Thursday, May 14, 2009

LOST: Fate vs. Free Will - A Series Theory

Immediately following the Season 5 finale last night ("The Incident"), my brother-in-law John sent me this very cool theory, which is applicable to the entire series.


Consider, if you will, that Jacob is Free Will and the Mystery Man is Fate. Let's revisit their beach conversation as they look out at what is presumably the Black Rock ship.
JACOB/FREE WILL: I take it you're here because of the ship.
MYSTERY MAN/FATE: I am. How did they find the island?
FREE WILL: You'll have to ask them when they get here.
FATE: I don't have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren't you?
FREE WILL: You are wrong.
FATE: Am I? They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.
FREE WILL: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.
FATE: Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?
FATE: One of these days, sooner or later, I'm going to find a loophole my friend.
FREE WILL: When you do, I'll be right here.
At the end of the episode, we discover that Locke is not Locke. Evil Twin Locke has now taken on the role of Fate, and aims to kill Jacob/Free Will. Fate tells Free Will that "you have no idea what I have done to get here," and proceeds to have Ben kill Free Will. As Free Will is dying, he says "they're coming." Fate looks shocked, and kicks Free Will into the fire. At that moment, Juliet detonates the bomb and we're left with the tagline about destiny in 2010.

Let's further explore Fate's statement, "you have no idea what I have done to get here." In order to kill Free Will, Fate had to bring Locke to the island. To do so, Fate had to follow/influence the fates of ALL of the people necessary to get Locke to the island, in order to kill Free Will. Fate went so far as to affect actual time on the island...

The interesting properties of the island, drawing all of the necessary people there at all of the necessary times to create the perfect Nexus of events, allowed Locke to be there and not there at the same time. That's what the entire series has been about; how all of these people are connected to this task on the island.

The twist is that Fate doesn't quite win. In this episode, we see Free Will going into the world and influencing people; Kate, Sun, Jin, Sawyer, Hurley, and Sayid. In each case, he tells them to do something that they either don't follow (demonstrating that they still have free will), or gives them a choice as to whether or not they want to do what he asks (Hurley, Ilana and, to some extent, Sayid). I thought it was odd that we didn't see these scenes throughout the past 5 years of the series, as it seemed like a tacked-on storyline. However, in light of Free Will's last line, "they're coming," it seems that Free Will has put some things in motion himself, by giving people choices as to whether or not they want to do things.


Ben is reminded by (Locke as) Fate about all of the terrible things that he has had to suffer while on the island, all of which were cured or made worse by his own choices (i.e. allowing his daughter to be shot), and that (Jacob as) Free Will deserves to die. This is Ben's classic tactic, and it would be have been unusual for John Locke himself to take that tack. Free Will gives Ben the choice of killing him or "just walking out of here" and doesn't give Ben any answers.

Juliet, Kate, Sawyer and Jack all wrestle with the fact that if they "go back," they will never meet, and decide that they will make the choice to let Fate decide. However all of them change their mind at some point in the episode.

Miles brings up that nobody thought through the possibility that Jack was causing The Incident (Fate), by "choosing" to set of the bomb.

The bomb doesn't go off. Juliet still has a choice once she is down there; to accept her Fate (stuck down in the hole and dying), or make a choice to detonate Jughead.

Hurley is told by (Jacob as) Free Will that he is not cursed (that he is not a negative agent of fate), and so Hurley chooses to go back to the island.

Time Travel could play into this theme because the opportunity to travel through time would present the possibilities of making different choices.

I'm sure there is so much more here, a lot of it unexplained. You could go back and connect to these themes. I don't know the Egyptian gods of Fate and Free Will (if there are any) and who their messengers might be. I don't know the mythology of the battle between these two intertwined forces.

The island has healed some people; was this Fate's way of keeping people in place who needed to be there to keep John alive and keep all of the people in place to serve their purpose in the end? If we look at Widmore and Ben as pawns in someone's larger game (not really comprehending the forces at work), rather than the players themselves, it certainly changes things. While they seem to be working against each other, they may both be working for Fate.

The whole series is about how these people are connected, but it hasn't been clear as to WHY they are all connected. Early thoughts were that the island was purgatory and the characters had to resolve their issues in order to "die" or "move on." Just when people seemed to be doing well, a stupid decision seemed to throw a wrench into things.

The purgatory theory didn't quite fit because a lot of the people didn't seem to get any better; they weren't growing, learning/changing (if the idea of Purgatory is that we need to pay for our mistakes and become better, perhaps by making different choices).

Many people have had to make difficult choices to advance the causes of others (Charlie sacrificing himself, all of them going back to the island, Locke leaving knowing he would die).
There are probably characters of pure Fate and others of pure Free Will if you trace them back.
What do Locke and Bentham say about the interplay of Fate and Free Will?


Anyone who has ever read Greek, Roman, or Egyptian Mythology knows that the Gods are shallow and often petty, and immortal. There are a lot of imprisoning Gods; was Jacob/Free Will trapped by the ash for many years only to be released in time to let the main players make some choices that would alter their Fate? Gods trying to best each other, only to have it start all over or to realize that one cannot exist without the other (can we have pure Fate? pure Free Will?)?

Are Richard and the Hostiles Demi-Gods? Could the Dharma Initiative people on the island not reproduce due to Fate?

Is the island an "Olympus" or other mythical place that mortals have been drawn to in order to allow Fate to carry out his grudge towards Free Will?

