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White Rabbit

January 24, 2010

This episode in particular made keenly appreciate the producers getting away from the flashback format in the later seasons. This is probably, in my mind, the penultimate Jack flashback. It holds the most resonance and figures more into the ongoing on-island storyline than any other he’s had. Maybe I’m forgetting one or two, but the ones with his surgery on his future wife, his eventual seperation from her, and most especially the much-maligned (and rightly so) “Jack’s tattoo origin” episode cannot hold a candle to this one.

In the previous episode, Christian makes his first appearance, although Jack is not yet aware of who he is at that time. He seemed at the end of Walkabout to be struggling with his leadership role (most exemplified by his self-imposed isolation during the memorial) and his abilities. In White Rabbit, this comes to a head with his questioning his decision to save Boone from drowning instead of a “redshirt.” On top of this, seeing his father “alive” again brings back all of his self-doubt.

This episode is laid out like a truncated “hero’s journey,” where in the end, he gets resolution for what had been troubling him, and throws away enough of his baggage to effectively do what he needs to. This is also the very first stirrings of the dichotomy between Locke and Jack’s opposing philosophies. Jack’s is not outright stated yet, but his pragmatism already seems in opposition to Locke’s newly-acquired “man of faith” belief system. Ever since the pilot, Locke has been enigmatic, but in this episode in particular, his vast wisdom comes into focus. It’s almost a parallel in this episode to the later-revealed Ben/Alpert/Jacob relationships. Jacob so far is portrayed as having untold powers/knowledge/wisdom/etc, which he passes on to Alpert in order to guide the leader of the “Others” in making the proper decisions. Locke knows that Jack needs to be the leader so that Locke can do what he has been put on the island to do.

Of course, at this point, I’m pretty sure Locke does not know specifically what is needed from him, but I think he has an idea that the island needs him in some way. Or at least, he’s probably just beginning to delude himself into thinking so at this point. But as the episode is about Jack, he does have at least one indelible moment, which of course is the “Live together, die alone” speech that he makes once his burden is laid to rest (so to speak).

A few final comments before the “ratings”…this was the first silent closing, and also the first use of the Life and Death theme. In fact, this first use probably is the most poignant and most resonant out of any that has been used. It’s introduced for the first time when Jack discovers the cave in which he finds fresh water (life) and his father’s (empty) casket (death). In fact, after having heard this first use again, it makes even more cheap its use when Charlotte dies in Season 5. I already had an extreme distaste for its use there upon first airing, and I’m certain that distaste will not go away. To parallel another show that I watched religiously before I discovered LOST (and which I’ve not watched since), it’s the same as the silent clock in 24 for Edgar’s death, but not for Tony Almeida’s. It cheapens it a bit.

And as for Christian, I’m still trying to theorize while I watch if he is a manifestation of the “man in black.” He seems to have specifically led Jack to the cave and his own casket. It’s possible that Jacob’s nemesis, if he is indeed manifesting as Christian, needed Jack to accept his role in order to allow Locke to follow his own path, which down the line of course leads to Locke’s questioning his role, and eventually becoming a pawn in the grand scheme of things. Then again, depending on what is revealed in Season 6, almost all the major characters could be considered pawns at this point.

Island mythology: 4 out of 10. Really, the only things revealed in this episode are Locke verbalizing his “looking into the eye of the island” and the first real indication that the island has the power to manifest visual hallucinations (and moreso, assume the identity of the dead). Not to downplay either of these, but both are elaborated on more fully in later episodes.

Character development: 9 out of 10. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is probably the most resonant Jack episode, and the character shift from self-doubt to understanding his role and being willing to undertake it without complaint was fully realized and believable. I have a slight issue during Jack’s conversation with Locke (the “I can’t cut it,” dialogue does seem a bit forced), but even with that taken into account, this might be one of the best flashbacks in the first season, not so much for the flashback itself, but moreso how smoothly and not forced or artificial it fits into the ongoing storyline.

Importance of episode to series: 7.75 out of 10. Most of these first episodes I seem to be rating fairly high in this category, but it seems that they need to be, as they lay the foundation for everything else that will come after. The importance of this episode in particular lies in the very beginnings of the differing philosophies of Locke and Jack, and in the first verbalization that the island is somehow different or special.

Personal enjoyment of episode: 7.5 out of 10. It’s funny, because I’ve always thought this was a top-tier episode, but I seem to have enjoyed it more and gotten more out of it on this current viewing than I have before. Of course, this is possibly because, even though I’ve seen this episode probably 4 times before, even after having seen some of the later seasons, knowing what comes after until the end of season 5 seems to make this carry a bit more weight, especially Jack’s shift in the latter half of the fifth season where he lets Sawyer (LaFleur) take the leadership role.

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