The season finale of Lost
demonstrates that it is, indeed, the best show in the history of television. More on that in a moment. But first, the recruiting pitch.
For those who don't watch Lost
, now is a perfect opportunity to start - register with Netflix and watch the series from the beginning. Watch the first four episodes. If you don't like the show at that point, then dump out with the knowledge that you have given Lost
a fair shake.
But I would bet that you will be intrigued by the show. Stick with it. Give it the time it deserves. And most of all, trust the writers. They are tremendously creative and unpredictable, which is what makes the show so fun.
Okay, back to the Season 5 finale. Spoiler alert - I'm going to discuss plot points and in doing so, give my own theory as to what is happening on the show.
Here's the theory.
The finale opens with a cryptic scene between the long-invisible Jacob (played wonderfully by Mark Pellegrino) and a mysterious unnamed nemesis, wearing black (played by Deadwood
's Titus Welliver, and whom we shall call Nemesis). This is the most important scene in the series. They are sitting on the beach of the Island, waiting for the slaving ship the Black Rock
to arrive. Jacob, Jesus-like, offers Nemesis some fish. Nemesis turns it down. He has come to watch the arrival of the Black Rock
"You brought them here," says Nemesis. "Still trying to prove me wrong, aren't you?"
Jacob replies, "You are wrong."
"Am I?" asks Nemesis. "They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same."
"It only ends once," Jacob corrects. "Anything that happens before that is just progress."
"Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?" asks Nemesis.
"One of these days, sooner or later, I'm going to find a loophole, my friend."
"Well when you do, I'll be right here."
This scene begs three questions. First, who are these guys? Second, what are they talking about? Third, why can't Nemesis kill Jacob?
Jacob is clearly a Jesus-like figure. He travels around providing comfort and guidance to the pre-crash Flight 815 survivors. He is, according to Richard, the one who will save us all.
Jacob is a subscriber to the messianic/Hegelian worldview detested by Karl Popper, which suggests that mankind is on an upward journey toward perfection, and that all conflict and strife is a requisite part of that progression. Sooner or later, Jacob says, the perfect society will be created.
Jacob also has only one rule: he cannot interfere with the free choices of others. He mentions this rule to Hurley; he mentions this to Ben Linus.
This is the loophole Nemesis will eventually exploit - because Jacob cannot interfere with the free choices of others, he must submit to Ben Linus' free decision to kill him, even though Ben has been manipulated by Nemesis in the body of Locke.
Nemesis is a subscriber to the Hobbesian theory of the universe - it's a constant war of all against all. Life is nasty, brutish and short. Man is inherently corrupt and evil. And man will always be judged for his sins. Nemesis is also in control of the smoke monster, which is the guardian of the Island - later he will use that control in his revenge against Jacob.
What are Nemesis and Jacob arguing about? The Island is an Edenic place that can grant everlasting life and health (see Rose's cancer and Locke's paralysis). Nemesis believes that bringing mankind to the Island will destroy Eden - man will continue to kill and corrupt, and in doing so, man will debase Edenic purity. Jacob believes that mankind's ascent toward perfection is necessary to perfect the Island - in order to create true Eden, mankind must embrace brotherhood in an Edenic setting.
Nemesis wants to kill Jacob in order to prevent the destruction of Eden -- but he cannot do so lest he destroy Eden himself.
Throughout the series, we have been led to believe that Jacob was inhabiting a haunted cabin, that Jacob was issuing orders directly to Ben Linus. This was a red herring. Nemesis was actually inhabiting the cabin, pretending to be
Jacob in order to corrupt Ben Linus' view of Jacob. The purpose of this charade was to set up the penultimate scene of this season finale.
Using Locke, whom Nemesis has healed from gunshot wound and whom Nemesis (masquerading as Jacob) has touted as a "leader," Nemesis has placed Ben Linus in a position to kill Jacob. In Locke's false resurrection, Nemesis has created the perfect situation for turning Ben against Jacob - Locke has never had to make a sacrifice for the Island, Locke has never had to struggle with Jacob's orders, and yet Locke is supposedly granted the gift not only of leadership but of full resurrection from the dead. When Nemesis, as Locke, turns to Ben and reminds him that he's been given cancer, watched his daughter murdered, and been banished in service of a man he's never met, his follow-up question is perfectly orchestrated: "Why the hell wouldn't you want to kill Jacob?"
