The Flash Door Map

Lost was a lot of work to watch, no doubt about it.  Being a dedicated Lost fan was tough because you knew you were in it for the long haul.

I don’t care what the show is about, how it is structured or who is in it. I just want a good relationship.

It’s this commitment that has to be there for a show to ascend to carry the mantle of “the next Lost.”  TV watchers talk about the structure of the drama, the complexity of the plot and the chemistry among the characters, but a show with all of those things won’t reach Lost-like heights if viewers aren’t ready to commit.  The harder a show makes it to be a fan, the harder it will be for us to commit.

If ABC wants freshman dramas Flash Forward and V to fill the gap about to be left by the end of Lost, it has a funny way of showing it.  Both shows were put on a three-month hiatus after Thanksgiving, allowing budding fans to virtually forget about the show and, perhaps more importantly, missing out on great promo opportunities in the run up to the February 2 premier of Lost.  (ABC’s horrid V promo notwithstanding.)

Now, both shows are back in full swing but only one is likely to make a second season.  The going money appears to be on V, but I’ve never watched one second of an episode so I can’t say whether or not it deserves to come back.  I have, however, watched every episode of Flash Forward from before and after the break.  With that experience, I can unequivocally say that it absolutely deserves a second season.

The true mythology of Lost began to unfold in season two as characters discovered clues in the hatch indicating that there was more to the island than rumbles in the jungle would indicate.  The biggest clue came when Locke saw the blast door map during a lockdown.  Flash Forward got its blast door map last week when Dyson Frost built a massive maze of the futures he saw in his hundreds of flash forwards, all of which lead to one date: December 12, 2016. The end.

We saw the map wash away after Mark saved Dimitri from the elaborate set up Frost created to bring about the future in which Dimitri dies and Frost lives.  This isn’t that different from what happened with the blast door map, as we only saw that once as well.  But what is important to the show’s long-term success is that Frost’s futures map gives us something to latch on to and debate about.

Unfortunately I’m not finding any screen caps of it anywhere, including ABC’s official website, which is indicative of the show’s general lack of passionate support.  ABC needs to get this image up on its site so that fans can engage and start talking about it.

Through what I feel has been a largely disappointing final season, I’ve come to realize that it was not the characters that drew me into Lost – it was the mystery.  Characters of course have their own mysteries, but it’s the larger mysteries of the island and Dharma that I found most intriguing.

Flash Forward has its mysteries, too, and it is setting them up and knocking them down light years faster than Lost ever has.  The pilot and the second-half premier contained more plot revelations and progress than an entire season of the senior megadrama. I like that, and I’m betting the primetime TV audience will, too.

 

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Don’t do it Dave!

I’m writing this for one reason and one reason only: To save my good buddy Dave from making a horrible mistake.  Dave thinks he is about to give up on LOST, but I’m going to convince him to stay.  It’s probably just another case of his red hair seeping into his brain, anyway.

LOST has long suffered from the complaints of fans wanting the show’s major questions to be answered, and often times those complaints have been well deserved.  In this, the show’s final season, fans are dually hungry and skeptical.  They are hungry for the answers they waited six seasons for but skeptical that they won’t get answers.  Dave’s main complaints seem to be two:

  1. They haven’t addressed the numbers;
  2. The creators don’t know where the show is going.

I can address these questions two quickly.  One with fact, one with what I believe is a damn solid theory.  I’ll deal with the second complaint first.

In a February 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly , Darlton addressed Adam & Eve specifically in the context of their plan for the show:

Independent of ever knowing when the end was going to be, we knew what it was going to be, and we wanted to start setting it up as early as season 1, or else people would think that we were making it up as we were going along. So the skeletons are the living — or, I guess, slowly decomposing — proof of that. When all is said and done, people are going to point to the skeletons and say, ”That is proof that from the very beginning, they always knew that they were going to do this.”

So the writers definitely aren’t winging it like I did so many college exams because of too much Playstation in Dave’s room.  Some things we know have changed, such as Ben Linus becoming a central character and Mr. Eko being killed off, but as far as the over-arching mythology of the show, it seems clear that Darlton has had it set from the beginning.

