Lost S1E19: Numbers
Let’s talk a little about mysticism.
Because there’s no doubt that Lost has firmly embraced the existence of it in-universe at this point. Between Locke’s magically-healed legs to polar bears on an apparently tropical island, there’s no denying that Lost is, firmly, in the fantasy realm of storytelling at this point. But that doesn’t mean that every so-called mystical event is actually as it seems – which is precisely what this week’s episode, Numbers, is all about.
I think it’s really important, with a show like this one, with the enormous mythology that it purports to have, not to just toss one’s hands up into the air and go “yeah, well, sure, everything that anyone says is possible is actually happening”. It’s a balance that the early seasons of Vikings (one of my all-time favourite shows for three whole seasons) managed to strike really nicely: mysticism is part of this world, but that doesn’t mean that every time someone perceives something as mystical, they are right.
Specifically, the mysticism we’re dealing with this week revolves around Hurley and his numbers; the numbers he heard from a mentally-ill man, which he then used on the lottery, winning millions of dollars – and swiftly, in his eyes, leading to the downfall of his family and friends. Plagued with the belief that the numbers brought bad luck into his life, and after becoming a one-man walking Final Destination set, Hurley sets off on a mission – the very mission that lands him on the plane which crashes on to the island – to prove that he’s right.
And, honestly, I actually quite like the way Lost deals with this notion. Hurley is consistently called out by those around him – his search for meaning in the bad things that have happened, to a lot of the people he meets, is nothing more than paranoia, an attempt to give shape to things that are just random acts of universal bad luck. I appreciate that we’re given plenty of firm argument in favour of this being nothing more than a delusion on Hurley’s part, but one that, at least, the show is sympathetic towards – when he encounters someone who actually believes him, his relief is palpable, and some of his protectiveness over his past becomes a little clearer.
Lost has dealt a lot in coincidence and overlap, but, for the most part, it has presented those things as nothing more than what they are in the real world. And, while it does not come down firmly on one side or another with Hurley’s beliefs about the numbers carrying a curse (at least, not yet, though I imagine they will at some point, and I imagine it will let me down when they do), this episode is an intriguing one because it opens up the possibility of both options: that there is something deeply strange and unnatural going on upon the island, and that the people on it are still fallible and influenced by their own biases, beliefs, and paranoia.
I always knew that I was going to like the Hurley-centric episode, because I’ve liked Jorge Garcia so much over the course of the show so far. But this was a real treat, a reflective and interesting look at magic and mysticism within the world of Lost so far, and frankly, after a few weeks of frustrating side-stepping, I’m glad to be back to something that I actually enjoy.
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(header image via ImDB)