Lost, “Across The Sea”

“Across The Sea” is an episode that a big sector of the Lost contingent has been waiting for since the season five finale and probably even before that. But while it probably satisfies those fans, I’m not convinced that anyone who cares about the core characters would actually have enjoyed this episode.I talked about the distribution of answers on the series and how fans react to them yesterday, and while I will certainly be interested to see the reactions of fans who feel the answers are the most integral element of Lost, I think the end result of “Across The Sea” proves what I already knew before the episode ever aired: Without any familiar emotional anchor to react to the answers found within a certain episode, those facts or events have much less weight.

I understand that the circumstances of “Across The Sea” basically required none of the main cast to be involved, but despite being one of the most mythology-heavy episode in the history of the series, it wasn’t as effective on any other level aside from “here’s the answer to X, here’s a partial answer to Y.” I also recognize that Cuse and Lindelof attempted to ground the story with some family issues and did their best to make us care about Jacob and the Man in Black emotionally, but they still exist as mythical characters who have manipulated our heroes seemingly since day one.

And thus, much like “Ab Aeterno” before it, fans on Lost web sites like DarkUFO will be clamoring about “Across The Sea” as if it’s one of the series’ best episodes of all time. But they’re blinded by answers, obsessed with what certain things mean. And for those of us who care about the journey and how certain things apply to the characters we’ve followed for six seasons, it’s ultimately not as satisfying. I’ll take Hurley crying over Jin, Sun, Sayid and Frank over this every day of the week.

But enough with my cynicism, because this was still a solid episode and again, one that did provide us with a slew of major reveals while still introducing a handful of questions that will certainly color the episodes final 3.5 hours. Let’s hit those:

  • Jacob and the still-unnamed Man in Black are twin brothers who were carried to birth by a woman named Claudia

This isn’t a huge revelation and doesn’t quite have any impact on the finale proceedings, but it adds some emotional heft to the interactions that followed within the episode. Their birth mother was quickly killed by “Mother” and the two of them were raised on the island with the belief that nothing else existed across the sea and they were meant to be on the island forever.

  • The Mother somehow made the two children unable to kill one another, and implies that they could never die period, although that’s found to be untrue later

We never see how this happens, but are lead to believe that the Mother is somehow powerful in a way that allows her to protect the island and she needs the children to do the same thing for her.

  • The Mother’s protection of the island is primarily focused on a glowing light that sprays out from a crack at the sort of-end of a stream on the island

I’ll be honest: I thought that this was terribly hokey, with Mother saying it’s the brightest, warmest light they could ever feel and all that jazz. She goes on to say that a little bit of this light is found in every man, but they want more. And if man gets hold of it, the light will go out everywhere. At that point in the episode, I had sighed multiple times. I understand the need to explain some of the island’s purposes, but a glowing light — something we’ve seen near the donkey wheel, admittedly — that’s warm and bright was not the best execution of the island’s specialties. At least for me.

However, the second and third conversations that took place at the glowing water of warmth made me feel a little bit better. Once he’s all grown up and thinks don’t look good for MIB, Mother takes Jacob to the location and explains a little further about what it means: It’s life, death, rebirth, everything. It’s the source, the heart of the island, but if a person goes down there into it, it’s worse than death. Much worse. And of course, once Jacob knocks MIB out and lets him float into the crevice near the episode’s conclusion, things end very, very badly for him. Because as I read it, the MIB actually dies right then and there, once he’s experienced whatever the hell it is down in that whole. And by going down in there, he let the Smoke Monster out, who then later copied his body just as he did John Locke’s, starting his journey to presumably leave the island.

What I wonder now is, why does the Smoke Monster really want to leave the island? I know why the MIB did — he wanted to go home, as he felt that this place wasn’t where he was supposed to be — but are we to assume now that Smokey wants to get off the island because it/he is really the devil or evil incarnate? Or is it possible that the “worse than death” line means that MIB’s physical form did die in the glowing light of warmth, and now the Smoke is some sort of manifestation of the most evil parts of his soul? OR SOMETHING ELSE COMPLETELY? I’ll admit, despite my issues with the episode, this reveal has me perplexed and intrigued on multiple levels.

It’s also still unclear exactly what the light stands for and what the island “is,” but I’m not sure it really matters that they tell us now. I think I’m okay with the characters themselves not going down into that light and keeping some of the mystery in tact. I know not everyone will feel that way. Again, I’d imagine many people are going to continue to push the theory that the island somehow keeps hell or some evil equivalent and the devil at bay, and I’m not against that at all. I’m just not sure I can pass judgment on exactly what I think it is.

  • Man in Black and Mother are the “Adam and Eve” of the caves

This isn’t too shocking either once the story got going, and it’s not necessarily a confirmation that the writers knew the big picture all along, but at least it’s a sign they can write stories in 2010 that tie nicely back to stories they wrote in 2004. That bodes well for the finale, I think.

I think that’s a run-down of all the “answers,” which were effective for the most part. Let’s talk about some less mythological elements of the episode, shall we?

