I don’t know.
That’s my simple reaction to last night’s mostly entertaining season five finale of Lost. Once the first scene was over and done with, you knew that the next two hours would be rife with mythology and big ideas. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have always claimed that Lost was more about the characters than the plot, but despite some clunky attempts at inter-character gravitas, Lost was all about the mythology last night which, depending on your point of view, was either great or merely confusing. The matter-of-fact introduction of Jacob as a real player in all of our favorite characters’ lives shielded the fact that we still don’t really know anything about Jacob at all. What has occurred in the last 24 hours in the Lost community is speculation and extrapolation based on the show’s previous sub-textual themes. Good vs. Evil. God vs. the Devil. Fate vs. Free Will. Jacob, to many, now represents Good, God, and Free Will in those conflicts.
But, why? Simply because we think we have to assign him with such concrete ideas? I find it interesting that, on a show where no one character has ever been fully good or fully evil, a show that plies its trade in shades of gray, that we’re all so quick to assume that Jacob is staunchly one thing or another. The idea that Jacob is God took on a severely Nietzcheian slant at the end of the episode, the ramifications of which are difficult to ascertain. Perhaps the island is meant to be a microcosm of the world, and that whatever happens on the island will, in some way, set a course for the world at large. Or, maybe the island is a reflection of the world, and the big events of the world will all realize themselves in some symbolic manner on the island. Again, I don’t know, because Lost didn’t answer as many questions last night as we’d like to believe.
I’m used to Lost finales blowing my mind, but last night left me gasping only once – in that first scene, when we watched Jacob talk to the man who wanted to kill him (and, eventually did). Nothing else was terribly shocking. We were told that Locke (or Non-Locke) was going to kill Jacob. He did. We knew that the nuke was going to go off (it did (don’t give me the “we don’t know if the bomb really did go off” nonsense – there’s no other explanation for the white flash, and it would be an obscene coincidence if everyone time-jumped for some different reason just as Juliet wailed on the nuke)). Instead of trying to blow our minds with unexpected plot twists, the writers (I think), attempted to open our eyes to the grand scheme of things, to show us how grand the war of the island really is. In that vein, again, I’m not sure how successful they were, because we really just learned that, whatever is going on, Jacob is involved. But, didn’t we already assume this to be the case?
I suppose we learned a bit about Jacob’s motivations. Again, the first scene is the key. In Jacob’s discussion with the man in black (or The Devil or Evil Incarnate or whatever), Jacob expressed his world view – even if we know what is going to happen, we can and should try to change it. Even if the finish line is never going to change, we can change the path, which might be more important than the destination anyway, and we all might become better people in the process. If we are to continue on this line of thinking, that we’re dealing with God vs. The Devil, Cuse and Lindelof have made things particularly interesting.
The Man in Black, it seems, desires a laissez-faire approach. He wants the world to run its course as it should, because no matter what, things will always end up the same. Jacob, on the other hand, decides to mettle in the affairs of people who may or may not have a say in the island’s fate. The Devil doesn’t need to get involved, because the denizens of earth will do the awful things that he believes they are fated to do. But, apparently, he’s so angry with what Jacob/God has been doing, that he needs to find a loophole that will allow Jacob to be killed. And, to do this, he masterminds some plan that allows him to inherit the body of the island’s ordained leader.
My question – why is the devil so angry? Does he want to hold power over the island so he can watch it come to its inevitable fate? If he believes that the future is pre-ordained, and that no matter what Jacob does to try and alter it, everything will end as it was supposed to, then why bother? Why wouldn’t the Man in Black try and mess with Jacob’s plans, try and thwart whatever changes Jacob attempts to make instead of this long-winded “kill Jacob and inherit the island” quest? Either he is scared that whatever Jacob does actually will change the future, or it’s simply a power struggle, that “competition” motif coming to fruition, that motivates him.
