Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost Episode Review 6.15: "Across The Sea"

"So do you want to play or don't you, Jacob..."

(Thanks to Dark UFO for all the screencaps).

I think my Kool-Aid glass has finally been drained. Honestly if the Mets hadn't had a thrilling come-from-behind win last night, I would have gone to bed totally depressed. I thought this episode was incredibly weak and the explanations given incredibly... lame? Silly? Vague? Pick your adjective. Granted this show has set the bar quite high for a very long time now and this episode had some very high expectations from me coming in, which is part of the reason I'm disappointed, but it just seemed like incredibly weak writing for one of the last three episodes of the show. Let's look at a few of the major things we learned:

Jacob and ....... are actually brothers. OK.
Their real mom was killed by Allison Janney who raised them. Eh.
The Island protects a mystical golden light. Lame.
You become the new Jacob by taking Communion from the previous one. Doubly lame.
Adam and Eve are really Smokey's original body and Allison Janney. Triple-ly lame.

And I think the thing that bothers me the most is that this episode makes you feel sorry for Smokey which, IMHO, makes him a weaker villain and makes Jacob seem like a naive tool. Don't you kinda want Smokey to get off the Island now? And Allison Janney could probably have prevented all of this from happening if she just gave them some straight answers on who they were and what they needed to do instead of jerking them around. I mean, she kills their real mother and forbids them from leaving the Island for a greater purpose that she never fully explains, nor does she explain the consequences if they refuse. I'd say screw you, I'm leaving too! Someone's gotta make some "I'm with Smokey" bumper stickers...

And lastly, the last two episodes were arguably two of the weakest of the season, but I didn't really have much of a problem with them because they seemed to be getting the pieces into place for the finale. This episode, however, was supposed to be a major piece of the mystery of the show and for it to be even weaker than the previous two (IMHO) is extremely saddening to me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still greatly looking forward to the final two episodes. It's just that my expectations have been significantly lowered now. And that's kinda sad. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. And maybe after the finale I'll be able to look back at this episode in a different light. But I was bummed when I went to bed last night and that has never happened to me before on a Lost night.

Before we delve into the questions, let's summarize the stuff we did learn this episode:

Bullet Points:

- Jacob and Smokey are human-born fraternal twins born on the Island.

- Their birth mother was killed by their adoptive Mother.

- Their adoptive Mother was the guardian of the Island who raised them away from what she considered to be man's "corrupting influence" so one or both of them could take over her mantle.

- Their adoptive Mother has some sort of powers since 1) she was able to grant eternal life to the two human children she found and 2) she seemed to slaughter all the men on the Island quite easily for an elderly woman, not to mention filling in the Donkey Wheel well with dirt. She does mention that she came to the Island "by accident."

- The Source of the Island is what the Mother is guarding, a cave filled with golden light described as "life, death, rebirth." She passed her mantle on to Jacob by having him drink a very symbolic cup of wine. *rolls eyes*

- Smokey is "special," according to Mother and can see ghosts on the Island. Jacob cannot.

- Smokey created the Donkey Wheel and intended to use it to go home.

- Smokey killed his Mother, after which she said "thank you."

- Jacob threw Smokey's body into The Source, out of which emerged the Smoke Monster and his brother's dead body.

- The mysterious boy seen on the Island in present time is really the ghost of Jacob. Why he's appearing as a boy to the candidates and Smokey while Hurley sees him as an adult is still a mystery, Maybe he's just messing with Smokey's mind.

- Smokey's original body and his Mother are Adam and Eve. Of all the disappointing reveals this episode, I found this one to me the most disappointing of all. After all the seasons of hype and speculation in a show filled with time travel we finally discover that Adam and Eve are (de)composed of a woman we've never seen before and the soulless corpse of Smokey. How... how... boring. I mean, really. Of all the possibilities out there this is the best they can come up with? Not to mention the fact that now we're supposed to believe that the skeletons that Jack had said had been there 40-50 years really have been there for centuries and still have decomposing clothes?

I suppose I should have expected this when Hurley gave a nod to the time travel theories back in Lighthouse, but this was just incredibly anti-climactic for me. And the splice of Season One footage was rather poorly done too, I thought. *sigh*

Anyway, there were some good things about the episode. The kids were excellently cast - spitting images of their adult counterparts. Jacob and Smokey are always a delight to see together and Smokey emerging from the Source was cool. Plus, we do have a lot to talk about.