The writers sure went out of the way to paint MIB as a sympathetic character, which I still don’t think means he’s any sort of hero or ultimately someone we should think will do right. Mostly because he’s dead. It’s interesting that he was referred to as “special” on multiple occasions, though it was of course never acknowledged how or why. Moreover, Jacob was never once mentioned as so, lending evidence to his frustrations with the Mother about where her allegiances lied in terms of her “children.”

I’m also intrigued by this characterization of Jacob, who was mostly whiny, reactive and concerned about the comparisons to his brother, which isn’t unnatural for a twin. However, even in the moment that he drinks the wine from the bottle he later holds and shows to Richard and he’s about to embrace his role as new guardian of the island, Jacob is still jealous. He loved his mother almost too much, a mother who didn’t really care about him, for whatever reason. Jacob let that jealously and obvious rage get the best of him when he took out MIB, but even as he puts his brother and mother to rest, he doesn’t seem like the calm, knowing Jacob that we’ve seen him as. Thus, I’m wondering how one accrues the knowledge that the Mother seemingly had and the aura that Jacob ultimate had before his dead. I’m not sure we’ll ever see that based on time restrictions alone, but perhaps we’re to assume that all the time alone as the island’s protector convinced changed Jacob.

Additionally, it isn’t known whether or not the Mother brought Claudia’s ship to the island, making me question whether or not she used her abilities in the same way that Jacob did. Although she does spit the phrase that MIB later repeats in “The Incident” about people’s actions always leading to the same types of destruction, we’re not clued in on whether or not she’s been bringing people to the island for “testing” or not, especially considering she seemingly doesn’t have a Smoke Monster to do some of the testing for her like Jacob later does.

Back to Jacob: Despite his unwillingness to go with his true people, he still sees the good in them, unlike MIB, who is clearly just using them to help him leave the island. This makes me think that the Mother knew something was up between the two sons from the beginning and treated them accordingly. She knew that Jacob would always be the caring one because he wanted so badly to be cared for, whereas MIB didn’t necessarily need “people” in his life because he was so close to a woman who told him just that. So maybe she did plan for Jacob to take over the island in the end and played him in a way that led him there (she tells him that he doesn’t have a choice), just as he’s done to his replacement candidates.

However, what is most unclear then, is what she wanted to do with MIB. We see that he has the same opinion of people as she does, but she refuses to let him leave. Is it possible that she somehow knows that MIB will become evil incarnate and thus cannot let him leave the island for that reason? But then that confuses my thoughts on the separation between MIB and Smokey, although one could argue that Smokey-in-MIB-suit from “The Incident” is just using MIB’s memories to meet his specific ends. Or Smokey is still some version of MIB. We’re going in circles here.

A few more bullet-form questions:

  • More on MIB being “special”: he can see dead people, whereas Jacob seemingly cannot. We’ve been given inclinations of this in previous episodes, but I’m not 100 percent sure who Smokey — either using MIB’s memories or being another version of him post-Titus W. body — has seen. They still look like child versions of Jacob, but I’m pretty sure they’re not played by the same kid and Jacob didn’t die in that form. Hopefully more of this comes.
  • Was MIB figuring out how to move the island down there in the well? It seemed like he had Donkey Wheel 1.0, but I didn’t put this in the “answers” section because it wasn’t successful. However, someone followed up on his research; but who?
  • Will Jack find his way down in that glowing light of warmth before the series ends?

Again, there’s a lot of speculating to be done here folks, as a number of insane questions were posed by “Across The Sea.” I’m sure the internets will be buzzing about this one all week and surely people much smarter than me will provide more clarity on the issues and questions posed here. However, as I said up front, I feel as if the episode is primarily interesting for those reasons. That’s not specifically a bad thing, but like “Ab Aeterno,” it feels like a information drop guised as character study amid six years of episodes that are the exact opposite. At this point, “Across The Sea” was necessary and still very, very enjoyable. But until we know what this truly means for the characters we care about, it won’t be overwhelmingly effective.

Grade: B+


One response to “Lost, “Across The Sea””

  1. […] My biggest problem with “Across The Sea” initially was that it felt so detached from the main characters, making it feel emotionally empty on a number of levels. After reading over the other recaps, especially Myles’, and watching the episode again, I can see where there are a number of “implicit” connections as Myles noted on Twitter last night. I’ll quote him, if I may: However, the rest of the episode was filled with moments that spoke to what we’ve seen before: the baby-snatching which “Mother” performs is akin to the drama surrounding both Alex and Aaron, while Claudia’s death perhaps is a portend for the problems with child birth on the island in later years. As Jacob and Esau are playing their game (which James Poniewozik discovered via Twitter was an Egyptian game called Senet), they discuss the idea that they’re making up their own rules, which plays into what we know about Widmore and Ben’s rules from their time on the island. Despite being a “flashback” for these two unrelated characters, a lot of what we’re seeing explains (or at least prescribes meaning to) things we’ve seen in the past, sort of like a refresher course of the show’s history tucked away within this well-acted narrative. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: