The LOST saga has been constructed like latticework – the characters and plot lines a series of slats overlapping at regular junctures with gaps in-between. As the show draws to a close, it has preoccupied itself with filling those gaps – the origin of Richard Alpert, the meaning behind the whispers in the jungle – and last night’s episode tackled a major one– the secret history of Jacob and the Man in Black.
I like the sensation of full immersion when an episode of LOST commences without a “Previously on…” segment; they’re plunging in without bothering to foreground any of upcoming action. Last night, that analogy can be taken literally, as the episode begins with a shipwrecked woman bobbing in the water off the Island’s coast.
For a minute, I thought the woman might be the recently detonated Ilana, but it was instead Claudia, the biological mother of Jacob and the still-unnamed Man in Black. She makes it to the shore where she is greeted by Allison Janney, who delivers her babies and promptly kills her.
The fact that Jacob and the Man in Black are brothers came as something of a non-revelation. I can’t think of any hints that were dropped about them being siblings, but the relationship always seemed logical. I don’t think that the clarification does anything other than fill in character history, but at least it should cut down on any Internet speculation that they’re time-traveling versions of whatever marginal LOST characters that people given to wild theories have glommed onto this week.
Even without the presence of our familiar cast of characters and any flashes back, forward, or sideways, this is still very much an episode of LOST. The episode brought up a number of familiar themes, locations, and objects, such as a game of backgammon on the beach, the origin of the frozen donkey wheel and Desmond’s well, as well as repeated references to characters being “special” and the idea of “others” on the Island.
What happened in the episode is secondary to figuring out how it all fits into the mythology that’s been built up over the last six years. On the surface, it’s the story of Jacob and his brother’s arrival on the Island, their upbringing by their mysterious mother, fraternal conflict, and the notion that the Island is home to something special that needs to be protected. When the Man in Black breaks away and threatens the Island, Jacob acts – killing him and taking over as the Island’s protector. It works as a self-contained story, but its significance lies in placing it in the larger mosaic.
Early in the episode, Allison Janney’s character warns Claudia that her questions will lead to even more questions, which is a sort of meta-commentary on the show in general and last night’s episode in particular. We know how Jacob and his brother came to the Island, but we still don’t know how their foster mother came to the Island or was charged with protecting it. For that matter, it still isn’t clear why the Man in Black cannot leave the Island. In the early days of the show, there were references to the smoke monster being a “security system” for the Island, which follows the notion that it was his destiny to protect it. Contra-wise, Jacob explained to Richard that the Island is a cork that keeps the Man in Black’s evil at bay. So, which is it?
LOST has long made a point of being vaguely definitive at best, and the revelation of the golden cave at the heart of the Island – which is apparently key to the existence of life throughout the world – makes it clear that the Island itself is intrinsically “special.” Life, death, and rebirth are explicitly associated with the cave and the energy within, which apparently manifests as the “special electromagnetic properties” that the Dharma Initiative were interested in. We have three and a half hours of television left to see whether or not the Dharma Initiative’s interest in the Island is going to be clarified and explained, but at this point I’m not holding my breath. Maybe it will have to be enough to know that the Island is a special place that draws people to it.
As enjoyable as last night’s episode was to watch, a lot of it felt pretty anti-climactic. I was reminded of Jin’s time travel adventures to the early days of Rousseau’s expedition – as the episode unfolded I already had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, it was mainly a question of how. For instance, once their mother told Jacob that he couldn’t ever go into the golden cave itself, and that a fate worse than death waited inside, the origin of the smoke monster became pretty clear. That said, the moment where the cave’s light went out and that menacing column of smoke emerged was pretty thrilling.
Ultimately, I think this is an episode that will mean a lot more two weeks from now than it does at the moment. Once LOST has reached its conclusion, we’ll be able to look back at this episode and fit it better into the whole. We’ve taken a break from the show’s key characters and don’t have much time left with them, but the detour was certainly a lot of fun.
