The Island's great debate (supernatural possibilities vs. naturalistic explanations -- trust us, the cartoon pooch figures into this too) resumes in season 5, and the Doc wants to know which side you're on. Plus: Marvin Candle and the role of Fate
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''
Usually we begin our in-season columns with THE TEASE!, but ABC has been doing a fine enough job on their own by leaking various clips from tonight's premiere, like this one:
If you're choosing not to watch in order to preserve the experience of tonight's premiere, I applaud your restraint. But allow me to make two non-spoilery Doc Jensen observations. The name of Dan Norton's law firm, Agostini & Norton, links neatly to one Lodovico Agostini, whom Wikipedia describes as ''an Italian composer, singer, priest, and scholar of the late Renaissance.'' Agostini was a daring musician who lived during a time where daring music was all the rage. Sounds like Lost, a cutting edge show during a time of cutting edge shows. According to Wikipedia, ''Agostini was fond of musical enigmas, puzzles, surprise and double-entendre ... and bizarre chromatic progressions.'' That sounds like Lost to me, too.
As for ''Dan Norton,'' that happens to be the name of a comic book artist whose credits include work on an upcoming feature film Science Ninja Team Gatachaman. Apparently it's based on an anime series about young heroes who battle bad robots and evil science conspiracies that seek to control and exploit the Earth's natural resources. I am certain this has something to do with Lost. Especially the bad robot part.
Speaking of crazy animation, this Kate scene also has that beat where she tells Aaron, ''Watch your cartoons, goober'' right before she answers the door and deals with the lawyers. Fun Fact! Goober and the Ghost Chasers was a Scooby-Doo knock-off from 1973 that lasted just 16 episodes, which happens to be the length of the current season of Lost. Goober and Scooby were both about a bunch of kids who (along with their misfit pet pooch) investigated spooky mysteries. The big difference? In Scooby-Doo, all the ghosts and bogeymen were scams. In Goober, though, the ghosts and bogeymen were legit. You can watch a clip here.
Now, I can report that Goober and the Ghost Chasers did not inspire Kate's line. And the cartoon that Aaron is watching? Just some stock stuff from the Walt Disney vault. But the Scooby/Goober correlation evokes the ideological schism that has always existed within Lost: supernatural possibilities vs. naturalistic explanations — Man of Faith John Locke vs. Man of Science Jack Shephard. That very same issue splits fans, too. There are those perfectly content with the prospect that Lost is all Stephen King. Then there are those who really want Lost to be all Stephen Hawking. I think the latter camp worries that too much fantastical weirdness — ghosts; smokey monsters; time travel — will render Lost silly or diminish the rich human drama that hooked so many people in Season 1.
I asked Marc Oromaner, author of the new book The Myth of Lost, for his perspective on this.
He tells me:
''Fans who prefer Lost to be completely natural just want the show they love so much to be relevant. I believe Lost's principles apply to our world no matter how supernatural its revelations end up being. Take time travel. On a surface level, quantum theorists not only believe it's possible; they're hoping the enormous particle accelerator in Switzerland will soon prove it. There's a deeper level of meaning to Lost however, and from here all of its mythology — no matter how bizarre — can be translated into actual principles that govern our world. That's the point of mythology — to explain the unexplainable. Decipher the myths of Lost, and you'll find what it's really telling us — that we're all connected, we all have a destiny, and that if we listen to the whispers, act in spite of our fears, and conquer the murky monster of doubt, we will succeed in fulfilling it.''
Scooby fans and Goober fans should prepare for a wild season that will both enflame their debate and challenge their respective stances. The early episodes are decidedly Goober-friendly, though I wouldn't draw too many conclusions; I think it's possible that, for the moment, Lost needs to skew more sci-fi right now because the Big Picture demands it. Besides, who says time travel is ridiculously Scooby? There's actually some sound theoretical science behind it. I want to hear from you. Are you Scooby? Are you Goober? Or are you a mixed breed mutt who believes you can be a blend of both? Post your answers on PopWatch — or, if you have a longer, thoughtful treatise on the matter, email me at JeffJensenEW@aol.com.
THE POLYMORPHOUSLY PERPLEXING PUZZLE OF MARVIN CANDLEWhat the Dharma Dude of Many Names tells us about Lost
To further prepare you for tonight's premiere, I thought I'd recap the previous appearances of Pierre Chang, a.k.a. Dr. Marvin Candle, Dr. Mark Wickmund, Dr. Edgar Halliwax — the mercurial emcee/narrator of all the Dharma Initiative orientation films. You'll soon see Chang as you've never seen him before, although as usual, he brings with him a whole bunch of insight into (and bunches more questions about) the Island's mythology. I recently realized that Chang embodies the show's keen sense of self-awareness, and the subtext of his messages speak to the state of Lost itself. My analysis of his major appearances (extracurricular Comic-Con videos not included):
FIRST APPEARANCE: ''Orientation'' (Season 2, Episode 3)LOCATION: Station 3: The Swan
ALIAS: Marvin Candle
CHANG SAYS: Hatch occupants must routinely input a code every 108 seconds, without fail, or risk unspecified consequences.SUBTEXT: ''Keep watching.'' Having just asked the audience to buy into its weird, open-to-interpretation Dharma Initiative mythology, Lost was no doubt sweating the prospect of taxing patience and losing audience. Faithful button pushing = a plea for patience and continued faithful viewing.
SECOND APPEARANCE: ''?'' (Season 2, Episode 21)LOCATION: Station 5: The Pearl
ALIAS: Mark Wickmund
CHANG SAYS: Hatch occupants must observe a psychological experiment taking place in another Hatch (presumably The Swan) and take careful notes. The implication: that button-pushing business is meaningless.SUBTEXT: ''Do you trust us?'' Ditching the lab coat for a '70s-era car salesman/game show host suit and sporting a devilish grin, Wickmund embodied the possibility that Lost's many mysteries may not add up to anything, thus making fools of theory-mongers. Did the show truly deserve the obsessive scrutiny of its fans?
THIRD APPEARANCE: ''Enter 77'' (Season 3, Episode 11)LOCATION: Station 4: The FlameALIAS: Unspecified.CHANG SAYS: Those who manage this station, Dharma's telecommunications complex must execute certain protocols if the ''hostiles'' infiltrate the facility. One of them involves inputting a self-destruct code.SUBTEXT: ''If the show is going to end, let's end it on our own terms.'' Chang's ominous appearance came during Lost's most troubled season. Critics turned on the show, ratings dropped, and everyone — fans, producers, and even the network — realized that to preserve the cool thing that was Lost, the show needed to move into its endgame story lines, which meant receiving permission to actually end the show.
TANGENTIAL ASIDE: Until this point, the trajectory of Chang's appearances mirrored the evolution of television: from film to video to computer file. Note also the introduction of interactivity: The Flame recording was an Easter egg hidden inside a computer chess game. I find it impishly ironic that this interactivity facilitates the destruction of a station that's basically... an old fashioned television broadcasting facility. Hmmm....
FOURTH APPEARANCE: ''There's No Place Like Home'' (Season 4, Episode 13)LOCATION:
Station 6: The OrchidALIAS: Dr. Edgar Halliwax
CHANG SAYS: The Orchid is not what it appears to be. The botanical research unit above hides a secret subterranean lab below nestled against a ''highly volatile and potentially dangerous'' form of energy, a mass of ''negatively charged exotic matter'' which can be harnessed to power a time travel machine. Before he can spell out the implications, the video suddenly stops and rewinds itself.SUBTEXT: ''It's Goober time.'' Lost boldly comes out of the closet and waves its genre show freak flag, but not without much nervousness. ''Negatively charged exotic matter'' + ''potentially dangerous'' = ''This is a sci-fi show. Here's hoping we don't scare everyone away.''
Does Dr. Chang have something to say about Lost in tonight's episode? Come back tomorrow morning for my interpretation.
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THE COMPETING TIMELINES THEORY OF LOST
In which Doc Jensen rounds out last week's Aaron Misdirection Theory and explains how Lost's time travel saga is actually an allegory for the show itself.
