LOST: What Lies in the Shadow of the Season 5 Finale?

LOST: What Lies in the Shadow of the Season 5 Finale? May 14, 2009

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.

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  • I’m with you on the whole “Let’s not assume Jacob is good” scenario.In the instances of Sawyer and Kate, his actions with them in the past lead them down the path of revenge and criminality….which ultimately turns them into murderers. I think the true theme is free will vs. fate.Jacob says that Ben has a choice, which would seem to make him the proponent free will, yet at the same time he has manipulated all of the key characters.I remember that when Ben’s daughter’s boyfriend had been captured by Ben, he was subjected to watching some sort of brainwashing video that would occasionally fill the screen with “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”. I’m wondering if the other character is Esau-ish?Another thought is that he is the human representation of the island, which seems to have its own will.

  • You and Terri are bringing up a lot of other issues that are boggling my mind.I think the motive of Jacob’s adversary is that he wants to be left alone: he’s tired of Jacob bringing people to the island to be his (Jacob’s) projects (i.e., Jacob wants them to morally advance). People just come in and cramp his style and end up doing damage. Jacob’s adversary set up (or acted as) the smoke monster to protect his valuables, and/or to keep people in check.At the same time, Jacob’s adversary will have some fun with the people on the island. He confronts Eco with his past before killing him, and he judges Ben Linus. He likes to play games with people, yet, overall, he’s bored with them because he expects the same thing out of them over and over again: corruption.

  • I don’t think Esau is the smoke monster. He seemed genuinely pleased and surprised when told by Ben about what Ben’s daughter said. My impression is that the smoke monster makes people face their deepest fears. Ben’s deepest fear, at that particular moment, was that John was more special than he was. Thus “Alex” may have had no ulterior motive at all in telling Ben to obey John/Esau. But even if there was an ulterior motive, I don’t think we can assume it was Esau’s motive. It may have been Jacob’s. Jacob seemed to want Ben to kill him at the end of the episode. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Jacob yet.As for the tapestry, I suspect there is a parallel here to the Fates of Greek mythology. The line about making your own thread may be significant, since it suggests that the people who are brought to the island may have been manipulated their entire lives to serve Jacob’s ends.

  • “I don’t think Esau is the smoke monster. He seemed genuinely pleased and surprised when told by Ben about what Ben’s daughter said.”That thought occurred to me, and, at first, I dismissed it by saying that Esau was just pretending, since he was pretending to be Locke. But a strength in what you’re saying, Chris, is that Locke has mostly been acting like he knows everything. “I just know–the island told me!” So maybe it is significant when he appears not to know something.

  • your idea o Jacob sounds totally logically..but there is one thing which keeps me busy…what i Aaron ( Claire’s Baby) is JAcob or his reincarnation..that’s what I’m convinced about..and there was a scene in the 3rd episode in which Claire is dreaming o Locke sitting on a table in the middle o the jungle and writes something ..but his eyes look strange to me and he is telling sth like..you didn’t take care o Aaron and you gave him away and now we all have to pay ..wow..I think this is going to be one o themost important issues or the 6th episode..what do u think ?

  • Bamber

    i think that circles of ash are being used so people can tell if the smoke monster/man in black has visited. the smoke monster can only travel along the ground, so would break up any ash it slithers over.i think ur right that jacobs nemesis is the smoke monster, and has been assuming the form of the dead to enact his plan – christian shepherd, john locke etcalso i think it makes it seem like jacob’s nemesis/smoke monster is in fact Epet – the egyptian god of death, who is a serpent shape, and is the polar opposite to tawaret – who is the statue figure.

  • I’m pretty much ready to accept that Jacob is…Jacob. I’ve only been willing to contemplate that he might be the same as another character where that character wasn’t named, or might actually be named Jacob (e.g. “Jack”). But it seems we now know that Jacob has been around longer than Richard, and seems not to age, and since Aaron was born before Jacob was killed, I don’t think reincarnation will work either. But Aaron is clearly important, and so perhaps he is supposed to be Jacob’s replacement. It may be that the island made Jacob the way he is, rather than Jacob simply always having been that way.I hope some of the Egyptologists and scholars of the Ancient Near East who watch the show will provide some more expert perspectives on the connections with Egyptian religion and symbolism, since they clearly are important, if not indeed central, to the show’s mythology.

  • Take a look at the scene with young Juliette and her family. There is a coffee table book entitled,”The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt”.

  • Excellent blog with crisp insight. The poly-theism of Damon and Carleton, with their attempt to go out and incorporate hundreds of source-points for their story make for quite the convolution of influences…I recall really making Damon upset when I asked him at Comic-Con, after the (violent) 3rd season had just palyed out, “I hope this isn’t all about the end justifies the means”…

  • I do think Esau is the smoke monster…of course he would act surprised when Ben said he had to do everything he said. If he just shrugged it off, that would seem odd.One question I had was ,how does the smoke monster/Esau know that Locke is going to be running through the jungle at the point that he, Alpert and Ben see him coming with a bullet wound in the leg? If he was Locke that would make sense…but how would Esau know? Also, maybe the nuke killed Jacob before hand and that basically kept Ben from killing him since those events couldn’t happen if Jacob died in the nuke in the 1970s.With only 1 season left, do you really think Aaron is going to play a big role? Also, does Jacob saying they are coming refer to the people with Locke’s body or Jack and the others with the bomb? It seemed like he knew all that was about to happen would be undone…including Ben murdering him, by the nuke. Or it could mean both groups (those with Locke’s body and those with the nuke).

