If you haven’t watched all of the 6th and final season of LOST, or the final episode “The End”, don’t read any further. Seriously, this is stuff that might ruin the end of LOST for you.
Its been two weeks since the final episode aired and during my most recent viewing of it I was struck by a revelation that I thought would be blogged about all over the internet, but to my surprise very few people have mentioned it and none of them delved deeply into the subject To be fair, the writers did not state it overtly, but they did more than subtly suggest the following notion that can be made clear by following the breadcrumb trail.
Lets begin during season six when we learned in the episode “Across the Sea” that The Man in Black is Jacob’s younger twin brother. His natural mother is murdered after his birth by his adoptive “Mother”, who later has control issues of her own regarding him that continue well into his adulthood. We also learn that Jacob also has an abusive relationship with Boy in Black. Multiple times Jacob beats the Boy in Black up when he expresses any intention of independence and free thinking. Somehow the Boy in Black manages to refrain from striking back at Jacob even though he would be justified in his self defense. As an adult Man in Black makes the mistake of confessing to his brother during a secret meeting that he intends to leave the island, and has found a way to do so. Jacob, of course, immediately divulges Man in Black’s intention to Mother, who goes apeshit and confronts Man in Black. She rudely assaults him, and somehow manages to destroy an entire village, killing everyone by herself, and manages to destroy the very method that Man in Black intended to use to gain freedom from the island. We can only assume that she must be a Smoke Monster herself. For how else can we be expected to believe that one unarmed woman did so much arson and carnage by herself? Another scene that backs up that Mother is a Smoke Monster is when Mother reveals to Jacob that mortals who enter the heart of the island, of which she claims to protect, are condemned to suffer a fate worse than death. Couldn’t the becoming into a Smoke Monster be a pretty terrible existence to live with? And how would she know, unless she had already done it herself? We also can deduce later when Desmond, Hurley, and Jack emerge unscathed from the heart of the island that those who properly transfer the mantle of the Protector role, as Jacob did with Jack, that you are immune to the defenses that heart of the island implements. This indicates that it is Jacob, in a fit of anger that intentionally harms his brother, like Cain with Abel, by drifting the unconscious body of Man in Black , who has not been given the proper transfer of Protector power over the waterfall that leads into the heart of the island. This tragically dooms Man in Black with the accursed Smoke form. We also learn through a speech by Benjamin Linus in the episode “The End” that all of these terrible actions that result in Jacob forcing all of these innocent candidates onto to the island, and ultimately to their deaths was unnecessary. “That’s how Jacob ran things. Maybe there is another way, Hugo. A better way.” This statement is reinforced by our understanding that everything becomes about healing in the flash sideways, and that there was a better way on the island. A way that didn’t include the torment and death of so many people.
During the climatic battle on the cliffs between Jack and Man in Black, we discover the first clue by the writers that the Man in Black has a flash sideways himself. He has been shot by Kate, with the last bullet in her rifle, and just before Jack kicks the gravely injured Man in Black over the cliff, we hear Man in Black tell Jack “You’re too late.” We are led to believe as the audience that Man in Black is referring to a failed effort by the LOSTies to save the island. It seems that it will indeed sink beneath the waves of the ocean, despite their best efforts, but the true revelation is this: The Man in Black was given his wish, he was allowed off of the island, and he was given redemption with a figurative mother and father, and furthermore he was finally given a name, and that name is David Shephard.
The clues are there. First the physical ones. David is approximately the same age as Boy in Black when he left Mother and Jacob and journeyed to the other people on the island to learn about his past and his people. David, Boy in Black, and Man in Black (Unlocke) all have blue eyes and dark hair. Originally I had thought they had made the decision to cast an actor with blue eyes in the role of David because they wanted to establish Juliette as the mother. While Elizabeth Mitchell’s, the actress who portrayed Juliet Burke, eyes are blue, and her character did prove to be David Shephard’s mother in the flash sideways timeline, it was probably not the only casting consideration, I am also convinced that they wanted to leave the audience a subtle clue that David is actually the Man in Black, reborn, and offered a final moment of redemption. That the moment of redemption is offered to him by Jack, the very man who killed him is pure sweet irony. There are other references throughout the script of the sixth season that suggest David’s true identity.
