Saturday, 15 May 2010

LOST 6.15 - "Across The Sea"

Saturday, 15 May 2010
WRITERS: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof
DIRECTOR: Tucker Gates
GUEST CAST: Kenton Duty, Allison Janney, Lela Loren, Mark Pellegrino, Titus Welliver & Ryan Bradford
[SPOILERS] I'm officially worried about the series finale. "Across The Sea" was a mythology lynchpin focusing on the back-story of Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and the Man In Black (Titus Welliver), but one that felt very heavy-handed and often more stupid and unconvincing than engrossing. Ironically, while Lost is often (erroneously) criticized for failing to deliver answers, "Across The Sea" was evidence that some things should remain a mystery. Spirituality and mysticism is fine when it's an intangible thing kept just beyond comprehension, but when we're staring at Glowing Caves and asked to believe they can magically birth Smoke Monsters from dead brothers, the part of me that rejoices in the pure sci-fi of Lost gets upset.

A normal format for a review feels unnecessary this week, probably because the plot played more a massive info-dump wrapped in a fable. Suffice to say that the hour was a flashback to the distant past of the Island, where a pregnant woman called Claudia (Lela Loren) washed up on its shore and was cared for by a middle-aged woman we'll come to refer to as "Mother" (Allison Janey). This is because, shortly after castaway Claudia gave birth to twins (Jacob and his unexpected, thus unnamed brother), she was murdered and her children raised by her impromptu mid-wife.

Here are the big explanations/developments we were given and my reaction to them:

Jacob and the Boy In Black (cute how we still never learned his name, but necessary?) grew up together on the Island' playing an Egyptian board game called Senet and hunting boar with spears. Both boys convinced that nothing lies "across the sea" and their Mother is the only other person in existence. This bubble of deceipt was burst when they saw other islanders (Claudia's shipmates, who had spent 13 years living on the other side of the Island), and therefore demanded answers of their all-knowing Mother.

The boys were shown a cave of golden light at the end of a stream, apparently the "Source" of the Island's "power", which it's Mother's job to protect. One of the babies she "adopted" will one day replace her as custodian, and she currently favours the Boy In Black. This was perhaps our first hint that the simple "light/dark, black/white" symbolism of Jacob/MIB isn't of grand relevance. They're just brothers with differing opinions and attitudes.

Later, the Boy In Black saw the spirit of his birth mother Claudia, who convinced him to leave his adopted Mother and go live with her people instead. He did so, leaving Jacob and his Mother behind. Both boys grew into adults over the next three decades, with the Man In Black now a trusted member of the islanders' community, who have noticed the Island's curious electromagnetic properties and have dug wells at various hotspots to investigate. The MIB himself discovers a pocket of the same "golden light" he was shown as a teen inside the Cave, and has built a donkey wheel to insert into it, apparently as a means to escape the Island. I have no idea how he came to that conclusion, or how the light (which we know to be "exotic matter" in season 4, but is now likened to a "life force") can make the Island jump to a different location.

Mother eventually chose the more trusting Jacob to be her successor, making him drink wine as part of a "ceremony" to turn him into a being like her (i.e. unable to age and with certain powers?), before knocking the MIB unconscious and letting him wake up to find his village had been razed to the ground. Enraged, MIB fled to Mother in her cave-dwelling and stabbed her with a knife (the sacred knife used to kill Jacob in season 5), before he was attacked by Jacob and beaten up. Equally angry, Jacob took his brother's unconscious body and threw it into the Cave's golden light (something he was warned never to do) and in so doing created the "Smoke Monster". I guess Smokey is more a manifestation of MIB's soul, as Jacob later discovered his brother's dead body upstream and buried it in the cave alongside his Mother's corpse, with a pouch containing a black and white stone from their Senet game. Thus, Mother and MIB were the "Adam & Eve" skeletons from Lost's first season, discovered by Jack and Kate during "House Of The Rising Sun" -- a moment this episode chose to remind us of using archive footage.

