The “LOST” creative team took a huge risk this week, taking a sharp detour this late in the season and unabashedly plunging into fantastical mythology. And, given the payoff from “Ab Aeterno” earlier this season, we give them a great deal of credit for doing so. But “Across the Sea” seemed to fall far short of that ambition. It was a grand tale, but strayed into melodrama, and told us little that we hadn’t already been told. The good-evil polarization that had thus far developed with Jacob and the Man in Black became ambiguous again. And the one answer to a long-standing question was both overplayed, and underwhelming.
Last week’s episode put into stark relief the fact that our collective hearts are still closely tied to the timeline we’ve followed since season one, no matter how clever or resonant the flash-sideways exercise has turned out to be. Similarly, “Across the Sea” tried to give us insight into the two sides of an epic battle in which our survivors are apparently just pawns… and mostly convinced us that we’d prefer to follow the story of those pawns, rather than pick apart the game.
Yes, there’s something mystical on the island that connects to the very essence of man, or perhaps life. Yes, harnessing or exploiting that power inevitably drives man to destroy itself with greed. And yes, the island and this power has had a series of protectors, and a dark side that cannot be allowed to leave. Seeing all these things explored (and explained) on screen was interesting. But feels unnecessary. Only time will tell whether “Across the Sea” will be a key part of understanding the whole of “LOST,” or a curious distraction.
The character of Mother says that answers only bring more questions… a fact she embodies herself. She, too, was looking for a worthy successor, somewhere among the people who come to the island. What better candidates are there than innocent newborns? She raises two, chooses one, and welcomes her own death once the mantle has been passed. So we’ve now been shown the end of the preceding cycle, and know that “LOST” is leading up to the next transition. So where did Mother come from? And where did this eternal cycle begin? I guess, like a circle, there simply may be no such thing.
And the all important rules? The emphasis on the games that Jacob and the Man in Black made up tonight suggests that “the rules” are not rules imposed upon them by some higher power or construct, but some arbitrary set of restrictions they’ve set for each other.
After tonight, I’m no longer confident we’ll get a coherent explanation for the ultimate nature and overall purpose of The Island. Though “Across the See” makes me think I might prefer things left unexplained.
We did learn that Jacob and Man in Black were brothers, as many had suspected. And the rivalry and ultimate act of fratricide echoes the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. Jacob, the older brother, kills the Man in Black, who was the favored son. (Mother tells the Man in Black that he will never have to worry about death as a child, and she does not deny to Jacob that she loves the Man In Black more.) And we did enjoy the limited scenes the adult brothers had, which made up for the unfortunate reliance on child actors to carry the first half of the episode.
But after the events of “Across the Sea,” its hard not to again feel sympathy for the Man In Black, and question the assertions of Jacob. The Man in Black only wanted to leave the island, to leave the woman who killed his mother behind, and return to his true home, among people. Meanwhile, Jacob was a hapless mama’s boy whose worldview, however validated by Man in Black, was inherited from a woman who basically settled for him and who denied him any choice in succeeding her.
It was nice to learn that the Man in Black was the architect behind the Frozen Donkey Wheel, but now we’re wondering who eventually finished building it? When the wheel was imaged by the DHARMA Initiative in “Because You Left,” was it already assembled? At first I thought DHARMA must have connected the dots that the Man in Black left behind. But then I remembered that the wheel was working when Locke turned it, which was much, much, earlier. (Before, even, the well had been dug?) And why was the underground chamber freezing cold when Ben visited in 2004?
And we did like how “Across the Sea” suggests that “The Purge” of Season 3 was also part of the unending cycle of life on The Island. Perhaps the DHARMA Initiative, like the Man in Black’s people, were getting too close to “the light,” and had to be violently exterminated.
But did Mother destroy the village and slaughter its residents? As well as fill in a deep well and underground excavation? All before the Man in Black woke up? The moment when she slams his head into the wall of the well was violent enough that I could believe she has some kind of superhuman strength. But the scale of the destruction is so great, I couldn’t help think the smoke monster was involved.
