Before I Let Go
A long-form theory & personal essay by Scott Gingold
This will be the very last theory I ever post about Lost, because well, hey I need to let go. What I would like to do here is go over all the parts of the show that I felt needed some further explanation or extra time devoted to, and then give my take on either what I think happened or what I would have liked it to have been. Before I get into it, I'd like to say that Lost was a one-of-a-kind experience. I've never been as fully immersed in a piece of fiction as I was with Lost and probably ever will be again. It captured my imagination and was sadly ultimately frustrating. It was a giant puzzle that I followed for 6 years watching every episode multiple times, watching all the bonus material, reading theories, writing theories, writing blogs, reading books and even writing fan fiction about. And yet somehow the giant puzzle didn't fit entirely together just right. I will always have a special place in my heart for Lost, but I was left with a slight tinge of disappointment, not only that it's over, but that it didn't all add up to one cohesive whole.
So without further ado, I will try to tackle the larger themes of the show that I felt needed further delving into. These are not so much unsolved mysteries, as not-fully-explored themes and ideas that the writers presented.
Part 1: The Others and Their Motives
We learned in "Ab Aeterno" that the very first Other was Richard Alpert. Before Richard, Jacob just brought people to the island to prove his brother wrong and let them make their own choices until they ultimately died, like he said they all did before Richard got there. Then Jacob hired Richard to be his liaison between himself and the people he brought back to the island. We also learned in that episode that it was the act of the Man in Black trying to get Richard to kill Jacob that inspired Jacob to find a replacement. Jacob's search for worthy candidates to ultimately replace him is the story crux of the entire show. So why build the Others? In my opinion, the Others were all once possible candidates. Jacob would bring them to the island, test them, and then decided if they were worthy to be a replacement, or if they weren't. If they weren't worthy, instead of just letting them fend for themselves on the island and most likely get killed by the Man in Black, Jacob decided to let them form a society of people to help Richard in his duties as liaison. Jacob basically formed his own religion, a tribe of people who believed in his teachings without ever having met him. People who would do his every command, and people who would protect the island, but whom he could not fully trust to replace him as protector. So basically the Others were candidate rejects.
This puts Ben's motives into much better perspective. Now that we know that Ben never met Jacob (until the day he killed him) and that Ben was taking his orders as leader of the others from pieces of paper delivered to him by Richard, it makes much more sense why Ben acted the way he did. The Others kidnapped the children because they were looking for suitable candidates. After having seen "The New Man in Charge" where it's know obvious that Walt was a candidate and will be replacing Hurley after his reign as island protector, the fact that the Others kidnapped him and tested him makes sense. The Others couldn't send the Losties home because Jacob wanted them there, after all, he brought them there in the first place. So the Others manipulated the Losties against each other to not only test them, but to get them emotionally invested in the island. Ben even says to Jack at one point in Season 3 that he didn't want him to save his life, he wanted to him to want to save his life. Which was essentially a metaphor for Jacob wanting Jack to want to sacrifice himself for the sake of the island. A few things about the others I need to clear up. First off, Dogen. I think Dogen was more than just the keeper of the temple, I think he was the leader of the Others after Ben & John disappeared. We know that Richard wasn't leading the Others for 3 years, as that was never his position in the first place. Dogen was brought to the island by Jacob to take over the leadership role and that's why the Man in Black could not enter the temple when he was present. Just like the Man in Black could not harm Ben when he was leader. Because Jacob made it so. Just like Mother made it so that Jacob and the Man in Black could not harm each other. The other thing that's been bugging me about the Others was "Jacob's Cabin." In "The Incident", Ilana & Bram discuss the cabin and the fact that it hadn't been used by Jacob for some time, but in fact someone else had been using it. Now that we know that the Man in Black had been posing as Christian and we'd seen Christian in the cabin, it makes sense that the Man in Black had been in the cabin for a long time, even when Ben was visiting it, thinking he was receiving orders from Jacob. It's possible even that Richard was visiting the cabin thinking he was receiving orders from Jacob when in fact the orders were from the Man in Black who had been deceiving everyone for a long time. Since the circle of ash was broken, the Man in Black was able to come and go from the cabin he was probably once trapped in and that's why we've seen him in his smoke form and also in the cabin. The whole "help me" scenario was just a ploy to emotional invest both Ben & John Locke in the beginning of the Man in Black's loophole which eventually lead to Jacob's death. So some of the Others' orders were not given by Jacob but by the Man in Black, which would explain why Charles ordered Ben to kill Danielle and Alex the baby and why the Others performed the purge on the Dharma Initiative. It doesn't make much sense as to why Jacob would want to kill the Dharma Initiative when it fact it seems likely that he was the one who brought them there in the first place, just like he brings all the groups to the island. I'd also like to point out that it was made pretty clear in "Dead is Dead" that Charles Widmore was the leader of the Others at the time of the purge. Even Ben says at one point in "Cabin Fever" that it was not him who killed the DI but the leader of the Others. At the time he said it I didn't believe him, but it's obvious it was Charles, most likely acting on the orders of the MIB posing as Jacob.
