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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TV Watch: Lost, Ab Aeterno

This was a highly anticipated episode and it really, really did not disappoint.

Where to start?


This was really the first true backstory we've had on the show for some time - and it makes one a bit dreamy for the time when such things were really interesting on the show. The flashsideways and flashforwards have their merits, but Lost was most excellent when shockers in someone's past would act as a foil to events on the island ... and nothing has worked as well as the early backstories for that. Especially when we finally get a little light on the themes of redemption which of have been part of the core of the character development - none of it is incidental, it's been part of Jacob's plan all along.


The Man In White doesn't want to get directly involved, so he has Richard be his intermediary. Does this make Richard the first Ben ? Well, there aren't any Others yet, and it would be odd that immortal Richard wouldn't still be the leader, so he may be more of just the emissary. What did Jacob do before the emissary though? Who built the statue? (And why is his house a testament to a relatively unknown Egyptian god?) We are slowly getting a focus on The Man In Black, but Jacob remains fundamentally undefined. The dichotomy is setup, the plot is in motion - but we have a ways to go.

The Island.

We did get a great concept of the island itself. As a "cork" for The Man In Black, it keeps him from entering "the rest of the world" ... whatever that actually means. People can arrive on the island if Jacob brings them there, people can leave under very specific situations (well, situation - a very specific bearing). Which begs the question - can The Man In Black leave now that Jacob is "dead", and he just needs to fly out in the right direction?

Smoke Monster ... and Dead People.

When watching the Instant Dharma with The Futon Critic and Kris White, Kris noted that Isabella's appearance while the Smoke Monster sounds were going outside was the first instance of both those happening at once. As an aside, I never realized that one of my least favorite characters, Nikki, was bitten by a spider ... which was actually a Smoke Monster manifestation (the Smoke Monster clicking can be heard before the spider's appearance and was confirmed on a later producer podcast). The boat had a butterfly, a boar, the Smoke Monster, and Isabella all visiting Richard. The butterfly and the board may have actually just been a butterfly and a boar - obviously the other two weren't.

Also curious that all the Smoke Monster sounds seemed the same. Even the relatively modern foghorn sound.

So the question remains - what are the apparitions? Hurley was clearly talking to Isabella. She knew things only she would know, wants Richard to kill the Man In Black, etc. The castaways aren't actually dead, Jacob somewhat proved that by dunking old Ricardo into the ocean - but the island is clearly some kind of gateway between one world and the next.

Fate and Free Will.

After this episode, I doubt my theory that there were two Smoke Monsters, or rather that Jacob could also be the Smoke Monster, is accurate. I think their abilities are more closely tied to what they represent - fate and free will. Jacob can control the fate of others, make sure they don't die, weave events to make sure they end up on the same plane, etc. The Man in Black can't do any of that - but he can go rampaging around the jungle and kill things.

Long enough post for now - might have to do a mid-season summary before next week or something though.


sterno said...

Richard - Just have to say it's an unbelievably dick move to give last rites to a guy accused of murder then, when he confesses to the murder saying, "oh yeah sorry not enough time to work that out". Maybe you should show up a bit earlier for the murderers, eh? :)

- Jacob -

There's a lot to say about this one. First of all, the evolving relationship between Jacob and SmokeLocke is really fascinating. The dynamic clearly was that they are both condemned to the island, with SmokeLocke being the prisoner and Jacob being the prison guard. Seemingly they were both okay with this for a very long time.

To say that Jacob is good and SmokeLocke is bad is, I believe, quite wrong. Jacob is perhaps more leaning towards good but both of them suffer from the ego that comes with being a superior being. Clearly Jacob has no moral qualms with dragging people onto this island and putting them through torment to prove his point. It seems that for some undetermined amount of time SmokeLocke and Jacob were both content to treat the island as their little lab experiment.

However, this all changed when SmokeLocke finally got so sick of being on the island playing these games that he tried to turn one of the players, Richard, against Jacob. Jacob deals with Richard easily, and then Jacob also changes the dynamic by setting up Richard to intercede on his behalf going forward. I don't get the sense that Jacob wants Richard to convince people to be good, but rather just wants to help him keep the game going. Also, it's worth noting that Richard made this suggestion, not Jacob, so this could also just be Jacob letting Richard play out his own free will.

