Friday, April 24, 2009


My New Theory About Lost

Do you watch Lost? If not, what the heck is wrong with you?

But if you do watch the show (which is shaping up to be the finest long-form science fiction narrative on television to date), here's a little something I stumbled on last night, digging around on Lostpedia. This video clip was tied into last summer's Lost-related alternate reality game, sometimes called the "Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project," and I think it provides some interesting hints about where we'll be heading, either in the final episodes of this season or in the next (and, sadly, final) season.

Catch all that? It's clearly David Faraday behind the camera, as Chang talks about "Kerr Metric solutions to Einstein's Field Equations," and a "pinhole" that allows him to send a message thirty years into the future.

Anyway, that's not related to my new theory, but is just an interesting bit of awesome.

Here's what I'm thinking now. A couple of weeks ago we got the WTF moment of learning that bounty-hunter Ilana and passenger Bram, both of whom were on Ajira Airways Flight 316, knew something about the island that we don't know. The phrase "What lies in the shadow of the statue?", which Bram used on Sayid last week in the flashback, is clearly some Masonic-like passcode, used to identify other members of some organization. I originally wondered if this wasn't a third faction or group, in addition to the Others/Hostiles and the Dharam Initiative, out for control of the island, possibly connected with the island's original inhabitants. But Allison quickly convinced me otherwise, sure that they wouldn't introduce a whole new interest group this late in the game--her theory is that the "shadow of the statue" gang are the inheritors of the Dharma Initiative in some way, which makes sense to me.

But that got me thinking. We've seen now on two separate occasions the transition between one "Leader" of the Others/Hostiles and the next, first when Ben is put aside so Locke can take the lead, and then in flashbacks we see Widmore getting the boot when Ben takes charge. But in both cases, the predecessor is kicked off the island and then comes back to try to regain control.

We've seen Widmore as a young man among the Others/Hostiles back in the 50s (along with Faraday's mother, of course), but it seems clear that he was just part of the rank-and-file at that point. Alpert appeared to be in charge, but that's misleading, I think, because it's been established that his character is a kind of liaison between the "island" (Jacob?) and whoever is leading the group at any given point. So the question I had was, who was the leader of the Others/Hostiles before Widmore?

I think it was Alvar Hanso, the mysterious figure behind the Dharma Initiative.

Here, check out the orientation video from the Swan:

About all we learn on Lost itself about Hanso is that he was a "munitions magnate" who funded Gerald and Karen DeGroot's utopian project. But there have been loads of details about him released in the various alternate reality games and such. Check out the Alvar Hanso entry on Lostpedia and see what I mean.

So he's been around since the days of WWII, originally providing munitions to resistance groups in Europe. But it wasn't until the 1960s that he established the Hanso Foundation, and turned from weapons to more benevolent applications of technology. Then, in 1970, he funds the Dharma Initiative, who set up shop on the island. The Dharma folks have a fairly antagonistic relationship with the "Hostiles," and only the sonic security fence (intended to keep out the black smoke monster, surely) and the tenuous "truce" keeps them from open conflict.

We know that Widmore was kicked off the island for sneaking away covertly for years to the mainland, starting a family (cf. Penny Widmore) and quite likely a business (the Widmore Corporation). Ben self-righteously ousts Widmore and sends him packing. But by 2004, we learn, Ben has been doing much the same thing, with a secret compartment in his house filled with fake passports and contacts established throughout the mainland.

So here's what I think happens. Alvar Hanso was the leader of the Others/Hostiles in the mid-20th Century, possibly having been born on the island, the descendant of the Black Rock's captain Magnus Hanso. Throughout the 40s and 50s Hanso sneaks away to the mainland, without the others on the island knowing anything about it, supplying weapons to groups in Europe. In the late 50s or early 60s he's found out, gets kicked off the island, and Widmore takes over. Then another thirty years Ben kicks out Widmore for the same reasons, and then further on Locke takes over after Ben is ousted as well.

(There are hints in the "expanded Lost universe" stuff of tenuous connections between the Hanso Foundation and the Widmore Corporation in the modern day, which makes sense if Hanso and Widmore recognize in Ben a common enemy, and become allies for as long as their interests are parallel.)

