The final countdown begins!
Writing the words ''The Final Countdown'' reminds of the Europe song, of course. Which reminds me of Will Arnett on "Arrested Development." Which reminds me that Amy Poehler's husband has also appeared on "30 Rock." Which reminds me that whenever I watch "30 Rock" and see the obligatory establishing shot of the ebony edifice that is Rockefeller Center, I think ''Black Rock.'' Which reminds me of "Lost." See how my mind works? Behold the logic that you trust to make sense of the most mysterious show on television! Yes, my friends, there's no question about it — you, dear reader, are truly in the very best of hands.
The "end" of Lost begins Feb. 2. Goosebumps, huh? Perhaps a slight flutter of the heart? Or did you just pee yourself? It's okay! No judgment here! All spontaneous physiological expressions of excitable response to the imminent arrival of the final season of the greatest smoke monster/haunted polar bear/rampant boar teeming, peanut-butter stashing, killer-spider crawling, mystery island drama in the history of such televised dramaticals are appropriate! My involuntary reaction? Total grammatical collapse!
Also, I automatically think of Sting. That's right, the famous Sting, the one who shot to superstardom by duet-plus-oneing with Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams on the love theme to 1993's "The Three Musketeers," starring living legends Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, and Oliver Platt; the same Sting who first captured our hearts by playing the psychopathic but lovable Feyd in David Lynch's Dune. Ah, Feyd. Lovely, Feyd. Let's revisit, shall we?
Anyway, Sting came to mind one week before the premiere of Lost because 1 week = 7 days and ''7 Days'' is one of my favorite Sting songs, like, ever. Yes, I am a big Sting fan, and if saying that makes me sound like I'm 40 years old or something, you can bite me: I'm only 39. Truth is, Sting has been a major source of Doc Jensen inspiration over the years as many of his songs deal with ideas, themes, and motifs that are either in "Lost" or that I merely see in "Lost." (Same thing, right?) To ring out the introductory portion of today's monumental column (I did promise you Doc Jensen's ''Final Theory of 'Lost' '' this week, did I not?) and ring in the passion week of "Lost" (because the premiere is just as important as Easter, is it not?), I present...
Three sting songs that are actually "Lost" theories!
'Invisible sun'From the album Ghost In The Machine, by the Police, 1981
The song's inspiration is actually political in nature, but I always got a spiritual/mystical vibe from the title. I hear the refrain and I think, ''Locke's theme.'' The album "Ghost in the Machine," inspired by the book of the same name by Arthur Koestler, is chockablock with "Lost"-esque songs, including ''Secret Journey,'' ''Rehumanize Yourself,'' ''Spirits In The Material World,'' and a tune that serves as my own private cautionary tale, ''Too Much Information.''
'Synchronocity'From the album of the same name by the Police, 1983
Generally defined as ''a meaningful coincidence.'' "Lost" is certainly full of those, don't you think? But specifically, Sting was citing Arthur Koestler's take on Carl Jung's theory of a literal space-time force that connects people, things, and events. Or: the medium through which Lost's time travel and course correction happens.
'The Soul Cages'From Sting's album of the same name, 1991
The songs on this most personal of Sting's solo albums were inspired by the death of his father. The title track tells the story of a son who battles ''the king of the ninth world,'' a mythical entity likened to a lobster fisherman who snares human souls, then tortures them in cages. What the son wants: to free his father. The challenge: a drinking game. The son wins. ''The Soul Cages'' is the theme song for Doc Jensen's ''Final Theory of 'LOST,' '' which we get to now... right after the musical interlude. Check out the Kenny G wannabe at 2:02!
We begin with this simple assertion: Every season of "Lost" involves or often climaxes with parents or parental figures who go to extreme, reckless lengths to save or rescue their children. My hypothesis is that season 6 will be no different. Consider:
Season 1 Michael built a raft for the primary purpose of getting himself and his son Walt off the Island. But the most reckless act of parental rescue love came from Rousseau, who abducted Baby Aaron in hopes of trading the boy to the Others for her own kidnapped kid, Alex.
Season 2 The Waaaaaaaalt! season. Michael shot and killed Libby and Ana Lucia and then betrayed Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley to the Others to get Walt back, plus a boat off the Island.
