Lost Opportunities, or, It’s the Characters, Stupid
In the spring of 2005 in Entertainment Weekly, Damon Lindelhof provided an insightful analysis of the history of long narrative on television. He identified Twin Peaks as the first show to attempt a very long story, but one short-circuited by the piling up of too many mysteries with no eventual resolution. The next major series was The X-Files, which stretched its alien colonization arc over six seasons, but made the mistake of focusing more on plot than character development. Lost, he said, was going instead to base its approach on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which privileged character development over plot, though without sacrificing great stories. Lost, he promised, was going to be about character.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way on Lost, character fell victim to plot. Especially in Season Six, character development has been almost nonexistent. With the show nearing its end, few characters can be said to be particularly well-developed. We don’t understand why Jack was initially hesitant to return Kate’s advances, or why Hurley initially went into a mental health hospital, or what drives Ben. There is not, in fact, fact a single character as well-developed as any of the seven or eight most important characters on Buffy. Sadly, in its own way, Lost has turned out to embody the same errors that its producers were trying to avoid.
The Son Shall Redeem the Father: Walt, Michael, and Lost‘s Star WarsConnection
Being a Lost fan who is also a fan of Star Wars, I’ve noticed quite a few similarities between the two modern-day epics. Both feature heroes and villains, each with their own complex dualities and grey areas. The storylines flash forward, backward and sideways, intertwining the lives of the characters in unexpected ways. Some characters (Star Wars’ Luke and Leia and Lost‘s Jack and Claire) discover they are related to their long-lost siblings, found through the strangest of circumstances. Most importantly, both Lost and Star Wars revolve around redemption.
Since its first season, one of the major themes of Lost has been redemption. Each of Lost‘s main characters has harbored guilt about the lives they led before Oceanic 815 crashed on the island, and felt guilt, too, about the choices they’ve made since marooned.
As Lost hurtles towards its conclusion, many of the Lostaways have found their redemption, sometimes at great cost. However, one major unsolved mystery that remains to be solved is if dead dad, Michael Dawson, can be redeemed by his son, Walter Lloyd.
Michael and Walter’s complex father-son relationship was a major focal point of the first two seasons of Lost. Michael wanted to be a part of his son’s life, however, Walter’s mother, Susan, took him with her to further her career overseas. She married her boss and initially wanted him to adopt Walt, attempting to coerce Michael into signing away his parental rights. However, after the unexpected death of Walt’s mother, Susan’s husband told Michael he didn’t want to be responsible for Walt and that he made him uneasy. In turn, Michael was granted full custody.
Michael himself didn’t seem prepared for fatherhood, asking his own mother if she would care for the child if he gave her the means to do so. Walt overheard this conversation and it placed even further strain on their father-son relationship. Michael and Walter (and Vincent, the dog) were on Oceanic 815 back to the States from Australia when the plane crashed, stranding them on the mysterious island.
Their relationship on the island was rocky, but father and son did eventually grow closer. When Walt was kidnapped by “The Others”, Michael did all he could to get his son back. Michael shot Ana Lucia and Hurley’s girlfriend, Libby, for what he rationalized was the only way to help save his kidnapped son. Although Michael and Walt managed to escape the island, Michael returned out of guilt. He posed as a deckhand named Kevin Johnson on Widmore’s freighter, on a mission at the behest of Benjamin Linus. In doing so, Michael saved his fellow Lostaways from a C4 blast, which claimed his own life. To this day, his son doesn’t know for certain that his father is dead, with many of the Lostaways hiding the truth from him.
Because of the sins he committed, even in death, Michael cannot leave the island. He can’t move on to the Great Big Island in the Sky, but rather, his spirit is bound to the Island itself. (Much like Jacob and the Man in Black are bound there by some sort of mysterious cosmic duty.) Michael has attempted to redeem himself by attempting to warn the rest of the Losties of coming dangers, using Hurley’s ability to speak to the dead.
Throughout his story arc in seasons one and two, Walt has been touted as “special”. He has gifts and abilities that were never fully explained, but briefly touched upon, including precognition. With that in mind, it’s odd that Walt doesn’t know or sense that his father is dead. Seeing as how each of the Lostaways have found redemption in one form or another, one of the only mysteries and plot points yet to be tied up is the dangling thread of Michael and Walt’s unresolved father-son relationship and an explanation for Walt’s supernatural abilities.
Several characters on the show had strained relationships with their fathers (Jack, Locke, Hurley, Sun, and Sawyer most notably spring to mind), however, Michael and Walt were the only father and son to actually appear on the island with their relationship taking several dynamic turns as the series unfolded. To leave these two important characters’ stories unresolved would be a big letdown to fans.
My theory is that somehow, like Luke Skywalker, Walt’s special abilities will somehow redeem and free the spirit of his imprisoned father, Michael. Much like the good, yet tragically flawed Anakin Skywalker, who found himself “trapped” in the suit of Darth Vader (and the Sith trappings that came with it), Michael’s spirit is bound to the island as he attempts to atone for his deeds from the hereafter. Perhaps there is some way that Walt’s special connection to the metaphysical can be explained and be used to grant his father the amnesty needed to ‘cross over’ and finally find spiritual liberation and redemption.
What may complicate Michael’s redemption is the fact that Walt has been living off the island and in mainstream society for a number of years, now. While tying up this loose end may feel like an extreme act of deus ex machina, the two characters who were so important to the early years of the series are still so well-remembered that it would be a disservice to fans not to give their storyline some sort of happy—or at least definitive—ending.
There just might be something to this theory. Lost creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof are both admitted Star Wars geeks, too. Another theory I have regarding Michael is that somehow, the words that Locke keeps hearing from Jack and others on the island and in the alternate Lost to “let go” may be the key to Michael letting go of his guilt, and in turn, letting go of the island and moving on.
Whether or not Lost takes a play from George Lucas’ book and has Walt redeem Michael’s spirit from afar in the show’s final moments will be answered soon. If Abrams and Lindelof have decided to take the ball and run with it, his storyline resolution could be one of the most poignant moments yet for the series.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article