In seasons past, the fathers of Lost have assumed center stage and pushed the mothers into the background. From the opening scene of Season Five, motherhood has started to play a more prominent role of the story. The first character shown on-screen was a woman who may or may not have been the mother of Miles. (The reveal of Miles’ long-term exposure to the island in this episode lends much credence to that theory.) Kate began the season with a pair of lawyers pounding on her door to remind her that she was not Aaron’s real mother. Locke began the season alone, until a statue of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, fell from the sky. The Lie included a small reminder of Sun’s recent delivery, with the throwaway line that Ji Yeon is safely at home with grandma. That epsiode also culminated with an emotional exchange between Hurley and his mother. Thus far, Carmen Reyes is the only non-islander to expose the Oceanic Six Lie, and she accomplished that feat solely by virtue of maternal instinct. The opening scene of Jughead inducted Penelope Hume into the Mothers of Lost Club, and then chronicled Desmond’s attempts to track down the mother of Daniel Faraday. (If you accept the theory that the retro British Other Ellie is the current Space-Time Sheriff Eloise Hawking, then Faraday’s time-jumping may have linked him to his mother in a borderline paradoxical/incestuous way.)
The Kate-centric Episode 4.05 The Little Prince, once again highlights issues of maternity. As one would expect from the title, much of the drama surrounds the ongoing battle for custody of Aaron. Two additional mothers make appearances as well, one somewhat expected (Carole Littleton, longing for her lost daughter Claire), and one wholly unexpected (Danielle Rousseau, pregnant with Alex). The title of the episode, a reference to the French children’s book Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, offered a variety of connections to the episode’s content. Exupéry himself was a French aviator who survived a plane crash in the Sahara desert, and the narrator in his story does the same. The narrator soon meets the titular Little Prince, a special, young, blond-haired boy who traveled to earth from an (island-like) asteroid. Among other issues, the novel explores the gap between children and adults. The world of narrow-minded grown-ups contrasts against the simple wisdom of a child’s perspective. Similarly, Aaron finds himself wrapped up in the rather silly world of Lost’s adult relationships.
Lost's version of The Little Prince provides a classic nature-vs.-nurture debate on the meaning of motherhood, through the question of who rightfully should serve as Aaron’s guardian in the absence of his parents. The episode offers two reminders that Claire intended to give up custody of Aaron, first from Kate’s words in the opening scene and later from Claire’s words in the revisited birth sequence. Eventually, Claire did abandon her son in the middle of the jungle, for as-yet-unexplained reasons. Claire still would have the strongest claim over Aaron, if she could be located somewhere on the plane of existence. Kate not only delivered the baby, but she has served as Aaron’s parent for almost the entire three years of his life. Can Kate ever become his real mother, and, if so, how many years would it require? Sun undisputedly is a real mother herself, but as far as the audience can tell, she has been spending more time as a cloak-and-dagger corporate vigilante than in child-rearing. Throughout the episode, Sun is the only character with physical possession of Aaron, and sometimes might makes right. Jack shares both a genetic connection with Aaron and a few actual instances of parenting, but neither of those links are particularly strong. The grandmother, Carole Littleton, shares twice as many genes with Aaron as Jack does, but she does not even know that her grandson exists. Ben apparently has made a legal claim for custody of Aaron, and the courts often have the final say over legal guardians. (In what is most likely a pure coincidence, Aaron’s biological father, Thomas, also bears a striking resemblance to Ben, so perhaps Linus also has some blood relation. In years past, I would never even consider such a theory, but the way Season Five has progressed, anything seems possible.)
The ultimate direction of the episode sends Kate on a collision course with Ben Linus, the secret client who sought custody of Kate’s child. Let this be a lesson for anyone who ever bets against Ben on a mystery question. (I was nearly convinced that Sun was pulling the strings, even after the convoluted Carole Littleton misdirection. My thinking actually was that Ben had already been used far too many times in the past to be used again here. I was wrong.) We can now add Daniel Norton esquire onto that long list of characters on Ben’s payroll. The Linus Corporation apparently is the only company still hiring in today’s economy. The final off-island scene concluded with a typical Ben Linus retort: “He's not your son, Kate.” Interestingly, the episode juxtaposes Ben’s statement about Aaron’s real parentage with the final scene of the episode, which reintroduces a young Danielle Rousseau into the story. The arrival of a pregnant Danielle on the island eliminates any lingering theories that Benjamin may have been Alex’s biological father. Ben should be the one person who understands Kate’s parental situation better than anyone, but he has never been one to sympathize. Ben does not see Aaron as a little prince the way other characters do. He only cares about Machiavelli’s conception of The Prince (i.e. himself). For him, the entire Oceanic Six are nothing more than pawns for him to move into place on his global chess board.
