''Lost'': Theories on Smokey, Eko, and Desmond. EW's resident expert Jeff Jensen has big new ideas involving a screenwriters' bible (and the actual Bible, too)
‘Lost’ (S3): Theories on Smokey, Eko, and Desmond
THE 10-WORD TEASE!
(In which we whet your appetite for tonight’s new episode of Lost with 10 words worth of cryptic fun, courtesy of the show’s creators.)
This week’s tease from executive producer Carlton Cuse is…
… well, actually, due to the hush-hush cliffhanger nature of tonight’s episode — Lost‘s last outing until February — Cuse would like to maintain as much secrecy as possible. So today’s THREE-WORD TEASE from Cuse is:
”Commitment changes everything!”
Tune in tonight for the answer — and come back to EW.com tomorrow to read our resident Lost watcher Christine Fenno’s always-terrific take on the show.
WHO ARE THE OTHERS?
(Doc Jensen’s I-Promised-You-This-Theory-Last-Week-And-Now-I’m-Delivering Theory of the Week)
ANALYSIS Last week, in the Death of Mr. Eko episode, it was strongly suggested Smokey the Monster can take human form. Speaking to the now-deceased would-be holy man, the incarnation of Mr. Eko’s younger sibling, Yemi, asked, ”Why do you speak to me as if I was your brother?” Yemi then walked into the jungle. Mr. Eko followed, and instead of finding his faux bro, encountered Smokey, who billowed upward like a grizzly bear rearing up into attack position, morphed into the shape of a fist, and picked up Mr. Eko and bashed him around like an angry baby abusing a rattle. Mr. Eko’s dying sputter to island shaman John Locke before drifting into the sunset of a cherished childhood memory: ”You’re next.”
THEORY The Others are aspects of the Monster that took human form, gained free will, and now live separate from the Monster, and perhaps in opposition to it. (Think: Adam and Eve rebelling against their creator. Think: Lucifer and the rebellion of the angels.) And I think when Jack cuts open Henry Gale on the operating table, a huge belch of black smoke is going to poof out, take the form of a hand, slap the whiny doctor upside his head, and growl: ”Physician, heal thyself, dammit!”
ESTIMATED CHANCE OF THE OTHERS BEING REBELLIOUS HUMANOID PERMUTATIONS OF SMOKEY THE MONSTER 80%. Sorry, Animal Magic theory. It was nice obsessing over you.
THE LOST BIBLE: THE WRITER’S JOURNEY
The funny thing is, last week, when I told you I knew who the Others were, I had a totally different theory.
I was planning to tell you that the Others are the literal, physical manifestation of an enduring mythological archetype — the trickster. I was going to make this claim based on the preponderance of bunny rabbit references in Lost, including Watership Down, the fake rabbit death in the recent Sawyer episode, and even Of Mice and Men, the book recently quoted by trickster con man Sawyer and trickster con man Henry Gale/Ben, because of the whole ”Tell me about the rabbits, George” thing.
The rabbit, you see, is the official animal of the trickster archetype.
I know this because a looooooong time ago, I bought a book called The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. It’s a famous book in Hollywood circles, used by screenwriters to better glean the mythic foundations that almost all stories are built upon. The Writer’s Journey is a riff on Joseph Campbell’s famous notion of ”The Hero’s Journey,” as spelled out in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
Anyway, I was going to pull out Vogler’s book and read the chapter on trickster archetypes and use what I learned for my theory. You know, because research is good. But then I started reading the whole book and made a stunning discovery.
The Writer’s Journey explains everything about Lost.
I don’t just mean this in an academic, Lost-is-full-of-mythic-archetypes kinda way, although that’s true, too. But I mean explicitly, as if the book itself were used by some unseen character as a kind of blueprint to engineer the weird wonderland of the island. I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in the end, we find out that the island is some kind of supernatural wilderness preserve for mythological archetypes, and the Others are the park rangers; or maybe the island is a man-made Fantasy Island, engineered by the Hanso Foundation for putting people on a literal ”hero’s journey” in order to produce a more enlightened population. The Game meets Westworld.
Vogler’s book even ends with two passages that just scream Lost to me. One eerily echoes the conspicuous Stephen King writing-is-telepathy passage in On Writing that was recently referenced on the show, and another that sounds like a perfectly plausible Big Picture Lost theory:
”But take hope, for writing is magic. Even the simplest act of writing is almost supernatural, on the borderline with telepathy…. The boundaries of space and time and even the limitations of death can be transcended. [My emphasis.]
