Wednesday, March 24, 2010 815 (or fewer) words: "Ab Aeterno"

All season long, everyone's wanted one thing from Lost: Answers.

Tonight, we got some. A whole lot of 'em, actually.

Then again, that depends on who you believe. One of the most fascinating things about Lost is its dependency on unreliable narrators to tell the story. "Ab Aeterno" continued in that same vein. (For the record, I'm more apt to believe Jacob than MIB in regards to what they each told Richard, but I'll get to that later on.)

The episode's action started off with Richard telling Jack, Hurley, Sun, Lapidus, Ilana and Ben that they're all in hell, that they're all dead. I know from obsessing over reading lots of Lost articles that, way back when--maybe in Season 2 or so--the producers were adamant that this place was not purgatory. So right away, I thought, "Richard's not telling the truth. He may think he is, but he really isn't." (By the way, I loved Ben in this portion of the episode. Instead of the frightened Ben we've seen in the past few eps, we got snarky, droll Ben back for a little while. Yay!)

Then, as we watched Richard running into the darkened jungle, we got a Richard flashback--not a sideways story, but an honest-to-goodness flashback, starting in 1867. In it, we saw:

* Richard's wife, Isabella, being sick
* Richard trying to convince the doctor to come save her--but he accidentally killed the douchey doctor
* Richard being jailed and told that the priest "cannot grant [him] absolution for murder"
* Because Richard knew English, instead of getting hanged, he got put aboard a ship, the Black Rock, to work for...Magnus Hanso. (So there's that Hanso person we've heard bits and pieces about...or we've at least heard about the Hanso Foundation, in any case)
* Richard was chained to the ship's walls. Waves caused the ship to crash into the statue of Tawaret, breaking the statue and beaching the ship in the middle of the jungle.
* A man (Hanso?) killing the other slaves on board because only 5 officers have survived and "if [he] freed [them], it would only be a matter of time before [they] killed [him]." Then Hanso (or whoever he was) got swallowed up by Smokey.
* Then Isabella appeared to Richard. But she's dead! We know she's dead! My suspicion: It's Smokey in disguise! And we find out why Richard believes he's in hell and they're all dead: It's because "Isabella" told him so.
* And then MIB appears, calling himself "a friend." (Riiiiight. Because if you have to say you're a friend, chances are you may be quite the opposite.) And this "friend" tries to convince Richard to go "kill the devil" so he (Richard) can see his wife again. (What got my ears perked up: MIB to Richard: "You'll do anything I ask?" Made me momentarily wonder if Richard had been working for MIB, not Jacob, all the time.)
* A mirror image: "It's good to see you out of those chains," MIB said to Richard. These were the same words he said to Richard in the present Island timeframe a few episodes ago, only this time he was cloaked in Locke's body. (No wonder Richard looked so freaked out then!)
* Another mirror image: MIB telling Richard to stab "the devil" before the devil even has a chance to speak. Sound familiar? It's what Dogen told Sayid to do to FLocke in "Sundown."
* We see Jacob administering some tough love to Richard, dunking him in the ocean to make Richard realize he didn't want to die (thanks, MIKE S, for pointing out to this little agnostic that that seems an awful lot like baptism!).
* And then--finally!--we begin to get some answers. Or what I believe are answers, anyway. My gut tells me to believe Jacob, not MIB. So if you, like me, believe Jacob, this is what you learn: Jacob brought the Black Rock to the Island. You can think of the Island's situation like a bottle of wine: here it--the darkness--is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out. If it got out, it would spread its darkness everywhere. The cork in the top of the bottle is the Island. That's what keeps the darkness from spreading. While MIB believes that all people are sinners, Jacob brings people to the Island to prove him wrong, to show him that people can change, be good, be moral. He will not force them to be moral; it's something they have to do on their own, to help themselves, to prove they can change--otherwise it's meaningless. If Richard would like to have a job being Jacob's intermediary, Richard can have it, and Jacob will give him something in exchange. Jacob cannot give him his wife back, nor can he grant him absolution of his sins. Because--I'm assuming--Richard knows he can't be absolved of his sins and wants to avoid going to hell, he asks to live forever. Wish granted.
* Later, we see Richard give MIB the white rock (from Jacob) that we saw several episodes before when we saw Flocke in the cave. At that time, the rock was on one side of a scale; the other side of that scale had a dark rock on it. MIB gives Richard the cross necklace that had once belonged to Isabella. Then Richard buries that cross (and we know nothing ever stays buried on the Island!).

