Friday, April 14, 2006

LOST Backtracking

No secret at all that I’m a LOST fanatic; it’s a mindbender in the vein of X-files and Twin Peaks that sucks in wannabe sleuths like myself.  Its acting blows away any other show on television, with one of the best ensemble casts in memory.  The cinematography, writing, effects, everything is first class.  

     The downside for the average fan is that LOST moves in inches, infuriating huge numbers of viewers.  The questions far outweigh the answers, and vague hints and clues are often more puzzling than the initial mysteries.  While I’d like to, I don’t know if I could put together a complete rundown in anything smaller than a novel.  What I will do is segment out 4 basic components of LOST and vainly attempt to gloss over what sticks out to me for each.  

     The four components that LOST is comprised of:
  1. What is the island, its purpose, and will the survivors escape it?

  2. Who are the survivors, what drives each of them, and what led them to be on the flight?

  3. How are the survivors changing with their new lives and how is it affecting their actions?

  4. How do they mesh with each other?

The first component is the biggie, and covers a lot of ground less than 40 episodes in.  I’ll leave it for later.  The final component is the soap opera aspect that every show needs and it may be played with based on viewer feedback.  It’s superfluous and I won’t worry about it.  The middle two are a little easier to go after in a general take.  I’ll start with the back stories, then move on to their second lives later.

Jack Shephard:  A Los Angeles surgical prodigy who has a responsibility complex as a result of his overbearing father.  He successfully operated on and healed a woman with a hopeless prognosis that he would later marry, but failed to save a late-stage cancer patient who’s daughter Jack nearly began an affair with.  Shortly thereafter, his wife left him.  After his father caused the death of a pregnant trama victim by operating on her while drunk, Jack gave damning testimony to the review board.  This sent his father in a downward spiral that culminated with his drinking-induced death in Sydney.  Jack was sent by his mother to reconcile with him but instead had to return with the body for burial.  
Daddy Issue: Jack’s father dominates his past and shaped much of his issues with responsibility.
Tangents:  Shannon’s biological father died while Jack was operating on another victim in the same room.  Jack’s father met Sawyer in a Sydney bar.  Jin was behind Jack in the line at the Sydney airport.  Jack and Ana Lucia shared a flirtatious drink before boarding the flight.  
What’s in a Name:  Jack’s last name clearly touches on his role on the island and suggests a connection to Jesus’ miracle-working.

John Locke:  John Locke is easily the most sympathetic of the survivors pre-flight with his tragedies.  He’s maliciously manipulated by his uncaring father, losing a kidney and later his love.  John is seen with a new job each flashback episode, suggesting that he never found his true calling.  Locke takes great issue with anyone that says he “can’t” do something once he is wheelchair bound.  Locke differs from his island persona more than any other survivor.  
Daddy Issue:  Locke’s father systematically destroys Locke’s life for his own gain, and leads to John’s control issues later on.  
Tangents: Locke performs a house inspection for Sayid’s lost love from Iraq.  Locke’s mother was a patient at the same mental institution that Hurley was in.  
What’s in a Name:  John Locke was a philosopher that wrote about society and civilization.

Kate Austen:  Kate was a fugitive after murdering the abusive man she thought was her stepfather, who turned out to have fathered her during an affair with her then-married mother.  She later employs the aid of a former flame (Tom) to see her dying mother, only to be greeted with hysterical fear.  Tom was killed helping her escape the hospital.  Kate feigned a relationship with a criminal to get his help in retrieving a toy airplane memento of Tom from a bank safety deposit box but shot him when he threatened to kill a bank officer.  Fleeing to Australia, she was given up to an obsessed US Marshall by a man that sheltered her and was captured when she pulled her betrayer to safety instead of leaving him after a truck crash.  
Daddy Issue:  Kate killed her abusive biological “step” father and was devastated to learn that the man she thought was her father was not.  
Tangents:  Sayid met Kate’s father figure in the Gulf War and he is seen on TV when Kate goes to speak to her father (figure).  
What’s in a Name:  Austen might refer to English author Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice).