If you think back to the episode “Lighthouse” there are more clues that David is not only a figurative son for Jack and Juliette to work their issues out with, but also a healing opportunity for Man in Black to have the one thing he really yearned for – healthy, sane parents who love him, and a name. All things that he has never experienced over all of the many years while Jacob had trapped him on the island against his will, and selfishly transformed him into the smoke monster. In “Lighthouse” Jack reveals to David that “You used to love hearing about Kitty and Snowdrop…”. Kitty and Snowdrop were of course Alice’s black and white kittens in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The cats represent for David a time with Jacob and Mother before he departed after learning that his biological Mother had been killed by his adoptive Mother. This notion is reinforced by the revelation that Adam and Eve in the caves are actually the skeletons of Mother and Man in Black. This explains why David’s relationship to Jack as son and father is so strained at the beginning of Lighthouse. We, as the audience, are unaware that Jack is trying to come to terms with himself about his death on the island in the original timeline, as is David (Boy in Black). David is struggling to find himself in this flash sideways. We see another clue that he is the Man in Black when we see that he performs Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu” on the piano. Not only are the piano keys black and white, once again referencing to the yin and yang so often used in the show, and furthermore the epic battle between Jacob and himself on the island, but more importantly they are two musical devices brought together on the piano to create beautiful harmony and melodies in a piece that requires, as Clairespeanutbutter explains in their piece “The Symphony of Lost (Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu)”, cross rhythms. Cross rhythms are ” a rhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is contradicted by a conflicting pattern; the meter of the piece is in a permanent state of contradiction). In Fantaisie-Impromptu, Chopin uses many cross-rhythms (the right hand plays sixteenth notes against the left hand playing triplets)”. These cross rhythms symbolizes also the constant conflict of time, space, and conversations that have gone back and forth over issues surrounding Faith and Science on the show.
We finally see redemption for David (Man in Black) and Jack in the scene that follows the performance outside of the conservatory, in which Jack tells David in no uncertain terms “You were great in there.” Throughout our experience on LOST, we have never seen anyone give Boy in Black or Man in Black an honest compliment about anything he has done. Jack continues with, ” It sounded perfect from where I was standing.” He cements the rift in parental trust with Boy in Black (David) by reassuring him that “You know, when I was your age, my father didn’t want to see me fail either. He used to say to me… he said that I didn’t have what it takes. I spent my whole life carrying that around with me. I don’t want you to ever feel that way. I will always love you. No matter what you do. In my eyes, you can never fail. I just want to be a part of your life.” It is of course, precisely what Jack always wanted to hear from his father Christian, and it turns out that it is also what Boy in Black always needed to hear as well, in order for him to heal. We could say that it was only for the purposes of moving Jack forward, but doesn’t it seem so much more poetic when we think about it from both perspectives?
There are other clues in David Shephard’s bedroom at Juliet’s house. We see a poster dated December 19th, which happens not only to be Ben Linus’ birthday, but also the date of the purge by the Others of the Dharma Initiative. This poster seems to represent a symbolic purge of the past crimes and violence that Man in Black had been involved with. We learn from Ben Linus in finale episode “The End” that he finally realized that he was not summoning the Smoke Monster, but rather the Smoke Monster was summoning him. It is quite likely that Man in Black might have given the orders to the Others to make the purge while pretending to be Jacob through the use of Jacob’s Cabin. The purge of course was accomplished through the chemical weapons released through the Tempest station. “Tempest” is defined as a violent windstorm, a commotion, a disturbance, or tumult. Sound bit like a tongue-in-cheek reference to Ole Smokey? If he truly wants to experience childhood and the healing powers of love, as he was meant to, he would surely need to cleanse himself of the most terrible of the actions he had ever been involved in to prepare for transformation from darkness to light. We also see a poster of the rock band The Who who is probably known best for their popular album Tommy, a conceptual rock opera that features a song called “Smash the Mirror”. In the song, Tommy’s mother frees him from his catatonic prison by smashing the mirror into which he cannot help but stare. This of course is echoed in the episode when Jack smashes the mirrors of the Lighthouse, thus freeing himself from his rigid acceptance of logic over faith, which of course allows for the course correction that will redeem Man in Black in the end, and symbolically foreshadowing his destruction of the prison (Jacob’s rules) that keep Man in Black imprisoned.
We know this is what Man in Black wants of course because he makes efforts through the rest of season six in the form of Unlocke to not only get all of candidates that Jacob has forced to come to the island killed, so that he can finally leave island, but he also tries, mostly in vain I might add, to connect with them on a human level. He makes the attempt repeatedly with Claire, Kate, Sun, and even Sawyer. In the finale episode “The End” we see Man in Black try establish a rapport with Jack. This relationship is particularly noticeable in the scene when Man in Black teases Jack at the top of the waterfall as they lower Desmond with the rope and says to him, “If there were a button down there, we could fight about whether or not to push it…” He is of course referencing the classic scene from the end of Season 1 and beginning of Season 2 that has both Jack and Locke peering down the shaft after they blew the hatch off of the Dharma Swan station. He doesn’t seem to be trying to pick a fight; rather he seems to be trying to remind Jack that he understands where Jack is coming from, and that he, as John Locke, once felt that tug of responsibility to the island as well. It could be a moment of manipulation, but I truly believe it is Man in Black trying desperately to relate to Jack, and since he has no personal memories formed with Jack of his own, he uses the memories of the person’s face of whom he wears… John Locke. But his efforts backfire, and ironically the Man in Black is then allowed freedom from the island and given redemption through his death, allowing his transformation to be complete by entering the flash sideways world where he can experience and enjoy the childhood of his which had previously been LOST.
Jeff Jensen’s take on Alice in Wonderland on EW.com: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20313460_20347892,00.html
Theories on Lost (clairespeanutbutter): http://www.theoriesonlost.com/2010/05/the-symphony-of-lost-and-chopins-fantaisie-impromptu/