So…the island is a cork, and it’s keeping the evil wine in the carafe of love. Got it? Good. We’re settled, right? That’s the answer we’ve all been waiting for, isn’t it? We can pack up and go home.
There’s certainly no reason to continue on after the jump to discuss “Ab Aeterno.”
Well, that was….disheartening. I’m very curious to see the critical and fan reaction to “Ab Aeterno,” and I think a lot of people will love it, because people typically love “special” Lost episodes like “The Other 48 Days,” when the show breaks with its typical structure and intensifies its focus. I usually love those episodes too. But not this one, at least not the first time through.
Richard Alpert has long been an intriguing character, and Lost fans waited for the day when his lines would be colored in. More to the point, a Richard Alpert origin story seemed guaranteed to deliver answers a-plenty. And in this uneven final season, some answers would be very welcome at this halfway point.
Instead, we got some confirmations to things we already suspected, and we got a very long character piece. And once the mysterious layers of Richard Alpert were stripped away, we were left with…Spanish Desmond.
Richard, like his Scottish brother-in-arms, has been motivated exclusively by lost love for lo these many years. And like Desmond, he has been made a pawn in a game he doesn’t understand by forces using his feelings to manipulate him. Desmond does what he does so he can get back to Penny, protect Penny, etc., and Widmore, The Others, Jacob and God knows who else conspire to keep the lovers apart, and keep Desmond pushing that button. Richard is manipulated by Jacob and the Man in Black, who tell him what he wants to hear so he’ll do what they want. We don’t need another Desmond…we need the original back.
Frankly, there’s not much more to Richard’s character than that. He loved his wife, and he’s ageless. That’s it. And I was hoping for a lot more than that. Sure, it was a nice moment when Ghost Isabella said goodbye to Richard, but that’s because I’m a sappy romantic. That moment was done better, and was better earned, in “The Constant” when Desmond and Penny connected briefly on the phone. I would have no problem with a character-focused episode with no real answers if the character drama was compelling. This was flat, and silly at times.
I really expected more out of the Lost writing team than the hackneyed sick-character-says-she’s-fine/cough-cough/oh-no-there’s-blood-on-the-tissue sequence. And I know not every episode can have the budget of the pilot, but the special effects when the Black Rock was caught in a storm were dreadful.
We didn’t learn a whole lot in this episode, either, despite the fact that Richard having direct chats with Jacob and Smokey essentially presents the writers with a gift-wrapped opportunity to dish out some explanations. We already knew Richard came to the island as a slave on the Black Rock. We already knew Jacob gifted Richard with life eternal. We already knew Jacob brought people to the island. We pretty much figured he did so as part of some elaborate experiment/game with the Man in Black. All we got was verification of shit we had figured out on our own.
We still don’t know the origins of Jacob and Smokey. We still don’t know how The Others formed. We still don’t know (or care) who the hell Ilana is.
And no matter how this show ends, I kind of hate Jacob. Even if he can be believed that Smokey is evil, and needs to be kept on the island, that doesn’t justify his behavior. He claims to espouse free will yet he forces people onto the island against their will, and, as he admits, they all die. Jacob’s an asshole, you guys.
Gabe from Videogum pointed out that last week’s episode featured the worst Lost cliffhanger ever, with Sawyer dramatically exclaiming, “We’re not taking the plane…we’re taking the sub!” Well, if so, this week is a close second, with Man in Black smashing the wine carafe on a rock. METAPHOR BROKEN!
Lost had been on a roll with the last handful of episodes, and I thought we were really gaining steam as we move into the endgame. I guess that will have to wait for next week.
Some more thoughts:
- So now Hurley can talk to any ghost, not just people who died on the island? And how did Isabella appear to Richard on the island in the Black Rock?
- My favorite moment of the night, as Jack was about to learn that “Locke” is alive. Ben: “This ought to be good.”
- So Man in Black used the same shtick on Richard that Dogen used on Sayid (“Don’t let him speak,” “Stab him in the chest,” etc.) Is that where Dogen got it from? Or is that just standard island lying.
- Hey, Richard: Someone dunking you in water does not prove that you are not in Hell or that the dunker is not the devil. If he dunked you until you drowned, and then you went to a fiery pit with a red guy holding a pitchfork — then you’d know that you hadn’t really been in Hell.
- A wooden ship is able to smash a giant stone statue to smithereens? And is the World Trade Center reference there intentional?
- Is the character of Richard a microcosm for the show itself? You’re like it, and you’re intrigued by it, until you learn a little too much, and then the whole thing’s just ruined.
- This episode also seemed to confirm the fears of those critics (like Time’s James Poniewozik) who fear that the show is becoming exclusively about the battle between two Gods that we don’t really care about, at the expense of Hurley, Kate, Sayid et al.
- Next week’s episode is called “The Package.” Is there finally going to be a measuring contest between Jack and Sawyer?