In Summation

I guess my dislike for some of the answers here stem from a few things.

1) It revealed that Jacob and MIB were humans given supernatural abilities, and I think I preferred to believe they're ancient deities that have existed since time immemorial. In explaining them, they've lost their mystique. Particularly Jacob, who's gone from a God-like figure to a rather blinkered shaman type. I suppose there are still mysteries about the Island that will remain unanswered, because even Jacob's just a successful "candidate" without omniscience, which I'm taking as consolation. Thank God there's no time to explain where Mother came from or who discovered the Source.

2) So, the Smoke Monster is... well, the result of what happens when you throw someone into the Source. It's a kind of "living death", I guess, with a person's soul becoming trapped inside smoke for all eternity. Right? It would have made more sense if the smoke was the cremated remains of MIB, but the story obviously had to leave a body behind because it intended to answer the two skeletons mystery. So why has Jacob been claiming the MIB is an "evil" that needs to be kept bottled up on the Island? Is MIB actually an "evil" person? It feels to me that he just wants to leave the Island and see the world,, having been stuck on the Island for centuries. I still don't see why that would be a bad idea -- sorry, Jacob. Maybe if you'd let him go he wouldn't now be killing your present-day candidates.

3) I'm still puzzled about the donkey wheel. What was MIB's plan there? It felt like a huge stretch that he's reach a conclusion that fashioning a wooden wheel and jamming it into a part of the Source (if that's what it was) would be of any benefit to his plan to leave the Island. Try building a raft! That didn't make a lick of sense to me.

4) We were given no sense of what the islanders thought about everything. Where did they come from? Did they land there intentionally? Were they struggling to leave? Did they miss Claudia? Where did they think MIB came from? What did they make of the MIB as a person over 30 years? Were they as confused by his donkey wheel plan as I was? Did they really deserve the bad appraisal MIB gave them to Jacob?

Questions, Questions, Questions!
  • When was all this taking place exactly? I'm not sure when the Egyptian architecture on the Island comes into being. I assume Egyptians arrived on the Island post-Mother and built the Temple (around the Source, as its spring?), and the four-toed statue, out of reverence for Jacob. Does anyone agree? Actually, that must be true, because there were depictions of Smokey in the chamber beneath the Temple.
  • Will it ever be explained why women can't give birth on the Island nowadays? Claudia was able to. Claire was (somehow) able to. Is that significant? They have similar names, too. Maybe the Island allows a successful pregnancy whenever a replacement guardian is required, meaning it wants Aaron to be the new Jacob? If so, how is toddler Aaron going to get involved in the plot with only a few episodes left? And if we don't see Aaron involved in the finale, what the hell has been the point of his character? I can forgive Walt being kicked to the side because the actor's growth was an issue, but there was no such issues with Aaron's enigma.
  • MIB has been seeing the teenage Jacob as a "ghost" all season. What's the significance of that, now the teen's identity has been confirmed? Is that Jacob's spirit, trying to make his brother feel guilty by showing him his younger self? And we still don't know why Jacob has blood on his arms as a ghost. Is that just Lady MacBeth-style symbolism directed at MIB for killing their Mother?
  • So I guess the idea of bringing people to the Island was something Jacob devised on his own, as something to do with his powers, and a "game" to play with his brother. After all, his Mother didn't seem to like interlopers. But did she have the ability to traverse vast distances as Jacob has been proven to, because he appeared to various characters off-island?
  • Who built the Lighthouse? Egyptians? Another group in a more recent era? Jacob must have decided to mix with people and get himself followers, right? The proto-Others.
  • If Mother made it impossible for Jacob and MIB to hurt each other, why was Jacob able to do just that later in the episode? And how did Mother singlehandedly destroy the islander's entire village? And was that justified? Is it an early parallel to the "Purge" that Ben undertook against DHARMA in the '70s, at Richard's behest. But wasn't Richard working for Jacob?
  • And yes... what is the Man In Black's name?
14 MAY 2010: SKY1/HD, 9PM