OK, kids, I know I promised both you (and me) that I’d take a day off from blogging before the Season 4 premiere of Lost, but that’s simply not possible. Didn’t help that I read this interview with Michael Emerson, either. I know I spent yesterday cleaning house, but I spent the day puttering about, looking through my newly clean space, and decided to do a little arranging, in order to take the various bits and pieces of the blog in a more cohesive structure. Think of it as virtual feng shui.
With that in mind, and with twenty twenty twenty four hours to gooo (and then we’ll meet the Freighters!), let’s try and recap the large themes that have been discussed here on the blog for the past three months. Rather than try and list and link every single thought and entry, I’m going to try and present to you, both the long-time reader and the newcomer, with a State of the Lost Union. Don’t worry: I won’t insist that you stand up at your computer and applaud after each sentence. In fact, I kind of hope you don’t: that would be just weird.
What follows is a summary of the situation and the stakes of Lost at this particular moment, one day before "The Beginning of the End" airs and renders the majority of what I’ll write below instantly outdated and incorrect. But hey, being wrong’s never stopped me before! (Ask all of my ex-girlfriends. Heck, ask my wife.) I want to talk about the location of the Island, I want to talk about the time of the Island, I want to talk about the problems/perils of traversing to and from the Island, and I want to talk about the parties interested in the Island. It’s a lot to cover, I know. So let’s get started, shall we?
Let’s start by recapping why we think the Island is so hard to find. (And yes, I’m using the royal "we" here. Bow before my ego…bow, I say!) The Island exists atop something called the Sunda Trench, the location in which Naomi and Anthony Cooper both tell the Lostaways that their bodies currently reside. How is this apparent contradiction possible? Because while the Island exists atop the Sunda Trench, it doesn’t exist there physically in our world, and herein lies one of the key aspects of everything that follows.
The world of the Island and the "real world," for lack of a better term, exist within different timelines separated by the electromagnetic anomaly that pervades the Island. This electromagnetic anomaly was more than likely triggered at some point in the past by a volcanic eruption, which ripped the Island from our world into a parallel one in which the Island remains intact, but separated forever from our world.
One can travel through the electromagnetic field separating between the Island world and the real world, but it’s both incredibly difficult and incredibly perilous. The Hanso Foundation selected this location for the implementation of the Dharma Initiative after Alvar Hanso learned of the Island by tracking the Black Rock, helmed by his great-grandfather Magnus. The time difference between the Island and our world was key to its importance. Since time moves slower there than in the real world, more time could be spent trying to achieve the goal of the Dharma Initiative: preventing the end of the world predicted by the Valenzetti Equation.
The nature of relative time between the worlds has been a constant point of contention and confusion here on the blog, so let me try once and for all to explain how I think it works. There is a flow of time on the Island, and a flow of time in the real world. Before the volcanic eruption, there was no difference in this flow. But ever since, the Island has essentially been falling behind, from the perspective of the real world. The ratio is as of yet undetermined, but the Island is in the past, as far as our perspective here in the real world.
This feeds into the notion of the relativity of simultaneity, one of Einstein’s many breakthroughs. Essentially, special relativity allows for events to happen simultaneously, but seen as happening at different (but equally valid) times depending on the perspective of the observer. But, we can’t say something like, "The ratio between our world and Island world is X." It’s not quite that simple, since we can’t apply a 24-hour day to the Island. The point is this: more work can be done in less time there than in the real world. Maybe Dharma can do the equivalent of six months of work there while only four months pass here. Maybe they can do nine months of work in that time. In any case, it tips Dharma towards preventing the doomsday scenario of the Valenzetti Equation in the most efficient manner possible.
Now, a Lostaway doesn’t perceive this difference. As far as they know, each day on the Island is as long as a day here. The difference can only be measured when both sides are viewed comparatively. Remember what is said in the Room 23 video: "Only fools are enslaved by time and space."
Now, time and space, and their interconnected nature, were of keen interest to a 19th-century mathematician named Minkowski. If that name sounds familiar, well, it’s because the name of the man Jack Shephard radios on the freighter is also named Minkowski. This mathematician once said,
Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.
"An independent reality." Sounds kind of like the Island, no?
Now, I don’t want to get bogged down in scientific diagrams. (If you can work out the Minkowski diagrams, please, tell me how/if they relate to Lost.) I bring Minkowski’s historical significance up to show that these issues of space and time are very much in play in the world of Lost, and very much on the minds of the Freighters.