James Ford/Sawyer:  Witnessed his father kill his mother and then take his own life as a child, which was brought on by a man (“Sawyer”) that conned them.  James vowed revenge but later takes on the name and persona of the man he had been hunting.  Was manipulated into killing a man under the guise that it was the Sawyer he had been searching for.  Primarily targets women in his cons.  Shows the darkest side of any of the survivors outside of Eko in the flashbacks.  
Daddy Issue: The murder/suicide he witnessed established Sawyer’s future.  
Tangents:  Met Jack’s father in a Sydney bar.  Was taken to the police station where Boone was making a complaint.  
What’s in a Name:  Ford’s adopted name of Sawyer seems to be a reference to his Tom Sawyer-esque personality on the island, though his pre-island adventures have been revealed so far to be decidedly less juvenile.

Sayid Jarrah:  A member of the Iraqi Republican Guard, Sayid was twice coerced by American authorities to betray his countrymen: his CO at the end of the Gulf War, and, more reprehensibly, his friend post-9/11.  Sayid also shot a fellow guardsmen and his own leg to free an old love who was imprisoned for treason.  
Daddy Issue:  His father has not been mentioned.  
Tangents:  Met Kate’s father figure in Iraqi.  His lost love met Locke in LA.  
What’s in a Name:  Jarrah is a type of eucalyptus.  It’s the best I could come up with.

Jin and Sun Kwon:  Jin was born to a village fisherman and was ashamed of his upbringing when he met his future wife on the streets of Korea.  The more prestigious Sun, who had recently been spurned in an arranged marriage, began to see Jin in private and valued their sincere love for one another.  In order to marry Sun, Jin agreed to work for her Mafioso father, a job that hardened Jin and tore their marriage apart.  Sun became reacquainted with her near-fiancee and learned English in hopes of leaving Jin for America.  She had a change of heart while at the airport when Jin, recently reconciled with his father, reminded her of the man she married.  
Daddy Issues:  Sun’s father taints Jin with his criminal affairs, which nearly leads to the couple’s split.  Jin was ashamed of his father until he reconciled with him shortly before the doomed Oceanic flight.  
Tangents:  Hurley is seen on TV when Jin intimidates a local inspector.  Jin is behind Jack in line at the airport.  
What’s in a Name:  ?

Charlie Pace and Mr. Eko:  Two survivors with notably similar, if reversed, backstories.  Charlie was a musically talented religious youth that slid into a heroin-addicted street criminal due to the influence of his older brother.  Eko became a drug-trafficking warlord after killing a man in place of his brother but became a self-made priest after his religious brother died in his arms.  Charlie never seems to accept what he’s become or his responsibilities for his fall, while Eko’s guilt becomes ingrained.  
Daddy Issues:  Only Charlie’s mother has been seen so far out of the two.  
Tangents:  Eko deals with Middle Eastern heroin traffickers, possibly suggesting a link to Sayid.  
What’s in a Name:  Much speculation has been made about a name pronounced “echo,” possibly referring to the mirrored past he shares with Charlie.

Michael and Walt Dawson (Lloyd):  Michaels past and present revolve around his tortuous forced separations from his son.  He was a gifted artist and technical designer but was unable to stay focused on his work as much as he was with maintaining a relationship with Walt.  One of the most interesting aspects of their background are Walt’s mother’s reasons for keeping Walt distanced from his father, with no apparent animosity toward Michael himself.  It is unexplained why she kept letters Michael wrote to Walt hidden (but not thrown away), and Michael accused her of traveling the world to prevent him from seeing his son (which was not denied).  The other interesting aspect is the show’s suggestion that Walt may have supernatural mental abilities.  His adopted father refused to care for him after his mother died, obviously disturbed by what he had experienced with Walt.  
Daddy Issues:  Walt is forcibly kept from his father for unclear reasons his entire life, reunited just days before boarding the ill-fated 815 flight.  
Tangents:  None are springing to mind.  
What’s in a Name:  George Walter Dawson was a turn-of-the-century (circa 1900) watercolor landscape artist.

