Tuesday, January 12, 2010

4 - The Gunslinger Revealed: A review of Jack Shephard

Happy New Year!
Let's get to it:
Jack Shepard as the Gunslinger on Lost.


Roland Dechains is foremost a leader. Yes he is a gunslinger, a stone-cold killer, but the quality that defines him foremost is leadership. The hallmark of leadership is the ability to inspire loyalty and motivate those that follow to sacrifice. And the only true way to do that is to lead by example. But what example does Roland make when we first encounter him in Vol. 1, The Gunslinger? Roland spends considerable time as a loner after he loses everything in his life (love, country, family, friends) and becomes a cold and bitter man.

For some time Roland even loses his duty and has only his obsession to his quest, finding and gaining the Dark Tower. Even retribution is subsumed to his fanatical obsession to his destiny to reach the Dark Tower. At one time it appears that all that remains from his past is his stoney determination and equally cold ability to deal out death.

Eventually he renews his duty and remembers the face of his father. He forms bonds with those drawn to his destiny, his ka, and finds a new family. Instead of sacrifices that his quest demands he has loyal and true friendds who are willing to sacrifice themselves as they join his quest. Instead of spending their lives like currency to barter passage to the Dark Tower, the love and loyalty that grows between them forms a strength to overcome the overwhelming challenges they face. Indeed not only does Roland love his fate-found friends, but their loyalty and desire to assist him and sacrifice for him, inspires him to teach them to be gunslingers. Their initial challenges provide the Roland with the choice to abandon them and continue his quest or risk his quest to save their lives.


And when they later find remnants of the world desperately fighting mysterious forces, Roland's duty as a gunslingeer is rekindled and he again risks his friends and his quest to serve the poor folk in their desperate struggle to survive.

Out of this cruicible is formed a band of brothers in destiny (Ka'tet) and instead of one lone gunsligner facing the hordes of the Crimson King, FOUR Gunsligners emerge to battle under Roland's banner. They are willing to kill and sacrifice not for his obsession but for his love. They make his quest their own. This is the leadership that one on the hero's journey provides.

Jack Shepard has the gunslinger's background.
He was a leader by birth. Driven by his father to follow in his footsteps, to become not a killer but a doctor. And his father drives him hard. As a youth he faces foes he can't not overcome, but will not relent.
Like Roland he Jack 'graduates' early. Jack attended Columbia University and then graduated from UCLA medical school a year faster than anyone else. His father sets the stage for future conflict with Jack by pushing him down. Christian Shepard preaches to his son from the school of hard knocks parenting.

He infuses Jack as a youth and adult with an inferiority complex that Jack will battle throughout his life. Indeed, Jack is infused with the need to battle and overcome impossible tasks. He will NOT walkaway, he will NOT surrender, He CAN NOT stop. This is duty as defined by his father, who does not believe Jack can deal with failure, so Jack is driven to never fail. So the inferiority complex morphs into a hero complex. And we later learn that if Jack is not fulfilling his role as a hero, if he turns off the hero's path and his quest, his life deteriorates.

Like Roland, Jack finds love (thru marriage to Sarah) but loses her due to his obsession to his duty. For Roland, his duty is protecting Gilliand, and he sacrifices Susan Delgado in his efforts to forestall a plot to overthrow his father's kingdom.

For Jack, his duty is in his complete and all consuming committment to his current impossible case from which he can not turn away.

He gives all of himself to these pursuits and leaves nothing for his wife to hold on to. Jack next obsession is with his broken marriage and he obsesses over this failure, and when he is unable to 'fix it' he turns on his father in a jealous rage of blame and hatred. (Perhaps for making him the man he is)

Jack is as cold and bitter facing his father as Roland is during his manaical pursuit of the man in black across the wastelands when he guns down the inhabitants of an entire town who are set against him by the sorcery of the man in black.
Like Roland his destiny is marked by mysterious forces. Roland hears an oracle from a demon bound within a stone ring and later his 'fortune' is told by the man in black using a tarrot deck. Jack's destiny is mystically marked on him by Achara in the episode "Stranger in a Strange land". And while we don't know what destiny, if any, will come from Jack's intercourse with Achara; Roland has intercourse with the demon of the stones in order to barter for his oracle and this later leads to the birth of his future enemy, Mordred Deschain.

Does Jack's character grow as a hero?
The key to this test, is the individual rising above their individual motivations to develop empathy and beyond empathy to atonement (or at one ment).

Jack grows from a reluctant leader on the island committed to saving his people, and finding rescue, to a man committed to his destiny. He begins by saving people, organizing them to action and inspiring them to follow him.

