Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: Lost 6.15: Across The Sea

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Five and a half seasons, all for a hole in the ground.
Lost - Season Six, Episode Fifteen - Across The Sea
Written 10/3/13

The side of the Lost fandom desperate for answers had waited patiently to get some decent background for Jacob and The Man In Black and their long feud. A week after the painful events of The Candidate, the writers explored this with one of the series' few whole flashback episodes. Across The Sea contains no original material with any of the main cast, and instead takes us back 2000 years to give us a backstory that feels ripped straight from Biblical lore.
     A Roman woman washes up on the island, gives birth to twins, and is then brutally killed by a strange woman. The woman takes the two boys, Jacob and his unnamed brother (who likes to wear black), and raises them as their Mother. She tells Jacob and the Boy In Black that they're there to protect The Source, a light at the heart of the island in a magical cave. While Jacob is a certifiable Mommy's boy, his brother rejects Mother's attempts to smother the truth about his origins and wants more than anything to leave the island. He goes off to live with another group of crash survivors, and when he creates the Donkey Wheel to leave the Island, Mother is implied to go all Smokey and kills everyone besides him. Angry that his crazy mother has squandered his dreams, he kills her in a fit of rage. In retaliation, Jacob throws his brother into the Light, turning him into the Smoke Monster.
     To understand a lot of the reasons why the magic light at the heart of the island annoys me so much, you have to remember what Lost was originally about. It was a group of being coming together in weird and unusual circumstances - it was a battle between science and faith, between the explainable and the inexplicable. And after all this time, the reason why it all happened, was because Jacob wanted some people to replace him as the protector of a magical light in the ground. It's just... silly. So silly that it feels insulting - after five or so seasons of compelling storytelling, all of that anguish was fobbed off on a magic light?
     But it's more than that, too. At the time I didn't understand why, after the MIB's evil actions, we were given a story that so obviously made us sympathise with him in the past. The MIB is a dude who was denied the simple right of knowing about his past, his home. He's someone who has felt out of place for over 2000 years. He's also inqusitive, curious. He embodies all the traits in this episode that I can sympathise. Jacob is a gullible, gormless bastard who, despite having the same upbringing as his brother, doesn't question her once. There's not even the hint of teenage rebellion, he just goes on to be a psychopathic man-child who carries out his insane foster mother's beliefs to the letter because he wants to.
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You're telling us that Smokey is because some guy
was thrown into said hole in the ground?
      Credit where credit is due to the cast of this episode, especially the recurring guest stars Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver. Welliver especially manages to portray an MIB that contains both the madness that he would later go on to inhabit and the frustration of his upbringing. It's hard not to think that that the actors were on board with my interpretation of the episode, especially as Pellegrino's Jacob is a lot more gormless without the 2000 years of chessmastery. Allison Janney's Mother also sells every line with a conviction that makes the silliness of the script shine through nicely.
     Across The Sea takes the mythology of this wonderful series and gives it an enormously silly bent while appearing to take it entirely seriously, not seeming to realise that it's painting the heroes and villains in very different lights. Thanks to Across the Sea, I sat through the final few episodes rooting for the MIB to win. Even if MIB getting off the island as Smokey would have caused a lot of problems, they were caused almost directly by the actions of both Mother and Jacob, and for me that just screwed the series up in quite a fundamental way. It was grandiose in its ambitions, but all it did was cause problems for the series that it didn't give itself enough buffer room to recover from.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Jacob returns one last time to tell us What They Died For.

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