With only so many episodes left in the series Lost, I’m now ready to do what I’ve never tried to do before: predict what’s going on and what’s going to happen. This is a new thing for me. As a rule, I’ve avoided guessing things about the show or reading other peoples’ theories. I’ve preferred to discover things as they’re revealed. A funny thing happened last week, though. I was driving home from the comic book store when ninety-five percent of this popped into my head. It’s long and complex, but that’s how it is with any show that’s gone on this long presenting one mind popping mystery after another. So if you don’t watch the show, don’t bother going any further. If you do, let me know what you think of my theories, which are:
The island is a focal point for massive amounts of energy being produced by or through the earth. This energy in the ancient past would’ve been associated with divine power (hence the temples and statues). In the modern world, it’s the type of thing Stephen Hawking uses up entire books to explain. The main thing is that the energy is sufficient to bend space and time, giving people there and the island itself the ability to move through both if they can harness or relaease it. This energy is big-bang level stuff, so it’s not easily contained or used. The Dharma Initiatives attempts to do this were threatening the existence of our planet. Facets of this energy even have sentience, especially…
I’ve read multiple nicknames for the smoke monster/evil entity/John Locke-looking thing, but Smokey is my favorite. Smokey is a primal force. He’s an entity whose nature predates life as we know it. He’s simply energy and intelligence. As an old power, he focuses only on freedom and survival, just like an animal. What happens to people if he’s released is of no consequence to him, especially as he finds it impossible to fathom that we think beyond his notions of self-preservation and gratification. That’s why he believes giving people a choice is an illusion. We don’t make choices because at our core, we’re animals with certain instincts that we will always go to.
Smokey cannot exist as pure energy forever. He must condense into a physical form and into a specific person. When he does, he absorbs the memories and personality of that person. For some reason, this person cannot be alive and has to emotionally surrender to the despair Smokey feels. Like with Jacob, there are candidates for this role which Smokey finds by descending on them and viewing their memories. If that person overcomes their despair, like Echo did, they are of no use and Smokey does away with them. If they die failing to assert their own will, as Locke did, Smokey settles into that persona. Once he does, he “becomes” that person. That’s why when he refers to a past as a human and is starting to talk like Locke (“Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”). He’s slipping from the old personality into Locke.
The island’s natural forces work to keep him trapped. As energy, he’s also sensitive to electromagnetic pulses, which Dharma Initiative used to keep him out of their space. I have no idea how the ash works the same magic.
Jacob is a person who the island’s energy works through. Jacob’s function is to keep the island and the rest of the world safe. That means he keeps people from messing with the island and he makes sure Smokey stays put. His presence is a focal point for the energy, which is why he’s the key to keeping Smokey in. As this energy also bends time and space, it allows Jacob to travel to any location while not ever being absent from the island. If Jacob dies, the energy loses its focus and Smokey can escape. Smokey cannot kill Jacob himself, since the energy Jacob uses is the very stuff he’s vulnerable to. Only people, who are not pure energy, can do that.
Jacob, in the end, is mortal. He can’t do this forever. So he observes candidates throughout the world to take his job on and runs them through the gauntlet of the island to see who is up for the task. Jacob is very old and has what we would consider an outdated moral code. People die left and right for him to achieve his goals, but it’s “for the common good” so he doesn’t hesitate to do it. The main point of his gauntlet is to make sure his job goes to someone with what he would consider the “right way of thinking” to counterbalance Smokey. Up until now, it’s been assumed that this was “good” to Smokey’s “evil”, but I think his thinking is a little more non-traditional.
BLACK ROCK VS WHITE ROCK
The balancing game between Smokey and Jacob isn’t traditional “Good versus Evil”. It’s free will versus fate. Smokey believes that everyone does exactly what they were built to do and that’s it. You were born with a part to play, like him, and choice is an illusion. Hence his temper tantrum with Echo, who cast aside his guilt and became determined to forge his own destiny. Locke, on the other hand, surrendered to despair because he “misread his destiny”. He chose to believe all you had to do was your part. He died failing to do his part, making him Smokey’s new persona.
Jacob believes in free will. He can guide you to a certain place but you have to make up your own mind. That’s why he believes in the candidate system. No one has a set role, but we all have potential for certain things. He picks out those with potential, sets them up there, and sees who makes the choices necessary to take over for him. In the end, it’s all up to you and whether you can rise above your emotional scars and guilt to make the right choice. There’s manipulation involved, sure, but you still have room to assert your will.
Once you become a candidate, the energy of the island begins to work on you, connecting you with the other candidates. You’re drawn together in ways that seem invisible, which is why everyone is constantly running into each other in the flashbacks. Because of this, when Jacob is dead they all share in some of his power, even if they don’t realize it. This is why they’re the key now to Smokey’s escape.
THE TWO TIMELINES
There are two traditional types of time travel in fiction: closed loop and open loop. Back to the Future is open loop. You go back in time and change things, changing the future. 12 Monkeys is closed loop. You can’t change the past because it already happened. What I learned recently is that Stephen Hawking and others recently surmised that time travel is possible. Time and space are a continuum (think of them as a river). If you go back in time, the second you land in the past you split the river into two streams. One stream is history as it was and the other is the new reality you’re creating. In other words, if you shoot your father before he conceived you, you’re not invalidating your existence because you’re now a refugee in a timeline where you never existed. Your old reality is running parallel so you haven’t created any paradoxes. The new Star Trek movie used this theory. Who directed that again? Oh, right. JJ Abrams, the co-creator of Lost.
Lost started as closed loop (“What happened, happened”), but the bomb split the space time continuum into two streams. This did two things: it destroyed the island in the new reality and it bent time and space to send the characters back into their old one. Some echoes of one timeline still exist in the other, which is why the characters keep bumping into each other in the new one. Smokey has the potential to destroy both, which is why the stakes are high to keep him in. If and when they do stop him, maybe our characters will get their happy ending by having the two streams come together again.
THE END GAME
What I’m hoping will happen in the end is one or all the characters assert their free will beyond what Jacob had even planned. You see, for all the good Jacob does he still treats the other characters like pieces on a chess board. He’s using people and throwing them aside when they’re no good to him anymore. I’d like to see some of the characters, especially Ben, pull themselves out of the game. After all, everything I just mentioned is a backdrop to what I care about the most on the show: the characters. Maybe this is why I never spent much time thinking about this until now. I want to see these characters achieve and fail for their own reasons, not as part of a big test. It would be great if the writers found a way for them to throw the game out and make something new. Maybe they already did this when they set off the bomb.
I just realized, by the way, that I have no clue what Desmond’s part in any of this is. I’ve already given this all too much time, though, so I will wait and find out on that one. In the meantime, it will be fun to see how right or wrong I was about the whole thing.