Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost Season 6, Episode 15: Across the Sea

Spoilers. My blog about the most recent episode is up at Smartpop. Here is a sample you can click to read the whole thing:

The episode works by taking the elements of Lost and transporting them back to a smaller story with fewer characters in the distant past, suggesting they all radiate out from that source. The rivals, bad parents, stolen kids raised by someone not their parents, being special, not being special, outsiders landing on the island by accident, ghosts, magic power sources underground, guarding the island, wanting to leave the island, wanting not to leave the island, mysterious “Others,” people “researching” the island’s mysteries by digging into it, passing the torch to a new guardian of the island. Like Battlestar Galactica the idea is that all this has happened before and will happen again. There is a gag at the beginning where Janey tells Claudia, the mother of the boys, that each question leads to more questions and to just stop. So we are not to wonder how Janey got the job of guarding the island. We just go back this one (pretty big but still) step. Battlestar Galactica wanted to say stuff literally happens over and over. This is just a suggestion here, a kind of non answer. It sort of unifies a lot of the stuff — it all happened to a handful of people a long time ago. But it does not explain why it happens again.

Today, I am less sure how I feel. Basically I liked it but did not love it. I know at one point I wanted the island to balance the spiritual and scientific since keeping both elements has been a big part of the show's success. But like Battlestar Galactica it ends up being all spiritual.

More things in the category of "This has happened before and will happen again": the slaughter of the people digging in the ground looking for answers, waiting for a replacement, choosing the wrong destiny (both Locke and The Man in Black were supposed to be something else), the single mother crazy in the wilderness.

Brad was talking to me about how as the show winds down it motifs come back more and more quickly, and this seems to be where it was headed. If Claire is the new Rousseau, than Rousseau was the new Allison Janney.

It all points back to Aaron again, because he was the kid that like Jacob and the Man in Black was born on the island (though like them he was conceived elsewhere). Is he the chance to unify the power split in Jacob and the Man in Black?

At first I thought that messing with the Light explained not only why the dead could come back but why babies can't be born on the island - -but Ethan Rom was born there in the 70s. He is not a magic baby. So I have no idea what could have caused the baby problem after the 70s.

It is also interesting to realize that the two men we saw playing a board game in this episode are both dead -- and that The Man in Black was killed by Jacob before The Smoke Monster, assuming the form of Titus Welliver and then John Locke got Ben Linus to kill him. The Smoke Monster is as much Titus Welliver as he is John Locke, which is weird to realize because you think of him as being really Titus Welliver in the form of John Locke (not giving a name for the Man in Black makes this very hard to discuss because both before and after he gets tossed into the Light he has no name -- so there is no good way to make clear the change from the first incarnation to the second).

And a good point by Gawker of all places:

To me the most interesting aspect of the episode was that everyone pretty much sided with Esau, right? I mean, other than killing C.J., what he was doing sort of made sense. He was working with other people, trying to explore the outside world, not taking on blind faith what one lady (one lady who killed his mom, btw) told him. Jacob was the wimpy little mama's boy, he's the one who seemed to follow things on blind faith. In the show's long-running Faith v. Science theme, Science typically tends to be favored, and last night was no exception. But isn't it kind of a cop-out to kill ancient Science and switch him out with evil Smoke Devil so we sort of have to, by default, side with Faith? Obviously it's the show's prerogative to force our attention, our loyalties, to one side or the other, but the debate seemed to go pretty one-sided last night.

A twist should be surprising yet inevitable. I think the reason I am so-so on this episode was that the twist was certainly not inevitable -- and it probably could not have been given that they thought of this much later than season 1. But taking that into consideration, that was pretty good.

24 comments:

Telosandcontext said...

I LOVED this episode. I got my donkey wheel. I got my negatively charged exotic matter light. I got the origin of the smoke monster in a way that actually made sense to me. I love the idea that cultures play around with the electromagnetism so that the MIB can get off the island (that sort of satisfies my DHARMA Initiative qualms) and I loved that, as you pointed out before, LOST constantly introduces us to new locales and kind of got a hinted explanation of why no one finds them. Because they just can't. The MIB simply couldn't find the source. Jacob could. That means something.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately any of the answers the writers chose to highlight were really non-answers. They don't relate back to anything. Now we have "magic". When did this show become about magic and not faith vs. science. It's a copout that doesn't then have to explain anything.

Turning a wheel magically controls magic light. Drinking a magic potion magically makes you responsible for several thousand acres of real estate. Going down a magic river into a hole magically transforms you into magic smoke. Being on the island magically allows you to shipwreck ships, planes or see whatever in your magic lighthouse. You get the point? Utterly a waste. Don't even botter figuring it out - because it doesn't make any logical sense.

Anonymous said...

