Across the Sea
This episode marks the third to last episode of Lost and reveals some of Jacob and MIB's back story. It features none of the regular cast at all, which is ballsy for a show that's in the process of wrapping up six years of plot. I think it's apt to regard this episode as the "Fuck you episode". I'll explain that shortly, give you a reason why it actually has a clever twist to it and why I respect that it exists.
Set in an indeterminate time period, the episode opens on a heavily pregnant woman as she's washed ashore on one of the island's beaches. Apparently shipwrecked, she's bleeding from a head injury and as she makes her way inland, she is met by another woman (Allison Janney). She soon goes into labour and is assisted in giving birth to twins by the mysterious woman. The woman then wastes no time in killing the mother by clocking her over the head with a rock.
Cut to years later, the twins have grown up and one finds a box on the beach. He somehow knows it's a game and invites his brother "Jacob" (the same one who has running around the modern jungle creeping out notLocke) to play it. The woman, who has taken the role of the twins mother, reveals to the 'MIB brother' that she left the game there for him to find. Why? Because he's special. The boy thought the game perhaps originates from 'Across the sea', but his mother assures him that nowhere else exists, only the island. Was she lying about planting the game? Maybe. The other boy Jacob, isn't so inquisitive about such things. He doesn't lie and he takes his mother at her word on such matters.
So young MIB is causing problems for his mother. He asks questions all the time "Where did we come from?", "Where is your mother?", "What's dead?", ""Where did they come from?", "What reason?"... He gets nothing back apart from "It's not time yet". Annoying isn't it kid, we feel for you.
After running into some "others" whilst trying to kill (make dead) a boar, the boys flee to their mother. She's alarmed that these others are nearby. Also the pesky MIB kid just won't stop asking questions so she takes them both to "the reason why we are here". They arrive at a clearing and in the middle, under a shaft of sunlight, is a cave. The cave has golden light emanating and water flowing from the back. The Mother tells the boys not to go in and that they must all make sure no one ever finds it. People will try and find the light and take it for themselves, they will always want more. If they try and take this light they could put it out, "if the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere" she tells them.
One night young MIB is visited by the ghost of his proper mother. She tells him who killed her and reveals the location of the camp of others to him. After a fisted argument, MIB leaves his Mother and Brother to go live with the others, Jacob on the other hand sticks with his her. Cut again to 20+ years later and at last we lose the crappy kid actors and are back with the familiar, adult Jacob and MIB. Jacob goes to meet MIB in the other camp (as he does regularly) and MIB reveals to his brother he's found a way to leave the island. He's digging a well and searching for the source of the cave of light they saw as children. Upon hearing this, Mother confronts MIB about his quest to escape from the island. Down the well he reveals to her that he was building a “donkey wheel” thingy and shows her the light he has found underground. He knows this will work because “he's special”. So upset, she then smacks his head against a rock, fills in the well with rubble (by magic) and kills all the others in the camp.
She quickly decides it's now time to initiate Jacob in the Cave of light. He is to take over from her, clearly she knows that she's not got long left. She just needs a promise from Jacob that he will never go down into the cave. It would be worse than dying, much worse. Then MIB awakes and sees what she has done to his plans.... blood is drawn as he, and consequently Jacob, take their revenge!
There are two ways to look at this entire episode, The first way is how it fits into the shows mythology, the quality of the writing and how it works as a story. Well in that respect it kind of fails. I didn't hate it as much as many have; I thought Allison Janney did a great job, even if the kid actors didn't. Plus it was entertaining enough in that we got some of the more superficial questions from the show answered. Like who built the Donkey Wheel, who Adam and Eve were and how the smoke monster came to be. But equally it wasn't the best episode of Lost I've seen by a long shot. It's full of plot holes (like the "what is dead?" line), it doesn't line up well enough with things we've already seen in the show and it raises a heck of a lot of questions. Which is a down right stupid thing to be doing at this point. So it's an average episode that was left too late in the show's run to get a pass. It feels like it's worse than it actually is. Too much was riding on it.
But there is a second way to look at this episode! This show is set on the island and runs inside the mythology, but it follows the story of the survivors of 815. They arrived here on the island at the tail end of thousands of years of history. Jack (or whoever) is going to be the successor of Jacob or take down the island or something; so it's those character's fates who we are supposed to be invested in. Really the episode goes further into the myth than the show needs it to. It goes into the past of people we've only met a few times; people who have always been shown in the context of other character's experience with them. Now why does this episode come along at this time and not feature any of the main characters of the show? 'Across the Sea' shows us who the people were.... before the people.... before the people who are the show's focus. As a fan how far back do you really want the show to go? You can regard the twin's mother's cryptic speech as a 'spit in the face' or you can just do what she says right at the beginning of the episode.
"Every question I answer will simply lead to another question, you need to rest"
I think that line makes it clear this woman is precisely where the writers have decided to draw the line. But wait you say, they've said they know everything and it's all been plotted out from the get go. Why not just cut out the crap "alt reality" and give us more? Well I've some news for you, they were lying about having it all planned out. They might know what's going to happen with the show's main characters, and the "plot", but they never made up all the answers to all the mythology. Yes, that's right, this episode is a deliberate, pointed, fuck you to the fans. They are saying "okay we don't know! Here's what you want, stew on that and get lost (as it were)"
So when you look at this episode again with that in mind, and I recommend you do, it all becomes very clear. Every line of dialogue is deliberate in its vagueness and it's pointed not at the characters, in the fictional world, but at YOU, the viewer. Some one in the forums said the other day that the 'light' from the cave is knowledge. Well you don't only have to regard that as figurative knowledge. The light is literally, knowledge the show is not revealing to you. To that end, the cave is written as a pitch perfect metaphor for the entire show and the cult that has developed around it.
According to the Mother, humans (fans) are hunting down that knowledge like dogs and it's all their job (the writers) to keep the source of it hidden from people in case they get inside. If they do try and find it they might snuff it out. What happens when you open the Ark of the Covenant? You will find it contains only sand. If the viewer sees the cave is empty, the entire universe, as those characters know it, will cease to be. Lost's power is that it's a mystery box, open that box and the show's over folks.
Darlton have done the only thing they could do, they threw MIB (the one who asked all those questions) in that box. He popped out as what they wanted him to be, a smoke monster who knew, as if by magic, everything that was to come. I do think the mythology matters, it's how the show has kept everyone's attention. JJ Abrams says in the Ted Talk I've included below, they never had any intention to open the show's box. Since that's the case, they don't really need to decide what's inside. Instead this episode just took the time out to say why that box shouldn't be opened, in metaphor. Frankly I think that is genius. You can either like Darlton or hate them for not bothering to come up with a super comprehensive history. But you've got to respect the balls it takes to make an entire episode that tells you, the viewer, to fuck off.
See you next week I suppose. :)