Don’t read if you’re not caught up.
Some four seasons ago, a young(er) James Ford sat on the beach of a shipwrecked island, passing the time by reading an unpublished manuscript he had found among the strewn about luggage.
The manuscript, Bad Twin, was written by fellow Oceanic passenger Gary Troup. You may recognize Troup as the unfortunate soul who was sucked into the turbine in the chaotic few moments of the television series Lost.
Troup, obviously, is no longer with us, but thanks to Bad Twin, his legacy lives on. Sort of.
Bad Twin was a meta, semi-canonical attempt at expanding the ‘Lostverse’ that was published in the summer of 2006. Was it successful? Not really. Was it good? Kind of.
After hearing that it’s association with the show was tenuous at best, I avoided “Bad Twin” for a few years. Not helping was the fact that I associated it with the “Lost Experience” – a convoluted, semi canonical, alternate reality game that I couldn’t explain to you if I wanted to. Neither seemed worth my time.
That was before the end was nigh. About a third of the way into this final season run, the reality that our time was almost up started to sink in. I had already seen all the seasons, and the creators officially stated there would be no spin offs after the series was over. I wanted more. And unless I wanted to watch a bunch of boring, low budget viral videos featuring characters I have never heard of before, I had to check out “Bad Twin.”
Let me just start off by saying that “Bad Twin” was not written by any ‘Lost’ staff writers. The book was ghost written by novelist Laurence Shames, who was given notes of elements to include by the shows creative team. According to a quote from ‘Variety’, however, “the author had his own vision and wound up including only a few of the elements.”
It’s true. The book contains no island, Hurley, or four-toed statues, but a few things do get a shout out: the Widmore family (although none of their first names are familiar), the Hanso Corporation, Paik Industries, Oceanic Airlines, and Mr. Cluck’s Chicken Shack. Although the Widmore clan is the centerpiece of the story, most of the other elements are mentioned in passing.
“Bad Twin” is basically a detective story about a private investigator hired by one “good” Widmore twin to find his missing, “bad” twin brother. Cliff Widmore, the “good” twin, is ostensibly a clean, put together businessman who wants to follow in his fathers foot steps and take control of the family dynasty. Xander, the missing “bad” twin, is described as a wayward, prodigal son whose life may be in danger.
Sound kind of familiar? Now, this book came out between the 2nd and 3rd season, so it should be considered solid evidence that the creators had at least a general idea of the island’s underlying mythology and were not “making it up as they were going along.” The book even contains a reference to Jacob and Essau, a biblical story that really didn’t start making serious rounds in Lost discussions until the end of its 5th season.
In fact, the book contains literary reference upon literary reference, covering everything from Gilgamesh to Lord of the Flies. Before I ever got into the series, my initial concern was that I didn’t want to waste all this time in this fictional universe. I pegged Lost as a mere genre distraction. As it got going, however, I was impressed with its use of religious, philosophical, historical, and mythological themes. The use of these elements inspired me to do further research of the subject on my own time, making me honestly able to say that ‘Lost’ has enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined. In this respect, ‘Bad Twin’ delivers, shining light on a lot of the shows themes, even spelling them out for those who need it sometimes (I do).
The most significant reference to me was regarding the detective novel, Trent’s Last Case. The story is a mystery with a solution that appears to have been reached half way through the novel. The solution turns out to be erroneous, and the 2nd half of the novel is spent rearranging the facts and clues until the correction solution is reached. This reference parallels the character arc of Xander Widmore, a not-so-bad twin who just wanted to get away from the hullabaloo of the family fortune and dedicate his life to charity and spirituality. Half of life, the book implies, is spent acquiring material wealth and becoming successful. Many think this is the ultimate end game, like the detective in Trent’s Last Case coming to a false conclusion. Once this success is reached, one can start feeling empty, as if he arrived to the wrong solution. The 2nd half of life, then, is spent letting go of all that you’ve acquired, bringing the circle of life to a close.
This theme is even further mirrored in the Lost castaways story thus far. They come to island like babies out of the womb, scared and confused of their new surroundings. As they proceed, they adopt many philosophies and styles of leadership to get them through, shifting allegiences and world views when need be. All of us do this in our lives, albeit on a much less epic scale. Half way through the series, the castaways finally reach their intended goal by getting off the island. Only, it wasn’t what they thought it would be. Like a filthy rich CEO who made his fortune on genocide, it didn’t feel right. They had to “go BAAAACK.” Now, here we are, back, and ready to put the pieces together in the right order. What is that order and what are the creators trying to say? I don’t know yet, but that’s why I watch Lost.