Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost Episode Review 6.09: "Ab Aeterno"

"You have to stop the Man in Black, stop him from leaving the Island. Because if you don't, we all go to Hell."

(Thanks to Dark UFO for all the screencaps).

Halfway there. We're now officially at the halfway point of the final season - only nine total hours of LOST left and we're building up to the endgame. It makes me a little sad to think about it.

But boy the first half ended with a bang, eh!? I loved that nearly the entire episode was flashbacks and, even though we didn't quite get everything on my prediction list (no DHARMA), we certainly got enough Jacob and MiB to make up for it.

Once again, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the metaphysical turn the show has taken in the last season or so, despite the fact I love Jacob's and MiB's basic conflict and their philosophical differences on human nature. That being said, the writers have still managed to create one of the richest, deepest mythologies ever seen on the small screen, of which Richard's story is now a central part. So let's review what was confirmed this episode:

1) The Island is basically a prison for Smokey with Jacob as the warden.

2) With Jacob gone, Smokey is free to leave as long as another one isn't installed.

3) Smokey believes mankind is inherently corrupt, Jacob believes even the most corrupted individuals can redeem themselves. Themselves being the key word here since "it's meaningless if he tells them what to do."

4) Jacob brought the Black Rock to the Island in 1867 during a storm. A tidal wave washed it ashore and it is responsible for shattering the Statue.

5) Richard is basically the Jacob's Metatron, taking his word to the people he brings to the Island. This way Jacob can indirectly guide the people he brings here.

6) Ilana was tasked with protecting the six final candidates and confirmed that Hurley, Jack and Sun (maybe) were all candidates. She did not, however, mention Frank at all, despite calling him a candidate last season. This means the final three candidates she was tasked with protecting are likely Sayid (oops), Sawyer and, I believe, Kate (not to mention Jin). I still think the sixth is Kate rather than Locke, because we never saw Locke's name on the lighthouse list, but we did see AUSTEN and it wasn't crossed out.

7) If Smokey leaves the Island, everyone goes to Hell. *evil trombone*

Lots to digest here. I'll try and keep this from becoming overly philosophical if I can. :)

Five Questions:

1) What exactly is this Hell you speak of?

The question I really wanted answered the most this episode was "what would the consequence be of Smokey escaping the Island?" And we got the answer, sort of. "We all go to Hell" can mean a lot of things, depending on the way you take it. Given the fact Jacob and MiB appear to be deities of a sort, you could take it literally; Smokey really is the literal devil and Hell is his literal "home" he's been talking about. If he escapes into the world, he kills everyone on the Island and drags them home with him. But I don't think it's quite that simple.

First of all, the heavy Christian imagery the writers gave us this episode was, I think, more because that's what Richard and his wife believed than what Jacob and Smokey really are. The MiB needed to manipulate Richard into killing Jacob. If he told him Jacob was really the evil Egyptian snake god, Set, Richard might have just laughed at him. Not to mention, the metaphysical concepts of God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell are present in nearly every religion. So really if everyone on the Island is literally going to Hell when Smokey escapes, it's probably not necessarily the Hell of Christianity.

But I'm thinking that "Hell" on the show really means something else: The corruption of all mankind by Smokey. When Jacob presented his wine bottle metaphor to Richard (which I absolutely loved, by the way), he spoke of Smokey as "a darkness" or "evil" that would spread if he escaped. Jacob is concerned with having humans redeem themselves, believing even the most evil person is capable of good when given a choice and left to his or her own devices without any outside influence. To test this, he brings corrupt or flawed individuals to the Island to see if they can do so. Think about all the people who've landed on the Island: All the flawed individuals (and outright criminals) of Flight 815, the drug runners from the beechcraft, the slave traders of the Black Rock, Danielle and Desmond. All brought to the Island for a clean slate, to see if they can make a new start of things and show Smokey the error of his ways.

Smokey, however, not only disagrees with Jacob, he really has no desire to even let him test the concept. He'd rather just kill everyone that lands on the Island unless he perceives they can help him escape or, barring that, corrupt them, let his evil seep into them and spread. Also Jacob wants no part in convincing people, despite the fact he could be the Second Coming if he put his mind to it. Smokey, on the other hand, actively wants to corrupt people and has absolutely no qualms about doing so. He also happens to be very, very good at it too. And once Smokey corrupts someone, they're gone, beyond saving, beyond redemption. That's why Dogen wanted Jack to kill Sayid - there was nothing left he could do.

So when Jacob said that if the evil escapes from the bottle it will spread, this, to me, meant that MiB will actively corrupt everyone on Earth, thus making them incapable of redeeming themselves. Everyone will be damned, either literally or figuratively, depending on what you believe.

Of course, we really haven't seen evidence of this yet in LA X - things seem rather normal there, right? But now I think Smokey's going to start popping up in the Alt and sending everyone there down a dark, evil path.

