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Rewatching all Lost was mostly a horrible slog. Rewatching Breaking Bad is a nonstop delight. We started with season 3 but immediately regretted it. With Lost, even on the rewatch, each episode felt like empty calories - what little value there was was projective, and of course the projective value turns out to be near nil since the deferred satisfactions don't arrive. Hard going once you know it. There was value to it once, it's true. But there can't be again, at least for me.

With Breaking Bad the disappointment of each episode ending, of having no time for more, is dwarfed by our gratitude for what we've been seeing. For being made full. It's great to be noticing new things, but everything that was great last time is there undiminished too, because none of it was mirage. All was load-bearing, and the load borne wasn't simplistic or late Lost's sixty-five tons of bullshit.

And how it improves as it goes is one of its impossible secrets - somehow you start to feel that's happening episode by episode, not just season by season or even cluster by cluster. And not as an average of each episode's scenes - it's just that each time a scene or character or situation that's been away for a bit recurs it's a better shot and written, more thought through version of itself.

Some of this has to be illusory - where critical mass, pun intended, is reached you start looking for new ways to love what you love. You work on its behalf. And you fucking love doing that.

Though while I'm one of the fierce finale-lovers I will say that there were stretches that didn't give the sense of being better versions of (whatever) than had appeared before. Victim of its own success, in that sense, though there's room to be grateful even there, since a send-off as beyond perfect as Ozymandias or beyond new as Granite State would have made withdrawal anguish, which I for one am still feeling acutely, even less bearable. Here's how acute it was: I'd been feeling restless and heart-achy a few weeks ago and couldn't figure out why. Then noticed it had been exactly one year since we'd watched the finale. I'm feeling withdrawal while watching and loving and responding with full fresh awe to each minute of season 5 again.

Another secret, maybe the secretest, seems to me to be knowing exactly what "grain" to aim for. TV shows' worst sin is not attending to, often because not knowing, the place any part has in the show as a whole - which matters because our brains look for such wholes. Obviously other shows, and certainly seasons, have had completed arcs, but since individual episodes have these, scenes within them do etc. there's a tendency to return to some Platonic set of norms and just inflect key moments and/or endings. The time-stamp's on pretty much everything in Breaking Bad. Maybe it has the writers' strike to thank for that, for throwing it off of season-sized arcs so early? Or the garden path aspect of the middle (Gus) third, where two motivations are presented for all of Walt's choices, forced and elective, such that our minds are taken off of his (d)evolution? Probably that progress itself is what keeps the show understanding how close to its ending to feel. Things will get as bad as they can and then - do another thing. And for some reason we do know how long doing another thing takes, even if Kennedy didn't. It takes one twenty-fifth as long. Forget this and we'll be annoyed at you forever - I'm looking at you, Ghost and A League of Their Own.

I think this is one of the reasons style is so important, too. We want artworks to look and feel distinct, not just conceptualize distinctly, so that they can more easily stand out as memories - the way memories do among other memories, in fact. Even within artworks we want that to be the case. A change in location, in pace, in the sorts of things one sees happening; all twinned with continuities, recurrences. That's all very basic, but when you understand it well enough you can do a lot of it at once, and simultaneously do it more subtly. Having it all seem natural while at the same time nudging every stray or confused thought of the appreciator back to where it should be. Intelligible nature, that nuttiest of paradoxes, or anyway hardest lightning to herd.

This may be mere serendipity too - steadily growing viewership leading to a higher budget for sets, sound editing, cameras, art directors etc., which change the ambience gradually enough that the changes seem organic, purposeful. And of course the writers and actors also are likely enough to know what they're doing better the longer they're at it. That's the silver lining to the relative chaos of the early days of any show, even Breaking Bad: the natural shift toward order and self-consciousness will feel like the movement toward mystery from out of the-mystery's-what-the-mystery-is of a good story. But eventually someone starts to suck, is how it mostly goes. That there was a sense of an oncoming ending, and not just a stopping that could be made to look like one, must have discouraged sucking as powerfully as positive attention incentivized new awesomeness.

This post has lost its own sense of where to end and has in general fallen into intolerability, so I'll wrap up. Three cheers for Breaking Bad!
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But nothing on television ever had me half as interested as Lost did at its peak.

