In May of 2010, LOST finishes its six-year run, completing a primetime television saga with possibly the greatest number of TV Dads in any show.
There are at least fifteen characters who are fathers in this series. Some are dead, a few are scattered in alternate timelines, and others become fathers as part of the storyline.
This website usually tracks only the true TV Single Dads shows, but LOST deserves to have a complete rundown of the incredible latticework of dads which is woven through all the characters' backgrounds these past six seasons. Creating another show with such a stack of dads will take quite a few years.
So, let's spend too much time pondering all the various dads scattered through the timelines of LOST, shall we?
There are three true TV Single Dads on this show, and all of them became the single parent of their families in unexpected circumstances.
Take Roger Linus (Jon Gries), for example. The father of Benjamin Linus lost his wife shortly after Ben's birth. Roger's parenthood was one disappointment after another: his career move to the Dharma Station on The Island turned him into a lowly janitor, and his relationship with his son constantly reminded him of the loss of his wife. After Ben was shot by Sayid in 1977, Roger said all he wanted to be "the best father in the world." Based on the evidence of beatings Ben suffered from Roger, this goal probably wasn't going to be attained.
Roger's death in a VW microbus from toxic gas by the hand of his own son brought Roger to a sudden and surprising end.
By a twist of fate - - or rather, by propitious writing - - Roger's corpse provides a weapon for the Losties to strike back against the Others. Roger's body loses an arm to Vincent the dog. Roger's arm, fortunately, has the keys to the microbus where he died - - a microbus that Hugo eventually uses to kill Others on the beach who were holding some of the Losties hostage. So, despite being dead, Roger thwarts the nefarious plans of his son.
In the Sideways Universe, though, Roger had a much different relationship with Ben. Ben was the caretaker of his ailing, aged father, and Roger appreciated the care Ben provided to him.
Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), was the adoptive father to Alex Rousseau (Tania Raymonde) after Ben took the infant child from her mother, Danielle (Mira Furlan).
Upon bringing the baby back to the Others' camp, Ben was told by the then-leader Charles Widmore to kill Alex. Widmore backed down when Ben asked if this was "the will of Jacob."
So, Ben raised Alex as his own daughter, and kept Alex from ever seeing her mother, telling Alex that she was dead. Years later, Charles Widmore sent the mercenary Martin Keamy to The Island. Keamy killed Alex during negotiations with Ben. Ben swore revenge against Widmore and promised to deprive him of his own daughter, Penny. We'll get to that situation a bit later.
In the Sideways Universe, Ben is Alex's high school teacher, and he still looks out for her welfare. Ben collects incriminating information about the school principal, and uses it to blackmail the principal into arranging a scholarship interview for Alex. Apparently they're tied together no matter what Universe they're in.
Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau) is the first TV Single Dad viewers are introduced to in LOST. Michael didn't originally have custody of Walt (Malsolm David Kelley) in his first flashback scenes. Walt's mom, Susan Lloyd (Tamara Taylor) had custody of Walt since Susan and Michael were not married. Susan moved to Amsterdam to pursue a law career. Michael fought to get custody from Susan and her new husband, but failed to regain his son.
Matters took an unexpected turn when Susan died of a strange blood disorder in Australia. Susan's husband told Michael that the custody battle had been Susan's idea, and if Michael still wanted custody of Walt, he could have it. This was the reason Michael and Walt were on Oceanic 815, flying back from Sydney.
On the Island, Walt's health and safety were paramount to Michael, which became the prime motivation for Michael's turn to murder when Walt was kidnapped by The Others. Michael returned to the Hatch to rescue Ben Linus and kill Libby and Ana Lucia. In return for Ben's rescue, Michael and Walt were given a boat by The Others and allowed to leave the Island.
The escape from the Island didn't help Michael overcome his remorse for killing the two castaways. Wracked with guilt, he worked as an undercover assistant for Ben on Widmore's mercenary ship, eventually leading to his own death to save the Oceanic Six from destruction on that ship. Walt never found out what happened to his father.
Michael never appeared in the Sideways Universe, so there's no telling what happened to Michael or Walt in that world.
