Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lost 6x09: Ab Aeterno

“The cork... is this island. And it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.”

Ab Aeterno, Latin for "from the beginning of time", implicitly promised to finally shed some light on the enigma that is Richard Alpert. It did so, magnificently, while at the same time unexpectedly clarifying the overall purpose of the island, Jacob's role thereon, and the struggle between he and his nemesis in black.

Sidestepping the flash sideways and returning to the tried and true flashback, this episode beautifully unfolded Richard's story: he was brought to the island in chains aboard the Black Rock, sold into slavery after accidentally murdering a doctor while seeking medicine for his dying wife. Saved from death at the hands of his slave master by Smokey, Richard was ultimately approached by the Man in Black, who used a cruder version of the long con he employed on Ben to set Richard off on a Jacob-killing mission. After a beat down at the hands of Jacob (now both island powers have been shown manhandling Richard) and a surprisingly forthright explanation of the island's purpose and Jacob's role on it, Richard swore his allegiance to Jacob and vowed to serve as an intermediary between Jacob and the people he brings to the island.

Jacob's explanation that the island is keeping evil from spreading into the greater world (as illustrated by the wonderful wine bottle metaphor) was the most surprising revelation of the night, and suggests huge implications for the sideways reality. It's never been more clear that Jacob, while not easy or straight-forward, is the white piece on the board game of Lost, while Smokey is the black piece. But if the island is containing evil and the sideways reality is a world without the island, suggesting evil has escaped, then why do so many of the sideways' character seem to be better off in a world of uncontained evil? Is there a twist coming, something to suggest that evil must be released from the island? Did evil sink with the island? Or is the sideways world headed for an unimaginable catastrophe brought on by all the evil that is no longer stoppered by the island?   

Stuff Worth Mentioning
Of all the things I expected to open the episode, a return to the Jacob/Ilana flashback from "The Incident" wasn't one of them.


Richard's assertion that everyone is dead and the island is hell was a nice bit of fan service, and also echoed what Anthony Cooper told Sawyer while in the Black Rock's brig in season three's, uh, "The Brig".

As suggested by the blast door map in season two, Magnus Hanso was the captain of the Black Rock.

Smokey's murder of the slave master was similar to how he killed the pilot of flight 815 in "The Pilot".

Smokey's "flashing" of Richard was similar to what he did to Juliet and Kate in season two's "Left Behind".

It's probably not important, especially this late in the game, but when the Man in Black and Richard were talking, the Man in Black referred to Richard as "my friend" in the same way and with the same frequency as Caesar did last season (before Ben shotgunned him to death). 


The Man in Black offered Richard something (freedom) but the Man in Black named the price (Richard agreed to do anything he asked) whereas Jacob offered Richard something (a job) but told Richard to name his price.

As it seems highly unlikely the Isabella who was talking to Hurley was a manifestation of Smokey, it seems more clear that there are at least two different manifestations of the dead on the island: Smokey taking the form of the dead (or giving people visions of the dead in dreams), and actual ghostly manifestations, as seen by Hurley.


Like "The Other 48 Days", "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "Meet Kevin Johnson", this episode told its flashback story uninterrupted. 

I'm assuming at this point that the Others came about after Richard assumed his role on the island. Jacob said that everyone that arrived on the island before him was dead, so presumably, with Richard able to intervene on Jacob's behalf, more of the people Jacob brought to the island survived, and they became the Others.

Questions Answered
Jacob specifically tasked Ilana with protecting the six remaining candidates, suggesting that flashback took place after Locke's death (so that the six candidates were Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley and Jin or Sun).

The Black Rock was washed so far inland by a massive tidal wave, the same tidal wave which destroyed the statue.


FLocke told Richard he was "happy to see him out of those chains" in "LA X" in order to let Richard know who FLocke really was. 

Richard was a slave aboard the Black Rock. He agreed to serve as Jacob's liaison to the people Jacob brought to the island in an attempt to prevent those people from falling so easily under the Man in Black's sway. Because Jacob could neither resurrect Richard's wife nor absolve him of his sins, in exchange for his service he made Richard immortal so that Richard would never have to face judgment.

The gift of immortality Jacob bestowed upon Richard by touching him was specific to Richard.

The island is a cork that keeps evil from spilling out and covering the rest of the world.

The Man in Black believes people are inherently evil and corruptible. Jacob believes that left to their own devices, people are good and will choose redemption, so to prove the Man in Black wrong he brings people to the island, a place where they get a fresh start, where their pasts don't matter.

Questions Asked
Reasked from "The Incident" but how did Ilana get injured? What's her relationship with Jacob? 

If Smokey killed everyone aboard the Black Rock, then how did the ship's log get off the island and put into the auction where Widmore bought it in "The Constant"?

The Man in Black said that Jacob took his body and his humanity...so whose body is he mimicking when he's talking to Richard?

What is it about that dagger that makes it able to kill (apparently) both Jacob and Smokey? 


Probably not important, but how did Richard come to take the last name Alpert?
 
Where did the Others come from? Did Richard "found" them? Are their rules and way of life a product of Richard's interpretation of Jacob's desires, or does Jacob speak directly to the Others through Richard? 

So, if the island is the cork that keeps the evil wine in the bottle, then are the Flash Sideways showing us a world in which that evil has escaped, or did the evil sink with the island?

Next Week: The Package
The inevitable letdown, made moreso by what looks to be a Sun episode.