2) Did Smokey spare Richard because he's a murderer? Is that why he spared Eko too?

When Smokey found Richard in the Black Rock, he was in a fairly hopeless situation, one where he could easily be manipulated. But it seemed to me Smokey did the mind read flash on Richard when he came across him, likely discovering his murderous past (even if it was an accident).

And I think that's the reason Smokey scans people: He's looking for someone to kill Jacob for him. And who better to do his dirty work than someone who's already killed before. I used to think the reason Smokey spared Eko when he first came across him was because he knew Eko was trying to atone for his sins. But now I think the reason he spared him was because he really knew Eko was a murderous, violent person at heart who could never change and hoped to use him in case his Locke plan fell through.

This also brings Eko's death scene into a whole new light. The reason Smokey asked Eko whether he repented or not is because he knew Eko wouldn't repent at all, and that's the answer he was looking for since it confirms his theory on the nature of mankind.

I wonder if Smokey sent Jacob a black rock after he killed Eko, eh?

3) How does the Island contain Smokey?

What exactly keeps Smokey from simply flying off the Island himself and what exactly does he have to do to get around it. Since he's planning on taking the plane, I have to think that just like he needed to convince someone to kill Jacob for him, he needs to convince someone to take him off the Island.

Interesting too in that this comes back to the concepts of free will and choice. Evil won't be released into the world unless someone actively chooses to do so. And I do wonder whether an Infected person counts. Can Sayid fly a plane?

4) Why can Hurley see ghosts and where are they coming from?

I know this has been going on for a long time now, but why can Hurley talk to ghosts? It supposedly started back in "The Beginning of the End" after Hurley left the Island with the O6. He saw Charlie, Eko and Ana-Lucia for sure. At the time, I thought these were either manifestations of the Island or Smokey (or his own mind), but now it seems they probably really were the ghosts of these people and they seemed genuinely trying to help him. Jacob told Hurley that being able to see ghosts was "a blessing" - is that the gift Jacob gave to Hurley? Seems like the most probable answer.

Of course, now that the concept of Hell has been introduced to the equation, what does this mean for all the ghosts Hurley sees? Are they in some sort of limbo? Can they only pass on to the afterlife if a new Jacob arises? When Isabella told Hurley "We all go to Hell" was she really referring to the spirits of everyone that had passed away already? Maybe the real consequence of Smokey escaping is that Heaven will cease to exist and everyone who's already in the afterlife will be condemned.

I'm probably reading a bit much into this, but Isabella's presence makes it clear that it's not just people who died on the Island that can appear to Hurley. That's a large pool of dead people to draw from.

5) How will the final candidate be chosen?

Jacobi says Richard should know what to do next, even though he denies it. Whatever it is it's probably going to involve a trek somewhere across the Island to another mysterious location we haven't seen yet. But how will the Island decide which candidate will replace Jacob. Couple choices here:

1) Process of Elimination: Smokey kills everyone. Last candidate standing is the new Jacob by default.

2) Weighing of the Heart: All the candidates hearts are weighed. The one who deemed the most worthy is chosen.

3) Free Will: A candidate has to volunteer to become the new Jacob, even though it means spending an eternity on the Island as warden to Evil Incarnate who will forever repeatedly try and kill him.

Right now, I'm leaning towards #3, although it could be a combination of both #2 and #3. The candidate has to be worthy and has to volunteer. But who will it be?

My guess: Jack's going to take the job, and Kate's going to volunteer to stay with him.


- Ab Aeterno is Latin for "from eternity."

- Richard used to live in Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1867, which is a bit of a continuity correction since the Black Rock was supposed to have set sail on March 22, 1845 and the ledger that Charles Widmore purchased was found in 1852. One explanation for the change: Dynamite wasn't invented until 1867.

- Anyone else think that if a wooden ship were to meet a stone statue at high speed, the stone statue would win? Jacob must live in a pretty shoddy home.

- The passage in the Bible Richard was reading in his cell:

And what does Luke 4: 31-37 say?

31And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath;

32and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,

34"Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!"

35But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm.

36And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out."

37And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.

Neat, eh? Kudos to the writers for the selection.

- Nice to see a couple eye shots again too. Got Richard's and Ilana's this episode.


This was the best episode of the season and one of the best of the entire series. I think the Man in Black my go down as one of the best villains in TV history when all is said and done and this episode was simply a classic. Was it the best Lost episode of all time? Was it better than "The Constant?" Hard to say. Was it better than "Walkabout?" Maybe. Was it better than "The 23rd Psalm?" Yeah, I think so. Probably a Top 3 contender in my book. Nestor Carbonell and the writers deserve an Emmy here too. 5/5.


Missie said...

I think it was the water and force from the tidal wave that took down the statue, not the boat. Unless it's mysterious Island physics.