Ah, yes, the Freighters. Who are they? What are their hopes? Their dreams? Do they enjoy long walks on the beach? It’s most likely that they are the second coming of the Dharma Initiative, this time with 86% more malevolent intent. I’ve covered the majority of the following in above link, but needless to say, the Freighters have come to finish the job that the Purge prevented. Only instead of coming as high-minded (and naïve) optimists fresh from the hippie-laden 60’s, they come as cold-hearted realists willing to allow the end justify any means.
The roots of Dharma 2 (Dharma Boogaloo) lie in The Lost Experience, an online ARG that ran between Seasons 2 and 3 of Lost. At the time, the narrative was intriguing but seemingly disconnected from the show. Why was a woman named Rachel Blake trying to stop the Hanso Foundation in 2006? Didn’t the show take place in 2004? Why was the Hanso Foundation, now run by a sinister faction within (led by Thomas Mittlewerk, pictured…sigh, what a dreamboat) and without the Foundation, developing a bio-weapon? What "specific genetic targets" were they after? And why oh why did The Hanso Foundation hire Paik Heavy Industries to build an enormous boat, complete with "Quarantine" zones?
The time-warped nature of the show, coupled with the freighter off-shore our Island, could finally provide the answer to this two-year old mystery. But this still doesn’t explain why it still took a suicide mission by Naomi for them to truly locate the Island. And to answer that, we need to look at the stakes involved in moving to and from the Island.
To get the full logic, please start here and read my three-part essay, "In Bloom." If you don’t have the time, because you, unlike me, have a life, let me sum it up as best I can. The dangers inherent in time travel (which happens each time you traverse the barrier between the real world and Island world) are demonstrated in the Orchid orientation video, in which people scramble in order to make sure two bunnies do not touch each other. It’s unclear what would happen should Present Bunny 15 meet Future Bunny 15, but needless to say, things would be bad. How bad? So bad I should have named the three-part series "Don’t Cross the Streams."
Sci-fi literature has a well-known affinity for time-travel stories, each presenting a slight variation of rules under which time travel can work. Lost works a lot like Back to the Future II, or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in that people traveling back cannot come into direct contact with their earlier selves. But tossed into the mix, apparently, is the notion that such an encounter would not only be psychologically devastating, but cataclysmic on a physical plane as well.
In short, it would be like what would happen should Ray, Egon, and the rest of the Ghostbusters crossed the streams incorrectly.
Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
I’d suggest that Ben, in tightly controlling who comes and goes to the Island, essentially makes sure nobody (read: Jack) crosses the streams. If the Lostaways are both on this island AND dead at the bottom of the Sunda Trench, that means there are potentially two, equal physical versions of them: one in each world. This might be fine and dandy if they return, in that they can’t run into the other version unless Hurley becomes like, the best deep-sea diver ever. But what if you don’t crash and die on your way to the Island? Suppose you isolate, locate, and arrive on the Island intact, but in the past? Where does your real world self reside?
It’s a complete mind trip to try and rationalize such duality, which is why I spent three days on this initially. But I wouldn’t even attempt such thought if not for the Orchid video. The producers of Lost showed it at Comi-Con for a reason last summer. It’s extremely vital to thematic concerns on the show. And the greatest example of just how grave such a union could be is already in the show. I’m talking about Jacob and Smokey, whom I believe are two halves of the same person.
For a more thorough analysis, read my initial take on this. But essentially, the oft-mentioned "incident" in the show caused a split, taking a member of the initial Dharma Initiative and cleaving him into two entities. One sits inside a log cabin surrounded by strange gray powder; the other is tethered to the ground. Both are powerful. Both are trapped. Both derive from the same place, but more importantly, both derive from the same psyche.
Again, follow the link for more in-depth perspective, but think about this: both sure seem to like to catalog people. Jacob’s extremely fond of lists. Seems to make ’em all the time. And Smokey…he makes his own lists. This was made clear, at least to me, in the final mobisode in the Missing Pieces series. Both sides seem to be recruiting people on the Island towards some final endgame, one that might finally be starting with the arrival of the freighters. On one side? Team Jacob! On the other? Team Smokey! WHO YA GOT, PEOPLE?
One man who is on no side but his own? Ben. He’s the wild card between the two factions. And he has his own agenda. I won’t make this already long entry even longer, but read all about what I believe is his ultimate motivation on the show. Such a softie, that Ben.
And with that, you’re all caught up on everything. And in 2,000 words, roughly. Not too shabby. You’re now ready to re-watch "Through the Looking Glass," airing tonight, and the start of Season 4 tomorrow. Be sure to visit It Happened Last Night tomorrow night for my recap of "The Beginning of the End."
And be sure to leave all your theories, hopes, and wishes for Season 4 below!
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.