OK, enough ranting. Lemonade out of lemons and all that. :)

Five Questions:

1) What is the energy at the Source of the Island and what did it do to Smokey?

When we first were shown the Source, two things came to mind for me: Midichlorians and Pulp Fiction. The former is not good, the latter makes me think of what the scene could have been. Wasted potential, especially when you have an actress of Allison Janney's caliber spouting off lines like "life, death, rebirth" and "the light that's inside of every man." Sigh.

Midichlorians, for those of you unfamilar, is George Lucas' feeble attempt to explain The Force in the later Star Wars films. What are midichlorians?
They are microscopic life-forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force. They are symbionts with all other living things and without them life could not exist. The Jedi have learned how to listen to and coordinate the midi-chlorians. While every living being thus has a connection to the Force, one must have a high enough concentration of midi-chlorians in one's cells in order to be a Jedi or a Sith.
Suffice it to say that this was one of George Lucas' worst ideas, and a self-inflicted one at that. The Force didn't need explaining, especially when that explanation is so ridiculous. Now the Source isn't quite that bad, but the cheesy yellow light coming from the cave and behind the wall in the well made me wince and groan. Now maybe The Source will be explained in more detail in the finale, but the vague explanation we got last night made me think they might have been better not saying anything about it at all, which brings me to Pulp Fiction.

One of the most iconic parts of Pulp Fiction was the briefcase John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson were picking up for their boss, Marcellus Wallace. We never see what's inside the case, but whenever it's opened, a bright orange light shines out, a light one character later describes as "beautiful." At its essence, it's a MacGuffin, pure and simple. And as a MacGuffin, it works because it leaves what's inside up to our imagination. In fact, Tarantino has stated that knowing what's inside the case "radically alters one's understanding of the movie."

Part of me feels, at least at this point, that the Source would have been better left a MacGuffin - we never see anything inside the cave with no explanation given for what it is, only that it's important and Jacob and Smokey have to protect it. This can also be used to change Jacob and Smokey's motivations as well: Smokey is curious and covets the light, wants to possess it. Jacob sees the importance in protecting it and finally understands what his Mother wants of him. There are some things you want definitive answers for and some that are better left alone. I think this (at this point - I may change my mind after the finale) would have been better left alone.

But given what we've been told, what is The Source? Seems to me that this is the collection of human souls unable to "pass on" because of their past sins, as Michael explained to Hurley. That's why ghosts can materialize on the Island - they're all floating around in The Source, waiting to be redeemed. Once they are, I'm guessing they have the chance to be either reincarnated or head to the afterlife. This is also why I think the Mother was cynical towards humans - she knows just how many souls are in there and how corruptible they are. And what happens if "the light goes out?" All the souls in The Source lose the chance to pass on - doomed to the Underworld for all eternity.

So what happened to Smokey when he entered The Source? When he came out of that cave the first thing I thought of was Pandora's Box, but I don't think that's what the writers were aiming for. I think The Source separated Smokey's soul, black and corrupted after his time with the humans, from his body and purged him from the cave. Thus, up until he got stuck in Locke's body by killing Jacob, he had no corporeal form and that's why he was able to shape-shift. And the punishment that's "worse than death" is his soul now has no opportunity whatsoever to pass on, in either direction. He's trapped on Earth for all eternity.

This also means that the consequences of Smokey escaping the Island would be the damnation of everyone else on the planet by the extinguishing of The Source and, possibly, also the total corruption of mankind by Smokey's cynical views.

Speaking of those views...

2) Is Smokey really the "Man of Science" and Jacob the "Man of Faith?"

"So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb."

This is another thing that bothered me about the episode. One of the standing themes through this past season is the difference in philosophy between Smokey and Jacob. Smokey sees mankind as irredeemably corrupt while Jacob sees the good in everyone. And since Smokey's been so clearly set up as the evil villain, especially after he tried to brutally kill all the candidates two episodes ago, I was really looking forward to a knockdown, drag-out battle of good vs. evil over the last couple episodes where I knew who I was rooting for to win.

