Lost: Week 8

ZOË RICE: If this were not the last season of Lost, I would have been happy with this week’s episode. Because really, amidst questions about Jacob and the Man in Black and Richard and how things get done and why things get done…mostly, what we got was a character-driven love story and another exploration of a “man of faith.” But unfortunately, I missed the “aha” moment I was expecting from the long-awaited Richard ep.

Nestor Carbonell did do a great job this episode–he managed to make the little things, like ten minutes worth of trying to escape from the belly of a ship, somewhat compelling. But really, ship escape just wasn’t what I had been waiting for. So let’s pause and take a look at what answers we did get last night. 1) The Egyptian statue toppled when the Black Rock rode into it on a powerful wave. Well, okay. I would have expected the ship to splinter apart rather than demolish a stone statue, but more, I guess I had been hoping for a more meaningful mystery there. We already knew the Black Rock shipwrecked. That it took the statue with it seems kind of negligible in the end. But still, I am glad for the answer. 2) Richard doesn’t age because he requested eternal life to save him from the fiery pits of hell. Again, we already knew Jacob’s touch was responsible for Richard not aging. Although yes, I was curious about why, I was infinitely more curious about how. How does Jacob have the power to offer eternal life? What gives him his powers? Will his successor gain the same powers? Without the “how,” the reveal of “why” couldn’t help but be a bit of a let-down.

I had also hoped to find out more about the people on the Black Rock. In last year’s season finale, we learned that Jacob had summoned the ship. But why? Why that ship? Just to get Richard to the island? Was there anyone else of islandish importance on that ship? Other candidates? The Black Rock has been an island presence for years–I would have liked a bit more story about the ship than that it’s captained by Magnus Hanso and his slave-buying, slave-killing henchman. And what about Richard’s early years working for Jacob? Who else came to the island to act out the little morality plays Jacob seems to value so much–and how did the survivors become the Others? All these questions would have been far more compelling to see in flashback than the tender story of Ricardo and Isabella. It’s not that I don’t care about his motivations, characterization, inner emotional turmoil. It’s just that I care about other things more. In addition to the Canary Island flashback, I had really hoped this ep would take us further, post-1867 but pre-1950s Jughead.

When I really snapped to attention were during the moments featuring Jacob and the Man in Black. Those two characters can’t help but be intriguing, but again, distilling away some of the details, all we really rehashed was that 1) Jacob wants to keep the evil on the island. 2) The Man in Black–ostensibly the evil–wants to leave the island. But who are these people? How did they get on the island? How did one of them become a murderous cloud of black smoke? How does one of them have a magic touch? What happens if Jacob is able to prove that not everyone is corruptible? And why is he willing to sacrifice so many lives to find the people who–by exercising their own free will–escape the influence of evil?

Again, the episode was thematically well crafted, excellently acted, and a great character piece. I just wish it had been shown last season. I expected more reveals about the island mythology from this episode than we got. For that reason, I can only say I’ve been left wanting.

TED BERG: I’m with you, Zoe, in the “left wanting” department. And put me down for left wanting a better, more carefully scripted backstory for one of Lost’s most intriguing characters, Richard Alpert, too.

Seriously? He went to get medicine for his dying wife and accidentally killed the selfish doctor who wouldn’t accept his payment for the drugs and wouldn’t brave the rain to help her? So it’s basically Les Miserables or something? Awesome. Lame. Why not have Richard (or Ricardo) actually do something he needed to repent or feel guilt for, instead of committing an accidental murder in the name of saving his dying wife?

And why is he so gullible before he learns English? I get that maybe he’s in shock or something, and his wife just died and he was sold into slavery then crashed on the Island of mystery, but he’s just going to buy any story anybody sells him now? The Richard Alpert we met in Seasons 2-5 of Lost always seemed like a pretty sharp, measured dude. Are we to believe that’s the product of a century of experience?

Also, I don’t know, this whole thing just seemed lame. Am I to take it that the smoke monster was imitating Richard’s wife Isabella to manipulate him? Because if so, can the smoke monster imitate anyone who dies off the Island, whenever? We knew already he could imitate people that died on the Island, but introducing new smoke-monster abilities with only a handful of episodes left to go is basically a satan ex machina.

Lame. And I share your questions about who, exactly, Jacob and the Man in Black/Smoke Monster are. Why do they speak English, for one thing? If they’re all powerful, good vs. evil God figures, couldn’t they communicate with Ricardo in his native tongue?

I guess we’ll find out. But I need a better explanation about what the Island is, and who these people are and where they came from then the weak sauce Jacob was dishing out with the wine bottle and the cork. That was lame, and so was this much-anticipated Richard Alpert episode.

More and more, it feels like we are the ones who were manipulated. We are the ones who were captivated for too long by blind faith in some mysterious master plan, and we are the ones now realizing that there wasn’t one.

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