Season 5 Episode 17

The Incident (2)

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM May 13, 2009 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (56)

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  • The finale that changes everything

    The best thing about "Lost" is how well misdirection is applied. The writers don't pull a fast one on the audience; they simply present information in such a way that the truth is right there in plain view, but it becomes difficult to see past the red herrings. In this case, many had pointed out the evidence that something unusual was going on with Locke, yet it was easy to dismiss what was right there on the screen. Needless to say, much the speculation surrounding Jacob and Locke was somewhat off the mark.

    This episode actually begins to explain some of the symbolism built into the series since the very first season. Going back to the earliest episodes, there was a constant reference to black and white stones, representing a light and dark side to motives, events, and the island itself. (Note that Jacob wears white; his rival wears black.) At the same time, Jack saw his father, seemingly brought back to life by the island.

    After seeing so many apparently dead individuals return to life, most recently John Locke, it was easy to assume that Jacob was the one behind it. After all, Ben took Locke to Jacob's cabin, and it appeared that Jacob was using the form of Christian Shepherd. The idea that Jacob had taken on Locke's form, or had reanimated it in some way, seemed reasonable as an extension of those assumptions. And, of course, there seemed to be a relationship between Jacob and Cerberus, particularly the appearance of the dead to those about to be judged.

    But now two and two have been put together, and the implications are a bit more clear (even if they are a bit more complex). The entity taking the form of the dead, and working in concert with Cerberus, is not Jacob, but rather, Jacob's rival. That rival has yet to be given a name, but he has been trying to find a way to kill Jacob and take control of the island for quite some time. This would appear to be the nature of the war that Widmore warning Locke about in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham". At any rate, it certainly explains why "Locke" was a lot more focused and purposeful after his death.

    The fact that Jacob and his rival both left the island in some form, leading those who would be on Oceanic 815 towards some greater destiny, strongly supports the notion that Oceanic 815's crash was not the simple accident that it seemed to be. The notion that Desmond accidentally made the plane crash was never satisfying, and now there are two layers that debunk that explanation. It's already been made clear that Widmore was responsible for ensuring that the plane was off course in the general vicinity of the island, and perhaps now the timing of Kelvin's escape attempt makes more sense.

    The origins of Jacob and his rival are still unclear. The timing of the initial flashback seems to be roughly the 1800s, which would fit the theory that Jacob, Richard, and this new rival were survivors of the Black Rock. If so, perhaps Jacob's rival is Magnus Hanso, the first mate of the Black Rock. That would be a satisfying connection to the man behind the Dharma Initiative! (Alternatively, the ship seen in that flashback could have been the Black Rock itself.) Of course, that doesn't explain why Jacob would be hanging out in the chamber under the statue (which appears to be of Sobek, the Egyptian god of protection and fertility), using a loom to construct a tapestry with Egyptian and Greek motifs. The tapestry points back to the possibility that Jacob, Richard, and this adversary come from ancient times.

    The argument between Jacob and his rival at the beginning of the episode implies that they have very different goals when it comes to the island. Jacob seems to want to bring certain people to the island and save them; his rival seems to have a more violent and judgmental disposition. This ties into Richard's answer to Ilana's question: "Who lies in the shadow of the statue?" His answer, in Latin, was "he who will protect us all" or "he who will save us all".

    It also appears to tie into the mural on the wall in the Cerberus chamber in "Dead is Dead". A theory after that episode was that Jacob was Anubis, or at least an analogue to Anubis. He seemed to be controlling Cerberus. But what if the mural representing Anubis and the smoke monster is a reference to Jacob's rival? Perhaps the smoke monster is just an extension of whatever Jacob's rival is supposed to be. Was Anubis in opposition to Sobek? This would make sense of the seeming association between Cerberus and the one who takes the form of the dead on the island.

    Whatever the case, as seen in the episode, Sobek carried the ankh, a symbol of opposition to evil and the ability to cure diseases. Both seem applicable to the island and Jacob. Sobek was also known to have a distant role in affairs, guiding and pushing others to act in his stead. Whatever the case, this explains the Others a bit more. Jacob selects those who he wants to protect. Richard, who apparently has known Jacob for a very long time, appoints a leader for the actual tribe. That leader does whatever it takes to protect Jacob's chosen. Why they are chosen seems to be the real question, and one that still has no definitive answer. It may, however, have something to do with the redemptive aspects of the series.

