A very different episode of Lost tonight, with a lot of information to digest and analyse. A long time ago, on an island far far away, some of the very oldest questions were answered as we went back to where it all began.
Where it all began, for our story at least, was in Roman times, around two thousand years ago. A now familiar scene: debris strewn across the beach as a survivor swims her way to shore. Her name is Claudia, she has been shipwrecked and she is pregnant. She makes her way into the jungle, to find that stream we’ve seen many times before, to drink some water. As she drinks, she is discovered by a woman who says she is the only person on the island. They initially speak in Latin, but to make life easier for viewers, they soon switch to English, just like the Arabic in Sayid’s episodes, as they arrive at the woman’s camp in the caves. Claudia has lots of questions which the woman answers at first, telling her that she too arrived on the island “by accident”, before tiring and saying that every question will only lead to another – seemingly a point directly aimed at us viewers by writers Damon and Carlton. Claudia says that she wants to look for the other survivors from her boat, but the woman says that they’re the only people on the island.
Claudia is soon giving birth, with the woman helping to deliver her baby. A peaceful, serene blonde boy is born. Claudia names her Jacob. But then she feels something else coming. It’s twins, and the woman quickly helps her to give birth to the second boy, with darker hair, who is upset and crying. Claudia says that she only thought of one name. The symbolism continues, with Jacob swaddled in light cloth, the unnamed child in dark. Claudia asks to see her baby. The woman strikes her on the head with a rock, killing her instantly.
Many years later, we see the dark-haired, nameless boy who will grow up to be The Man in Black. He is sitting on the beach and finds an ancient board game. Jacob arrives (the same boy we have seen popping up in the jungle throughout the season) and they start to play. Jacob’s brother says that he somehow knows how to play, but he mustn’t tell their “mother” because he thinks he’ll be in trouble. The game involves two sets of stones – one side dark, the other side light. This is the culmination of the scene in one of the earliest episodes of Lost, when Locke explained backgammon to Walt. The dialogue here is particular interesting to those people who have theorised that it’s all a game, with Jacob’s brother asking him “do you want to play or don’t you, Jacob?”
Later, Jacob sees his mother working at a loom, similar to the one he would later use. She asks him if he loves her, and then asks him to tell her what happened on the beach. She goes to sit down at the beach beside Jacob’s brother, who knows the she must have found out about the game. Jacob doesn’t know how to lie, she tells him, but it’s alright, because she left the game there for him to find, after all, where else could it have come from? He says he thought it might have come from “across the sea”, which she instantly rubbishes, saying there’s nothing across the sea. The island is all there is, she says. When he asks why she left the game, she tells him that he is “special”, another parallel to John Locke. He asks where he and Jacob came from if there’s nothing but the island and she tells him that he came from her, just as she came from her mother. He asks where her mother is, she says she is dead. “What’s dead?” he asks. “Something you’ll never have to worry about,” she replies. It seems that she expects him to be the chosen one, not Jacob.
The two boys hunt a boar and are surprised to see it killed by some men. The crouch down in the jungle as the witness something they’ve never seen in their lives – other people. The run home to ask their mother who those people are and where they’ve come from. She tells them that they come from the other side of the island, but they are not like them, because the three of them are “here for a reason.” She blindfolds them and takes them to a place they’ve never been before, telling them that the men are dangerous because “they come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same.” Words we have heard before. When she says that they end up hurting each other, Jacob asks if that means he and has brother are able to hurt each other too. She says that she has made sure that they can never hurt each other. They arrive and remove their blindfolds. In front of them is a stream running into a cave with a warm golden light glowing from within. She explains that this light is the source of life, the heart of the island. A little bit of this light is inside every living thing, but they must protect it from people, who will always want more of it. She says that people cannot take the light, but they might try, and if they do and the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere, and it is her job to protect it. One day she will pass this role on to one of them.
A little later, the brothers are playing the game with the white and black stones again. Jacob is told that he attempted a move that was against the rules and that – and here’s a telling line – one day Jacob would be able to create his own game where he decides the rules. Suddenly, Jacob’s brother sees his real mother, Claudia. Jacob cannot see her. The nameless boy walks towards her and she explains to him that she is his real mother, but she is dead. She takes him to see where he came from, showing him the camp her shipmates have built in the thirteen years they’ve been on the island. She tells him that he and Jacob, like her, come from across the sea. This ignites his curiosity and that night he wakes up Jacob, saying that he’s running away to join “his people”, and telling him that the woman they thought was their mother has lied to them about everything. This angers Jacob, who beats up his brother and then tells his “mother” what is happening. When she arrives, Jacob’s brother, bloody and bruised, announces that he is leaving. She tells him that he’ll never be able to leave the island. He says that one day he’ll prove her wrong.
