Let's face it, if the big mythology episode of Lost hadn't been cheesy as all get-out, you'd have been disappointed. It's about time this show let its true over-the-top colors fly. But exactly whose fall from grace did we witness?
And yes, there are maximum spoilers for "Across The Sea" in this recap.
The creators of Lost pulled out all the stops for this go-around - including playing the "classic mythology" card for all it was worth. The episode takes place in an old-timey era - it sounded as though the two women were speaking Latin in the first scene - and there are twins, one of whom is named Jacob. The other one doesn't actually get to be named Esau, because his mom dies before she can name him. And the two boys grow up as playmates and rivals for their surrogate mom's love.
Actually, the most jarring moment of the episode came right after the teaser - we witness Allison Janney's character murdering the mother of the newborn twins after she's scarcely stopped pushing them out. And then we cut to - a blaring Chili's commercial. Bloody matricide, and a labor bed becoming a deathbed - brought to you by Chili's! Because it's spicy:
Chipotles! They look a bit like mom-brains. If you squint.
But the whole episode seems nakedly designed to feel like a parable, by way of classic pulp science fiction. One of the twins is good and the other is prodigal-ish, even from the beginning. And of course their "mother" loves the prodigal one best, telling him he's "Special" and wanting him to grow up to become the sacred guardian guy. And as Sly Stone put it, "One child grows up to be somebody you just want to burn." And then there's the whole slightly cheese-tastic "for the world is hollow and I have touched the sky" thing where the surrogate mom tries to convince Jacob and not-Jacob that there's nothing beyond the island.
But then we realize that the surrogate mom - I'm tempted to call her Rousseau 1.0 - is guarding an awesome secret on the island, and she's grooming the two boys as "Candidates" to replace her in this duty. And we actually get to see the awesome secret and it's.... shiny.
And in the end, of course, not-Jacob rebels against his surrogate mom, becoming determined to find a way off the island. He hits on a method that's not unlike the Frozen Donkey Wheel that Ben uses at the end of season four, but even back then the consequences of leaving the island appear to be dire, and his adoptive mom takes dire steps to stop him. And then after he kills her in retribution, the newly anointed Jacob takes a weird sort of revenge.
Like I said, it's all a bit cheesy - but in an awesome way. The show has been hinting at a mushy, "world soul" type truth at the heart of all its mysteries for quite a long time now. And with only a couple of episodes left until the finale, it was really time to ante up or fold. So the fact that the show finally dropped its drawers and gave us the Full Avatar is actually good news. We now know that Eywa lives on the island and there's a magic waterfall, and the source of all glowy awesomeness lives there. If it had been any other way, the whole thing would collapse under the weight of all its mystification.
I was expecting to cringe a lot while watching this, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how tangy and sharp that cheese was. It was like baked brie, rather than American cheese, if you see what I mean.
But then we get to the crucial question - what the hell happened here? And I suspect the meaning of the episode revolves around that one snippet, which I've reproduced up top. The bit where Jacob gives his brother what he's wanted, and tosses him into the Mouth of Eywa.
This, in retrospect, turns out to have been a very bad idea.
Not just because it turns the Man In Black into the Smoke Monster - we knew that was coming all along. But because of what it does to the glowy life essence at the heart of the island. Watch the scene carefully, and it looks as though the glow doesn't come back after Jacob tosses his brother in. And indeed, Rousseau 1.0 warns them both earlier in the episode that if men ever get their grubby protuberances on this light source, it will go out forever. Huh.
And you'll notice, also, that in "Ab Aeterno," Jacob doesn't describe the island as sitting on top of a storehouse of happy glowy soul-light. Instead, he says the island is sitting on a fountain of evil, like a cork, and if the cork is ever removed, the evil will spread all over the world.
So did Jacob screw up majorly by smokifying his brother? Did he pollute the life source at the center of the island forever? Is everything that's happened since then his fault?
The other thing that I wonder about is whether it's significant that Jacob and Smokey were born on the island, and that might be why Rousseau 1.0 needed them, in particular. Ben makes a big deal of lying to Locke back in season three, saying that he was born on the island when he was actually born near Portland. Is being born on the island a mark of leadership? Or special awesomeness? If so, is Aaron the only character remaining who can claim that distinction? (And why wasn't Ethan special, in that case?)
Finally, once again it seems like mothers and childbirth are particularly important to this show - and the Incident in 1977, when Jack set off his hydrogen bomb, was the moment when women became unable to give birth safely on the island. Was the 1977 Incident Jack's own version of Jacob's error in this episode?
Anyway, to sum up: I was nervous about this episode, since it was such a big mythology outing, and the whole "Candidates" and Jacob/Smokey thing has been dragging quite a bit lately. But I actually found myself enjoying its "Hell yeah we're doing a pulpy fantasy parable" approach quite a lot, and it recharged my interest in the power struggle between Flocke and Jacob's Ghost.
What did you think?