Jack, Chad: I'd been growing antsy over the past several weeks. Too many Lost episodes featured shoe-leather plot lines (paddle this canoe over here, bring these explosives over there) that were full of noise and bustle but failed to advance the grand, mystical narrative of the island. Likewise, attempts to delve into emotional relationships between the main characters resulted in a lot of soggy clichés but not a lot of cleverly constructed scenes or well-crafted dialogue.
Lost's strength has always been its willingness—even its eagerness—to rip the rug out from under the viewer. This was a major part of the of the show's genius from the start: Its flashback scenes always kept us on our toes, yanking us off the island and into a brand-new, unfamiliar setting. Tonight, Lost once again airdropped us, bewildered, into a new context with new dramatis personae. What could be bolder than to suddenly ditch every central character in the third to last episode of the show's existence? Perhaps some fans would prefer to spend all their dwindling Lost moments with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley. For me, this episode was easily the best of the season so far.
Surely it was a winking message from the writers to the hater hordes when, in the first minute of the show, Allison Janney (oh, how I've missed you, C.J. Cregg) says, "Every question I answer will simply lead to another question." How true. We now know that the island's heart—the thing that makes it special, the thing so coveted by humans, the reason Jacob and Smokey are there—is "the warmest, brightest light you've ever seen or felt." And yet this only raises more questions. What is the light? Where did it come from? How did press secretary C.J. Cregg discover it?
Janney's character—I'll call her the Mother—clearly possesses some magical aptitude. It's she who cast some sort of spell making it impossible for Jacob and Smokey to kill each other (without a loophole). Does she draw her power from the island? Or was she always a supernatural being? She appears to claim that she's not human. But then she also tells Jacob and Smokey that they're not quite human, either, even though we know they were born of a human woman.
There were a number of nature/nurture questions going on. If Jacob and Smokey are in fact human by blood, how did they become immortal? Is it something the Mother does for them? Also: Wasn't the Mother sort of tilting the scales, so to speak, by dressing one kid in white and the other in black? Seems like she could have mixed it up. Maybe some blues and reds. Let the kids decide for themselves if they're pious goody-goodies or evil fiends instead of telegraphing it to them through her choice of outfits.
There was a conversation a while back between Jacob and Smokey, in which the notion was raised that every action on the island reoccurs, over and over. "They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same," says Smokey. Tonight we saw the precursor of Ben Linus' manipulations in the way the Mother misleads her sons and plays them one against another. We saw the massacre of the Dharma Initiative presaged in the burning of that little village with its wooden huts. We saw people digging at the fonts of electromagnetism, just as the Dharma folks would centuries later. We saw Jacob ordered to keep watch until he can find a successor—with vague threats of what will happen if he doesn't—much as Desmond would later be persuaded to keep pushing that button until someone relieved him. Jacob and Smokey know their island history, and still they seem doomed to repeat it.
A few quick questions before I turn this over to Shafer (who will no doubt note that, in the absence of guns, the show resorted to a torso stabbing):
- Did anyone understand Smokey's explanation of the wheel and his "system that channels the water and the light"? What is he trying to accomplish, in practical terms? What suggests to him that this will somehow launch him off of the island?
- If those "Adam and Eve" skeletons are the Mother and her (adopted) son, what sort of twisted, incestuous take on Genesis are Lost's writers pushing on us? And how do we see Smokey in his original body in the 19th century, when the Black Rock floats in, if that's his skeleton moldering in a cave? (Have I got my timelines confused? It wouldn't be the first time. Or is it that Smokey can assume the form of any dead body on the island without affecting the body itself?)
- In a show that's generally been fearless with its use of subtitles, did it make any sense to switch from Latin straight to English with no explanation? I could have used a Hunt for Red October-style signal that we'd switched over for the sake of convenience and the language choice was not important to the plot.
- Why is Jacob such a mama's boy? Whining about that board game. Spending all his time weaving. I'm starting to think I like Smokey better. He's way more fun.