No spoilers for future episodes here, just thoughts on this week’s LOST episode, “Ab Aeterno.”
I’ve been intrigued by Richard Alpert ever since he came walking out of the jungle in all his eyelinered, ageless glory. Then a couple weeks ago, when he and Jack sat there playing Chicken with that stick of dynamite? Awesome, edge-of-my-seat moment there.
Which is why I was so utterly disappointed with this episode, where we find out Richard’s just this average-y guy who showed up on the Black Rock during the 19th Century. I mean, come on, hasn’t this guy had the look and unflappable calm of “I’ve been here since Biblical times, so nothing surprises me?”
I guess it was the title of the episode that threw me. I see Latin, I think seriously old, I think ancient secrets that if known and abused by modern man could unmake existence – real Indiana Jones type stuff. This wasn’t it. This was just another Jacob-induced shipwreck and Jacob’s frenemy turning into smoke and chasing hapless survivors around the jungle till he felt like talking. Been there, done that, with two airplanes, a helicopter, Desmond’s sailboat, and a raft full of Frenchmen.
I don’t know about you, but the first thing I did when I saw this episode was called “Ab Aeterno” was Google “ab aeterno” and find out it meant “since the beginning of time.” Then I got really excited. You too? I thought we were going to see dinosaurs, cavemen, ill-fated explorers, heck, maybe even some ancient Egyptians building what would later become the Big Giant Foot. Stuff like that.
Instead, here we are in 1867 with Richard, speaking Spanish, trying to rescue his dying wife, and he accidentally kills somebody and gets caught and sentenced to death. But on the eve of his execution, Richard, thanks to a crooked priest and the English he taught himself in prison, winds up chained in the hull of a slave ship – the infamous Black Rock – which hits stormy seas and gets tossed onto the Island by a rogue wave, ending up landlocked in the Jungle of Mystery. One of the officers starts killing all the slaves, but Smokey swoops out of the jungle and whomps the guy before he can destroy Richard, who then languishes in chains for days, unable to eat or reach water, and hallucinates (probably) that his dead wife is down there with him, “down there” being Hell, even though she seemed like a good person who was not at all hell-bound.
On the brink of Richard’s death, Jacob’s enemy visits him, releases him, and says that thing about it’s good to see him out of the chains. And then…Jacob affirms a “fact” that we don’t quite believe.
According to the crooked priest, and the guy on the boat who claims the devil is guarding this Island on which they’re about to wreck, and the dead wife Richard hallucinates, and then Jacob’s enemy, this is Hell – and Jacob is the devil. If you want out, and to see your wife again, you have to kill the devil. Here, take this knife.
Perfect story to tell a Catholic who’s convinced he’s hell-bound anyway, isn’t it? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the only reason Richard believes this is Hell is because this is what he was told, and the only reason Jacob’s enemy told him this ridiculous story in the first place is because he thought it would make Richard kill Jacob. This was merely Jacob’s enemy’s first attempt to assassinate the guy holding him prisoner. So no, this is not Hell. Hell was just a convenient, efficient lie.
Now, I have to hand it to ABC. They surprised me by bringing up this “Jacob is the devil” idea. I’ve spent so much time wondering who’s good and who’s bad that it never occurred to me that they BOTH were bad. For the record, I will never believe that Jacob’s enemy is a good guy. Not happening. He’s got way too many bodies piled up for me to believe that. BUT I could be persuaded that Jacob is bad, too. In this episode, both of these guys come across like bratty kids arguing over who gets to play with the best toys.
So, for now, I’m believing they’re both bad. Maybe one (Jacob) is more sympathetic towards the humans, but neither one of them seems to have the divine power of good, really. Jacob can’t bring Richard’s wife back, and he can’t save Richard from Hell. Raising the dead, and forgiving mortal sins? Both things Jesus could have pulled off, easily. So Jacob clearly isn’t God. He does have some pretty major powers, though, if he can touch a guy and curse him to live forever.
Yeah, Jacob could be the devil. But that doesn’t mean this is Hell, or that Jacob’s enemy is a good guy just because the two of them don’t get along. In fact, I’ve started wondering – and I’ve read a couple theories to this effect – if Jacob and his enemy aren’t warring halves of a frighteningly fractured personality. (Crazy Mama could have something to do with this, right?) I guess if a guy can transform himself into a pillar of smoke whenever he feels like it, he could inhabit two different bodies at the same time.
Hey, speaking of crazy mamas…couple Greek names to throw out there:
* Circe. Had a habit of transforming people into animals, including pigs – remember that pig nosing around the Black Rock when Richard was in there dying? – and fond of weaving.
* Perse. Circe’s crazy mother. Plus, there’s a species of blue butterfly native to Southeast Asia called Virachola perse. Because that butterfly fluttering through the Black Rock while Richard was in there dying was just too weird and obvious not to mean something.