All of the various groups that are vying for control of the island--Hanso and the Dharma Initiative, the Others, Widmore and the freighter, the "shadow of the statue" gang, etc--are not different groups, but different factions of the same group. This is a generational struggle for control of the island.

The writers of Lost simply love to mirror the themes of one character's struggle with another, or to use elements of a character's backstory as emblematic of larger issues. Think about how many characters have issues with their fathers, either antagonistic relationships or strained relationships that they struggle to mend. Locke. Jack. Kate (who killed her stepfather, after all). Hurley, certainly. Miles. Ben. Sawyer (whose father killed his mother, and who dedicated himself to hunting down and killing the man whose name he adopted). Sayid (who was driven to be a killer by his father, at least symbolically, and who acted out his father issues with Ben). By this point, basically all of the surviving characters have significant father issues at the core of their character arcs.

So Lost is really one big father-son struggle, at least thematically, with the various generations of the same group, an extended "family" composed of people who have come to the island through various means, vying for control.

What do you think?

Interesting. I've kind of been running on the assumption that the Others are connected to the Black Rock crew (either as descendants or in that semi-creepy Richard-Alpert-never-ages kind of way), so Alvar Hanso being more connected to the island makes sense.

And there are definitely Daddy Issues all around. Darlton may hate Daddies as much as Joss Whedon. The only characters without known Daddy Issues are either dead (Charlie, Libby, Mr. Eko) or we haven't explored them yet (Richard Alpert, Desmond, Juliet). So if Daddy Issues aren't a part of the eventual reveal of just what the heck has been going on, Darlton will have some 'splainin' to do.

There's certainly enough bitterness between the groups to fuel speculation that they were once much closer and had some sort of falling out.

I had kind of been leaning in the direction of the "shadow" gang being New Dharma. It just doesn't seem possible (having now spent time with the Dharmites in all of their secretive, paranoid glory) that the parts of the Initiative off the island somehow wouldn't notice that all of their people except Ben disappeared and were replaced by people they had no records of. Of course, it also seems unlikely that the food drops would have continued had they realized something was amiss; that one still bothers me. But since Dharma was Hanso to begin with, it doesn't contradict your theory in the slightest.

What about that statue? Does it pre-date the Black Rock (and therefore Dharma)? That's the only thing I can think of that might throw a monkey-wrench in your theory.
Great post Chris.

Faraday, I think, is Widmore and Eloise Hawking's son, which makes him related to Penny and therefore to Hanso. And we did see Faraday working with Chang in the first episode of this season.

Most of the characters do have Daddy issues. At least those characters whose father we've seen.

My 2 big questions, though, are: (1)"What is the Island" We saw the statue when it was hopping through time. Is it from the distant future, then sent to the distant past?

(2) What is the true nature of Alpert? Was he aboard the Black Rock? Is he the original, true inhabitant of the island?
There is a definite cyclical story going on here of events past and repeated. The creators have acknowledged how much they like Stephen King and there are quite a few similar thematic notes between Dark Tower and Lost. I just hope Carlton Cuse and Lindloff don't put themselves into the narrative.
Peggy, my instinct at this point is that the statue, the temple, and the "donkey wheel" are the oldest man-made objects on the island, so when our timelost survivors saw the statue whole and complete (when there was no well above the donkey-wheel) they were in the distant past.

I think that all of those artifacts, including the black smoke monster, are the product of some technologically advanced culture, perhaps the original of the Atlantis myth? There is Egyptian imagery and hieroglyphics in the temple, so perhaps Atlantis was an offshot of Egypt that's been forgotten to history?

Oh, and Rob, I think that Alpert is one of the original inhabitants who has been preserved all this time by the island itself, and that the various dead-people-talking (like Christian Shepherd) are sock-puppets for the island's consciousness.
My instinct has been saying Atlantis, too. I thought Lindelof/Cuse debunked that theory, though.
Have they? Mmm. I'll have to go digging and see what I can find.
I'm afraid I can't comment. Can't even read this post. The suspension at the end of each episode was too great, so I just started keeping the episodes. Once the season will be over, next week I think, I'll watch it all during a few evenings. I find it that with a show like "Lost" this is the only way (for me) to watch it. Keeping a rain check on the comment. then.
Fair enough, Rani. At least you're still watching!
Well, given that they're in the Pacific, maybe Lemuria or Mu instead of Atlantis.