But the smoke monster was created when Jacob cast the Man in Black into the light. Right? It somehow released his inner, darker, flawed essence, but left his body behind. A body that provided the form in which the Man in Black appeared (such as in the conversation with Jacob on the beach), until John Locke’s body arrived. And a body that Jacob could recover and leave in the cave with Mother.
And voila, there we have Adam and Eve.
As “LOST” reveals go, we have to be honest: learning the identity of the skeletons in the cave from Season 1 felt pretty hollow. To be fair, though, this is largely due to factors outside the show. It was one of the mysteries explicitly described as key, a reveal that would prove that the creators and writers of “LOST” had the endgame in mind when they introduced them in 2004. That they were a character introduced in Season 5 and his mother? It doesn’t give me the reassurance I was expecting. Locke described them as Adam and Eve. Jack said they were a female and male, and that they’d been there 40 or 50 years. We had time travel. We lost several couples. It would have been just as satisfying had they turned out to be Rose & Bernard, after all.
The anvilicious insertion of clips from “House of the Rising Sun” made the moment even more frustrating. Seriously, if you were a latecomer to “LOST” who didn’t know why it was significant that black and white stones were placed with two bodies laid to rest in a cave… would you have missed much without the flashback?
Last week’s episode felt like an episode of the last season of “LOST.” This week’s episode felt like a distraction. A sometimes beautiful, certainly daring tangent, but one that at least at first blush we feel like we could have lived without. We have only one more episode to get us back on track, and a series finale to wrap things up. We’re nervous, but still hopeful. We still love “LOST,” golden glowing caves and all.
- The Man in Black’s lack of a name was already absurd coming into “Across the Sea.” When Claudia says she only picked one name, the whole conceit collapsed into ridiculous. Now we’re hoping he doesn’t have a name at all. It’s hard to imagine any name being satisfactory.
- Seeing Mother smash Claudia’s skull moments after she gave birth was a shock. And, of course, both Jacob and the Man in Black end up getting raised by someone who wasn’t their mother, and both were clearly shaped in their own way by hardcore “mommy issues.”
- Interesting choice to transition from Latin to English fairly quickly during the episode. It wasn’t a “Hunt for Red October” transition, but still noticeable. Especially when Mother switches back to Latin when she pours the wine for Jacob. Was that to show she was speaking a different language that Jacob didn’t understand?
- Mother was tired and said her time was over, and handed things over to Jacob before he was ready. We can only assume she’d been the island’s protector for decades, if not centuries. But what brings about this inevitable decision to find a successor and check out? When Jacob let Ben stab him, was he also grateful for being released of this burden?
- Mother distrusts people, and denies that there’s anything beyond the island. Why? It seems almost as if her kidnapping of the twin babies was part of a weird experiment to see if people could be raised absent evil? After all, they had to ask, “What is dead?” But even without the influence of people, whom the Man in Black lived among, Jacob exhibited jealousy and rage.
- Mother tells the boys that she’s made it so they “can never hurt each other.” Except Jacob easily pummeled the Man in Black as a kid, and ultimately brought about the Man in Black’s death.
- I’m not entirely sure why the golden glowing cave was so hard to find, yet so easy to find. I think we’re supposed to think that its waters are the waters of The Temple, which was probably built to keep people away. Meanwhile, the specific well (of many wells) that Man in Black worked with will end up beneath the Orchid. We did get a little “LOST” geography lesson tonight, whether or not it makes sense.
- If Jack is indeed Jacob’s successor, who will administer his little cup of wine?
- Why was Jacob unable to see the vision of his dead mother, while the Man in Black could talk with and follow her? She says the reason is because she’s dead, but that’s not exactly an answer. Now that the Man in Black is a disembodied smoke monster, he certainly has communion with the dead. But did this ability predate his transformation?
- We were thrilled when we first heard the news that Allison Janey was cast for this episode. And given some of the lines her character had to deliver, its clear the role couldn’t go to a lightweight. (Frankly, the dialogue was often too heavy for even her.) Still, as an actress, she’s almost larger than life, and we have to admit it was a little distracting. It was the closest thing to “stunt casting” we’ve had on “LOST,” and we’re glad they didn’t make a habit of it.
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