Although there is a wide variety of parents stirred through this series, many of the dads have a certain commonality of interaction with their kids. Specifically, these dads all seem to have an involvement with their children through the careers they've chosen.
We've already discussed the Linus men, Roger and Ben, who involved their children with the daily operations of the Dharma Initiative and The Others, respectively. Their children weren't "visitors" to the job site but actual, active participants in the activities - - sometimes acting as co-workers with their dads.
Here are a few more examples of where fathers and their children cross the home life /work life line:
Christian Shephard (John Terry) was Chief of Surgery where his son Jack (Matthew Fox) was a neurosurgeon. In flashbacks, Dr. Dad Shepard bails his son out of problems in difficult surgeries, only to have Jack rebuke his father for making Jack look bad in front of the staff. Dad eventually became an alcoholic, shaky surgeon -- and Jack was responsible for having his father's medical license revoked.
Jack would later accompany his father's corpse on Oceanic 815, after Christian mysteriously died of alcohol poisoning in Australia. It would be years until Jack discovered that he and Claire Littleton shared the same father.
Still more time would pass before Jack found out that the apparition of Christian was created by the Smoke Monster as a way to lead Jack to water during his first days on the Island.
In the Sideways Universe, Jack still traveled to Los Angeles back from Australia with Christian's body supposedly in tow, but the coffin was lost in transit.
Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) is only a dad in the Sideways Universe. Although (at the time of this writing) we haven't met the mom, Jack apparently did not win custody of his son David (Dylan Minnette) in the divorce, and only sees David occasionally. David is unimpressed by his father's priorities, and feels like Jack doesn't really care about his life or his interests. His son actively thwarts Jack's interactions with him, even through things like rooting for the L.A. Dodgers instead of Jack's Boston Red Sox. David hides news of a piano competition from Jack, only to have Jack hunt down the location and show up during David's performance.
Eventually, Jack figures out that David did not invite Jack to the competition because David did not want his dad to "see him fail." Jack realizes that his relationship is repeating the interaction Jack had with his own demanding father, and decides to fight against repeating that unhealthly relationship.
Viewers haven't seen Pierre Chang (François Chau) in the Sideways Universe. It's not until Season 5 that we find out Dr. Chang is the father of Miles, a son born on the Island in 1977 while Dad was working for the Dharma Initiative. Miles revealed this relationship to Dr. Chang just before The Incident, and their father-son relationship lasted for only a few moments before the bomb exploded.
Dr. Chang did not know about his son's abilities in reading dead people's thoughts, so it's unexplained if this is a family trait or not.
Another unclear matter is whether the revelation about having a child from the future coming to visit Chang in the past of 1977 affected him in any way while raising baby Miles. We know that Chang survived The Incident in 1977 because he's in later videos produced by Dharma - - obvious, as he's missing an arm in those videos. Perhaps he adopted the same parenting attitude that Eloise practiced: don't tell kids about their own futures.
Mister Paik (Byron Chung), is the president of Paik Heavy Industries, and the father of Sun. He's a pretty ruthless guy who runs his businesses with a heavy hand. Although he kept Sun out of the business for most of her pampered life, he enlists Sun's husband-to-be, Jin, as his personal assistant and chief dirty-deeds doer.
Mr. Paik's relationship with is daughter is very transaction-based. When Sun needs cash, Mister Paik requires "favors" in return for the money.
After the Oceanic Six returned to civilization, Sun used her Oceanic lawsuit money to buy controlling interest in her father's company. So, Dad lost his job and Sun took over the family business.
It seems like the world of LOST would be replete with Bad Dads, but really there's only a handful. The Baddies are quite obvious - - and they're even more self-serving than this already narcissistic stack of characters.
Locke's dad Anthony Cooper (Kevin Tighe), takes the cake on child abuse. First, his con game causes the murder-suicide of Sawyer's parents. Then, Cooper tracks down Locke, only to swindle John out of a kidney.
Years after the transplant, Locke tracks down Cooper to stop yet another con. Cooper shoves Locke out an eight-story window, paralyzing Locke and setting up a series of events that puts John Locke on Oceanic 815.
