Man in Black (Lost)

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The Man in Black
Lost character
The Man in Black in "Across the Sea"
First appearance "Pilot, Part 1"
Last appearance "The End"
Created by
Portrayed by Titus Welliver (real form)
Ryan Bradford (real form, child)
John Terry (Christian)
Adetokumboh M'Cormack (Yemi)
Tania Raymonde (Alex)
Terry O'Quinn (Locke)
Species Human
Gender Male
Relatives Jacob (Twin Brother), Claudia (Mother), Woman (Adoptive Mother)
Nationality Roman
Centric Episodes "The Incident", "Across the Sea"

The entity referred to most frequently as The Man in Black (referred to as The Smoke Monster by the main characters)[1] is a fictional character and the main antagonist on the American ABC television series Lost.[2] He appeared primarily as a cloud of black smoke ("The Smoke Monster") until the final episode of season five, where he appeared as a middle-aged man dressed in black. In season six, he primarily appeared in the physical form of John Locke. He exhibited the ability to "scan" the minds and memories of others, allowing him to confront characters such as Mr. Eko and Ben, with "judgment" (a replay of their pasts), and to assume the forms and memories of the deceased, starting with the original Man in Black himself, being Jacob's brother, or Christian, Yemi, Alex, and Locke. According to Jacob, who explains this to Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell), it is the incarnation of evil, and its primary goal—to escape from the island—would be the "end of everything good".

Various other characters have implied that his escape would be catastrophic and could even cause the destruction of reality. A longtime resident of the island that serves as the main setting of Lost, the true nature of the Man in Black was long shrouded in mystery. It had been described by Lost producer Damon Lindelof as "one of the biggest secrets" of the mythology,[3] and the producers have often hinted that the black cloud of smoke was not a monster in the traditional sense.[4][5] TV Guide included him in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.[6]


Before the crash of Oceanic 815[edit]

The Man in Black's earliest chronological appearance occurs in the sixth-season episode "Across the Sea", which depicted his birth on the island to a woman named Claudia (Lela Loren), whose ship wrecked off-shore. An unnamed woman on the Island (Allison Janney) delivers him and his twin brother Jacob but killed their mother and raised them herself. Jacob is swaddled in light cloth, while the Man in Black in dark. The woman raises the twins to be ignorant of a world beyond the island and of death itself. She also raises them to be distrustful of humanity, whom she regards as corrupt and dangerous. At age thirteen, the twins discover the other survivors of Claudia's ship on the island, and their adoptive mother takes them to a mysterious cave filled with light with a stream running into it. She tells them it is "the heart of the island", and one day they will be its caretakers. Soon after, Claudia's ghost appears to the young Man in Black, and tells him the truth. After he confronts his adoptive mother with this, he leaves to join Claudia's crew. Jacob visits his brother at the survivors' camp at various points over the course of the next 30 years, during which time the Man in Black comes to believe his mother was right in calling humanity inherently corrupt. Despite this, he stays with the crew, because they are a means to his finding a way off the island, which involves their use of the island's strange electromagnetic properties. When the woman learns this, she appoints Jacob as the new caretaker of "the heart of the Island." She then visits the Man in Black at the bottom of a well, where he is planning to install a wheel to enable his use of the energy to leave the island. She knocks him unconscious, and then apparently massacres the people in the camp and destroys the well. Enraged, the Man in Black kills her with a dagger. Jacob retaliates by beating his brother and throwing him in the stream leading down the tunnel of light. A cloud of black smoke then emerges from the cave, suggesting it is the Man in Black's consciousness. After a while, Jacob finds the Man in Black's body in a pool nearby, and places it in a cave with his adoptive mother's corpse, along with a pouch containing the black and white stones they used in their game as children. It is consequently suggested that the black smoke's ability to take shape of dead people on the island led it to adopt the Man in Black's shape.[7]

The next chronological appearance of the Man in Black and Jacob was in "The Incident", in which they talk on the beach as the Black Rock ship approaches. The Man in Black (who looks like his real form) states that he knows the ship was brought by Jacob, and expresses his disapproval of Jacob bringing people to the Island—stating that all they bring is corruption and destruction. The Man in Black tells Jacob he wishes to kill him, but their adoptive mother had prevented the Man in Black from hurting Jacob, so he sought a "loophole" to kill him.[8] Soon after, the Black Rock crashes onto the island, the Man in Black appears as the smoke monster and kills everyone on board except Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell). He then returns in the form of Isabella, Richard's dead wife, telling him they are in hell, and tricks him into thinking that Jacob has taken her, letting Alpert know that he is the "smoke monster" but could not save Isabella from Jacob. Later, in the Man in Black's form, he frees Richard and gives him a knife to kill Jacob, whom the Man in Black refers to as "the devil." However, Jacob convinces Richard otherwise. Shortly after, Jacob visits the Man in Black and states that as long as he (Jacob) is alive, the Man in Black will never leave the Island. The Man in Black then vows to kill Jacob and his subsequent replacements.[9]