”Many cultures believed the letters of their alphabets were far more than just symbols for communication, recording transactions, or recalling history. They believed letters were powerful magical symbols that could be used to cast spells and predict the future. The Norse runes and the Hebrew alphabet are simple letters for spelling words, but also deep symbols of cosmic significance.”
LOST APPLICATION Remember the Hatch? Remember the hieroglyphics in the Hatch, hidden behind the Numbers? And now, following the implosion of the Hatch, which surely should have killed Desmond, we learn that Desmond not only survived — or ”transcended” the ”limitations of death” — but can even ”predict the future”!? Dharma was allegedly doing experiments on that ”electromagnetic anomaly” in the Hatch before that infamous, unspecified ”incident.” But what were they really trying to do? Were they trying to manipulate that energy the same way a wizard uses magic, or the way a Jedi uses the Force?
Was Dharma trying to cast a spell that could save the world?!?!?
”Shamans have been called ‘the wounded healers.’ Like writers, they are special people set apart from the rest by their dreams, visions, or unique experiences. Shamans, like many writers, are prepared for their work by enduring terrific ordeals. They may have a dangerous illness or fall from a cliff and have nearly every bone broken. They are chewed by a lion or mauled by a bear. They are taken apart and put back together again in a new way. In a sense, they have died and been reborn, and this experience gives them special powers. Many writers come to their craft only after they have been shattered by life in some way.
”Often those chosen to be shamans are identified by special dreams or visions, in which the gods or spirits take them away to other worlds where they undergo terrible ordeals. They are laid out on a table to have all their bones removed and broken. Before their eyes their bones and organs are split, cooked, and reassembled in a new order. They are tuned to a new frequency like radio receivers. As shamans, they are now able to receive messages from other worlds.
”They return to their tribes with new powers. They have the ability to travel to other worlds and bring back stories, metaphors or myths that guide, heal, and give meaning to life.”
LOST APPLICATION The island is a shaman-making machine, designed to produce new leaders that can heal a broken world. Or, put another way:
Lost = Heroes!
IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING…
The Writer’s Journey offers support for my contention that Smokey and the Others are linked. Both Smokey and the Others are ”threshold guardian” archetypes. And while Smokey is more of a ”Shadow” archetype and the Others adhere more to the ”Shapeshifter” archetype, Vogler notes that ”Shadows may become Shapeshifters to lure the hero into danger.”
But more on this in the weeks to come.
THE DESMOND CAVEAT
”The Hero’s Journey,” per Joseph Campbell via Christopher Vogler, has 12 steps. You know, just like a recovery program. (Hmmm.)
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
5. First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach To The Inmost Cave (by my analysis, this is where the Lost saga is currently)
8. Supreme Ordeal
10. The Road Back
12. Return With the Elixir
In the coming weeks, I’m going to show you how Lost inventively adheres to Campbell’s mythological story structure, in a way that not only suggests answers to many of the show’s mysteries, but anticipates the drama to come.
But I do want to quickly note that there’s one character in the Lost bunch who is further down the ”Hero’s Journey” road than his fellow castaways: Desmond. This makes sense. After all, Desmond has been on the island three years longer.
Desmond is at Stage 9: Reward. The button pusher cleared Stage 8: Supreme Ordeal in the season 2 finale, when he turned the key and blew up the Hatch. According to Vogler, the Supreme Ordeal is marked by several distinct elements, and a ”Hero’s Journey” story can include any number of them. Desmond can claim several, including ”How Heroes Cheat Death,” ”Ariadne’s Thread” (”an elastic band that connects a hero and a [distant] loved one”; read: Desmond and Penelope) and most importantly, ”Death of the Ego.” Writes Vogler: ”The old boundaries of self have been transcended or annihilated. In some sense the hero has become a god with the divine ability to soar above the normal limits of death and see the broader view of the connectedness of all things. The Greeks called this the moment of apotheosis, a step up from enthusiasm where you merely have the god in you. In a state of apotheosis you are the god. Tasting death lets you sit in God’s chair.”
Which certainly explains Desmond’s newfound precognitive abilities. And by the way, according to Vogler, some staple elements of Stage 9: Reward include ”New perceptions” and ”Clairvoyance.”
But if the next step for Desmond is ”The Road Back,” does that mean he’s not long for the show?
DOC JENSEN’S RUPTURING THE RAPTURE THEORY OF LOST
Otherwise known as:
WHERE DID MR. EKO GO AFTER HE DIED?