I once thought life was too short to abide failure, in myself or elsewhere. But success is so accidental, so formal an advantage that you miss almost everything there is to miss if you chase it religiously. Lost failed overall and almost everywhere, but though that's enraging it's not important.
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From a website ranting about the worst 50 people of the year - Lost writer Damon Lindelof gets an entry somewhere in the middle:

Lindelof first conjured a confusing yet entertaining sci-fi epic but then, despite its mechanical sound, the “Smoke Monster” turns out to be the ghost of the father of liberal philosophy, side plots about mental illness and alternate universes go nowhere, paper-thin characters inexplicably commune with the dead, and finally, in a clichéd, Old Testament-inspired supernatural battle, evil is defeated when a big rock dildo is crammed into a shiny hole by a handsome, emotionless doctor. And the whole damn thing—concocted entirely on the fly, with no eye toward resolution—from the plane crash to the time travel was actually just some brightly-lit, stained glass, feel-good, new-age, ecumenical afterlife delirium. Right. Fuck you, Damon Lindelof. Fuck you, for stealing 127 hours of our lives, giving us hope that television needn’t be utterly awful, and then shitting out the most hackneyed, series-diminishing, spiritually pandering, lowest common denominator deus ex machina to ever air on TV. Fuck you. Fuck you with a fake beard.

I don't understand the beard part. But I agree with the rest. I am still angry.

But after actually reading what I pasted: what does he mean the whole series was delirium? No it wasn't. All the dead people go to the Coexist afterland as they die is all, though starting out in a Swedenborgian foyer. The series stuff actually happened, it just wasn't explained. Other than the light in the hole being presumably the same vague benevolence that runs the next world. I had less of a problem with the afterlife tangent than with them not even trying to tie the plot up. That's the narrative sin we didn't even have a name for, pre-Lost, because it had never happened. (At least in the ranter's hallucinated version the whole thing was a dream, which would at least be a halfway-coherent cop-out.) We speak of plot holes, sure, but never a hole a whole plot's flushed down.
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It wanted to remind us of its really good first two seasons. And it wanted to distract us with a light show. And then it wanted to remind us of the really good last episode of Six Feet Under.

I predict fallout.
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So the wtf-heard-round-the-world will be this Sunday at 7 (6 central)...

Love to hear everyone's guess(es) about how it will end.
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Lost is annoying me again. How can we kill time now, the writers think, then think, have him find and convince all the others in world B. Having someone go and convince X number of others of something--anyone not sick of this device by now?

Association of Ideas Theater: I saw a few minutes of Eddie and the Cruisers on Fuse the other day and realized it's not just a determining influence on Velvet Goldmine--past the point of plagiarism, thinly veiled by Haynes' attempts to reference Citizen Kane as cover (as I've mentioned before here)--but also quite a large one on The Watchmen, of all things. Conceptually, I mean; it's by no means a good film, but the premise had promise. Surely it and The Big Chill have some shared ancestor movie--one schematically closer than Kane? They're from the same year but awful similar.

Perhaps both owed something to The Man Who Fell to Earth, since in its bizarre way that movie, too, was a descendant of Citizen Kane--a debt alluded to and/or dodged in its overt Third Man obsession, I guess. There are only three failures there, but every good screenwriter knows three occurrences suggest infinity.

Looking for sparks among the scattered ember-members of something that once seemed real isn't unrelated to the falling away of a normal society or questing band, one by one (maybe inaugurated by "Childe Roland" and immediately echoed in Idylls of the King?), found in or varied on in The Grapes of Wrath, The Crying of Lot 49, Catch-22, Blood Meridian and elsewhere. The And Then There Were None tradition and the horror movie paradigm it spawned is another, less interesting cousin. Does Moby Dick predate "Roland"?

The last movement of The Last of the Mohicans movie is a striking example of cast attrition, though I don't know how closely it sticks to Cooper.

The broader attrition tradition must go back long before Cooper. Something's hovering near my consciousness. A Christmas Carol? Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Perhaps something in Shakespeare--progressive isolation is important in King Lear and Macbeth. Not insignificant in Julius Caesar and Richard III, either...

Oh, duh, The Odyssey.

I think I really must be forgetting some link or links in the Eddie part of the family tree though. I don't mean mere Kane imitations, like Lenny or whatever, but ones connecting the dead or missing Kane figure with a lost American innocence, the '60s, something like that.
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Doing well after doing enormously poorly.

Only comments on recent Losts:

Would I have read Lost if it had been a novel? Soberingly definite no.

But perhaps it helped me think about narrative for a while.