We can’t know the motivations yet, because we don’t know exactly what the two men were talking about in the finale’s first scene. Another question I had – where is Widmore in all of this? Is the struggle between he and Ben a mirror of the struggle between God and the Devil? Jacob’s curt dismissal of Ben’s plight, which led to Jacob’s death, implies that Jacob was never really on Ben’s side. And, yet, there is a smidgen of Job’s story in Ben. He had been tested and tested and tested by the island and Jacob, and even in the end, after the sliminess and sometimes evil that Ben had represented, Jacob gave Ben a choice. This is important, because it summed up the Fate vs. Free Will theme yet again. Ben had a chance for a certain kind of redemption. He didn’t take it, but that’s not to say that Jacob hadn’t hoped he would take it.
You see, the Jacob we saw last night struck me as an absolute beacon of optimism (well, except for the whole orchestrating Nadia’s death thing). He was the forgiver of Kate’s sins, though she was doomed to repeat them. He gave Little Sawyer the pen that wrote most of the note to the Real Sawyer, a note whose promised vengeance would eventually manifest itself. This may not seem like a good-natured thing to do, allowing James Ford to finish his letter, but it was a symbol of the Free Will theme again. A new pen represents infinite possibilities and, though Jacob possibly knew what was in store for James in the future, Jacob still probably wanted Sawyer to take a different path. He gave Locke second life after his fall out of the building, which allowed Locke a shot at ultimate redemption, even if Locke never got there. For Jack, well, he showed him that frustration doesn’t need to be a dead end, that all it might take is a little push to find the serenity that Jack needs. Jack’s scene in the hospital was significant. It was a great representation of his stubbornness and tendency to harp on non-issues. He was mad at his father in an instance when he should have been thankful for, what turned out to be, great advice, advice that he spoke so glowingly about in Lost’s very first episode. As for Hurley, like Locke, Jacob gave the big man a new lease on life, and turned his perceived insanity into an asset.
This view of Jacob may seem like a reach (and, probably, it is), but if his presence in all these scenes doesn’t represent something in this vein, why was he there? Unless it’s some mumbo-jumbo about how if Jacob literally touches you, it means you’ll be drawn back to the island, there wouldn’t be a point. I have to believe that there was significance outside of the literal nature of those scenes, otherwise Cuse and Lindelof wouldn’t have included them. Because if our characters, who have been at the fore-front of Lost for five seasons, are actually insignificant pawns in whatever game Jacob is playing, the entire series would be pointless. Now, after last night’s finale, we have to assume that the 815ers are meaningful to Jacob.
But, meaningful as what? Attempts to change the future? Examples that human nature can be subverted? That fate isn’t a be-all end-all? What are Cuse and Lindelof trying to say with Jacob’s death? Has evil won in the world, and is that the course we were always on? If Lost really is about Big Ideas, then what other conclusion can be extrapolated so far?
Crackpot Theory: Maybe Jacob is playing a huge trick on the Man in Black, The Devil, whatever we want to call him. Maybe Jacob’s interactions with the 815ers, which ultimately brought them to the island, and ultimately led to his own death, was always part of the plan. Maybe the conceit that “what was meant to happen, will happen” encompasses the everlasting battle between Good and Evil, God and the Devil. Meaning, that the Devil’s long-term plan to kill Jacob was fated to be futile, and that the Devil’s plight was always meant to be fruitless, and that the only way for Jacob to subvert inevitability was to somehow allow the Devil to find that loophole, and for the Devil to believe it was by his own doing. Maybe Jacob’s death was a willing sacrifice, knowing that he has to be taken out of power for other forces to rise up, take on the Man in Black and eventually change the future of the island/world.
So, let’s start where we began. I don’t know. A lot of what I just wrote pre-supposes that the theory of Jacob representing God and the Man in Black/Non-Locke representing the Devil is correct. It could be totally false. Maybe they’re aliens. Maybe they’re multi-dimensional beings. Maybe they’re re-animated Egyptian pharaohs. Since I’ve written too much already, let me sum it up one more time: I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone else does either.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer