Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost 6.9: "Ab Aeretno"

Wow. Pretty darn good. But it's a deep one, so get your theology waders on. I'm so glad Richard didn't switch over to the dark side. I thought it was realistic that Jack's dynamite trick from a couple weeks ago wasn't enough to keep Richard from a crisis of faith, he really needed a whole episode to work through it on his own. He deserves it, he's an awesome character. We also got a lot of answers this time (some more satisfying than others) and of course a lot more questions, too. Turns out Richard is apparently like an Old Testament prophet, kind of a Moses figure, which I will elaborate on throughout the comments below. Let's start breaking it all down.

ILANA'S EYEBALL: This episode surprisingly opened on Ilana, instead of Richard, and with another close up of an eyeball. Yet again, we see her suffering, covered in bandages. What happened to her? I guess we'll find out sometime. I'm kind of doubting she'll get her own flash back, but we'll see. She seemed to be ready to serve Jacob despite her wounds, but also a little shook up at the same time. Was she overcome with emotion because she was shocked to see Jacob off the island? Was she simultaneously realizing she was about to get healed? The second time it cut back to Jacob and Ilana's flashback, it appeared that they were in the same place and Jacob was wearing the same clothes, but that Ilana was completely healed. We get to see Jacob telling her to protect the six candidates and telling her to take them to the temple.They didn't show it, but I guess Jacob told her to put on some fancy boots and seduce Sayid in order to get him on the plane, too. Or maybe that was her idea.

RICHARD HELL: Back on the island, Ilana asks Richard what to do next, and he laughs a kind of pathetic laugh and then angrily runs off in the woods with a convenient torch to find Smokey and try and switch teams. Before leaving he brings everybody down by telling them they're all dead and actually in hell. Worst bonfire party guest ever. At first, I was pretty annoyed at the whole "hell" angle being brought back up. Locke's father Anthony Cooper already brought up that theory, so, like all theories brought up by people on the show, it must not be right. Richard brings it back up again, but thankfully, it paid off later in the episode as we learned more about what Richard's early experiences on the island.

RICHARD STEERS A MEAN HORSE: In a flashback, we quickly learn Richard is from the Canary Islands in 1867, thanks to a helpful super. There's already been some nerd debate online about whether or not this causes some continuity problems, because back in the episode The Constant, we were told at an auction (that Widmore was attending) that the Black Rock's final voyage was in 1845. Whoops. Surprising, because Gregg Nations was one of the writers of this episode, and he's the guy on staff who's main responsibility is to keep up with the continuity and to know EVERYTHING about Lost. That would be a formidable job, though. Anyway, we soon meet Isabella, Richard's dying wife, who gives him a golden cross to give to the doctor as a payment for his services... A process that has continued throughout time, up until today, when Obama signed the health care bill to change all that. A REALLY big deal, at least according to Vice President Biden and his overenthusiastic swear words.

THE DOCTOR IS IN...BUT HE'S A JERK: Richard bursts in on the doctor, who apparently became a doctor because he hates people and wants them to die. Worst doctor ever. Richard agrees and accidentally manslaughters the dude. Which is easy to do, at least if you're a character on this show. By the way, here's the first similarity in this episode between Richard and the prophet Moses. Moses accidentally killed an Egyptian in anger and had to flee from Egypt. Which I guess isn't exactly the same, but still, kind of similar. Richard rushes back home to discover his wife is dead, and the police are close behind. Richard is placed in jail, where he learns to speak English by reading the Bible. He's got the book open to Luke 4:37 when the priest comes in. Not sure what the significance of that passage is, but it's the part where Jesus comes back from the wilderness after being tested and heals someone who is possessed by a demon. Richard tries to get absolution by confessing his sins to the priest, who says, nope, you're going to Hell no matter what, you have to work for grace (not true) and instead sells him into slavery for a bag of coins. He even takes Richard's Bible with him when he leaves the cell. Worst priest ever.

MANGUS HANSO: I kinda wish my name was Mangus Hanso. It's a pretty awesome name. We learn from the new character Whitfield that Mangus Hanso was the captain of the Black Rock slave ship. We had seen his name before on the blast door map, where the Black Rock was listed as the site where Mangus was buried. I'm kind of surprised we didn't actually get to see him, but I guess there wasn't really time for that. His ancestor Alvar would start the Hanso Foundation, which funded the Dharma initiative. For some reason. Read more about Mangus here.

