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Countdown To 'Lost': The Season of False Gods and Suffering Children

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Image Credit: Mario Perez/ABCLast week, in my recap of “Dr. Linus,” I proposed that Ben’s Sideways story line was an allegory for his entire Island experience. I said that the school where he worked was a metaphor for the Island. There was one aspect of the school culture that I didn’t discuss in my recap: Leslie Arzt’s underfunded science department. We heard him yearn for some more dough for quality lab aprons and updated lab equipment, which he claimed hadn’t been updated since the 1950s. Initially, I thought Lost was poking at the early series mystery of antiquated, mid-century weaponry on the Island. Since then, we’ve learned that in 1954, the U.S. Army came to the Island to test a hydrogen bomb. I also had this thought: Perhaps Arzt’s bitching about the neglected science was speaking to and for Lost fans who’ve wanted rational, science-based answers for the show’s seemingly supernatural mysteries.

This past week, I began wondering if there was something more to Dr. Arzt’s complaints, so I applied some of my (dubious) brain power and did some research — and I had a couple epiphanies. For starters, I think that Arzt’s line about ’50s-era technology was just one of many little bits in the episode designed to foreshadow the arrival of Charles Widmore to the Island. After all, Widmore was there during the Jughead affair of 1954. But on the theoretical tip, I wonder if Lost was suggesting that something went awry with the flow of time beginning in the 1950s — that some kind of progress has been thwarted or stalled since then. In my recap of “Dr. Linus,” I suggested that Island destiny was subverted when a mystery man struck Locke’s teenage mom with a car. My theory has long been that the mystery man (my pick: Charles Widmore) was trying to kill Locke’s mother so as to prevent Locke’s birth. He didn’t succeed in murdering Emily, but Locke was born prematurely, effectively changing the course of history… although as we all know from the show, destiny will always get what it wants anyway. You can try to change it and you can have some degree of impact, but you’re only delaying the inevitable, and you’re probably only creating a lot of suffering and collateral damage in the process.

I’d also like to suggest another idea. This one has less to do with plot and more about themes. 1954 is an interesting date for other reasons pertaining to Lost. It’s the year in which one of its earliest literary references was published: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, about a group of kids that get shipwrecked on an island and end up splitting into two ideologically different camps and warring with each other. Last week in “Dr. Linus,” I was reminded anew of the book when Fake Locke mentioned he was assembling a rival camp over on Hydra Island. And then, there’s this: Season 6 of Lost has doted heavily on themes of spirituality and salvation, gods and monsters. It has seen castaways pledge allegiance to one powerful deity, possibly a false god, and lose faith in another. The title of Golding’s book refers to the manufactured deity that some of the kids begin to worship — a grotesque idol, a pig’s head on a stick. Let us remember that “lord of the flies” is one of many florid terms that have been used to describe Satan in Judeo-Christian lore. Let us also remember the episode “Follow The Leader” from Season 5, when Fake Locke showed up at Richard’s camp and began his Island takeover bid in earnest. What did he bring with him? A dead boar. In retrospect, I wonder if Fake Locke killed that pig as some kind of symbolic sacrifice — a ritualistic action designed to commemorate his attempt at Island deicide.

If we are to believe Fake Locke, then slaying Jacob was a good thing. Fake Locke has liberated the castaways from not just Jacob’s meddling, but from Jacob’s whole worldview. Fake Locke: The Island isn’t special. Fake Locke: “It’s just a damn Island!” Fake Locke: a revolutionary who has ended the tyranny of a false god, a proverbial pig on a stick, the lord of the flies…


Jughead: 1954. Lord of the Flies: 1954. America, 1954: Children across the country begin reciting a new version of The Pledge of Allegiance, one that now included these two loaded, controversial words:

“Under God.”

Science in Lost’s public school system: stuck in the fifties. The same decade that a nameless, faceless, anonymous, debatably non-existent God was introduced into the schools, via a loyalty oath that became a kind of prayer. A bitter scientist like Dr. Arzt may argue that the kids of America have been kinda lost ever since. Not me, though. Honestly, I never really paid attention to what I was muttering during those groggy mornings of talking at a flag. I was too busy thinking about Star Wars, comic books, or boobs. And I went to a Christian school! But I digress to…


Earlier today in my Doc Jensen column, I examined the theme of divorce and relational break-ups that’s been running through the season. Every episode seems to be hitting it. But there’ve been a couple other themes that have been touched upon in each episode, including the metaphor of shackles, the symbol of mirrors, and kids. Season 6 has been suspiciously chockablock with children. What does this theme mean for the season? Might kids have something to do with the ultimate endgame? Before we get to theories and conclusions, let’s look at the proof:

“LA X”

KID COUNT: 2 (Alex and Emma at The Temple)

SIGNIFICANCE: Ummm… none? All right! This theory’s off to a strong, compelling start, isn’t it? I suppose I could argue that children are further represented by Jack the Son grappling with the mystery of his missing dead dad and Claire the Expectant Mother getting carjacked by Kate the Father Killer. (Although we don’t know who Sideways Kate murdered or if she’s really even guilty.) Maybe we should just bag this theory and walk away to…

Wait! What’s this that I’ve nearly tripped over while passing a dead Frenchie in the dark tunnels of my mind? Why, it’s Fear and Trembling, the philosophy classic written by Soren Kierkegaard! In this slender tome, old S K’gard mulls the character of faith by offering four different interpretations of famous father/child Bible story: “The Binding of Isaac,” in which God directs Abraham to make a sacrificial offering (i.e., kill) out of his son Isaac. AND WAIT! Speaking of books, “LA X” cited another text about a father and son relationship: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, which was the novel Desmond was reading on the plane. In that surreal children’s fable, a master storyteller loses his gift for spinning yarns after his wife leaves him for another man. His son helps restore his sad dad’s ability and vitality by traveling into a fantasy world.



