Lost Season 6 Episode 9: Ab Aeterno
But it took us a second viewing to love it. In fact, it may just be one of the most memorable episodes of the series. First off, big huzzahs to Nestor Carbonell who for 3 seasons now has had little more to do than look serene or slightly puzzled. He knocked it out of the park, acting-wise. We had no idea he had it in him. And as far as flashbacks go, Little Ricardus of the 30-inch waist may just have the most melodramatic “how I got to the island” story of them all, outdoing Desmond, Ben, any of the 815ers, Rousseau, Juliet, you name an origin story and this one blows it away. With its 19th Century Canary Islands opening, complete with galloping horses in the rain, officious aristocrats and corrupt priests, it felt like an epic romantic novel made for television. The Thornbirds with smoke monsters.
Of course, that’s a bit of a smartass way of describing the episode. It really was epic, though. In fact, the second we laid eyes on Ricardus’ beautiful, doomed Isabella, we knew we were in for one of those epic tragic romances Lost loves to trade in: Penny & Desmond, Sun & Jin, Rose & Bernard, James & Juliet, Claire & Charlie (although granted, that last one wasn’t so epic even if he did drown and she went crazy).
And what are we to think of the overtly theological references this episode? All that devil and hell stuff. We’re inclined to take it figuratively. After all, Ricardus would have framed the story that way given his background, so it makes sense that both Jacob and Smokey would use those types of references to explain certain things to him. What do you think? Is this devil and hell stuff meant to be taken literally? Are you buying the story’s turn away from science fiction aspects like “pockets of electromagnetic energy” and time traveling into full-on mysticism and theological references? We have a strong feeling that the final answers aren’t going to be so simple as “It was all magic!”
Or could all the hell references simply have been another wink at the long time fans and some of the crazier theories about the show, like the zombie and cyborg references earlier?
Whatever. We still loved it. And since, like every other Lost post we’ve ever attempted to write, this one’s just about to collapse under a bunch of unconnected observations and half-baked theories, let’s talk about the things we loved. First, like we said, Carbonell’s performance. One of the best we’ve ever seen on the show. Second, the writing, which reminded you of just how fucking scary this island can be when you first encounter it. That’s the most sinister Smokey we’ve ever seen. And as much as we love Terry O’Quinn’s performance as Smokey, Titus Welliver just owns the character after this episode (plus he’s kind of hot). Loved that shot of the island during the storm with the intact statue. It looked terrifying. Loved that we got a two-fer answer on two of the longstanding mysteries and it couldn’t have been more simple. How did the Black Rock wreck on the island? How did the statue get destroyed? There’s your answer. A two-fer. Loved that Jack totally accepts that Hurley can talk to the dead and in fact assumes so when he sees him talking in Spanish to thin air. What a trip that character’s been on to get to that point. And okay, maybe “love” is an inappropriate word to use but we…let’s say, respected the scene depicting the brutal killing of the slaves. It was harsh and terrifying and just made us sit in awe of everything Richard’s been through, far more than we could have imagined. But here’s the thing, Lost fans: Spanish slaves in 1867? Really? History buffs: explain.
Okay, here come the unconnected thoughts and half-baked theories. Strap yourselves in:
* It’s irritating that we went through this entire episode and not once did anyone utter Smokey’s name. Come on now. Our only thought is that if his name is said, it gives something important away that we’re not supposed to know yet. Like, oh, WHO THE FUCK THESE TWO ARE.
* Callback (or forward) alert: “It’s good to see you out of those chains.” That would explain why Richard looked terrified when Fake Locke said that to him.
* Other callback/forward alert: Smokey gives Ricardus a dagger that looks an awful lot like the one Dogen gave Sayid, along with similar instructions to not let Jacob speak before he kills him.
* Jacob kicked Ricardus’ ass! We couldn’t help thinking of the story of the Biblical Jacob wrestling an angel. In fact, we can’t imagine that we weren’t supposed to think that. This was certainly a harsher Jacob than the serene, almost Messianic figure we’ve been seeing before now, Kindly angelic beings don’t normally attempt drowning a person to make a point. Then again, if Jacob was some sort of angel (a theory we’re not signing on to yet) he’d definitely be one of the Old Testament, flaming sword kinds.
* So why did Jacob just stand there and let Smokey talk Ben into killing him? Why not bring the same fire and brimstone down on Ben’s ass as he did on Richard’s?
