Also interesting that the characters are always trying to get things back to how there were at the beginning - and now this alternative universe seems to be showing that even if things WERE back to the way they started, even our idealized lives are empty and without meaning. Only in this world of suffering and redemption are the characters finding real meaning.... sort of like Leibnitz's ideas of this being the "best of all possible worlds" despite our great suffering?


Kacie, I think you and I are on the same page. As of now, I am also reading a lot of Satan's rebellion against God into this story. The disagreement over humans. Man in Black's deception compared to Jacob's emphasis on free will. The desire to overtake God and return "home." The willing sacrifice. In fact, I really like how even when it looks like the Man in Black has won, Jacob already had a plan in motion (the six touched survivors, having Hurley in place with a pre-written list, etc.)

I also like that you brought in the idea of not being content with life on the island and doing anything to change it--to get back to "normal" life. That aspect to LOST always reminded me of 'The Great Divorce': Characters from hell visit heaven, but their emptiness, sin, self-absorption and resistance to let go caused them to hate it and want to go back...to hell!

One last thought: The producers have confirmed that this very idea of selfish change of the past is behind this season: "[The survivors of 815] are so self-centered, they thought the only effect [of detonating the bomb] was going to be that their plane never crashes. But they don’t stop to think, “If we do this in 1977, what else is going to affected by this?” When our characters posited the “What if?” scenario, they neglected to think about what the other effects of potentially changing time might be. We will say this: season 6 is not about time travel. It’s about the implications, the aftermath, and the causality of trying to change the past."

I too keep seeing signs that Jacob is supposed to be like God and the MIB is sort of like a Satan figure. It's hard to miss. I wonder if the baptism/jacuzzi scene with Sayid will have him feeling redeemed from his past as a torturer. He was so haunted by the sins he had committed. He even said "no one can help me now." I wonder what he will believe when we see him again. And I too think Jacob is indeed dead. But I don't think he will stay that way.

I love this show!

Another good point to remember: Locke/MIB expressed disgust over and almost ridiculed Locke for his last words -- "I don't understand." Those are the same words (by memory -- maybe only similar words) of the Bear in C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle. The Bear later is resurrected and gets to go with Aslan, and the narrator comments that it didn't matter to him anymore that he didn't understand.

I'll wager that Sayid is *not* Jacob. The importance of Sayid is that he was touched by Jacob like the others. Jacob clearly made careful choices and needs everyone he touched.

In the Bible it states that Jacob's last born son was called Benjamin. Something else for you to think about!

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