Well, what a crazy 22 hours it has been since Lost aired its most divisive, polarizing episode of all time. “Across The Sea” is a complicated mess of betrayal, mommy issues and a whole lot of metaphor. It should really be watched at least twice before passing even any substantial judgments, so I fired it up on Hulu this morning in hopes of finding more, understanding more. Thankfully, I did.
Before we get going, let me just say that I have never, ever needed the assistance of other people to understand the events of a Lost episode. Sure, everyone has their own interpretation of the events, but for the most part, I can always deduce on a basic level what. is. happening. “Across The Sea” was different. It broke the Lost storytelling mode by primarily “telling” instead of “showing,” even if many believe the “telling” wasn’t good enough. And so, I needed recaps from Myles McNutt, Alan Sepinwall, James Poniewozik, Todd VanDerWerff, Jason Mittell and Mo Ryan to crystallize it all (I suggest a look at all those recaps, each with their own intelligent, unique perspective on the episode). There is always this rush to get thoughts out so fast and those folks are so good they can evaluate and understand a little quicker than me, and perhaps I’ll slow my roll from here on out because with their comments and a second viewing, I feel much, much better about “Across The Sea,” even if I still have a number of issues with it.
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.”
And he’s right. I replied to Myles’ “implicit” tweet last night by saying that most fans are probably looking for the explicit at this point and that’s where a lot of the frustration with the episode comes from. While I don’t want to get in to who knows better between the critics or the fans, but I can respect the Lindelof and Cuse for penning this story full of implicit connections, because at this point, we as the audience should be able to make some of those on our own. I suspect a lot of the series’ major reveals in the final moments will be all about interpretation, and I’m 100 percent fine with that.
The response to the episode partially swings back to my conversation about how the series divulges “answers” in a number of ways. For many people, “Across The Sea” was to be the holy grail of “answers,” because of its apparent character focus, but again it seems as though most of those people are disappointed in what those answers were, whether because of the content or the delivery system (lots and lots of metaphor and allusion). That response reminds me of something I would have rather brought up in that post, but can definitely note here: Fans don’t want to be spoon-fed answers, but when they’re given probably the most explanation thatis coming on specific issue, they want it explained clearly. And then when certain answers are given to us fairly clearly like with the whispers, people complain it’s too on-the-nose. The Lost writers can’t win in this regard, so every episode from here on out is going to be polarizing, especially if they raise questions like this one did.
At the end of the day, I still hold true to Lindelof and Cuse’s notion that if it’s not important to Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke or Hurley, it’s not important to us. And to do an episode that violates that notion was jarring for me as a viewer, and although surely the events here will be important to those characters in the series’ final 3.5 hours, it felt…off. After a second viewing and the assistance of other writers, I was able to “get” a lot of the metaphors and connections that we can make from the story we saw in “Across The Sea,” but I can’t full get behind the episode until the series ends. I’m guessing that’s when the full impact of this particular episode will reveal itself, and I’m fine with that. I’m just not ready to fully celebrate it as an achievement on the levels of other S6 episodes like “Happily Ever After” and “The Substitute.”