  • Anonymous

    Maybe someone has mentioned this already, but the tapestry in the temple shows actual Egyptian imagery: Aten the sun-disc god throwing rays of wisdom/life onto people considered to be blessed (usually depicted as the royal family, I believe). Here’s an image, if you sroll down: http://www.crystalinks.com/akhenaten.html A quick read on Akhenaten, the Pharaoh that started that particular religion, might shed some interesting light on where the writers are going with this…

  • Anonymous

    I think the ash ring is from Voodoo, a ring of ash keeps spirits in / out. One of the intersting things I noticed was that Jacob gave “gifts” to everyone in the past. I imagine that must be part of this somehow. Also Richard, I am pretty sure will be one of the guys from the Black Rock (probably the ship that was coming to the island). I think season 6 will also reintroduce Hanso and explain why he continued to set up the DHARMA group and what not. Also given the way Fringe is going, would not be surprised to find out that people can “phase” in and out of the island – meaning charlie will probably be back. (Hurley brought back that guitar for a reason)

  • Anonymous

    I'm not so sure any of the characters previously killed off will return. The Locke character, likely Jack's father and Ben's daughter too were Jacob's "partner" in disguise."Dead is dead" as someone said in the last episode.So maybe the guitar is destined for someone else; if it is in fact a guitar…

  • DaveEvans

    If one assumes that it is Jacob's nemesis that is taking the form of the 'dead' characters, it may be so that he can ONLY take the form of dead people. Indeed it was the 'resurrected' Locke that instructed Richard to tell time-jumping Locke that he must die. Perhaps this was so that he could take the form of the furture leader?

  • Void Seed

    As for who are the good guys, it all comes down to whether YOU think it's a good idea to bring people to the island. You can't deny that the crash of Oceanic 815 allowed the survivors to attain closure on certain parts of their life that they could never have achieved back in the "real world". Locke saw the death of his highly immoral and heartless father and Sawyer got the revenge he always wanted in one swoop inside the Black Rock. Rose would have died of cancer had she not crashed, and probably Bernard, too, by a broken heart as a result. Mr. Eko would never have been able to make peace with his deceased brother who ended up on the island too somehow. Kate came to terms with the step-dad she killed in the person of Sawyer after he got shot on the boat and was near death.While messing with the almost incomprehensible powers of the island can be dangerous, in my opinion, Jacob is correct in 'weaving the threads of fate' as he does.It's not a given that one side or the other are "the good guys." It's up to each one of us to make that decision. The trans-temporal interaction of the various survivors and returnees is very interesting. If Faraday was correct and the detonation of the nuke near to the magnetic anomaly will prevent the crash of Oceanic 815, then the whole chain of events that leads to the murder of Jacob by Ben Linus was/will be undone.Without the crash there's no Locke to impersonate, Ben would have died of his cancer, since Jack Shepard would not be there, and Jacob would still be weaving his tapestries. There's no way of knowing the result of the interaction of the the detonation and the super magnetism of the "pocket." Far all we know, all that would happen is a weird sound and a purple sky after Juliet got it to explode. Or perhaps that's what happened to the statue?So, if Faraday is correct, Jack and the others are actually working for Jacob, to undo his murder by Ben Linus, by preventing across time itself their arrival on the island.Man, I love this show!!!

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting comments! I've only seen the end of season 5 recently but I'm loving the mythological angle.I do also believe that everything revolves around two entities/deities that are playing their games with us as their pawns. Jacob's statue is Sebek (human body with crocodile head) while the other seems to be Anubis (in the monster's temple, Ben sees a mural where Anubis is facing the smoke monster). Anubis is known as the god of the dead with Osiris, but also as the god of embalming, which would explain why he would choose to use dead people to manifest himself. Death however was not 'bad' for Egyptians and the colour black associated with him represented rebirth. Sebek, a feared and powerful god, represented fertility and life but a dangerous one (threat of crocodiles) and is ambiguous. He is also associated sometimes with Ra, sun god, as per the tapestry. He seems to manifest himself by nudging people, which would work with Jacob's behaviour so far. These 2 were part of enemy families and could be seen as ying and yang, but I don't think either is good or bad. Both are needed to keep the balance. I don't know much about the Hebrew bible, but Jacob and Esau seem to have been twin brothers. Esau is seen negatively for having given away his first-born birthright but he was in fact deceived by Jacob. Duality there again. Their portrayal is again stereotyped – Jacob being smooth-skinned while Esau was hairy, but that doesn't mean one is 'good' and the other 'bad'.Still, Egyptian mythology keeps creeping up everywhere. When Jack is cleaning the class room, he is wiping the board, which is full of notes on that mythology/history. Ethan's mother takes the Ankh (Egyptian cross) from her dead first husband. Was that the reason for his death?As for the bomb, I've got a feeling that Jack et al did exactly what should have happened. Everything we saw up till then had already happened (Ben being shot and ending up being 'saved' by Richard who says he will forget everything and loose his innocence – which could result in Ben becoming who he is) so that I don't think they've changed history. Now that they've done their task, they will find themselves back to the 'present' to deal with Anubis/John Locke.Richard puzzles me. He goes into Anubis temple to save Ben and yet serves Jacob/Sebek. His use of Latin and name (Ricardus) would suggest he is Roman but that would mean that he was on the island before the Black Rock, as this one dates from 19th century.Soon hopefully we'll have answers.