Wednesday, May 12, 2010

'Lost' Finally Gets Its Island Origin Story with 'Across the Sea'

*Warning, SERIOUS spoilers from the latest episode of Lost ahead.*

Good God. How many times, while watching “Across the Sea,” did you say something akin to, “Oh my God,” or perhaps you invoked more colorful language? My answer: A dozen or so.

While not every question regarding the origin of The Island was addressed, plenty of them were and, other than the convoluted donkey wheel story (which still makes no sense to me, but I can live with that confusion), I found the writers’ explanations fascinating. And that’s what I'm calling them explanations, not necessarily answers from this very odd-feeling episode.

Alison Janney, who played the nameless woman on the island, was supposed to protect “the light” which is warm and live-giving and a bit of which supposedly resides inside every living being. If humans get it, they’ll screw it up with all their flaws and stuff, exploit it, so Janney’s character had to hide it from other people. Why? Who knows? Is she god-like? I have no idea, except that she did die, but supposedly had the power to make it so that one brother couldn’t hurt another, which seems like an otherworldly power to me.

Annnywayyy . . . Janney (since the Lost writers gave her no name other than "Mother," I’m calling her Janney) found a pregnant woman washed up on shore following a shipwreck. She tended to the woman’s wounds and delivered her babies, twins, boys, one named Jacob, born first and wrapped in a white fabric, then the second, unnamed boy was born and wrapped in black fabric. (WHY no name? WHY? To tick us off?)

Janney brutally killed their mother and raised the boys herself, lying to them and telling them that there was no place other than The Island, that other humans are inherently bad and do bad things (hmm, killing the boys’ mother isn’t “bad”?), that the "other" people “don’t belong here” and that they were there for “a reason,” that the light in what looked like a drainage pipe had to be protected at all costs. “This is the reason we’re here,” Janney told the boys of the golden light coming from a hole in the ground and beaming over a stream. Janney warned, “If the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere.” (Later she says that “life, death, rebirth” are down there, “It’s the source, the heart of the island.”)

However when the then-13-year-old Boy in Black saw the ghost of his biological mother (Jacob, curiously, couldn’t see her) and was informed that Janney had killed her and lied to the boys, that there were other shipwreck survivors who’d been on the same boat as their biological mother, the Boy in Black, whom Janney had told was “special,” got angry and decided to leave the caves and go live with the survivors where he belonged. He pleaded with Jacob to come with him (how many other Lost characters have pleaded with others to leave?), while Janney told her Boy in Black that he could never leave The Island. Hmm. Wonder if that was as binding as the you-can't-hurt-each-other fix?

Years later, an adult Jacob, still bitterly jealous because he thought Janney loved his brother more than him, learned that the Man in Black was planning to leave the island – via the donkey wheel he was building at the bottom of a well adjacent to a pocket of the white light he’d found, though he didn't share the specifics with his brother -- because he didn’t feel as though he belonged on The Island. Upon learning this, killer Janney knocked the Man in Black unconscious, filled in the well, set fire to the survivor’s huts and killed all the other survivors, those “bad” people.

Janney then brought Jacob, who was "good," back to the source of the light by the waterfall and told him he was the chosen one, its caretaker, asked him to drink the cup of wine to seal his vow to protect this place (“It has to be you Jacob,” she said. “. . . It was always supposed to be you.”), charged him with finding his own replacement and declared that they were now the same.

When he came to, the Man in Black was outraged, of course, and sought revenge on his Ben Linus-like mother (though Ben never killed Rousseau as he was supposed to before he took Alex). The Man in Black stabbed Janney in the back.

“Why wouldn’t you let me leave Mother?” he asked her.

“Because, I love you,” she said. “Thank you.” Then she died. Man in Black wept as Jacob came upon the scene, started beating the crap out of his brother then dragged him to the source of the light and pushed him toward it. (Don’t they know they’re not supposed to go into the light?) And *poof* out of the tunnel came the angry black smoke.

Jacob found his brother’s body in the jungle, then mournfully carried it to the caves and placed it next to Janney’s body, entwining their fingers together so that, many, many years later, when the survivors of Oceanic 815 found them, they’d wonder, or rather John Locke -- whose body would be taken over by the Man in Black -- would wonder aloud if they were The Island’s Adam and Eve.

All in all, it was entertaining, thought provoking and a statement about good and evil with one son wearing black and the other wearing white. And I’m willing to be okay with just letting the fact that I was intrigued by “Across the Sea” to be sufficient . . . if only for these questions:

1. Who was Janney and was she godlike because she “made it” so the brothers couldn’t kill one another? (Though putting one's brother down the tunnel of light where he turns into a Smoke Monster, didn’t that kill him?)

2. Why can’t the Man in Black kill the candidates?

3. How could Jacob, who was raised to think there was nothing beyond the island, travel abroad to “touch” potential candidates? How can he get on and off the island with ease? With the donkey wheel? How did he get back?

4. Does this mean that Ben is more like Mother than we thought in his fervor to protect The Island?

What did you think of The Island’s origin story?

Image credit: Mario Perez/ABC.


Cooley Horner said...

The difference, I think, is that the Man in Black is not the Smoke Monster. Jacob's brother is dead, and now Smokey is just taking his form. In response to your first wondering question, I don't know how Jacob was able to kill his brother, but he did: the corpse was still there years and years later.

I hope they'll answer question #3, as it interests me a lot, though I can't remember CJ (that's what my viewing group and I called Janney--we used her West Wing name LOL) telling Jacob he couldn't leave. Just Man in Black.

I liked the episode, though I can see how it will be very polarizing with viewers. I really like the revelation that Jacob is not battling his brother, as many people and the first 45 minutes of the episode would suggest, but rather a monster that takes the form of his brother, taunts him, plays games with him, and cannot be killed.

I also hope they'll answer why we've seen Jacob's child form on the island as it stalks Mocke (Locke-the-smoke-monster). Did the "spell" by the golden pond give Jacob regenerative powers, and if that's the case, why didn't CJ magically reappear? Hmmm

Meredith O'Brien said...

You're right Cooley, I've been reading around the internet to see what other folks thought of this episode and wow, are there some pissed off Lost fans out there who LOATHED this episode.

Beth said...

I agree that the "man in black" is not the smoke monster--exactly what I thought. And that Jacob didn't actually "kill" his brother, but going into whatever that light was killed him (well, the smoke monster did). It's interesting that the smoke monster would have become so identified with the man in black (talking about his crazy mother, etc.), but I guess "he" used the man in black's body for a long time.

I liked that the "man in black", himself, wasn't the archetypal bad guy. It was also interesting that Jacob was the firstborn--in those biblical tales, it's usually the firstborn who is jealous, causes the brother's death, etc. So, Jacob was the typical firstborn, but we've been led to think that he's been doing something good. Though, if by good, he's been preventing the monster from leaving, that doesn't sound so bad.

Allison Janney must have known about the monster. Or, was the monster (saw that quickly on an EW comment)...sort of makes more sense. Especially with all of the deaths laid out in the camp.

Cooley, I also liked thinking back on the previous episodes with Jacob and the man in black, not thinking of them as brothers any longer.

Also, couldn't the smoke monster have taken the body of the man in black's mother? That's what I figured--just to manipulate all of these events. The monster wanted the man in black to leave the camp, and try to get off the island.