LOST Season Six: Ab Aeterno

Ab Aeterno – “from the everlasting” or “since the beginning of time”

This was an incredible episode. Easily in my Top 10. And with time, it might be one of my absolute favorites. A great script with a rich mythological narrative, answers galore, and Nestor Carbonell was on top of his game. A+. This episode was so good, in fact, that I could hardly stop writing about it.

The episode begins with a flash back to Jacob’s conversation with Ilana from the Season Five finale. Jacob asks Ilana for help; he gives her a list of six remaining candidates to protect. This is a revelation because I think it validates that Jacob knew he was going to die. As he says to MIB at the end of the episode, “If you kill me, someone else will just take my place.” We’ve assumed all along that Jacob was grooming someone to replace him; now we see that he understood that he was going to die well before it actually happened.

Back on the Island-present, Ilana tells Jack, Hurley, Sun, Miles, Ben, and Frank that — according to Jacob — Richard would know what to do next. Richard balks, bringing up his recent suicide attempt as proof that he’s just as clueless as anybody. Then he launches into a diatribe that lays out the trajectory for the rest of the episode: the Island as hell. The balance of the episode is spent either debunking or reinforcing this theory. Richard declares that he’s decided to follow “someone else” and marches off into the jungle.

Prior to the flashback, we have a setup scene at the beach. Jack inquires about this “someone else” only to find out that Richard was going over to Team Locke. “Locke? Locke’s dead!” Up until this point, no one had informed Jack that “Locke” was back. Ben gets in a great line: “If it’s any consolation, it’s not exactly Locke.”

Richard’s backstory was compelling: his attempt to save his wife leaves him a broken and conflicted man. In his zeal to save a life, he actually commits murder, albeit accidentally. In an absolutely heart-wrenching scene, Richard is too late to save Isabella. In prison, Richard reads the Bible (the Gospel of Luke, actually; the page close up is 4.37, “And he said, ‘Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.'”), presumably to learn English. But his priest (a man in black, no less) refuses to absolve him of his guilt. In fact, one has to wonder if the priest functions as a “representative” of MIB here — convincing Richard that he deserves eternity in hell. At any rate, in Richard’s story, reading the Bible does lead to his salvation; it is only his cursory understanding of English that keeps him from facing the hangman’s gallows.

Isabella’s iconic cross necklace figures prominently in this episode. Not only is it Richard’s enduring reminder of his departed wife, it stands for something deeper: faith, hope, even love. The unmerciful doctor takes the cross and casts it aside, calling it meaningless. But Richard knows better; he scurries to retrieve the necklace, the representative of that which is most precious to him. This Richard’s last action before he begins the downward spiral of his own personal Hades, a place of self-inflicted torment and grief. The worst part of Richard’s plight is that he actually believes he’s worthy of hell. (He and Sayid really need to get together for some group therapy.) This seems to be MIB’s doing; if he can convince Richard that he’s in hell, then he has found a willing accomplice in his plan to murder Jacob. (It’s interesting that this is similar to the plot he’ll use years later on Ben.) It’s fitting then, that Richard’s first step toward redemption occurs when he retrieves Isabella’s cross once more.

It seems the ship we saw approaching the Island in the Season Five finale wasn’t the Black Rock. Jacob and MIB converse about that ship in broad daylight (just after Jacob finished breakfast). The Black Rock arrives to the Island amid a raging storm. I’m guessing the storm was so great that the waves crested over the statue and the ship broke it into pieces??? That scene was a little weird and choppy to me. But Carbonell’s desperation during those “chained” scenes was gripping; I felt as if I was chained there to the Black Rock right along with poor Richard.

Smokey breezed in and wiped out the remaining Black Rock crew members. We’re still unsure why Smokey spares some people and not others. He did that picture-taking thing when he got to Richard and then took off. Was Richard a candidate? Is that why he wasn’t killed? Was it because MIB felt that he could corrupt him? Smokey keeps telling people that he’s “lost” something in his past. It seems that in this episode, he played on Richard’s loss to try and get what he wanted. Come to think of it, this is what he’s done to pretty much everybody: he plays on Claire’s loss of Aaron; Sayid’s loss of Nadia; last episode, he even tried to tug at Kate’s heartstrings on behalf of Aaron, who was “losing” his real mother who is crazy as a loon. MIB appears to Richard as Isabella, further cementing in his mind the idea that the Island is hell. At least I think that’s what happened. If Smokey can take on different forms, then it would make sense for him to do this.

Smokey tries to convince Richard to stab Jacob in the heart; the speech is almost verbatim the same thing Dogen said to Sayid a couple episodes back. Interesting. Richard agrees to do this because of MIB’s promise: if he is successful, he’ll be able to be with his wife again. MIB makes these promises to people and it’s easy to assume that he is powerless to really make them happen. But we know Jacob has the ability to give certain gifts (healing Locke and Ilana; granting eternal life to Richard). If he and MIB are truly squared off in an “equal battle” where the white rock and the black rock keep the scales balanced, then why wouldn’t we assume that MIB has some gifts / abilities that he can impart much like Jacob can?

The scenes of Richard & MIB and Richard w/ Jacob were classic. MIB holds out a dagger and tries to convince Richard to commit the crime he’s already been condemned for: murder. His offer seems to be: take another life to bring Isabella back from the dead. I loved the imagery of that conversation taking place over a smoking fire; gray smoke wafts all around Richard as MIB walks away. But Jacob gets to Richard first and tells him he’s responsible for bringing the ship to the Island. (Does that mean he’s also responsible for causing the ship to crash into the statue?) Jacob compares the Island to a bottle’s cork, keeping the darkness where it belongs. I love Jacob’s line: “That man who sent you to kill me believes everyone is corruptible because it is in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.” Jacob’s offer to Richard reminded me of the interaction between God and Moses in the Old Testament. Jacob asks Richard to be his “representative” to the people; no one can enter Jacob’s presence unless bidden; Richard even has the backstory murder that leaves him feeling cursed and God-forsaken, a parallel to Moses’ murderous act in Exodus 2. Richard accepts the job as Jacob’s intermediary and begins his eternal, ageless existence on the Island.

Back in the present, after feeling betrayed by Jacob, Richard goes to retrieve Isabella’s cross and to find out if Smokey’s offer still stands. But through Hurley, Richard communes with her, if only for a moment. And this moment brings completion to what Richard has been longing for for nearly 150 years. I think this is meant to validate Jacob’s point in his eternal argument with MIB: you don’t have to choose the dark path in order to truly get what your heart desires. If only for a fleeting moment, Richard experiences this. And I think it will shape the rest of his story on the Island.

Some quick hits to close out:

  • MIB tells Richard that Jacob betrayed him, took his body, took his humanity. What does this mean? And he can’t leave the Island while Jacob is alive. Yet, we know Jacob has navigated off the Island for years (interacting with Kate, Sawyer, Jack, Jin & Sun, Hurley, Ilana). Why can’t MIB leave? For him at least, the Island DOES seem to be hell.
  • Don’t know if we got a mirror scene in this episode, but that may have something to do with the fact that we didn’t flash over to the Sideways world. I suspect we’ll pick back up with that theme next week if the episode is Kwon-centric (as it appears to be). But we did get a reflection of the Black Rock in the puddles on the Island. So there’s that.
  • I think the guy that plays MIB kinda looks like me. Same salt and pepper hair, cropped close, oval like face. I don’t know; it kinda makes me want to root for him. But I’m more convinced than ever that he’s really the bad guy in all of this.
  • I’m thinking Hurley might be next in line to replace Jacob. He’s beginning to take charge, from the way he talks to Jack on the beach to his relentless pursuit of Richard in the jungle. Or maybe Hurley stands to be the next Richard. In fact, at episode’s end, he functions in much the same way Richard has: as Jacob’s representative. How fitting, then, that Hurley should be the one to aid Richard in the restoration of his faith. Moving forward, I presume that Richard will be a key figure in keeping Smokey from leaving the Island. I don’t know what to make of Isabella’s chilling final comment: If Smokey leaves, they all go to hell. Yikes.
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14 Responses to LOST Season Six: Ab Aeterno

  1. Dylan says:

    Wow……WOW!!!!

