Lost review: ‘Across the Sea’

Jacob
Jacob: The good to the Man in Black’s evil? Or is it more complicated than that?

Note: Spoilers ahead for Lost’s “Across the Sea.”

One of the greatest things about Lost — and what allowed it to be so many things to so many people — was that the vastness of its cast and the structure of its flashbacks meant it could operate on so many different levels and genres from episode to episode.

It could be a sci-fi show, a period piece, a story about different characters from specific parts of the world, a time-travel adventure, or an exercise in Short Cuts-like narrative collisions. The longer the show went on, the more crevices of the series the show could explore. When it was through exploring them, it simply created new crevices and devices, like the flash-forward or the flash-sideways.

Lost has also turned into an epic meditation on its own grander-than-grand mythology of mysterious motives, of bizarre island magic, of good and evil, of life and death, and free will versus fate. The closer we’ve gotten to the end, the more those bigger (and, yes, less character-driven) themes have seemed to become a part of the life blood of the series. Before, the show was about individual moments of good and evil (not to mention shades of gray), but not in the way that was presumably represented by the gods sitting atop Mount Olympus, Jacob and the Man in Black (aka Smokey).

Now we finally get their origin stories with “Across the Sea,” which I thought was decent enough but must also say comes as something of a disappointment because it does not reach transcendence or revelation in terms of its characters’ motivations, which at times feel psychologically opaque and other times overly simplistic. In developing this grand notion of what Jacob and Smokey are, Lost has painted itself into the corner of setting enormously high expectations, and I don’t think that “Across the Sea” clears that bar. Perhaps it never could’ve.

I think the biggest part of the problem is that we already more or less understood the nature of Jacob and Smokey, even though we didn’t know the specifics. When you look at “Across the Sea,” it feels like an episode that fills in a lot of blanks that we had previously imagined, but in filling in those blanks it feels more like moving pieces around using ancient archetypes and broad templates. The specifics of Jacob and Smokey feel like they are trying to get somewhere, rather than because they feel like well-drawn characters.

I think the key thing we learn here as that the two are twin brothers, raised by a mother whom each felt favored the other. Meaning that the plot of Lost boils down to an ancient sibling rivalry played out over centuries. We still don’t understand why Smokey can’t kill Jacob, except that “it breaks the rules” — a rule set up by their mother — but I don’t see how having Ben kill Jacob gets around the rule just because it’s done by proxy. (The simple answer is that it’s just more entertaining that way, because it puts our main characters in the action to run around and make those choices that arise out of fate.)

What happens in the course of “Across the Sea” — with Jacob and Smokey (still nameless, by the way, even in his own origin story) is deliberate and slow-moving — essentially a three-character play — which wouldn’t feel like a problem if there weren’t this nagging sense that there are about 10,000 threads of Lost‘s main characters that now have to be resolved in the course of 3.5 hours minus commercials. It certainly doesn’t work as pure cinema the way this season’s other major backstory episode, Richard’s “Ab Aeterno,” did.

That’s not to say I didn’t like “Across the Sea.” Lost is dealing with some Bigger Questions here with some intriguing quirks of circumstance — like the notion of whether some of us actually have a choice, or whether they are made for us. Jacob doesn’t want to drink the wine that gives him eternal life and spend eternity guarding the island, but he chooses to. But that choice is essentially made with his mother guilting him into it, which perhaps begets the notion of Jacob pushing people toward the island with choices they thought they made.

Also: good vs. evil. Smokey is essentially Adam wanting the apple from the tree of knowledge — in his case, getting off the island to learn about the world — but instead was stopped by his mother, which led him to murder her. That in turn led Jacob to cast Smokey into the magic light, a fate worse than death that turned him into the dreaded smoke monster.

So, it’s Adam and Eve, literally, well, kind of (with the storyline and relationships shuffled about); and we find out that Smokey and his mother are indeed the “Adam and Eve” bodies found in the caves in the show’s first season. I am not well versed on the Book of Genesis, so I am not going to draw too many direct lines here, but clearly someone with more expertise could do so.

As for the island’s magical powers: The more we see of them, the more fantasy-like and contrived they become. Essentially, the island’s mysterious powers lie in a core of magic light that explains the magnetic properties and creations of smoke monsters, among others.

Of course, the bigger theme of the island is who will protect these magic properties from those who would try to exploit them, over and over and over again. Hence the Others, their war with the Dharma people, and so forth.

I realize I’ve only scratched the surface here, but that’s what I promised when I said I’d be talking about these final episodes. I want to open up a discussion here. I am not going to be delving nearly as deep as I could be. So, I put it to you, so you can do some of the heavy lifting for me.

Bottom line, “Across the Sea” is reasonable enough — and I might like it more if I wasn’t wondering what everyone else is doing back in the present in the wake of the sunken submarine and all that death. But this is one of those grand mythology episodes of Lost that I thought would be more riveting.

