Monday, April 26, 2010

Man No. 2

It is sentimental to consider the Man in Black as a ‘bad guy’. There are perfectly reasonable and moral stances by which one of our characters may choose to consider Jacob as less than a ‘good guy’.

I want to start this entry—on questions concerning the Man in Black—with an explicit statement of these two postulates. I have seen nothing to convince me otherwise at this point (the off-week in between ‘The Last Recruit’ and ‘The Candidate’). I understand that the story of ‘Lost’ is not my story—it is the writers’—and thus, it’s possible that I may have to revoke my opening statements by the end of the series. If I must though, it will be the fault of writers with no compunctions for tromping through their own story, oblivious to the size of the footprints they leave behind. And that, for me, would not be a happy ending for ‘Lost’.

The Man in Black is the newest ‘main’ character in the Lost-o-verse. He is also the most bizarre, in terms of narrative construction, of any character ever on the show. Having ‘questions’ about him is a bit redundant, as the character himself is either a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma or the most notorious MacGuffin yet on ‘Lost’.

Side note: Is there a difference between these two possibilities?

Double Side note: ‘Lost’ may be read as meta-narrative in which MacGuffins transcend their own meaningless origins by threatening to remove themselves, and thus the element of fate, from stories of redemption. Or something.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m concerned about the ill effect of rewriting Season’s 1-5.9 as simply the deterministic outcome of the hidden hands of Jacob and his nemesis. The great issue with such rewriting is that due to the obligation to maintain dramatic tension, the true origin and goals of Jacob and his nemesis will not be revealed until the penultimate episode, or the finale of ‘Lost’. When writers find themselves with such a small amount of time to reveal such crucial character and plot beats, they are greatly tempted to succumb to the invocation of mealy-mouthed and trite ‘archetypes’ to substitute for original ideas. I’ll now briefly mention some details from the finale of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series to buttress this argument, so…


The new BSG series was, for the most part, well written. It had fantastic potential, and that potential was comprehensively squandered by "the worst ending in the history of on-screen science fiction”. In brief, a drama full of conflicted, mature characters harboring complex and fluid motivations that were developed with care and honesty for the better part of the series was reduced to the after-effects of a ‘Big Bad’ introduced in the waning moments of the last act. Though the Big Bad had been seen before in the series, he was a relatively minor character whose true nature was never *shown* to the viewers in the course of storytelling, as it was for the half-dozen or so major characters of the show. Thus, upon the revelation of the Big Bad’s identity, the writers had no other choice than to *tell* us, in a brief scene or two of exposition what motivated the character who was now presented as the prime mover of the series long story arc. And what was this essential motivation? It consisted of one thing: the resentment of a machine towards its human creators. In one form or another, this ‘angry Pinocchio’ motivation has been around for more than 100 years. See Frankenstein, 2001, and Terminator for various twists. What the writers forgot is that the dramatic DNA of their show was the considered, ambiguous exploration of the conflicts that arise between men and sentient machines coexisting. Their lazy appropriation of a story that is, within s-f, an old and boring cliché, in order to tie up their loose plot ends ruined everything of originality and interest they had built before. But what could they to do pacify a broad audience? They’d left themselves no time.


There you go. But, I’m guardedly optimistic about upcoming revelations of Man in Black, as a character and guiding force on the show. I feel like the writers have done a good job, so far, at distilling equal parts sympathy and suspense into the character. It’s clear that he has a long memory, and a firm conviction of what he deserves. There are no Jack-like ‘do I wanna be on the Island or don’t I?’ or Kate-esque ‘Jack’s such a good man, but Sawyer makes me horny’ dilemmas for this man. Whether we will agree with the Man in Black’s judgment of what he’s accorded when we know the whole story is besides the point. We know he won’t change his mind.

It’s also clear that, in his opinion, he was tricked into his current predicament. If there’s one thing ‘Lost’ viewers have sympathy for, it’s the resentment and powerlessness felt by victims of a manipulator with an agenda—let’s take a short break to pour a little drink on my man John Locke’s grave and salute him.

Let’s end this here with a listing of…


1. Does Jacob’s ‘evil, malevolent, dark wine’ directly signify the MiB? Or is the ‘hell’ the island acts to contain something else, something independent of Jacob and the MiB? And MiB’s ‘trapped’ state a necessary corollary to the containment of ‘hell’?

2. What was the long-ago event between MiB and Jacob that MiB describes to Richard as ‘The devil betrayed me. He took my body. My humanity.’?

3. How is the story of Jacob and MiB connected to MiB’s mother (!), who was a ‘very disturbed woman’?

4. One assumes that when Flocke tells Sawyer that he’s ‘experience[ed] betrayal’, he’s referring to the same event I just mentioned in #2. But to what is he alluding to when he says he knows ‘what it’s like to lose someone you love.’?

5. Is the explanation simply that MiB is totally insane and has conflated the life experiences of those he ‘scans’ while in smoke form with his own long-forgotten past?

6. Is the MiB alluding to his own experience when he tells James, regarding Jacob: ‘He came to you, he manipulated you, pulled your strings like you were a puppet. And as a result, choices you thought were made, were never really choices at all.’

7. When MiB is in Smokey form, are Smokey’s actions entirely the will of MiB? Or does some other force, i.e. Jacob, influence or guide the behavior of Smokey.

8. Were any of the Lost characters (i.e. Hawking, Widmore, Ben) ever consciously in league with MiB?

9. Where is MiB’s home that he wants so badly to go to?

10. Does the MiB have any connection to the Sideways reality?

11. MiB has admitted that he benefitted greatly from Locke dying off the Island, and by Locke’s body returning upon Ajira 316, but did he benefit/have a stake in the H-Bomb/Swan site ‘Incident’.

12. Is the MiB connected to the strange EM activity of the Island?

13. Lots could be put in this question, but…Is there a ‘real agenda’ of the MiB’s that he hasn’t admitted to us yet?
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