Now I'm all for character development and I love every moment Jacob and Smokey spend on screen, but this episode not only shows Smokey in a new light, an intelligent, inquisitive man whose birth mother was murdered and who was forbidden from leaving the Island for reasons that were never fully explained to him, but also paints Jacob as a dumb, naive momma's boy who's entire optimistic view of mankind comes from the fact he was sheltered his entire life and all his vaunted power comes by default because his brother said "no thanks." Not to mention his temper tantrums that resulted in 1) Smokey running away to the humans and 2) the creation of the Smoke Monster himself.

It makes you feel sorry for Smokey and wonder if his worldview is correct because 1) he's actually experienced life among humans and 2) Jacob is dumb. It also makes Jacob the "Man of Faith" (fine.) and Smokey the "Man of Science" (really?), though that's kinda ironic considering Smokey now inhabits the previous Man of Faith's body, but I digress.

There's nothing wrong with blurring the lines between the two characters, after all, we did see Jacob waterboard Richard in Ab Aeterno. But ever since The Incident we've been led to believe that Smokey's worldview is cynical and wrong because he's the evil guy, right? Well now he seems more like a guy who got screwed over by a murderess and sheepish son and that just doesn't feel right to me.

And the final piece of this is that Jack is now going to be converted from the Man of Science to the Man of Faith in order to save the world. Too bad he's not a Momma's Boy... *sigh*

3) So who exactly is the Mother?

This seems to be the overwhelming question this episode introduced and the answer likely ties together all the Egyptian symbolism seen on the show so far. She seems to certainly be a deity of some sort or at least someone with god-like powers... and that would point to Taweret, right? Really can't think of anyone else it could be.

And since Jacob was so smitten with her and is likely responsible for the construction of the statue, I'm guessing he had the statue built as a memorial to her. This could also be the source of the problems with childbirth on the Island - the goddess of fertility was killed by her adopted son.

4) So the Donkey Wheel's entire purpose is merely an escape hatch for Smokey?

Seems like it. Smokey wanted to use "soul power" to open a wormhole that would allow him to escape, though it looks like the side effects of turning the wheel is not only that the person who turns the wheel moves, but the Island moves as well. And when Ben spun the wheel he knocked it off its axis and caused the Island to skip through time. I actually kinda like this explanation for it.

And this also means that Smokey plans to use the wheel to escape now that the sub and plane (not to mention the pilot) are out of commission.

5) Why can Smokey see ghosts, but Jacob cannot? Is Hurley as "special" as Smokey?

This kinda perplexes me, unless Smokey has some "special" connection to the Underworld, especially since you would think the Man of Faith would be the most likely of the two to see ghosts. And this makes me wonder whether Hurley and Smokey have some sort of connection as well.

Does every Jacob need his own Man in Black? Will Jack need Hurley on the Island to act as a bridge between him and the spirits? This makes me think Hurley is a lot more important than I thought and that perhaps Jacob is not responsible for him being able to see ghosts. Maybe he's just cut from the same cloth as Smokey. Good thing he doesn't have his cynicism.

Tidbits (and additional questions):

- The game Jacob and Smokey play is an ancient Egyptian game called Senet, one of the oldest games in the world whose rules are unknown to this day. No wonder they had to make the rules up as they went along.

- Will we ever get Smokey's name? Does he have a name? I'm not so sure that he does. After all, Claudia said that she only came up with one name - maybe they never gave him one. Of course, if he does have a name, it's something very, very significant which is why they're saving it for the finale. But I'm guessing that he might not have one altogether.

- So how will Jack become the new Jacob in the absence of wine? Will he have to eat Jacob's ashes? Given all the Christian imagery I wouldn't be surprised if all he has to do is smear some on his forehead. I thought the wine thing was really poorly done, though it does make me wonder whether Jacob was trying to trick Smokey when he gave him the wine bottle, i.e. drink this and we'll be as one. Makes me also wonder if Richard is also special since he also shared wine with Jacob.

- Despite all this gloominess, I did really like the Doors-themed preview for next week and I am looking forward to it.


Despite some very good casting and cinematography, I was very disappointed in this episode, not just in the reveals, but also in the alteration of my sympathies towards Jacob and Smokey. Now maybe this will change in the last two episodes and I'll be able to look back at "Across the Sea" in a completely different light, but for now it gets a 2/5.

Very interested to hear all your thoughts. Am I overreacting? As Rachel Maddow would say, "talk me down."


Missie said...

In all of my bitching last night, I did forget to mention that I, too, thought the children were really well cast.

