The past couple days I've been thinking about just how big the reveals from last episode were, not just directly answering questions, but offering up plausible theories as to a lot of the other long-standing questions of the show. Take a look again at the questions I listed on my pre-season poll:
1) Who are Jacob and the Nemesis?
2) What is the Monster?
3-tie) What are the Whispers?
3-tie) What is the Island?
5) What's in the Temple?
6) Why is Aaron important?
7) Why do pregnant women die on the Island?
8-tie) Who are Adam and Eve?
8-tie) What's Libby's backstory?
10-tie) Who are Ilana and Bram?
10-tie) Does everyone on Flight 815 have a specific destiny?
12) Did the Juliet really change history by detonating the bomb?
Questions in bold have been pretty much directly answered. We now know Smokey and the Nemesis are one and the same, we know the Temple houses a healing spring and a whole lot of Others we've never seen before and Ilana and Bram were Jacob's bodyguards he summoned to the Island.
Questions in italics are ones we now have very plausible theories for. Let's take them one-by-one and go over some related questions too, given what we now know:
Mystery: What is the Island?
Corollary questions: What is the "magic box?" What special properties does the Island have? What did the Swan Station energy do and why did Smokey want it kept contained?
Future questions: What effect did the Island's destruction have on LA X?
As I stated in my review, to me the Island seems to be a prison for Smokey with Jacob as the warden. Now it may have some other significance in addition to that (like being a testing ground for the people Jacob brings there), but having its primary purpose be keeping Smokey from wreaking havoc upon the world makes a lot of sense.
Now the one caveat to this is that in LA X, the Island has sunk and there certainly didn't seem to be an apocalypse going on. Of course, Smokey is rather cunning - he'd probably just become an investment banker or something, but the world doesn't seem to have been totally destroyed. So what consequences would there be if Smokey ended up escaping and going "home?"
But even if the Island is a prison for Smokey, what gives it it's special healing properties and ability to move through time? Is it Jacob or something inherent to the Island itself (i.e. the magic box). And why exactly did Smokey want to keep the Swan station energy contained. He went out of his way to convince Eko to keep the button being pushed and later killed him in a rage after the Swan was destroyed. To me, this doesn't seem like part of his overall plan to kill Jacob, even if it did obviously all work out. I do hope we get an explanation for this in the end.
Mystery: Why is Aaron important?
Corollary questions: Why is Walt important? Does everyone on Flight 815 have a specific destiny? Why did Claire have to raise Aaron herself? What makes someone a "good person." Who hired Richard Malkin to convince Claire to keep Aaron?
Future questions: What makes you a candidate? What disqualifies you from being a candidate? Is this tied to the childbirth issues in any way?
It seems the logical answer to most of these questions is that Aaron, and just about everyone else, were candidates to replace Jacob at some point. That's why they were on the plane, that's their specific destiny - Jacob brought them all here, likely to test them. And the ones who were candidates are "good people," meaning they met whatever qualifications you needed to become the new Jacob. In the comments of my review, Stefanie commented on how Kate wasn't one of Jacob's six Number candidates. While this is kinda surprising given Kate's role in the show, there can only be six Number candidates total so someone has to be left out. Furthermore, I think the six Number candidates are merely the only candidates remaining. There were a lot of names crossed off that wall - I wouldn't be surprised to see an "Austen" crossed out somewhere. The significance of the Number candidates to me is that at the time of Jacob's death, these were the only real candidates left. And that, to me, points to Jack as the prime one left.
But perhaps Aaron was actually the candidate until Kate took him off the Island. That's why Claire had to raise him with her "goodness" - if she didn't, his name would be crossed off the wall (and it's worth pointing out that the "Littleton" crossed off the wall could have referred to Aaron, not Claire as I specualted in my review). And now it seems extremely likely that Jacob was the one who hired Richard Malkin to make sure Claire was on the plane. Part of me also wonders if Jacob was the one who saved Richard Malkin's daughter, perhaps as a way to get Eko on Flight 815.
Walt's candidacy was probably a "special" case, given his abilities. Even if Aaron was the leading candidate to become the new Jacob, perhaps Walt was tested due to his psychic abilities. When Ben and the Others found him to be uncontrollable, they went back to their original Aaron plan.
So what determines "goodness?" Most of the candidates were hardly good; Sayid's a torturer, Sawyer's a murderer, Jin was essentially a mafia goon. And Jack, Hurley and Locke all had their personal issues to deal with. If none of these things disqualifies you from being a candidate, what does? Is redemption the key, perhaps? Do qualified candidates have a desire to redeem themselves and are tested to see if they can? Children are probably exempt from this being innocents, thus Aaron being the perfect candidate as a newborn. The candidacy issue looks to be the biggest question of the season, and possibly of the show.
Mystery: Did Juliet really change history by detonating the bomb?
Corollary questions: Are the two timelines linked in any way? How did she know "it worked?"
Future questions: What's up with Desmond? Is he a candidate too?
Well, we know for certain Juliet did something when she detonated the bomb (and somehow she seemed to know she did something), but what significance to our present day Islanders does the Alt have? It certainly can exist on its own in a parallel universe, but will it affect the present day timeline at all? And what effect will Desmond have running around LA X? Does he have memories of the Island at all? There are a couple possibilities (some spoilers below):
1) The Dark Tower Alt Scenario:
In the Dark Tower universe, Roland the Gunslinger created an alternate timeline by saving Jake Chambers' life in the real world. This created a temporal paradox that was slowly driving him insane until he managed to merge the two timelines by drawing the Alt Jake into his world.
I do kind of wonder if perhaps something like this will have to happen. Will Alt Jack and some of the Others start to have memories of the current timeline? Does Desmond already have memories and will he try to get the Alts to set things right? The difficultly with this sort of plan is that the Island is already sunk in the Alt - be hard to change things without going back in time. But Desmond certainly seems like the biggest wildcard in the Alt to me, given that he wasn't originally even on Flight 815 and the way he seemed to disappear.
2) The Time Variance Authority Scenario:
Walt Simonson, while he was writing Thor, came up with an entity known as the Time Variance Authority (TVA for short), which was a cosmic bureaucracy responsible for all the alternate timelines in the Marvel Universe. Simonson later used the TVA while he was writing Fantastic Four where, thanks to a battle through time between Reed Richards and Dr. Doom, a number of alternate timelines were created. As a result, the TVA decided to destroy all the newly created Alts along with the Marvel Universe Prime timeline to clean things up and (heh) reduce paperwork. The FF managed to stop them in the end and the TVA kinda went away, but I did think this was a clever story.
Now while I don't see any sort of TVA appearing on the show, I do see a scenario where both timelines are not allowed to exist simultaneously. And if this is the case, I think someone (probably Jack) is going to have to choose which universe is saved and which is destroyed. And it may come down to something where the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few or the one. And that one may be Jack himself.
2) The Course Correction Scenario:
The most likely of scenarios, to me, is one where Jack or someone is given the choice to go back in time and change history at a pivotal moment, preventing Smokey from exploiting the loophole. This may end up erasing the Alt and/or the present day timeline as well. If we're going to incorporate Adam and Eve into this scenario, it would have to be a moment some 40-50 years before Flight 815 crashed, maybe prevent the Jughead bomb from ever reaching the Island perhaps?
We know that Adam and Eve are going to be important to the ending of the show, so for that reason alone I think I favor this scenario at this point, although I do think the other two scenarios are kinda cooler. But it's still great that we're finally at a point where we can plausibly speculate on such things given the info we have.
Thoughts? Theories? Next week's episode is called "Lighthouse" and it's the 108th produced hour of the series. I'm sensing something big. :)
Update: Added a few more comments, edited a few typos too. Stupid work interfering with my blogging. :)