How do you follow up after last week’s emotional explosion? If you’re the producers of Lost, the answer is simple. You follow up with an episode that is perhaps one of the most divisive frames in the six year run of the series. It has clearly divided the audience into two factions: those that were confused (for one reason or another) and those who are fooling themselves into thinking that “Across the Sea” was a great episode. It was not a great episode. In fact, in the context of the entire show, it was perhaps one of most peculiar episodes. And above all, it was an emotional let-down. If last week was an explosion in the sky, this week was the equivalent of a balloon popping in the woods. Only the little creatures heard it.
The story goes something like this: we take a break from the lives of Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the artist formerly known as Locke to explore the history of the island. Well, the history of the island’s two oldest residents. The nature of that body of land remains a mystery, and probably will beyond the series finale. This episode took us back to the birth of Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and the Man in Black (Titus Welliver). From their mysterious birth to their life with their surrogate mother (played by Allison Janney) to their discovery of a well-lit water tunnel that leads to the “island’s heart,” or more appropriately its source of energy. The two struggle with their existence, ultimately coming to blows over whether or not they should leave. That seems to be a problem that’s going around on this island.
As they fight it out to see who will win — black or white (have these guys never listened to Michael Jackson, this all could have been solved so easily) — we get to have a few of our questions answered. Of course, mirroring a bit of dialogue from Allison Janney’s character, for every answer that is given, another question arises. Lets go through a few of these together. Warning: This is where the spoilers begin.
What is it with The Island’s fluorescent plumbing?
Sure, it’s the heart of The Island, the all-powerful energy source that will ultimately (and vaguely) be blamed for everything that ever happened to the passengers of Flight 815. But why must it be such a hokey entity? Perhaps this is the beginning of the removal of the “serious” curtain, in which Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse reveal that they have been messing around this whole time. Some of us are still pulling for the “it was all Hurley’s insane asylum dream” ending, but that’s looking less likely. This episode suggests that something almost other-worldly is at the heart of the island. A pure form of energy that can take a man and turn him into a mechanical-sounding smoke monster. That said…
If the Man in Black becomes the “Adam” from the cave (ie. his body is still around) and his spirit has become ole’ smokey, how do we see him later in his human form?
Does the Smoke Monster evolve later on to be able to replicate human form? Does something else happen between the monster and Jacob? This is perhaps one of the biggest problems I had with the episode. It feels like a glossing-over of some very important background details on these two characters whose struggle has become the crux of the story. If our heroes of Flight 815 are “candidates,” then it would be nice to know a little more about this struggle. And who came up with all of these rules? Why can’t the Man in Black leave the island? It all seems to be an arbitrary set of regulations created by President Jed Bartlet’s Chief of Staff.
Why tell this story now?
This is perhaps the quandary that will bother Losties for the next seven days until the next episode airs. Why was so much time spent with the “Temple People” when this story could have been unfolding earlier? The producers have admitted that the first three quarters of this season were a long con to get the audience to believe that John ‘Smokey’ Locke wasn’t really evil, only to reveal last week that he would just as soon kill everyone. But this doesn’t seem to fit? It doesn’t exactly advance our understanding of what is happening to the characters about whom we care most. And with only three and a half hours of the show left, this particular storyline feels wedged in there. That is, unless the plan to continue it…
Why stop there?
While last week’s final moments left audiences out of breath and soaked in the upper cheek, this week’s end was sure to leave a perplexed disposition in its wake. It ended with the one-two punch of an “Aha!” moment (we finally know the secret behind the bodies in the cave, not that we cared anymore) and a “What the?!” moment (the episode ends at what feels like the half-way point of this particular story). The episode resembled more of a truncated version of the story they were trying to tell. It rushed through a lot of details and left more questions than were necessary. With the Man in Black dead (ish), who finished installing the wheel? And once he got his human form back, why couldn’t he Ben Linus his way off the island and into the desert three years later? These being some of the more interesting and mysterious elements of the show’s first five seasons, it would be nice to have more information. We don’t need it all, but this episode needed more answers. If this is the expositional filler episode where we learn about the history between good and evil, black and white, righteous and sinful — if this is where Lost‘s universally religious allegory comes full circle — it shouldn’t be so clouded. I will accept that the series will end with questions — and will concede that I’d like to see it end with a big question that will fuel discussion for months — but it’s time to start tying up the little things, don’t you think?
What is your take on this week’s episode? Do you have any answers to my many questions?