It's interesting to see the spread of ratings on your poll this week.

Perhaps not having a name is part of Smokey's power/key to his imprisonment?

stefanie said...

A couple weeks ago I was reading some religious stuff about what hell really is or isn't and how what humans think of as hell comes from the Apocrypha. There was something really really interesting in this reading though that immediately made me think of LOST. In the article it talked about how sin/the devil/hell etc. are represented by a cloud of black smoke in said Apocrypha.

sound familiar? I instantly thought "Smokey isn't supposed to be some egyptian anything...he represents sin". Which makes TONS of sense now. But I liked having an idea of maybe where the writers got it from...

Matt said...

Admirably thorough as usual, Jay. I have a comment and a question, and I'm not sure how close the comment will come to talking you down, but it might help a bit. I think there's one thing we learned about Smokey that might make him *less* sympathetic. He's been keening all season about wanting to go home, wanting to go home. The impression that he created was that (like most folks on the island) he'd come from some place else, was in effect an exile and a prisoner. Turns out he's never even been any place itself. So he's wreaking all this havoc to get some place he doesn't even know.

Now for the question: is Jack the only candidate with a sibling? I know Charlie had a brother, and Juliet a sister, but they were never really in the running. So this could be a further indicator of Jack's chosen-ness.

mastaiti said...

I am really bummed because all that time when the main characters were in dharmaville they could have answered some questions. What is the deal with Radzinsky? Why did the whole charade with the quarantine happen? What is up with the food drops? Why did the pearl shoot its journals out in a field? These are just some of the questions they are going to leave unanswered.

I feel like in the writers quest to keep the show mysterious they just chose to keep viewers in the dark. Instead we got the love triangle. Please.

And what is the deal with Walt!!!

Jay said...

Miss - I like the Mr. Myxlplyx idea, but I really think he's Nameless or someone significant they're saving for the finale.

stefanie - The Cloud of Black Smoke could represent a whole lot of things. Is it the corruption of Smokey's soul? Is it the pestilence and evil released from Pandora's box? Is it the Devil himself? Is he pure sin? Hard to say, although I'm guessing they're going to tell us in the finale.

Matt - Of the three remaining candidates, Hurely, Jack and Sawyer - yes, he's the only one with a sibling. Light Jack and Dark Claire? I kinda like it.

And I do think that time has made both Smokey and Jacob better villains and heroes respectively. Jacob is obviously not as naive as he was back then and Smokey's a lot more bitter, angry and desperate. And while, yes, he's actually never been "home," he was certainly forced against his will into staying on the Island from the beginning. And that still feels wrong to me. There are other ways off the Island other than the Donkey Wheel - his Mother should have let him go before he became a giant cloud of black smoke.

Ev - I feel your pain although I'm really not sweating the little stuff anymore. Though part of me feels that they will have to revisit DHARMA in the finale because the Alt diverges at the Incident and if the two timelines merge we might have to deal with (and get to see) what happened afterwards.

I am certain Walt and the pregnancies are going to be addressed in the finale. I'll have more thoughts about this episode and future stuff over the weekend.

Matt said...

Mmmmm...Dark Claire...

James said...

jacob's brother is dead, and the smoke monster, whatever it is, is just using his form to lull jacob. jacob's brother floating in the pool alive is the worst thing that ever happened, somehow, and the second was linus moving the island.

I dont trust the mother so i dont know which lies she told the kids to take as real. the scope of MIB's plotting, the web of lies that transcends time - i think its capable of anything, even posing as that mother/guardian to maneuver jacob into shoving his brother into that cave so it could escape, or take form.. but i cant figure out if thats just stupid or not. i think jacob only seems dumb. He foresaw his own death and its part of his plan with hurley, while MIB locke from season 5 knew all the timeskips. its like a prescience war from dune

how did locke know jack wasnt supposed to leave? was locke's belief part of smokey's con, or part of the alt business? i have a feeling the good guys won 35 minutes ago, mostly becuase of desmond, but its more of a susipicion or hunch than logical deduction

Juanita's Journal said...

["Midichlorians, for those of you unfamilar, is George Lucas' feeble attempt to explain The Force in the later Star Wars films. What are midichlorians?"]

Midichlorians DID NOT explain the Force. Midichlorians only served as a connecting agent between the Force and individuals. That's all. I guess you weren't paying attention.