Young Jacob and his mother sit on the beach. He asks if it’s true that she’s killed his real mother. She says she did, but she had to do it to keep the two boys away from the “bad” people. When he asks why she loved his brother more, she says that she loved them both, but in different ways. She asks if he will stay with her, and he agrees. They hug each other warmly.
Many years later, and Jacob has grown into the man we know now. He spends each day weaving at his loom, while his mother tends to her garden. He also, secretly, goes to observe his brother and the camp, which is now a busy village. He plays the same board game with him as the Man in Black explains that their mother was right about people being bad, selfish, greedy and manipulative. But he needs to stay with them for selfish reasons himself, using them to help leave the island, and he has now found a way. He throws a dagger – surely the same dagger Ben would one day use to kill Jacob – at a well, and it sticks to the bricks, attracted to the magnetic force below. He asks Jacob to come with him, but he says that the island is his home and he doesn’t want to leave.
Jacob cannot lie, so he tells his Mother what has happened. She goes to she him as he works at the bottom of a well. He explains that he has spent thirty years scouring the island but has never found the bright light she showed him, but has found another way to find it by digging underground. He says that the people in his camp are very clever and industrious and have had lots of ideas about what to do with the light. He dislodges a stone in the wall, which falls away to reveal a stream of light. He shows her a very familiar-looking wheel he has built, saying he’ll be able to use it, with water, to create a mechanism to manipulate the light and leave the island. She offers him a farewell hug, which he gratefully accepts, when she pushes his head against the wall, knocking him out.
She goes back to Jacob, telling him that it is time to go back to the light. They sit outside the cave and look at the yellow glow as she tells him that he will have to protect it now. She tells him that inside the cave is the source of life, the heart of the island, but he must never go inside, for he would experience a fate much worse than death. She pours him some wine from the bottle Jacob would later use, giving him a glass to drink in an apparent ritual to make him the new protector of the island. She tells him that he will have to protect it as long as he can before finding a replacement. He angrily reminds her that his brother was the one destined for this duty, but she says that she now knows that he is the right person to do it. As he drinks from the glass, she says, “Now you are like me.”
The Man in Black wakes up to find that his well has been reduced to rubble, his village has been burnt down and all of his people have been killed. Was this really all mother’s work, does she have superhuman strength, or perhaps super-smoke monster strength? He picks up his only remaining possession, the board game.
As a crackle of thunder can be heard overhead, Jacob’s “mother” sends him off to get firewood before the storm comes while she returns home to the caves. She gets there to find the place completely wrecked, with the board game on the floor. As she picks up the black rock, she is stabbed by her nameless son. The Man in Black soon realises what he has done and is already full of remorse as he sheds bitter tears and asks why she never let him leave. “Because I love you… Thank you,” she says as she dies.
Jacob returns home and reacts to the scene, again, with rage. He beats his brother to a pulp, the Man in Black accepting each blow as penance. Jacob drags him through the jungle as the Man in Black tells him that he cannot kill him according to the rules. Jacob says that he’s not going to kill him, as he takes him to the source. He throws his brother into the stream, his head hitting a rock and knocking him unconscious, allowing his body to listlessly be taken by the water towards the light.
At first, nothing happens. Then, with a tremendous roar, the Smoke Monster appears, bursting out from the cave at great speed. Jacob sees his brother’s body draped across some branches. Whatever the Smoke Monster is – a manifestation of his soul or spirit perhaps – his brother’s physical body is dead.
Jacob tearfully carries his body home and places his mother and brother’s bodies side by side in the cave, picking up a black and a white game piece and putting them in a pouch. As we flashforward two thousand years to 2004, we see Kate and Jack discover the bodies, what Locke calls “our very own Adam and Eve.” A fitting end to an episode which told us the genesis story of the series.
This was a quite extraordinary episode, but it’s very hard to know what to make of it. One thing to get out of the way first – it was wonderfully directed by Tucker Gates (who also did Ab Aeterno) and the cast of Allison Janney, Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino were superb. And the new musical cues heard in this episode, like all of the new music this season, were absolutely beautiful.
We’ve now seen the heart of the island and now know what it’s all about. It’s a big revelation to take in, and one that might be difficult for some to swallow, because we’ve gone on so long without answers and sometimes the anticipation is better than the revelation. Quite simply, we’ve been waiting so long that anything would have been something of a disappointment, so it’s probably better to simply accept it. We now know that the island is home to the source of life, something you could perhaps compare to the Force, especially with Damon and Carlton being big Star Wars fans. Don’t expect to learn much more about this “source”, they have often spoken about the scientific explanation of midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels ruining the mystical idea of the Force from the original films. Nonetheless, there will be those who might cling on to the idea that there could be an explanation from the fringes of science and quantum theory, with the DHARMA Initiative discovering electromagnetism describing the material as “exotic matter”, but that tends to go out of the window when you think about Jacob living for two millenia and his brother turning into a pillar of smoke. It might have long-conned us for a few years about having a scientific basis, but Lost is most certainly a supernatural story, a fable, and tonight’s episode played out like an Old Testiment parable.