And seeing Hawaii again in HD in the slower moments is never time wasted.
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They're framing Jacob as good and his pet evil (white and black shirts, the favors Jacob does the island-bound, the pet's irateness and cynicism about people etc.), and will then dally with the possibility of it being the other way (like they did with Widmore vs. Ben in seasons 3-5). There are already undertones: "What about you?" addressed to Ben had more of a 'puny insect' than 'selfish villain' ring.

Although: Sayid could be another trojan horse--perhaps the monster, after Jacob's death, was able to appear as Jacob to Hurley. He can't enter Sayid till Sayid dies, but if the Others drown Sayid while waiting for Jacob-magic to come out of the pool, magic which died with Jacob, the monster can once again fool everyone by animating Sayid's corpse. Though does he ever animate corpses, rather than reconstructing them? Maybe Sayid had already died and he's just pretending to be his body--was there some scene where everyone leaves Sayid alone for a while? I seem to remember there was. So Jacob really might be dead (though that's not the most compelling route dramatically), and the monster maybe now has access to the real temple and whatever's in it. Could Jacob be just a mortal-type immortal, a la Richard and the presumably very old samurai? We do see him eating fish, lighting a fire. Maybe he just got control of the monster way back when and is using him to pursue grandiose plans, like a boy finding a genie in a bottle.

Smoky wants to go home, perhaps "somewhere beyond the sea", while Jacob wants to make a sort of progress. That implies he's behind the breeding experiments, and his desire to be worshipped in statue form and compel medicinal ziggurat construction fits the notion he's up to something big and long-term. Walt has been let off the hook, and perhaps also Aaron, so Ethan and Claire (birthplace?) are the likeliest candidates for hosting Jacob or parenting his super-race or what have you. Not Sun surely? Unless her daughter's brought back. Though her father's pretty shady...Christian was probably really in on all this somehow, so what if him too?

What are the rules to Smoky? 1. Don't kill master, 2. Come when called, 3. Don't pass cocoa powder...He retinal-scanned Juliet at one point so maybe he can't hurt island Others? Also he backed down from hurting Locke, so perhaps he has to respect the lists. Though he can clearly destroy the off-island cultists. He also couldn't help Locke up when Locke's leg was broken from the fall down the well--perhaps the order extends to even touching Others?

What does he want with Sun? Clearly her ring and Christian's shoes--mailed mysteriously--somehow routed her and Locke's body to the present, so a "but that's not my ring" scene might be coming, or one in which Jin is given the ring by a Smoky stand-in. What routed Ben to the present? Probably simply not being one of the people Jacob needed, so he was stuck with Jeff Fahey and other inconsequential people.

Again they tease us with that damn watch. Did the comic book show up? Years ago we went frame by frame through Hugo's plane scenes to see if it was his, finding that every shot was deliberately constructed so you couldn't quite tell.

The quantum physics parallel worlds notion is so exasperating.

They've done nothing with Ben's lost love in quite a while. Ditto Libby's madness.

Jacob's symbols appeared when the numbers ran wild, belying the apathy everyone else displays toward the Swan button-pushing project.

Are Jacob & his dog from space or homegrown? The show whistles innocently around the possibility that one or both are behind monotheism. Faith and obedience ultimately get everyone in trouble, in these storylines. "Christian" indeed.

I forget the details of my theory--something about a nonexistent entity manipulating probability to make itself exist? Kind of a parody of the 'if you can imagine a perfect being it must exist, since how can something that fails to exist be perfect' argument. Exploiting micro-currents of quantum temporal instability to push the things around in the past that could lead to the one future in which it dwells (could any of these people have read Little, Big)? Something like an unreal lake swimming back up the river that would have created it if it existed, sucking its waters into the relevant changing of course. But the energies employed to accomplish this (big coincidence magnet-furnace) can be used against it--the same free play at a tiny level that it's exploiting to braid itself into being has spilled into (e.g.) Desmond's head, so the Thing will ultimately be defeated by Free Will in some probably fairly cheesy way.

Not sure how well that fits with the Jacob-as-mere-human theory. Probably not too well.
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"Jacob and Esau" is #4 on yahoo's top searches today. Was the name Esau actually said in the show?
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Questions I have:

1. Were the killers of Sayid's wife aiming for Sayid? Doesn't seem particularly in line with either Jacob's or Facob's plans for Sayid to die.

2. Did Widmore have and raise Penelope just to enamor Desmond, getting him onto and keeping him off of the island at two crucial points? He was needed to change how history was supposed to go, and then he was needed to go away and stop changing anything at all. Both Jacob and Facob seem dependent on people getting magno-charged enough to change the world, but once they've done so they're a threat to their plans. Whose needs did Desmond serve by pushing the button, not pushing the button, alerting '90s Daniel about time travel, getting Charlie to where he could shut down the signal blocker - Jacob's, because it got everyone off the island, or Facob's because they ultimately came back in a way that fooled Jacob into dropping his guard? I.e. who is Widmore serving.

