Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Lost" thoughts on Thursday: of fate, choice and whether miracles can happen

(Editor's note: There was no new episode of ABC's "Lost" last night, but that doesn't preclude those of us here at The Party from advancing an over-thought, rambling post about the direction of the show and some other literature and theology. You have been warned.)
(Another note: I'm currently watching "Paparazzi" on FX -- is it bad that every time I see Cole Hauser I'm expecting him to shout, "Mitch Kramer! Mitchy, Mitchy, Mitchy! We're lookin' for you, pal!"? I can't be alone here.)

Like many of the geeks who follow this show obsessively -- as well as the geeks who once took copious hours of English classes, and yeah, I'm in both groups -- my primary concern while watching has been hunting for themes. With the 100th episode looming for next Thursday, I see three themes intertwining themselves throughout thus far.

Theme No. 1: "If we can't live together, we're going to die alone."
Theme No. 2: Is our destiny pre-ordained? Do we really have a choice?
Theme No. 3: "If we don't wrap this up soon, all our actors are going to start leaving and we're gonna be in deep (expletive)."

We've tackled theme No. 1 before, although more has developed since then and we probably need to delve deeper into it at a later date. And theme No. 3 is relatively obvious.

So let's deal with fate vs. choice. Essentially, this entire season of "Lost" has been an attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery that plagued Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.
Jenny, I don't know if Momma was right or if, if it's Lieutenant Dan. I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.
It's something that deep thinkers have always pondered. For example, I'm currently reading through "No Country for Old Men," which I picked up only because I saw the film and was so confused about what was taking place I felt entitled to further explanation.
Without getting too much into the plot of that story, what's taking place in that story is a not-so-subtle game of fate vs. choice. Anton Chigurh -- essentially the Angel of Death -- is obsessed with fate. Discovering his motivation for killing is kind of a waste of time -- he doesn't appear to be doing it for money and he doesn't seem to take a great deal of pleasure or pride in his work. So why does he do it? Because it's what he's good at. You might say he was chosen for that role in life. That's just the way it is.
As for the story, obviously, it's completely by chance that the idiotic Llewelyn Moss stumbles upon the drug-deal. But he makes the choice to steal the money, even though -- even as he's doing it -- he realizes he'll never be safe again. Is that destiny? I have no idea.

What does this have to do with this season of "Lost?" Maybe nothing. But the basic premise of this season has been the intertwined connudrum of fate vs. choice. Are the characters in this current plot -- going back to 1977, joining the DHARMA Initiative and happily living their lives in the past -- changing history as they do it? Or did history always happen this way?
It's been the primary focus of the conversations between Miles and Hurley. If we're living in the past, can we control the future? Could we stop climate change from happening (if it's actually happening)? Could we re-write "The Empire Strikes Back?" Could we stop DHARMA from ever building that damned hatch and causing the plane crash in the first place? Or did everything always happen the way it's happening right now?

Remember: John Locke's character has always been one that's obsessed by fate and destiny. He believed his destiny was to go on that WalkAbout in Australia, and after having his spirit crushed by not being allowed to go, he was renewed by crashing on the Island. The conversation that occurs between Locke and Jack in the Season 1 finale sets them up as opposing players in this drama.
Jack: Brought here? And who brought us here, John?
Locke: The island. The island brought us here. This is no ordinary place, you've seen that, I know you have. But the island chose you, too, Jack. It's destiny.
Jack: I don't believe in destiny.
Locke: Yes, you do. You just don't know it yet.
The two of them had another cryptic conversation in the finale to Season 4, as Jack was on the precipice of accomplishing the one goal he'd set for himself since the crash: get off the Island.
Jack: And what am I supposed to do?! Oh, I think I remember- what was it that you said on the way out to the hatch? That crashing here was our destiny.
Locke: You know, Jack, you know that you’re here for a reason! You know it. And if you leave this place, that knowledge is gonna eat you alive from the inside out… until you decide to come back.
Jack: Goodbye John.
Locke: You’re gonna have to lie.
Jack: Excuse me?
Locke: If you have to go, then you have to lie about everything, everything that happened since we got to the island. It’s the only way to protect it.
Jack: It’s an island, John. No one needs to protect it.
Locke: It’s not an island. It’s a place where miracles happen. And- and if you don’t believe that Jack, if you can’t believe that, just wait 'til you see what I’m about to do.
Jack: There’s no such thing as miracles.
Locke: Well... we’ll just have to see which one of us is right.
What's been curious about this season has been to watch Jack, who basically turned into Ron Burgundy after getting fired from his job as a news anchor during the three years he and his crew were off the Island. Originally attempting to control all the circumstances around him -- telling all his fellow survivors exactly what to tell the press and everyone who asked, angrily demanding to know where Kate was going and who she was going to see, going to see Hurley in the mental hospital and harshly telling him, "Take your meds" -- he eventually surrendered to the necessity of going back. Since he's returned, he's basically surrendered control -- quietly accepting his job as a janitor, even surrendering the leadership role to Sawyer. He doesn't even seem all that freaked out that he's currently living in 1977.
Everything crested during the episode "Whatever Happened, Happened," when Jack was called on save Young Ben Linus and merely shrugged his shoulders. On its face, Jack was leaving the fate of the child he knew would grow up to be Benjamin Linus to destiny -- in the words of Ivan Drago, "If he dies, he dies." On a deeper level, Jack is making a passive-aggressive attempt to exert control over history -- by making a choice not to get involved, he's leaving the boy's fate up to nature (and in nature, when someone gets shot, they generally die).
So what happens? Kate and Sawyer take the boy to the Others, they heal him through their miraculous voodoo magic, and he winds up where he was supposed to be, all along.

So you can't change history, right? Or can you? Or can the Island?
Talk amongst yourselves. Please. I could use some guidance.

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