(Doc Jensen’s half-cracked Bible Study theory of the week!)
ANALYSIS Hallucinatory imagery, epiphanies, and, in the end, judgment — yes, Mr. Eko was a one-man Book of Revelation. Interesting piece of Biblical literature, that Revelation. Of course, we all know that this final book of the New Testament is a phantasmagoric piece of Christian mythology pertaining to the End of Days, the resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day, and the ”Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!” glory days that await the followers of Christ once God whoops Satan’s ass once and for all.
By the way, did you know that Revelation was written by the apostle John while he was exiled on an island?
DOC JENSEN CLARIFICATION The island in Lost is not the Greek island of Patmos where John wrote Revelation.
TO CONTINUE But speaking of Greek, or in Greek, There’s an ancient Greek word that the writer of Revelation was intimately familiar with, a word called thlipsis. The word basically means ”trial,” and it can be prescribed to an individual or group of people in crisis, torn and conflicted by opposing spiritual forces. Revelation was written as a letter to a group of fellow Christians caught in the grip of thlipsis. Now the Left Behind crowd will tell you that Revelation was all about the future, but John was also speaking to his persecuted friends about their present circumstances, as well. As terrifying as his words may seem to us, what John was trying to do was provide some good cheer; he was telling the believers of his time that their temporal suffering was not in vain, that behind the scenes, within the mythological infrastructure of reality, an epic drama that mirrored and gave meaning to their life was unfolding, and the Good News was that God was in control and was working stuff out. In short, John was saying, ”Buck up, kids: all is not… lost.”
THEORY Lost is like Revelation — a mythological echo (Eko?) of our times.
BUT WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE DEATH OF MR. EKO? Mr. Eko was thlipsis incarnate, torn between two opposing forces that any man of faith struggles with all the days of his or her life — pride and humility. Last week, Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse posed the question of Mr. Eko: ”What does the island want?” My answer: the island wanted Mr. Eko to confront the false god that ruled his life — self-justification, a concept antithetical to his Christian belief system. Watching Eko hold his head up high and declare to faux Yemi in his priestly robes that he had done nothing wrong — the murders he had committed in his past were all excusable under the Darwinian provision of self-preservation and general Christian admonition to ”Be thy brother’s keeper” — it reminded me of that Creed song ”My Own Prison,” which itself is about visions, judgment, and thlipsis. The refrain: ”So I held my head up high/ Hiding hate that burns inside/ Which only fuels this selfish pride.”
Woo-hoo! 12 years of Sunday school finally paying off!
ONCE AGAIN, THE WRITER’S JOURNEY EXPLAINS IT ALL! According to the Map in the Hatch, Smokey the Monster was known as Cerberus by the Dharma Initiative. Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the gates of hell. In mythological terms, Cerberus embodies the archetype of the threshold guardian. ”But on a deeper, psychological level,” Vogler writes, threshold guardians ”stand for our internal demons: the neuroses, emotional scars, vices, dependencies, and self-limitations that hold back our growth and progress. It seems that every time you try to make a major change in your life, these inner demons rise up to their full force, not necessarily to stop you, but to test if you are really determined the challenge of change.” [Emphasis mine.]
Sounds like Mr. Eko versus Smokey to me.
SO WHERE DID MR. EKO GO WHEN HE DIED? What happens after anyone on the ”Hero’s Journey” faces down a threshold guardian and loses?
You go back to the beginning.
And now you know why the last image we saw from Mr. Eko’s point of view was a shot of him and his brother as children, walking into the sunset with their soccer ball, just as we first met them back in Mr. Eko’s flashback episode.
That wasn’t a memory — that was time travel. The island was designed by its architects, the Hanso Foundation (which, if you recall, was trying to save mankind from impending doom, as per the calculations of the apocalypse-predicting Valenzetti Equation), as a means to cheat the Damnation Game — as a way to escape God’s judgment. All these characters are damned souls, but here on the island, they have a chance to confront the sin in their lives, learn from it, and then go back in time and start over, wiser, and all the better.
Lost is A Christmas Carol. Lost is It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s a loophole. Literally and figuratively.
Go back to Go, Mr. Eko. Start over. Begin again.
And this time, try not to kill anybody. Okay?
ESTIMATED CHANCE THAT MR. EKO WAS GIVEN A SECOND CHANCE TO LIVE HIS LIFE OVER? 100%. But like the Book of Revelation, we’ll know for certain when it’s all over, won’t we?
Until next time,