* The flashback ends, and we see Richard wandering around in the light/daytime. He goes to unearth that cross. Holding it, he yells, "I've changed my mind! You said the offer would still stand! Does the offer still stand?" My interpretation: He was calling out to MIB; he missed his wife and wanted to see her again. And then Hurley shows up. "Your wife sent me. She wants to know why you buried her cross," he said. He told Richard that Isabella was standing right next to him; we saw that she was, although Richard did not. "Sometimes it takes people a while [to believe]," Hurley said. And then: "She wants you to close your eyes. I'll tell you what she says." Isabella says that it wasn't Richard's fault he couldn't save her--that it was her time. And then "My love--we are already together."
* Once Isabella disappeared, Hurley said, "She kinda said one more thing. Something you have to do. You have to stop the man in black from leaving the Island. If you don't, we all go to hell."
* Which begs the question(s):
--By "changing his mind," has Richard crossed over to the dark side?
--Was that really Isabella, or was that a MIB-made Isabella?
--If the former, then what does that mean, exactly?
--If the latter, then does that mean that all along, every dead person Hurley has seen/talked to has been a manifestation of MIB (even off-Island)? Also: if this Isabella was MIB-made, why did it then tell Richard to keep MIB from leaving the Island?
* Before the scene ends, we see FLocke looking rather...intense. What do you suppose he was thinking about?

We get one more flashback before the episode ends. It's an MIB/Jacob flashback. MIB tells Jacob he wants to leave the Island. Jacob tells MIB that as long as he himself is alive, MIB's not going anywhere. MIB mentions this is why he wants to kill Jacob, and Jacob tells him he'll find someone to take his (Jacob's) place if that happens (the candidates, obviously). Then Jacob hands MIB that bottle of wine: "Here's something for you to pass the time." And after Jacob leaves, MIB cracks that sucker open...letting all the darkness out, giving us a very Pandora's Box type of vibe (thanks for that one, DAVE S!).

So tonight we got some answers. Lots of answers (unless Jacob's a big ol' liar!). We got a lot of symbolism that hints at religious stuff (none of which I can talk about in too much detail because I have zero religious knowledge--so if you can fill me in, by all means do so!). We got a few speeches that were mirror images of things we've heard before. We got some very interesting backstory. We know why the candidates are on the Island, who brought them there, and that the Island sort of seems like the portal to hell--or the thing that keeps hellishness from spilling out into the rest of the world. We got a much better understanding of the Island's most mysterious character. I think this was a terrific episode, and just what we rabid fans needed. We've had a bunch of questions and not a whole lot of answers thrown at us lately, and an episode like this one quenched a bit of our thirst for information and allows us to settle back in for the rest of the ride. And I have a feeling it's gonna be a hell of a ride.

What other things did you notice about this episode? What parts of it did you love, love, love? Do any of you believe the MIB isn't such a baddie after all and that Jacob's really the bad guy? Whose side is Richard on now, anyway? Talk to me in the Comments section!


Ranielle said...

Re: Magnus Hanso -- I'm fairly certain you hear the officers above deck yelling that Hanso is dead, just before the one officer goes below deck to start killing those pesky living slave peoples. I figure that guy was just the first officer; he looked like the guy who inspected Ricardo and paid the priest.

This episode definitely had me questioning who was good and who was evil, but I'm beginning to have my suspicions that that's the point. The Devil's not going to tell you he's the Devil. (Or whatever evil or malevolent force or deity you want to put in his place.) And all men (and women) have free will; it's what -- in my VERY limited religiosity-type knowledge -- separates us from the angels. Good or bad, it's the guy with the most convincing argument who's going to win man (or woman) to his side. And in these kinds of stories, it's always about the competition.

Even though Richard shouted to the heavens that he changed his mind, he didn't really get the chance to act on it. And it's actions that make all the difference, I think. Because of free will, he can change his mind again. That's what Jacob wants them to do: CHOOSE to do the right thing.

