It’s a big word. In ancient times it was a genre of literature that disclosed a “transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” Nowadays, we hear the word thrown around, usually referring to end-of-the-world narratives. Anything that deals with a possible end to humanity, or the end of most of humanity is deemed apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. So a good question to begin with might be: Why tell a story about the end of humanity?
In this case, it is helpful to look at the beginnings of the word: “an unveiling.” Some call it revelation, but this is too loaded of a term to continue to use it efficiently. Rather, an apocalypse gives the viewer a behind-the-scenes look at possible terrors–real, but unseen threats to human life. Think of “I, Robot,” where the robots are going to destroy and enslave humanity in order to save humanity from its own violence, thus “critiquing” the alarming “violence” of humanity.
The Apocalypse of John (Revelation), too, unveils the evil of a city (Rev 17.5,18) where everyone is forbidden to buy or sell without its mark (13.16-17), and which exploits other lands for its wealth (18.4, 11-13). Naturally, this city would have been Rome at the time of the writing, and indeed most scholars believe this is the case: an eschatological (“last things”) and other worldly narrative which critiques Rome.
Turn to LOST, where the incarnation of the black smoke threatens to “end everything” if it escapes the Island. What is unveiled about humanity, or the state of the world, in the final “apocalyptic” seasons of LOST? What, other than generic evil, does the black smoke serve or represent?
Consider the CON. It is a major theme, especially in the back stories of the main characters throughout Season 1. Not only in the characters, but in us viewers as well… we want to be conned. We want to not know the truth until the last moment. We consider it TV victory when the narrative fools us and pulls us to and fro. We are conned when we invest in the characters of Ana Lucia and Libby, but then they are suddenly torn from us. We are conned when we think that we will learn who the Others are. We are conned with Locke to hope for reconciliation with his long lost father, only for our hope to be ripped out with his kidney. The Con makes the narrative addictive. But the writers have at least neutral intentions. And we still sympathize with the great con, Sawyer. So the Con, in-and-if-itself, is not the great threat to humanity. Instead it is the Dark Con.
The Dark CON relies on the faith of others in order to gain for itself, especially at the painful and fatal expense of those same others. Early on, Locke’s father is the Dark Con Artist. For seasons 3-4, Benjamin Linus is the master of the Dark Con. But even the master is mastered by the black smoke, in the form of Locke. In the judgment of Benjamin Linus (below), Dark Locke sends Ben into be judged, only then to appear as the black smoke (which Ben does not yet realize), and the characters of his judgment order Ben to follow Dark Locke, which ultimately leads to Ben killing Jacob. Dark Locke depends on Ben’s faith, on Ben’s guilt, and on Ben’s desire for revenge to Con Ben into harming the very one who wants to protect life and save the island that Ben loves. In this way, it is the Dark Con that is unveiled.
What other Dark Cons are found in LOST (there are many)? What Dark Cons do you see in the world? In religion? In the Church?