(Similarly, Nemesis, as the smoke monster, told Ben to follow Nemesis/Locke's every order. It is no coincidence that when Ben goes to be judged by the monster, Locke disappears, purportedly to "find a rope.")
Nemesis' manipulation comes to fruition in Jacob's murder. Nemesis, as Locke, appears with Ben in Jacob's cave.
"Hello, Jacob," says Nemesis/Locke.
"You found your loophole," says Jacob.
"Indeed I did. And you have no idea what I've gone through to be here."
"Have you two met before?" asks Ben.
"In a manner of speaking," answers Nemesis/Locke. "Do what I asked you to do, Ben."
"Benjamin, whatever he's told you , I want you to understand one thing," says Jacob, falling back on his rule - allegiance to free will. "You have a choice."
"What choice?" says Ben.
"You can do what he asks, or you can go and leave us to discuss our issues."
Ben, clearly coming unglued, launches into a speech that mirror's mankind's existential question to God: why do bad things happen to good people?
"Oh, so now, after all this time, you've decided to stop ignoring me. Thirty five years I lived on this island and all I ever heard was your name, over and over. Richard would bring me your instructions. All those slips of paper. All those lists. And I never questioned anything. I did as I was told. But when I dared to ask to see you myself, I was told, 'You'll have to wait. You have to be patient.' But when he asked to see you, he gets marched straight up here as if he was Moses. So why him? What was it that was so wrong with me? What about me?"
Jacob shoots him down with the simple question, "What about you?" Jacob's point is that Ben is merely a thread in the tapestry of history - why does he think he's so important? Again, this is the Hegelian motivation emerging.
Ben's response is to stab Jacob to death.
Before he dies, however, Jacob manages to tell Nemesis/Locke, "They're coming." Nemesis/Locke looks frightened, then kicks Jacob into the fire.
It seems that Jacob has outplayed Nemesis. It wasn't just Nemesis who was using Locke - so was Jacob. Remember, Jacob revived Locke after his eight-story fall from a building; Jacob, through Richard, appointed Locke the leader. Jacob brought Locke to the Island. What was the point of that appointment in the first place?
The point of Locke's appointment is that Locke is a redemptive leader. A nothing in the outside world, a victim of circumstance and bad judgment, Locke has been forgiven and lifted up by his association with the Island. His murder by Ben and subsequent imitation by Nemesis do not change the fact that Locke himself - not just his body - has a part to play in the future of the Island. The inanimate body of Locke will not remain inanimate for long - Jacob will demonstrate his true power over Nemesis by reviving the true Locke.
Meanwhile, back in the 1970s, Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Juliet, Sayid, Hurley, Jin and Miles are busily trying to nuke the Island to prevent The Incident. The important part of this timeline isn't the time travel narrative or the philosophical ponderings about the nature of time. The important part is that by time Juliet detonates the nuclear weapon, all of the survivors are together
. Each one of them was handpicked by Jacob to be on Flight 815; each one was designated to be part of a new society that would make an Eden out of the Island. By the time Juliet detonates the nuclear weapon, five seasons of strife and struggle give way to total agreement on what needs to be done; varying motivations all lead to the same place. These survivors are united. They are the kernel of the new society envisaged by Jacob.
And they are coming.
With the detonation of the nuke, they will be catapulted forward in time to join the Jacob/Nemesis fray. They will be Jacob's army against Nemesis. And Nemesis will be forced to break his own rule, attempting to recruit outside forces - Widmore, Eloise Hawking - to maintain his own survival.
The stage is set for the final battle.
One more question: why did Jacob die? Jacob chose
to die. Jacob's death, again echoing the New Testament, wipes away the sins of the survivors. Jacob is responsible for issuing many of the orders that resulted in evil; Jacob had to bring down a plane in order to put together his core group. With his death, the slate is wiped clean.
All this could be completely wrong, of course. The Lost
writers are amazingly clever and inventive. But that's why I love the show - you never know what's coming next. I'd love to hear everyone else's theories, too. Post them in the comments.