- I could’ve done without the replay of Jack, Kate, and Locke discovering “Adam and Eve”. I mean, I get it already. That said, do the LOST writers deserve credit for having the presence of mind to have Locke present in that scene – viewing the corpse of the man who would later wear his face all the way back in Season 1 – or was that just a lucky break?
- The moment where Jacob leaves the bodies of his brother and foster mother in the cave with the bag of black and white stones was another bit that was spoiled for me – the same spoiler I ran across that presaged Jin, Sun, and Sayid’s death also mentioned that the Man in Black and his mother were Adam and Eve. Lousy Internet trolls.
- So where was the statue of Tara-Wet? Or the Temple for that matter? It isn’t clear exactly when Jacob and his brother wound up on the Island, but it had to have at least been post-Middle Ages/Age of Exploration time, right? The only other point of reference we have is Richard’s appearance on the Island somewhere in the mid-19th century.
- So the dagger that Richard was supposed to use to kill Jacob and Sayid was supposed to use to kill Faux-Locke is… just a dagger? I mean, I guess there’s the significance that the Man in Black used it to kill his mother, but there doesn’t seem to be any other significance to it.
- Based on Jacob’s reaction to his brother’s body at the end of the episode, it seems like he doesn’t have any idea that the black smoke represented a reincarnation. Are we going to see that revelation? Is there time? Does it matter?
- When Jacob pushed his brother’s body into the golden cave, the light appeared to go out. When we saw Ben and Locke down by the frozen donkey wheel (right by the source of the cave) I remember the light being an icy blue. Is the light nearly extinguished, then? Or is this just more of the LOST team making it up as they go along? The Swan station was obviously one of the sources of the electromagnetism that makes up the light, and that was blown up twice already (by Desmond with the fail-safe switch and Juliet with the Hydrogen Bomb) – but obviously there are more sources on the Island, such as the Orchid station. Is the light renewable? Is LOST just a big metaphor for renewable resources?
- Allison Janney chants over a cup of wine (I’m sure Lostpedia will have a full translation) and gives it to Jacob. He drinks and she says that now they are “the same.” I’ll go for the low-hanging fruit here and assume that it means that they both share the sort of limited immortality that keeps them from aging or death by old age, but doesn’t protect them from being stabbed in the chest.
- There was another variation on “the rules” last night – their mother says that she made it so they couldn’t hurt each other, but the how she ensures this is unclear. There was some business in last week’s LOST podcast about whether “the rules” would actually be explained. Damon Lindelof invoked the end of The Matrix Reloaded – was anybody happy when everything was just laid out there? I can content myself with the vague notion that there are rules and leave it at that.
- I can’t remember for sure, but did Richard drink from that bottle of wine before (or after, or at all) Jacob granted him immortality? Seems to me that’s magic immortality wine. Bummer that the Man in Black smashed it when Richard gave it to him. And wasn’t there some business about Hurley and Libby having wine on their picnic that never was? Okay, I’m officially reading too much into this, but it’s all very biblical, isn’t it?
- When Allison Janney makes Jacob drink the magic immortality wine, she tells him that he doesn’t have a choice – so there’s more grist for the free will versus destiny mill.
- Next week’s episode is called “What They Died For”, which I’m guessing will be flash-sidewaysirrific. The alternate Kwons and alternate Sayid will surely be back, but hopefully we’ll get some good on-island action with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley, as well as the woefully under-seen (this season) Richard, Ben, and Miles.
- The Hurley Bird is about the last zany, out-of-left-field mystery that I’m waiting to have explained. I know there are a ton of other ones out there – which ones do you want to see answered?
- Every time I see a preview for V, all I can think about is how much I want to see Juliet back on LOST. She has to come back one last time, right?
- Seeing a lot of comments around the Internet, it seems like last night’s episode was pretty reviled. I liked it fine, but feel free to tee off on me in the comments.