Spoilers Alert. Also undercooked random thought alerts, though you don't normally announce that.
One aspect of Across the Sea I did not see discussed (though I did not look that hard: mostly AV Club and Slate) -- One aspect of Across the Sea kind of dawned on me in the last few days. Back when the Richard episode aired people said "Lost always does this. You always think 'the Desmond episode' or 'the Ben episode' or 'the Richard episode' or even 'the Dharma time travel years' will finally give us the answer, and each time the answer is the same -- the guy you thought had all the answers is as caught in this mystery as anyone else. Desmond does not know what is up with the hatch, Ben lied about being born on the island, Richard is just another castaway who happens to be immortal, the Dharma guys know nothing. The Jacob and Man in Black story was no different. You thought these were going to be like the "original guys" but they were just castaways, like Jack and Locke. Like the idea from early this season that the whole show is about finding a candidate to replace Jacob, people died on the way to Jacob being the candidate. Across the Sea really is just LOST in miniature. Even Alison Janney said (though she does tell lies) that she was got here like everyone else, by accident. Everyone is a castaway. There are no natives. Across the Sea just told the story of the most recent time in history a new candidate came forward to protect the island -- it just felt like more because it has not happened in a long time. Though I am a bit aggravated with some things, I really do like that Jacob and the Man in Black are castaways like everyone else, flawed people with dark pasts. It makes it easier to sympathize with them than if they were merely supernatural forces with all the answers. And maybe it muddies the waters of the finale to make the Man in Black so sympathetic, but it is also ALWAYS better to be able to sympathize with a character than not, always better to be able to say "you know, if I were that guy in that situation, I might have done the same thing." Satan in Paradise Lost being a great example. And it is perfectly Ok for Jacob to not be very sympathetic: he was punished by being killed at the end of season 5, and the whole thing is about replacing him anyway. His suckiness sets up part of the need for the new guy.