Standing Watch: Human Nature in The Booth at the End & Lost

I was initially very reluctant to watch The Booth at the End when Cody pitched it to me — a feeling that, while recurring, is almost always unfounded. It might have been that I didn’t want to get involved with another series at the time or that he didn’t do a very good job pitching it to me, but I changed my mind about the series within a few minutes of starting the first episode. There is no way that I could watch the Man in the Booth sit down with these desperate people, casually peering into this mystical Book filled with unthinkable tasks to bring upon impossible results and not continue watching. Were the tasks designed to be so terrible that they would never be completed or does the Man just pit the people against each other so that neither party could ever succeed? What if they do complete their task? How would the Man make good on his promises to cure a child of cancer or an old man from his Alzheimer’s?  I had to know how the trick was done.

There isn’t much for me to say about the masterpiece of a miniseries that Cody hasn’t already said in his review, so I’d like to take things in a different direction tonight. I’d like to talk about The Booth at the End with respect to Lost. This article will have some spoilers for all seasons of both The Booth at the End and Lost — readers beware.

While it is true that both series are mechanically very similar, featuring character-driven storylines with intertwined “fates” and a curious, yet effective, combination of science-fiction and fantasy, that is not what I would like to talk about tonight. It is more important to me that both series raise questions about human nature. Lost was not shy about posing and tackling important, philosophical questions (take a second look at the character names if you were asleep for six seasons) and whether humans are inherently good or evil is easily one of the most prominent questions in the series.

In Lost, it is fairly clear who supports which side of the argument. Jacob’s ‘mother’ raised him to believe in humanity’s capability for good (even if they need a little nudge in the right direction sometimes) while the Man in Black’s troubled past left him a bit more cynical. The Man in Black argues that “[the candidates] come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt — it always ends the same”, to which Jacob replies “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is progress”. To Jacob, it doesn’t matter what his candidates did before they got to the Island or that they all brought about their own death and destruction in the end because they accomplished great things together along the way.

The same could be said about The Man in The Booth at the End — the only difference being that the argument takes place within one man (The Man in the Booth) rather than between the two opposing factions present in Lost. Views on the subject are more concrete on the Lost side of things, but the Man’s thoughts can sometimes be gleaned from his interactions with those he tasks. The Man requires complete honesty and detailed explanation of their actions, thoughts and feelings while they go through with their tasks so that he might gain some insight into what motivates these people. The Man makes sure that while he might “feed monsters”, the people know what they do, they do for their own benefit, and that he is only a purveyor of opportunities — with some small hope that they might turn and leave the booth and all of the darkness held within it behind.

I’d like to think in a post-Hurley-and-Ben Island, the Man would take over as protector and would spend his time researching his candidates in the booth. The Man in the Booth would spend his days trying to find what these men and women desire and what motivates these desires. The Man in the Booth, like Jacob, does not interfere with the tasks of his candidates (even when they want to exterminate an entire culture), but wants them to come to the correct conclusion about good and evil on their own. They both facilitate darkness by not stepping in, but that inaction stems from an unshakable faith in their candidates’ ability to do the right thing on their own. Though, if we look at the the Man in the Booth as an advocate of Jacob’s philosophy, who or what represents the Man in Black?

The Book.

While we have little in terms of history for the Man or the Book, it is clear that there is something supernatural going on here. The Book has to be related to the mysterious (and somewhat ominous) third party that is brought up in the discussions between the Man and Doris in the second season. The Man had to receive the Book from somewhere and signs seem to point to the fact that it was a task of his, given to him by someone who did his job before him — just like Jacob.

That means the Book serves the same purpose as the Man in Black in Lost: offering destructive paths to achieve the candidates’ goals, leaving the Man in the Booth to offer up the instructions and hope for the best. However, like a true disciple of Jacob, the Man in the Booth does find a way through one of his candidates (Doris, the Man in the Booth’s Richard) to step in and help guide a few of them down the right path — away from the book and its corruption.

Am I completely off-basis with this comparison? Maybe, but, the connections I formed between Lost and The Booth at the End were most likely the reason why I was able to pick up The Booth at the End as quickly as I did. The series fit right in to the Lost-shaped hole in my heart. Since we’ve spent two seasons, as short as they might have been, with this Man in the Booth and we barely know who he is, the best way that I can cement my theories about The Booth at the End is to look at it in the light of another series.

By looking at the two series alongside each other, I feel like I have taken a step closer to solving the mystery of the Man. It is clear to me that he has some desire to understand humanity in a way that only someone who is outside of it can — someone like Jacob and the Man in Black. I have to make these comparisons to try to better understand the Man in the Booth: who he is, why he does what he does and what he hopes to gain from it all.

After all, that’s what he would do in my position.

Unfortunately, The Booth at the End  is stuck in hiatus at the moment with no news about whether or not it will come back. If you have watched the series and enjoyed it (how could you not), I implore you to share it with your friends, family and unwitting strangers that you cross during your day so that we might see another stack of magic about a Man, a Book and a Booth.

What do you think about The Booth and the End in relation to Lost? I’d love to hear what you think (even if it is just about The Booth at the End or how wrong my first article is). Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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