If anyone is to resolve this dispute over Aaron, we might need King Solomon to order the child cut into pieces. Of course, things might be simpler on the island. It seems that time travel would make it possible for multiple Aarons to exist at the same time. In perhaps the boldest addition yet in the show’s time travel mythology, the island offers Locke and Sawyer a chance to revisit past island moments. Neither Locke nor Sawyer interferes with these prior events, but the show certainly has revised its own history. From now on, anyone who goes back to watch Deus Ex Machina and Do No Harm must do so with the creepy realization that there are two Lockes and two Sawyers (and two Juliets) running around on one island. How many other times has a future version of a character been lurking nearby, just out of sight beyond the dense foliage? How many other classic moments will be altered in this way before the series is complete?
When Locke and Sawyer witness the famous hatch light shining into the night sky, they present an intriguing contrast of perspectives. Season One Locke often served as the mentor to younger characters, always concerned with helping them find their own way. The most dramatic example occurred in the seminal episode The Moth, in which Locke encouraged Charlie to struggle through heroin withdrawals. As he explained, "Struggle is nature's way of strengthening." After Boone's tragic accident, the old John Locke could have used some guidance of his own. Essentially, Season Five Locke finds himself in the position to assist Season One Locke in his moment of need. Lost's time travel determinism of course dictates that he could not interfere even if he tried, but Locke still freely, consciously decides to take a laissez-faire approach. His explanation here is similar to his perspective from The Moth: "I needed that pain to get to where I am now." In Locke's view, even the most intense human suffering can play an essential role in a higher purpose.
Sawyer plays the part of the skeptic to Locke's philosophy, the role that he has served since the beginning of Season Four. From Sawyer's worldview, suffering is never a good thing. If you have any opportunity to "save yourself from a world of pain," then you should take it. (Sawyer's suggestion of a pleasure/pain dichotomy serves as the basis for utilitarianism, a perspective shared by theorist Jeremy Bentham. Perhaps Locke might come around towards Sawyer's utilitarian thinking rather than vice-versa.) Locke once referred to himself ironically as “an ordinary man, meat and potatoes,” who “lives in the real world.” However, Sawyer truly fits the part of the everyman, devoted entirely to earthy concerns. The current season casts Sawyer as the odd man out in a team of specialists: Locke, the veteran hunter and mystic; Charlotte, the anthropologist and dead language expert; Daniel, the physicist; Miles, the spiritual medium; and Juliet, the fertility doctor. The other five members all operate in the realm of adult ideas. Sawyer, by contrast focuses only on physical concerns (food, beer, supplies, safety) and emotional ones. James operates on the base levels of developmental psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. James himself was deprived of the full opportunity to grow up, like the rest of his companions. His perspective on things is similar to the way a child would see the situation. Exupéry, author of Le Petit Prince, might argue that the minds of children often possess more common sense than their adult counterparts.
James himself, though, soon fell into his own world of pain. More than anything, the island loves to twist the knife when it gets the chance, to pile on misery to a character already crushed by circumstances. Sawyer’s fleeting vision of Kate and Aaron magnifies his loneliness. For consistency’s sake, the scene adds no additional dialogue as he witnesses the birth of Aaron. The scene leaves the audience to interpret whatever must have been going on in James’ mind, with the editing of the scene and Holloway’s reaction shots as the only clues. Although poor Claire is the one going through labor, Kate is also a true mother at that moment, at least from Sawyer's perspective. When he sees Kate, overcome with joy, holding that baby boy in her hands, the sight must remind him of his own mother. He sees his original lost love, the one that he has been lamenting for thirty years, not just thirty hours. The image must also remind him Cassidy and Clementine; it demonstrates the type of parental happiness he missed when he consciously chose to avoid his own daughter.
