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No “Previously On Lost” bit was needed for this week’s ep, which took us way back in time for the origin story of The Island’s two most mysterious game-players.
‘Across The Sea’ was the series’ ultimate mythology episode, unveiling the story of How It All (Mostly) Began via an installment that was equal parts parable, folk tale, Greek tragedy by the way of a Marvel superhero origin issue. Of course, the story was made complete with Lost staples like beyond-cryptic dialogue, weird science, and debatable special effects.
There was also a reveal to the Adam-and-Eve question from Season One that initially played out kind of forced, but ended up being one of the most poetic scenes of the entire series – but I’ll get back to that.
What we learned in ‘Across The Sea’ was that the conflict between the two ageless schemers began at day one, when the twin newborns were dressed in opposing black and white baby blankets. One child was named Jacob, the other remains a nameless Other to us.*
The omission of MiB’s name in the episode has already sparked much nerd-debate, and fuel has been thrown onto the fire with Darlton saying that they have no intentions of revealing his name. Even though a name would have given us another significant Easter Egg to dissect, I’m alright with the decision to withhold it because we still learned who he is (was?), even if we don’t know what to call him. (We also didn’t get the name of Allison Janney’s Island protector character either, and she seemed equally interesting, filled with ambiguity and crazy stoning skills.) But the decision to go with nameless characters only helped reinforce the mythological, timeless feel of the story.
I also believe Jacob was the only character named in ‘Across The Sea’ because, in the end, this episode was really his story. Sure, it showed both boys growing up — and growing apart – but after all the wine-drinking, death-by-rock, village-pillaging, and stabbing that goes on between this twisted, little Island family, it’s Jacob’s fateful decision to doom his brother to a fate “worse than death” that literally unleashes darkness upon The Island via Smoke Monster. The parable’s pivotal moment is a spiritual murder that Jacob has to live his mostly immortal life with, and one that we’ve been witnessing the fallout from hundreds upon hundreds of years later.
I’m tempted to go one step further and say that while ‘Across The Sea’ was ultimately Jacob’s episode, it’s looking more and more like the entirety of Lost might be really about figuring out Smokey. And if Smokey is centerpiece to a show that has always specialized in puzzles, mysteries, and questions, I have no problems with his name being a big, fat, question mark. I have to give props to Doc Jensen, who I believe made a similar (and better) assessment already, that we’ll be looking back at the series in a new light, trying to figure the “monster” out.
He comes on smooth, cool and kind,
But he wants your body not your mind.
He’s got style, personality,
But he’s the devil in reality
– The Kinks
In an interview that should be required reading, HitFix’s Alan Seppinwall asks showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse about something that’s been bothering me after last week’s episode. After ‘The Candidate’ aired, Cuse explicitly said that there is no ambiguity for the character of UnLocke and that “he is evil and he has to be stopped.”
I was initially pretty disheartened by that comment because I didn’t think there’s been enough to make us really think Smokey might be good. Even before the Subpocalpyse, he showed himself to be a murderer, master manipulator, and a hater of Scottish time travelers.
But what really rubbed me wrong about the comment was that it seemed really out of character for a show that — by my count — has only ever had two evil, irredeemable characters surface on The Island. And both ‘evil’ characters have been minor; Anthony Cooper, the unapologetic conman who caused permanent damage to Locke and Sawyer, and Keamy, the stone-cold daughter killer/mercenary. To have a Big Bad that’s so integral to the show seems almost like a bizarre cop out at this point.
In the interview, Damon Lindelof reiterates that many characters, like Jin, Sawyer, and especially Ben, have started out as unsympathetic, but as we learned more about them, they became fleshed out characters that can’t be categorically defined as “good” or “bad” – as it should be, and as ‘Across The Sea’ demonstrated.
The episode came at a good time because it gave us our first big chunk of the Smokey puzzle before he fell too far into moustache-twirling Bad Guy. It humanized the Smoke Monster and made his motivations just a little bit clearer. His interest in Locke (who also had crazy mother issues) and Mr. Eko (who also had some serious brother issues) seem to make a little more sense now. (But only a little bit.)
The Mother, The Son, and the Holy Smoke Monster
Even though our castaways were centuries away from crashing on The Island during the events of ‘Across The Sea’, what made the episode shine was how it still felt like a completely authentic Lost story, and how the show’s themes still emerged in an entirely new timeline. It was also nice to see cues from the time the 815’ers spent on The Island; a birth, Others – and, hey, look, the donkey-wheel – as well as another iteration of the staying-versus-leaving-The-Island conflict. I think it’s a definite possibility that the Jacob/ Mother/ MiB family feud has left a psychic imprint on the heart of The Island that still reverberates and manifests itself in new ways, repeating itself through time.
And in the final minutes, what seemed like an answer to a question from Season One — Jacob’s makeshift cave-burial spliced with Jack, Kate and Locke’s discovery of the skeletons — turned into one of the powerful moments of the entire show.
At first, it seemed a bit like a ham-fisted shoutout, almost as if it was saying; Lookee here! An Answer! The Adam and Eve skeletons? Totally MiB and Allison Janney, just like we planned from the beginning!
But it was Locke’s appearance at the end of flashback-scene that made me almost do a Keanu-styled “woah”, as I realized that Jack, Locke, and Kate mirror the holy trinity of The Island’s dysfunctional family, with Locke as Smokey, Jack as a shoe-in for Candidate status, and Kate, who already has experience raising a child that wasn’t hers, much like the Mother character.
It’s a scene like that gets me excited about the direction of the endgame. Even though we may not be getting the answers we want, it’s hard to argue that Lost is working hard to give meaning and pay tribute to the groundwork they’ve laid. And hopefully be it will continue to be in ways that I didn’t see coming, opening portals to new thoughts built on previous ideas. Or as Mother would say, “every question I answer will simply lead to another question.”
And with only one final episode before our series finale, it’s almost time for us to stop asking questions, and see how we want to assemble the puzzle of Lost for ourselves.
*I think there also might be another reason they didn’t want to give us MiB’s name and if kid scenes were any indication, I think it’s because MiB is clearly the fabled mythic hero BEIBRON, the great descendant of Justin Bieber and Zac Efron. If Lost creators would have had his name spoken aloud, it surely would have brought about the destruction of the cosmos. And Twitter.