Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LOST: "Across the Sea" Reflections

Okay, there are definite SPOILERS in this post, so if you haven't watched DO NOT READ! I'VE WARNED YOU!!

wow, this was a doozy of an episode that gave some answers, some more questions, and a lot of head-scratching. It's essentially a prequel to the series as a whole. The episode opens with no recap, and until the edits at the very end, played out without any reference to events that would come later. Until the end, you could have watched this episode before any other episode and not really been spoiled.

Mother tells the boys' mother not to ask questions because every question will lead to more. This is the sort of thing that Damon and Carlton have been saying now for a year, and I think they put that line in specifically for the fans. This episode does open huge cans of worms regarding island origins, and we are being told to just shut up and rest, and accept that we'll never know EVERYTHING.

Isn't it interesting that Jacob and his brother have been black and white from birth, and throughout their entire lives. And when we might finally have gotten a name for him, we don't! She just says, "I only thought of one name" which makes sense since she didn't know she had twins. But did nobody ever give him a name later? Does the Man in Black have a name at all? What did Mother call him? It seems like he's always just "brother", like he's a frackin' Berenstain Bear or something.

I know it's TV, and birth is always fake-looking on TV. Those were the cleanest newborn babies I've ever seen, even for Lost. But can I just ask, didn't it seem like there were no umbilical cords? We've seen three other births on Lost, and it's never seemed so obvious as here. Don't they realize that the audience is sophisticated?

The nature of good and bad is explored more here than for most of the season. Jacob asks whether he is good, and if so why does Mother love him less. We aren't to just accept that Jacob is saintly; he's not. He does what he's told because he is trusting. That informs how he does things for the rest of his life; he expects trust. The Man in Black is curious, and frustrated. He is an instigator. Though he is loved, he knows he's been lied to and wants no part of that lie. He cannot trust ANYTHING Mother says anymore; everything is suspect. There's a very interesting line when Mother says "Jacob doesn't know how to lie." The Man in Black has a capacity for deceit. He can manipulate. He's a schemer, in a way like the Biblical Jacob (there's a twist for you). With Jacob, what you see is what you get. He'll get mad and he'll thrash you. He's not perfect. And yet, he doesn't lie. It's a very interesting dynamic. Whether Jacob was always good and the Man in Black was always bad is irrelevant now. You can sympathize with him, whose "mother" destroyed everything he ever worked for, killing his family and holding him hostage essentially. And yet the being that we NOW know as Man in Black is not quite that man. He is a pillar of smoke, a dangerous presence intertwined with that Man in Black. He still has all of those elements that made the Man in Black sympathetic, yet he is more evil now. Whether Jacob was more good than his brother before, he is certainly more good than his smokey brother now, I think.

Has this episode answered the age old Gary Troup-inspired question; was the Man in Black the "bad twin"?

The casting people did a great job casting young versions of Jacob and the MIB. Also, I didn't pay close attention, but I don't think that it was the same kid who they've been seeing on the island that some think was Jacob. Does anyone know?

I'd even go so far as to say that the Man in Black is a kind of anti-Christ figure. Again, Jacob is spoken of with God-like language. "You look down on them from above." The episode is rife with varied mythological imagery. It's telling when he says "I've lived among them for 30 years." Just like Jesus? And he is murdered! And he is resurrected, sort of, but in a terrible form. There are also vague Cain and Abel similarities, though which is which? It's obviously not allegory since neither is exactly pure. Jacob is more obedient to his Mother, but she loves the other one more. Jacob is the aggressor, who beats on his brother twice, and ultimately kills him (though whether he truly intended to kill him is questionable).

We got an answer about who built the wells. The "light", whatever it is, is somehow related to the electromagnetic energy of the island. And we saw the Donkey Wheel! But wait... all the wells were stopped up, right? And the people were killed, and the homes were destroyed. So did the Smokey MIB go back later and finish building the wheel system? And we still don't know why that cavern was all filled with ice. It also seems like going into the light is responsible for making Smokey the way he is, so why can Ben and Locke leave the island that way unharmed? Did that pocket of energy always move the island? See what I mean about more questions???

I very much want to know what the timeline is for the island. We are never shown the Tawaret statue in this episode, which is odd considering Jacob seems to live in it later on. And yet, it being Egyptian, one would think it must have been built before hand. We don't know when exactly this episode takes place. We do know that it must be before Richard came in the 16th Century. We also know that it is in an age when iron tools have been made, people speak Latin (like Mother) and traverse the ocean in ships. This still doesn't limit time very much though, since man has been sailing since they settled the Mediterranean, and quite possibly earlier, to the tune of tens of thousands of years ago. The same goes for iron tools (I'm using iron because of the obvious magnetic properties of MIB's dagger). If we go from Biblical records, Cain's great great great great grandson is said to have made iron tools. So the most helpful points in dating the episode come from the language spoken. If indeed it was Latin Mother spoke, as it sounded, that would place this episode sometime after the founding of Rome. It's likely to have been in any case, since I would assume the Egyptian influence on the island predates this episode. Unfortunately, that's still thousands of years to play with.