3. Why aren't these entities allowed to kill? Facob can't kill Jacob, and needed the monster to kill Eko for him - perhaps he just led Eko to where the monster already was, even, and didn't actually give it orders. And we've seen that they don't actually possess corpses, more like reconstruct them. They do seem to be tangible, though, I seem to recall? Handing objects around and whatnot? My memory is failing.
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Trying to get all this straight, since they've actually revealed stuff for the first time in months:

Okay, so we have real-Jacob (their 2nd Mulholland Drive casting, isn't it?) and fake-Jacob, who I'll alternately call Esau and Facob. Esau is homicidally mad at Jacob, so he may represent the god of this world, seeking to destroy an invader from space and/or the future.

It's possible Facob was stuck in a wandering cabin surrounded by a magical circle, in which Jacob had once lived. Jacob left a woven message explaining he was there no longer. The circle became broken at some point - I have no memory of when - which I guess permitted Facob's escape.

Facob, and possibly Jacob, can assume the forms of any dead people whose parts are taken under the temple. The Christian shoe episode presumably was about getting Locke-gunk - from his corpse - to touch Christian-gunk. Maybe Facob can only be one person at a time, and makes his transferences through the touching of dead flesh to dead flesh?

Facob had to impersonate Locke, who therefore had to be dead, so that Richard would permit him to bring Ben into the Foot to kill Jacob. It's left unclear whether this was truly the most direct way to get a shot at Jacob, or whether Ben's having turned the wheel is what gave him the ability to kill Jacob (or to act with free will?).

Presumably it's Jacob himself who helps out the various core cast members at key moments in their lives - including possibly resurrecting Locke, which gives the show the ability to bring back the real Locke next year. Both Jacob and Facob seem to want Hurley to go back to the island, by that logic, though - Facob appears as Charlie, Jacob as himself. It's possible Facob can appear as Jacob, though - and of course that Jacob, too, can inhabit the dead. Jacob's present body may even be that of a dead human, and if any genetic traces are enough to reconstruct one I guess both could inhabit the same form if they liked.

Since Ben is led to sympathy with the Others by the apparition of his mother in the jungle, does that mean Facob singled him out? Richard is initially impressed with Ben because he has seen vision-people. Does Richard not know about Facob?

True-Jacob despises Ben for having killed his father, the thing Ben so desperately tries to make Locke do too (hence he's suspected that this is why Jacob only contacts him through Richard) - presumably this is a game-breaker for TJ. Is he / does he want to be an all-father, and therefore finds this threatening? For good reason, we find out, but it's interesting that he can't even fake another emotion to hide his contempt even when he's about to be stabbed.

Seems to all still be compatible with my god-from-the-future theory. They're presenting Jacob as the nicer one, but they do that with almost every villain - it's their trademark reversal.

Some of the dumber moments of the season now look smart - e.g. Locke's telling Richard to tell his own earlier self that everyone needed to come back or the island was doomed or whatever. Not a [direct] paradox if it's the command of a different entity entirely.
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Ethan actor b. 1965. Just saying. Also, who gives a damn about Ethan anymore? What a weak place to go with that. Though it's odd Jacob or something Jacoblike hasn't inhabited him yet; perhaps he'll come back as Christian's enemy entity.
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Who's supposed to be c. 27 among the white guys in the first seasons?

Jack? Sawyer? Let's see if they name it after him.

Ben was born off-island and is already a grownup in the '80s when he liquidates the Initiative. Actually he may have arrived, or been about to, in '77.

I'm assuming it's not Boone or Charlie.

Ben decided to kill John (apparently) to prevent him from telling Sun that Jin was still alive--something he himself tells her to stop her from shooting him.

The issue of sides is unclear again; it's in the writers' interest to keep it reversing, too. You'd think Widmore's probably on Jacob's side, at the moment, but Eloise was working with Ben--if she and Widmore worked together he'd have told her not to trust Ben, surely?

The statue from the back seemed a bit animal.

They stepped up the pace in the last couple episodes, which were awful, I hope simply because they realized they needed a certain number of episodes free to bring things home properly. Tonight things seem to have stopped sucking, knock on wood.

What building were Cesar, John and Ben in, on the 2007 island?
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Things they can still explain with the time travel:

How Richard and the other Black Rock pirates got their ship so far inland.