So what's the significance of the ship belonging to Captain Hanso, who's name is affiliated with the foundation that founds the Dharma Initiative? That was the reveal that got the biggest gasp from me.

I'm predicting a smackdown between Richard and Sayid, and it will hopefully be shirtless and shot in slow motion. Good, Evil- hell, we're all winners then!

Jay said...

Meant to add a Magnus Hanso thing to the Tidbits section, but I forgot. MH was mentioned on the Blast Door Map and in the Lost Experience webgame. He's an ancestor of Alvar Hanso, the founder of the DHARMA Initiative.


Matt said...

Question about the whole "Smokey's looking for a killer" thing. Why spare Richard for the task instead of the guy who'd just run through half a dozen people with a sword? Similarly, why kill Eko before he knows for sure Locke's a killer? The answer might be "capable of killing but in need of further corruption," but this would suggest that Ben needed to kill Jacob a lot sooner than when he did. Thoughts?

Jay said...

Why take Richard over Sword Guy? Good question? Maybe it wasn't Richard's murderous past that stopped him, maybe it really was because he knew Richard would be easier to manipulate, given his predicament. What really drew me to the Eko theory, though, is that of all the Flight 815ers, Eko had the most violent past (and could also be easily manipulated through the guilt over his brother).

But Ben, I think, was primed at exactly the right time. What really motivated Ben to kill Jacob was his jealousy of Locke - seeing Locke "alive" again, having Smokey Alex tell him he had to obey Locke's every word and finding that Locke could simply march into Jacob's foot and that Jacob actually knew him is what really made Ben snap. Smokey manipulated Ben about as well as Ben ever manipulated anyone.

Hmmm... maybe it's a combination of the two - being able to be killed and able to be manipulated that Smokey's looking for.

Missie said...

OK- so what's with the Hanso family being responsible for getting people to the Island? Are they Jacob's people?

I also have a somewhat unrelated question. I just finished up Season 2, and in the Peal Orientation video, Chang has his 2 arms, fully functional, yet the copyright at the end of the film is 1980. Is this just a timeline snafu, or am I missing something?

And I'd forgotten about Eko asking "Henry Gale" for forgiveness because he wanted to "repent for his sins". I think Eko was looking for redemption. I"m thinking that Smokey killed Eko because Eko ending up being a huge diappointment to Smokey and it pissed him off. He could no longer manipulate Eko, even in the form of his brother. Eko finding peace and redemption is a big win for Jacob. Think of Smokey killing Eko as the equivalent of flipping a monopoly board.

Jay said...

Haha, Miss. I just got a new Monopoly board, BTW.

And while it's true that Eko did try to atone for his sins the majority of the time he was on the Island, in the end when Smokey asked him to repent, his response was:

"I did not ask for the life I was given, but it was given nonetheless. And with it, I did my best."

And even if most of what he did was simply to survive, his final flashback showed he chose to do some pretty awful things as Mr. Eko in Nigeria. I took all this to mean that in the end, he gave up trying to repent, accepting himself for who he really is.

Alvar Hanso started DHARMA, likely after tracking down his ancestor's ship and discovering the Island had healing properties.

The Pearl video had to be a snafu. Good catch, though. I really need to rewatch the series too. :)

Missie said...

Hey- did you see the story of the island that disappeared into the sea? Someone needs to talk to Michael Emerson...

manuel3.com - catholic soul music said...

really enjoyed ur thoughts on this...thank u

mastaiti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mastaiti said...

all in all I think it was a pretty half-hearted attempt by the MIB at killing Jacob. "Oh, here you go half starved slave man, here is a knife the devil is that way."
I think he could of tried a little harder than that.

Great reveiw Jay! and a great episode. This made me go back and watch the opening of the incident again. I love the old school island stuff!

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

I'm of the mind that it was a good thing Eko rejected the island's forgiveness. I know I've rambled on about this before, but essentially I think Eko was redeemed, just not by the island. The black smoke was just using him anyway and had no problem killing Eko when he failed its test. I think the footage of Eko and Yemi walking together as kids is meant to be symbolic of Eko being spiritually reunited with his brother, after rejecting the false Yemi of the island. Sort of the way the Isabella that appeared on the ship was probably a manifestation of the smoke, whereas the being which communicated to Hurley was quite possibly really her.

Great recap, as always!

Missie said...

I just rewatched the episode with Eko's death, and I have to agree with you. I got the impression that Eko recognized that the thing in the jungle was not his brother. I also think that his comment about doing the best with what he was given speaks to the sacrafice he made to save his brother. If Eko has no regrets about his past, it is because his brother grew to be a good man. The idea that Eko would be corrupt for his brother to remain good was the point of the scene of him stealing food for Yemi when they were children. Sayid and Eko are actually very interesting mirrors of each other. Eko was a good man who chose crime for the love of his brother. Sayid is a man who has fought very hard to be a good person, but is capable of some very dark things, and as of now, seems to be lost to that darkness.