“Ab Aeterno” may have been the most anticipated non-premier, non-finale hour in Lost history because the focus of its story, Richard Alpert, undeniably held the key to many of the secrets Lost fans are desperate for. Yet it did not just meet those expectations, it exceeded them. Tremendously.
Lost critics found easy fodder with the acting early in the show’s lifetime, but the entire cast has elevated its performance to a new level of excellence in the show’s final season. Carbonell delivered the latest gem playing his character as a simple man who fears his God and loves his wife. Faced with death and certain damnation, he is sold into slavery and chained in the bottom of – you guessed it – The Black Rock. Thrown to the middle of the island, desperate to survive but afraid to die, he makes a deal with the very devil he is so afraid of facing in his afterlife.
Aside from being revealing, nothing to that point of the episode really gave us the deep mythological answers we have been waiting for for so long. That all changed when Jacob “baptized” Ricardos in the ocean, forcing him to admit that he is alive, not in hell. Then we got the masterfully-executed scene with Jacob describing the island as the cork that keeps the evil – that is, the Man in Black – trapped in the island where it cannot harm the rest of the world. In one simple analogy the writers answered one of Lost’s biggest questions: What is this island? Now we know. For sure, there are still island-related questions left to be answered, but now we have a much better understanding of what has been going on behind the scenes of the Lost storyline these six seasons.
Jacob granting Ricardos his wish to never die also solidified one of the key differences between him and the Man in Black. We’ve seen MiB routinely make false promises to his recruits, from promising Claire her baby back to promising Ricardos his dead wife. This is what the devil does to you: he lies and deceives. Jacob won’t make promises he can’t keep, and he tells Ricardos as much. He wants Isabella back, Jacob tells him he can’t do that. He wants his sins absolved, and again Jacob says he can’t do that. But he can give Ricardos eternal youth so that he won’t have to answer to the devil in hell for taking a man’s life.
I left this wonderful episode with one fresh theory. In the season premiere we got the mysterious shot of a sunken island in what we came to know as the flash sideways world. I theorize that the sunken island means the battle between light and dark has ended and the island is no longer needed as a cork to trap the evil. I’m not prepared to guess which side won, however. If I had to, I would lean to Jacob winning because what we have seen of the flash sideways world doesn’t seem to indicate that evil is running rampant.
There was so much more to take from this episode, so many observations. I will layout some of them below:
The episode began with an extended version of the scene when Jacob visits Ilana – why show this in this episode? It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Ricardos storyline.
Richard questions his faith…in Jacob. In fact, he lost it, trying to kill himself and when that failed trying to take up MiB on his offer. Questioning faith has always been a theme.
Have you noticed how often this season characters have had their face half lit, half dark? Most famously done in Widmore’s bedroom with he and Ben in The Shape of Things to Come, it seems to happen a lot this season and has to be symbolic for something. Perhaps the culmination of this long battle between Jacob and MiB, between light and dark, as Locke describes to Walt in Pilot Part Two.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Lost is that no detail seems to be chosen randomly, and that shows again in Ricardos coming from the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. According to Wikipedia the name translates to Island of Hell, a perfect connection to this episode and Ricardos’ story. It is also home to the deadliest aviation incident in history (at that time). Two airplanes collided on a runway at the island’s airport, which was an unscheduled stop for both flights.
The way Richard killed the doctor is exactly the same as the way Desmond killed Inman in Live Together, Die Alone: An unintentional blow to the back of the head.
I don’t know why this didn’t hit me until now: The Black Rock. When Jacob sent Ricardos back to MiB, he sent with him a white rock as a gift. This was the white rock Flocke took from the balance in the cave and tossed into the ocean. Black rock, white rock. Light, dark. Good, evil. Just another wonderful detail that makes Lost so much fun.
You’d be freaked out, too, if you saw a giant statue in the middle of the ocean.
Smokey went after the ship, just like he did the cabin of Oceanic 815. Is attacking new visitors to the island his way of ensuring Jacob doesn’t succeed? He kills everyone to eliminate anyone who might be a candidate but leaves those who he thinks can be his recruit?
Okay, the boar eating one of the dead slaves was gross, but was I the only one who wondered if the boar Ricardos and MiB roasted later on was the same one? I don’t think I could eat a boar that I just watched eat a person.
I noticed two strange camera shots in this episode. The first occurred with MiB talking to Ricardos in the ship, the second when Jacob questioned him on the beach about his encounter with MiB. Both shots were abnormally close up, almost fish-eyed. Did anyone else catch that?
Hurley takes a Jacob line telling Isabella that sometimes it takes people a while to see what they need to see. That scene was almost as great as the Desmond-Penny phone call in The Constant. Had we had more build up with their relationship, it would have been equal.
In their conversation at the end of the episode, MiB tells Jacob not to gloat because “It doesn’t become you.” What does that mean? Perhaps he is telling Jacob that winning over Ricardos doesn’t mean Ricardos is a candidate to take his place, or to become him.
We’re probably in for a bit of a downer next week, coming off an episode as great as this.