Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Charlie and the Church

Like Locke, Charlie doesn’t like anyone telling him what he can’t do. Despite the letters that he wore on his fingers in season one that spelled ‘FATE,’ Charlie wants to make his own decisions and be in charge of his life. Unfortunately, as he has repeatedly demonstrated this season, Charlie makes terrible decisions. He shot Ethan before anyone could question him, hoarded several statues full of heroin, obsessively interfered with Claire’s baby, and helped Sawyer steal the armory guns. However, all of these self-serving actions stand in sharp contrast to his most recent activity: helping Eko build a church. Charlie offered Eko a palette of wood to use as building material early in the church’s construction, but the process of rebuilding his own spirituality had began much earlier and couldn’t have been done without Eko’s help. Because Charlie is a reactionary character who often acts without thinking of the consequences, he needs subtle guidance from someone wiser than he is in order to think things through and make good decisions.

In season one, Locke helped Charlie overcome his drug addiction by letting him choose to quit heroin on his own. Locke took Charlie’s heroin supply and said that he would return it if Charlie asked for it three times. This method gave Charlie the time to thoroughly think about the heroin’s effect on him and choose to throw it into a fire. After Charlie discovered and subsequently squirreled away a heroin supply on the island, Locke abandoned all pretensions of freewill and demanded that Charlie surrender his drugs, even resorting to violence to take them.

Charlie did not respond well when Locke refused him a choice. Even though he didn’t really want the heroin, he still wanted revenge on Locke for taking it. Locke’s forceful methods of taking the drugs directly led to Charlie’s involvement with Sawyer’s con to steal the armory guns. Charlie explained his motivation as simply, ‘to make Locke look foolish.’

In the episode 2x12 – Fire + Water, Eko established trust with Charlie by offering him a statue filled with heroin to replace the one he had broken earlier. He didn’t lecture Charlie about the evils of drugs or condemn Charlie for using them. He simply handed Charlie a statue with no stated expectations about whether it would be opened or not. This action made it clear that he wasn’t going to force Charlie to quit using drugs. Because Eko has great patience (who else could go for 40 days without speaking), he was the most capable of allowing Charlie the time he needed to decide to change.

When Eko was first shown cutting down trees, I believed that he played coy about what he was building because the show’s producers were concealing some great surprise. However, now I realize that Eko’s initial refusal to say what he was building piqued Charlie’s curiosity. Had Eko simply said that he was building a church when Charlie first asked him why he was marking certain trees, Charlie would most likely have lost interest immediately and gone back to stare at his heroin statues. Rather than preaching to him about the need to serve others (or some other moralistic lesson), Eko let Charlie choose his own level of involvement with the church’s construction. Eko didn’t even invite Charlie to help until he willingly brought building supplies. By the time Eko finally revealed his secret (sometime between episodes 2x18 – Dave and 2x19 – S.O.S.), Charlie was fully committed to the project.

The difference in Charlie’s personality is striking. Since starting work on the church’s construction, he has not mentioned his drugs or hung out with bad influences such as Sawyer. He has also stopped obsessing about Claire and discrediting Locke. By throwing his heroin in the fire and agreeing to help build the church, Charlie has twice shown that he will choose to make good decisions when he is given the chance. However, he has also displayed a remarkable quick ability to regress back to his self-serving ways once his good influence stops focusing attention on him. Now that Mr. Eko has dedicated to push the button in the hatch (the same distraction that caused Locke to stop focusing on him), it will be interesting to see how Charlie handles having to make decisions on his own once again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thoughts on Episode 2x21: ? – The Pearl Hatch and the Blast Door Map

This episode raised many questions about the blast door map. Since seeing the map for the first time, I had assumed that the mapmaker knew something was at the ‘?’ location, but was unsure what it was so he labeled it with a question mark. (Forgive me for using the pronoun ‘he.’ I realize that it could also be a woman but I’ve always believed that the mapmaker was Kelvin—just my little theory.) When Eko and Locke found the question mark in the soil, I realized that that theory is probably not correct.

I see two possibilities for the mapmaker’s relationship to the question mark. Either he saw the question mark in the ground while exploring the island or he created it to help find the location again.

If someone else had created the question mark earlier and the mapmaker merely saw it while exploring, it seems highly unlikely that he would make it the focal point of his map. However, Locke did lose his ability to walk in that area so it’s possible that a similar experience happened to the mapmaker. This would make the location seem special and possibly justify its central placement on the map, though I find it unlikely since Locke has revisited the spot several times with no reoccurrences of paralysis. (I still believe that Locke’s ability to walk was taken away so that Boone would make the dangerous climb.)

The more likely scenario is that the mapmaker salted the earth himself. However, that begs the question of why he marked the area with a question mark. Either he knew there was a hatch there but didn’t know what was inside, or he didn’t know that the blank circle inside the Dharma symbol represented a pearl so he marked it as unknown. (This possibility makes me wonder if there are markings of a swan, a flame, and a caduceus salted in the ground nearby their respective hatches.)

Both of these scenarios are problematical. The Pearl Hatch was tightly shut to be sure, but Eko managed to open it with just a few swings from the base of his axe. (In comparison to the Swan hatch, this one was simple to open.) If the mapmaker was able to bring enough salt to the location to mark the ground adequately, than certainly he could have brought a tool to knock the hatch handle open. I can’t believe that he could have found the hatch but not been able to open it.