The episode made it clear that we won’t be getting answers on everything and there will be plenty of cases where we’ll be filling in the gaps ourselves. For example, I think many people expected to see in this season the Egyptians coming and building their temples and statues, but now I very much doubt we’ll see that. Instead, we know what happened – we know they arrived, we know they built these things, and we know that “…they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same.” When Lost comes to an end in just two weeks time, there will be plenty of questions remaining, but quite a few of them will have the answers before our eyes. Quite a few others, of course, will have fans debating and theorising for years to come – and why not? As many viewers will feel about tonight’s episode, sometimes it’s better when there’s still a mystery.
What are we to make of the Man in Black now? It looks like the reason we have never heard his name could be because he was never given one. After last week’s death and destruction we were finally ready to see him as pure evil. But now? There is always a story behind bad deeds, and it usually has a lot of sorrow and misfortune. Tonight it was very easy to sympathise with the tragic Man in Black, and while Jacob did not always come across well, it was clear that he was thrust into a situation which neither he or his “mother” really wanted. Perhaps his lack of choice is the reason why he’s now so keen on free will? Jacob’s brother was supposed to be the one who looked after the island, but he was too curious. He grew up to be the man of science, to Jacob’s man of faith. But it is he, not Jacob, who shares their mother’s view of humanity, that people do lie, cheat and manipulate, that they always end up destroying each other. Jacob, as well know, has a different thesis, and for the last two thousand years has been bringing people to the island to prove his brother wrong. But, as we’ve been told, “it always ends the same.”
Although, as Jacob once put it, “it only ends once.”
This episode seemed to be telling us (although it’s been heavily hinted before) that the events our characters have been going through have been happening for centuries. There was the pregnant woman arriving on the beach before having her offspring raised by another, like Claire and Rousseau. There were the mysterious and at first scary Others on another part of the island. A group of people trying to harness the strange properties of the island who all got wiped out in one go, like DHARMA. A young boy being told he’s “special”, like Walt and Locke. Jacob and his brother representing two sides, one dark, one light, the curious and industrious MiB being a man of science, the trusting Jacob being a man of faith. Talk of rules, a mother dying after childbirth, a child led into the jungle by the ghost of his dead mother, all familiar territory. And, of course, there was that old Lost theme of bad parenting.
This episode threw up so many questions, answers and things to ponder, it’s probably worth reeling some random thoughts off on some bullet points:
- The Man in Black told Sawyer earlier in the season that he knew “what it’s like to lose someone you love.” Most people assumed he meant romantic love, but perhaps he meant the loss of his mother.
- And what of the mother’s “thank you” when she was stabbed? Did she raise the Man in Black to free her of her obligation to protect the island, with Jacob now ready to replace her? Is this what Jacob has been raising Ben to do?
- Things got a little Lord of the Rings around the heart of the island. Just as Men could not be trusted with the ring, here it was the light that exposed humanity’s greed.
- The stream from the source, is that what was flowing into the pool in the Temple? It would explain it’s life-giving powers, and
- The Man in Black’s explanation of how the donkey wheel would work, something to do with a system channeling light and water, was a little nonsensical, but again there’s no possible explanation they could come up with that would sound rational.
- There has been much talk of “the rules”, and it seems that the rules are whatever the island’s protector decides they are, rather than anything set in stone. “Mother” made the rule that Jacob and the Man in Black cannot harm each other, and Jacob sets the rules for the island now.
- How does Jacob leave the island to visit our Losties?
- We never saw what happened when Locke came face-to-face with Smokey early in season one, but he said “I looked into the eye of this Island, and what I saw was beautiful” and later told Eko that he saw a bright white light. Could this have been the source?
- The source is something to do with the electromagnetism. We know that Desmond can withstand the electromagnetism. Does this mean that he’s the only person in the world who can enter the source and is this what Widmore wants him for? And is Widmore trying to do the right thing, or is he the latest in a long line of men who want the source because, as “mother” put it, “they always want more.”
- While it was nice to see that moment again, I don’t think the clips from the season one episode House of the Rising Sun at the end were needed and the scene could have worked together without them, focusing more on Jacob’s grief. Lost viewers are nothing but perceptive, and everyone who cared about the identities of Adam and Eve would have recognised what was happening without requiring the clips to point it out.
Final thoughts on the episode – it was as frustrating as it was enjoyable, as disappointing as it was satisfying. I don’t think we’ll be able to truly judge how it fits in to everything until the very end. I really enjoyed the story of Jacob and his brother, but it’s a little concerning that are only three and a half hours of Lost remaining and a heck of a lot of questions left to answer.