Now that we’ve had a little time to let last night’s episode sink in; to consult the sharpest minds in the greater Cincinnati area; to read up on analysis from, among others, Doc Jensen and Vozzek69 (who, like Mike Allen, argues that “the best season of LOST had just ended with the best episode ever”); and to spend hours in silent meditation pondering life’s eternal mysteries; we are finally ready to write this, Part Two of “The Incident” forum. Deep breath. Here goes:
The question has been raised, by John Sherck among others, that Jacob is not God but a false idol. Let’s consider the evidence. Why would a benign deity and Christ figure live in the foot of an Egyptian God who, if not Anubis, may be Sobek ( “a morally ambiguous dark god who oversees dark waters and preys on sinful souls in the afterlife,” according to Doc Jensen) or perhaps Set, a shapeshifting Egyptian god (which would account for the ambiguity of the four-toed statue’s appearance) of chaos and evil? What’s more, some of Jacob’s flashback encounters with the island survivors had a sinister undertone to them, especially Kate’s, Sawyer’s and Sayid’s. He pays for Kate’s lunchbox, but his intervention could merely be cheap grace for little Kate, who doesn’t exactly look like she’s learned her lesson. Jacob gives young James Ford the pencil to continue writing his revenge letter to the real Sawyer. Is he stoking Sawyer’s anger? And most unsettling is Sayid’s flashback. Did Jacob rescue Sayid from the oncoming car? Or spare him only to lead a tragic, embittered life bent on murder and vengeance? Furthermore, why these moments? Jacob visits young and old, in moments of joy and celebration (Sun and Jin) as well as tragedy and despair (Sayid, Locke). The only person Jacob has an extended conversation with is Hurley. That also seems to be the crucial flashback, because Jacob needs Hurley to board Ajira 316 but he also needs Hurley to choose to do it. If getting Hurley back to the island is so pivotal, Jacob doesn’t seem to be sweating it. Does he already know what Hurley will do? Or will Jacob find another way even if Hurley chooses not to go?
One thing we didn’t realize last night was that Jacob touched everyone in the flashbacks. Was this a blessing or a curse? Laying on of hands is usually a blessing, and that’s what it appeared to be with Sun and Jin after their wedding, or with Locke after his fall. Or is physical contact just Jacob’s way of downloading emotions and memories, the way Smokey could “read” someone’s mind and then manifest itself as a loved one? We rather like two of Doc Jensen’s theories, the “Quibbling” Jacob theory and, less so from a practical standpoint than an imaginative one, his Jacob/Horcrux theory, wherein Jacob is stashing himself in other people whom he’ll summon together after his death (hence the seeming triumph behind his line to pseudo-John Locke, “They’re coming”). (Both Jensen theories are on this page.)
So, we hope we’ve done some justice to the Jacob-is-Satan-(or-at-least-very-evil) case. That said, we still don’t buy it for three main reasons. 1) Jacob defended free will. The devil can be just as fruitful turning free will to his advantage, but he doesn’t go on and on espousing free will as some sort of virtue. Of course, if Jacob was the devil, he’d be pretty shrewd to play it cool like he did and say, “Hey, free will! Love it! Can’t get enough of a good thing! Do what you need to do, Hurley, because it’s your choice, not mine.” But that’s not the argument we’re trying to build, so let’s proceed directly to 2) Jacob’s “It can only end once” speech. This was on the beach with his adversary, who lamented the ship in the distance, heading toward the island. “They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” the adversary says. “It always ends the same.” To which Jacob responds, “It can only end once. Everything before that is progress.” In other words, time is moving toward a fixed point rather than endlessly repeating itself. Time (and progress) is linear, not circular. That’s a very Christian concept. And Jacob embraces that concept with an easy assurance. He also looks at us (humans) and sees hope and potential, rather than the worst we might achieve. Finally, that leaves us with 3) Jacob dies too easily. Rewatch the scene when Ben and bad John Locke enter Jacob’s temple. Jacob knows why they’ve come, and he knows how it will end. He knows Ben has a knife, and he still walks right up to him. You could even make the case Jacob wanted to die. We won’t go that far, but we will say that not being afraid of death suggests to us something closer to holiness than devilishness. This isn’t the end for Jacob; it can’t be the end for Jacob. Either because he can’t die, or because he knows he’s created his own loophole which will save him, Jacob stood fearless before death. That’s not something the devil should pull off.
Let’s step back for a moment and make one final clarification. We said yesterday that “Lost” had officially become a capital letter Religious Allegory. That’s too easy. For us and for the show’s writers. It can’t be that black-and-white, literally. Allegories usually dissolve complexity as characters become types. What we’d argue is that while “Lost” has veered firmly into a cosmic Good vs. Evil direction with a very Christ-like figure and some very spiritual themes of betrayal, redemption and salvation, it’s not going to be that simple. We think (think) that this is the template that the writers will stick to in the final season. They’ll take us off in some unexpected directions and continue to peel back new layers of meaning. But this is about as universal as a story gets, and while we almost expect “Lost” to be smarter than us (and would even be disappointed to fully understand it), we also believe it has to resonate and touch on something concrete in everyone to ultimately matter. We don’t expect a God/Satan or good/evil story to make comprehending the show any easier. We just think “Lost” has ultimately found its voice.
A few other observations/theories/questions:
- Jacob’s cabin was not Jacob’s cabin, but rather his adversary’s. That’s why Ilana and “the good guys” burned it. The ring of ash was meant to keep Jacob’s nemesis inside, but someone sprung him free. That means that Ben is telling the truth when he says he never met Jacob. Also, the scene in season four’s episode “Cabin Fever” when Ben and Locke enter the cabin was actually their encounter with not-Jacob, whose words to Locke ( “Help me”) now take on a twisted meaning.
- When Jacob’s nemesis declines the fish on the beach by saying he “just ate,” we think he’s probably referring to a breakfast of human souls. We officially think the Smoke Monster is evil, since it’s probably the only way Mr. Nemesis could transport himself until someone freed him from the cabin. An evil Smoke Monster (and an evil John Locke) would also explain the cruel trick they played on Ben in “Dead is Dead,” pounding submission-to-Locke into him. Plus we were always suspicious about why Locke and the Smoke Monster never appeared at the same time. We may have actually guessed right on that one.
- Is Latin a dead language? Not for Richard Alpert. Max Fisher saved Latin. What did you ever do?
- In conclusion, DESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMOND!
- In just over a month we’ll be replacing one obsession over a dense, impenetrable work of art with another. If you’ve not already considered taking part in Wandering Rocks, there’s still time. Why, you might ask, would one willfully subject him or herself to the confounding — nay, terrifying — experience of attempting Joyce’s Ulysses? It’s a good question. The best answer we can give you? Benjamin Linus did.