Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please Don't Let There Be Any Midi-Chlorians : A Semi-Obsessive Lost Fan's Preview To Season Six

When George Lucas finally had the chance to craft the science fiction epic he really wanted to make, what we got were the abominations that were Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III, movies that would have never been made if not for the "Star" and "Wars" attached to them. Not content to fandom contemplate and enjoy the mysteries of the force, Lucas decided a more complete and scientific explanation was needed for the source of Jedi powers. So, as the first movie told us when we met the young Anakin Skywalker (who has to become Darth Vader), the force could be scientifically explained by midi-chlorians, microscopic lifeforms existing in all living organisms. Midi-chlorian concentrations were very high in Jedi, which allowed the Jedi to manipulate the natural world around them. In one fell swoop, Lucas had simultaneously ruined the mystery of the force and set his new trilogy on a trajectory toward all-around terribleness.

Midi-chlorians are worth bringing up in regards to Lost because as the hit ABC show enters it's sixth and final season, the writers face a balancing act in answering enough questions to satisfy fans, yet leaving enough mystery to preserve the show's legacy. The good news is, Lost honchos Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have no plans to go all midi-chlorian on us, as was noted by the New York Times in their preview of the upcoming season:

“To sort of demystify that by trying to literally explain everything down to the last little sort of midi-chlorian of it all would be a mistake in our view,” he added. (In “Star Wars,” midi-chlorians were life forms existing inside all living things; that the “Lost” creators might explain the real-world implications of their fantasy world by referring to another fantasy world is perhaps part of the reason that the series has lost viewers.)

So what will be answered this final season? It's a question I've had running through my head over the last several months as my wife and I endeavored to re-watch the entire series, from the pilot episode through season five's "The Incident." And the closer we get to the season six premier (which is Feb. 2nd), the more it becomes clear to me what needs to be answered (character mysteries and motivations) and what does not need to be answered (every mystery about the island). There's always been a bit of a debate amongst Lost fans as to whether it's the characters or the mythology that drive the show and with all due respect to the mythology nuts, it's the characters. The mythology and the mystery is vital to the story, but it's merely the backdrop on which the story's been told.

That's not to say there isn't more about the mythology and the mysteries of the island we need to find out. But to put it simply, it's not that we need to know what the smoke monster actually is, it's that we need to know what it's role is and why the smoke monster has done the things it's done. Lost is a long story, not an archeological expedition. Of course, some folks explain the character elements in such a douchey manner they may as well be talking about Grey's Anatomy. Take the aforementioned Times article:

As with the Harry Potter series, another fantasy that the creators often cite as inspiration, the end is likely to have more to do with character resolution than with the solving of mysteries like what exactly the island is. Does Kate, the sexy fugitive, for example, end up with Sawyer or Jack, the reluctant leader of the band of survivors? Is John Locke dead or alive? Will Hurley ever lose weight?

Before season five, I wanted Sawyer to wind up with Kate, but now, my hope is- and my guess is- that neither will wind up with Freckles. But come on ... And will Hurley lose weight? Wouldn't we rather learn more about why he speaks with his dead friends? And what's in that guitar case that Jacob gave him? I'm assuming we're going to get plenty of those sorts of answers, particularly in regards to our main characters. But the real interesting questions, the ones I figured it'd be the most fun to bring up here in the blog, are about our secondary characters and the pieces of their stories that remain unanswered. Here's a sampling of what I'm talking about:

# What's the rest of Faraday's story? We've twice seen the scene of Faraday crying as the footage of the fake Oceanic 815 being discovered plays on the tv, unable to remember why he's crying. We also know that Faraday somehow scrambled his brain in the years before he went to the island. So what I want to know is if there's more to his story. And how did he know so much about the Incident when he came back to the island in 1977?

# Why did Faraday's mother, Eloise, leave the island some time very soon after the events of the season five finale? I'm assuming there's plenty of back story about the complicated relationship between Eloise and Charles Widmore still to be revealed, but there certainly seems to be a lot more to Eloise's story.

# And to expand on that last bit, I've got to know if Eloise knows all she knows about the future from finding Daniel's diary in 1977 or if she has another source for her knowledge. (And in regards to that diary, it was Sayid, not Eloise who had it in 1977 when we last left our Losties.)