I really like the idea that Ben and Widmore aren't the ringleaders they thought they were, and may be pawns themselves. Ultimately, they are all fighting against their own Fates, and their choices will determine the outcome.

After thinking about the tag-line for next year, perhaps Destiny IS a better word than Fate!

Thank you to John for taking the time to elaborate about his theory, and for sharing it here!

Please feel free to dissect and discuss in the comments; as usual I will request that any criticism be constructive. Thank you in advance. :)


Smeggy05 said...

Thanks for that Theory. I think you have the basis for a really good explanation. Ill digest it now - excellent - one of the best Ive seen.

JNL said...

Yes, I concur! Absolutely brilliant. It fits in so nicely with the flashbacks, 70's and present.

Sean said...

Here's something to add to your thoughts on the Egyptian god(s) of Fate and Free Will.

On another Lost blog, someone deduced that the Statue looks not like Anubis, but a similar deity named Sobek. Sobek was a crocodile-headed god (that also held an ankh), and I found this piece very interesting:

- "Sobek's ambiguous nature led some Egyptians to believe that he was a repairer of evil that had been done, rather than a force for good in itself, for example, going to Duat to restore damage done to the dead as a result of their form of death. He was also said to call on suitable gods and goddesses required for protecting people in situation, effectively having a more distant role, nudging things along, rather than taking an active part."

Sounds an awful lot like what Jacob was doing in those flashbacks throughout the episode.

Synchromystic Librarian said...

i'm going with they are BOTH jacob calling them light jacob & dark jacob as symbols for free will vs fate, faith vs science, lucifer vs satan, good vs evil, yadda yadda yadda

the key is in the balance as in the marriage of heaven and hell

freewill + fate = destiny

Hillary said...

I'm still totally pondering this. As someone who doesn't believe in fate or destiny, but rather 'whatever happens, happens', I'm trying to stretch my little brain around all of this. :)

jeffgoblue said...

Love it except for one thing. You said "Fate looks shocked, and kicks Free Will into the fire. At that moment, Juliet detonates the bomb..."

Not quite. She didn't detonate it at that moment -- she detonated it 30 years prior to that moment. Once Jack et al beamed out Ajira 316, everything subsequent to that occurred in a a timeline where Juliet had blown up the bomb in the past.

Of course, I imagine the writers found a way around this little time-loop conundrum.

Cantorjf said...

"Do you know what the variables in these equations are? Us, We're the variables! People. We think, we reason, we make choices, We have free will." ... in this context has really a different meaning :)!!!

The Calandro's LiHD Blog said...

Jeffgoblue- Juliet detonating the bomb actually could happen after Jacob is kicked into the fire depending on how you are looking at time. I assume that though one group is 30 years behind, they have not yet altered the "present" as both timelines are actually happening simultaneously AND linearly (though it hurts my brain to do so!) :)

jeffgoblue said...


I see what you're trying to say, but there's no way Juliet hasn't yet altered the present if her actions took place 30 years prior. That'd be like saying that your sibling doesn't exist yet, but will pop into existence today once your parents have sex in 1977. Wow, my brain hurts, too.

What is possible (but unlikely) is that we saw 2007 as it would have been with no bomb. And next year, we'll see 2007 post-bomb. In other words, we'll be shown both timelines. I think this is too convoluted, even for Lost. (And it's bad storytelling). Whatever happened happened.

But if the Swan+Bomb wasthe Incident, like Miles was saying, then everyone near the Swan probably would have died (the explosion was very deep underground, at least 70m). And we know all those people won't be dead next year.

Anxious to see how they'll write themselves out of this one!

Hillary said...

@jeffgoblue - 'there's no way Juliet hasn't yet altered the present if her actions took place 30 years prior.'

Here's my take: This time situation always brings me back to the part earlier this season when Faraday talked to Desmond on the Island while he was in the hatch and told him to contact his mother. Then in 2007, Desmond wakes up from a dream and realizes it was a memory. And he remembered it at that time because it hadn't happened when he was on the island the first time. Faraday talked to Desmond in the past at the same time Desmond was off the island in the present and asleep.

Shama. said...

Hey Jo,
Just found your blog recently and have had fun reading your take on things. You mentioned you were going to do a post on Smokey soon... I was hoping you might ponder and work on the following...

If Smokey is indeed the ManInBlack, or an agent of him, and he mostly resides in the Temple where Ben went to be judged and where Montand was pulled down the hole/vent, then WHAT is with Richard Alpert taking young Ben there to be changed?? That keeps digging at me. Could Richard really be aligned with Smokey and not Jacob?

Things to consider:
-Did other people who got dragged down the hole get "changed" too? Locke? Montand?

-Could Richard actually be an agent of the ManInBlack and part of the long con that he played? He HAD been bringing Ben to the cabin (where ManInBlack lived) to get instructions from "Jacob" and provided lists and such of instructions from "Jacob". Could he have brought Ben to Smokey for "changing" and then providing him with misinformation all along? Has he been duping the Others and their leaders for years to get to the loophole, constantly looking for someone to kill Jacob for ManInBlack?

-Could ManInBlack have been working on killing Jacob since that day on the beach, when the Black Rock appeared on the horizon? Many folks believe Richard was on the Black Rock.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea when you do a post on Smokey later this summer.

Mark Radoff said...
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