However, if he were able to get inside, then certainly he would have seen the video or spoken to one of the hatch workers and learned of its purpose. How could someone who was armed with this information return to the hatch, add the ‘?’ to the blast door map and continue the tradition of pressing the button? Yet the first moments of season two showed Desmond going through what appeared to be his regular routine, which included pressing the button. Considering that none of the castaways could see him, it seems highly unlikely that he was pressing it in an attempt to trick anyone.

The only possibility I can see is that the mapmaker doubted the validity of the video and the Pearl Station and continued with his routine. Jack questioned the button’s necessity immediately and Desmond admitted to questioning it every day that he was in the hatch. The mapmaker almost certainly questioned it as well and perhaps regarded the Pearl station as a trial of faith, as Eko did. His notations on the map specify that certain locations couldn’t be reached in time to return to push the button so he obviously never lost faith in the Swan Station duties. Perhaps he felt some doubt about his button-pushing job, so he labeled the Pearl Station with a question mark to signify this, but he never could completely convince himself not to press the button.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Questions on Eko's Church

A couple of posts ago, I said that although I didn’t know what Eko was building, I was sure it wasn’t a church. Obviously, I was wrong about that and I’ve been thinking about Eko’s church a lot during the three-week break from new episodes. I’m currently working on a longer post about this, but I wanted to list a few questions that I still have about the church.

Did Eko mark the first four trees he cut down for their architectural value or for an unknown sacred reason? They looked like they were strong and probably able to support the building to me, but they didn’t look very different from the other surrounding trees. Is there something special about those trees that only Eko knows? Perhaps the black smoke showed him something relating to the plant life on the island?

How will this church relate to Eko’s atypical views on religion (such as atoning for sins by abstaining from speech for 40 days and symbolically cutting off his beard when proclaiming his repentance)?

Eko, like Rose, did not seem anxious to leave the island when Bernard asked him to help with the S.O.S. sign. Does he have a reason that he wants to stay on the island as well? Are there more secrets yet to be revealed in his back-story?

If anyone has any thoughts on these questions, please leave them in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Sun-Sentinel's Article on Lost

For those who haven’t seen this on other LOST blogs, the Sun-Sentinel recently published an article by Tom Jicha saying that LOST had finally gone too far by revealing that something on the island had cured Rose’s cancer after the plane crash. The writer of article listed off all the things he was apparently previously okay with, including polar bears on the tropical island and the mysterious healing of Locke’s paralysis. For some reason, Rose’s cure pushed him over the edge.

Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and I do not begrudge Mr. Jicha for saying that LOST is overly unrealistic. What surprises me is that he made it this far into the show when he obviously has a problem with suspending disbelief. Why didn’t he quit watching when Locke wiggled his toe for the first time, or when Sawyer shot the polar bear, or when the monster first made noise and shook the trees in the season premier? Even if he were okay with all that, shouldn’t he have quit watching when he learned that someone in an underground bunker had to push a button every 108 minutes? Rose’s cancer cure seems pretty insignificant compared with some of the other crazy stuff that has occurred on the island.

Mr. Jicha concludes his article by theorizing that the show’s writers have no idea where the story is going. I strongly disagree with that idea. We have received multiple assurances from the show’s creators, producers, writers, and cast that there is a complete story and that LOST is not going to wonder off into Twin Peaks territory. The producers of LOST make fun of the theory that they have no idea what is going on by routinely joking about upcoming zombie attacks in their podcast. This is not to say that I believe that every single bizarre element of the show will be scientifically explained (instant healings of cancer and paralysis are at best pseudoscience) but as long as they work within the context of the story, then I am fine with them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Tree Frog

When Hurley was asking Sawyer for some medicine in episode 2x18: Dave, he brought up the tree frog that he had helped Sawyer track. I originally thought that the tree frog storyline was superfluous at best, but hearing Hurley refer to it again made me wonder if it has some relevance to the plot. (Why would he have mentioned the frog if it was simply filler used to pad a midseason episode?)

After originally seeing episode 2x14, I guessed that the frog was probably poisonous and that by crushing it in his hand, Sawyer had doomed himself. However, I quickly forgot about that theory because if the frog were poisonous, either Sawyer or Hurley would probably at least have developed some skin irritation in their palms by this point.

Barring a season finale shocker revealing that that frog was a Dharma test subject or a beloved pet of Alvar Hanso, I think that that the tree frog story line served simply as a contrast for the wild boar in episode 1x16 that demonstrated Sawyer’s struggle to abandon his cruel tendencies. In both episodes, an animal was bothering no one but Sawyer and he tracked them with the help of another castaway. After successfully tracking the boar, he decided to let it go when he heard whispers in the jungle repeating the last words of the man he had killed. After finding the tree frog, he heard no such whispers, nor did he waste time in killing the animal even when Hurley suggested a humane alternative plan.

Perhaps the Dharma personal, black smoke, or whatever force monitors the events on the island was testing him with the annoying creatures. If so, it’s probably safe to assume that he failed the second test.

I realize that hoping for a significance to the tree frog may be wishful thinking on my part. I want the tree frog to matter because I hate to think that LOST would pad half an episode with a tedious and pointless story when so much other incredible stuff was going on, such as Henry Gale’s capture and interrogation and the castaway’s reaction to Sawyer’s theft of the guns. Then again, this season did feature a less-than-thrilling story wherein Sun lost her wedding ring while digging in her garden and then found it at the end of the episode. Sure, you could argue that finding the ring was another instance of the island delivering a person’s deepest desires when they exercised faith—such as Charlie recovering his guitar—but I think they were just killing a bit of time.