Season 3 Charlie, who had become a father figure to Aaron, sacrificed his life in hopes of fulfilling Desmond's prophetic vision that girlfriend Claire and her son would be rescued. Ben, father-leader of the Others, attempted to kidnap the castaway women in hopes of using them as breeders to solve his community's strange child-making problem. Opposing him: Jack, the father-leader of the castaways, who executed a risky, violent counter-attack to undermine Ben's plan and save his peeps.
Season 4Father-leader Ben gambled with his daughter's life to save both her and his people from the Freighter mercs — and "Lost." The (presumed) ghost of Jack's father, Christian Shephard, tasked Locke with moving the Island in order to keep it safe from Charles Widmore. Christian appeared again at the end of the season to confer something akin to absolution upon redemption-seeking Michael, who sacrificed his life in hopes of helping his old castaway friends off the Island. The season concluded with father-figure Jack getting some of the castaways (including pregnant Sun and Baby Aaron) off the Island via helicopter, thus fulfilling a version of Desmond's prophecy. (Admittedly, my parental rescue mission reading is most strained with this season.)
Season 5 It's revealed that Eloise Hawking raised her son Daniel Faraday to become a physics genius in order to brainstorm a way to save himself from his predestined fate of being murdered in the past by her own hand. (Have we ever properly applauded the twisted genius of that story line?)
Newly maternalized Kate vowed to return to the Island on behalf of Claire's mom and Claire's child in order to rescue Claire. New castaway father-leader Sawyer tried to save Young Ben's life by bringing him to the Others. Father-leader Jack pushed his most audacious/reckless castaway rescue plan ever: blowing up Jughead to blow up the past.
And finally, it was revealed that Jacob, the Island's divine paterfamilias, had visited several castaways at key moments of their life to impart fatherly wisdom, blessing, or comfort to them, as well as given them a conspicuous touch — a touch which may end up saving them from their doomed destiny.
You know, it suddenly hits me: Does Jacob's touch = ''The Creation of Man'' portion of the Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, in which God the Father grants the spark of life to his first created human, Adam?
Michelangelo was said to have been inspired by the Christian hymn ''Vein Creator Spirits,'' which, according to Wiklpedia ''asks the 'finger of the paternal right hand' (digitus paternae dexterae) to give the faithful speech, love, and strength.'' In various ways, isn't that what Jacob gave each of the castaways when he touched them? To Sawyer, he gave a pen: speech. To Jin and Sun, he issued a blessing at their wedding: love. To Locke, he encouraged and comforted him in his greatest crisis: strength. Anyway, I digress. What was I supposed to be talking about? Oh, yes...
It is my belief that season 6 of "Lost" will tell its greatest parent-child rescue story yet, but with an added twist: It will involve the child also saving the parent. Yes, I am speaking of "Lost's" two damned Shephards, Christian and Jack. I believe the season will culminate with a major revelation about the role Christian has played in the "Lost" saga and with reconciliation between Christian and Jack. The season will concern another parental rescue mission: Jacob the Island godfather endeavoring to save his creation from the Man In Black. The story line will culminate with Jacob passing the torch of Island caretaking to his heir, his figurative son...oh, but why give it away so soon? Let's begin with:
What is the island?The Island is the literal manifestation of an old way of looking at the world common to all people — a world full of magic and spirits, angels and daemons. (I chose that daemon spelling intentionally. If you are confused, consult my essay on the matter.) The Island exists for anyone who believes in the concept of the mythical journey — a heroic odyssey, a ritualistic walkabout, a quest for spiritual redemption. The Island used to be much bigger and occupied much more of the world's psychic geography. The Island once may have even been the whole wide world. But skepticism, cynicism, and disbelief has caused it to shrink away from our mind's eye, becoming nothing more than a slender piece of ephemeral real estate.
What is the monster?Smokey exists to test and judge mankind. It is not meant to be known — hence, its nebulous form. It is meant to be intuitively understood, then battled. Based on clues the series has given us, the Monster is most likely the Man In Black. So I'll say more about him/it in a second.
What are the numbers?The Numbers are a metaphor for our yearning for meaning amid chaos. They have no intrinsic supernatural power. What's always been most interesting about the Numbers is their interpretation. Indeed, the only meaning they possess is the meaning that the characters — or members of the audience — project upon them. Hurley believed the Numbers were a curse. So they became a curse. There is more that could be said about the Numbers, but since they do not factor into my ''Final Theory,'' I'm not going elaborate here.
