Quick Hits: LOST S6, E9 — “Ab Aeterno”
Although formally a Richard Alpert episode, last night was an Island-centric hour, perhaps more so than any prior episode in the series run. For that, and for the excellent manner in which it was executed, Darleton and co. deserve major, major props.
A return to mythology is where the LOST audience sometimes gets split. The fanatics, of which I count myself a member, love and revel in mythology, symbolism and literary or religious reference and allegory. The more casual fan who yearns for the serial sometimes gets confused and bored — thereby giving the ratings a major hit. I would imagine that last night represents a major coup for all true LOSTies and a major “over-the-head” moment for all people who tuned in and were unawares of the back stories of the characters and the inner backgrounds of the Island’s bicameral structure.
I reference bicameral largely because we’re 48 hours removed from a polarized health care reform vote which somewhat reminds me of this past episode. Our Congress, torn on two sides by competing interests represented by the DNC and GOP — or good and evil, or vice versa when viewed by a partisan on either side. Nevertheless, each good and evil are tied together. One party cannot exist without the other and good cannot be judged or identified in the absence of evil. Moreover, beyond the two parties, we are drawn within the bicameral structure of a world of two houses, each unable to function in the absence of the other.
I’m reminded of a story told by Leo McGary in the second season of the West Wing. It was a recounting of a seasoned Democrat Representative welcoming a new Congressman to DC:
“There was a freshman democrat who came to Congress 50 years ago. He turned to a senior Democrat and said, ‘Where are the Republicans? I want to meet the enemy.’ The senior Democrat said, ‘The Republicans aren’t the enemy. They’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.’”
Senator Dick Durbin recycled this story with respect to the health care reform vote not two weeks ago, and it still holds resonance, because in a bicameral structure both chambers are separate, sentient actors who must reconcile their inner balance and being (their fight between good and evil) as well as act in concert, or at least coexist, in order to accomplish anything. With health care reform, there is the distinct need for reconciliation in order to get the adopted forms of the bills passed. With respect to the Island… well, let’s just say things are different but no less complex.
And that brings me back to Jacob and the MIB. In this episode than any before, we were presented with that which has been readily before us all along: the question that Ricardus (and I do prefer that version of the name) himself has asked. What if Jacob is not what he proclaims to be? We were presented with the #TeamJacob perspective first and with concomitant sympathy; however, “Ab Aeterno” granted us, for the first time, the perspective of a neophyte in Richard who is first presented with the story of the MIB and then turned by Jacob.
You have more faith than I if you did not, for at least one moment, come to think that we might, just maybe, be operating on faulty or even a reverse polarity spectrum of what is good and what is evil. Perhaps it is the MIB and blackness itself that is good. Or, more complex is the concept that the Island is a bicameral world in which each house (that of Jacob and that of the MIB) are internally divided between good and evil and, while they must reconcile themselves, must act with and face as an enemy the other chamber.
A bit more on this and other thoughts in my Quick Hits, after the jump:
- I think it is quite clear that we’ve seen Jacob act as a liar and puppeteer. Pun intended, but we forgive him these often as white lies because the assumption always has been that he has done so for the greater good. We can identify several relating directly to this episode: first, he tells Dogen that he will reward him by saving and/or reuniting him with his son, while we know he has told Richard that such an act of resurrection is impossible; second, he again claims a disinclination to interfere and make people act well, though he repeatedly has done so in the lives of the candidates. So who are we to say that Jacob truly represents a cork attempting to keep in the evil wine. Why are we not, instead, to trust the MIB and his story.
- It is worth noting that the MIB’s pep talk to Ricardus was almost word for word what I recall Dogen telling Zombie Sayid before sending him off to stab the MIB.
- On the issue of Dogonism and the celestial/genesis egg concept that I previously discussed, I’m still convinced there’s something there. The imagery of the shattered vessel and the ensconced duo remains in place, though I do think it’s safe to say I don’t believe we really dealing with true polarity with respect to one half being evil and one being good.
- This was the first episode to be dominated by a foreign language since Season One’s Sun/Jin-centeric episode. It was nice to see the Spanish focus; however, I was a bit bothered at how well they allowed Richard to speak English as a novice. More convincing was Daniel Dae Kim’s performance as a linguistically challenged Jin.
- The religious imagery was a bit much to take in here. I understand there was some symbolism that was rather overt with respect to doubt and the loss and regaining of faith, but what struck me was the Church’s rejection of the possibility of absolution. Conversely, what is the smoke monster but an agent of final judgment. While Mr. Eko was punished for the sins flashed for him, we have seen both Benjamin and Ricardus spared and, presumably, granted reprieves to conduct penance for their sins.
- The actions of the priest, who sells Ricardus into slavery, were really quite an attack on religion. We see this priest a) take Ricardus’ bible from him in his moment of need, b) deny him absolution in his confession, c) tell him he has no recourse to gain penance despite acknowledging that his homicide was accidental and d) sell him into slavery for profit. Yes, he ends up losing his faith, however temporarily, in Jacob, but it seems his struggle with his Christian faith is even more stark. It’s really not clear if the re-assumption of his wife’s cross was meant to represent a renewal of his faith in general or simply his faith in Jacob. I think it’s the latter.
- Hurley’s role as the communicator is a little unforeseen and shocking. One wonders if it was a late-in-the-game swap with Miles’ character (who, the adept eye notes, was initially a “ghost whisperer” but ended up later as someone who could only passively listen in on the dead — unlike Hurley, who can fully communicate). But the better question might be whether or not Hurley was really communicating with Isabella or simply Jacob, presented as an apparition in the same manner that the MIB presented himself as Isabella, Christian Sheppard and now Locke.
- I’m not sure why both the title and Jacob’s name for Richard were in Latin. Ab Aeterno means eternal or for all time. I get that, but why was it not simply in Spanish? More accurately, why is Richard changed to Ricardus?
- It was quite interesting that all of the slaves on the Black Rock were white… and that the ship was launched after the end to slavery in America (the largest purchaser of slaves in the New World and the only location other than Canada where English would be a required language).
- How about Jacob’s mad fighting skills? And the present of the white rock? Kid’s got game… but also a side to him far apart from the compassionate one we initially saw.
All in all, this was an awesome episode. As always, I’m sure I missed some stuff, but I want to thank Darleton for one hell of an episode. Seven more left and I can’t wait to see where they take us next!