Along the same lines, they didn’t delay the start of the season in order to work out what they were going to do.  They simply wanted the episodes to run uninterrupted like they have in past years, and like we’ve seen with lesser shows such as 24.

Now, on to what the numbers mean.  For this, I must delve into theory and deep LOST mythology.

4 8 15 16 23 42 = 108  I’ve long believed there is nothing more central to LOST’s story than what the numbers stand for.  After watching last week’s episode and seeing Jacob’s wall of names, I have what I feel is a pretty solid theory.

But before I get to that I have to give Dave acknowledgement for correctly quoting Damon in an interview question on the subject:

You can actually watch Star Wars now, and when Obi-Wan talks about the Force to Luke for the first time, it loses its luster because the Force has been explained as, sort of, little biological agents that are in your blood stream. So you go, “Oh, I liked Obi-Wan’s version a lot better.” Which in the case of our show is, “The numbers are bad luck, they keep popping up in Hurley’s life, they appear on the island.” … But if you’re watching the show for a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean—and I’m not saying you won’t see more of them—then you will be disappointed by the end of season six.

But he’s also said this:

Here’s the story with numbers. The Hanso Foundation that started the Dharma Initiative hired this guy Valenzetti to basically work on this equation to determine what was the probability of the world ending in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Valenzetti basically deduced that it was 100 percent within the next 27 years, so the Hanso Foundation started the Dharma Initiative in an effort to try to change the variables in the equation so that mankind wouldn’t wipe it itself out.

Which brings me around to my theory.  We know that the numbers represent values in the Valenzetti Equation, which predicts the end of the world.  These values, according to the Sri Lanka Video, represent “the numerical values to the core environmental and human factors of the Valenzetti Equation.”  We also know that the Dharma Initiative spent years trying to change any of the factors and thus prevent the end of the world, to no avail.

Be patient, I’m getting to the theory.

I subscribe to Al Trautwig’s theory that we are seeing the end of a long-repeating time loop in which Jacob and Man In Black fight each other over the fate of humanity.  As the loop continues, each of them makes a move that triggers new things which require counter moves and counter counter moves, and on and on.  Man in Black’s end goal is to murder Jacob, end the game and go home, wherever home is.  This outcome is man’s destiny, for dark to prevail over light.  It’s what the Valenzetti Equation says will happen every time the loop repeats.  “They come, they fight, they destroy. It always ends the same,” he says to Jacob in The Incident pt. 1.

“There is only one end,” Jacob says to him.  “Everything that happens before that…is just progress.”  He brings people to the island, on The Black Rock, on Oceanic 815 and on Ajira 316 to make this progress toward the one end.

Jacob’s end goal, and here’s my theory, is to – for one time – disrupt this natural order.  To change one of those core human factors of the Valenzetti Equation so that in this iteration of the loop things do not end the same.  He has to change 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 or 42 in order to prevent dark from triumphing over light.  Each number represents a person, as scribbled on the wall in the cave, and if Jacob can change the destiny for just one of them, he will change a value in the equation and end the loop.  He’ll win.

Man in Black found his loophole in masquerading as John Locke and getting Ben Linus to kill Jacob.  Now, Jacob has as his last chance for one of these human values, who he has chosen, to bring the progress of all the previous time loops to the final end, bringing down his nemesis in black.

That’s what the numbers are: Numbers assigned to the human values in Jacob’s game with Man in Black.  Locke is four, Hurley is 8, Sawyer is 15, Sayid is 16, Jack is 23 (as in Psalm 23?) and Kwon as 42.  (There’s debate about which Kwon – Jin or Sun.  I think it refers to them both as one married couple.  If you’ll recall, Jacob touched both of them at their wedding.)

