Wednesday, May 12, 2010 815 (or fewer) words: "Across The Sea"

Dear Lost writers/producers/anybody else associated with this episode:

Make me care.

No, seriously, make me care. Make me give a damn about these characters--Jacob, MIB, their mom, their FMom, and their plight/story. Because right now I really don't care. My give-a-damn's as broken as the bottle of wine we saw MIB smash a couple of episodes back.

You know who I care about? The characters we've grown to know and love for six seasons now. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Ben. That's right--I said I actually care about Jack. I don't really like Jack, but I care about Jack. I've been invested in his story for six seasons now. I want to have a clearer understanding of how all this that you spewed at us tonight connects up to Jack and...all the main characters that I like better than him.

I was more than willing to go along with you on a Richard flashback episode. The history, the mythology--I loved it all. It was gutsy and brilliant. Ab Aeterno is, in my opinion, one of the high points of this season. Plus, we've been curious about (and have cared about) Richard's character for a long time now.

And yes, we've been curious about Jacob for a while now. Smokey, too. But here's what I don't want. I don't want this series to be all about them. When I think Lost and I think "Why?"--as in, what is this show's purpose, and why did all of this happen?--I do not want the answer to be "Jacob and MIB." I'm OK with it being about two sides--one light, one dark--and there's a conflict. But I want the "why" to be more focused on the characters we've grown to know and love. Why these people? Why these particular candidates? Why, if Jacob showed up on the Island around 23 AD, as I have read in numerous sources like this one, did it take until 2004 for Jacob to finagle a way for these people to land on his crazy-ass Island? Was there nobody, let alone a whole group of 'em, who would have been a suitable replacement prior to 2004? Why them? Why now?

I want this story to be about something big, something grandiose. I'm fine with the concept of the Island being a special place, of having this special light that needs to be protected and not trespassed on (I'm simplifying the hell out of that explanation, of course--I know it's much more significant than that). I'm fine with our candidates being special and doing special things. I am not fine with this whole mess being created because of Jacob's family drama. We all have family drama, do we not? The world doesn't teeter on the brink of destruction because of it.

You told us who Adam and Eve were. And I do mean you told us. Why the hand-holding all of a sudden? We Losties are savvy, intellectual people. We like to be shown things. We do not necessarily like to have the answers thrown in our faces. And those Jack/Kate/Locke flashbacks? Yeah, you were using them to throw the answers in our faces. (And if you really were hell-bent on making that answer so damn obvious, you could have just eliminated the Jack/Kate/Locke crap and instead had a shirtless Sawyer pop up and say, "Son of a bitch, that's Adam and Eve!" Kidding...sorta.)

You showed us how Smokey was created: By Jacob chucking his brother's body into the stream of water that flowed into the crazy glowing cave with the light. The body eventually came out, and separately, a large plume of smoke came out. The bodiless entity of Smokey was created--who would then go on to take the form of MIB as well as John Locke. (He does not seem to occupy their dead bodies--instead, he seems to replicate their forms, probably why FLocke can be hit with a shitload of bullets and be completely uninjured by this, and can only seem to replicate the likenesses of the dead bodies despite seemingly retaining some of those bodies' original personalities and memories.)

You showed us yet another example of really shitty parenting. FMom murdered Real Mom, took away the kidlets, and didn't even seem to bother giving one of them a name; FMom also played Jacob and MIB against one another, using them to carry out her wishes (one would kill her to make her no longer responsible for protecting the Island; the other would be groomed to take over her responsibilities as protector). Hmmm, a manipulative parent...shades of Christian/Eloise/Widmore/Locke's dad/etc!

You made it known that humans on the Island were curious about what I believe is the electromagnetic energy of the Island. You alluded to those crazy well-type things being created by these people. You also made it known that whatever Jacob and MIB were, they--at least according to FMom--were not people. But we know crazy FMom lies. Those kids were conceived away from the Island, yet she told them the Island was all there was, that there was nothing across the sea, that they were not from across the sea. MIB didn't believe this concept, while Jacob did. And so we discover that this man who, over several seasons, has been held up as a merely a follower. A follower of words, often of untruths. And we've seen people blindly follow Jacob just as Jacob blindly followed what FMom told him. Like Jacob not questioning FMom, Ben never questioned Jacob until the season 5 finale when he was manipulated by Smokey in the likeness of John Locke. Ben, who had dutifully followed Jacob's orders, never questioning them, had finally gotten fed up. Richard, too, had always dutifully followed Jacob's orders--although, as we saw in Ab Aeterno, he too had his moments of being fed up with blindly following and not getting exactly what he wanted in return for his efforts and devotion.

