I’m always willing to give a show the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been doing this for six years with Lost, even through the rough patches I assumed that the writers would provide us loyal fans with a somewhat clear direction in which the show was going to move. Lost has never been a show that’s been easy to predict, but it’s nice to know that there is a purpose to everything we’re watching. I’ve felt comfortable with everything Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have done with the show: the alternate universe, the smoke monster inhabiting Locke’s body, and any other ridiculous things that have pushed the show to the brink of science fiction. When it’s done right, it’s entertaining, albeit a bit confusing. However, last night’s episode of Lost, “Across The Sea,” took a story that should have been interesting to the nth degree and misused its many opportunities to answer some questions and give us an hour’s worth of great back-story on a couple of Lost’s most confusing characters. I was still glued to the screen, but I could feel my attention span slipping a little, something that rarely happens on Lost.
For the second time this season, Lost took a risk by cutting away from the on-Island action and instead explaining the back stories of characters that we know little about. When the show did it the first time with “Ab Aeterno,” it was superb and may go down as one of the best episodes of the show. However, “Across the Sea” was lacking something. Actually, on second thought, it was missing everything. There was no emotion, no suspense, nothing whatsoever. Sure, we got a little more insight into the Island and what makes it tick (apparently, there’s a cave somewhere on the Island that only candidates can see, and it’s filled with an energy that represents life, death and everything in between. The point of the protector is to guard this energy), but introducing such an enormous plot point this late in the game? A horrible mistake that may derail the rest of the season. But more on that later.
After three seasons of hearing his name and only seeing him every now and then, we learn about Jacob’s past. He was born on the Island along with his twin brother, who still remains nameless. We learn that the Man in Black, or the man inhabiting Locke’s body, is Jacob’s brother, which makes their rivalry and their attempts to stop one another much more interesting. However, a mysterious woman (played by Allison Janney) kills their mother and she assumes the parenting duties for reasons that aren’t immediately made clear. The two boys grow up, and it becomes clear that Jacob’s brother is in tune with the Island and seems to know things that nobody should. This should sound familiar to any Lost aficionados; Locke was the same exact way. While Jacob grows up and remains close to his mother, the Man in Black grows distant and begins to question whether or not there’s a way to escape from the Island. His mother tells him that the Island is all there is in the world, but he believes there’s something across the sea, something that exists beyond the confines of the ocean and the sand.
Around the same time, their mother shows them a mysterious cave at the center of the Island. The cave is glowing with an eerie gold light, enticing yet macabre at the same time. She warns them to never enter the cave, for the result is something worse then death. She explains that the light in the cave represents life, death and everything in between. According to her, every person in the world has some of this energy inside of them, but to enter the cave to try and harness the energy would be catastrophic. Shortly after this, Jacob and his brother reach a point where they want different things out of life: Jacob wants things to remain the same, while his brother wants some kind of change. They end up finding a group of people that they refer to as the “Others” (once again, the parallels between the past and the present are startling). Jacob takes his mother’s advice and stays away from them, while his brother joins them, believing they may know of a way to get off of the Island.
Jump ahead thirty years: Jacob is still living with his mother, who hasn’t aged a single day, while the Man in Black has been working with the Others in order to dig wells as a means to reaching the mysterious energy that his mother showed him thirty years before. It becomes somewhat clear as the episode progresses what each of these three characters represents in the grand scheme of things. The mother is the guardian of the cave, and she makes the decision to pass the torch to Jacob. He takes a sip from the same wine bottle that the Man in Black broke in the episode “Ab Aeterno” and thus his trip into immortality begins. Meanwhile, as the Man in Black grows closer to reaching the energy, the mother will have nothing to do with it and knocks him out. The Man in Black wakes up later and finds the well he was digging to reach the energy filled in and the men and women he was living with murdered. Knowing his mother is behind this, he finds her and stabs her then is immediately attacked by Jacob, who in a fit of rage, throws him into the cave of light. For a moment, nothing happens, but a few moments later, a giant pillar of black smoke emerges from the cave. Jacob finds his brother’s body thousands of feet away from the cave, dead. He places his mother and brother’s body in a cave side by side, where a flash-forward hundreds of years later shows us that these two dead bodies that Jacob placed in the cave are the same ones that Jack, Kate, and Locke found in 2004, the mysterious “Adam and Eve” skeletons.
My reviews of “Lost” episodes are not normally this long and explanatory; however, this episode sort of defies the laws of normal Lost episodes. Every single review, recap, analysis, hate-laced rant or praise-filled essay I’ve read about this episode has all complained about the same thing: it’s MUCH too late in the show to air an episode this filled with mythology, new characters and new plot points. The show has been struggling as of late to answer questions that have been around since Season 1, so what’s the deal with introducing something as major as “a cave of light filled with energy” when Cuse and Lindelof could be answering more important questions about the Island. If the cave was introduced near the beginning of the season, or even in a previous season, it wouldn’t feel so lackluster. At this point, I don’t feel invested whatsoever in the protection of this cave. I understand how important it is, but telling us how vital the cave is with only a few hours left of the show is something that will likely make the final episodes feel like a bit of a letdown.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, so I’ll try taking a step back here. I liked the episode for what it was at its core: the story of Jacob and the Man in Black, and how these two brothers went from being a family to two different sides of the same coin. One good, one evil. One side light, one side dark, to quote John Locke. These two characters were in desperate need of some back-story, especially considering their importance in the recent seasons. For the most part, “Across the Sea” helps us understand these characters better. I just wish they could’ve explained the characters and the Island at the same time. I also wish that the writers would’ve given us some sort of hint that this is the direction they would eventually be taking, with the cave and everything, but that would require me to descend into the proverbial well, turn the donkey wheel a few times and send us all back in time a few years. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, so I’m left here twiddling my thumbs and mumbling to myself in frustration. There’s still a number of different questions I have now that this episode is done, which shouldn’t be the case for a show heading into the final stretch. Why exactly can’t Jacob and his brother hurt or kill each other? How did Allison Janney’s character learn those magic words that turn the wine into some sort of immortality tonic? What the hell is going on with the Island and its strange caves and glowing gold lights? Why were the child actors chosen to portray Jacob and his brother such duds? Okay, that last question doesn’t really apply, but for me, these two actors really dulled down the episode. It’s one thing when a show has great child actors, but it’s another when their dialogue comes across as stiff and unrealistic. I felt as if these characters were reading their lines right off of the script. Luckily, as soon as Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver appeared, the episode got better.
Next week brings us back to the present, where we’ll see the aftermath of the events in “The Candidate.” “The Candidate” was such a thrilling episode that propelled the Island storyline forward, and “Across the Sea” was a poor way to follow it up. It completely pulls us out of the story and tells us an entirely new story with different characters and no connection whatsoever to the episode before it. For me, “Across the Sea” was a mixed bag, with some great moments but mostly some disappointing and sub-par ones. It was sort of like Jacob and the Man in Black: one side light, one side dark. One half good, the other half simply average.
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