THE BLACK ROCK HITS TURBULENCE: So, this is probably going to be the most controversial part of the episode among fans. We see the Black Rock on the ocean in what I would say is a pretty decent bit of CGI for Lost. And the ocean is going crazy. I'm a little confused by this, because in the season 5 finale we saw the Black Rock approaching the beach near the island in the daytime on a pretty clear day. Did Jacob cause a storm? One of Richard's shipmates peeks through the ship's hull during the storm and spots the grotesque Tawaret statue and thinks the island is guarded by a devil, which I guess begins to plant ideas in Richard's head that make him think he's in Hell. Then the controversial part happens. The water kicks up really high and the boat smashes into the statue, destroying it and landing way inland. Um, what? Wouldn't the boat just crash on the statue? Aren't statues generally made out of stone? Wouldn't everyone in the boat die when hitting the statue? How far inland can a boat be pushed by a wave if it hits a statue on the way? My first thought was that they tried to actually show the mammoth wave so that the crash and the statue collapsing would be more believable, and that the CGI just didn't look good so they redid the scene with the ship point-of-view cam. Either that, or we'll get a better description later of what actually happened. But I do have to say I'm a little disappointed with the kill two birds with one stone approach used here. How the statue broke and how the Black Rock got so far inland seemed like two separate fascinating mysteries before. And now the answer is... a really bad storm. Hmm. Well, it was still an amazing episode.

SMOKEY FINDS THE BOAT: Richard wakes up to a long nightmare inside the hull of the ship. I have to say, Richard doesn't get a break this episode. Immediately Whitfield walks in and starts stabbing all the slaves. I thought at first that he got "the sickness" but then he explained his actions were more of a precautionary, practical nature. Worst slave driver ever. Oh wait, I guess they're all pretty bad. Scratch that last one. Anyway Whitfield stops when he hears familiar noises outside the ship, and Smokey violently answers his request to "Report!" by pulling him through the ship's grates. Then Smokey kills everyone but Richard. Is Smokey killing them because he didn't want them to come to the island in the first place? It's also really interesting after this point how Richard's experience inside the boat mimics the Losties experience upon first arriving to the island. He encounters the smoke monster, who kills off some of his fellow survivors. Then he sees a boar, then he starts seeing dead people. And then he witnesses sudden rainstorms on sunny days, like we saw a lot in seasons one and two. It was also interesting how the smoke monster came into the boat, looked at Richard, and then let him live. It could have been because Richard was praying, but it's more likely Smokey scanned him, got the memory of Isabella from him, and decided to manipulate Richard instead. Interesting to think that scanning people is possibly how Smokey gets to bring their loved ones back to life. Explains what he was doing the time he scanned Eko, which later led to Eko seeing his brother on the island, alive.

THE BUTTERFLY: One thing I did think was interesting was the CGI'd blue butterfly that flew into the boat and past Richard. Was that just a butterfly, or was that Jacob somehow checking on him? Remember, we've seen animals before that have been "magical", like the Hurley bird and Kate's horse. Were those Jacob? Because neither of those seemed to be evil in a Smokey kind of way.

ISABELLA APPEARS ON THE BOAT: So, Isabella appears and we know it isn't really Isabella. This brings up some questions. Was it the Smokey? If so, why would he make it look like the smoke monster killed her? And how could he be in two places at once, since we hear him coming from a distance? It could be some other force on the island, or the island itself, who is appearing to people as ghosts. Like Ben's mom. Or Eko's brother. But in this case it makes the most sense if it is Smokey, because the apparition tells Richard he is in hell, and that the devil is after her. Which is a story that Smokey later uses to manipulate Richard. Probably the best bet. And it makes sense because Smokey is always offering to bring people back from the dead in order to get what he wants. What's confusing is Hurley's ability to see ACTUAL dead people. Because I'm assuming the Isabella he sees later is really her, while the one in the Black Rock at the beginning is someone else, since Richard could see one and not the other. So the island can host both real dead people and fake dead people? Confusing.

RETURN OF THE MAN IN BLACK: It was cool to see this actor again. But I'd REALLY, REALLY like his character's name now. It seems more and more likely that his name is Esau, but who knows. Do you think it's possible they'll NEVER give us his name? I hope not. Anyway, Nameless Guy with Black Shirt begins conning Richard instantly, telling him he's in Hell and needs to rescue his wife from the Devil. He also gives Richard some water. When the butterfly went by earlier, it started to rain right afterwards, and Richard tries to reach the water to drink and cannot. Was that Jacob, in his "don't interfere" mode, trying to help indirectly? And yet the Man in Black is not above stepping in and offering water if it will get him what he wants? Interesting. Richard agrees to help Smokey and then Smokey repeats the line "It's good to see you out of those chains" which he said as Flocke to Richard in the season opener.