You bring up a great point about MIB's dead people impersonations, and whether or not the Isabella that spoke to Richard through Hurley was actually MIB-in-disguise or not. I want to say that I don't think that MIB can make himself look like anyone but Locke right now. I feel like there was something said in one of he previous episodes this season that he's actually stuck like that. But I could be wrong. And if that really was the MIB... Well, then, my mind is officially blown. As for the multitude of pre-FLocke dead people who've appeared and whether they were MIB or not (if unknown) -- Well, anything's possible. Like I say, I never believe anything about this show until after the fact, and even then, I'm skeptical.

My favorite part? The close-ups of Nestor Carbonell's eyes.

MarieC said...

This was a great episode, aside from the conspicuous lack of Shirtless Sawyer!

Did you notice that the man who bought Ricardo from the prison was a Mr. Widmore?? Significant? I think it has to be.


@ Ranielle: Ha! I didn't hear that (about Hanso) because I was too busy scribbling, I bet. Took 10 pages of notes during that damn episode! ;)

Yep, I agree with you that a lot of the point is figuring out who's good and evil (or, as the case may be, more good and more evil, since I suspect neither one is 100% good or 100% evil, but somewhere in between). Part of me wants to think "Jacob is [more] good" because, well, I think that he is. Another part of me wants to think "Jacob is NOT so good" because I'm a skeptic--give me a blondish guy dressed in white opposing a darker-haired man in black, and I don't WANT to believe the "light is good and dark is bad" thing because that just seems too easy.

Re: Richard shouting that he changed his mind... I can't help wondering about him digging up that cross. Say in that scene, Isabella was a manifestation of MIB. Did holding that cross help call MIB/"Isabella" to Richard somehow? Once he had that cross, "Isabella" showed up. I remember that before Richard buried that cross, MIB handed it to him--in the process of doing so, did it become some sort of talisman? (Think back to "Recon" where there seemed to be so much emphasis on hands touching, and of course to Jacob touching the candidates. If something happens when Jacob touches stuff, perhaps something else happens when MIB touches stuff...?)

My mind's still going about the dead people impersonations and how many MIB can do. I vaguely recall what you're remembering, how he's "stuck like this [Locke]"...but if that's the case, if he's stuck in only one form, how could he also have been Alex, and Mr. Eko's brother, and maybe even Christian... Especially since I suspect he may have been trapped in that damn cabin when all those characters were impersonated (if they were actually impersonated)... I don't think we're gonna know the answer to this one for a while, but I'd put money on us finding out during Hurley's sideways episode! :)


@ MarieC: Ha! I missed shirtless Sawyer too, but I'm gonna agree with Ranielle's comment that Nestor Carbonell has some damn fine eyes. :)

I was pretty sure that dude's name was "Whitfield," although I could be wrong. Now I'm curious and want to give it another listen!

michael said...

I don't think the brief visions of dead people are Nemesis. Usually only one person at a time can see them (Hurley, more often than not), and they don't stick around very long. When Nemesis embodies someone, the are physical manifestations, and either precede or follow the Smoke. Besides, Isabella was telling Richard NOT to help Nemesis.

I, too, am inclined to believe Jacob. Everything he and Nemesis have said to each other, or anything Jacob has told other characters, points to him being the "good" guy. He doesn't like to intervene, he wants people to do the right thing, and he asks for sacrifice. Nemesis enjoys killing, manipulation, and offering indulgences (not the Catholic get-out-of-purgatory-free cards, mind you) to people.

One little kink in that theory, though: yes, I immediately thought of baptism when Jacob was dunking Richard. I thought they were being pretty obvious about it. However, another Bible passage came to mind when Jacob was granting Richard his compensation: "The Temptation of Christ." For those of you unfamiliar, it is the story of Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Satan comes to him and, among other things, offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if only Jesus would forsake his Father and worship Satan. It isn't a perfect parallel, by any means, especially considering Jesus refused all three of Satan's offers, rather than "Satan" saying he couldn't do the first two things. Which does make me want to believe Jacob - while Nemesis said he could do anything, Jacob admits that he has limits (though for all we know, they could be self-imposed. Which would make him a LOT like Jesus in the Temptation). Time for a Doc Jensen-style FUN FACT!: in the Bible, the fasting in the desert and the Temptation occurred just after Jesus's baptism.

All in all, I thought it was a great episode, especially when I realized they were confirming a lot of the theories regarding Jacob and Nemesis. The only disappointing thing in my opinion was that they had AMPLE opportunity to give Nemesis a name. I think when they do bother naming him, it's going to be something very significant.