# I'm also curious to know if there's more to the Desmond-Widmore relationship. I always liked the idea that Widmore was so hostile to Desmond's relationship with Penny because he knew something about Desmond's connection to the island. Does Widmore know what Eloise knows? And that being said, what are his motivations -- and what are Eloise's?

# What's the deal with Christian and Claire and is there some greater connection between the Shepard family and the island? Was there a reason they introduced Jack's grandad last season?

# What do Jacob and the Man in black know? How much knowledge do they have of the future? And, obviously, why did Jacob make the connections with all our characters that we saw in "The Incident."

# What's the deal with Desmond being special and why don't the rules apply to him? Why in 2007 did he suddenly remember Faraday's visit to the hatch and what are the consequences of this manipulation of the time line?

# What about Jacob and choice? Jacob gives Hurley the choice to return to the island and gives Ben the choice of killing him?

# I've heard that amongst many other dead characters, Mikhail is supposed to make some sort of return this season. I'd love to find out how he joined up with the Others and why he (and many of the other Others) are so ruthlessly passionate in service of Jacob and the island.

Obviously this could go on, but rather than pose more questions to which I have no good answers, I thought it would be fun to end with some guesses, my own theories as to some of the mysteries to be revealed this season. If you're not into that sort of thing or you'd rather not spend time theorizing about new episode titles (really, just the premier), then you best stop here, but there are no spoilers here.

# The season premier is titled "LA X" an obvious reference to the destination of Oceanic 815, where Jack and company hoped to be landing safely should their plan in "The Incident" succeed ... or is it? The moment I heard that title, I knew something had to be up. Because either Jack's plan to change the timeline worked or it didn't and if it did work, the one direction the writers can't take is pressing the reset button. You simply can't take away our characters experiences and change the past (or future?) so that they never met. what if Juliet setting off the bomb really does make it so the plane never crashed, only, it doesn't change the current circumstances of our characters. So our characters who were still alive when the bomb went off flash off the plane- ten of them, making them the Los Angeles Ten, who mysteriously disappeared in midair. That group would have to include Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Jin, Sun, Hurley, Claire ... and maybe Sayid (does he survive his gun shot wound?), maybe Rose & Bernard, and maybe Michael & Walt (the only two other than the Oceanic 6 to make it off the island). I like this theory because it's one way that we could get all the supposedly dead characters who are supposed to be returning this season.

# I liked this last theory until a few days ago when I considered the Comic Con news (which supposedly featured video clips of some of our characters lives had the crash never occurred) and another interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse where they once again confirmed that on Lost, dead is dead. Lindelof and Cuse have also stated that they're done with flashbacks and flashforwards as narrative devices. My worry is that we may get a series of "what would have happened" type narratives, but that seemingly goes against this other little bit from that same New York Times story:

If the creators are not saying, they do promise one other thing. While the ending of the series will almost certainly provoke some debate, it will not be of the type created by, say, the black screen that ended “The Sopranos” or the “It was all a dream” or “It all took place in someone’s imagination” endings of “Newhart” or “St. Elsewhere.” And like David Chase, the “Sopranos” creator, they do not plan to answer questions after the finale.

Yeah, we're not exactly talking about the ending here but Lost has never been one to highlight moments not specifically relevant to the plot and our character's development.

# My brief Richard Alpert theory is as follows. My assumption had always been that Alpert's perennial long life was some sort of gift. But going through "The Incident" the second time, Alpert's comment that he's the way he is "because of Jacob" struck a different nerve with me. What if Alpert's long life is not a gift, but a punishment. Just as it goes with most tales of unending life, the truth is usually darker than our desires. And then there's Alpert's status as advise- however wise he may be, he can seemingly never be the leader. Hardly the position of one who's been given a gift.

# A minor theory on the rules that seem to prevent some of our characters from killing one another. We know that Ben and Widmore can't seem to kill each other. Ditto Jacob and the man in black. A podcast I enjoy had a listener point out that maybe Jack and Locke can't kill each other either. In season three, Locke couldn't shoot Jack to prevent him from calling the freighter. And soon afterward, early in season four, Jack actually does try to shoot Locke, only to have his gun malfunction. The real interesting theory is what if the relationship between all three of these opposing characters is basically the same, with each character representing opposite ends of the same coin, or the black and the white, if you will. It plays nicely into this idea that we really don't have good and evil at play here, but forces like Jack and Locke in opposition.


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