Cooper winds up on the Karma Express, though - - getting into a car accident staged by the Others, and then taken to The Island to meet his son who lost a kidney and the man who lost his parents, Locke and Sawyer. Cooper overplays his hand, eventually enraging Sawyer enough that Sawyer strangles Cooper with a chain.
In the Sideways Universe, Cooper is the beloved father of John Locke. Locke blames himself for an aircraft accident in which Locke was pilot and Cooper was a passenger. Cooper received major head trauma that robbed him of his awareness of the world around him. Far from being evil, Sideways Cooper is reduced to being a pitiable figure.
Charles Widmore (Alan Dale), the father of both Penny Hume and Daniel Faraday, seems to be one of the prime movers of death and destruction that has rained down on the Islanders for decades.
Once the leader of The Others, Widmore was exiled from the Island by Ben, apparently for fathering Penny off-island. As mentioned earlier, although Widmore claims to care about his daughter, Penny, he shows no hesitation in killing other people's daughters, such as Alex Rousseau, Ben Linus's adopted daughter. Because Widmore killed Alex, he put his own daughter in danger from a retribution murder by Ben. Fortunately for Penny, pity caused Ben to hesitate when he tried to kill the mother of Widmore's grandson.
Widmore's a complicated man, but perhaps one vignette will enlighten the understanding of his soul. In the episode "The Package," Desmond asks Widmore what he knows of sacrifice. Widmore replies that he knows all about sacrifice, considering that his son died, his daughter hated him and he never saw his grandson, all in the name of protecting The Island.
In the Sideways Universe, Widmore is good friends with Penny's husband, Desmond - - quite an odd turn of events in comparison with the rocky Desmond-Widmore relationship in the Prime Universe.
At the time of this writing, the series has a few more episodes to go. Maybe more secrets of what drives Mr. Widmore will be revealed before the series ends. What would cause someone to regard their daughter's life as a secondary consideration?
Perhaps the most relentlessly evil Dad on LOST was Wayne Janssen (James Horan). Although he probably didn't know it, he was Kate's biological father. Janssen was an unrepentent alcoholic who had a violent affair with Kate's mom. Janssen even unsuccessfully tried to seduce Kate. Eventually Kate blew up Janssen's house to stop him from bothering her family ever again.
Janssen's death is a karmic counterpoint to the death of Locke's father. While Locke was unable to kill his own father in retribution for all the evil caused by Locke's dad, Kate showed no hesitation in trying to kill her own father. In many ways, Kate's betrayal of her father more closely resembles the murder by Sawyer of Locke's dad. These were both retribution killings.
According to producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Janssen survived Kate's attempt on his life - - he wasn't at home when his house blew up. In that case, maybe the actions by Kate weren't very karmic at all.
Despite the Bad Dads, there are several shining examples of Good Dads on the show.
Let's begin with Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick), a man who struggled against the evil Charles Widmore in order to be worthy of the love of his Constant, his wife Penelope (Sonja Walger).
Desmond led a life of suffering and denial, joining a monastery to become a monk (only to be fired later on), being drummed out of the Royal Scots Regiment, crashing his boat on The Island, and then being forced by the Dharma Swan Station manager, Kelvin, to push the fail-safe button every 108 minutes for three years.
Despite all these hardships, his focus remained on Penny. Eventually, he found his way back to her. Penny gave birth to their son Charlie, and they sailed around the world, hiding from Penny's dad.
Eventually fate caught up with Desmond Hume. Desmond caught a bullet from Ben Linus's gun, saving his son and Penny from Ben's wild attack. In the hospital, he promised Penny he'd never leave again, although he was unable to keep that promise. Penny's dad kidnapped Desmond and brought him back to The Island.
Desmond appears to be a bridge between the Sideways Universe and the Prime Universe. In the sixth season episode "The Package," Desmond receives a blast of elctromagnetic energy, and crosses over to the Sideways Universe. He meets Penny in the Sideways Universe, and realizes that she is again his Constant between all worlds. To Desmond, his wife and family conquer all the troubles of space and time.