@ Michael: Good point about the dead characters. Which begs the question--if they aren't manifestations of MIB, then what are they, and why/how do they appear?

Nice "The Temptation of Christ" info. I love hearing about this stuff--it really is news to me, as I have no religious background, and I'm finding these parallels very interesting!

I'm glad that they finally started to confirm some of our theories--and that we weren't dead wrong about Jacob, the Island, etc (or at least at this point, we don't SEEM to be dead wrong).

I agree--I'm really curious to know Nemesis/MIB's name. Probably as soon as I hear it for the first time, I'll start Googling it...

April said...

This episode was exactly what I wanted from a Richard story. I would have liked more of his on-island story such as some details of things he has done on Jacob's behalf for the last 100+ years (!) but I am still quite pleased.

In the bible, there is the story of Job. I recommend reading about it, if you can. I'm sure you can find a synopsis of it online? To summarize, though, Job is a loyal devotee to God and his faith is very strong. Satan challenges this faith, telling God that Job is only this happy and this faithful because he has everything good. So God says (in so many words) wanna bet? And thus Job's life becomes absolute misery and this is all to test his faith.

Sound familiar?

I am not convinced the island's inhabitants are "Job" or that Jacob and MiB are God/Satan but I think there's some kind of connection there. Jacob believes that people are good and will choose the right thing while the MiB believes that all men are corruptible and this whole thing is just to see who is right. That's what last night's episode told me.

I do not think they are dead or in hell. I think Richard's statement of such was more of his crisis of faith. He believed he was in hell when he landed on the island and then Jacob told him he was not in hell, which he has believed right up until his faith in Jacob had been broken so he has no reason to believe anything Jacob has ever said. I think Isabella coming to him through Hurley will help him resolve this crisis.

I do not think that was the MiB but a genuine appearance from the dead to Hurley. Maybe Jacob orchestrated that appearance because he knows that this is what will help Richard? One thing is certain, even though Richard has stopped believing in Jacob, Jacob still believes in Richard. I think he's just helping Richard to start believing in himself again.


@ April: I knew you'd be able to lend some insight into the religious parallels--thank you! :) Yes--the Job story does sound familiar...

I was fascinated by Richard's crisis of faith. I think he may have found at least some of his faith again (through the Isabella appearance)--but I'm not entirely sure. I liked your idea that even though Richard has stopped believing in Jacob, Jacob still believes in Richard. I think he's just helping Richard to start believing in himself again"...and I hope that really is what's happening.

michael said...

I really wonder what Jacob claims Richard will know what to do. (Did that sentence make ANY grammatical sense?) It almost sounded like if/when they get all six remaining candidates to the Temple, there will be some sort of trial to determine who will take Jacob's place. Maybe the instructions are "hidden" in a way that only Richard would find? And then, if only one of the Six will be chosen, what happens to the others? *cue dramatic music*

Also, April, great catch with Job! That really does seem to be what Jacob and Nemesis are playing. I wonder for how long...


@ Michael: I forgot all about that point, about how Richard was supposed to know what to do. I'm not entirely convinced he does--or if he does, perhaps he doesn't know he knows...

If only one of the Six is chosen, I hope it's Hurley. I could totally see him chillin' on the beach with Vincent for eternity, being some sort of benevolent entity. :)

Sarah said...

I agree with you all that the writers are driving us in questioning who is good and who is evil with several of the scenes.
You gotta love a show that has such amazing writing- even when they are telling us what to believe we still dont believe it! I agree with Ranielle- I wont believe anything for absolute sure until the final credits roll.
Most of the time I look for the hidden agenda in what MIB says, but last night when he was talking to Richard in the Black Rock I whole heartedly believed the story he told him about Jacob taking his body and his HUMANITY, which I thought was an amazingly interesting word used in that context. If the whole conversation was meant to lead Richard to act, then all he needed to say was that Jacob was the devil and he had Isabella. Richard was good to go after hearing that- the information about Jacob taking MIB's body wouldnt have added to Richards drive to kill Jacob, so I believe it to be true.
I do believe that MIB used to be able to take different forms- so I do believe that he was the Christian Shephard and Alex we saw on island after they both died. I now believe he is stuck in Locke's form and can no longer shift into other forms. As to why this is? IDK- two theories I have
1. He was "found out", meaning people saw the real Locke's body and knew something was up. He got caught=he is stuck in that form.
2. This one is a little twisty so stay with me. If my earlier belief that MIB was telling the truth about Jacob taking his body is correct, that means that JACOB used to be able to change form. Maybe the ability to change form was transferred to MIB when Jacob took his body, and when Jacob died, so did that gift. So now MIB is stuck.