He begins by saving a man crushed by the plane's wreckage, he then moves to resucitate Rose, calm Claire, then save both Clarie and Hugo when the wing begins to crash on them.

He tends to the wounded but can not save them all, indeed he must take the marshall's life when Sawyer's botches an 'assisted suicide'.

He delves into the dangers of the jungle to retrieve the transceiver from the cockpit, saving Charlie from the monster and perhaps having an encounter with the monster that we have yet to discover.

He helps Kate find redemntion by giving her the same new start on the island that they all have received and helping her to face her demons. He falls in love with her and in turn perhaps is able to face his own demons.

 He again braves the jungle in pursuit of his 'white rabbit', the figure of his father, escaping death over a cliff with the help of John Locke, and eventually finds water and shelter at the caves.
When Ethan takes Claire and Charley he pursues relentlessly and brings Charley back from the dead.
He orgainzes them to seek rescue, saves Locke from being dragged down the Smoke Monster's Hole, fights off the Others, escapes from the Others,

uncovers the mysteries of the Island, and confronts and fights Locke to lead the Losties to rescue.

Indeed Jack is relentless in pursuit of finding rescue for the Losties, until he makes that fateful call to the freighter.

Once off the island he encounters demons worse then his obsessive compulsion to prevail. Having run away and hid he is eaten alive by the memories of those he left behind. He rebounds from madness, first allowing himself to be led back to the island and helping to draw back the other Oceanic 6. Once back on the island he is first listless with inaction, as he is unable to rekindle his relationship with Kate. But when the crisis hits, he becomes reinfused with purpose.

And what a purpose. To follow Faraday's mad scheme to nulify the energy below the future Swan Station by detonating a Nuclear Bomb--good ole Jughead.

He shows that he is still their leader and that the bonds that he forged during their 1st hundred days on the island have not been broken. He convinces them to follow him, leads them against the Dharma Initiative's security forces.

They suffers losses, but he perseveres not from skill or luck but because his friends stand by him, fight (and die) for him.

Til he succeeds at his purpose, (with Juliet's sacrifice) and detonates the core of the Jughead bomb.

Jack is an enigma of contradictions. On the Island he is the classic life affirming hero, saving:
the man pinned by wreckage by organizing the crash victims,
Rose by resuscitating her after the crash,
Claire and Hugo from being crushed by the plane's wing,
Boone from drowning,
Charlie from hanging,
them all by finding water,
Shanon from an asthma attack-using only the 'Force' of his will,
Sawyer from his infected bullet wound (with Kate providing the nursing)
Kate & James/Sawyer from being killed by Pickett,
Ben from cancer,
Locke from the smoke monster,
Juliet from being executed for betraying Ben,
again saves all the Losties when Ben orders the Others to kidnap all the Losties woman (with a little help from Hugo and friends)
leads them to the transmission tower and makes contact with the freighter (due to Charlie's sacrifice) bringing them closer to 'rescue'.

But, when their fortunes reaches the nadir and they are at rock bottom in 1977 Dharma Town, Jack reemerges as a leader but his plan, on it's face is not so life affirming as has been his past actions on the Island. He plans to fulfill Faraday's scheme to prevent the future from happening by blowing up a nuclear bomb to wipe out the Swan (and the Island).

So there are many elements of Jack's character which are troublesome when comparing him to the Gunslinger. Specifically his betrayal of his father. First by destroying his father's medical career (by being true to his own duty as a doctor-something we later learn that Christian is very proud of him for) but later by driving him back to alcoholism and out of AA from an insane jealous need to blame someone for his failed marriage.

Is the bomb another insane action taken by Jack when he faces a 'no win' situation.
Or is Jack 'in tune' with his destiny. Is detonating Jughead his transformative moment. This will all depend on where his quest takes him.

The 3rd test is the gunslinger's Quest
What is Jack's Quest. He is certainly driven to be the hero and his life falls apart when he turns from the hero's path. He seems to have a transformative moment when he recovers his faith, his will and determination and ability to lead in 1977 Dharma Town. Jack emerges from the inertia of guilt and finds a faith in his destiny to guide him on his path.

But while Jack becomes the hero--rediscovered and becomes relentless in pursuit of his quest in 1977 Dharma Town, he has not yet discovered the true nature of the quest he follows. He follows it instictively and we must wait til Feb. 2 and Season six to see if Jack is the true gunslinger and where his quest's path leads him, the Losties and their world.

Well that's enough for now.
Take it easy, it aint't all half badd.
mr badd

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