RETURN OF DOGEN'S KNIFE: Smokey gives Richard a shinier version of the knife we know later ends up in Dogen's possession (presumably after Jacob gave it to him.) Oddly, Smokey gives Richard the exact same instructions that Dogen gave Sayid. I'm guessing here that only candidates can kill Jacob. Otherwise Smokey could have done it himself or gotten someone who would. And I'm guessing that Richard's a candidate. Speaking of the knife, what is its origin? In this scene, Smokey also tells Richard that he is the black smoke, which, unlike Sawyer's reaction last episode, causes Richard to start asking all the right questions. So... you killed everybody? And my wife? Smokey responds by saying, "You aren't the only one that lost something. The "devil" (Jacob) betrayed me, he took my body, my humanity." What does that mean? I guess that Smokey was a person once, and to keep him on the island Jacob cursed him or something happened where he lost the right to a corporal form, hence the cloud of smoke. Richard says he can't kill Jacob, because murder is what got him sent to Hell in the first place. I like Richard's logic. The Man in Black gets all philosophically vague and starts to talk about gray moral areas like, "who knows what's right and what's wrong". You really shouldn't accept this kind of ambiguous talk from a man dressed in a black shirt that symbolizes his own complete dedication to evil. Just a little advice for life.

WRESTLING WITH JACOB: Richard goes to the statue and we get to see bits of it floating in the ocean. Jacob starts to beat the crap out of him, which made Erin and I think about the scene in the Bible where Jacob actually wrestles with God in order to receive a blessing. So, if this is the actual biblical Jacob, then it's no surprise that he's a pretty mean wrestler. Jacob doesn't have time for all the "this his hell, we're actually dead" theories that were only popular with fans back in season one, so he splashes Richard in the ocean for a bit until he begs for his life and comes to his senses. Maybe Jacob needs to work a bit on his people skills, but personally I'm kind of glad that they're not making him out to be a milquetoast kind of good guy, like the wimpy oil painting feminine Jesus that got top billing in all of my Sunday School classes in the 70s.

THE ISLAND IS A CORK TO STOP THE WINE FLOW OF EVIL: Jacob and Richard sit down for a talk, and we get more answers than we got in all of season 3 in one conversation. Here's a rundown of what we learned: No one comes inside the statue unless Jacob invites them inside. The statue being off limits without an invite is reminiscent of the inner sanctum in the Old Testament Jewish temple, where only the priests who have purified themselves from sin by sacrificing animals could enter without being killed. We also learn the island is a place to keep the Man in Black prisoner, and Jacob is tasked with keeping him there. If the evil there gets out, it will spread. The island is the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. The Man in Black thinks everyone is corruptible because it's in their very nature to sin. But Jacob disagrees. He says when people get to the island, their past doesn't matter. Everyone he's brought to the island has been summoned there in order to learn for themselves the difference between right and wrong. He wants to do this without forcing people to do good, because without free will, morality is meaningless. But Richard, says "If you don't step in, he will". At this point, Jacob seems to honestly realize for the first time that Richard is right. He needs to take a more active role in what's going on. I think this scene is A LOT like Moses and God's conversations in the Old Testament. Moses pleads with God to spare the people who have betrayed him, and God actually listens and relents. Then for a while, God appoints prophets to go and tell His people His will. But then God changes the rules entirely in the New Testament by coming down to earth himself in the form of Jesus and REALLY getting his hands dirty. In the Old Testament, God lays out the laws and gives people a chance to be good by following written commands. But they can't hack it. So in the New Testament, God sends his son to pave a way for us, dying on our behalf to help us. I think Jacob's doing the same thing somehow when he allows Ben to kill him. Jacob's definitely got a plan to defeat the Man in Black, even from beyond the grave. Bare with me for a little more deep talk... Theologically, this conversation took a weird turn for me right at the end. Jacob says he can't forgive sins. Why is tht ? Is he God or not? I guess it's more likely that he's just a representative of God. Or he might even be the biblical Jacob. Whatever the case, this is probably the most theologically dense episode of Lost yet. Whew. Here's hoping there's a Hurley episode soon to provide a little levity before the final showdown. After Richard accepts Jacob's job offer, then he gives Richard eternal life, which for some reason he does have the right to do. Is it because he is the biblical Jacob, and he has a special blessing? Oddly, Richard's request for eternal life is because he's afraid to die and go to Hell for murder. If Jacob can't grant forgiveness for that murder, where then is Richard supposed to receive it? Because just about every one on the island has killed someone either intentionally or accidentally. Are they all out of luck, too? Or should they all just live forever to avoid the problem? Does Jacob want Richard to find real spiritual forgiveness in a more meaningful way while he's on the island, instead of just doling it out as fire insurance to the dude who doesn't want to go to Hell?

