Arty black and white image of Mark Pelligrino and Titus Welliver with the caption "One light, one dark." Image from Tumblr.In my first post about Lost, I  casually referred to Jacob and his unnamed twin, two characters who appear in Seasons 5 and 6, as “demigods.” After I wrote that, I had some doubts. The traditional definition of “demigods” is the offspring of a deity and a mortal. (Hmmm… so it doesn’t have to be a human, just a “mortal.” There could be demigod rabbits or demigod earthworms or… Oh! Demigod trees!)

But I digress.

There is no mention in the lore of Lost that Jacob and his brother have a divine parent. The second definition of the word, however, means a person (my copy of the OED says “man”) who has been elevated to semi-divine status and power. This certainly fits the two battling twins.

I’m jumping ahead here, so there are spoilers for seasons 3-6.

Jacob and his brother (expertly played by seasoned genre favorites Mark Pelligrino and Titus Welliver) do not appear in human form until Season 5. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. The brother does appear in various human forms–of dead people. By Season 3, though, we start to hear about the mysterious “Jacob.” Jacob, clearly, has a lot of influence on the island—and so does his brother. Those influences are in opposition to each other.

Functionally Jacob and the Other Guy, who I’m going to call the Dark Brother, look a lot like gods. They are immortal or at least long-lived. Lostpedia states with confidence they’ve been on the island for two thousand years, but it could have been longer. The show uses Egyptian design motifs to push forward the idea that there have been humans on the island for at least five thousand years. The Dark Brother glides around the island in the form of the Smoke Monster, when he isn’t tearing up  trees or battering people to death. He can also take the form of anyone who’s dead (apparently). Jacob has the ability to see anywhere in the world via his magical lighthouse and can leave the island at will. He also has healing ability or at least can channel the island’s healing energy.

The Dark Brother cannot leave the island because Jacob trapped him on it. This is because the Dark Brother is… well, dark. Jacob believes it’s his job to keep the Dark Brother away from the world because he will destroy it.  This is what Jacob says his mission is— but in Season 6, he is told by a previous guardian that his job is to safeguard the Heart of the Island, a source of magical energy. Those two tasks converge in the final half of Season Six.

Jacob is a demigod in another sense—he gathers followers. One piece of evidence for the date of two thousand years is that Jacob’s followers must learn passwords and catchphrases in Latin, implying a connection to the Roman Empire. Jacob has a little place down by the water, where he spends his free time weaving, but he appears to his followers in a cabin that looks like it came from a low-budget horror movie. The cabin appears in various places in the jungle, and it only appears to some people. Jacob, besieged by an angry twin who wants to kill him, never invests in locks on the cabin door, which seems to be an oversight.

The rules of the twins’ existence state that they cannot kill each other. They are the explanation for some, but not all, of the weirdness of the island.  The twins are enigmatic and certainly powerful. I’m not sure they’re intelligent. Dark Brother takes two thousand years to figure out how to vanquish Jacob, and he’s supposed to be the smart one.

Rewatching Lost now, I’m struck by the term “millennialist.” (I don’t mean the generation.) It aired in the first decade of a new millennium. In the run-up to 2000, there was a lot of pop-philosophy floating around—and it didn’t vanish when the calendar flipped. A lot of critique of concepts of divinity and Good and Evil popped up—a lot of skepticism of the nature of a deity that was all-powerful and supposedly good. By any human standard, Jacob isn’t good. The best thing you can say about him is that he doesn’t batter people to death when he’s having a bad day. Part of Jacob’s character is that he never really understands people, while the Dark Brother does. He is closer to “human” than the passive, obedient “Light” brother. This is a trait we see in various depictions of Lucifer (the film Constantine,2005, Supernatural, 2009) during roughly the same time period Lost aired. The dark godling may not like us, but he gets us. This allows him to manipulate us, but it also makes him a bit more sympathetic… more approachable. And it makes him a proficient tempter. The “good” deity is standoffish and oracular, never quite providing people the guidance they need.

Light or dark, gods or just guys, Jacob and the Dark Brother are presented as the puppet-masters using the castaways, the Others and all the other people who show up as game pieces in their mystical game—which looks a lot like backgammon. Are they gods? Fate? Or just two immortal brothers stuck on an island without much to do? I’ll let you decide.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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