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17 comments on this post

Jim
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 12:51 am (UTC -6)

I guess it wasn’t only me that was slightly disappointed in this episode. I just recently caught up on Lost thanks to Netflix and my PS3, and watching the show transition from the excellent Season 1 (where character drama was the main focus) to the still good but more plot driven Season 6 has been a fun ride. Even with a few bumps, this show has been able to maintain a level of consistent quality for me that is rare with TV.

That being said, I think that Lost is much better when it leaves things partially explained, and mostly mysterious. Resorting to “The Cave of Light” to explain away the Island’s mysterious properties with magic is better left in fantasy universes like The Lord of the Rings. To its credit, Lost is a great show that manages to pull off episodes like this better than lesser shows that could have easily landed in hokey territory.

Maybe if they had a stronger character arc to the episode I would have been more riveted? Specifically, I was thinking of Season 4’s “The Constant” which was heavy on the Lost mythology yet managed to keep me completely engrossed with Desmond’s character story. Definitely a memorable episode for me.

Litg
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 8:57 am (UTC -6)

I have to say I thought it was an excellent episode, in part because it leaves so much to the mind of the viewer. It deals in archetypes, true, but there is a reason archetypes are archetypes, because they have so much broad appeal across long years of human history. And there is considerable breadth on display here, both in the island mythos and in the motivations of the characters.

The mother character stands out. Was she simply fulfilling a sacred duty to pass on guardianship of the Island (and honestly, anyone who didn’t realize before now that The Island was going to be a Macguffin, well, you should have), or was she raising two boys to be her dupes, more or less, in getting her out of this eternal duty, or damnation, as she perhaps viewed it?

There is even strong hinting that the mother herself was an incarnation of the smoke monster. She trashes the well and kills an entire small village, no small order for one woman. She also gets a very haunted look in her eyes when warning Jacob never to enter the cave of light.

Jammer, you said that each boy felt that she favored the other, but I definitely felt it was more one-sided than that. She favored the Brother in Black, because she saw more of herself in him. Jacob picked up on that. My wife referred to Jacob as “simple” and in the sense that he was less complicated than his brother, I think that was true. He was the man of faith, displaying a purity of faith that we frequently see one character or another display. The BiB was by contrast the skeptic, the questioner, the man of science.

As for the smoke monster, here is where the speculation can really get going. Is it really the BiB? His body is obviously separated and spat back out, dead. So we are left to assume that the smoke monster is either his soul or his darker impulses and aspects made manifest. But there is another possibility. Could the smoke monster be a separate entity, one that was trapped in the light and needed a human to escape? Perhaps it took the identity of the BiB. Or perhaps it THINKS it is the BiB. Remember earlier in the season when Smokey (in Locke form) shouted, in the heat of the moment, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”? Perhaps in taking the form of someone, it takes on more of their personality than it understands. In any case, if it thought it truly was the BiB, the rules established for it, that he cannot kill Jacob directly, might still hold.

Lots to process. Fantastic episode.

Wade
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 10:31 am (UTC -6)

I was less than thrilled with the episode. I take issue with a few things. First, the sudden explanation that some magical light on this island is the source of all the world’s problems. Second, couldn’t this whole back story been summed up in a 10 min flashback? I don’t think they left enough time to bring resolution to the rest of the stories without giving them too many easy outs (bomb blows up, character dead). I was still hoping we’d get to a point where this is some massive psychological expierement that our Losties were wittingly or unwittingly participating in. Oh well.

dccc
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 11:51 am (UTC -6)

“slightly disappointed”?! Come on, that was utterly and completely a waste of time. Since when did “magic” start happening? It was always faith vs science. Now we have magic so the writers don’t have to explain anything. What a waste of my time these past years. Yes, I enjoyed the ride – but expected a satisfying conclusion. A story has a beginning, middle and end – an “end” that is not simply, “we stopped airing the show”.

Andrew Taylor
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 1:18 pm (UTC -6)

I enjoyed the episode, though not as much as some of the other ones that we’ve had this season. I felt at the time that the cave of light was goofy, but I do suppose that in the past we’ve had horse-wheels stuck in walls underground, and hatches with buttons that need pressing to avert implosions.

I do think that many things we’re left open that may come into play in the last couple of episodes. Some may not, which is fine by me, as I like vague Lost. Was Smokey created when Jacob killed/knocked out MiB and he went into the cave of light? Or was Smokey already around in the form of the boys’ crazy mother, transforming into MiB after his death?

If the boys’ mother wasn’t Smokey, then how long had she been on the island? The hint was that MiB’s murder of her was something she welcomed, especially after making Jacob her successor. Is she the first protecter of the island, or is she somewhere down the line of illustrious gatekeepers?

