Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Are The Others Such Assholes?

Aldo The Other...Also From Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Which Is Ironic Because Lost Island Is About As Far From Paddy's Pub As You Can Get.

They've kidnapped kids. They beat up people for no reason. They put people in bear cages. They lie, all of the time. They seem to have at least 3 different leaders at any given time, and each of those leaders seems to adhere to a non-disclosure policy that would rival the NSA's. Yet they call themselves, "the good guys." I'm talking of course, about the "Others" on ABC's Lost.

I've had a lot of Lost posts recently, so if you're not a fan, feel free to check back some other time. But I think you'll be interested in this post too. I know that people who don't watch the show have a complaint that seems to become more and more valid every time the "Others" appear in an episode. What's with all the secrets? If the Losties really are integral to the Others' or Jacob's plan, why not clue them in?

This came up directly in last night's episode, "What Kate Does," when Jack demands to know why he has to give Sayid a pill that he can't be told anything about.

Well, for the sake of argument, lets say the Others really are the good guys. Their fighting on Team Jacob, trying to protect the world from Smokey. Suddenly, the 815ers show up. Some are on Jacob's list of potential recruits. Some, however are not.

We've established that Smokey/Man In Black/Fake Locke is one devious son of a gun. He's managed to fool Locke into trying to kill himself, he's managed to fool people into thinking he's Locke, or Christian, or whoever else he wants to be. Also, through a "sickness," he's presumably turned some people genuinely nuts.

Now, lets say you're an Other. You've been on the island a long time. You've met your fair share of Island arrivals. And you've seen people on Jacob's list end up going bad due to Smokey's manipulations.

So what do you do to new arrivals? Well, if you're truly protecting the fate of the world, you'll understandably be protective of Jacob's secret game plan. Even when speaking to those who have been designated to carry it out. I'd say it's likely that none of the Others, even Richard, knows all of the island's secrets... the better to protect it. After all, we just saw Ben, one of the Others' leaders, KILL JACOB. Which would seem to be number one on a list of things the Others would not want to happen.

Given this context, the Others' secrecy makes sense. They can't even reveal the full plan for Smokey defeat to each other... how can they reveal it to strangers who the barely know? Especially when those strangers are as easily swayed and manipulated as we've seen the Losties be these past five seasons.

Imagine if Locke, who actually briefly became the "leader" of the Others, had been told the details of Jacob's plan. Smokey would know it all now.

In fact, that, I'd argue, is the exact reason why Locke, and no other Lostie, was the body Smokey chose to take over. Remember... it's Smokey, in Locke form, that tells Richard to give Locke the compass... the compass that in the past, convinces Richard that Locke is special. In essence, Smokey is making sure that Locke is installed as a leader in the Others camp, which is his way of sneaking into the Others leadership structure and undermining their efforts to contain him. Maybe Smokey couldn't get close to Richard Alpert before (he seems to not have spoken to him since Richard was still a guy "in chains") but now, as he marches towards the Temple to wipe out the Others, he's carrying Richard as a hostage on his back.

The Others being assholes really makes a lot of sense. Why not just tell Jack that Sayid will soon be demented and that poison is necessary to kill him? Well, maybe because Jack's own father seems to have been possessed by Smokey or the sickness. How can they be sure the son is any more reliable?

So yes, the fact that the Others make answers really hard to come by is frustrating. But I'd argue that instead of being merely a writer's ploy to infuriate fans and distance casual watchers, it's actually a major part of the plot and a key to understanding the fragile psyche of the Others: protectors of the island, and possibly--quite probably--the world.


m said...

Ok. you've given a good reason why the Others might be so secretive. I hope the show does explain it, and what you've said would make sense as that explanation.
but: does this at all explain the violence? and cruelty? why capture & imprison people? why be so quick to injure or even kill people?
I'd like to hear your thoughts. Oh, and also about why they went to such lengths to disguise themselves in the early seasons, too, if you have any ideas about that!

GregM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GregM said...

An excellently argued blog entry, and an idea I wish the writers had made more reference to ("Well, Jack, we *could* tell you, but given the ease with which your friends have been manipulated by the Smoke Monster, we don't know if we can trust YOU.") m raises an excellent point, which I think can be largely summed up by the paranoid, incompetent leadership of Ben Linus. (Seriously? Psycho Ethan is the guy you send to infiltrate the camp b/c the pregnant woman's in danger? It was Ethan who started the whole cycle of violence by killing the innocent Steve. What about sending the sane, rational Juliet to begin with? And yeah, I know Ben was crushing hardcore on her. Doesn't make his choices any better.)

Of course, given the evilness and shapeshifting abilities of the Smoke Monster, Ben's decision to keep the Pearl Station secret makes a lot more sense. As does the nearly-invincible Mikhail's attempt to blow up the station, preventing the station from making contact with the outside world, which we now know contained the freighter.

m said...

hey greg I like your example of how the Others could still have spoken reasonably about *why* they needed to keep secrets! (how the writers could have written it that way)

and so maybe Ben's paranoia was causing the antagonistic social style of the Others in the first three seasons, I could go with that.

in the premiere of this season, though, temple leader Dogen was quick to order that the captured Losties be shot -- why? desperate times? when you're trying to protect the world, you sometimes have to kill anyone you don't need and can't be sure of?

Hot Mama said...

Interesting analysis Adam. If we accept the premise that people join the Others by either selection (presumably by Jacob and his agents)or by subtrefuge (that is deception and pretense), then we can begin to understand the violence and the imprisonment. Those "selected" are still imperfect beings with free will and must therefore be tested (is the island itself a purgatory of sorts?)and it becomes most imperative to test those who may have joined by subtrefuge. Furthermore, the Others themselves are also players in this purgatory. Their choices to do evil may seal their fate, as we have seen in the examples of Others who have died as opposed to those miraculously restored to life. My question is how did Sayid fail the test? Why Did his restoration to life come at the Monster's will now that Jacob is dead?

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