Sometime last week, as I was rewatching bits and pieces of Season 5, that feeling came back. It’s a sensation that took me back in 2004, when the hatch was closed, the Island was new, and Hurley was just a chubby stranger with a golf fetish. A message wafted through the air waves, repeating the same message over and over – “It killed them, it killed them all.” Two backgammon pieces were discovered in a cave, resting on a skull. Walt read a comic with a polar bear in it, and a polar bear showed up.
The feeling is an unscratchable itch in the meaning-making center of my brain. It’s the feverish, joyous desire to make sense out of chaos. It’s a creative urge to theorize, call the twist, guess the killer, to discover the meaning before it’s handed to you.
Lost tapped into that urge better than any show I’ve ever seen: it’s the great serialized mystery of our time. And with the final season hours away, it struck me: This is it folks. Our very last chance to speculate. To make those wild guesses. To claim, loudly, that “Libby’s not really dead” and “The polar bear is Jacob’s father.” I, for one, am going to take full advantage of this final opportunity.
Here are ten theories I’ve come up with, adding up to one Grand Vague Conjecture about where we’re headed. Most of these ideas border on or occupy the realm of nonsense, and I fully expect 2/3 of them to be shot down THIS VERY NIGHT. But, they’re my best attempt to reconcile the things I’ve seen in a fun, interesting, non-cop-out way. This list is my love letter to you, Lost. This is me at my absolute fan-dorkiest. In the coming months, prove me right, or prove you can do better.
[Oh yeah… SPOILERS THROUGH SEASON 5 AHOY]
10. Libby was a Widmore Girl.
Sadly, I doubt we’ll get much of a real conclusion on this, as apparently there was a Libby episode slated for Season 4 that was cut due to actor/strike issues. But here’s my best conjecture, especially in light of what we’ve seen since. Libby was working for ol’ Chuck Widmore as part of his project to find the island. She sent Desmond on the boat race, and when Hurley got rich by cashing in on the Island’s numbers, she was sent to tail him. During that shadowing, she crashed on the island. Whether she actually managed to send a message back, and play a real role in the freighter’s arrival, or whether she was killed (by Ben’s machinations) before she could, we may never know.
9. Jacob isn’t immortal… he’s just unstuck in time.
I just don’t buy the whole “two angels on a beach” thing in a literal sense. I think/hope it’s a red herring. Sure, Jacob, like Richard Alpert, appears in strange places, all across the face of time. Sure, he seems strangely omniscient. What could explain this? Season 5 can. We saw characters jump from 1950 to 2007, looking exactly the same age. You think they’re the only ones who have experienced that phenomenon? I don’t.
Imagine for a second that Jacob has been jumping through time for quite a while. He’s seen the past, the future… and he’s started to understand a desired pattern. He makes slight moves to affect the course of events. He’s weaving a tapestry out of time.
Having seen the flow of time, backwards and forwards, he would have an incredible perspective on life. No wonder Smokey, in the form of some dark-clothed man, is so desperate to kill him. He wants that knowledge of the future. He wants to know what Jacob knows. But I’m getting ahead of myself… more on that in theory #2.
8. “The Magic Box” is a time machine/teleporter.
Ben Linus, via Wikipedia: “Let me put it so you’ll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don’t you John? What if I told you that, somewhere on this island, there is a very large box and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it when you opened that box, there it would be?”
With what we’ve seen, I think the “Box” is in the center of the (still unseen) temple, and it’s some sort of window, or door, into other times and places. Things from the past, or possibly even alternate pasts, can be pulled through and studied. You know, things like Locke’s Dad.
My guess is that the Egyptian walls and stylings are the equivalent of the beards, a disguise to keep the modernity of the device from being visible to visitors from the far past. I’d guess, at its center, the “temple” is a piece of modern machinery. Only Season 6 will tell, though.
