Sorrow and Light: Reflections on Rewatching Lost - The nonlinear story of the Swan.

Are you a Lostie? Do you have a fear of certain numbers? Is the term “Other” an insult {or compliment!} to you? If so you will enjoy this new weekly series from M. Lucero about ABC’s Lost. We will release a different section each week…on Wednesdays when the series regularly aired.

Previously on Lost…

Last week we took a look at …From which its beauty chiefly came., but you will want to catch up from the beginning before diving into this week’s discussion.

The nonlinear story of the Swan.

The hatch is one of Lost‘s earliest mysteries. Before the statue, before the button, before we even see the monster, there is the hatch. It’s impossible to guess what’s really inside of it, and when we finally find out, the revelation asks more questions than it answers — a typical storytelling technique for Lost.

Among these questions:

  • Who were the Dharma Initiative?
  • Why were they gone now?
  • What was the “incident” that made the button necessary?
  • Was the button even necessary after all?
  • What would happen if it wasn’t pushed every 108 minutes?

At times, Locke’s frustration with the hatch mirrors the viewer’s. “This isn’t what was supposed to happen!” Locke tells Jack in “Orientation.” Later, after Jack leaves, he pleads aloud to the Island: “Why is this happening like this? What do you want? What do you — What am I supposed to do?

As is typical with stories about John Locke, the answer to his question is complex and not easily apparent. Knowing all that was to happen in season 5, it dawned on me, as I re-watched these episodes, that this storyline’s significance is much greater than I’d previously thought. Unsatisfied (so far) with the way the Destiny storyline had resolved in season 6, I began to think of the Swan and its story as that theme’s real culmination.

Sorrow and Light: Reflections on Rewatching Lost - The nonlinear story of the Swan.

How appropriate would it be for Lost that its climax would come not near the end of its story, but near the beginning. After all, Lost has always had a nonlinear plot structure, having played with time ever since the pilot episode when the flashback device was first used. Time is further warped in “Through the Looking Glass” when the flash-forward is unveiled, and even more in season 5 when actual time travel occurs. It becomes hopelessly, ultimately raveled when causality loops like Richard’s compass start to pop up.

The biggest causality loop of all is Flight 815’s own arrival on the Island, an event intimately tied up with the Swan Station, whose story begins in season 2. Locke enters the hatch, finds Desmond inside, along with a button that must be pushed every 108 minutes in order to save the world. Desmond leaves, Locke takes over, yet his faith in the Island is tested by the arrival of Ben, and the discovery of the Pearl Station, both of which seem to suggest the button is merely a psychological experiment.

Inside the Pearl, as if to underscore the importance of the Swan in the wider story of Lost, Mr. Eko points out the circuitous path of coincidences that have led both him and his brother, separately, not only to the Island but to the very place where Locke’s disillusion reaches its highest point.

 

And I took this cross from around Yemi’s neck and put it back on mine, just as it was on the day I first took another man’s life. So let me ask you — how can you say this is meaningless? I believe the work being done in the hatch is more important than anything.

(“?”)

 

It’s easier to appreciate this significance now, with the entire plot of Lost in mind, than when the show first aired in the mid-late aughts. Even after season 2’s finale, we only knew part of the story: the hatch is a Fisher King-like wound in the Island’s side, the site of a unstable rupture of energy that is only patched over, not healed; a short-term solution at best. It’s not till seasons 5 and 6 that the rest is filled in. It was not just any wound, but a wound Jack and the other time-stranded survivors had themselves directly caused in 1977, through their hubris and ignorance. When Locke, Eko, Charlie, and Desmond play their roles in sealing off the breach, they are healing a wound that their own people have caused, and thus closing another time loop. Even Locke’s temporary loss of faith is a part of that story. Were it not for him being there, the failsafe key may never have been turned, and the rupture never healed.

As I re-watched this story, I realized how compelling it is. This was a story about Destiny, with that capital D.

In it there is transgression and redemption (perhaps one of the deepest and most mythic story structures), and the preservation of a sacred, mysterious, immensely important place. Perhaps, I thought at that point, Lost fulfills its Destiny theme after all, in the last place anyone would have looked for it — not near the end, but the beginning.

With this in mind, I began to enjoy the show more openly, confidently, happy now that it might be possible to like Lost again after so many years. But as I neared the end of the show, something else began to happen. The final season itself began to take on a new light.

Perhaps due to my disappointment with Locke’s story, I had blinded myself to just how important the struggle between Jacob and his brother really is. I had thought that their story was merely a personal squabble writ large. A petty thing, when all was said and done.

But, in the words of John Locke:

“I was wrong.”

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