Now, the most obvious first question about my theory is why all the other names had numbers by them as well.  One could hold that my theory is bogus because of the numbers attached to the other names.  My comeback lies in my dependence on Trautwig’s time loop theory.  This isn’t the first time Jacob and MiB have been through this.  In previous loops, the numerical values of the Valenzetti Equation may have been different, and so were the people Jacob thought would represent those values.  He learned through those loops that Garner, Troupe, Jones, Domingo, Mattingley, etc wouldn’t change the equation and crossed them off the list.  In last week’s episode we say Man in Black cross of Locke’s name because he and Jacob know John won’t change the equation, won’t alter man’s destiny in the age old battle between light and dark.

I don’t think we can expect to know why the numbers repeat so much throughout the show except to say that each time they appear is an event for which Jacob’s intervention is responsible.  It would be a monumental task for someone to go back through every episode to document when each number comes up in order to try to gain some picture that might yield a clue to a deeper meaning.  Thought I wouldn’t put it past anybody.

That’s all I got.  It’s two hours past my bedtime, so I better have convinced Dave to stick with the show or else I’m going to be really pissed.

Would You See?

“If you’re dead – and that’s a big if – wouldn’t you want to know how it happens?  Ya, but if you know maybe you can prevent it.”

What did you see?

That has been the pre-eminent question for the characters in Flash Forward through the first three episodes.  It wouldn’t be much of a show if everyone saw themselves sitting in their respective cubicles filing TPS reports, so of course each character is pulling his or her hair out over what they saw.  Last week, in episode three, we saw the flash forward of a new character trying to deal his way out of a German prison.  But unlike the rest of the main characters, what he saw after he woke up from the blackout may be more important than what he saw during the 2:17 in question.

In his case, seeing his near-future brought obvious pleasure as he was out of prison.  But as we learned with the other characters, the future isn’t always so bright.  Which has be wondering: If you could have a flash forward, would you?

Would you see?

Would you be willing to take a glimpse of your future knowing you could see your comfortable world turned upside down?  You’re pregnant but don’t know how.  You’re with a child you thought killed in war.  You’re with another man.

You don’t see anything.

I would.  How could you not?  A glimpse of your future?!?  If not for the sake of curiousity, then for a chance at answering the age-old question: Can you change the future?

Here we come to the essence of Lost and what will certainly play a central role in the plot as Flash Forward unfolds.  The Lost characters believe you can, a point Jack brought them to with varying degrees of difficulty.  Rather, they believe you can at least try, or should try if the future you would prevent is worth preventing.

Agent John Benford apparently also believes you should try to prevent the future if you know it will be less than desirable; we’ve seen him burn his daughter’s friendship bracelet.  But then we also see him trying to recreate the bulletin board he sees in his flash forward, so maybe he is conflicted between wanting to prevent a future in which he will have gone back to drinking and lost his wife to another man, no this sucks.

The Lost-Flash Forward similarities continue to mount

“It’s called a leap of faith, Jack.”

The epic confrontation between Jack Shepard and John Locke outside the orchid station in the Lost season four finale put it all on the line in the never-ending debate between the faithful and the faithless.  There hasn’t been a defining moment of that magnitude yet with Flash Forward, but a discussion of faith does arise with the show’s central characters as they face the prospect of a future they have already seen and don’t much care to see again.

Time and Destiny

Time travel of one sort or another emerged as a central plot device during Lost’s fifth season and fans responded with a massive collective nose bleed.  It doesn’t seem at this point like we’ll see the Flashies jumping back and forth throughout the calendar, but destiny is approaching center stage, and with it comes the endless debate over whether or not you can change the future.

The Losties – primarily Jack – believe you can change the future and enough believe you should at least try that they were willing to give Jack a shot at it.  In Flash Forward, the jury is still out.  Agent Benford took a tentative step toward affecting the future by burning his daughter’s friendship bracelet, but neither show seems to buy into the butterfly effect so the effect of this on changing the entire course of his flash forward is doubtful.  We are definitely seeing destiny begin to unfold as the characters start to come into contact with the people they will see in their flash forwards.

Flash Maybe

Like most television viewers, I first heard of ABC’s new mega-drama Flash Forward during Lost’s “The Incident” parts one and two last May.  The timing of its introduction coupled with the obvious connection between the title and one of Lost’s signature plot devices make comparisons between the two shows inevitable.