What we thought began with Jacob of course began with Mother, and likely with others before her. When she was killed, she thanked the Man in Black. She didn't seem to age. Apparently the act of protecting the island is a sacred oath which makes you immortal. She wanted to leave too, but she needed a replacement. She was really sort of insane, wasn't she? Like she had elements of Rousseau about her. But things that both of the brothers have said are direct quotes from her. She started that whole thing about how it always ends the same way. Why does she mistrust people so much? Who brought her here and left her? I believe her when she says she came by accident. So let's not blame Jacob exclusively for bringing people to the island and toying with them; this sort of thing predates him! I'd like to know, even IF it was Egyptians who built these things, etc, why did they leave? How did they get to the island in the first place? I could believe that they were killed by Roman conquest of the island, and then somehow the Romans were destroyed.

The waterfall of light is sort of a Pandora's Box. When we first saw it I wondered "is this the magic box?" and I still kind of wonder. Someone always has to protect it, or else it will go dark, she said. Well, that particular outlet DID go dark when the Man in Black went in and became Smoke. So I don't doubt that perhaps it cannot leave the island without destroying the light that Mother said was inside all men.

When Jacob became the guardian of the waterfall, it was a very interesting ceremony. After saying some ceremonial words (and I would LOVE some Latin scholar to translate that for us!), she passes Jacob a cup of wine to drink. She then says "We are now the same". It's a kind of communion. It even seems to pass on the gift of immortality. Just as Jesus said that "Whoso... drinketh my blood [the wine] hath eternal life." This leads me to a whole secondary theory. We know that Jacob was mortal in that the Man in Black's loophole allowed him to die. We also know that Jacob somehow was able to make Richard immortal. This logically tells me that that day on the beach, Jacob performed the ceremony with Richard, passing the immortality on to him. THAT's the thing that Richard knows what to do next. When the final candidate is revealed (and duh, it's Jack) Richard will do the little wine ceremony and make Jack immortal. Then Richard will finally be able to die. The only problem with this theory is it doesn't explain why Jacob didn't age for another 400 years. But maybe that's just how it works.

We are never told WHY the Man in Black is unable to kill Jacob, even besides the guarding the island stuff. Mother says "I've made it so you can never hurt each other". Now, this is sort of not true, since the Man in Black was essentially murdered by Jacob. But perhaps that has more to do with him going into the light and becoming the Smoke Monster. Maybe the Smoke Monster killed him, taking him over and leaving a husk.

And we did get a big revelation. We found out where those black and white stones came from back in "House of the Rising Sun" (though the white stone looked totally whiter in the future than it did here), and we learned who Adam and Eve were. It was dun dun dun the Man in Black!! And his mother!! As I long suspected, they were both killed and placed in those positions by a third party, Jacob! Now, my problem with this revelation is Jack's assessment of the decay. He says they died "at least 40 or 50 years ago". Well, that's a frickin' understatement. Try 4 or 5 hundred years! Or even THOUSAND. We just don't know. So shouldn't they have decayed more rapidly? Is Jack just not much of a forensic scientist? Has the decay been slowed, or were they somehow fossilized? Well, at least we can't say they never told us who they were. Isn't it interesting then that the Man in Black, as Christian Shepherd, led Jack to the site where his rotting bones lay.

I want to know what exactly happened to the Man in Black once he crossed the threshold of light. Somehow he was taken over by the smoke thing, but it left his body behind. It left it, but gained an ability to appear. This explains some of what he said about Jacob "stealing my body" earlier. Did the same thing happen to the French team? Are there bodies of them down in the tunnels? It didn't seem to work that way with Sayid or with Ben. So far that means that when Smoke becomes someone, he leaves a body. Yemi's body was in the plane. Locke's body was on the plane. MIB's body was in a tree. So... just what the heck happened to Christian Shepherd's body, dang it?

Why exactly does the Smoke kill so many people? He seemed to agree with Mother that mankind was bad, but is that the only reason?

When they are playing the game (whatever game it was; a proto-backgammon?), the Kid in Black tells Jacob that when he makes up a game he can make his own rules. So does this mean these scenarios where Jacob brings people to the island was his game? And the "rules", are these Jacob's rules? So does that mean it was all kind of the Man in Black's idea?

So we know that they can't leave the island via the light or they will become evil and die or something. ...But why exactly could they not leave across the sea? That part I don't understand. Was she just trying to keep them there until she had established a replacement? ...And if they were such a threat, why did Mother wait thirty years to kill everyone else?

On the whole this was a very interesting episode. It's actually a first for the show; never has an entire episode been set away from the main characters completely in a different time. Besides the teeny little flash forward at the end (which is really just to make it clear to the dumb people in the audience what we're seeing), there are no flashbacks or flash forwards. Every other episode has had some sort of time traveling "device" to tell story. This one doesn't. It also doesn't feature any of our main characters proper or their stories. That's interesting. I did find a lack of certain elements frustrating, most because there are only two episodes left. I also do not understand, since it was done with such reasonable success here, why we COULDN'T have just been told the story of the French people or the Dharma people or whatever without all the time travel nonsense that seemed to come and go for no reason and compress the logical timeline. But that's just me.

What do you think, was this episode successful?

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