And I agree that we're talking Mysterious Ancient Culture here. I guess I'm wondering if the Bad Daddies/"I'm the Leader!" "No, I"M the Leader" meme pre-dates the Black Rock and Captain Hanso. Was the Black Rock looking for the Island, or did they just happen along at the right time?
Is it way wrong to say "I just like the part where that was clearly filmed at SDCC last summer" ?

I have no theory. I am a delighful participant in the plan to Go Along For The Ride.

Can't wait for Wednesday.
This is fascinating. I've watched a total of ten minutes of "Lost", and while reading this post I understood what it must be like for my wife when I try to explain Rick Jones' various relationships in the Marvel Universe, or any issue of "Planetary." Go deep or don't go at all.
why don't we discuss about the main thing that inhabited the island (the advanced civilization) how the "island" became the island and the 4 toes broken statue in season2 and the old temple the resident of the black smoke i think we need to see the history of the island to base our assumptions.
plus by looking at the minor things the creators left us in some episodes one of those things that still keeps bugging me is the "the constant" episode 5 season 4 when Desmond found Charles Widmore in an auction winning his bid on a sailor's diary of the Black Rock ship that was left out with some wreckage in madgascar and bieng taken and kept with the Hanso's family for decades that happen to have for sure important details about the ship encounter with the island how is the Hanso family leave something important like this being auctioned and taken by Widmore or anyone else?
You're missing out, Daryl. But it's not too late to join us! You've got enough time between now and the start of the final season to catch up on the DVDs, and then you can join in all of the endless speculations along with the rest of us. Come on, it's not like there's any *work* you could be doing!
Peggy and Horizen, you both raise excellent points about the connections (or lack thereof) betweeen the Hanso family, the Black Rock herself, and the island's original inhabitants. If I was forced to guess at this point, I'd say that the most likely scenario is that the Black Rock simply ran aground on the island same as the various planes and balloons and such over the years have done, and that the Hanso family's involvement with the island began there (and continued, perhaps, when one of the Hanso family used one of the various means *off* the island, thereby bringing the ship's log back to the mainland).

But yeah, Mu, Lemuria, Hy-Brasyl, you name it, I think that the island could have been the original of any of those. Maybe it isn't Atlantis *per se*, but the lost island civilization whose dimly recalled story gave rise in later centuries and millennia to all of the various lost island myths and legends.
I love Lost, but sometimes it just makes my head hurt (and I am a judge for the Sidewise award). Sometimes, while I'm watching, my sweetie will pass through the living room, see what's on, and ask me what's happening now.

I just reply, "Temporal anomaly, darling," and she is able to be satisfied and go on her merry way.

Once we finally get an Alpert flashback, I suspect that a lot of blanks will be filled in.

Meanwhile, while Hurley skips through the jungle, singing, "Star Wars, we gonna see Star Wars, again and again..."
Otherwise, I just figure that it is the Island from the original DC "The War That Time Forgot" series and Dwayne Cooke's "New Frontier."

It does help, although I want to see GI Robot...
Oops, Darwyn Cooke.
Not to worry, Stu. I'm sure it was just a momentary temporal anomaly, and for a brief instant it *was* Dwayne Cooke...

(One of the unexpected joys of this season is the pairing of Hurley and Miles. And I love that Hurley isn't writing the script to Empire to make money or get fame, but to *help* Lucas save time!)
I hope that Hurley helps Lucas fix the prequel movies, since they sucked so much, Chris. ;)
Hurley *does* say that he's made some "improvements" to Empire's script, so we can only hope.
i know from a very, very inside source that the island is really jerusalem. you are correct about the generational struggle, as well as the fatherhood thread.

jack is moses, though in this case moses' brother (aaron) is his nephew. desmond is jesus (just look at the way he looks at the end of season 3). sayid is muhammad.

much of the conflict over control over the island is between the british (widmore), the americans (ben linus), and the palestinians and israelis (being the various populations)

jacob's nemesis is his brother esau, jealous for their father's love.

the dharma symbol is the octagon of the dome of the rock.

more to come.
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