Jacob has the feel of a kind of mild mannered version of the old testament God. Having a little back and forth with the devil, proving that people are good and what crazy BS they'll put up with. He's capricious but doesn't seem to demonstrate a lot of that vengeful fire and brimstone vibe.

What I'm really left wondering about though is how everything evolved after Richard. Specifically a lot more people were winding up on the island. Some of them seemed to end up there without any involvement by Jacob (The army, the dharma initative, etc). It seems that Jacob was content to keep playing the game while SmokeLocke was trying harder and harder to rig the game to end his imprisonment.

sterno said...


My sense is that the dynamics of the island had already gotten pretty complicated by the time Ben came along. You had a permanent settlement of Dharma folks on the island, and they clearly knew of the powers of SmokeLocke, etc, as they had a way to contain it.

Ben was basically the final round of the game. He grew up on the island, had influences from both directions, etc. In Ben, SmokeLocke was able to finally find somebody he could sufficiently manipulate to do what he wanted to have done. The only reason Ben was successful was that Jacob let him do it to see if he really would. Having said that, it is perhaps true that Jacob is still right in the end because Ben has clearly woken up to what went wrong.

It is worth noting here though that Ben got into the situation where he would kill Jacob because of Jacob's intervention. Had Jacob not tried to make Ben some kind of leader, none of that dynamic plays out and Jacob's still alive. So a bit of Karmic whiplash there I suppose :)

-Dead People-

One thing to note about Hurley, Richard, and Isabella's interaction is that it's not clear that Hurley got the message to stop SmokeLocke from Isabella. She disappears, then Hurley delivers the last bit of the message. That could have been from Jacob or it could even be Hurley being a bit manipulative. Not that it matters much, but just figure it's worth pointing out.

-Fate and Free Will-

My sense of things is that Jacob and SmokeLocke have similar powers, but it's more of a matter of how they choose to manifest them. Jacob might be able to do the smoke monster thing if he really wanted to, but he doesn't have a reason to do so. He wants to take a hands off approach as much as possible because he wants the choices of people to be as true to themselves as possible.

I think up to the point of Richard coming to the island, SmokeLocke was also willing to be more hands off. He wanted to show that Jacob was wrong and demonstrate that people were ultimately evil and corruptible. So some new player would show up, SmokeLocke and Jacob would bat them around a bit until they made their choice, then they'd move onto the next game. With Richard, that changed, and both of them started intervening more and changing the game.

Josh said...

One thing that sits right fat in the middle of this? DHARMA.

Did Jacob bring DHARMA to the island or did they stumble on it? If he didn't bring them, they represent a very unique group of people. If he did bring them, the whole Purge thing seems pretty odd. More like they were interlopers which neither Jacob nor the Man In Black appreciated.

Hence their might be a kind of chain of events from Jacob, to Richard, to Widmore, to DHARMA, to Ben, to the Purge to the present. With a nuclear bomb in the middle.

Again, right - saying one is evil and one is not is probably not correct ... and also there's more than just the two forces at work. So you've got "God" and "The Devil" and "Man" in between.

sterno said...

Did Jacob bring DHARMA to the island or did they stumble on it? If he didn't bring them, they represent a very unique group of people. If he did bring them, the whole Purge thing seems pretty odd. More like they were interlopers which neither Jacob nor the Man In Black appreciated.

Remember DHARMA is Whitmore and Whitmore was on the island when he was in the military. So we do know that Whitmore brought them there, but we don't know what lead him to doing that or why the army was there in the first place. Though it seems the army's arrival could have been largely accidental, just looking for an empty island for bomb testing.

Josh said...

Yeah, I guess technically the army's arrival is the even more oddball one, since it predates it. Seems weird that they just found it for testing when the island is so well hidden.

sterno said...

I have a theory on the army. Two things we know about the island relevant to this:

1) The Island has, at least once, become unhidden though it seems like this has happened more than once.
2) The Island's power is all connected into strong electromagnetic fields

So I would posit that the Island became visible, at least partially shortly after World War 2 due to the Nuclear testing that was going on in the pacific. So they set off a bomb at say Bikini Island and the EMP from that interfered with the Island's cloaking. Thus the Army, looking for another place to blow some shit up, sent some folks to the island with a bomb.

Josh said...

Which makes me wonder if they'll do a Widmore flashback episode.