Earlier today on my Twitter feed I posted a question that occurred to me after I put up Lostwatch for last night:
What, now, is the objective [of Lost]? What, exactly, are we rooting for Jack et al to do?
It may be a stupid question, but it’s a serious one. Let me elaborate a little, and then I want to hear your answer.
In most stories, you have some basic sense of what the protagonists want—that drives the conflict. In the first three seasons, it was simple: everyone wanted to get off the Island. In season 4, it became more complicated, but for Jack and the oceanic Six, it was essentially, (1) to get back to the Island and (2) save those left behind. They accomplished (1). As for (2), well: Locke is dead, Faraday and Charlotte are dead, most of the redshirts are dead, Claire is—what? dead-ish?—Desmond and Penny are off-island, Aaron is safe. [Update: In the 2007 timeline, I mean. Oh, and Juliet's dead too, of course.]
By the end of season five the goal (for Jack anyway) became: set off the nuke, and make it so they never came to the Island. Which happened. Maybe. Unless it didn’t.
So now what? Now, in dead earnest, what do they all want? What do we want for them? I’m not talking just big metaphysical questions—”to realize their destiny,” etc. In simple practical terms, what are they trying to do?
Part of this is complicated by our having two “realities,” 2004 and 2007. Is there a certain one of the two we want to win out? In more practical terms, what motive, post-bomb, is driving Jack and company day to day? To survive? To get off-Island? I’m not sure I can answer that question, and I kind of feel I should be able to.
One thing that worries me is the number of answers I got on Twitter that amounted to, “To choose sides between Jacob and Smokey.” That’s the one answer that (probably) would not satisfy me. As I’ve been saying, I care about Hurley, and Miles, and Desmond, and Ben, and so on. I do not so much care about two Island deities I met a half-dozen episodes ago who may not even be people in any strict sense of the word.
I’ve said, and will say again, that I put a lot of faith in Lost at this point, and I don’t think we’ll know how well season 6 is working until it’s all over. I also believe that Lost often works by setting up a lot of things in the first half of seasons that pay off in the second half. I’m totally willing to wait for that.
But I think I’ve put my finger on one thing that’s bugging me, which is that I don’t know the answer to a simple question that usually drives any story. So you tell me: What’s the objective?