Since that pivotal scene at the start of the season 5 finale of Lost, the battle between Jacob and the mysterious Man in Black has been a key part of the show. Those characters returned in a big way during the latest episode, offering new looks into their battle.
The most complicated part is deciding who the good guy really is. At first, it seemed like Jacob was the hero and the Man in Black was the villain. But the more Lost shows us, the more confusing it becomes. There is an eternal struggle between these two and it’s obvious that one of them is good and one is evil, but which is which? Let’s look at both sides:
Jacob is Good
The biggest piece of proof is that Jacob says he’s good. He’s the one viewers have seen more of and he’s the person we’ve grown to trust. Jacob seems to have faith that humanity is basically good and that he shouldn’t interfere with their lives. In many ways, he acts like God, giving free will to people and letting them come to their own conclusions.
Jacob is Evil
On the other hand, does Jacob really believe in free will? We’ve seen him show up in the lives of several characters and ever-so-slightly nudge them in a specific direction. In some ways, despite what he says, Jacob is actually representative of fate and the lack of free will. The alternate universe is proof that, without his influence, some of these characters would be completely different. John Locke would accept that there are things he can’t do and Sawyer would become a cop. Of course Jacob says that he’s not the Devil: that’s exactly what the Devil would say.
The Man in Black is Good
Unlike Jacob, the Man in Black is all about free will. He tells someone what to do, but he doesn’t force anyone into doing it. Richard had a choice about whether to kill Jacob. So did Ben. The Smoke Monster may kill people, but it does so selectively. It stares into a person’s soul and judges them, just as God does. The Man in Black is trapped and just wants to be free, so he’s willing to do whatever it takes. That’s not necessarily evil, it’s just understandable.
The Man in Black is Evil
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it’s probably an evil duck. The Man in Black certainly seems evil, and if Jacob can be trusted, he is. He kills people without blinking an eye, seemingly for no reason, and he encourages people to do bad things. He’s a lot like the Devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear, telling you to do bad things.
Right now, it’s fairly obvious that Lost wants us to think that Jacob is the good guy and the Man in Black is evil. But I’ve watched enough TV to know that what you see isn’t always what you get. The Man in Black gives me the same gut reaction that Ben does: he’s manipulative and willing to do whatever it takes, but at the same time, I believe everything he says.
It all comes down to a battle between free will and fate. Do you believe humans have the freedom to make their own decisions, or if everything pre-determined? After answering that question, you have to decide who is the real proponent of free will: Jacob or the Man in Black.
(Image courtesy of ABC)