THE WHITE ROCK: Richard goes back to the Man in Black, who's sitting at the weird stone picnic bench. He gives the Man in Black the white rock. The Devil lets Richard know he'll always be there for him if he wants to be evil, then ironically hands him a cross. I think in this case the cross is a reminder of Isabella, and Smokey's unholy offer to bring Isabella back Pet Semetary-style. We then cut to the same location in present day, now overgrown, as Richard finds the cross in the dirt remarkably quickly and tries to call Smokey. Luckily Hurley comes out instead, and we get a really nice twist on the movie Ghost, where Hurley is Whoopi Goldberg, Richard is Demi Moore (they kinda look alike) and Isabella is Patrick Swayze. And the circle of life is complete. Does Richard start hearing Isabella at the end? It seems like it. I like how they ended this scene with Hurley saying there's one more thing that Richard had to do: Stop the Man in Black from leaving the island or "we all go to Hell". Scary.

ANOTHER CASUAL CHAT BETWEEN GOOD SHIRT & BAD SHIRT: We cut back to Man in Black and Jacob having a chat on a log. The Man in Black has been tossing around the White Stone so long that it's become smooth. I thought that was a nice touch to show how obsessive Smokey is. Irritated by losing Richard, the Man in Black says he will kill Jacob and anyone who takes his place. I wish they had cut after that, but instead Jacob leaves and Smokey smashes the glass bottle of wine on the log, which was a bit goofy. But, whatever. The rest of the episode was pretty darn awesome.

Thoughts? Unfortunately, my DVR didn't get the preview for next week, so I can't pick it apart like I usually do. I do know the next episode is called "The Package" and I would guess it's Sun and Jin-related, after the last cliffhanger where Sayid found Jin in that freezer. Sun and Jin episodes are usually pretty decent, so it should be a good one. See you then.


stirman said...

Awesome episode!

Also, worth mentioning... Richard saying "I want to live!" while being dunked in the ocean was very baptismal, yeah?

Wes W. said...

I'd agree with that, Stirman. Though it was a violent baptism.It also reminded me of Sayid's unsuccessful "baptism".

One other big question I meant to include in my post and forgot: If the island is the cork keeping the evil from being released into the world, then what is the deal in the Flash-Sideways? The island has sunk there. Is the evil released in that timeline? Will we see them having to deal with it in the flash-sideways and see a battle there between good and evil?

Anonymous said...

Why didnt I pay more attention in Sunday School!! Well thank you for the translations Wes. Awesome episode...I agree with the forced Baptism, that was his turning point IMO. Still processing this one.
Love jacob the shape-shifting animal/ Beastmaster character...nice observation.

Anonymous said...

Early on I hoped Richard would be Egyptian because of the guyliner. (Is that only in the movies?) When the smoke monster left Richard in the hold of the Black Rock we got a close up of his eyes and he had the guyliner. Did the smoke monster put it there?

Also, the preview for next week was weak and really didn't show anything. At all.

Old Man Crews said...

It took 6 seasons for the castaways to sit down and actually talk about what was happening to them. It always bothered me that they never asked any questions, but tonight they finally did and it was a good episode.

April said...

"What's confusing is Hurley's ability to see ACTUAL dead people. Because I'm assuming the Isabella he sees later is really her, while the one in the Black Rock at the beginning is someone else, since Richard could see one and not the other. So the island can host both real dead people and fake dead people? Confusing."

Hurley can see dead people off of the island as well, as we discover when he returns as part of the Oceanic 6. The smoke monster can take the form of dead people. I don't see what's confusing about that.

I really like the idea of Jacob bringing the rain. I had never thought of that.

After last night, I feel that I need to watch all of my Lost DVDs over again. It was that good.

Andrea said...

OK this comment is not so much for this ep. but in general. Something I thought of when thinking of how FLocke is having Sawyer do his bidding. Interesting that it is Sawyer. FLocke uses Sawyer because he can't do it himself. And back when Anthony Cooper was on the Island and Locke couldn't bring himself to kill him, He talked Sawyer into it. Of course we all know it was personal, but I just remembered that and thought it was an interesting pairing.

Anonymous said...


Zach said...

I have little to add other than a big "awesome."

I wonder who Magnus Hanso ends up being.