SIGNIFICANCE: Uh-oh, another bust, right? I say no: The story made a solid strike on parent-child/suffer-the-children/lost children themes with Claire’s doomed bid to place Baby Aaron with prospective parents and her pregnancy scare, successfully assuaged by Doc Ethan with an assist from conscience-stricken Kate. And so Aaron stayed inside Claire’s tummy. False alarm. Whew!


KID COUNT: 1 ghost; bunches of living ones.

SIGNIFICANCE: On the Island, Sawyer and Fake Locke spotted a sandy-haired child in brown Others rags, hands dripping with blood. Later, Fake Locke saw the kid again, this time sans the bloody palms, and chased after him. The boy reminded Fake Locke of one of “the rules,” specifically: “You can’t kill him.” In the Sideways world, John Locke was fired from his job at the box company but found another one — a better one, I might argue — teaching biology and physical education at a local high school.



SIGNIFICANCE: Jack’s Sideways story revealed that he had a son, David, a piano prodigy. They had a strained relationship. Because of divorce, Jack rarely saw his boy. Just as important, David felt burdened by Jack’s fathering, which was an expression of how Jack was fathered by Christian. At David’s piano recital, Jack met another child, the son of Sideways Dogen. During their conversation, Dogen told Jack: “They are too young to have this kind of pressure, aren’t they? … It’s hard to watch and be unable to help.”


KID COUNT: 4 and an implied fifth

SIGNIFICANCE: Sideways Sayid was revealed to have a nephew and niece. During a visit, he brought them a boomerang. Awww! Way to go, Uncle Killer! Nadia tasked Sayid with protecting the kids when Slimy Papa Omer got assaulted by mobsters. Later, these bad men abducted Sayid, motivating him to captivity by threatening the children. With his extended family imperiled, Sayid later killed these evildoers. On the Island, Alex and Emma made a return appearance; their guardian Cindy chose to join Fake Locke and brought them with her. Finally, Dogen told the story of how he came to the Island and became Temple Master; his service was the price he had to pay in exchange for Jacob healing his son.


KID COUNT: Lots, and one in particular.

SIGNIFICANCE: Dr. Linus is a devoted teacher who believes in the “help the kids” mission of the “public school system.” (I was struck by Michael Emerson’s line reading there, his peculiar emphasis on “public.”) Forced to choose between advancing his own career and feeling of self worth by deposing Principal Reynolds and helping advance the future of bright star student Alex, Dr. Linus bit back on his self interest, on his own progress, and chose his pupil, allowing her to move forward in life. I kinda wonder if that is Ben in a nutshell — if his constant scramble to shore up his place in the Island story, if his constant jockeying to be significant to the Island story, has in turn slowed and impeded if not warped the Island story, preventing it from moving toward its intended future.

CONCLUSION: The castaways are flawed and fallen people, deeply marked by bad parenting. Lost has put these characters through the paces of redemption, challenging them to deal with their past, forgive and redeem and forget and move forward. The season 6 theme of children — of the next generation after the castaways—builds on this theme by giving the castaways even more motivation to change, by posing the implied question: If they got screwed by our parents, what are they doing to make sure we’re not screwing their kids? My Doc Jensen column referenced the famed Philip Larkin poem “This Be The Verse,” and I think it’s worth repeating here:

“This Be The Verse”

They f— you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were f—ed up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

That’s my thematic reading of Lost 6.0’s kid fixation. But I think there’s a Theory Of Lost/plot application to be made, too. And I have one in mind. It’s been something I’ve been nurturing for a couple weeks now, and I’ve been wary about sharing it for two reasons: (1) Not sure I have enough proof yet; and (2) it’s kinda dark and twisted. But I’ll tell you what: If I get more evidence out of tonight’s episode, entitled “Recon,” I’ll share my creepy theory in my recap, posting tomorrow morning. Before then, of course, I’ll have my Instant Reaction, posting tonight soon after the episode concludes. If you’re in the market for some fun, non-spoilery teasers, check out the new episode of Totally Lost, in which Dan and I also discuss “Dr. Linus” and wonder if Sideways John Locke is actually Smokey in disguise. We also talk about Richard Alpert’s crisis of faith on the Black Rock — a true case of “losing my religion.” Also: Dan rocks a cool blue T-shirt, while I sit there, trying not to look so very, very, very tired from one too many all-nighters, writing much-too-long Lost recaps. But I must say: I love it, and I will miss it. We’re not that far away now, are we? I say: No sleep until Lost is dead!

See you at the sunrise,

Doc Jensen.