Given the scope of Lost as it stands now, it’s very easy to remember just how small of a show this once was. Whereas we’re now in the middle of a war spanning continents, millennia, and the space-time continuum, it’s almost a shock to the system to go back to Season 1 and watch episodes centered around small things such as finding food and water.
Just as the show’s gotten larger, so too have the mythological implications. We’ve come a long, long way from "there be a monster in that there jungle" in terms of overall weirdness. By the time Ben Linus turned the donkey wheel, we were in full-on freak mode. Now I love me some full-on freak mode, don’t get me wrong, but it leads people as myself to come up with ever-increasingly complex theories to match the mind-blowing nature of what the show throws at us week to week.
So I’m trying to reduce things to an emotional, not sci-fi, level today. I’m taking the lead of "The Constant," in which the science of Des’ travels takes a back seat to the emotional journey taken by him in that episode. After all, consciousness-shifting is fine and dandy, but if not tethered to something to which we as an audience can connect, then it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. So I’m taking that and applying it to the Island. I’m going to ask a question of it that would could ask of any well-written character, and it’s a question I’m not sure I’ve ever asked myself:
What does the Island want?
Now, that question is implicit in much of my analysis, because what we see on and off it ties in with the Island’s desire at some level. But I’ve never sat around and directly confronted the Island’s end goal. I’ve gone on and on about the Army of the Light and the Army of the Dark, but these are just ever-shifting entities constantly at war over the Island. But more and more, I’m convinced the Island doesn’t want a victor.
It simply wants balance.
So, taking that premise, and applying a less complicated, more emotionally resonant analysis, I’ve decided that what the Island needs is for Jack Shephard and John Locke to finally, truly work together.
This isn’t a mind-blowingly original concept. But it’s easy to get seduced into the sexy that is Ben Linus and time travel and all the crazy cool stuff introduced into the show to forget that what this show once was is still what it is: a struggle between Jack and Locke to realize they are not opposites but in fact possessing qualities the other lacks. In short: the man of science needs to somehow incorporate the man of faith. (And vice versa, naturally.)
These are the two men that can actually end the interminable war waged by the two Armies over the decades/centuries/eons. And yet, both are fundamentally unable to do so, even by the time Jack leaves Locke at the Orchid. Jack’s desire to leave is as ill-advised as Locke’s inflated sense of self. The turning point? A scene we’ll undoubtedly see in Season 5: Jeremy Bentham visiting Jack Shephard one month before his "suicide."
In some ways, Jack had already started to heed Locke’s advice, through creating the lie perpetuated by the Oceanic 6. But he nevertheless does not heed the Island’s call to return until Locke’s death. Remember: active, honest will is the key to performing acts that the Island can augment/affect. It’s absolutely NO coincidence that Ben showed up when he did, mere hours after Jack passionately told Kate they had to go back. All his doubt, all his grief, all his guilt spilled over in that one minute and turned to desperate purpose. And Ben knows all too well how to exploit that.
As for Locke, think back to the "Drawing of the Three" scene during "Cabin Fever," when Richard Alpert asked John to name three objects he already owned. In picking the knife over the Book of Laws, Locke is picking against the Island’s natural instinct against conflict. The Island’s more like Mr. Miyagi than Rambo: it acts in self-defense only, and doesn’t want Locke crane kicking his way to Island Leader in the future. It wants a leader schooled in moral law, not martial law.
Yet, even with Locke nominally dead, I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll see he and Jack working together again on the Island. Exactly how is as much a mystery as exactly when: as Faraday would remind you, "when" is quite relative. But just remember to keep your eyes on these two men, even as the show prepares to go to even weirder, stranger, and more convoluted places. They will be your constant, as well as the Island’s ultimate saviors.
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to subscribe to the Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed. Last, but not least: check out the We Have to Go Back Gallery and make sure you’re fully caught up before Season 5 starts!