I am thinking that Hurley being able to see dead people is just that, Hurley can see dead people. I dont think it has anything to do with being on the island, since he could do it off island too. and i dont think the people Hurley sees are MIB.

I am beginning to think the writers are refusing to give MIB a name on purpose to make us all crazy. Please give him a name, i dont even care what it is!

I flat out laughed when Richard kept saying they were in Hell. I love it when the writers slip those little "see, we heard our fans talking" things in there.

I do think Richard knows what Jacob wants him to do, I just think he is consumed right now with uncertainty. He doesnt believe in just about everything he has done over the last century or so, and feels like there is no need to continue playing the game. I think he is angry with Jacob and choosing not to follow the plan(at least for now) feels better to him than carrying it out.

Last thoughts- maybe its just because I was missing Sawyer last night, but take a second look at the earlier scene where the kid appears to FLocke in the woods and tells him "You cant kill him". Since we have seen MIB kill pretty much whoever he wants with one exception- he cant directly kill the protector of the island, could that little kid have been talking about Sawyer? Could Sawyer be the new "Jacob?"

One more biblical tie in. Maybe the "he" in the "he is coming" that Jacob said right before FLocke pushed him into the fire is a God like entity. Meaning Jacob would be like Jesus and MIB would be like the devil. IDK, but FLocke seemed awfully concerned by that news.


@ Sarah: Yes, indeed--the writing on Lost is great. And last night's episode was, in my opinion, one of the very best we've seen so far. :)

Interesting theory about Jacob maybe having been able to change forms. I've often wondered similar things.

Haha, yes--I have no doubt that the Lost writers pay attention to what the fans are collectively saying. Savvy dudes, that team Darlton!

michael said...

I think Nemesis not being able to change form has more to do with Locke's body than anything else. It would explain the significance of Christian's body disappearing. While they've made it clear that Nemesis is the black smoke that has killed so many, I'm still holding on to the idea that Jacob can do all of the same things, and did them while Nemesis was in the cabin. For instance: I'm fairly certain that we haven't seen Christian since Jacob was killed. (Feel free to correct me on that, though). Now, though, I'm wondering if all of the other visions of the dead that Hurley et al. see are the work of the Island itself, and not one of its inhabitants. With all that's been going on, we've forgotten that the Island itself can still do some weird stuff. Like travel through space and time. Yeah.


I'm pretty sure you're right--I don't remember seeing Christian since Jacob was killed. I, too, have often wondered if that was Jacob in Christian form. (I also wonder if Christian can get redemption...)

Yeah, I've been wondering when they're gonna get to the space/time issues. That needs to link up with the Jacob/MIB stuff somehow. I'm guessing we'll get some answers to that in the Desmond sideways episode, maybe...?

michael said...

Poor Desmond. I have a feeling that his sideways self is going to be genuinely happy, probably settled down with Penny. Then BOOM worlds collide and everything gets torn apart. "Not Penny's boat" indeed.

michael said...

Note to the editor: because I wrote two comments back-to-back, I don't know if this one was submitted or not. If it was, you can scrap the double (or possibly triple?) post. Thank you!

Ooh addendum: in his latest article, Doc Jensen expressed doubt over his Easter theory. I think he's dead wrong. Holy Saturday (the current day - as far as we know, the opening of this episode was the PREVIOUS night, dubbed "Good Friday" as Nemesis killed everybody) was when the "Harrowing of Hell" took place. Jesus descended to the dead, and retrieved the souls of many who would have been accepted to Heaven, but lived and died before Jesus's time. Old Testament Prophets and such. In this episode, Richard thought he was in Hell, and it was the spirit of his wife (via Hurley, and I'm sure Jacob-Jesus had something to do with it) that pulled him back out. Metaphor saved!


@ Michael: Oh. yeah. My sense is that there's no way in hell Desmond's getting a happy ending.

Good points on Doc's metaphor. I was wondering if that would still hold. Not having religious knowledge (and having a lot of religious cluelessness), I'm very glad you were able to explain all that--and glad the metaphor still works as of now! :)