Lost Round Table: “Ab Aeterna”

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Welcome back to our ongoing round table discussion of all things Lost with bloggers Bridget McGovern, Theresa DeLucci, and Rajan Khanna. Join us below the fold as we discuss one hundred and forty years of sexy, awesome, spoiler-laden action…

Bridget: This week’s episode represents the halfway point in Lost‘s final season—we are nine hours in with nine hours to go, and I think most people will agree that “Ab Aeternum” provided a perfect bridge to the final episodes. The focus on Richard Alpert marked a shift from the flash-sideways pattern and provided some much-needed insight into the relationship between Jacob and the Man in Black. Moreover, the writers managed once again to do what they do best: presenting big issues and questions wrapped in solid, character-driven storytelling. And fabulous guyliner.

The episode also allowed for some outstanding performances from Nestor “Naturally Lush Lashes” Carbonell (who kept several scenes from sliding into total melodrama), Mark Pelligrino and Titus Welliver. All three actors, who haven’t had much of a chance to move beyond “enigmatic” territory thus far, managed to bring new complexities to their characters and the relationships between them.

As compelling as Richard’s backstory was, once again I find myself most interested in the unfolding history/mythology of the Island; clearly, his arrival marked a pivotal turning point in the relationship between Jacob and the Man in Black. First, there was Jacob’s surprise at the assassination attempt—since last season, I had always assumed that the MiB functioned as kind of an eternal Wile E. Coyote to Jacob’s Road Runner, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Then there was Alpert’s intercession, and Jacob’s decision to use him as an intermediary—the beginning of a chain of events now culminating 140 years later.

In spite of all the heavy Christian overtones here, I can’t help but think that while Jacob and the MiB are familiar with (and capable of manipulating) those concepts in talking to Richard, his Catholicism and understanding of Hell are at best only tangentially related to the mysteries of the Island. Perhaps Christianity was only a red herring…I’m also wondering about Jacob’s definition of sin and evil, and why he chose to remain mortal if he can bestow immortality? It’s not like I expect to find him hanging out with Tupac in Elvis’s secret underground party compound or anything—but there’s got to be more to the story. Also, I wonder if that man-eating pig came through the Deadwood wormhole with Titus and the rest of his crew?

Raj: I agree, Bridget, that Nestor Carbonell did an amazing job here, and completely agree that without his performance we could be verging into complete melodrama territory. But after dribs and drabs of Richard over the past few seasons, it was great to get Richard unrestrained. And I felt that his role in the whole dynamic between Jacob and MiB/Smocke was fascinating. And I totally missed what was going on with Hurley and the Spanish until the end.

I also agree that I think the Christianity thing is a red herring. I think when Jacob spoke of evil and the cork holding it in place, he was talking about MiB himself. That the Island is a prison and Jacob is the warden, which is why he needs to be replaced. Which brings up an interesting possibility. Prisons are often used in an attempt to reform the criminal. Jacob’s dealings with MiB may be an attempt to show him the error of his ways, hence the continued dialogue between the two. But we still don’t know where MiB came from. He used to be a man, he says. And Jacob called him a man. But he’s also the smoke and he can appear as dead people. Which brings up the possibility—if he can do that, then how do we know that who Hurley is talking to is the real person?

I found it interesting that now two times we’ve seen someone ready to join Smocke only to change their mind at the last minute. In Ben’s case it was because Ilana talked him out of it. This time because of Hurley and Isabella. But both times because of someone Jacob picked. So maybe his gambit is working.

I was really excited to hear the name Magnus Hanso, which is what people expected with the Black Rock, but I still geeked out a bit. Though he died pretty quickly. And now we know how the statue was destroyed. That must have been some wave.

So there are 6 candidates, three of whom are Sun, Hurley, and Jack. That means that the other three (Sawyer, Kate, and Sayid) are aligned with Smocke. So we’re halfway through the season and the lines are split. But maybe Richard and Ben will help tip the scales? Not to mention Lapidus. But then Smocke has all those Others who defected. And what role will Widmore play? I also thought it was interesting that MiB used the same exact language on Richard that Dogen used on Sayid. Just a coincidence? A storytelling trick? Or something more?

So many questions remain…

Theresa: This was my favorite episode of the season (so far—still holding final judgment until the Hurley episode.) Completely in agreement that Nestor Carbonell’s performance elevated what could have been just another soapy romantic tragedy with Hurley in the Whoopi-Goldberg-in-Ghost role. How handsome did Ricardo look riding that horse in 1867? I love the scope of this show. What started out as a show about survivors on a creepy island has turned into this huge metaphysical battle for humanity’s soul. And I love that this show has such an international cast and doesn’t shy away from subtitles.

And how nice was it to get a break from the sideways universe and go back to the classic Lost flashback format? We spent all of five minutes with the people on the Island. But we learned so much more about their world. It’s no coincidence that the Man in Black’s (can he please have a canon name already?) instructions to Richard mirrored Dogen’s words to Sayid. Jacob and the Man in Black are two sides of the same coin. And while I like the idea of the Island being evil’s prison and Jacob’s replacement a warden, it would make the power dynamics between the forces mismatched. The one thing that bothered me—and bothered me when Richard tried to kill himself—was Richard so easily losing his faith in Jacob. After 140 years on the Island, you’d think he, more than anyone, would know that Jacob had a plan. How could he think his life was meaningless? He didn’t strike me as a doubting Thomas. And now we’ve learned that Richard was a man of faith himself, couldn’t he see the similarities between the Island and those biblical stories? I don’t think the Christian elements in the story are a red herring, I think it’s just one context within which the Island weirdness can be understood, especially by people as old as Richard, Jacob, and the Man in Black. Hell and The Devil are words they can grasp. For others, it’s not Evil, it’s unbelievably destructive electromagnetic power.

So many questions. If Jacob can grant everlasting life, why did Jacob die at all? Well, him being a sort of savior figure, he must, I suppose. But if the Island is the cork keeping a vintage evil from the rest of the world, how come evil still exists? How worse could it get? If Jacob was bringing people to the Island all this time, how come it seemed like he never thought of appointing an intermediary between himself and the people before Richard got there? So did Juliet pop the cork when she detonated Jughead and the sideways-universe is a world of evil and false promises?

While we continue to ponder, please help us hash out some theories in the comments, and enjoy the following link extravaganza:

• Robot 6’s thoroughly excellent “Hatch-full of Lost comics and art” (including some of Kate Beaton’s recent strips, all of which are available at her Twitter feed)

• A musical tribute to the many complex facets of Mr. Benjamin Linus

• The Final Season of Lost as Seen by Someone Who Has Never Seen Lost

• Wishful thinking: LAFLEUR spinoff poster

• Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof reveal the title of the series finale in this week’s official podcast (via EW.com)

• Lost: No more questions. For real this time.

Theresa DeLucci is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Chizine. She’s eagerly awaiting the return of True Blood. Well not so much the whole show, but at least Alexander Skarsgård in a tank top

Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and his fiction has appeared in Shimmer Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his two cats, Chloe and Muppet.

Bridget McGovern is a lit nerd, a film geek, and a complete pop culture junkie. She enjoys David Bowie, roller coasters, and metaphors involving evil wine more than anyone probably should.


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