Is this fair?  Yes, I think it is.  ABC is clearly wants Lost’s fanatical fans to throw themselves into Flash Forward with equal dedication.  The fact that fan favourite Dominic Mohagan is slated to star in the series (though he was not in the pilot) should certainly help that cause.  Casting Sonia Walger as the main character’s wife will help as well.  (Does this signal that Walger’s already light duties as Penny will be even less needed in Lost’s final season?)

Even without ABC’s attempt to link the two shows, comparing Fast Forward to Lost is fair for the plain and simple fact that, over its five seasons, Lost established itself as the gold standard for intricate serial dramas (which I call mega-dramas).  To not compare the two would be like not comparing Tiger Woods to Jack Nicklaus.

But it would be unfair to judge one episode of Flash Forward against more than 100 episodes of Lost, so let’s not rush to judge Flash Forward.  Instead I’ll just note some observations without casting judgment.

What jumped out to me most about the premier of Flash Forward is that it seemed to cover an awful lot of ground awfully quickly.  Our characters learned that everyone on the planet blacked out for two minutes, seventeen seconds.  They also surmised that rather than merely dreaming, everyone had a pre-memory vision of where they would be at 10 p.m. pacific daylight time on April 29, 2010.  We even got several looks at what the show’s central characters saw.  This is obviously significant, they realize, and decide to investigate.  The final scene had two characters learning that someone was awake during the blackout in a cliffhanger that I have to admit left me with chills.

Think back to the beginning of Lost.  The pilot gave us a plane crash, a brief introduction to the central characters and a tantalizing glimpse at the mysteries that lurked in the jungle.  Then, the show spent another 23 episodes enduring us to the characters while dropping enough mystery morsels to gradually build our interest.

Flash Forward could have gone this direction, but it seems that the writers have not.  I can easily imagine a first season with episodes focused on each character’s glimpse into the future, each one weaving an ever-intricate web with the others.  Along the way we would get bits and pieces of the big mystery, closing the season with the big reveal that someone (or a lot of someones) stayed conscious through the blackout.

The fact that the Flash Forward writers crammed so much into the pilot doesn’t mean they chose to forgo the kind of in-depth character development that Lost is known for, but it does sound a potential alarm.  The pace of reveals in the pilot seemed forced, to the point that it was getting a little ridiculous.  If that keeps up, it could signal that the show won’t spend the time enticing its viewers with an emotional investment in the show, choosing to wow them with one plot twist after another instead.  Doing so would misdiagnose the reasons for Lost’s success.  Yes, it has mind-blowing plot twists, but without the painstaking – sometimes too painstaking – level of detail and devotion the show built up the fans would have long ago given up on the show.

To be successful, Flash Forward must find a way to give its viewers more than just a mysterious plot.  Last year’s Lost season finale had us all hoping against hope that Sawyer would hold on to Juliet in the mineshaft because we love Sawyer and wanted to see him happy.  The fact that I can’t recall a single character’s name from Flash Forward’s premier episode means the show has work to do before building the loyal followers ABC wants to keep tuned to the network when Lost ends.

 

Keamy and the heart monitor

Keamy, the heart monitor and the time difference

I posted this on a Lost message board:

Earlier this season, a package sent to the island arrived 30-some minutes late, indicating that it was behind in time compared to the freighter. Then, a dead body washed up on the short of the island before the person died on the boad, indicating that the island had by then moved ahead of the freighter in time.

So why then did Keamy’s death immediately detonate the bomb on the freighter? I can think of a few explanations. One is that the time difference evened out. The other is that the freighter had apparently drifted closer to the island, close enough that Juliet could see it explode, and therefore was on “island time” so to speak.

That made me think of something else. What if there are two boats – the same way that there were two doctors, the dead doctor and the living doctor? One boat near the island on island time and another farther away in a different time. Might season five open with a boat that doesn’t explode?