You've got to remember that everything we saw took place in the first century. Simply because Jacob's "mother" said that the energy in the cave was life, death, rebirth, etc. does not make this exactly so, or a full explanation.

Expecting first century people to have a modern, scientific understanding of the energy is two clicks from totally absurd.

jennifer said...

what i liked about this episode is that it muddied the waters about my perceptions of "good/evil" nature of the two characters.
they are both murderers.
jacob was a petulant mama's boy & mib had a natural curiosity that i can relate to.
and it is jacob, by throwing his brother into the "light", who has put world in danger.
and the point we made last night, it is jacob who keeps bringing people to the island. why? to taunt his brother? to find a replacement, because he doesn't want to live with his consequences?
i am no longer sure who i want to root for. and that makes it much more exciting for me.

neilshyminsky said...

I'm with the first Anon - I felt like the episode offered answers to questions that I didn't need answered. I didn't much care who Jacob and MiB 'really' are so much as I care to know what their missions 'really' are; I didn't care to know what the island 'really' is so much as why it's so important. I don't need to know who preceded Jacob and how he got the job. I just need to know what the stakes are if he succeeds or fails in keeping MiB in-check - to know what the stakes are, clearly, going into the finale. And it still isn't clear to me - and this is why I'm not thrilled that the good/bad water has been muddied so much, because it makes the stakes even LESS clear to me.

And the answers we were given, as has been said, push the mythology almost wholly into the realm of magic and religion. The island's 'light' or source or whatever was far more interesting when it was like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. For a moment, when Alison Janney first took the boys to see the light, I thought that they might not actually show it to us - that we would see their reaction, but never see the light (or even know that it's 'the light', necessarily). And so we could imagine that it was a machine, a ball of energy, the face of god, a glowing hippopautamus... but we would never know.

And then we saw a totally underwhelming glowing cave.

Katie Davis said...

I enjoy knowing the origin of Smokey and that Jacob and MIB are more complex than good vs. evil. But I also agree with Anon and Neil that the episode answered a bunch of questions I wasn't asking. Didn't care who Adam and Eve were, or where the stones came from, thanks. I just need to know enough to confirm that the internal logic of the show makes sense. And by way of an answer to that, they give us magic. Boo. The thing about Jacob and MIB not being able to kill each other because CJ Cregg said so is really lame.

Also, a minor point, but: Smokey isn't really MIB anymore, so why couldn't he just inhabit another dead body on the island and kill Jacob much sooner than he did?

Finally, I don't have to love the show because I'm still watching it, and I have every right to be disappointed that the characters are taking a backseat to this loopy, kinda lame, and uber-religious mythology. (It all begins with...an evil woman! Yay, Christianity themes crippling our culture some more!) After all these seasons, of course I am going to follow through and keep watching, and of course I'm going to criticize what I don't like about it.

Teebore said...

@Neil: I just need to know what the stakes are if he succeeds or fails in keeping MiB in-check - to know what the stakes are, clearly, going into the finale.

I dunno...aren't the stakes clear? If MiB gets off the island, his darkness spreads, extinguishing the "light" in the world? As Geoff said "Somehow the smoke is or has the light now and if it leaves the island everything goes out everywhere. "

@Katie: Smokey isn't really MIB anymore, so why couldn't he just inhabit another dead body on the island and kill Jacob much sooner than he did?

Smokey didn't kill Jacob; he had to convince Ben to do it, and took Locke's form to that end. Presumably, he spent the ensuing millenniums after his transformation trying to con people into killing Jacob for him.

Jeff said...

I agree with Anon and Neil. I'm not a guy who needs answers for everything, but if they are going to act like the answers are important, they should really do a better job with it. I would almost prefer no answers to the half-ass ones we got last night. Who is Smokey: He was a guy thrown down a glowing spring that turned him into a smoke monster..uh how? What about Jacob's immortality: He drank some magic wine that we're not going to explain. Who are the skeletons: They are centuries-old people with no names. (Some astute posters have noted that Jack originally said the skeletons looked about 50 years old, so the one concrete answer we get doesn't even match up).

On top of that, who the hell was Alison Janney's character and if she made it so Jacob and MIB couldn't kill each other, why was Jacob able to kill MIB later on in the same episode?

I honestly don't think Lindelof and Cuse are very good writers, sadly.

Curt said...

On a similar note, I don't think Jacob necessarily killed the MiB, either.

In fact, their (m)Other explicitly stated that she made it so the two brothers could never hurt one another.

This blessing could very well be what caused the Smoke monster to exist in the first place: the MiB's "blessed" body created some kind of negative feedback when he entered into "the light." Voila: the Smoke Monster!

neilshyminsky said...