But I digress. While I liked your gutsy, wild idea of doing an episode like this--an episode rife in mythology, sans series regulars, and loaded with answers--there was more about it that I disliked (or at least questioned) than liked. For instance: You have the actresses speaking Latin, and then, all of a sudden...they know English! Look, I'll buy (sort of) Sun "forgetting" how to speak English and reverting to her native Korean, but I will not buy this. It's 23 AD. Does English even freakin' exist? Again: We Losties aren't dumb. We can read subtitles. You guys have given us subtitles before in the early Sun/Jin-centric episodes and in Ab Aeterno, among other episodes--and we dealt with them. They gave the episodes authenticity. Also: So say the bodies of MIB and his FMom were left by Jacob in the cave around about 40 AD. Do skeletons really stay intact this be discovered in 2004? Do they really last in a hot jungle with wild animals like boars (and polar bears)? I'm calling bullshit on this.

You threw a lot of answers at us, but there were more--and perhaps better--answers we could have been given. Why is it only MIB who is trapped on the Island while Jacob is free to run around tapping candidates on their noses and hands? In order for MIB to be free, why do all the candidates have to die? (In tonight's ep we saw MIB wanting to be free, but it didn't seem like killing Jacob was a requirement for MIB to become un-trapped--so when did it happen that not only would MIB have to find a loophole to get off the Island, he'd also have to make sure Jacob/candidates were destroyed?) Were those humans that MIB hung out with the very first Others? Why does Smokey spare and/or save some people (Ben, Richard) and not others? Why can only MIB see dead people while Jacob cannot? Why was the glowy cave much, much easier for Jacob to find than for MIB to find (who only found it when Jacob took him to it)? We saw MIB creating the Frozen Donkey Wheel, but who finished it up after MIB died--Smokey (is he capable of that?) or someone else (and if so, who)?

You've drilled it into our heads that this season boasts a lot of mirror images. Tonight I saw a lot of Jack in Jacob (being selected to do a job, but not having a choice about it). I saw a lot of Kate (helping another person give birth and then raising that child/ren even though perhaps she was not supposed to--plus, always needing two men to give her what she needs) in FMom. I saw a lot of Locke (seeking out answers) in MIB, and also some Hurley and Ben (the ability to see dead people) in MIB. And Smokey was even a bit of a mirror image of FMom--tonight we heard her utter the "They come, they destroy, they corrupt" stuff that we heard MIB repeat in the season 5 finale.

But I'm still looking for why I should really care about this episode and its main characters. I want to understand how this all ties together. You have one episode and a finale left to make me care. One episode and a finale left to give these candidates' stories the endings they deserve. You have given us nearly six full seasons of truly awesome writing, and I want more of that. I know you are capable of blowing our minds. So go forth and do so--as you've said, it only ends once, and anything before that is just progress. Some backstory like this is necessary, but please give us more and better progress with the characters we've invested six seasons of energy into. Those characters are the reason we're still watching.

The Grammarphile


michael said...

This episode confused the hell out of me, and not just because I missed the entire opening scene.

All I can really draw from it is that the Island sits on this vast source of Energy (light, magnetism, whatever-the-hell-energy-causes-teleportation-and-time-travel), and that preventing people from turning into Smoke Monsters is probably a damn good reason to protect it.

But that doesn't explain some pretty important things, like why we've been told repeatedly that Smokey getting off the island would be a bad thing. Does he really want to destroy everything? And what was the wine bottle metaphor all about? Was Jacob suggesting simply that if people were given free access to the Light, the "evil" that would spread over the world would be more "things" like his brother?

Speaking of Jacob's brother, after last night I think the writers took the Berenstein Bears approach. His name really is Brother.

Another thing that I liked, but again confused the hell out of me, was that while there is a little piece of the light in every person, too much will turn you into Satan.

All in all, I didn't mind the episode too much, mostly because we were in serious need of a "Department of Backstory" episode on the Island, Jacob, and MIB. I do think it should have been sooner, though. My only non-story related complaint is that the actress who played FMom was TERRIBLE. I know she was supposed to be playing the slightly unstable part, but she just came across as comical.

Oh, one last question - is Jacob's and Brother's big argument about the nature of people really an argument about the nature of the Light? Jacob still wants to believe that people/the Light is good, while Brother wants to prove that they are all like him?

MarieC said...

OK, right when the episode ended, I thought it was pretty good. Then I slept on it, and woke up this morning feeling distinctly shortchanged in the "answers" department. For every answer they gave, they left me with at least 3 more questions. They've got a lot more 'splaining to do in these final two episodes.


@ Michael: Ooh, I thought the opening scene was the ep's strongest scene!

I agree--we still need to understand why it's bad for Smokey to leave the Island. Especially when last night's ep was designed to try to make us feel some sympathy for the Smokey entity.

I find the wine metaphor interesting for another reason. Alcohol is moderation. Apparently so is this Light...but ONLY in moderation... But why is that, exactly? What is it about the light that more than a little turns you bad?