Although he didn't have a story arc as long as most of the other Dads on the series, Sam Austen (Lindsey Ginter) portrayed a caring dad - - even though he knew he was not the biological father of Kate.
While Sam was stationed in Korea, Kate's mom had a torrid affair with the aforementioned Wayne Janssen, eventually becoming pregnant with Kate. Sam realized he was not the father of Kate, but still appreciated her as his own child. Even when Kate turned to a life of crime, Sam protected Kate, even going so far as to jeopardize his job with the Army by failing to call the police when she showed up. The unspoken thought in the episode featuring Sam was that Kate's life would have turned out much better if Sam had been her real father.
"Good" does not always mean "perfect" when discussing Good Dads on LOST. Often the "goodness" turns up in charaters who have made big mistakes in their lives.
Consider Dogen (Hiroyuki Sanada), for instance. Before he came to The Island, Dogen was an up-and-coming banker in Osaka. One night, after a booze-fueled celebration at work, Dogen picked up his son from a baseball game and then wrecked the car. Dogen survived, but his son was critically injured and near death. Jacob appeared to Dogen and asked Dogen to trade his life off the Island for his son's recovery. Dogen agreed in order to save his son's life, and he never saw his son again.
In the Sideways Universe, Dogen's son is a concert pianist. Dogen talks to Jack about his own Sideways Universe child, explaining that it's often difficult to raise talented children. Dogen's nugget of wisdom to Jack may have provided enough information to untangle the relationship problems Jack had with his son.
We've talked about Good Dads, Bad Dads, and just about every attitude in-between those states. One category we've ignored thus far is, well, the Dads who ignore or don't take up on their parental role.
The first major AWOL dad was Thomas (Keir O'Donnell), the absentee father of Claire's baby, Aaron, and one of two Dads on the show who never held their own child in their arms.
Thomas was a classic, two-faced jerk of a dad, at first expressing enthusiasm for the pregnancy, only to follow shortly thereafter with a suggestion that Claire got pregnant on purpose. Thomas's negative tact eventually gave Claire a reason to break up with him.
Claire eventually replaces Thomas's position as pre-natal parent with Charlie from Oceanic 815.
It's mildly surprising that Thomas has not as yet turned up in the Sideways Universe.
Someone who rides the line between Absent Father and Barely-There Daddy is David Reyes (Cheech Marin), Hugo's dad on the show. David took a break from being a father to Hurley for 17 years during Hurley's childhood. The only reason David came back to see Hurley was because Hurley won the Lottery jackpot.
Although David was gone for 17 years, he seems to try to reconnect with Hugo after the Oceanic Six are rescued. Unfortunately, he didn't get much of a chance to reconnect, as Hugo was on the Ajira Airlines flight back to The Island shortly thereafter.
Clementine Phillips was another baby her never met her father, James "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway). Clementine's mother, a former mark of the con artist Sawyer, told Sawyer about the baby when Sawyer was behind bars.
Although Sawyer didn't believe he was the father, he accepted the idea well enough that he opened a bank account for baby Clementine.
When they were trying to escape the Island by helicopter, Sawyer told Kate to look up his daughter's address and give more money to Clementine's mom.
Of all the dads, Jin-Soo Kwan (Daniel Dae Kim) has the most tragic truancy from his daughter. Stranded on the Island over several decades, Jin could not find a means to get back to his wife and child. Until he met Widmore at the Hydra Station and was shown the pictures off Sun's captured cellphone, Jin wasn't sure if he had any children.
The most puzzling part of the story is why Jin wanted to die with Sun instead of thinking of their soon-to-be-orphaned daughter? It must be a strange set of calculations to come up with that idea.
One more minor point: we lose out on seeing Boone's dad, who died after marrying Shannon's mom. Would have been interesting to see what kind of man would have raised Boone to be the man he was.
LOST has run a larger cast of dads than any television program in recent memory. It's quite amazing to pack this many father figures in one show. The fatherhood roles are diverse and deep in LOST, and show a lot of possibilities for the future projects of Lindelhof and Cuse.
The finale may not contain all the answers to what the true drives of these many dads are. The important part of this series is not the destination, but the skill in the storytelling to bring the audience along for the ride.