Moreover, the scene also highlights his second missed opportunity to embrace fatherhood. A few weeks ago on the island, he had referred to the prospect of Kate with a baby as “the worst thing in the world.” In Sawyer’s mind, he can only associate childhood with pain. The island has shown him that starting a new family might have been the best thing in the world for him, perhaps the only means through which to heal his deepest wounds. He twice gave up the chance at that life, and now he understands what he missed. The scene still manages to mix some hope along with the despair. Kate’s words, directly from the original scene, take on new layers of meaning in the context of the Season Five story: “You're not alone in this. We are all here for you.” These words to Claire double as a fateful message to Sawyer himself in his present situation. The event itself serves as a reassurance that she is still out there thinking of him somewhere, no matter how far apart in space and time they might seem.
Kate delivers the most pregnant line of all (pun intended) immediately afterward: “This baby is all of ours.” In the original birth scene, both Jin and Charlie were present. The shots used in this episode feature only on Claire, Kate, and Sawyer (perhaps implying that 'all of ours' refers to those three people). Many images from Season Four suggested an intimate symbolic connection between Kate, Aaron, and Sawyer. During the initial episodes of that season, Kate believed she was pregnant with Sawyer’s child, and she the idea grew inside of her. As the season closed, Sawyer came running out of the jungle to hand-deliver a different baby to her. Aaron entered Kate's life precisely at the time when she lost Sawyer. I also would argue that it is no coincidence that the actor chosen to play young Aaron is almost a duplicate of the young James Ford in Season One’s Outlaws. Kate always had viewed Sawyer himself as a child, by looking past his outside persona to see the vulnerable James Ford underneath, the little boy in need of nurturing. She has come to see Aaron as the new living embodiment of James, which partially explains why she grew so attached to him.
Of course, the more relevant interpretation of 'all of ours' is its originally intended meaning: Aaron is a member of the larger Island family. These words also take on added weight in the context of Season Five. Events off the island reinforce the reality that dozens of people have staked some claim in Aaron’s life, and made a lasting impact on his future. Aaron offers an interesting case study in the aggregate contributions that comprise one single human being. The blood of Carole Littleton, the abandonment of Thomas, the prognostications of Malkin, babysitting by Locke and Hurley, kidnappings by Ethan and Rousseau, Charlie’s many sacrifices, Christian taking Claire with him in the middle of the night, Sawyer carrying him from the jungle to Kate, the handoff to Sun and the narrow escape at the freighter, the Oceanic Six Lie that protected Kate’s custody, bedtime stories with Uncle Jack, and now Ben’s attempt to seize him … all of these things add up to that little prince sitting in the car-seat. The old cliché about child-rearing says that “it takes a village,” but in Aaron’s case, it takes an entire Island. Although the show regards Aaron as special, you could make an equally long (although not nearly as dramatic) list for just about any person. Like Aaron's life (and evidently much like Miles), many of the most important events that shape a person's life occur well before any of us can remember them.
Season Five’s current preoccupation with motherhood seems to foreshadow upcoming revelations for the larger island mythology. The pregnancy problem still looms as one of the show's biggest mysteries. The first four episodes emphasize quite possibly the last three people ever born on the island: Charlotte, Alex, and Aaron (plus a possible fourth, if you include Miles). If our time-jumping fertility expert, Juliet, can survive her bloody jet-lag, she might find the clues needed to understand island birth. In the mean time, though, the final scene of this episode gives us two examples of dead characters, reborn on the island. (The name on the side of Ben’s van, Canton/Rainier, serves as a not-so-subtle anagram for Reincarnation.) Danielle Rousseau is dead in the present, but born again in the past for the purposes of the story. Jin, however, seems to have experienced a more literal rebirth, floating around in the primordial ocean of space-time that surrounds the island. To date, Jin has survived a plane crash and two separate boat explosions miles offshore. He now surpasses Mikhail as Lost’s resident Rasputin.
Perhaps the motif of motherhood serves as an image for the Island itself. All of the characters are in some sense born of the island, whether literally born like Aaron, or figuratively re-born many times over, like Jin and certainly like Locke. The Island, however, has not been a very positive force in the lives of many of its children (poor Boone comes to mind here, along with Danielle, Alex, and the entire French team). The Island not only has the power to give life, but also the power to take away life whenever it pleases. Ultimately, which frequently repeated maternal metaphor will provide more insight into the Island's true nature? Will it be the Virgin Mary statues that keep re-appearing in Locke's journey? Or will it be Sawyer's useful description for everything and everyone on the island: "Son of a bitch!"?