Vincent
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 8:29 pm (UTC -6)

I knew there would be a huge negative reaction for this episode, because it did not answer the questions people thought it would. But I do not think the point of the episode was to give all the answers about Jacob and the Man in Black. What I thought the episode was really about was it means to be the guardian. Both Jacob’s mother and Jacob himself have had to do things that seem harsh and cruel in the name of protecting the island. And the new guardian may need to do the same types of things. And I think the man for that job is Sawyer.

Eduardo
Thursday, May 13, 2010, 9:02 am (UTC -6)

I was extremely divided by this episode. In one way i absolutely loved it. On the other, i felt highly cheated for not getting the REAL answers.

The use of parallels and symbolism to describe the nature of the feud between Jacob and Smokey was outstanding. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof really know how to present an otherwise mundane interaction in a dramatic way to the audience. Not to mention Tucker Gates really should be directing period miniseries. He handles these period shows beautifully like Ab Aeterno.

Dramatic-wise, the episode hit all the right notes, especially giving some much-needed shades of gray to Mark Pellegrino’s Jacob. Titus Welliver also had the opportunity to really broaden Smokey’s appeal.

It makes sense that after six years with cowboys and heroes struggling with daddy issues, that the main villain would be someone with mommy issues. It’s amazing how archetypes can really become relatable people, with relatable issues, within the proper confines of dramatic storytelling. Their motives and frustrations really make proper sense, looking back these past 6 seasons, and everything that came with them.

You managed to convey my own feelings with this episode. It didn’t feel as fulfilling as Ab Aeterno. And maybe it’s just me, but it’s just weird to have Allison ‘C.J. Cregg’ Janney as a caretaker for the island, even though she was outstanding on the role.

The episode was satisfying. The timing of the airdate, on the other hand. With three and a half hours left, i’m left wondering and biting my nails whether we’ll get definitive answers on the nature of the island by the final minutes of Lost. I’m not so convinced the island is merely a MacGuffin. Right from the start, the reason Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams became involved in developing Lost for ABC is because they insisted the island had be a character of its own, instead of merely Cast Away meets Survivor. If the island is a character, that character also needs a proper backstory. Problem is, i have a hard time seeing that resolved in the next week and a half.

methane
Thursday, May 13, 2010, 1:36 pm (UTC -6)

I enjoyed the episode.

It played on Lost themes that are sitting in the back of my mind but probably won’t come out until after the series finale, when I plan to re-watch the series again. ‘The mother who’s children are raised by someone else’ being just one. This, of course, goes with the theme of ‘woman surviving alone on the island apart from the others’.

I also like how it finally admitted that Jacob is not pure ‘good’. Their adoptive mother was a mass murderer in this episode; the brother killed her in anger and frustration; Jacob then gave him a ‘fate worse than death’ out of anger. Really, the brother may be the least morally questionable character in this episode. He was the man of science, who questioned his ‘mother’. Jacob, man of faith, followed the mother who killed many people just so they wouldn’t influence her sons.

I had the same question Litg does above; the brother may have actually died at the end, and the Smoke Monster might be something distinct that was freed by his death and is now using his appearance.

Listening to last week’s Jorge Garcia podcast there was a comment that this last season should have been planned with more episodes, to provide more time for each character’s story at the end. I would agree with that, but I’m still not disappointed with this episode.

James
Friday, May 14, 2010, 4:29 pm (UTC -6)

This was a very nice episode. But the timing is odd.
I suppose the main reason for it is to create a breathing space before the big finale, even though that would work better if viewing episodes back to back. I mean very little happened really. We still have that three toed statue and Jacobs warning to smokey(Lock in the base of the statue) “Their coming” amongt many other threads to resolve. Will this stuff be left to conjecture?

At least this episode did establish that Jacob is not so much good as a victim of circumstances.(where did all his toys come from?) His adopted mother told him he was chosen but he had no sense of this. In many ways He’s a little like original Lock, abit clueless really.

The MIB on the other hand gets a very raw deal, He’s actually more rounded than
Jacob really. I wonder how much of him is left in the smoke monster if anything.

The boys adoped mother is to say the least “not an nice person” She is quite the liar and murderer, and her motives in protecting the island may be false. If so maybe the the gullable Jacob is been dupped…

This is not the origin story I expected . It begs as many questions as it answers and I doubt there is time to go back further. (PLEASE GOD, NO PREQUAL.)
Its going to be breakneck pace from here on to the end. Maybe smoky escapes and becomes Cloverfield.

TS
Saturday, May 15, 2010, 3:36 pm (UTC -6)

Enjoyable enough, but also frustrating at the same time. It’s like you said, the themes they are dealing with feel overly simplistic. Good vs. Evil. Jacob vs. Man in Black. Like, really? That’s what it basically comes down to? At the same time, I still wouldn’t consider Jacob to be ‘good’ after all that he’s done to the other characters over the course of the series.

