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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, May 22, 2010


(The title will mean nothing to anyone who didn't grow up on western-spoof cartoons, where some character would find himself out in the desert, where he'd pass by a sign reading "Last Chance Saloon," followed by a "Really Last Chance" one, and finally a "Honest, Really Really Last Chance" indicator.)

Having said nothing about Timeline-A in my last post, I figured I might as well take a really really last shot at that one today.

Back in this post, I argued that LOST's finale should, going by the themes its producers have tenaciously pursued, comprise a "happy medium" between the C.S. Lewis type of narrative world, where "perfect service" leads to an apocalyptic "perfect freedom," and the Sartre-style narrative in which Pure Necessity rules all, and the only thing man can control is his attitude toward that fact, be it the happiness of Sisyphus or Nietzsche's "amor fati."

Desmond, whom I've called the Holy Fool, is possibly the key out of the Locked Room of Necessity. In "What They Died For" both Widmore and Unlocke speak of Desmond's status as a "fail-safe" which is something of a double-edged sword. Prior to his rather abrupt departure from the world, Widmore had some plan to use Desmond to defeat or kill the Monster, but now the Monster, who was perfectly happy to put a bullet in Desmond's head a few stories ago, suddenly seems to think it's a good idea to use Desmond to "destroy the island." Jacob has also apparently informed the castaways of the need to destroy Smokey, though I'll be surprised if Jacob has actually given them anything approximating a plan to do so. STAR WARS is the George Lucas film most often quoted in LOST, but on the whole the producers seem much more inspired by the philosophy of Indiana Jones ("I'm makin' it up as I go along!")

A happy medium betweeen free will and determinism would have to acknowledge the reality of all of the empirical factors that make a deterministic worldview possible, much as Kant acknowledges the reality of the contingent. LOST has made this acknowledgement consistently-- "Dead is dead," "Whatever happened, happened"-- but the show has also consistently suggested that, though contingency can't be abolished as it is in a C.S. Lewis apocalypse, it can be suspended for a time. The stone of Sisyphus must always fall, but where Sartre's stone always falls the same way, LOST's metaphorical stone sometimes turns up new ground in the WAY it falls. Desmond can't prevent Charlie from dying somehow, but the way Charlie finally DOES die discloses to the castaways information about their world that they would not have known, had Charlie died by lightning or by drowning. Faraday's pyrrhic use of the Jughead bomb doesn't get rid of the old, undesireable world, but it does spawn a new world right alongside it. The producers have been quoted as saying that it's wrong to see "Timeline-B" as less real than "Timeline-A," which I take as a warning that we're NOT going to see a reprise of "dueling realities," such as we get from the classic STAR TREK episode, "City on the Edge of Forever." I think it's quite likely that we will see one or more grand gestures of renunciation-- Sawyer looks like a pretty likely "candidate" at this point. But the notion some fans expressed, that Jack or others might have to choose their current Sisyphean lot over a more wonderful-looking life in "Timeline B," seems incongruent with the themes that the LOSTguys have diligently explored. Some sort of merging of the two worlds looks more promising for the "end" postulated by Jacob.

"It always ends the same," says the Man in Black, and this endorsement of cyclic repetitiveness would seem to reflect much of the recursiveness of LOST, where characters continually behold evidence of being trapped in patterns no less repetitive than the punishment of Sisyphus: Hurley's numbers, Charlie's multiple deaths, Jack's Christlike wounds (I'm going to guess that the neck-wound that B-Jack is experiencing reflects something that will happen to A-Jack, but it may be only a symbolic death a la Harry Potter's big finish). Jacob takes the Christian position, saying that there will be an end beside which all of the earlier repetitions will seem like mere "progress." But what form can transcendence take, if one does not nullify the world of the contingent? Surely it will be more than just Sartre's attitude change, or Kant's "immanent metaphysics." Even the extra-diegetic thematics I mentioned before, re THE HAPPENING, may not be enough.

"We shall be changed," insists First Corinthians. So I'm expecting some change in the finale. If it won't be a Lewis-style apocalypse, it should be at least as momentous as the changes wrought by Desmond and Faraday.


Charles Reece said...

I believe you mean Camus, not Sartre.

Gene Phillips said...

Dang it, and the "hell is other people" guy was melding so well in my mind with the "happy Sisyphus" guy.