7. Walt was “special” because he distorted electromagnetic fields, disrupting the natural flow of the island.
I had to get my Walt theory in there. No, I don’t think we’ll see the kid again, at least not in a major role. I’m guessing, based on the cameos he had, that it’s a sad case of growing pains. But they have to explain why the hell he got taken, and how he was “special”. Our main clue is the birds, flying through windows. My guess is that this has something to do with their navigation via magnetic fields. Given the strange EM fields through the island, that might mess with whatever is at work below the surface… and it might even disrupt that Magic Box. That would explain why the Others took him, for study (if we take their role as custodians of whatever “it” is seriously) and also explain why they ultimately shipped him back home.
Admittedly, it doesn’t explain why he reads comics about polar bears, or talks backwards sometimes. For that, I’ve got nothing.
6. Hurley is the one who sent the first broadcast of the “numbers”
Before there was Rousseau, there was a voice on the radio, repeating the numbers over and over. Those numbers started a chain of events that drove men crazy, and made one good natured dude an unhappy millionaire.
There’s such a thing as poetic justice. It has to be Hurley himself, broadcasting his greatest fear from the past, that sets it all in motion.
5. As a child, Ben saw himself die.
This is my pet Ben theory. Why are you such a weird dude, Ben? No one seems to believe you’re all that important, and yet you’ve inserted yourself into positions of incredible power. You constantly, CONSTANTLY, get beaten to a pulp, but somehow manage to make it through. How?
Ben, the pathological liar, is constantly claiming that “he has a plan”… partially because it makes him seem special. I think that plan is just another lie. I do, however, believe that Ben has a secret. As a child (perhaps just a little past the age we’ve seen him) I think he watched his future self die.
What would it do to this strange, disillusioned kid, to know the time and manner of his own death? It would turn him into a nihilist… because what’s the point? It would make him deathly afraid of facing the facts straight on… because that one fact is always there, just beyond the edge of his vision. And it would also make him fearless, eerily aware that nothing can truly end him until that impending moment. Check, check, check. Yeouch, Ben… looks like you saw your own death! Sorry bro, that is an unenviable situation.
4. The Hatch is constantly resetting a pocket of time to the moment before the nuke went off, to prevent a temporal paradox.
True enough… if the island was destroyed by a nuke, none of what we saw happened. In the short run, that might appear to be the case. But my guess is that they’re not going to jettison the characters we’ve gone five seasons with in favor of some alternate world. My guess is that via some outside force (see below), we instead get the construction of the Hatch, a containment unit that, somehow, prevents a time-ending paradox by moving that bomb backwards 108 minutes, over and over, to prevent it from ever going off. Push the button to save the world, friend.
A grim note to this theory… if it’s true(ish), then Juliet is behind the concrete, in a constant loop, forever tapping that rock against a nuke. Sad.
3. The constantly-referred-to “war” is a fight over the existence of the island.
Now despite what I just said, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see someone step off flight 815 in episode one. Or at least, they’ll butter us up to think that’s what we’re seeing. Either way, my guess is that the question of what it means to “change the past” will be a big part of the last season.
In Lost, there are constantly references to a larger conflict/game being played. I believe that this contest is over the very existence of the Island… this odd place that is situated outside the normal flow of time. It could even be that there are two groups fighting for their own existence: one world without the island’s influence, and one with it. Some of the rules of this engagement are set by the universe: you can’t kill certain people, because doing so would create a temporal paradox (which the universe will not allow, just as it won’t allow births, the introduction of new essential elements, on an island of questionable existence). Other aspects of the timestream are preserved by people such as Jacob, with his lists of people who can and can’t die. This is why children are important, too… for a young person to have formative experiences on the island is to increase the island’s influence on events, to make it more real…uh…
You know what, I’m going to stop trying to explain this one. It makes sense in my head. War between two groups, one wants to remove the island from time, the other (probably the Others) want to use the island for good. Next.