Last week, I talked about two moments from season 4 that may (or may not) beg reinterpretation — separate warnings to Jack and Kate from Ghost Charlie (via Loony Bin Hurley) and Nightmare Claire that seemingly pertained to Aaron. To Jack: ''You're not supposed to raise him.'' To Kate: ''Don't bring him back.'' I put forth the idea that neither instruction was about Aaron at all. Instead, Jack and Kate were being urged to prevent a supernatural event: the resurrection of a dead man. I promised you that this week, I would tell you who.
Several years ago, when I concocted my first super-string theory, I postulated that the castaways were brought to the Island by a powerful disembodied spirit named Aaron. The idea was that said sinister spirit intended to take possession of Claire's little boy. I called it ''The Evil Aaron Theory,'' but really, it should have been called the 'Doesn't Doc Jensen Know He's Basically Ripping Off Rosemary's Baby?' Theory Of Lost?
My thinking has evolved (or devolved?) since then. And it was inspired by Lost's unique approach to time travel. In such episodes as ''Flashes Before Your Eyes'' and ''The Constant'' — as well as the whole Death of Charlie storyline in season 3 — we learned:
YOU CAN'T ESCAPE FATE. If history demands your death, or needs you to get marooned on a mysterious Island, it's going to happen. That's just the way it is, whether you like it or not, because it has to happen in order to facilitate other things that have to happen. Think of it this way: Fate is like Lost. There is a master plan; there is a larger story being told; there are predetermined beats that must be hit in sequence in order to arrive at the saga's predetermined end.
YOU CAN'T ESCAPE YOUR FATE — BUT YOU CAN CHANGE THE DETAILS. This was dramatized by Desmond's repeated attempts to save Charlie's life. Desmond would get flashes of the future. He'd see how Charlie was going to bite it — by drowning; by lightning strike; by booby trap — and he would intercede. But eventually, Fate brainstormed a scenario that could kill Charlie. So Fate is both fixed and flexible. Again, it's like Lost. The unchangeable master plan consists only of major milestones. But the route that connects these markers can be found along the way.
So here's my theory. There is a war being waged among various people that have knowledge of Fate's master plan. They know they can't change the unchangeable events — but they're not trying to. What they're trying to change are the details that facilitate those milestones. And those details can include the shape and form of entire lives. The Island is the central battleground for this war, and a final conflict is looming, one which will determine the singular, settled shape of history itself. Many things are at stake, including the very existence of a man who has always lurked in the jungle shadows — a dead man who might yet live again: Jack's father, Christian Shephard.
This is the answer to the Mystery of the Empty Tomb — er, the Empty Coffin: Christian Shephard, the man with the Jesus pun name, is not dead. He's not quite alive, either — not yet. It all depends on the final battle, one that will be settled, no doubt, by a choice that will be made by Jack. If he chooses one way, the timeline takes a form in which Christian remains dead. Jack will go to Australia to rescue his father from a drunken bender and find him in a morgue. If he chooses another way, the timeline takes another form — one in which Jack goes to Australia, finds his father alive, and brings him back... on Oceanic 815.
Until this issue is resolved, poor Christian flickers between existence and non-existence, much in the same way videogame characters do right after they get killed but just before they re-enter the game with new life. Of course, if this theory is correct, and if Jack chooses Door No. 2, then it begs the question: How might Lost be different if Jack's father was among the surviving castaways?
Answer: Season 6, baby, Season 6.
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But first, there is Season 5, which begins tonight. To further prep you for the freaky fun time to come, I bring you the next installment of my recent interview with executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, which was conducted for the recent Lost tribute at The Paley Center in New York City. You'll find some cool, revealing stuff within — including a teaser for a brand new series that will premiere at EW.com next week. It involves Lost. It involves video. And it involves, for better or worse, yours truly, Doc Jensen, and my good friend, awesome colleague, and frequent partner in Lost coverage, Dan Snierson. It is called ''Totally Lost.'' It will be totally crazy, it will be totally fun, and it will probably totally destroy my career as an entertainment journalist, especially when we get to the full frontal nudity stuff. That was probably ill advised. But until my ship goes down: Enjoy.