With "Across the Sea," the humanization of Jacob and the Man In Black is now complete. Some viewers might prefer them to have been demigods with all the answers, but this viewer is very happy that LOST will ultimately remain a tale of human beings and their interactions with a mysterious Island's supernatural properties.
We've known for quite a while that the Island has some incredible powers (healing, the inducing of visions, travel through time and space, the retention of ghosts, the granting of special powers, etc.). For almost as long, we've known that the show's representatives of modern science (Dharma, Widmore) have found that these supernatural properties emanate from Electromagnetic energy pockets deep within the Island. So it wasn't too surprising to find that the mother of all energy pockets is located at the "heart" of the Island, and is at the very core of the Island's need for protection. Human beings have apparently been drawn to the Island since before Jacob, and probably even since before the Mother character. We don't know who the first person to encounter the Island and channel its properties was, but like most mysteries of the universe, this is not likely something we will ever know. But we did learn a little bit more about the energy stored beneath the Island: there's a little in every person. I've previously stated that electromagnetic energy (or the Island's comparable variety) functions as a blanket source for all things supernatural on this show, we've seen the supernatural found off-Island in places such as the faith-healing grounds of Uluru (2.19 [S.O.S.]) and we've seen it in people such as Walt. So these revelations on the nature of the Island's energy aren't so much revelations as they are confirmations, further information, and further ways of looking at the Island's powers (since, obviously Mother isn't going to pull out modern technobabble to describe it).
So if there's a bit of the Island's energy in each person, it stands to reason there may be more in some than others. After all, Walt isn't the only character to be considered Special on the show. Desmond has been describes as such; Hurley and Miles have been imbued with significant abilities from their time on the Island; and this week Mother refered to the Boy In Black as Special. What this boils down to is that certain people are able to tap into the Island's powers more than others. The possibility that Walt may have had this power ably explains the Others' interest in him. For the Man In Black, it meant seeing his dead (real) mother, possessing an intuitive knowledge of the Island's properties, and harnessing that knowledge to control the Island's powers: his creation of the donkey wheel device is a clear precursor to the Dharma Initiative's attempts to manipulate the Island's powers with more modern technology. But the most Special person of all in this story is clearly Mother herself -- able to set The Rules in motion by preventing Jacob and MIB from killing each other, able to destroy an entire village and fill up the well on her own in a matter of hours, and (most significantly) able to pass on her powers on to Jacob, even after he was shown to be the less-special son. When Jacob became "one" with Mother, he inherited the "most Special character" title, and had been making The Rules ever since. But we now know him to be just a man -- a man entrusted with both incredible powers and incredible responsibility.
The Man In Black and His Agenda:
Though while I feel for Jacob and his naive acceptance of an undesirable job, I feel even worse for the Man In Black. In 6.02 (LA X, Part II), he told us what he wanted more than anything was to go home. Now we know that home is a place he's never been. He may have been the more likely candidate for Island protector, based on his Special nature, but his mind has always been across the sea, trying to get away, trying to find out where he came from. We don't yet know why Mother restrained him -- was it simply a demented way of protecting him from the "evils" that lie out in the world beyond? (I suspect so). Or was there a more direct consequence of his leaving the Island even before his transformation? (possibly). Either way, his efforts to leave got him a rum deal: his life's work destroyed, his companions obliterated, and (after some heated revenge) his own life snuffed away as his soul endures something "worse than death." It's interesting that his body was left behind after he was dropped into the mother of all Island electromagnetic energy pockets and turned into the Smoke Monster we all know and love, but more interesting are the ramifications that he is a creation of the Island's heart: most likely a PART of the Island itself, intrinsic to the Island, and necessary to the Island. In a rather epic instance of poetic irony, the man who wanted nothing more than to leave the Island has become the Island's linchpin: the Island can't function without him, and if he leaves, all electromagnetic hell will break loose. At least now we know why seeing visions of kid Jacob pisses him off so much.
So in true LOST tradition, we can now sympathize with a character who hurt us possibly more than any other character by essentially murdering three of our favorite heroes just last episode (6.14 [The Candidate]). To anyone wondering why the writers chose now to reveal this back story, THAT's the reason. It's the narrative moment wherein understanding what past torments the Man In Black has suffered contributes most powerfully to the present day story. The writers love revealing a "big bad" character and then making us feel for them by revealing their prior woes -- and I love it every time. So we may despise the Man In Black still, and of course we want him to fail in his objectives, but now we can truly pity him. And the endgame of the show will be all the more powerful for it.
Jacob & His Agenda:
I hold by my previous assertion: Jacob brings people to the Island because he wants humanity to prove that humanity is worth protecting the Island for. It might not make logical sense to allow folks like Dharma to run around when your mission is to make sure no one screws with the Island's electromagnetic heart -- but it makes PERFECT sense to do so, if you were never certain that your mission was valuable to begin with. We have to wonder why Mother bothered to protect all of existence if she hated other people so much; and I believe Jacob wondered this as well, and conducted his experiments on humanity in an effort to figure it all out. He'd been told they were corrupt, but he never wanted to believe that -- not as long as it was his long life's purpose to protect them. So he continued his mission to protect the Island, but tolerated so many people putting it at risk upon his "summons" in order to see if they deserved protection. And now that he's dead and it's up to his Candidates to finish the job, he's primarily sitting back to watch and see who will step forward for the sake of humanity and existence as we know it.
On the Anatomy of Disappointment:
As a side note, a lot of fans seem down on this episode -- and it's certainly their prerogative to like it as much as they please -- but having been thrilled by it myself, I'm really not satisfied by that most common of internet-propagated explanations: that "it sucked." It really didn't. I tend not to get excited by things that suck. So where was the disconnect here between fans and writers? Certainly the usual complaint that few clear answers were given applies here once again, but perhaps it hits harder for people due to the unique nature of the episode -- I think many viewers really wanted Jacob and the Man In Black to KNOW everything about the Island and to be able to provide us with a checklist of explanations. Instead, we were here shown that they were once just as clueless as the survivors of Oceanic 815. And we were shown how they were led and/or duped into their current roles as Island protector and energy embodiment by someone else once drawn to the Island. What this episode did was to completely and thoroughly humanize the two characters, flaws and all. Letting their story unfold over the course of the episode allows us a level of understanding of their mindsets that will service us well going into the Series Finale. The "answers" everyone wants will be elaborated on further in what's to come, but now we'll understand on a psychological level where Jacob and the Man in Black are coming from. And personally, I'm very glad they took the time to allow us that level of depth.
And that's where we are!
X-aminations in May 2017
1 day ago