(Dearest Readers: I do apologize for the delay, but as I began to write I had a flash and my consciousness was suddenly hurled backwards through time…)
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”
The Wheel of Time is a concept embraced by various ancient cultures and religions that tells us that the universe does not at all play out in the linear fashion we are used to thinking of as represented by the Past, Present, and Future. Instead, this idea sees time throughout history as being represented by a repeating series of ages. This infinite, cyclical view of life is strong in Indian ideologies such as Hinduism and Buddhism, two religions that are also often referenced in LOST.
It will all be coming around again, as they say.
And as if we too are riding Minkowski’s Ferris wheel, “previously on LOST” returns us to the last moment we saw Michael Dawson - desperate father, traitor, and murderer to the castaways – turning that ragged vessel Ben promised him towards the open ocean, the first member of Flight 815 to officially leave the Island. However, we soon learn that the sins Michael committed in order to free Walt and return home haunted him to such a degree that he ended up confessing them to his son, thus in turn losing the boy once more. Karma can be so ironic.
With such tragedy weighing upon him, Michael attempts to commit suicide via car crash but is amazingly unsuccessful. He tries again, this time by pawning the watch that he obtained on the Island that was originally Jin’s. In the episode “House of the Rising Sun” from season one, Michael says to Jin, “I figured, hey, why let a $20,000 dollar watch go to waste which is ridiculous since time doesn't matter on a damn island.” Time doesn’t matter to a dead man, either, and he exchanges the Rolex for a gun, with bullets, from a seedy little store with a very Indian-looking elephant placed prominently on the counter.
Of course we discover, via Tom’s sudden appearance right as Michael was about to shoot himself, that the Island will not let him die. Tom tells him, “No matter how bad you want to, no matter how many different ways you try, it won't happen.” Michael even tests this and finds it to unfortunately be true. For some reason, Michael is still needed in the grand scheme of things. This is an interesting concept when we consider how LOST operates within a universe that “course-corrects”.
“What's done cannot be undone.”
Desmond faced a similar dilemma as he repeatedly attempted to keep Charlie from his death, even though he was told by the Ourboros-wearing Ms. Hawking that no matter what he did to try and stop it, Charlie would eventually die. There are a lot of ways that Michael and Desmond seem to reflect each other. For example, we have the odd, yet prominent occurrences of Cass Elliot songs in both characters’ stories. In addition, the moment where a Michael sees Walt looking down at him from a window seems to correspond to a similar moment in “The Constant”, where Desmond looks back at Penny from the window above as well.
We also have more subtle mirroring, such as the scene from “Flashes Before Your Eyes” where Desmond throws Penny’s engagement ring into the river, which echoes Michael’s act of tossing his cell phone off of the freighter into the water. The two even speak the same phrase as they believe they are about to explode themselves. Right before turning the failsafe key that blows up the hatch, Desmond says, “I love you, Penny.” At the moment Michael is about to press execute on the bomb he says, “I love you, Walt.” Even though Michael has darkened his soul in comparison to what we know so far about Desmond, both men think of the one they love the most as they say goodbye to the world.
“A little water clears us of this deed”
There is also an interesting similarity between Michael and Desmond with the way that water seems to come into play when they are shifting from one time to another. In the episode “The Constant”, Desmond’s travels to the past and back were more often than not accompanied by storms, water, or rain. One of the strangest scenes was between Desmond and Charles Widmore during their conversation in the bathroom. After washing his hands, Widmore leaves the faucet running and in a flash, Desmond’s mind is thrown into the present. The next time he flashes back to his past, he wakes up on the floor in a puddle from the overflowing sink. To mirror this, the first shot we see in the flashback of Michael’s life after returning from the Island is of the running faucet in his apartment.
Water can symbolize the subconscious, where all of our inner desires, emotions, and memories are swirled in a kind of primordial soup from which our mind forms our reality. This becomes an interesting tidbit combined with the fact that it was Desmond’s consciousness that traveled back and forth through time, not his physical self. Could water be some type of conduit or medium used to allow for past and present to become bridged in some way? Does time itself become “slippery when wet”?
(Feel free to email your slaps in the face for that reference: email@example.com)
“Go get some water, and wash this filthy witness from your hand”
Water is also an ancient symbol of purification. There has even been a scientific study around the psychological basis for the ritualistic “washing away of one’s sins”.
Indeed, Michael needs to “clean up his mess”. We have heard this phrase many times before on the show. It is the motivation for his ultimate decision, in another bizarre twist, to once again work as a spy for Benjamin Linus. Michael believes he must do whatever is necessary to be redeemed, and the theme of washing follows him throughout the entire episode.
For starters, his cover aboard the Kahana is as the ship’s janitor, whose job is to, well, clean up messes. After beating up a couple of his crewmembers, the captain yells for Kevin/Michael to “clean this mess up”. Later, when questioning the crew during their target practice he is mockingly asked by the brute Keamy, “Don’t you have something to mop up?” It is at this moment Michael seems fed up and decides to finally fulfill his mission, and he makes his way to a remote location with the bomb and the intent of blowing up himself and the entire freighter.