The identity of the skeletons up at the spring and the deal with their black and white pebbles.

What led up to and ensued from Ben's wiping out the Dharma Initiative.

The arrival of the Dharma Initiative, c. 70s.

The catastrophe that led to the numbers computer being set up.

Why Widmore broke with the Others.

What the British military was doing there, c. 50s.

They can even do a Hannibal-era episode if they care to. So far nobody's been back further than fifty years.
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Charlotte's warning implies she saw the future. No other time-unstuck person has. Or could she have been returning from a past state that somehow informed her the island was death? Hopefully Farraday didn't tell her, because that would be just annoying.

No one else has been to the future--in consciousness or actuality. Some people have seen flashes of it, but in every case they may have been manipulated by Jacob or the anti-Jacob forces. Mostly there seems to be an absolute present (the present of the characters of the show) that isn't violated. That's the spot of time that anyone can change. Which must mean that you can't go forward past it (except at 1 second per second), that it's special. So where'd that warning come from?

The time-sickness is also confusing. It may be caused by the inability of the mind to process existing in two different states at once--but the nosebleed seems to precede the memory-traumatizing flashbacks. You're already sick before your consciousness starts wandering. And why does your consciousness start wandering? It knows it ought to be elsewhere, so it looks around for where? And if it finds that you're in a moment when there's another you around it feels wrong and tries to die? But the people on the boat were not coexisting with themselves--there were no flashes, there was no evidence that the boat itself was suddenly in a different time. Their time was only unstable in relation to that of the island. No difference was perceptible. The two situations weren't analogous. The show will never address this, will it.
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That brainwashing scene was one of my favorites, actually. As was the appearance of the map when the lights went out in the hatch in season 2. Sudden treasure troves of information that can't be assimilated in time--absolutely wonderful effect. Analogous to the finding of that other hatch in The Road. All audience needs met at once, except not and we knew it. But in both cases, not a tease--not coming across as a tease--but a taste of the withheld and so needed reality, just a taste then gone. Not a tease because we had it: a fulfillment, a bit of life that died. Much to be learned from this, storytellers among us.

I've thought for a while that Lost is dirty, muttering, meandering John the Baptist to something greater to come. It's opened up wonderful new ground, ground it often seems astonished at, pokes with a stick, makes a pretty woman and big man quarrel and make love on, and then maybe there's a bomb that's going to go off and then a mood montage set to music and also Jack is there.
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I always undercommunicate: the packages seem the same size and the noodles seem the same. The only difference is less water.

Lost:

Charlotte may be Ben's actual daughter, or at least the daughter of that woman he loved--which might explain why he raised Rousseau's daughter as his own, to replace the one he lost, just as Juliet was replacing the lost woman--Anna, wasn't it? Farraday will run into Charlotte's little girl self around the time he inspects the newly excavated initial hatch area, as shown in the first scene of the season. That's when her mother will be identified--and we may see whether she was fleeing Ben's massacre or if Ben went bad because she left. The window to Carthage (to c. 23N?) explains the style of the 4-toed statue foot, which was wearing a sandal if I'm not mistaken--a colossus was being constructed by early Jacob-worshippers. Or the island could have actually been part of the mainland, in which case the interruption may be related to the moving of the island into the Pacific. Her 'the island is death' comment feeds the Jacob = evil from the future theory. Why couldn't he help John up? Wasn't there some kind of phrase about who Jacob helps back when we glimpsed the brainwashing room on the smaller island? "God loves you like he loved Jacob" was one phrase, but there was at least one more.

Is that temple the one referred to by Ben as the place the Others should go and wait, last season? The francophone man dragged underneath it was either abandoned by the monster or had become one of Jacob's corpse-mouthpieces, a plausible interpretation given that all the bodies of people Jacob speaks through seem to have disappeared from elsewhere on the island. The monster drags them through those tunnels and into the temple. It's not guarding the temple so much as feeding it.

If Ben usurped John's position, why didn't he die? Because he wasn't the right person? And does this mean he does not in fact work for Jacob anymore, and is only pretending to as a means to get at Penelope? If so, he'll presumably make a move on Desmond soon.

Why does John have to die, again? So that he can't wreck things, like Desmond and apparently Ben now can? But what will kill him? And why was the wheel knocked loose? It was super-tight when Ben moved it. And frozen--I don't remember, was there no ice around at all tonight?

New questions: who is Farraday's father, if he doesn't get his last name from his British mother?