Is everyone from Oceanic 815 connected?For me, the issue of predestined interconnection really didn't become a legitimate one until last year's finale, when we saw that Jacob had visited several of the castaways in their off-Island past. Prior to that, I viewed this question more as a theme to be mulled, not a mystery to be solved. Yes, we've seen some characters' stories overlap or intersect in direct and indirect ways. Coincidence or synchronicity? Conspiracy or serendipity? My answer is...yes?
If I was forced to put forth a theory, I'd say this: Remember in "The Matrix," when the heroes saw the same black cat stroll past them twice in a span of seconds? It was explained that this experience of literal dájà vu was a glitch in the simulated reality of the matrix that occurred whenever the simulated had to be rebooted or updated. My theory is that the coincidences/synchronicities/serendipities in "Lost" are something very similar — they are proofs that reality is being tampered with. They are the clues left behind by the divine conspirators that have been shepherding castaway lives toward a certain end.
Of course, the ''problem'' with this mystery is that it's not really a mystery to the characters; these interconnections are things that, for the most part, only the audience can recognize. That's like real life, isn't it? Our day-to-day lives could easily be filled with serendipitous stuff that we simply don't spot or don't let ourselves see. Just like the Numbers, this is a question for us to discuss and debate, but not a question that the show must answer. The only question Lost needs to answer is why Jacob went around touching the castaways he touched.
What's up with the ghosts, like Mr. Eko's brother, Jack's father, Kate's horse and Sayid's cat?
One word: Smokey. Historically speaking, the Monster's m.o. involves manifesting as intimate motifs pulled from the minds of those who come to its Island in order to prompt these people to reflect upon who and what they are. However, with the castaways, Smokey may have generated those aforementioned specific entities to goad or bait them toward fulfilling its master plan — with the exception of Christian Shephard. I remain intrigued by the mystery of his empty coffin and missing corpse. I am open to the idea that Smokey or some other Island agency swiped the body to manipulate Jack toward a certain end. But for now, this is my theory...
We must remember that before his death, Christian Shepard had initiated a hero's journey. That journey: battling his alcoholism; slaying personal demons; earning redemption in the eyes of his son, his family, the world, the cosmos, God. Earlier, I showed you how "Lost's" redemption narrative mirrors the process of addiction recovery. I also showed you how that one addiction recovery model, the Alcoholic's Anonymous model, is fundamentally spiritual in nature. Remember that Christian Shephard had joined an AA group before his death. Remember that Jack had disrupted his father's sobriety/redemption bid, knocking Christian off the wagon and convincing him of his own irreparable, irredeemable damnation. Let me tell it to you plain: THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED.
Jack f---ed up something primal and powerful by derailing his dad's redemption journey. But the good news is that this primal and powerful thing is unstoppable and unbeatable. For by initiating that redemption journey, Christian Shephard made covenant with a living force, and that force will move heaven and hell and reality itself to honor that covenant. We're talking some serious old-time religion. No, wait! This is older than old-time religion. This is what "Lost"-cited author C.S. Lewis called ''the deep magic before the dawn of time.'' Call it what you want, but I say "Lost" calls it Jacob, and Jacob is the kind of dude that honors a promise.
And so when Christian Shephard called upon That Which Is Represented By Jacob to save his life from himself and his disease, Jacob said, ''Done.'' I'd like to think that when Christian came to the Island, he completed his redemption journey via some kind of adventure the show has chosen not to reveal to us. But the final stage of that story now syncs up with the grand saga "Lost" has chosen to show us. To complete his redemptive odyssey, Christian must reconcile with his son, Jack, or at least try to.
The problem, though, is that for that to happen, Jack had to want that for himself, too, and that meant embarking on his own redemption quest. I think Christian has been working behind the scenes, with Jacob or on behalf of Jacob, to make that happen. The process finally, officially began when Jack Shephard stood on that highway overpass and looked to the sky and pleaded, ''Forgive me.''
And with that, Jacob began weaving together the separate and shared redemption arcs of both Doc Shephards, which will culminate with the last movement of their holy ordeal: reconciliation. This will happen, and woe to anyone or anything that gets in the way of it. Because heaven has no fury like that of redemption interrupted. That's some seriously harrowing s---, sir. Look it up.