*Okay, so according to what we saw last night, the whole thing is some sort of morality play between Smokey and Jacob. Essentially, Smokey thinks humans are corruptible and prone to sin and Jacob thinks they can redeem themselves, and given free will, often do so. Let’s unpack that, because there’s a lot there.
*So Jacob has been bringing countless people to the island; people who are damaged or who have “sinned” and gives them a chance to redeem themselves, all as a way to prove his opposite number wrong. Seems a little, oh, we don’t know…wrong? We still maintain that Smokey’s the bad guy in all of this but that doesn’t necessarily make his nemesis an angel (you’ll pardon the term). Ricardus asked what happened to all the people who came to the island and Jacob said they’re all dead. Smokey’s got a pretty high body count, but Jacob may just have leaped past him with that revelation.
* Then again, Jacob appears to have a job to do and that job appears to be on the side of good. And with that explanation, we got a little glimpse into the oldest mystery of the island, the one uttered all the way back in the pilot by Charlie: “Where are we?” The island, according to Jacob, is “a cork,” keeping the darkness where it belongs. Now, just how literally are we to take that explanation in an episode where hell and the devil were getting tossed around so much? It the island literally is some sort of cork, did Juliet pop it when she set the bomb off? Is the alternate timeline what the world looks like with “evil unleashed?” Because so far, it looks pretty good for a lot of the people involved, relatively speaking.
* Hurley had a small but important part to play this episode and with each episode this season it’s becoming obvious that he’s a really central character to this whole story, far more than we would have thought. His scene channeling Isabella for Richard was throatlump-inducing.
* But here’s the thing about THAT: The island has always had a very close bond with the dead and sometimes, the dead aren’t all that friendly. After all, a Yemi apparition caused the death of Mr. Ecko. The whole time Isabella was holding Richard’s face and whispering to him, we were afraid she was going to rip it off. In fact, we’re still not 100% convinced that was the real Isabella.
* Let’s talk about the dead for a second. There have been countless apparitions on the island over the years: Christian, Yemi, Ana-Lucia, Horace, Boone, even Jacob. What did all of these people have in common? Their bodies were on the island, which always led us to assume that Jacob or Smokey, whoever was behind those apparitions, needed the body around in order to do it, like Smokey needing John Locke’s body in order to walk around as John Locke. So how is it that Isabella is appearing on the island when, as far as we know, her body isn’t on it? Maybe it really is her. The only other time we can think of this sort of thing happening was when a young Ben saw his dead mother on the island. Coincidence or connection?
* In fact, let’s break down the dead even further. You have those who died on the island, appearing on the island post-death: Yemi, Ana Lucia, Horace, Boone, Jacob. You have those who died off the island, whose bodies are on the island, appearing on the island post death: Christian, Locke. Then you have those appearing on the island whose bodies aren’t on the island: Isabella, Ben’s mother. And finally, you have those who died on the island, making appearances off the island, like Charlie and Ana-Lucia appearing to Hurley. Oh wait, then you have Christian, who died off the island, his body is on the island, and he’s made post-death appearances both on and off the island. Whew! Is that it? The reason we bring these up is that some of these apparitions were clearly the work of Smokey or Jacob, but some of them may not have been. We did the work of listing them, you hash out which ones were real and which ones were memorexe.
* And finally, one more crazy fan theory. What was with that shot of a moth fluttering around the hold of the ship? And hey, how is it that a boar somehow got on the hold of the ship? That seems a little unlikely, wouldn’t you say? So let’s think about moths and boars, shall we? Charlie had a moth guide him and Jack out of a cave-in just as he was succumbing to heroin withdrawal, allowing him to believe in himself as a hero. Sawyer once had multiple confrontations with a boar that seemed to be targeting him, but when it came time to take vengeance out on the boar, he realized he was feeling guilty for murdering a man in Australia and let the boar go. Then we thought, “Hey, isn’t it funny how there are these intense, emotionally revealing confrontations with spectral animal life on the island, like Kate with her horse, forcing her to deal with her crimes, and Sayid’s cat, which also forced him to deal with his crimes, and even Locke facing down the polar bear that captured Ecko, forcing him to rectify his mistakes after blowing up the hatch? Gosh, the animals on this island seem awfully redemptive don’t they?” Could it be that while The Man in Black has the ability to turn into a deadly column of smoke, his counterpart Jacob has the ability to take on the form of animal spirit guides? Discuss.