Miles must have been on the island for more than a few months but less than a few years, given the order in which the characters started to bleed.

They're going to have to work very hard to explain why Rousseau never remembered Jin.

Update: Ah, he dies so that Jacob can speak through him.

Update to update: But then why would he respect Jin's wishes re. Sun. Are Jacob's body-people averages of him and the persons they were when living?
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My present Lost theory, w/ some debts to Julie and David:

Jacob is an entity that does not exist reaching back in time to ensure his own birth. An instability within reality itself long ago threw a chunk of rule-bending disturbance onto the surface of the earth, which, by creating the possibility of some Entity's gaining infinite power by manipulating the potentially infinite energy caused by the tension between the ordinary course of fate and the contrary influences emanating from the chunk of Something, thereby gave that Entity the ability to climb its way back through the time instabilities caused by that tension into the period in which it does not yet exist so as to work toward ensuring its own eventual existence. If God might exist, God will exist because God both wants to exist and has infinite power, including the power to exist--something along those lines. The existing order is an Esau he's stealing the birthright of or a stranger he's wrestling at night or a ladder he's climbing into his own potential heaven.

The conditions that will allow Jacob to come into being constitute a sort of fate, since they have to happen just right. Jacob speaks to sensitive people, mostly through dreams or through dead loved ones whose corpses have come near the time-disturbing Something and can therefore be maybe'd back into temporary existence, so as to convince those people that this "fate" is desirable or inevitable, often by working on the same guilts and parentlessness that make people susceptible to cult leaders. He has formed something like a cult on the island on which the Something rests, an ancient one if the four-toed statue of the Jacob-to-be is any evidence, the ultimate goal of whom is to breed the very god they worship. The natural order of things seems to reject this effort--fetuses conceived near the Something can't also come to term there. However, the offspring of two people conceived elsewhere but born near the Something (and/or of people conceived near it but born elsewhere) might have just the right combination of natural and unnatural traits to be brought to term without being rejected as viral, thus allowing Jacob into the world officially. Jacob seems to be onto this possibility, hence his interest in children like Aaron & Walt (both of whom have power over fate--Walt called that rare bird by wishing to see it, Aaron lent his mother a similar power in utero as her mother was struck by a car right after she told her she wished she was dead)--and now Sun's daughter.

Something beyond reality itself is fighting Jacob, however--possibly represented by Widmore, evil as he seems, and either stemming from or predating the Dharma Initiative, which either worked against Jacob or was as naive as Ben finds it. A game is being played by two sides, potentially meaning that reality itself is no better than Jacob. Both may be brothers playing a game unfriendly to the human pawns drawn into it. Of course, the world may instead be benevolent, just how things should be.

The Something releases chains of alternate fate into the existing world periodically, which appear as immensely improbable series of coincidences that gather certain people together and transport them to the island, though the world may be resisting these attempts--Jacob's main need is people of a certain kind, but most people who are coincidence-chained into coming to the island are soon killed. Others fight him off, like Mr. Eko, but almost every character who successfully confronts their own demons is then murdered by Jacob, as they are no longer easily duped by him but instead dangerous free agents. Their deaths usually serve some final purpose for him, as though he had some idea when they'd make their breakthroughs--Boone's death reveals the surveillance hatch, Shannon's unites the groups, Anna-Lucia's frees Ben etc.

People very close to the Something chunk when it emanates too much time/fate-bending energy gain the Jacob-like ability to change fate: Desmond has this, making his presence on and absence from the island crucial events for the power game being played--and making his belief in whether he can alter fate by changing his mind also crucial. He must be convinced he can change nothing in order to be controlled--hence the episode with the jewelry shop woman, who's now been revealed as the high priestess of the cult and possibly is Farraday's mother. He was also set up with Penelope as a means of controlling his behavior.

This is probably also why Ben had to leave the island and not come back: he too is now a potential disruptor, someone able to change the course of fate--whether Jacob's version or the real world's.

I forget the rest. Plausible?
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Jewelry store lady is with Ben, then--so it's the Others side that wanted Desmond to not think he could change history (so he wouldn't stop Charlie from revealing the island's location, though! This is confusion. Or perhaps that was unintended, and it was instead to stop him from stabilizing things when Farraday approached him for help?).

Widmore seems connected to the Dharma Initiative, too, since he'd been looking for the island for c. 20 years according to Miles--Ben wiped out the Initiative, presumably on Jacob's orders, about twenty years before 2004. Either Widmore's behind it or had a spy there then or something.

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