    This had everything you could possibly want in a Lost episode. Love, heartbreak, faith, character internal conflict, character growth, spiritual parallels, mythology, redemption and HUGE answers!

    I mean, they pretty much answered LOST. The whole show has been explained to some degree. Can you think of any bigger questions than the three that were answered tonight?

    1. What is the reason for the island? To contain evil from bringing hell on earth.

    2. Why are people brought to the island? Two reasons. So Jacob can show them their past doesn’t matter and they are free to make good choices. And to “prove” to MIB that people are not inherently evil, but are good.

    Of course, this brings up the question of why Jacob is willing to sacrifice all these lives just to prove this to MIB. Is that the endgame? Once MIB is finally convinced that people are good, then he is defeated and Jacob wins? And did I just inadvertently make a spiritual reference. Yes I did.

    3. Why must one of the 6 candidates replace Jacob? To stop MIB from leaving or MIB will bring hell to everyone.
    (Which NOW the stakes for Lost have REALLY been raised! Many of us thought that the fate of the island involved the world not being destroyed in some way. Now we know it’s even bigger! The world will go to hell! Wow!)
    This also makes me wonder, was Jacob the original guardian of the island/prison warden of MIB? Or was he a candidate to replace someone else.

    Of course, with this huge dose of mythology, I’m still wondering how the flash-sideways fit into the grand scheme of things. I still trust the writers to answer that, but I’m starting to get antsy like you were.

  2. Dylan says:

    Oh, and did it seem to anyone else like Jacob almost tricked Richard to be immortal. Richard asks Jacob to forgive his sins, and Jacob says he can’t, so Richard asks to live forever so he won’t go to hell. But I don’t think Jacob meant that it is impossible for Richard’s sins to be forgiven, just that it wasn’t one of Jacob’s powers.

    I did like that Jacob said that though. Almost like the writers went out of their way to say Jacob is NOT Jesus. That’s a good thing.

    • Jason says:

      I think you’re right. I don’t think Jacob has the power to forgive Richard’s sins…but that alone doesn’t mean Richard is incapable of receiving forgiveness. I think that’s above Jacob’s pay grade. Jacob may be one of the Island’s “deities”, but he’s not omnipotent.

  3. Dylan says:

    Oh, and I forgot several other big questions that were answered, which almost seem secondary now, but were HUGE mysteries going into this season:

    Why doesn’t Richard age? Why did the statue crumble? How did the Black Rock get to the middle of the ocean?

    Okay, I’ll quit commenting now. Sorry for all my ranting, but this was just such an amazing episode that I can’t shut up!

  4. Marci says:

    This episode WAS awesome! I was so pumped to learn about mysterious Ricardo… and what a sweet, heroic story with Isabella! 🙂 SO many biblical parallels here- I also thought about God and Moses when Richard was talking with Jacob on the beach. I also thought it was cool that Richard, in a way, gave Jacob the idea of having a representative for him. This is also the first time we see Jacob act violent towards anyone (“baptizing” Richard in the ocean over and over, as Richard finally says he wants to live (forever)– careful what you wish for!) I was surprised at this because Jacob is usually solemn.
    MIB is sooo deceitful! Manipulating people’s vulnerabilities to make them do what he wants. I do feel sorry for him a little, being trapped on the island and all, but hes just so sneaky.
    Interesting thought about Hurley. He does seem to be a pretty dominant character this season.
    Ok, what about Widmore? How does he play into all this? Is he the one who is going to take MIB off the island? And if the ship that MIB and Jacob saw in the season 5 finale wasn’t the Black Rock, whose ship was it?