8 comments:

  1. Maybe the Sun episode will be awesome? I'm hoping that maybe it will return to the whole Jin and Sayid thing in the sideways verse and i'm keen to see where that's going.
    Also maybe she'll finally reunite with Jin

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hope it'll be awesome...I'm just not very confident that a Sun episode won't be a significant letdown from an episode like this. Though it would be nice to go back the "Jin in a fridge" business from the flash sideways.

    Still, at least it's not a Kate episode....

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think it's no coincidence that one of the (if not the) best episodes of the season was a flashback. Without going into too much detail, I heard a podcast discuss that it's tougher for a viewer to be "invested" in the flash-sideways because they have no idea what they're really watching. I tend to agree.

    There seems to be dual reasons for bringing people to the island. Either it's to prove to Smokey that some people can resist corruption or to find a candidate to replace Jacob or...both?

    Something about the idea that Jacob is completely good and the Others were strictly adhering to his will seems a bit odd. The Others pulled a lot of dick moves early in the series.

    However, as evidence by Ben once having some sort of "control" over Smokey (or at least thinking he did), perhaps Smokey was also influencing the Others?

    When Richard said his life was longer than you could possibly imagine I figured it was more than 150 years...I can imagine that.

    "The Black Rock was washed so far inland by a massive tidal wave, the same tidal wave which destroyed the statue."

    Picking Nits (and maybe it's just wording): The tidal wave technically didn't destroy the statue, the Black Rock did via the tidal wave.

    Ekko also got "analyzed" by Smokey and it was shown much more in depth than other times. I was nerdy enough to go frame by frame to see the pictures within Smokey...although none of them cleared anything up.

    I've noticed early on in the series, and it continues with Richard, that many of the characters have killed someone before coming to the islant. I wonder if this is significant in any way to the plot or if it's just thematic.

    Obviously Jacob and Smokey is a big time metaphor for God and Satan. Jacob seems to be God in that he influences everything but works in mysterious ways and is tough to get answers from.

    Smokey is the devil because he promises the world....and kills a lot.

    However, I haven't ruled out the more literal translation. Perhaps they are God and Satan. Of course, you'd think God would have the ability to absolve Richard of his sins. So maybe Jacobs is just an angel protecting the world from the devil or a demon?

    Or maybe it has nothing to do with Judeo-Christian mythology and is just symbology.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @D. Bitz: it's tougher for a viewer to be "invested" in the flash-sideways because they have no idea what they're really watching. I tend to agree.

    As do I. I think the flash sideways will play A LOT better in a rewatch, after we know what their deal is and how much we're supposed to care about what happens in them.

    Either it's to prove to Smokey that some people can resist corruption or to find a candidate to replace Jacob or...both?

    I've wondered about that too...are all the people brought to the island candidates, either by default or because Jacob only brings candidates to the island, or are people brought to the island to prove MiB wrong, while at the same time, Jacob checks to see if any are candidate-worthy?

    Something about the idea that Jacob is completely good and the Others were strictly adhering to his will seems a bit odd. The Others pulled a lot of dick moves early in the series.

    Yeah, after this episode, the Others stand as the biggest unresolved mystery for me (well, the Others and some more island stuff, like where Jacob/MiB came from and the deal with the Egyptian ruins all over the island). Part of me wonders if the explanation for why the followers of Jacob (the good guy) do dick things doesn't lie in his assertion that he doesn't want to tell people what's right or wrong. So while the Others swear their allegiance to Jacob, he's never going to step in and directly say, even through Richard, something like "mass murdering Dharma isn't a good idea" or "just ASK Jack to remove your tumor".

    Jacob is all hands off, and thus, over time, maybe his message/wishes get twisted and subverted by the human nature of his followers?

    I figured it was more than 150 years...I can imagine that.

    Ha! Yeah, I thought the same thing. Apparently, Richard doesn't live in a world with science fiction and fantasy, in which a 150 year old character is relatively young...

    The tidal wave technically didn't destroy the statue, the Black Rock did via the tidal wave.

    Well, I phrased it that way because other people were picking nits that the statue should have shattered the Black Rock, not vice versa, or that, at least, both should have been destroyed on impact. So, I guess, pick which nits you like best!

    I've noticed early on in the series, and it continues with Richard, that many of the characters have killed someone
    before coming to the islant.


    That's a good point. I have no idea if it means something or is just symbolic/thematic.

    Jacob seems to be God in that he influences everything but works in mysterious ways and is tough to get answers from.

    Indeed, he reminded me a lot of Old Testament God, especially with his whole "I don't want to tell them what's right and wrong, I want them to figure it out themselves" schtick.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, they can argue about the physics all they want, but I believe the MiB said something to the affect of "Your ship came crashing through that statue."

    I would argue that the fact that the statue was hollow and filled with candy didn't help its structural integrity.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I suppose we could just settle in the middle with "the tidal wave lent enough force to the ship that it was able to smash the statue...and that they don't make ships like they used to".

    Maybe that's why Smokey is so mad: Jacob hogs all the candy...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, I loved loved this episode! I love Richard even more now, he's now a person as opposed to Jacob's puppet who had his strings abruptly cut and gets Nangry...okay, I wish he got nangry. *disappointed sigh*

    Anything other than a Kate episode or a CHA-lie one, is A-okay in my book.

    And "V" is back on tonight!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anything other than a Kate episode or a CHA-lie one, is A-okay in my book.

    You mean you don't want to be told, again (and then again, and then once more), that Kate runs, or that Charlie's a drug addict? ;)

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!