For the past seven weeks we’ve been trying to crack the very point of the Lost flash sideways, the way it related to the Island timeline and all the mess that’s happening there. Or maybe we’ve given up on it. Sure, there will be answers soon, but connecting those two timelines seems quite a task. How exactly do you reconcile all that we knew about the show’s characters over the past five years, with a revisionist take on their back stories? We’ve seen slightly different versions of the same people, doing slightly different things with slightly different versions of those close to them. It doesn’t connect easily.
Nope, I don’t have an idea about that. What I have, though, is some vague idea on what these scenarios are trying to tell us.
Missed the episode? Read our recap of “Dr. Linus”
Lost has never shied from being the preacher at times. All that talk about fate and free will, and all those philosophical and religious references, have surely given us stuff to think about, beyond the nature of the Island and the origins of the Smoke Monster. One of the series’ major themes is redemption: the characters atoning for their mistakes. Early on we’ve had Charlie’s heroin addiction and Kate’s remorse over Tom’s death. Soon we had Juliet changing sides and Michael’s reappearance at the Kahana.
Now, those messages appear in the alternate timeline. Locke no longer wishes to be cured of his paralysis: he’s no longer as grumpy as his original self, paving way to his marriage with Helen. Sayid finally accepts that he is a murderer, a compromise just so he can be as close as possible to Nadia. And, last night, Ben let go of his only show at power just to send Alex to Yale.
Easter Eggs: See what popped up on “Dr. Linus”
On one side, it’s a classic morality message: the common good against your personal conveniences. Don’t be selfish if it means stepping on others. Yeah, it does sound preachy when you put it that way. But come to think of it, without all those power struggles that we’ve seen in the Island timeline, things have turned out differently, and for the better! Nadia is happy rather than dead. Helen is happy rather than dead. Alex is happy rather than dead. This gives credence to the idea that the alternate timeline is the result of the Island’s major players being given a chance to undo their mistakes.
On the other side, it’s quite unsettling seeing all these people suddenly lose their spines in the alternate timeline. Locke and Ben always insisted their way, partly because of a belief that they deserve it. Without that belief, they’re stuck in their miserable lives. (Not that holding a doctorate in European history is miserable–it just isn’t as exciting as, say, having an island all to yourself.) Gone is the idea that they can do something about their lives, instead choosing to go with the flow. It does good things to others, but you can’t be altruistic forever, right?
Lost‘s new message: Don’t aspire for anything that’s bigger than you. Not exactly an encouraging message for a generation raised on the idea of going your own way. Some things are meant to happen, and you cannot do anything about it–and however attractive it may be packaged, it’s just you being manipulated into submitting. Look at Jack. Sure, he was going through issues in the Island timeline, but it’s better than playing chicken dynamite with Richard, risking your life for the crazy idea that you are invincible. Better saddled with problems than insane, beyond-Hurley insane.
With that in mind, watching the show’s last episodes could be frustrating. It’s one thing knowing what will happen. It’s another thing knowing that there’s nothing you can do about it. And watching the bunch of mavericks–who have tried to make their away around it–just standing there and letting things be doesn’t make for engaging watching. On one side, at least.
Take the quiz: How well do you know Ben Linus?
(Image courtesy of ABC)