    • Jason says:

      I think it was important for us to see this side of Jacob. Until now, we’ve only seen him as a serene Island string-puller, bringing people to the Island by intervening in their off-Island lives. But when it comes to defending himself, Jacob demonstrates a willingness to use violence. This helps give a shade of nuance to the Jacob / MIB dispute. I still think Jacob will end up being the good guy here, but I think we’re supposed to be questioning just how good the “good guys” really are here (and, as a corollary, how bad are the “bad guys”?). LOST may end up being a morality play on perspectivistism (see Nietzche).

  5. Marci says:

    OH! Also: Did you notice all the fire in this hell-ish episode?? (Candidates sitting around a fire on the beach when Richard mentions that they were in hell, When MIB first talks with Richard on the Black Rock he carries a lantern, MIB roasting a pig over the fire and then speaking to Richard of being in hell.)

    Ok, I just watched the scene from “The substitute” where that strange boy (I think it’s young Jacob) makes an appearance. Apparently MIB/LOcke has intentions of killing Sawyer, and when the boy shows up in the jungle, Sawyer can see him too- MIB is suprised that Sawyer can see him, but it’s because Sawyer is a candidate. (Later in that episode the boy appears when MIB/Locke is talking with Richard, Richard cant see him)
    MIB chases the boy through the jungle and the boy says “Remember the rules, you can’t kill him.” Maybe MIB cant kill a ‘candidate’ because they havent officially taken Jacob’s place yet.

  6. Brandon says:

    I agree with Jason this is probably my favorite episode of Lost at this point. Because we get to see the main characters of this story. Jacob and MIB. But on the comment by MIB when he tells Richard that Jacob betrayed him, took his body, took his humanity. Could it be possible that Jacob’s “current” form use to be the MIB’s original form? Obviously from that statement it could be translated that MIB has embodied another form. How ironic would it be that Jacob inhabited MIB at one point. I want to think that their is a major twist with Jacob being the “bad” guy and MIB actually being “good”. But all traits of MIB show a “demon” like existence. Almost like Jacob is an Angel and MIB is a Demon with humans as a simple pawn in a game waged between the two. And when will we get a true name for MIB? Does his name hold the answer? Either way the MIB has this cool bad about him that is fun to watch.

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Brandon. I think MIB will ultimately prove to be the baddie, but it’s intriguing that we’re so late in the game here (150 episodes in, only 7 or 8 episodes left) and we STILL aren’t sure which of the major players are good and which ones are evil. Incredible.

  7. Jenny says:

    I thought this episode was AWESOME! I was so ready to get some answers about Richard! But, did anyone else think of Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Sheepdog) when Jacob and MIB were sitting next to each other talking… like they are just doing their jobs…..Maybe I am just a nerd like that. 🙂

  8. Dylan says:

    Okay, weird theory/observation: The flash-sideways world is operating in a timeline where the cork (the island) is gone/underwater! If the island sunk in ’77 then what happened to the MIB there? Is it possible that The Hatch serves as a model for all this? Think about it. The Hatch kept this electro-magnetic energy contained so that it wouldn’t blow up the world, just like the island keeps MIB contained. Now at the end of season 2, Desmond makes the choice to blow up the Hatch so that the potential electro-magnetic danger would be destroyed and would no longer be a threat. So maybe the flash-sideways world is no longer under threat from MIB?

    Which gives further evidence that the flash-sideways is actually an elaborate flash-forward, or epilogue to everything on the island in that once everyone dies on the island they are brought to the flash-sideways world. Those who chose Jacob’s side get relatively decent lives, while those who chose MIB get difficult lives. Which, I’m not sure if I like that ending.

  9. Jenny says:

    So, I am watching season one for the first time actually (I began watching in season 2). I am watching episode 13 and think the following dialogue is intersting. Locke and Boone are venturing out into the jungle. Boone is beginning to get jealous of Sayid’s attentions toward Shannon. Boone and Locke are discussing that situation and Locke says about Sayid, “we don’t want to make an enemy of him… we’re going to want him on our side”. Coincidence?

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