In 1988, the Man in Black as the smoke monster attacks Danielle Rousseau (Melissa Farman)'s crew who are joined by a time-traveling Jin (Daniel Dae Kim). The Man in Black drags Montand, the crew's leader, under the Temple wall, and after the remaining crew attempts to rescue him, he infects them with "the Sickness", causing them to "change".[10]

After the crash of Oceanic 815[edit]

Immediately after the crash of Oceanic 815, the Man takes the form of Christian Shephard and instructs the dog Vincent to go find Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox). Then the Man in Black, in the form of the smoke monster, rips the pilot (Greg Grunberg) from the cockpit of the plane and kills him, leaving his mangled body in a tree; the pilot's corpse is found by Jack, Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly), and Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan).[11] Later, the Man in Black as the smoke monster encounters John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) in the jungle, although he leaves Locke unharmed. John later tells Jack, "I looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw was beautiful."[12] Locke would later tell Eko that he first saw a bright, beautiful light when seeing the monster the first time. Later, the Man in Black attacks the survivors as the monster again; he attempts to drag Locke down a hole but is stopped by Jack and Kate, who throw dynamite at the monster.[13]

The Man in Black then confronts Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) as the monster. As Eko stares down the Man in Black, he sees flashing images of his past.[14] In a second instance, the Man in Black takes the form of Mr. Eko's brother, Yemi (Adetokumboh McCormack), and demands Mr. Eko to repent for his sins. When Eko refuses, the Man in Black briefly disappears, only to return as the monster. He then kills Eko by slamming him repeatedly against nearby trees and the ground.[15] The Man in Black also appears to Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Kate as the monster; during the encounter, the monster releases a series of bright flashes. The Man in Black reappears later, and it is revealed it cannot penetrate the sonar fence that surrounds the Barracks.[16]

After becoming enraged over the death of his adoptive daughter Alex Rousseau (Tania Raymonde) at the hands of Charles Widmore (Alan Dale)'s mercenaries, Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) rushes to a hidden room below his home at the barracks, which has an ancient stone door covered with hieroglyphs; in the room, he drains a small pool, which summons the Man in Black as the monster to attack the mercenaries.[17] As some of the survivors are preparing to leave the island, the Man in Black keeps Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin) company in the form of her father Christian Shephard (John Terry), and he tells her the Others took her son Aaron. When John Locke enters a cabin Horace Goodspeed had built in the '70s, the Man in the form of Christian Shephard falsely tells John he is giving instructions from Jacob, and tells him that he needs to move the Island.[18][19][20]

After the crash of Ajira 316[edit]

Following Ajira 316's crash on the Island, the Man in Black appears as Christian Shephard to Sun and Lapidus, informing them of the time travel undergone by the rest of the Oceanic 6. He then takes the form of the deceased Locke, whose body was on the plane, and tricks everyone into thinking Locke was brought back to life.[8][21] Later, Ben tells the Man in Black, who he thinks is Locke, that he must travel to the monster's lair, which lies beneath the temple wall, to be judged for his complicity in his daughter's death. The Man in Black separates from Ben at the Temple and confronts Ben as the monster. After the Man in Black retreats back into a vent, he reappears to Ben as Alex's manifestation, warning Ben to follow "Locke's" every word, to which he complies.[22] The Man in Black (in the form of John Locke), Ben, and Sun Kwon (Yunjin Kim), arrive at one of the Others' camps. The Man in Black then instructs Richard to find a time-traveling Locke, and tell him he must die to bring his friends back to the island. Later, The Man in Black demands Richard take him and the Others to see Jacob, to which Richard reluctantly complies. The next day, he tells Ben of his plan to kill Jacob. Later, Ben informs the Man in Black of Alex's threat, to which the Man in Black replies by telling Ben to kill Jacob. After arriving at Jacob's residence at the four-toed statue, the two enter and meet Jacob. Ben tells Jacob how he has sacrificed and suffered for the island but still had been ignored by Jacob. Ben then proceeds to stab Jacob, whom the Man in Black kicks into a fire.[8][23]

Later, Jacob's protectors enter the statue and attempt to kill the Man in Black, who changes into the monster and kills them. After the men are all dead, the Man in Black reveals to Ben that his intention is to "go home." After exiting the statue, the Man in Black knocks out Richard and carries him into the jungle.[24] Shortly after, the Man in Black offers Richard a second chance to join him, which Richard refuses. The Man in Black then tracks down a drunken Sawyer (Josh Holloway), who recently lost Juliet. Sawyer realizes the Man in Black is not John Locke, but agrees to follow him after he tells Sawyer why he is on the Island in the first place. Sawyer and the Man in Black eventually reach a cave near a ledge, which has writing all over its walls. The writings are all people's names with numbers beside them. The Man in Black reveals to Sawyer the names represent the candidates to replace Jacob. He then has Sawyer join him on a mission to leave the island.[25]