I'm still laughing at your Berenstein Bears comment! Fabulous. :)

Honestly, I'm so lost at this point that I'm still mulling over what exactly the central argument is between Jacob and Brother...but yeah, I think what you mentioned is probably the most sound theory.


@ Marie: Oh, yes. More 'splainin! (And more shirtless Sawyer!)

At least you had a point where you felt satisfied by the episode. Last night I felt somewhat dissastisfied, and this morning I feel even more so! :)

April said...

I don't know what to think of this episode. I was so excited to see their history, yet it seemed to fall just short of showing us the important parts of that history.

They give us a new character and now I want to know where she came from... who is she??? How did she know that the island needed protecting? How long had she been doing it? Did she know that if someone went down there they would become the smoke monster? Has she seen this happen before? Is SHE a smoke monster? With the music at the beginning, I really thought it was going to be smokie that startled the frightened, pregnant lady so I have to wonder. Plus, she killed everyone and filled a well by herself? Yea, I don't think so.

Don't even get me started on the explanation of the light. Cheesy much?

I thought the clip with them discovering Adam and Eve in the caves was kinda cool. I seem to be the only one though. But they really goofed up because there is no way those bodies would be recognizable as bodies by time our Losties got there. Unless the island has some kind of power that keeps bodies from decomposing too?

I don't know. I have to say, I still enjoyed the story they told but I'm a little disappointed. I *do* care about Jacob and MiB - which also really pissed me right off they STILL have not told us his name- and I want to see their story but that can't be it. What a let-down.


@ April: Yeah, I'd been excited to learn about their history, too! But it just...I dunno. It didn't satisfy me. I had the same questions you did about FMom. Way to try to answer our questions by giving us more questions, Lost--just like FMom told Claudia! ;)

Yeah, there were quite a few cheesy things about the episode. Sigh. I am hoping that the finale, at least, is cheese-free...

Hahaha, that's the Island's other, less-talked-about power: it prevents decomposition! So, like, Hurley could dig up Libby and she'd look pretty pristine...well, except for that gunshot wound. And the fact that she's dead. ;) (This episode has really brought out my snarky side--can you tell?)

Sarah said...

I had a hard time letting go of this episode because I too wanted something more substantial from it. Or less from it? I cant quite put my finger on it. I wanted to like it, I tried to like it, I even watched it twice last night thinking the gravity of it would hit me the second time around. Not-so-much. I do have a few thoughts about it though.

I think, based on the names on the wall and the names on the wheel, that other candidates did come to the island long before those we see there now. Im assuming, though inferring may be the more appropriate word to use, that all those who came before were found to be unfit candidates (in whatever way that removed kate’s name also) and their names were crossed out. My inference, or assumption, is based off the conversation we saw between MIB and Jacob in “THE INCIDENT”. (This is the link on YouTube, if I am allowed to link to it) The conversation seems to point to people constantly being brought to the island to unwillingly participate in the battle between these two men.

I also got the impression that Smokey not only took MIB’s likeness, he also took his soul. Since FMom (hilarious name BTW) told Jacob going down the sparkly waterfall(:)) would be “worse than death. Much worse than death.” What happened to MIB down there cant simply be that he died. This soul maybe trapped in there with Smokey, forced to watch and never control.

I agree with you about all the answers we were given really just raising more questions.

And can I get a witness to Allison Janey not being all that believable in her role? I usually like her, but I wasn’t buying what she was peddling last night. Sorry, that is off topic.

Lastly, I hope last night’s episode was meant to satisfy our curiosity about the beginnings of the war that is coming, and also to slow down the pace before the finale. I hope they know more is expected of them in order to finish this out in an appropriate way.


@ Sarah: I came into this ep with high hopes--I, too, wanted to like it. Before last night, I'd have thought that NOT liking it would have been impossible. It was supposed to be such a crazy-good episode, just wasn't. Not for me, anyway.

Good call on referring to all the names on the wall and thinking there'd been earlier candidates before the ones we know and love. But my question still remains: after all this time (and all those names) Jacob hasn't managed to find ONE person good enough to replace him? I'm still not finding that part of the story very believable.

Sparkly waterfall! Part of me wonders if Darlton was on acid while creating that...

I have never seen Allison Janney before (I am actually not a huge TV watcher), so I didn't have the same problem that many other Losties had--where they were distracted by the fact that she is a recognizable actress in a show that has worked hard to cast lesser-known actors/actresses to avoid this very problem of distractingness. I actually found AJ to be rather frightening in that role last night.

I really just hope that the finale is nowhere near as contrived as how I felt last night's ep was...

Anonymous said...

I gave up on Lost long ago. I've gone over to Breaking Bad. Now that is a well written show. The writers give the viewers credit for being somewhat intelligent and raise the bar each episode. It's too bad some are scared off by the show's topic of the meth drug trade, because they're missing out on a great drama that also has action, intrigue and lots of dark humour.


I've heard that's a great show! I may have to check it out. :)