It’s nowhere near as good as some of my favorites so far this season (the already mentioned Ab Aeterno, Happily Ever After, Dr. Linus). I feel like Across The Sea lacks… real heart. The emotions I feel while watching Ab and Happily (or any other standout LOST episode) isn’t here. Maybe it’s the actors behind Jacob and Smokey or maybe it’s more a problem with the writing itself. I’m not sure…

Matrix
Saturday, May 15, 2010, 7:14 pm (UTC -6)

What are you guys talking about? Smokey clearly is an escaped demon from
“supernatural” that hitched a ride on a commercial and made it’s way to ABC. Interesting episode, though. I am really hoping smokey kills everyone now and finds a way off the island, making his way to California and opening a detective agency.

David
Thursday, May 20, 2010, 1:11 am (UTC -6)

Whenever I sit down and watch an episode of LOST I have a created a little routine over the years in how I go about viewing it. Once upon a time you could just sit back and watch a show but that all changed with LOST which ushered in a totally new unique kind of storytelling format–a show where you can’t just passively sit back and watch and forget about it. The writers deliberately go out of their way to be extremely subtle, bombard the audience with information at a dizzying speed and have crafted a ridiculously overwhelming Narrative to contend with. So many years ago I figured out the best way to tackle such an ambitious show and make it more manageable.

I watch it once and just let everything wash over me. Then I sit down with my little notebook –which has been invaluable-and the first time through I mainly watch for the revelations, the questions, the answers, who knows who, who knows what, who knows what when, who knows what vs the audience, the introduction of pieces.

Then when I’ve got that all straight in my head I go about assembling the story and working my way out from these very little pieces and just start making connections and then I continue building on top of them working my way out from the center to create this ever expanding Massive Narrative since most LOST episodes are just a patchwork of various narrative pieces of varying sizes that the writers leave up to us to put in their places. Then as each season has progressed everything for that season sorta focuses to the Big Moment.

When you watch a single scene with various players in it you have to replay it because while you are still processing it they are already onto the next thing. And then when you play back the scene you have to remember the histories and dynamics among the players that are in motion within the scene that can span all the way back to the first season. My little notebook has been an invaluable resource in keeping everything straight all these years–otherwise I’d literally be lost. Another reason I like to take notes is that it helps reinforce everything and stick better in my memory because I have to replay everything when I’m writing it all down. And I like the fact that my notes help memorialize my impressions when I watched a scene originally and now 6 years later I can go back and see how things changed etc. Unlike your traditional drama with a modest ensemble and two or three paralleling threads that are linear in nature–you can’t just watch it and move forward since this show is designed to backtrack and revisit stuff earlier on in the narrative–so you can never just leave it behind–it comes back around.

So has LOST spoiled me? Of course. But it is a double edged sword since it can cut both ways.

I just watched almost all of the episodes from this season in rapid succession and this season is rather underwhelming and disappointing when you look back. Watching it originally I was giving it the benefit of the doubt that while I wasn’t crazy about a lot of stuff on first blush that with the show’s brilliant track record over the last few seasons that everything would amount to something more than it seemed at the time. But now that I’ve seen where a lot of it went I can safely say that this season is not nearly as good as seasons 1,3,4 or 5. It is slightly better than 2.

Those were very tightly written seasons chocked full of lots of interesting revelations and very effectively pulled together a myriad of pieces established in the first 4 seasons and tied them together beautifully while setting up the final pieces as well as establishing a beautiful timeline/history for the island & its inhabitants.

Every episode felt possessed and driven–fast-paced covering numerous threads constantly, feverishly providing exposition, introducing characters, introducing mysteries, adding new clues and pieces of the puzzle to the mix, always advancing the plot, maddeningly weaving in and out of stories, setting up everything. There is an urgency to LOST that I have rarely encountered in terms of narrative purpose. Yes I’ll be the first to agree that the series drew things out but in hindsight you can see why it was necessary–the show is so interconnected that the writers had to methodically time when they revealed things otherwise it would have spoiled what was to come. The writers had to introduce something and stop short of going any further, set it aside and then proceed working on another part of the Big Picture then set it aside and work on yet another section and in that regard I would call them architects. And as the show nears the finishing line you can see how carefully everything was mapped out in the writers’ minds–they knew what they wanted to cover in each season and when the revelations should be unveiled to the audience. You can see how they carefully almost Tetris-like would drop in place a key piece of the puzzle that suddenly unified several seemingly disparate threads and smoothed the frayed edges by bring them in line settling a particular unfinished piece of the puzzle. To me that is truly impressive.

And what I find so impressive is how beautifully intricate the show is when you step back and retrace all the various character paths and histories.

This really should have been the apex for the series and instead of building on the last few seasons it just sorta collapsed. I’m not bitter or angry and you won’t see me ranting on like so many fans villifying Cuse and Lindeloff the way internet fans have with certain creators i.e. Brannon Braga but I’m disappointed that LOST didn’t knock it out of the park like it seemed this time last year it was poised to do as season 5 was winding down.

