Wow. Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have our "purpose" for the season... and the series.
- The "Man in Black" is the devil / pure evil.
- The Island is a cork, keeping him trapped on the Island.
- If he is able to kill Jacob, along with all Jacob's replacements, he'll be free.
- If he gets free, it'll be hell on earth.
Oh hell yeah.
Richard Alpert. Wow - what a tragic existence for poor Richard. I was pretty surprised at how in-depth the Richard backstory was this episode. I was expecting it to "start" with his arrival on the Island, but instead we got his full life story, with a good half of the episode dealing with his life before ending up as a slave on the Black Rock (and Magnus Hanso). Initially, I was thinking "come on, get to the good Island stuff!", but in the end, seeing all of his backstory definitely made the episode far more powerful, moving, and fleshed out Richard's character more than I was expecting. His suicide attempt a few weeks back makes a whole lot more sense now. He's basically been in hell for the past hundred and fifty years.
Hell. Multiple times this episode, characters referred to the Island as hell - and that the people there are "dead"... but before you get all crazy with your purgatory theories (again), understand that it's all symbolic. The Island is "hell" because "the devil" is there. I've officially decided that there will never be a name for Anti-Jacob, because he is simply "pure evil". It doesn't have a name. Does this remind anyone else of the final season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"?
The interesting thing is that evil still exists in the outside world. It's not as though by keeping Anti-Jacob trapped on the Island, the world is free from evil. It still exists. But I guess this is part of the whole "balance" theme of Lost. God leaves people to their own devices. He wants them to figure things out for themselves without his heavy-handed intervention. On the other hand, the devil would gladly interfere, which would easily tip the scales in his favor. So somehow, God trapped the devil on this Island, and put a "guard" on the Island to be keep him there... Jacob.
So, Jacob isn't God - although he certainly acts like it with his "why do I have to get involved, people should be good on their own" attitude. However, his actions in this episode were full of religious symbolism. Baptizing Richard by dunking his head under water three times until he decided he wanted to live, having "communion" with him by sharing wine, and giving him eternal life in return for serving him.
Yet even though Jacob obviously has some powers (like granting people eternal life), he's like the Genie in Aladdin. There are rules. He can't bring people back from the dead. He can't make people fall in love with you. No wishing for more wishes. Okay, maybe just the first one... and he can't absolve you for your sins. It was interesting to see how angry Jacob was back in the day, compared to his current calm, mellow self.
In the end, if nothing else, this episode confirmed for me that Anti-Jacob is "bad" and Jacob is "good". It's easy to point out all the bad things that have happened as a result of Jacob's influence in the lives of our Survivors - but fundamentally, he's just trying to keep evil on the Island and prove the devil is wrong... and that people are fundamentally good. He's not perfect (again, he's not God), so there have definitely been some negative consequences of his involvement in people's lives - but on the whole, he's trying to keep the world from going to hell.
Loophole Number One. Anti-Jacob tries to get Alpert to stab Jacob (before he can say anything and "trick him", just like Dogen told Sayid about killing SmokeLocke!), but it fails. People have long debated about why Ben was able to kill Jacob so easily - but maybe anyone could have done it. It's just a matter of getting to Jacob and stabbing him. He clearly knew that he was mortal (telling Anti-Jacob that even if he succeeded in killing him, there would be a replacement for him), and we found out two weeks ago that he didn't want to die.
On the other hand, Anti-Jacob seems like a far trickier entity to destroy. How do you kill the devil? How do you destroy evil? Apparently Isabella thinks that Alpert has the ability to do it - but what makes him different?
Isabella. Isabella was never on the Island. The image that appeared to Richard inside the Black Rock was obviously a manifestation of Smokey (who earlier "scanned" Richard in hopes of using him to kill Jacob). But her appearance later, with translations from Hurley, was a little puzzling. Sure, it was convenient to wrap up Alpert's story - but up until this point, we've been able to explain almost all of the "dead people appearances" on the Island as being manifestations of Smokey / Anti-Jacob. This one was different. Can Hurley really see any dead "spirit", regardless of when and where they died, as long as they come to the Island? Or was she really just Jacob taking her form before talking to Hurley to help Richard overcome his crisis of faith?
Parallels. Finally, did you notice all the parallels and callbacks to previous episodes in "Ab Aeterno"? First, there's the way that Richard "accidentally" killed the doctor and how Desmond "accidentally" killed Kelvin? And the end result of both was being "stuck" on the Island. Or how about the parallels between Jacob's speech to Alpert about not letting the evil escape the Island with CFL's lines in SEASON ONE about "I had to kill them - can you imagine what would have happened if they would have left the Island?" There were the callbacks to SmokeLocke's "it's nice to see you out of those chains" from earlier this season.
Lots of good stuff.
So where do we go from here?
Clearly, Richard is the key. Jacob may have told Ilana who the 6 Candidates were (Jack, Sun, Hurley, Sawyer, TBD, TBD) and to get them to the Temple - but it sounds like his instructions end there. From there, it's up to Richard. He's overcome his crisis of faith and may finally realize what his purpose is. He's no longer the intermediary between Jacob and the people he brings to the Island. Now he's the guy to kill the devil and save the world... or at least help our Survivors to do so.
Phew. Lots of words. I feel like we're due for another "overarching storyline of Lost" post for my analysis this week. I also would like to compare the similarities between Season One and Season Six, in terms of how you can see how the writers could have wrapped up the show in one season if the ratings were low. There's a lot there:
Sayid heard the whispers in Season One, as if he was going to turn evil like CFL's crew... now he's Claimed.
Claire was crazy about someone stealing her baby in Season One... now she's Crazy Claire.
Locke was drastically changed after a Smokey encounter in Season One, and we thought maybe he was taken over by Smokey... and now he's literally a manifestation of Smokey.
There's a lot more where that came from. It wouldn't have been as "full of a story", but I really do think the key to understanding the final few episodes of Lost is to look back to the midpoint of Season One and see how the writers could have wrapped it up at that time.
At that time, we were building towards a big showdown between Jack and Locke. I have to think we're building to the same thing now.
Wow. That's way too much writing for an Instant Reactions.