    It may also be telling that Jacob interacted with Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Jin, and Sun at various key moments in their lives. Why were they particularly important? It does vaguely suggest that their survival of the Oceanic 815 crash was no accident, something often hinted in the first few seasons. It's interesting to note, however, that they weren't initially on the lists compiled by Ethan and Goodwin after the crash.

    Jacob also interacted with Ilana, which means that all the hints and suggestions that Ilana and her crew were working for the wrong side was more of that misdirection. It would seem that the cabin was actually where Jacob's rival was being "contained", not where Jacob was being imprisoned. That leads to the obvious questions: when was he thus imprisoned and by whom?

    It also seems obvious that Jacob's rival was the one who was manipulating Locke and the Oceanic 6 all this time, and perhaps Charles Widmore as well. The war between Ben and Charles could be seen, in context, as a reflection of the larger struggle between Jacob and his nemesis. Logically speaking, it was therefore Jacob's rival that pushed Locke to move the island. Since this led to his ability to take on Locke's form and, presumably, kill Jacob, this all seems to be one massive plot to take control of the island. And it also explains why this period in the island's history is particularly important.

    Of course, much of this is based on the assumption that Jacob himself appeared to these select members of the Oceanic Tribe and touched them at some point in their lives for a specific reason. It's quite possible, based on what has been seen, that it wasn't Jacob all those times, but rather, Jacob's adversary. After all, the end of the episode strongly implies that Jacob was always waiting in the chamber under the statue. The only problem with this theory, of course, is that Jacob's adversary usually takes on the form of someone who has died (tying into the Anubis theory). Perhaps Jacob can take on the appearance of those who are living (as in Walt in "There's No Place Like Home"). That would fit the black/white dichotomy rather well.

    Now that it's clear that Locke is dead, it removes the possibility that he will replace Jacob in the long term. It may be that removing both Jacob and his rival is the endgame. But if not, if there must be balance, the logical replacement for Locke may in fact be Jack. In the wake of Locke's death, Jack has been acting more and more like someone locked into a destined role. If he can let go of the notion that he must control everything in the world (in other words, if he embraces the predestined nature of time in the "Lost" universe), then he could combine his former leadership role with Locke's spiritual psychology. It would be a great payoff to his long journey towards redemption.

    But it's not likely to be an easy road, since it's most probable that Miles was correct: Jack's plan will probably create the Incident, not prevent it. More than that, it's likely that the Incident will toss the Oceanic Tribe back into their proper time and cause the conception issues that plagued the Others in earlier seasons. That travel back into 2007 would essentially kill Juliet (who wasn't going to survive much longer anyway), who would "reappear" in the middle of the ruins of the Swan Station. Sayid's situation is also grave, but perhaps not so much so, based on the fact that Juliet was the only one with a flashback that didn't involve Jacob.

    But otherwise, it looks like everything would make the transition more or less intact. That might even apply to Rose, Bernard, and Vincent, who had at least found some measure of happiness on their own. If the rest of the Oceanic Tribe make it back to 2007 as a result of the Incident (and are then presumed dead by Richard because they were at "ground zero"), then shouldn't everyone caught out of time do the same? (This would appear to be the meaning of Jacob's final words: the Oceanic survivors are returning to their proper time.)

    Most of what happened in 1977 was so predictable, right down to the fistfight between Jack and Sawyer, that it almost took away from the episode. Only Juliet's odd behavior broke it out of that mold. But even that was fairly consistent; Juliet has been making decisions based on the knowledge that her time with Sawyer was over as soon as Kate returned on the scene. Juliet's actions have contained such a sense of inevitability that it was practically self-fulfilling prophecy.

    That renders her character arc rather tragic, but that fits the arc of just about every other character to this point. Even Ben's story is tragic. He doesn't even realize how long he's been manipulated, going back to when he was a child (it's a fair bet that his vision of his mother was Jacob's rival). If Jacob's rival represents Anubis, a god of the underworld, perhaps Ben was saved through the power of Jacob's rival. That might be why Ben was never allowed to see Jacob himself.

    On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Jacob knew that Ben was going to kill him, and that this moment was coming. And perhaps that is why it was important to show that most of the few remaining Oceanic Tribe members had been "chosen" by Jacob at some point in their lives. Either Jacob was sure that he would be replaced by one of them, or the loss of his physical form might put him on an even playing field with his rival.

    Regardless of how much of this speculation is proven wrong (and some of it inevitably will be), the stage is certainly set for the final season. Using the familiar white-out of a time flash for the end title may be more than just creative license. If the past five seasons have been dominated by the machinations of Jacob's dark rival, then this may be a sign that the final season will render matters back into balance.
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