Everything kept building and building in S3-5, more and more pieces coming into play and at the end of last season I felt like season six would take them the final mile in their development but I’ve kept waiting and waiting and nothing. And now looking back I’m a little surprised things were just left where they were and have not been revisited. And to some extent this will retroactively tarnish to varying degrees what came before. It is like one hour mysteries that build well but end unsatisfactorily and it to some extent it just pulls the rug out from under you.

I wanted more about the injections Des took in season two, more about what the monster did to Rousseau’s team and why, more about Dharma and those in Ann Arbor, why Paul’s body was taken last season to the Others, We’ll never learn why Widmore wanted Ben to take Alex as a child and kill her? Was he acting on his own or Jacob ordering it? Ben in “Cabin Fever” said Widmore ordered the Purge but why? Surely after the Incident in 77 that would have been more than enough reason to slaughter them? Did Richard befriend Ben at the behest of Jacob or acting on his own? Last season when he told Widmore he was taking injured Ben to the Temple to be cured he said Jacob said so but Richard’s expression didn’t exactly suggest that was true. What did Sawyer whisper to Richard in “La Fleur” to convince him to back down with Dharma? Why did Dharma build the village on top of the ruins? So I guess the whole summoning with the water drain was all Smokey’s idea to Ben in “Dead is Dead” but offscreen as part of his elaborate ruse.

See I wanted this stuff cleared up a bit. We never learned who was the Man who was in charge of the Lamp Post and finding the island? Or what the US military was doing on the island in the 50s? Was it to them just a proving ground for nukes? What about Alvar Hanso? And I keep harping on it but I don’t think it has been that clear about the whole point with the spring–it cured Ben as a child but cured Sayid and made him evil–well for a little while(whatever was convenient for the plot at the time).

Did Dharma ever learn of the Purge? Who was sending the supplies in season two? What is so trippy about arriving to the island Juliet had to be sedated–they teased that one so many times? why Smokey came for Claire? I mean why take her out of everyone? The only thing I’m coming up with is that was the reason Kate agreed to come back to the island. And I honestly don’t think we got an explanation for why Aaron can’t be raised by another? Or what the Others were doing with Walt? Was he a candidate/special? Was Miles and where does his gift come from? Why did Ilana’s friend who got ripped to pieces by Smokey try to convince Miles not to join up with Widmore? Why did Widmore wait until 1992 to Purge Dharma? Did the players behind Dharma ever know what became of their people? Have they tried to find the island? How did the Black Rock Journal get from the island where it presumably ended up along with its author? Why was Widmore bidding on it in “The Constant”? How did Dharma learn of the island’s existence–the US military?–we did see a photo on the board at the Lamp Post. Why was Smokey stuck in John’s form after Jacob was killed? Why did Smokey in season 3 approach Juliet, scan her and then move on? Did he kill the pilot to keep everyone here? I don’t think we ever got a good explanation for what Radzinsky was doing in the Hatch and why he drew that neon map. I was going back over my notes for the show spanning the entire series the last few days and a lot of questions have been answered and satisfyingly but a lot of them are still dangling such as the whole thing surrounding Horace’s cabin that Jacob used. How did Ben know of it? What was with the spectre looking like an old man and saying “Help me”? When did Smokey commandeer it from Jacob? We also saw Ben try to summon the monster by emptying water in a drain–what was that all about–who told Ben this was a way to summon him? Will Charlotte’s remark of knowing more of Ancient Carthage than Hannibal himself go anywhere? Why does the exit point lead to Tunisia? What was all that weird shit with Bea and Walt in season 2? Was he a candidate? Who built all that stuff like the statue? What about th glyphs on the Hatch timer? What about “He Who shall protect us all?

Now maybe I’m forgetting something or missing something because there is just sooooooo much information to remember and sooooo much series to go back over to try to make sense of it all but my brain is giving me the same The X-Files warning that is telling me that a lot of this isn’t gelling so don’t even try and expend energy doing so–that a lot of stuff very well might end up being nothing more than contrived mysteries that the writers might have intended to do something with but in the course of the show changed their minds and there was nothing they can do about and will end up being dead-ends and their only purpose was to pique our curiosity and keep us coming back. I’m thinking back to a lot of season 2, for instance. They have to know if you create a mythology that is going to interest the viewers then don’t dismiss it so easily.

Also why did Jacob let the Six leave in season four if he wanted them back on the island? He could have stopped them–did he need Jack have his breakdown so he’d come back to the island with an attitude more receptive to being the protector?

When Widmore ominously hinted at the coming War I expected that would drive this season and be the epic vehicle to frame the season but looking back it was rather lacking in scope. I expected it to be literally a final battle between good and evil. Even moreso with the way Smokey was built up by Ilana and the early parts of this season as Evil Incarnate. “Dead is Dead” giving a glimpse of the glyph suggested this as well. So I have to say the idea of making Jacob and Smokey humans and not the first creations or even God or the devil are a little disappointing. Even Smokey as the season progressed became less malevolent despite what the writers suggested with the whole episode last week.

