Lost: Tipping the scale

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March 5, 2010

3:51 PM

“You said that there is still good in your soul. Then prove it.”

Sayid has spent his entire life attempting to do the right things in order to redeem himself for the horrible torture he inflicted upon people while serving for the Iraqi Republican Guard. And, apparently, he’ll spend his flash-sideways life doing the same thing. Problem is, circumstances keep arising where killing or torturing someone is (or he is told is) the right thing.

In his flash-sideways, the Sayid was forced to do the “right thing” by some bad guys, led by none other than mercenary meanie Martin Keamy, who were extorting Sayid’s brother Omer and threatening his family. He stepped up and killed them all, even after Keamy promised to forgive the debt and begged for his life.

On the island, Dogen attempted to trick Sayid into killing Smocke by feeding him the line that begins this post. Always in search of redemption, Sayid took the bait, met Smocke out in the jungle, plunged a dagger into his side, and … didn’t kill him. Smocke removed the dagger, handed it back to Sayid and proceeded to promise him what he also guaranteed Sawyer: anything you want. Of course Sayid only wanted Nadia, who had already died, but Smocke claims he can give Sayid anything he wants, regardless of state of being.

So once again, Sayid was forced to do the “right thing,” this one according to Smocke. He went back to the temple and killed Dogen (the same way Dogen’s men first killed him in the temple pool) and his John Lennon-esque friend, which immediately opened the temple door for Smokey to come in and tear the place, and its inhabitants, to shreds. Before doing so, he told the temple dwellers that because Jacob is dead, no one has to stay at the temple. Smocke is leaving and whoever wants to join him may but whoever stays will die.

Sayid appears to be the only character who recognizes his shortcomings and misdeeds and has attempted to atone for them. So he’s a good model for repentance. But time and time again, he’s put in positions where he has to break out his torture tool kit or a glock and bring the noise in order to do the “right thing.” So does that just make him weak-willed? Or does he sometimes put himself in the position to wreck havoc because he needs that outlet of violence, fulfilling the typical stereotype of soldiers changed by war who become addicted to the thrill of brutality. He is one of my favorite characters and has been from the beginning, but I am beginning to think that Dogen may be right about him. Before he even came back from the dead, Sayid did seem to have the internal scale tipped more toward evil than good.

Now, it appears that resurrected Sayid is definitely a bad guy, but I suppose that judgment also rests upon the debate I opened last week (and would still like to continue since I only received one response) about whether Smokey/Man in Black/Smocke is good or evil.

“RPD” raised a valid point on this subject on the comment board last week: “If the theory you presented that Sawyer and Jack may be the protégés of Smocke and Jacob is factual then we should be able to compare the personalities of the doctor and con-man to assess the nature of the other two men. If this is the case then we can assume that the man in black is using the same techniques of a con-man, such as pathological lying for your own gain, where Jacob is using the same as doctors which is to give the impression of hope to benefit the lives of others.” WRITE SOMETHING MORE.

But back to the recap. Besides Sayid’s little tripartite slaughter, the most crucial aspect of Sayid’s flash-sideways is the appearance of Nadia. In Sayid’s flash-forward, the love of his life has married his brother Omer. Sayid still harbors a love for Nadia, but in yet another attempt to atone for his past, he pushed her toward his brother because his past transgressions preclude him from being with the girl of his dreams (apparently he has no regard for her desires).

Also in the flash-sideways, the now-expected Islander guest appearances: one from Jack (Sayid passes him in the hallway when he visits Omer at the hospital) and one from Jin (Sayid finds him in a walk-in freezer after killing the Keamy trio).

On the island, Claire has been captured and stuck in a hole in the temple by the other Others. Kate tells her she’s been raising Aaron and explains that she returned to rescue Claire but Claire tells her that she does not need rescuing. After Sayid’s murders lifted whatever barrier prevented Smokey’s entrance to the temple and the Black Smoke Monster began raising hell, Kate and Miles start to run away but Kate retreats into the temple to save Claire. Rousseau 2.0 tells Kate she’d be safer in the hole with her and as Smokey approaches, Kate hops in just in time to catch the Black Smoke Monster pass over her. Just as we saw with Eko in season two, flashes appeared in the smoke.