Someone responded with:

Also remember that radio/satellite transmissions don’t seem to be affected by the island’s time differential. There have been a been instances where there was real-time communication via the satellite phone between the people on the ship and the people on the island when the ship was clearly outside of the island’s ‘time zone’

That’s a great point, and as someone else posted, this is probably the likely explanation:

About this – it’s possible that they can explain it away by noting that the freighter was moved closer to the Island in the finale (after the engine was repaired). It’s possible it got inside the electromagnetic field surrounding the island so that the transmission was, in fact, instantaneous.

Someone else brought up the notion that this would mean there are two of everything, one on island time and one on regular time.  If that’s the case, then there could even be another Oceanic 815 somewhere.

Let’s run with that.  The flash forwards clearly indicate that an alternate plan did not make it to LA.  So perhaps there is a second plane out there at the bottom of the ocean?  We know from Widmore staging wreckage that no one ever found any real remains of Oceanic 815, but if this theory is true and there is a second plane out there somewhere, if it is ever found that would create major problems for Widmore and the Oceanic Six.

How did Ben know what he was doing?

Ben seemed to know exactly what he was doing the moment Locke told him they had to move the island.  How?  In the first hour, Ben chided Locke for not remembering that Ben always has a plan, but all that led to the frozen donkey wheel didn’t seem like a man following a plan.  It seemed like a man following directions.

This brings me to a gripe I have with the show.  Not really a gripe, I suppose, maybe just a request.  I’d like to know what Ben knows about the island.  That’s all.

I say “that’s all” as if I’m asking for a glass of ice water, but after four unbelievably loyal seasons of Lost viewership, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.  At some point in or over the course of season five, I’d like to have Ben’s full back story.  Specifically, how he learned what he knows about the island.

After season four, we are caught up to current time.  The producers have said that season four is about leaving the island, season five about getting back and season six about what happens when they get there.  Season five will also have to include what the hell happened to the island when Ben turning the frozen donkey wheel made it disappear.  I think his back story can be told during the course of this explanation.

This leads right into my next section…

Ben trying to get them back to the island

Ben always has a plan.

I posit that Ben trying to convince Jack of the need to go back is a clever manipulation to find out where the island is.  What we know about post-move Ben is that he’s vowed to avenge his daughter’s death by killing Penny, Widmore’s daughter.  If you make the assumption that Penny contacts her father after finding Desmond, I see Widmore sending Penny – and Desmond – back to the island, either with their knowledge or by manipulation.

Ben would surely know this.  With the determination we saw in his nighttime talk with Widmore, I don’t think he would let anything get in the way of his revenge.

This theory bolsters my prediction that Des and Penny are Adam and Eve.

Casting, especially Keamy

There are criticisms, legitimate or not, of the acting on Lost.  However you feel about that, you can’t argue that the casting is nearly perfect.

Keamy is a great example.  He’s got the muscled body of a post-military mercenary, but also a kind of boyish cuteness that allows him the charm that you wouldn’t expect from such an evil person.  Or maybe you would expect it.  But the actor selected for the role does it perfectly.

Michael Emerson is another perfect cast in the role of Ben.  Can you imagine Ben without those piercing, beady eyes or those tightly pursed lips?  No way.  Or the way his eyes get wide and he holds the rest of his facial features completely still when he delivers a crucial line.

The climactic scene of the season was obviously Ben turning the frozen donkey wheel (this name comes from the producers’ code phrase for the finale) and thereby moving the island.  Emerson did a wonderful job of conveying two very different emotions in this scene.  First, the obvious physical strain of turning this massive, frozen wheel.  This added to the dramatic build up of the scene.

But he also added a second emotion, one that I wasn’t expecting.  Turning the wheel was, for Ben, like making the decision to break up with someone you love.  You hate having to do it, but you do it because you know you have to and it kills you inside.  You could see it in his eyes, he was even crying by the time the scene washed out.

Taking himself off the island was the last thing Ben would ever want to do, but he did it anyway for the island’s sake.  Seeing the heartbreak on his face added a level of sadness to, perhaps, the most dramatic scene yet in four seasons.

Back to my original point, I’m hardly enough of a television watcher to make this kind of claim, but I will anyway:  If there’s been an actor who has done a better job in primetime this season, I’ll be damned.  Michael Emerson has been awesome.