I also expected Eloise and Widmore to have a more prominent role this season too.

I’m saying I think season 6 could have been better and part of it has to do with the fact that instead of the drawn out storyline we got we could have been treated to another season that pulls together pieces and continued folding things into one another until it all led to the Big Moment 6 years in the making–whatever that is to be.

Unlike seasons 3-5, there wasn’t an urgency to the storyline. S3 rescue was imminent. S4 was how they leave. S5 was about the time travelling and possibly changing history. S6 promised us an epic War–we didn’t get it. Instead we had a lot of recruiting and joining camps and back andforth to hydra island and back and forth to the statue then the temple then to the Otherville then to the old beach. In hindsight it comes off as stalling. Couldn’t they have tightened it up a bit. It felt so mechanical and back to stalling. There was no focus or purpose like in previous seasons. I think better time could have been used to give us more on Widmore or Hanso or Dharma or Jacob’s cabin or something.

S3 gave us Juliet and more of the Others. S4 gave us the freighter folk. S5 gave us Horace, Widmore, Eloise, Ilana, the Dharma folks etc. What did we get this season–Dogen and the Temple Others who had to be the most boring Others ever created so I was glad they were ditched when they were.

I just kept waiting for the show to kick into gear and it still hasn’t. In the past it would take off several episodes from the finale. Look at season 3 or S4 with Shape of Things to Come, Cabin Fever and 3 part finale or S5 exciting build up to the Incident. Here we are at ep 16 and I’m still not jazzed up.

Then they want to talk characters well what did we get in the way of arcs–Sayid is evil then he isn’t then he goes Boom! and according to C/L the purpose of his arc was to say if you tell him is a good person he is a good person WTF, Jin/Sun reunite then die but if you blink you’ll miss it(there is understated and subdued and there is it feeling like a fleeting footnote), what about the Claire/Kate subplot that seemed to be percolating with her wanting to kill Kate it fizzled as far as I can tell or what about why he chose to take Claire(then poor de Ravin had to wear that hideous wig all year), Hurley returned to annoying season two levels, did we need more Dominic Monaghan as Charlie.

And I’m all for pangs of nostalgia but a lot of the namedropping or old faces stopping by for a cameo essentially felt forced and like oh there is the old cave from the first season, oh there are the cages from the six episodes at the start of season 3, oh look crazy Libby or there’s Chang. It didn’t feel organic in my opinion. And something that bugged was even though everyone knew Locke wasn’t Locke they referred to him as Locke even amongst themselves.

Also between the writers enjoying trying all sorts of permutations on character pairings and so many characters on the show–you don’t really get those quality scenes like older shows had where the same characters were written together and given more depth to their scenes week in and week out.

With nBSG you could sorta get away with it since it was not part of every episode and the central focus the way it was on LOST. If you just don’t want to hassel with it then jettison it altogether and be a purely character-driven drama instead of treating it like annoying baggage you have to cart along with you.

Lost does NOT have that luxury however. It has been in the DNA of this series since day one and has pretty much been focus #1 so to not answer all the questions or not to answer them in a satisfying manner will really really hurt the show. The better part of the last 4 years of LOST has been Plot, Story, Mythology. The characters were there just to move the plot along, provide exposition, react and be action figures. Character moments were sprinkled in but it was mostly all plot with very little time for character stuff except for a bit of lipservice.

Now that I got that extremely long preface out of the way back to “Across the Sea”. I won’t have a final verdict on this episode until the end credits roll on the series finale. Right now it just sorta hangs there as I wait to see how these pieces will tie into the final three episodes or into other parts of the show. Right now I’m ambivalent about a lot of it and if the pattern holds from my experience with LOST it won’t so much be how I feel about this particular episode or how these individual pieces look in a vacuum but how the way they contribute to the Big Picture i.e. how those individual pieces play into all sorts of other pre-existing threads.

Really up until then the series is a work in progress–constantly in a state of fluctuation never fully set in stone as this massive Puzzle reorients and shifts in various spots as new segments are moved into place and new information is revealed and context is given to pieces that at one time had existed in an isolated vacuum.

This series has had such an expansive cast of characters that it has always spread the screentime around. MIB and Jacob are important characters and deserved their showcase. LOST started the tradition which has been used on Heroes or even Desperate HOusewives of always sprinkled clues and building up the mysteries of the year throughout the season always waiting just right before the final stretch of the season to pull it altogether in a big mythology episode before launching into the resolution for the year. This was not different this year.

I had to watch this twice since after the first viewing I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Once again, I have to say good but just good isn’t good enough for what I’ve come to expect out of LOST. It is an Above Average episode definitely but like most of this season I can’t help but feel that it should be so much more.