Teebore wrote: I dunno...aren't the stakes clear? If MiB gets off the island, his darkness spreads, extinguishing the "light" in the world? As Geoff said "Somehow the smoke is or has the light now and if it leaves the island everything goes out everywhere."

This presumes that Geoff is right. Even if he is, though, that particular thought never occurred to me until I read Geoff's review. I didn't even notice that the light went out in the cave, nor did I think, when it was first pointed out to me in an article elsewhere, that a) this would necessarily mean that MiB now had the light, and b) the world should end if he leaves with it. If this is true, it actually becomes the entire point of the show. And the entire point of the show should have been much, much more clear to me.

Geoff Klock said...

First off, Katie. You write "Finally, I don't have to love the show because I'm still watching it, and I have every right to be disappointed that the characters are taking a backseat to this loopy, kinda lame, and uber-religious mythology. (It all begins with...an evil woman! Yay, Christianity themes crippling our culture some more!) After all these seasons, of course I am going to follow through and keep watching, and of course I'm going to criticize what I don't like about it."

You are 100% right and I am 100% wrong here. The number of people who told me BSG already had religious elements so the religious ending was perfect -- you are right here. Sorry about that.

Anon -- you write "Don't even botter figuring it out - because it doesn't make any logical sense." Yeah but it was never going make logical sense. There are other kinds of sense it fails to make that are more important.

Anon -- a very good point about magic being what ancient people could not understand -- except that it really just does just seem like flat out wizardry. The real thing is are they going to come back and talk about this again? Cause I feel like this is it.

Curt: interesting idea about the blessing. Like a logical problem at the beginning (you can't kill him but you did kill him) causes all the logical problems at the end.

I have been thinking about it all day, and i still don't know what I think about it. I know i did not love it. I think it was adequate maybe. But i feel like i could also be talked into thinking it was bad. Sorry everyone. If I did not HAVE to write about this I probably would have just waited on it.

Teebore said...

And the entire point of the show should have been much, much more clear to me.

That's a fair point. Considering they went out of their way to clumsily and hamfistedly connect the dots between this episode and the Adam and Even skeletons for the rookies, it is surprising they wouldn't make something that important, something that's getting missed by even the most attentive and seasoned fans, more obvious.

Teebore said...

@Jeff: why was Jacob able to kill MIB later on in the same episode?


He didn't kill him; he knocked him unconscious (and then into the cave).

How do I know he was unconscious and not dead? Because Alison Janney said they couldn't kill each other. :)

Jeff said...

@Teebore: Point taken on the unconsciousness.

Now, if you could just clear up all the other major problems I had with the episode... :)

Katie Davis said...

I mean, the great thing about this show is you could really talk about it all day. They're doing something right if we give enough of a crap to debate it.

@Teebore: My 'why couldn't Smokey kill Jacob earlier' thing assumed that Smokey isn't really MIB. We know MIB's body, at least, is dead. But maybe Smokey is supposed to retain MIB's soul and isn't truly a different entity.

Geoff, I'm having the opposite reaction to this episode...totally hated it last night but you've convinced me it has some merit. Meet ya in the middle, on the fence.

Andy said...

Alan Sepinwall's post game interview with Darlton:
http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/exclusive-interview-lost-producers-damon-lindelof-and-carlton-cuse-talk-across-the-sea

Never expected this to polarize critics so heavily. As the show runners said, this had to happen. Too many people asked for this backstory. I think it humanized the battle between MIB and Jacob which falls in line with their "characters first" mantra. Like all LOST episodes, it answered questions and raised others. Remember 3.5 hours of story left. No telling what's to come

Stefan Delatovic said...

I think smokey is still the MIB, just different. He seemed sincere when telling people previously that he had a crazy mother and that Jacob had stolen his body.

I feel weird about this episode because I can understand people's criticisms, but not care about them maybe? Emotionally this episode was a little flat, which put the answers under a brighter spotlight. Today though, thinking about the ideas therein, I'm loving it.

I feel like 'mother' was both the protector and the smoke monster.

James said...

"He has never been off, and wants to know what it is like."
This is a big thing short-circuiting my conception of the sideways U - if it turns out to be What Happens If Smokey Leaves AND occurs pre-Season 6 Island, doesn't it take away from Smokey's quest if he's been off-Island once already? Logically I suppose you can say if the timeline gets cancelled then he's never really left, but we keep getting told What Happened, Happened.

"I think smokey is still the MIB, just different. He seemed sincere when telling people previously that he had a crazy mother and that Jacob had stolen his body."
I agree with this. My first thought was that he's only Titus Welliver in the same way that he's now Locke, but certainly he conceives of himself as Titus, from what he's said. He could be wrong, of course, Swamp Thing style.