Jacob and MIB are daemons that fulfill the functions of the Island. Jacob served the additional role of Island caretaker. They represent differing views of mankind that have become more volatile, competitive, and hostile as the centuries have progressed and as man has migrated more toward a self-centered, philosophically materialistic worldview. Jacob has hardened around a position of eternal hope and spiritual progress.
MIB, who is also Smokey, has hardened around a position of pessimism, cynicism, and despair. Somewhere along the way, MIB/Smokey decided he/it was just done with this Island crap. He's tired of playing out his part in Jacob's increasingly futile redemption dramas. So he's been conspiring to subvert and destroy Jacob and shut the Island down for good. But Jacob is wise to all this. And so it goes that he's been conspiring to subvert and undermine MIB's attempt to subvert and destroy him. (Note that I did not say that Jacob was also trying to destroy MIB. I think Jacob wants to keep MIB on the Island and make him/it continue to perform his/its function.)
I would not assign values of ''good'' and ''evil'' to Jacob and MIB. However, I would say that perhaps both have grossly erred in their respective conspiracies because they violated a rule that is bigger than both of them: the sanctity of mankind's free will.
MIB has been using people, notably Locke and Ben, to execute his/its plan. Likewise, Jacob has been using the castaways to subvert MIB's subversion. This brings us to ''The Loophole.'' When MIB spoke of wanting to find a loophole, what he meant was finding a way to make all-powerful Jacob vulnerable so he could kill him. By way of explaining exactly what I mean, let me cite another great story: Nell Gaiman's "Sandman," the saga of Morpheus, the lord of dreams. In the final stages of that epic fantasy, it was revealed that much of the story involved a conspiracy by the hero's embittered sister (Desire) to get him to make a big mistake that would trigger a cosmic process that would produce his death. (I won't spoil anything more.)
I think MIB tricked/forced Jacob to make a similar error, in this case, violating the holy order of respecting human free will. In trying to stop MIB, Jacob has had to meddle in human affairs to a degree that he's not permitted. (I'm thinking the conspicuous touching of select castaways was a big no-no.) The consequence for his transgression is the same one that Adam and Eve received when they decided their own interests were more important than the divine rules: mortality. And so it went that an eternal entity once nigh invincible became vulnerable and killable.
That said, I think Jacob knew exactly what he was doing. He broke the rules and knew he'd have to pay the price for doing so. His violation — and his sacrifice — won't be in vain...as long as the castaways rise to the challenge of the final battle that is at hand. Whatever that is. Geeze Louise! Don't look me! I don't have all the answers! Sheesh.
Who are the Others? And why doesn't Richard Alpert age?The Others are a tribe of people that serve the will of Jacob. As for Richard Alpert: I have never had a theory for him, and I still don't. So I'll go with the conventional wisdom: he came to the Island via the Black Rock and was imbued with long life by Jacob.
Who will John Locke's story end?His resolution is this: In the end, Locke will be resurrected and given eternal life and will assume Jacob's role in the Island's function. As I said weeks ago: I predict the final scene of "Lost" will be a redux of the Jacob/Man In Black conversation on the beach scene from last season's finale — instead this time, it'll be John Locke in Jacob's place. As for his adversary, he'll be wearing a new identity — that of Benjamin Linus. It ends with this:
Fake Ben: Do you know how badly I want to kill you right now?
And then Locke looks at him with a knowing glint — and they laugh
And there it is. My ''Final Theory of 'Lost.' '' Why ''final''? Am I quitting or joining the Navy or enrolling in viking school or even worse...throwing in the towel on trying to understand "Lost"? Nope, it's none of those things. But to properly explain why this represents my final theory of "Lost," I need 1,000 words, and after last week's War and Peace-length dissertation on addiction, I thought I'd give it a break this week, especially in light of the onslaught of "Lost" coverage to come.
On Feb. 1, please come to EW.com for the season premiere of Totally Lost, co-hosted with my friend and partner in "Lost," Dan Snierson. And then, on Feb. 4, another new Doc Jensen column — and "Lost" itself. The final countdown has begun! (Cue Europe. And Will Arnett. And Sting...)