Later, the Man in Black recruits Sayid to his side by promising him his love Shannon back. He requests Sayid deliver a message to the Others, warning them to leave the Temple by sundown or they will be killed. He also requests he kill Dogen, since Dogen being alive keeps the Man in Black from entering the Temple. After Sayid kills Dogen, the Man in Black enters the Temple as the monster and kills all the Others remaining inside. After this, he gathers the Others that joined him, along with Sayid, Claire, and Kate.[26]

Soon after, the Man in Black sends Sawyer on a recon mission to Hydra Island. Sawyer returns from Hydra Island and tells the Man in Black all the Ajira passengers are dead and Charles Widmore and his team are on the other Island, where they have set up a sonar fence.[27] After Jin is taken from his camp by Widmore's men, the Man in Black takes Sayid with him to Hydra Island. He arrives on Hydra Island by himself, and confronts Widmore. After warning Widmore, the Man in Black returns to the main island, while Sayid spies on Widmore's team.[28] After Sayid comes back, he shows the Man in Black Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick). The Man in Black takes Desmond to an old well. After explaining its origins, the Man in Black throws Desmond down the well. On returning to his camp, Hurley's group arrives to join him.[29]

The Man in Black instructs Sawyer to get a sailboat and bring it to a meeting point. He also instructs Sayid to kill Desmond at the bottom of the well. Sawyer steals the boat and takes some of the survivors with him to the Hydra Island. Jack jumps off the boat since he doesn't think they should leave the Island, and washes up next to the Man in Black. Widmore uses artillery shells to bomb the Man in Black's group and they flee into the jungle.[20] The Man in Black and Jack arrive at the Hydra Island with Sayid and rescue the survivors from Widmore. After the Man in Black then recovers C4 from the Ajira Flight 316, he and the survivors head to Widmore's submarine to leave the island. However, Sawyer steals the sub with all of the survivors and the candidates on it, except for Claire. Jack then discovers the Man in Black inserted the C4 into Jack's backpack with a timer attached to it. Sawyer tries to pull the wires out, but Jack tells him not to since he has figured out the Man in Black can't kill the candidates himself and wants them to kill each other. He asks Sawyer to let it run down to zero, but Sawyer pulls the wires out anyway. As a result, the timer speeds up and the bomb detonates. The aftermath results in the death of Jin, Sun and Sayid.[30]

Later, The Man in Black arrives at the Barracks, and obtains information from Widmore that Desmond is immune to electromagnetism. After Ben kills Widmore, the Man in Black recruits him and reveals his plan to use Desmond to destroy the Island.[31]

The Man in Black finds Desmond and meets up with Jack's group on the way to the "heart of the island." After having Desmond remove the cork from the center of the "heart of the island", the Island proceeds to crumble. However, with the cork being removed from the "heart of the Island", the Man in Black is mortal again. During an intense fight with Jack, the Man in Black stabs him, but before he can finish Jack off, Kate shoots him in the back. Despite this, the Man in Black thinks they're "too late" to save the island, but Jack makes him realize his defeat, then kicks him off the cliff.[32]


The smoke monster is established in Lost in the first episode, "Pilot".[11] The producers' initial plan was for the monster to represent the id, in a manner similar to the "id monster" from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet.[33] This idea was changed by the end of season one, when the character Danielle Rousseau describes the monster as a "security system" that protects the island.[13][33] This plan was continued into season five, when Rousseau's husband, Robert, describes the monster as a security system that guards the island's temple.[10] It was not until season six that it was established that the monster was also the Man in Black.[24]

The original appearance of the Man in Black as the monster was the first major plot twist of the sixth-season premiere of Lost and changed how the viewers and characters perceived the Island. In "Pilot", Rose comments: "I keep thinking, there was something familiar about it." The producers had difficulty finding the right sound for the monster to make, and eventually settled on the receipt printer from a New York City taxi, which is why Rose, from The Bronx, New York, finds it familiar.[34]

Prior to the revelation of the monster as the Man in Black, one theory suggested that the monster was a cloud of nanobots, similar to Michael Crichton's novel Prey.[4][5] In the March 21, 2008, official Lost podcast, executive producer Damon Lindelof said that manifestations of the monster included Yemi and the Medusa Spider that bit Nikki and Paulo.[35]

In reference to Jacob and the Man in Black, Lindelof stated that, regarding the scene in "Pilot, Part 2" where Locke explains to Walt the premise of backgammon using the concept of light and dark, he and fellow co-creator J. J. Abrams had planned for those two sides to eventually be personified by two individuals.[36] Originally, the name "Samuel" was used in scripts to refer to the Man in Black, but the writers ultimately decided not to use the name in dialogue, feeling that leaving the character unnamed was more interesting.[1] In a comedic short shown at Comic-Con 2011, the man in black is "revealed" to be named Barry.[37]


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