I understand the complaints that It's All Magic now, but remember that the Science of Lost has never been [i]hard[/i] sci-fi, just whacky magical sci-fi as opposed to whacky fantasy magic. Certainly The Light contained/related to The Electromagnetism, and it might be that after Smokey darkened the cave the E.M. is all that's left.

Neil's right that that needed to be clearer. You need a definitive shot of the darkened cave after Smokey exits, as it is we don't know it doesn't brighten up again once he's out. Though I guess you're supposed to remember that the light around the Donkey Wheel was blue and cold (not yellow and warm) when Ben and Locke turned it.

I like Geoff's idea that what's left of the light is now IN Smokey, with the flashes and all.

Back to the Donkey Wheel, I thought it was important that MiB said it would use "The Light and The Water" - like the pool in the temple?

"they went out of their way to clumsily and hamfistedly connect the dots between this episode and the Adam and Even skeletons for the rookies" What I found funny about that was that the effect wasn't so much "remember?!" as "see! we really WEREN'T making it up as we went along!"

"they thought of this much later than season 1" Do we know that, Geoff? I know the show was conceived as something completely different (by a different guy, even), but do you not think they at least knew about Jacob, Smokey and The Source from the start?

James said...

Again again AGAIN: I hope we don't just get a straightforward Candidate-Replacing-Jacob scenario because a) Jacob's kind of a massive dick and b) that sucks for the candidate. Speaking of a), the Dharma Purge HAD to come from Jacob, right? Doesn't Richard say as much? And we've no reason to believe Richard would falsely justify his actions by claiming they come from Jacob, in the way that Ben did.

Joe Gualtieri said...

Re: BSG's ending

Geoff, it certainly explored religious themes in depth prior to the finale, but the show had long hinted that religious belief was an artificial construct as a result of long-forgotten programming because the humans on the show were the previous generation of Skinjob Cylons. That God and angels turned out to be real on the show was a major swerve with no real foreshadowing.

In contrast, Lost's clear starting point from the first episode was the Tempest. It's just getting around to confirming that yes, there absolutely is magic.

Teebore said...

@James: You need a definitive shot of the darkened cave after Smokey exits, as it is we don't know it doesn't brighten up again once he's out. Though I guess you're supposed to remember that the light around the Donkey Wheel was blue and cold (not yellow and warm) when Ben and Locke turned it.

Good point that the Donkey Wheel was cold and blue, not warm and yellow. I missed that connection.

That said, I believe in the Alan Sepinwall interview, Darlton said they will be revisiting the idea of Smokey taking the light vs. just putting it out and what exactly it means for Smokey to leave the island, so hopefully that'll help clarify the stakes for us a bit.

the Dharma Purge HAD to come from Jacob, right? Doesn't Richard say as much?

I don't think Richard says anything about the Purge, but Ben tells Locke it was ordered by someone higher up the chain of command than Ben (presumably Jacob).

My only issue with accepting that Jacob ordered the Purge was the recent depiction of Jacob as the good guy in contrast to Smokey, but after last night, I have no issue saying Jacob ordered the Purge.

While he may be more benevolent and have a higher opinion of humanity than his mother or brother, watching his mother purge the island of MiB's people made it pretty clear to me that Jacob is still capable of ordering a similar purge if island visitors get too close to "the light" and I think that's what happened with Dharma. He was fine with them hanging out and doing their experiments until they went too far, and he had to wipe them out like his mother did centuries earlier.

James said...

"I don't think Richard says anything about the Purge, but Ben tells Locke it was ordered by someone higher up the chain of command than Ben (presumably Jacob)."
Yeah, I checked Lostpedia after I asked and you're right. My memory was of Richard telling Ben what to do during that time, but I guess Ben was already more integrated with the Hostiles by that point.

So, it's open to interpretation, but for my current anti-Jacob read on things, I'm with you.

neilshyminsky said...

Smokey was the security system that could be controlled via the secret passage in Dharmaville, right? So it's conceivable that the Dharma folks actually discovered/enslaved Smokey. And if they could do that, Jacob might have feared that they could remove him, too. (Or something along those lines.)

neilshyminsky said...

Apropos of nothing, I've re-revised my position on how the flashsideways relate to main Lost U, and returned to thinking that they follow AFTER the resolution of the main story.

Long-explanation-short: If it's bad that humans capture/harness the light, then it's equally bad that Mother (and Jacob and Smokey) should have it, too. (And this is why Jack is a particularly good target to be sucked into accepting the mantle - he still wants to fix things, and replacing Jacob essentially makes him the most important fixer in the world.)

When Smokey escapes, it'll be like Pandora's Box, only in reverse, and bad parents will become good parents.

And having written this, I'm at least 95% sure that i'll be proven TOTALLY WRONG. But, man, that 5% chance...