It would seem that all work and no play makes Michael a dull boy.
“When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors.”
For some time now we have had subtle references to Stephen King’s classic story, “The Shining”, and at times the Island almost seems to serve as a surrogate Overlook Hotel. We have seen it have some kind of effect on psychic abilities, we have seen it manifest the dead, create visions, and it appears to somehow be manipulating certain characters for an as-of-yet unknown reason. Does the Island really have some kind of consciousness or will of its own? Locke claims to have seen the “eye of the Island”. Ben tells Jack that “If the Island doesn't want you to leave, it won't let you.” And finally, in this episode we learn from Tom that the Island won’t let Michael die.
In the scene where Michael is in his cabin bouncing a ball against the wall, Minkowski comes in and asks him, “You’re not going to go Nicholson on us, are you”, referring to Jack Nicholson’s infamous performance in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the book. It’s a great comparison when you consider the red axe that is seen in the background of several scenes on the deck of the ship. In fact, Michael is like Jack because he does plan to “go Nicholson” and murder everyone trapped there with him. Interestingly enough, in the same episode where he obtained the Rolex watch, Michael approaches Jin with an axe, but uses it to instead free Jin from the handcuffs he was being bound by.
Let’s also not forget the important role of the telepathic child. Michael’s son Walt is to the Island what Jack’s son Danny is to the Overlook. The title “The Shining” refers to the psychic abilities that both seem to possess. Danny and Michael even used backward-speak to warn of impending doom.
In addition, there is a scene in the Shining where the Hotel is scolding Jack in the bathroom, telling him that he "still has work to do.” This is another phrase that is used repeatedly on the show, and during the first confrontation between Tom and Michael in the alley, Tom bluntly states, “You’ve got more work to do, Mike.”
“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”
On the Island, our friend Tom was a beard-wearing, gun-toting, football-throwing, kid-stealing Other who at times served as Ben’s main go-to guy. Off the Island however, he is a sweater-wearing, champagne-sipping, h’orderve–popping, Arturo-smooching Casanova whom, as he puts it, likes to “indulge himself” when he’s on the mainland. Even if you saw this coming way back when he stated he was not Kate’s “type”, it was still an unexpected way to reveal this mirror-aspect of his character. It might also explain why Tom always seemed so nice to Jack, as once again we are reminded nothing is as it seems on, or off the Island.
Nothing is as it seems in a certain remote ocean trench as well. Charles Widmore’s hired meanie, Captain Gault, claims that Ben is responsible for the faked crash of Flight 815 that was found by the outside world. Alternatively, Ben claims that Widmore is responsible for said hoax. The way I see it, neither of these two characters are very reliable sources and both sides seem to be equally dangerous with their intentions. Ben and Charles also have both been revealed to possess the resources that would be needed for such an immense undertaking. I suppose at this point I am still on the fence in regards to who is indeed telling the truth.
Besides, as I have stated before, I am still not entirely convinced the second plane is fake…
“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak.”
Ben can sometimes be the ultimate game-master in the way he manipulates those around him like a chess player with an almost perfect precision. As he says himself, “I always have a plan.” Miles says, “I’d say the guy gets what he wants” in reference to Ben’s uncanny ability to always be a step ahead. Moments before being shot Karl asks Alex, “What if your dad is... playing us?”
At times there seems to be some type of foreknowledge by the “powers that be” of the events that are about to occur. Is this because time on the Island has literally been playing itself over and over again? Are there those who are trying to force a certain outcome, but during each cycle as events play out they are somehow thwarted and must try again? Is there someone or something that resets the “wheel” each time around?
Whether or not said powers are Ben, or Jacob, the BOX, or the Island itself, I do not know. However, there are constant references to games. From Locke’s backgammon, to the Others’ view of seeing people as either “good guys” or “bad guys”, to when Michael is told by Tom, “It’s game time…are you in or out”, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the idea of play within the world of LOST that is only beginning to really unfold.
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?”
By the end of the episode we see that Sayid will have none of Michael’s explanation for being aboard the boat and immediately turns him over to Captain Gault. The Captain does not seem to be at all surprised, but we were also not allowed to see the scene continue to play itself out.
We are left then, wondering if once again all of Michael’s efforts will turn out to have been futile. Will Michael finally be able to break his own tragic cycle and be redeemed in the eyes of his fellow castaways? Will the ghosts of his past continue to haunt him with no release? Will he ever be able to leave behind his torturous memories and be forgiven in the eyes of his son, Walt?
Time will only tell.
*I write about LOST because I love the challenge of deciphering the clues and adding the pieces together. My thoughts are based solely on the show, the LOST Experience, and random research, as I try to avoid spoilers, promos, and even future episode titles. I love to guess what is going on, but I also like to do so in a way that leaves some of the conclusions still up to you. I do not know the answers and am often wrong. Whatever the truth turns out to be, it has been the journey that has meant the most to me.*