So once all was said and done, only three of our friends survived the Smoke-out. Miles, aided by Ilana, Lapidus, Ben and Sun (where did they come from?) found shelter by pushing that ouroboros stone we talked about last week and uncovering a secret hiding place. No clue yet why Ilana knows the secret floor plan of the temple.

Claire, Sayid, and Kate were also spared. The scene where they walk out to meet Locke, climbing over carcasses and passing by burning rubble (anyone else catch the burning cross?) with “Catch a Falling Star” playing in the background CREEPED ME OUT. Capital letters are necessary because that moment was eerily uncomfortable. I’m not sure yet why Kate decides to follow Smocke and the others. One obvious answer is that she is just fulfilling her mission of bringing Kate back to Aaron. She could also be just joining another group in the hopes of finding something that will make her happy (it’s only been like two days and she’s already tried out the temple crew, Sawyer and the lonely jungle). Or, and I’m not sure if I believe it but it is possible, she too has been claimed by whatever has taken hold of Claire and Sayid. Perhaps when Smokey passed over her in the hole. Another variation of this idea is that whatever she saw in the Smoke Monster flashes made her believe in whatever Smocke is about to do.

While on the island Sayid’s internal scale was weighed down with evil, but the scale of the show was equally balanced with questions and answers. Let’s start with why Sayid failed to kill Smocke. I’ve mentioned a few times this idea of rules governing who can kill whom. I do not have much backing behind these rules, although I’ve posited that it relates to blood lines. I believe Smocke had to convince Ben to kill Jacob because the rules prevented him from doing it himself. In such a way, I believe the rules prevented Sayid from killing Smocke as well. Although now I’m thinking it has less to do with bloodlines, considering Sayid is Iraqi. But I still hold that there are certain rules behind who can murder who. This is the fourth example of it (Ben failed to kill Locke, Widmore got Keamy to kill Alex for him, Smocke got Ben to kill Jacob for him, and now Sayid failed to kill Smocke). Now we just need to figure out for sure how the rules operate and why they are in place.

My dear friend and Lost viewing buddy Kayley was more stuck on a notion that Sayid couldn’t kill Smocke after he had spoken. Dogen does say that if he speaks it is too late. I am not sure if that was just a warning of “Do it fast before he has the chance to kill you or talk you out of it” or if the act of speaking has the power to negate the injury. I clearly like my rules theory so I am sticking with that one for the time being, but will consider adding in a “speaking clause.”

Next, we had an interesting parallel between stay-on-the-island-Locke and leave-the-island-Jack at the beginning of season four and what happened last night with Smocke giving everyone the choice to either stay or go again.

Finally, we’ve got an issue on the island with manipulation. It seems as if everyone in power on the island has about thirty strings they are pulling at any given moment to make people do what they want. We first saw this with Ben, that maniacal mastermind who was always thinking forty steps ahead of the game. Turns out he, much like all of the candidates, was just being manipulated by Jacob. Now we see both Smocke and Dogen offering promises, “telling the truth,” and just generally steering certain people in the direction they want them to go.

Two weeks ago I shared a theory my brother and I were tossing around that Jacob represents determinism while Smocke represents free will. After the past two episodes, I’m now more inclined to believe that no one has any control over their own lives at all. “Lost” is trying to tell us that even when you think you’re acting of your own accord, someone else is really pulling the strings. And if you are the puppet master, you’re either being controlled by another being or unconsciously reacting to someone else’s actions and not exercising free will at all. Bleak thought, but one that rings especially true to me. My favorite professor of all time (and not just because she’s obsessed with “Lost” too), Julia Kaziewicz of the American studies department, spent all last spring dropping her pen and explaining that we often only have the illusion of free will. The example she gave is that you wake up every morning and put on clothes, thinking that it is your choice to do so. But have you ever thought about what it would be like to not put on clothes? You get dressed because society tells you you have to be clothed; you have no choice in the matter after all. Similarly, on the island, no one has any free agency of their own; they are either being controlled or reacting.

Well now, this is just getting long. So I’ll stop. But please comment below sharing your thoughts about whether the Man in Black/Smokey/Smocke is good or evil. And what you think about my free will rant. Or just share some theories of your own.

See ya in another week, brotha! (Actually, I’ll be on a tropical island of my own next week so the posting of the blog depends on the availability of WiFi. If I can watch, write, and send from my spring break locale, it’ll be up, otherwise you’ll have to wait until my return Sunday night.)

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