I've gone on the record as saying that one thing Lost does well is deliver what I call "special episodes." You know, the ones where the typical storytelling is interrupted by a flashback from a long time ago (Richard Alpert's "Ab Aeterno"), a change in narrative structure ("The Other 48 Days"), master trickery ("Through the Looking Glass"), or some other concept. They're episodes that breaks things up, and they are generally my favorite episodes.
That's exactly what happened last night with "Across the Sea," but without the favorite episode part. As a standalone episode, it gave us completely new insight that will no doubt come back with relevance, it wrapped up its self-contained story just fine, and gave us more of both Jacob and the Man in Black, who I can never get enough of. But did it have to happen now? With just two episodes left?
Let's start with Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino, the actors who plays the Man in Black and Jacob. They're awesome, even though the whole time they shared scenes all I could think was "Wow it's Lucifer and one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse just chilling out!" (that's a nod to one of TV's other finest shows). Pellegrino plays flashback Jacob as an inquisitive simpleton who seems stunted in his development, while Welliver delivers a sneaky, less-trusting MIB who is no Momma's boy. And in the end we find that Jacob may not be the angelic figure we thought he was and that MIB has a very understandable reason to get off the island. Even in the timeline we're familiar with, we now realize they are just centuries-old bickering children.
We learn that it's not so much the island that Jacob is protecting as it is some weird honeycomb-hideout that leads to the island's source of... well everything. A little bit of the light in the cave-hole "is in everyone" and apparently we all want more of it. Is it the "good" in all men? Is it some sort of tangible "life force"? Is it fried chicken? I love fried chicken! And it was Jacob, in a fit of rage, who cast his brother into the bowels of the island, permanently sealing his fate as a pissed-off smoke monster.
And honestly, that's about as much as we learned in the episode, so I won't blame you if you think it sucked. We could have learned all this in much less time, maybe through 10 minutes of clumsy exposition, but Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof (who wrote the episode) decided to give us the info over 60 minutes.
If you're the type of fan who is antsy for answers and progression, this probably didn't jibe with you. After all, there are only three-and-a-half hours left in the series and for all intents and purposes, "Across the Sea" felt pretty standalone. Was this an hour of Lost that we needed to see? Maybe not. Could you skip this episode and still understand what was going on? Probably so.
However, if you're still watching Lost for good storytelling, then "Across the Sea" was pretty satisfying in one of those "additional reading" or fan-fiction type of ways. As long as you can swallow the several questions which are simply answered, "because it's that way."
There's still a chance that those questions will get answered (What is the light? How the heck does a donkey wheel in the side of an underground room make an exit? How did Mother make it impossible for the two kids to hurt each other?), and we have three-and-a-half hours to see if that happens. On its own, it's almost impossible to judge "Across the Sea" as it relates to the series as a whole. It's my belief that we won't be able to fully understand the importance (or irrelevance) of the episode until the series ends, and it could go down as one of Lost's greatest triumphs or worst missteps. Does that make sense?
I hope you understand that this isn't a cop-out on my part. "Across the Sea" is the most interesting episode of Lost's final season—whether it will be once the series ends remains to be seen.
Phew, got that part out of the way. As for the other questions that got answered, Rose and Bernard are NOT Adam and Eve (it's the body of MIB and Mum), and the key to Richard Alpert and Jacob's "immortality" is a sip from Mother Nature's magic wine.
Before the season started I came up with five pressing questions that Lost doesn't need to answer, and the Adam and Eve thing was on it (I assumed it was Rose and Bernard, but prior to last night's episode there really wasn't a way of knowing who it could be). With the Adam and Eve question answered, are you satisfied? At this point, could it have been anyone and you would react, "Oh, okay"? Because really, who cares? Did we really need this mystery gnawing at our brains to begin with? And weren't we led to believe that because of the state of composition of the bodies and their clothes that the skeletons couldn't be hundreds of years old (or even older) as they actually are? Something smells fishy here.
And with the wine thing, does drinking it make you impervious to aging but not to death? Richard drank it, so he doesn't age. But can he die? The Mother clearly didn't age, but she was killed by MIB. Do you have to "pass on" the power by giving someone else a sip before you can actually be killed? I'm a bit confused. Post theories below.
Things certainly are shaping up for a dense finale, aren't they? It's no wonder they had to extend it half an hour. And yes, I'm getting pretty excited about it.
Stray observation: Damon Lindelof is an unabashed Star Wars nerd, and there was a lot of George Lucas' classic in "Across the Sea." From the obvious shot of Jacob sitting on the beach near sunset a total doppleganger for young Luke on Tattoine to kid Jacob looking like young Annikan and the Kid in Black a stand-in for mini-Vader, "Across the Sea" borrowed from Star Wars and its good-versus-evil mythos whenever it could. But where Star Wars is about choosing good over evil or vice versa, "Across the Sea" showed us two sides of the same coin.
A few of you asked what other shows I watch, as I said Lost is one of my top five shows. In terms of serialized dramas, along with Lost I'm a huge fan of both Breaking Bad and Supernatural—both of the shows' current seasons are fantastic. When I need a laugh, Modern Family does the trick but Community is becoming the go-to show... that program gets better and better.
There were some great comments about Sayid's death in the comments section from last week. I especially liked caddington's note, which was the opposite of my take: "I thought Sayids death was actually much better because it 'just happened'. We've already seen him slowly die and lament the things he did.. then he came back to life and got all zombified. So to see him make that final breakthrough to the person he wanted to be and literally run with it was as poignant a scene as any drawn out death would have been for him." Point, caddington! I like that, but I still would have preferred something, especially since Jin and Sun got 3 hours to die (<--exaggeration).
LessParentheses asked: "Please stop using so many parentheses in your posts. At first, they made reading your blog endearing and relatively amusing. But you have gone from overusing this punctuation, to abusing it in almost every paragraph you write." You're absolutely right. These posts get to be a bit of stream-of-consciousness, and with all the voices in my head it's hard not to use parentheses. I will look into it for next week's column. But until then, ()()()()()()()()()()()()()()(). That should drive you nuts. Bonus points for creating a TV.com user name specifically to make that comment.
Here's fair warning for my column following the finale: I will be flying back from Las Vegas and from one of my best bud's bachelor parties that day. If the article makes no sense or reeks of booze and is covered in stripper glitter, I apologize.
"Across the Sea": Boy oh boy, these rankings are getting hard to place. And let's be honest here, my list is a bit of a mess. An episode like "Across the Sea" makes this even more difficult because, depending on the next few weeks, it could become more important in hindsight. So I'm left with little choice but to plop this somewhere in the upper half, but I reserve the right to move it later. As an episode on its own it was pretty cool, and I'm a sucker for Pellegrino and Welliver. Screw it, I'm throwing it in the fifth spot. But if we find out it was irrelevant, I'm throwing it out the window.
1. "The Substitute" Ep. 4
2. "Ab Aeterno" Ep. 9
3. "The Candidate" Ep. 14
4. "Happily Ever After" Ep. 11
5. "Across the Sea" Ep. 15
6. "Everybody Loves Hugo" Ep. 12
7. "Recon" Ep. 8
8. "LA X (2)" Ep. 2
9. "The Lighthouse" Ep. 5
10. "The Last Recruit" Ep. 13
11. "Sundown" Ep. 6
12. "LA X (1)" Ep. 1
13. "Dr. Linus Ep. 7
14. "The Package" Ep. 10
15. "What Kate Does" Ep. 3