You have what it takes
The pattern of alternating between mind-blowing big revelations episodes and slow and steady fill in the plot episodes continues. After last week’s dynamo, we have a slight reprieve from big mysteries solved and a more steadfast exposition of character, namely Jack’s character. I don’t mean to slight the revelations we are given – Jacob has been watching the candidates (others too?) from a special lighthouse chamber using a kind of magic mirror set-up; Claire and Kate are headed for a standoff, with Claire well in league with Flock/MIB, plus we’ve seen she knows how to wield an ax and sew up a nasty set of leg wounds (watch out Kate); and we know that Jack has been chosen for something particularly special – perhaps he’s top of Jacob’s list; there is someone headed to the island that Jacob wants to come (perhaps the “they” he referred to when he said “their coming” just before Flocke kicked his dying body into the fire?); and “someone bad” is headed for the Temple (um, any votes for our favorite shape-shifting Esau?). Not too bad as far as mysteries elucidated and/or made more mysterious.
But the real action was with Jack, both island Jack and Alterna-Jack. Perhaps the most interesting twist was the revelation that Alterna-Jack is a father (any significance that his son, David, also bears a strong biblical name, the chosen king of Israel and the beginning of the lineage for the long-awaited Messiah?). I was surprised at how surprised I was to see him in the father role, perhaps because he has always seemed so lousy at intimate relationships, or perhaps because, like Island-Jack, I’ve secretly thought he would make a terrible father. I can’t say his parenting skills were any too impressive to begin with, but like a lot of things in Alterna-world (Locke getting a second chance at love; Kate getting to escape; Claire getting to choose to keep Aaron), he is given a chance to right the wrongs of his own father and break the cycle of judgment and alienation. We’ve talked a lot about the theme of dysfunctional parent/child relationships in this show, and that theme was on full display this episode. We haven’t seen a lot of forgiveness or repair to these broken relationships, and there was something so satisfying, and moving, about seeing Jack get to choose a path against the one he knew himself, and seeing his son accept his love.
I’ve started to wonder if this isn’t one of the lynch pins tying various themes and motifs together: the reparation of the child/parent relationship as the key to grace/inner peace/redemption/salvation, what have you. Not only are there a lot of literal parent/child relationships to repair (and one of the key signs of trouble in paradise is the problem with reproduction itself), but the whole debate between Jacob and the MIB about free will, destiny, and repetition of past evils is about this in a more metaphorical way. On one hand, the MIB clearly believes, or wants to convince others, that Jacob is a paternalistic, negligent father figure who dictates from on high but doesn’t really love anyone. On the other hand, Jacob allowing Jack to break his mirrors and giving him space to try and work out what is going on could be seen as a remarkable kind of “parenting” – allowing for free will even in the midst of trying to guide a child toward best actions/decisions. Even the question of accepting or defying fate could be seen as a question of accepting or denying a kind of (parental?) authority. I found it totally fascinating that Jacob used the same parental affirmation toward Jack – you’ve got what it takes – that his own father denied him and that he was able to offer his son in the parallel universe of the flash-sideways. This whole tangle of themes is something I want to think more about, especially as we watch the unhinging of Claire’s mind in the grief and despair of her own sundered parent/child relationship.
In the interest of reigning in this post before it goes on far too long, I’ll leave a discussion of Claire to you, if you want to pick it up. I will just end by asking two questions: why/how does Claire know so surely that Locke is not Locke, but her “friend?” If Flocke just appeared in Claire’s tent, where is Sawyer?
Ok, so diving right into it, apparently Jack had his appendix out in Alterna-world when he was 7 or 8 years old (rather than when he was 30-something on the island, surgery done by Juliet). This is an interesting wrinkle on what we’ve seen previously in the vein of ‘whatever happened, happened’. Usually events that had to happen happened around the same time that they had to happen. Opening up the possibility that things that have to happen could actually happen at any moment takes me back, then, to wondering exactly what puts Locke in the wheelchair in the Alterna-world. We all thought last week about the possibility that his father – now invited to the wedding – might have had nothing to do with his injury. But we didn’t think about the possibility that Locke may have spent much more of his life in the chair than we initially thought. This temporal difference between events will certainly be something to track, I think.
And of course, I’m also left wondering, then, who David’s mother is? Was Jack married? And why is Jack in the Alterna-world surprised by his appendix scar which, presumably is a part of his life narrative now. He’s not confused about having a kid…why be confused about the scar? I love these little incongruencies that let us know something’s not right in this supposedly redeemed world.
Did you, like me, really want to see who was at degree 108? Sure, Jack wanted his own moment, but couldn’t they have given us that little piece of info first? I’m still wondering if it’s Kate, but maybe the answer will be even more shocking than that…Aaron, perhaps? Or even Ben (ok, probably not that one, but oof, wouldn’t that be fun?!). While somewhat clichéd, I found Jack smashing the mirror to be quite satisfying and even a little powerful. He pieces things together so quickly – I mean, really, he’s fully bought into the magic of the island if his first thought is that some mythical guy has used this magical mirror to watch their lives in the real world rather than thinking, “what the hell is this mirror and how come I can see my house in it?”. That’s some fast, abstract and mystical reasoning he didn’t have in season 1!
The moment was also so beautifully reminiscent of the Lacanian mirror phase. In this psychoanalytic theory, the child encounters itself in an unfragmented way, as a whole, by seeing itself in a mirror. It is a crucial step in coming to self-awareness for Lacan. But it’s also fraught because the child experiences this awareness of wholeness as a threat on its selfhood because that image of wholeness reveals the potential for the fragmentation of identity. And this is exactly what Jack is dealing with in this episode – traces of his other self from the other narrative erupting into his present (in bodily ways). And he has a classic Jack reaction: rather than integrate himself within himself, he smashes the alternative image, the image he finds threatening for some primordial, but not entirely rational, reason. What the symbolism is for the competing worlds in which he lives, though, I’m not sure yet.
So all I really have to say about Claire is that I’m surprised by how much I don’t pity her…I really felt something for Danielle, but I don’t for Claire. Kate saved Aaron after Claire just toodled off into the woods, so her motherly aggression towards Kate actually just pisses me off. I did, however, love watching Jin move through trusting Claire and then losing that trust. And I too am curious about why Claire recognizes Locke as her friend, rather than Locke – I went back and forth throughout the episode on whether or not I thought she was ‘infected,’ whatever that means?! But with that closing, I was certain that whatever infected might be, she’s it.
We also got the reminder of Adam and Eve in the caves – a mystery yet to be solved, but a promise that it will be! And we were reminded that Jack found the caves following the ghost of his dad. And we saw Shannon’s asthma inhaler. All these clues are sure to get developed in the next few episodes – perhaps with a return of ghost Shannon and a final answer to who those skeletons belong to? Oh, and did you notice that McCutcheon whiskey is still kicking around in Alterna-world on Jack’s mother’s bar? And Samurai guy is also in Alterna-world…curious!
And finally, did David’s musical genius remind you at all of Daniel Faraday – also a piano genius in his day? Obviously I’m not saying that Daniel is Jack’s son in some strange temporal-wrinkle. But I’m wondering if there is a symbolic connection there?
Oh Kathryn, there’s so much more to say – I’m feeling like we need a separate post to even begin to get at the bigger-picture here!
ps – ok, really last thing – also, how great that Lewis Carrol’s adventures for Alice also involve allusions to this Lacanian mirror phase, allusions that have been made in Lost before both in appearances of that book and in episode titles, “Through the Looking Glass” – the finale of season 3, and the name of the Dharma station that was the site of Charlie’s death!