2. The “Smoke Monster” is an AI running on Ashes.
By now, it seems pretty clear that Monstro is connected to something that assimilates the memories of the dead. So that grey stuff, swirling around inside him? I think it ain’t smoke. I think it’s dead folks.
And while I forgot this before, I noticed it on rewatch… the last thing fake Locke (who I believe is Smokey, in some form) does is throw Jacob into the fire. I doubt that’s an accident… I think it wants more ashes for the pile, pronto.
Specifically, in my overactive imaginings, the Monster is an observing AI (or a Wizard-of-Oz-style human-controlled system OPERATED BY AARON Dun-Dun-DUN!) that’s gone haywire. The system is basically a sentient electromagnetic field, crackling across the jungle, that analyzes samples of dead human tissue (the bits of ash), and can then recreate all their memories (and an image of their form).
When Eko faced the Monster and saw flashes of memory, was he seeing his own memories? Or memories OF him from his brother? Same question for Ben, facing the departed (and absorbed) Alex. I’d venture that this creature can only collect (and replicate) the past of the departed.
What’s the point of this? Why would this exist? Well, it could have been put in place to explore objects from the past with minimal invasiveness (via the Magic Box). At this point, however, some Incident made it malfunction. It’s hungering for knowledge… it wants only to gain more memories, and it will kill to do it (see: Eko). However, there are rules (without rules, we get Cyberdyne). There is a list of people it can’t kill. One of these people is Jacob. It desperately wants him dead because of his extraordinary knowledge, but he is on that pesky do-not-kill list. That’s why Smokey needs a “loophole.” It concocts a plan to have Ben kill him, by assuming the form of the known-to-be-dead Locke. Then, at the end of Season 5, it triumphs, gaining all Jacob’s sweet sweet knowledge from across time.
Or maybe it’s just an angry Egyptian god. Please, writers, don’t roll that way. It’s not that I hate Egyptians. It’s just I don’t think they make that awesome a punchline.
1. The island is a huge research station, a temporal experiment, and Locke is its central creator.
OH! Just when you were starting to wonder if I was crazy… I prove that I am, in fact crazy. Seriously, how could this theory be #1 on my list? Because it’s so fucking fun to explain.
The Island as a time-travel experiment, perhaps situated “outside of linear time” somehow is the easy part… it’s the central hinge point of the rest of my recent ideas, and I’ve been buttering you up for it since #10. It’s important to realize that in this theory, the Island was FIRST created in an alternate future… one in which it, itself, never existed, and Oceanic 815 therefore landed safe and sound. The nature of the experiment is to use the island to peer through time, back to the dawn of civilization, even, to see if the past is, in fact alterable. Or maybe just to observe.
But who would be behind this ridiculous project? A bunch of strangers? Too easy, and we’ve had too many mystery men introduced for that answer to have any punch. So let’s have some fun and say it’s folks we’ve seen before, creating an eerie alternate-world familiarity. Faraday? Yeah, he’s probably involved. Christian Shephard, Charles Widmore? The more the merrier! Jacob? Naturally, he’s getting sent back in time. But who’s in charge of it all? Locke, baby. Locke, who would have excelled at science if Alpert hadn’t tried to push him in that direction as a child. Don’t tell him what he can’t do, he’s going to create a time machine goddamit.
Alternate reality Locke as a “man of science,” the ultimate puppet as the man behind his own curtain… I love it. And who is sweeping the floor at experiment central? An alternate reality Ben Linus. A nobody who’s going to set out to become the ultimate cog in the machine. And Jack? Jack, the rebel son, wants the thing gone… he sees it as a problem, and wants to fix it. He’s the leader of the other side. Because let’s be honest, that damn Jack’s got to be involved somehow.
Allright, it’s getting too complex even for me, I’m going to stop myself there. It’s late. I’ll see you all in the comments, for the initial shredding of these theories and hopefully the addition of some new ones. Let Season 6 begin.