Hugo “Hurley” Reyes:  Hurley’s backstory is riveting to fans as he is the only future castaway to have a direct connection to the infamous numbers.  He is exposed to them while institutionalized following a fatal (23 people) deck collapse that he blames himself for, leading to his eating disorder and mild schizophrenia.  After leaving the hospital, Hurley wins the lottery using the numbers he overheard from a patient but quickly discovers it to be a curse, losing loved ones around him as his fortunes multiplied.  Believing the numbers to be supernatural, he wen out to Australia to seek their origins (the patient and another man, while both in the Navy, heard them while monitoring Pacific radio signals) and his story was met with ominous horror there.  
Daddy Issues:  Hurley’s father is not seen in any backstories, only his mother and other relatives.  
Tangents:  Hurley owned the box company that Locke worked for.  Hurley was seen on TV in the house of a man Jin visited in Korea.  Libby was also a patient at the mental hospital (Santa Rosa) when Hurley was there.  Locke’s mother was also institutionalized at Santa Rosa, though likely before Hurley’s time there.  
What’s in a Name:  Victor Hugo was a famous writer in the 19th century (Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame).  Reyes is Spanish for ‘king.’

Boone Carlyle and Shannon Rutherford: Step-siblings with no blood relation (her father married his mother), there was sexual tension between the two that was consummated but then summarily dismissed by Shannon the night before the Oceanic flight.  Boone, the son of a Martha Stewart-type wedding mogul, was consumed by his taboo attraction to Shannon.  Shannon dealt with feelings of inadequacy and ironically used her image as a callow looker to manipulate men around her by way of hallow love.  
Daddy Issues:  Neither step-sibling had a father present by the time of the flight; only Boone’s oppressive mother was seen.  
What’s in a Name:  The Carlyle Group is a well-known empire, invoking the wealth Boone seems to have.  Thomas Carlyle was a 19th Century writer, but it would be a stretch to connect his works with the show.  Ernest Rutherford was a major founder of nuclear physics (circa 1900) with his theories on atomic nature (nucleus with orbiting electrons), possibly alluding to the Dharma Initiative’s studies in physics.
Tangents:  Shannon’s father died in the same surgical room while Jack attended the other member of the fatal car crash.  Shannon played a malicious prank on Sayid in the Sydney airport.  Sawyer is brought into the station by Australian police while Boone is making a complaint to a detective.

Claire (and Aaron) Littleton:  Claire’s backstory has been limited only to a single pre-island flashback, which may not bode well for her survival on the island.  Her hesitance to become a mother, from the discovery of the pregnancy to the departure of the father, was the center of her pre-island life.  
Daddy Issues:  Claire’s parents have not been discussed, Aaron’s father walked out on Claire mid-pregnancy.  
Tangents:  ?  
What’s in a Name:  Aaron’s name is connected to the brother of Moses and hints, along with the interest from the psychic and the Others, at a predestiny.  

Ana Lucia Cortez:  The most despised character/actress on the show, Ana Lucia’s flashback illustrated the origins of her overly-aggressive on-edge personality.  A Los Angeles police officer, Ana Lucia was shot during a routine burglary call and lost the child she had been carrying.  The trauma hardened her and she developed a degree of paranoia in place of a general loss of trust in people.  After refusing to identify him in the police station, she murdered the man who had shot her and ruined her life in a back alley.  
Daddy Issues: No father is seen or mentioned, only her mother as the police chief.  
Tangents:  Ana Lucia shares a drink with Jack before boarding Oceanic Flight 815.  
What’s in a Name:  ?

So what is there to take from all of this?  First, it seems that if a character has an overly one-dimensional backstory and/or a paucity of them, it may indicate that they won’t be around in season 5.  Personally, I have Michael and Ana-Lucia at the top of my (major character) death board, followed by Claire.  You also are given the lines to read between, which I’ll go into more detail at another time.  Suffice it to say, it gleans much light into the motivations that drive the characters and the decisions they make.  Interestingly, the is only one backstory that I can’t yet pair up with the island story counterpart.  Sayid’s history has yet, to my knowledge, to become significantly relevant to his experiences on the island.  Sure he’s interrogated a couple of guys, but he’s not been put in a position (forced to betray his commander, friend) that echos his past.  It would be something to watch for.

An additional question comes from these backstories as well: why do none of these survivors seem to have a healthy relationship with their fathers?