This was the Last Great Tease for the series–taking us almost all the way there but pulling back and withholding the few remaining questions for presumably the big series finale.

We got some gaps filled in and questions answered giving us a better understanding of the Jacob/Man in Black relationship.
We learned the significance of the backgammon game, the stones found in the pouch in the cave, who built the wheel from the season four finale, learned why he needed Ben to kill Jacob, got a tad bit better idea of how he became a smoke monster(I’ll reserve judgment on how I feel about this until the series ends but for now I’m leaning towards not being too impressed by how it occurred), that we still haven’t gotten to the top of the food chain in terms of the force guiding all this since this episode showed Jacob and Smokey were pawns themselves(guess we’ll meet the Force hopefully over the next 3 episodes unless the island/Source itself is it and not the original inhabitants), who dug the wells which nicely shines new light on how Smokey knew so much about them to tell Desmond a few episodes back, learned where the term Others came from, learned who Adam and Eve(did like the show used old scenes to refresh the audience’s memories of that scene from season one with Jack/Kate/Locke in the cave) were–again not a knock your socks off revelation worth waiting 6 years for but it provided a nicely poignant moment but Jacob has to realize at a later date that his brother’s soul is the smoke monster–this could suggest that what Locke saw all the way back in season one was the Light Source entrance since he described it as the most beautiful thing he ever saw which doesn’t seem to apply to Smokey.

The Light Source–hmmm–what do I have to say about that. I know the writers were going for a wondrous spectacle but it didn’t quite get there for me. And I hope it doesn’t turn out the secret of the island and why everyone is sacrificing everything including loved ones is because of some feel good spiritual mumbo jumbo about it being the source of all goodness in creation. I don’t think I’d be crazy about that.

The episode seemed not to go out of its way to provide Big Shocking “Wow-worthy” revelations–it mainly felt like it was there to answer questions we had but in very low-key mundane ways–which isn’t a necessary criticism–so that’s why I wanted to watch it a second time through that lens without expecting which used to be standard for LOST more satisfying neat revelations. So then you are left with a character story. Does it work? Answer–reasonably well but nothing groundbreaking.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by Allison Janney. We didn’t really learn much about Jacob & Smokey’s people. I did enjoy the scene where we learn about how the wheel came to be but I’m curious about how he knew all that. I liked the way the reveal of wheel was executed with the beam of brilliant light falling on it when MIB removed the rock. An interesting note–back in the season four finale–it was so cold down there where the wheel was Ben put on an arctic coat before descending yet tonite in the flashback it looked warm with no ice and MIB had on a sleeveless shirt–I wonder what caused the freeze.

The way Jacob became the Protector and immortal was a bit bargain basement with something more dreaded than technobabble–magicbabble but maybe they’ll be more to it–we’ll see.

I think the monster is his brother. It is his soul. The body he placed beside Mother[TM] was just the empty vessel that was discarded. All season they’ve talked about balancing the good with evil within an individual going back to Sayid and Claire(although much hasn’t been done with it), the scales in the rock face room etc so maybe whatever happened to him in the light revealed his darkness in his soul literally perhaps. Also the more I think about everything Smokey is doing to get off the island comes back to his “Mother” telling him there isn’t anything out there and he wants to show her! That is a pretty thin bit of motivation to explain his actions.

I guess Jack will become the New Jacob and the remaining survivors will become ironically the new Others who will help him protect the island since almost all the Others were killed off by Smokey.

Don’t give up yet!

This is what I’m hoping for however I thought the very same thing about nBSG’s mythology. That I would give them the benefit of the doubt and maybe they as the writers knew better than me and I thought there that perhaps what seemed like a myriad of disjointed threads that couldn’t possibly be resolved in a handful of episodes would be nicely unified with a KEY missing piece of the puzzle that we just didn’t have yet–that didn’t happen.

That is why I’m a little guarded and concerned the same thing could happen here–that the writers just might get burnt out having been as productive as they had been in seasons 3-5 and then to say heck with it–we’ve answered what we have and maybe the fans will be as exhausted as we have become and just will go along with it–they just don’t have the fight in them let to complain too loudly. Can a few outstanding unknown pieces satisfactorily pull it all together? I mean the writers have demonstrated that they can do it–just look at seasons 3,4 and 5. However if history has taught us anything is that the same writers that can produce brilliant hours of television can also lose it i.e. Heroes.

If you look at seasons 3-5 there is no way to not look at those and see some kind of thought-out planning taking place. The way they pulled together numerous players and threads that had only been briefly mentioned or clues briefly sprinkled throughout into a very cohesive tapestry just couldn’t have been sloppily pasted together. It all merged wonderfully i.e. Eloise & Widmore being Others, the survivors & being part of Dharma, the airstrip and 316, Jacob & the statue, Chang & Miles, Jughead and the Incident and the survivors unknowingly role in bringing it about, Eloise & Widmore being Dan’s parents, the wells and EM fields, the Orchid & Hatch being last two constructed stations, John’s encounter with Richard in 54 planting the seed Locke was special and setting in motion the events, Richard/Black Rock/the statue, the who/what of Christian/who what of Alex in “Dead is Dead” all folding into what is Smokey etc all just didn’t serendipitously come together.