Part 2: The Nature of the Island and Why it Needs Protecting
In "Across the Sea" Mother answers the question of what is the source pretty easily, in that it's birth, death and rebirth. It's the light that's inside of every man. In "Ab Aeterno" Jacob explains that the island is a cork keeping evil at bay. The source is evil, but it's also good. It's life but it's also death. It's creation and destruction at the same time. It's also electromagnetism. It's pure energy. If the energy is released into the world, the world would cease to be. The world could not exist without the energy in the source and for that matter neither could any form of life.
So essentially the island is the gateway to the creation of the universe. It's also the gateway to the afterlife. When you're born, the energy in your mind which makes up your soul/persona/brain comes from the source. When you die, it all goes back into the source. In "The End" Christian tells Jack that in the afterlife time doesn't matter. The afterlife is part of the source. It's a reality constructed by the memories and wishes of the people who have died and been absorbed into the source. When they step into that white light at the back of the church, they will fully move on past their corporeal lives and becomes part of the source.
Part 3: What is the Monster and the Loophole
That all being said, it makes sense that when the Man in Black fell down into the cave, he merged with the energy. His soul/memories were absorbed into the energy but because wasn't ready to move on, because he soul wasn't ready to let go, he took on the form of the black smoke and became a giant cloud of energy.
I also feel that Mother was a smoke monster as well, she alluded to her knowledge of the light and what it meant to go down there, and she also laid waste to the entire village of men in a single afternoon.
The Man in Black's loophole was very well planned. He wanted to get off the island so bad, he didn't care that he wasn't human anymore and that getting off the island meant the end of humanity. He just wanted to leave. So he manipulated the electromagnetic powers of the island to create a time machine, which allowed him to put his plan in motion. He used John Locke from the very beginning as a pawn to bring down Jacob. Most likely it was MIB who healed John's paralysis, who gave John dreams, who lead him to the Swan and the Pearl. Who gave him faith in the island and then took it away. He played John & Ben like instruments and lead them both down the path to turning the wheel, sending the island into a series of time jumps that would allow John to convince every he was supposed to be leader, so he could eventually pose as John and get Ben to kill Jacob.
Part 4: The Sickness
I don't actually believe there was a sickness or that Sayid and Claire had been "claimed" as the Others put it. I do believe though that they had near-death experiences, similar to the one that Desmond had in Charles' EM chamber which briefly sent them to the afterlife and brought them back slightly changed. Sayid came back with less emotion. Claire came back with less sanity. And Desmond came back (after turning the fail-safe key in the Swan station) with visions. It happened to Locke, Charlie & Eko too. After the Swan implosion, Locke temporarily lost the ability to speak, Charlie temporarily lost the ability to hear and Eko was plagued by visions of his brother. The island would not let them die (or should I say the MIB would not let them die) so it passed onto them some gifts to help/manipulate them to his endgame of leaving the island. I guess you can call this the "claiming" process. Remember also when Sun hit her head when running from the MIB and her mind merged with that of her afterlife counterpart and she temporarily lost the ability to speak English. When Sun later confronted MIB about that, he claims to know nothing about it, but you can't really believe a word of what he says anyway. He also claims to not have killed the other Ajira survivors, but really, we know he did.
Part 5: Other loose ends.
"The New Man in Charge" answered the pregnancy question finally, saying that it was the high levels of electromagnetic energy that made it dangerous for anyone humans or animals to bear to term on the island. But why then was Ethan able to be born? Well, that happened before the incident, before a button had to pressed every 108 minutes to release a small amount of electromagnetic energy. Makes sense now. And in great Lost irony, it was essentially Juliet's own doing by setting off the bomb (yes it did go off) which negated the energy from the Swan station drilling which led to Radzinsky creating the button which lead to the pregnancy problem, which Juliet was brought to the island to solve. We are the cause of our own suffering indeed.
I'm not really sure what else to say. I feel the smaller mysteries have all been solved and much of what was left up in the air can be pretty much explained through, "the island was filled with electromagnetic energy that is the source of life" and "the Man in Black & Jacob were manipulating everyone to satisfy their own means".
There, I'm done, now I can let go.
Before I Let Go