Let me say it from the outset: this post will discuss last night’s episode, the finale of the penultimate season of LOST. If you don’t want to learn what happens in that episode just yet, or you don’t want answers to some of the questions viewers of that episode were left with, then read no further. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Let me begin with a translation (kindly provided by Chris Jones) of the answer to the question/riddle “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” The answer was spoken by Richard Alpert and is “Ille qui nos omnes servabit”. We all heard that, but those of us who never studied Latin, or didn’t catch it, were still left wondering. And so here’s the translation: “He who will protect us all.”
But let’s back up a bit. The episode began in the shadow of the statue, as it were, just as the Black Rock was drawing near to the island. There on the shore we see Jacob wearing white, speaking to another man wearing black – returning us to the duality of two sides, dark and light, that John Locke spoke of at the beginning of the first season, explaining both Backgammon and the show’s underlying mythology. Whether the background is more Zoroastrian (two eternal opposing powers) or Mormon (two siblings, both sons of God, in conflict) we’ve yet to discover. But I will say this: even though the white hats/shirt vs. black hats/shirt symbolism seems straightforward, that very simplicity leaves me suspicious. As Frank Lapidus said in the episode, those who find they need to emphasize their status as “the good guys” are rarely the good guys. And so, for all Jacob’s gentleness, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t greater complexity to the show’s mythology than “light vs. darkness” might initially suggest.
Jacob, at the start of the episode, is weaving. There are heiroglyphics on the tapestry that I can’t help with, but there was also Greek writing. The top line is a quote from the Odyssey: “Soi de theoi tosa doien osa fresi sesi menoinas”: “And for thyself, may the gods grant thee all that thy heart desires”. The bottom line says “theoi de toi olbia doien”: “May the gods give thee blessings”.
His weaving is a metaphor. He has apparently been trying to persuade the other man on the island that he is wrong for some time, bringing people to the island who inevitably follow the same path of conflict and destruction. And so Jacob goes out into the world and begins weaving together the lives of various characters we have come to know and love. But to what end? Presumably convinced that this time he can demonstrate what he has failed to in the past. We also learn at the start of the episode that Jacob’s interlocutor wants to kill Jacob, and is looking for a loophole. By the end of the episode, in what may be the most shocking moment on LOST so far, he seems to have found it. The “rules” of the “game” they are playing still need to be fully unveiled. Might it be that here we have two opposing forces playing a game, with humanity as the playing pieces?Tonight we also learned what was in Ilana’s box, and that was the “most shocking moment” ever on LOST that I mentioned earlier. In the box was the body of John Locke, which had never left the cargo hold of the plane. Jacob’s opponent was impersonating him this whole time. Here too we find a complication of the show’s use of religious imagery. It was shocking to discover that the apparent resurrection was a counterfeit. And there was still more religious imagery from the Bible, not only as Ben said that “John” was ushered into Jacob’s presence like Moses, but also as Ilana’s group carried their box on poles in a manner reminiscent of the ark of the covenant. The idea that God (or Jacob) is weaving the details of our lives towards a greater purpose is one that many today resonate with, but here too we must be wary of assuming we know who the “good guys” are.
We also discovered that whoever Ilana and company were looking for in the cabin, he wasn’t there and hadn’t been for a long time. They further state that someone else had been using it. Was it Christian Shepherd? Or someone impersonating him? Those are but a few of the questions we were left with after tonight’s episode. The most obvious question is what the results of the detonation of the bomb will be. But also unanswered is what happens now that Jacob was stabbed and burned, what the significance of the ring of ash around the cabin was, and the fact that Ilana’s group found it had been broken, and what Jacob’s (final?) words were (it sounded like he said “Karnak” before adding “They’re coming”), and what they meant. Also an important question is the relationship between Jacob’s counterpart and the smoke monster. Since the smoke monster takes varied forms, and told Ben to do whatever Locke tells him to, my guess is that perhaps the “other man” at the start of the episode is the smoke monster. Notice how the monster doesn’t come to Ben until Locke is out of sight.
The episode ended with a negative, as it were, of the familiar logo: black on white rather than vice versa. Has the polarity between the two opposing forces changes as a result of what has happened so far? We’ll find out, presumably, in 2010. In the mean time, I will soon begin blogging my way through the recent book Lost and Philosophy: The Island Has Its Reasons edited by Sharon M. Kaye. I hope that will help provide a tiny bit of relief to those suffering from LOST withdrawal over the coming months.