No, the problem is this season wasted precious episodes with a straightforward season of running around the island instead of developing all the wonderful set-up of season five and squandering it. I had no idea going into the final season exactly what to expect and tried to have not fostered any scenarios of how things would play out but I do know that this season has been lacking.

It has been aimless and in stalling modality. And in any other series that wasn’t LOST focusing on saying good-bye to the characters would be the right thing but with a series like LOST that has really trumpeted the PLOT/Mythology as the primary focus I think it was a miscalculation to decide after the the last 2.75 seasons of giving us a whirlwind of events that they now decide to slow it down and play up the character drama and worse yet do so mainly via the Alternate Characters which I really could care less about. The only one whose flashes have been semi-effective was Jack’s. Kate on the run was a bore, Claire baby woes were a snore, killer Sayid tired, the cameos by bit players over the years did nothing for me I could care less about Sawyer with Charlotte or Eloise throwing a bash or Desmond chasing Charlie around in a night gown etc.

And some of the creative decisions have been questionable however I’ll wait for the final 3 episodes. Afterall nBSG had a less successful final season but still managed to pull out a really great series finale.

3 episodes from the end and I’m starting to worry whether the writers are going to pull it off. I’ll reserve judgment until then but this season the payoffs were not nearly as satisfying as previous years.

However, I told myself I’d reserve judgment on the series until I had a chance over the summer to rewatch it all armed with all the wealth of information supplied in the intervening years and judge it then.

I think the series is composed of so many elements that it will turn out having an assortment of various plusses and minusses never being all bad or all good–afterall this was never a simple series so why should its evaluation be simple. I mean if you had the time and inclination you could spend years to come analyzing it–heck I’ve felt I have already spent waaaaaaaaay too much time pondering it which would make not having definitive answers to all the questions a bit aggravating.

A lot of times I’ve felt the characters were as much chess pieces to the writers as they were to the island–mainly there to provide exposition, be action figures, react, facilitate information to the audience since in a lot of cases the audience was the only ones to learn something and the other characters never found out about etc. The characters are likeable enough but there are just too many of them and too little screentime with the numerous plot threads and need to constantly advance them that there was never really a chance to connect with them in the way you would on a more traditional drama with a more modest ensemble of characters where scenes wouldn’t be rushed and a lot of reactions wouldn’t be offscreen that viewers would have to supply. I mean take last season you got a slice of life for Juliet/Sawyer to get a general idea of their relationship but at the end of the day it was there enough on screen to really connect in a major way–same thing with Sun/Jin’s deaths last week. It was a footnote in the episode. Blink and you would have missed it–no time for emotional fallout just a tip of the hat to it.

But I’ll say this as much as I’ve enjoyed the series it has been exhauting as a viewer and has made me work at it in a way no other series ever has. I won’t complain if tv shows in the future, at least for now, aren’t so ambitious.

James
Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 1:09 pm (UTC -6)

OMG David! a testament xD

James
Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 1:26 pm (UTC -6)

To me was dissapointing in all aspect, I mean, the performances were ok, the story was ok too, but we are seeing LOST, so we hope something more elaborate, a plot answer that really satisfy us, but what we got? a magical explanation… wait what?… I´m seeing the same series with an original, mysterious and sometimes creepy plot, about Dharma, the others, electromagnetism, a killer black smoke entity that use the images of the island´s dead people to reach his secret purpose? I really felt that I was seeing a Disney movie when the light cave´s scene came, not kidding, now as other said, the writers don´t have to explain anything because the “magical” issue was bring to the carpet…. everything strange that we saw can be by “magic” nothing else, because island is special thank to a “magic light”

And about all good vs evil thing, is very generic, not expected theme to lost, where everything doesn´t look simple, but oh well I was accepting it when all this magic/sparklin/fantasy/glowing/all powerful light appears

A shame, but I have to admit, I´ll see the end because is LOST and I´m hopping in the last two episodes that all this mess can improve in some level.

JP
Sunday, May 30, 2010, 7:38 pm (UTC -6)

I wish the show hadn’t devolved so heavily into the supernatural. You could have done the mysteries on the island without having to delve into fantasy. I’d love to see a version of this show played straight. They did so much right but the fantasy always knocked me out of the show.

JP
Sunday, May 30, 2010, 7:41 pm (UTC -6)

I should say that was the same problem I had with nuBSG (which i loved the hell out of, to a point).

Sarah M
Monday, April 20, 2015, 3:05 pm (UTC -6)

I’d somehow missed that you did a handful of “Lost” reviews in its last season. Jammer, if you ever write again, YOU HAVE TO GO BACK

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