"Two sides. One is light, one is dark." And yet, at the climax of tonight's episode, the darkness came roaring out of the light.
I've always doubted that the Man in Black and Jacob were meant to symbolize the extreme ends of good and evil, no matter how deplorable the Man in Black's actions may have been in last week's "The Candidate". Last night, we had proof that both of the island's mythological figures are not bound by the dichotomies of good vs. evil, faith vs. science, or free will vs. destiny. Just like the main characters who've inhabited the island these past six seasons, Jacob and the Man in Black are each individually capable of taking leaps of faith, experimenting with science, serving good, succumbing to evil, accepting destiny and fighting for free will.
Judging by the episode poll and the comments, I've gathered that "Across the Sea" wasn't super well-received. Too many unanswered questions, right? I'm somewhat sympathetic to this view, and I'm not sure this episode was exactly what I wanted from a Jacob/MIB-centric. Still, much of what we learned was useful and exciting (the origins of the Wheel, the Smoke Monster, and Adam and Eve, particularly).
Let's get to it, shall we?
"Across the Sea"'s pregnant woman is a shipwrecked Latin-speaker named Claudia. We don't learn very much about her, but there's plenty to infer based on her name and appearance. "Claudia" is the female version of the name "Claudius", which is a Roman name. The Romans do indeed speak Latin. I believe her clothes are roughly Roman-style as well, all but confirming Claudia as someone from the time of the Roman civilization.
The Roman civilization existed from about 500 BC to 500 AD, a period of 1,ooo years (the first half of which is known as the Roman Republic and the second half as the Roman Empire). This is obviously a rather large window for the events of "Across the Sea" to have taken place. The reign of Roman Emperor Claudius, however, was briefer: 41 AD to 54 AD. Since the mother-to-be seems to be named after this emperor, this could be taken as a clue to the exact timeframe.
A good question is this: Are Claudia and her people the first to visit the island? Since they seem to be Romans, I doubt that they are responsible for building the Statue of Tawaret or carving the hieroglyphics, which are Egyptian in origin. If that statue and hieroglyphics were there before Claudia, then there must have been people visiting the island before them. Keep in mind, though, that the Egyptians are still around during the time of the Romans. A group of Egyptians could have landed on the island sometime after Claudia's group and built the statue and hieroglyphics.
I also wonder if Claudia's nationality tells us anything about the location of the island. We don't know the reason for her voyage, but her crash-landing on the island would seem to place the island in the Mediterranean Sea during that time. Was the island always moving, even then, or was the Mediterranean Sea its original location, only moving sometime after the Man in Black installs the Wheel?
Before I move on, some other possibly relevant facts about Emperor Claudius: he was the first Roman Emperor born outside of Rome. Being an outsider and being born away from one's home were certainly important themes for Claudia's twins. Emperor Claudius was also responsible for annexing a certain special island to his empire - Britain.
(Yeah, I'm a History minor, but my area of study is Medieval and Early Modern European History, not Ancient Civilizations. Thanks to Wikipedia for the refresher.)
It's interesting that this Mother - who raises the twins as her own - never gives Jacob's brother a name. I don't think it was out of respect for Claudia. All I could come up with is that Mother can't name him. Names have such significance, after all, for both us as the viewers and for those characters. Maybe anyone other than the birth mother supplying the name goes against the Rules. I found it interesting to recall that Claire didn't give Aaron a name until several days after he was born, and it wasn't until he was stolen from her (by another crazy baby-stealing mom, Ms. Danielle Rousseau). Is this Mother the one who was supposed to raise the twins? Or did she supplant the rightful raiser, Claudia, like Kate did to Claire? Suddenly, it seems highly possible that Aaron could be important again.
Thirteen-year-old Jacob, as it turns out, is indeed the same person as the child who had appeared to Flocke several times this season. What's not clear is why Jacob can appear as both his child-aged self and his adult self (to Hurley) in 2007, despite being dead. Also, why does child-aged Jacob seem so wise and knowledgeable about the rules in 2007, when he's certainly the duller of the two brothers in 50 AD, or whenever?
The Boy in Black is the more intelligent, crafty, enterprising, and curious of the two. From the beginning, he puts less trust in Mother, worrying that she'll take away the board game he finds in the sand. The game, by the way, is called Senet, and comes from ancient Egypt, maybe as far back as 3000 BC, and was often buried in tombs with the dead as its luck element was believed to demonstrate that certain people were protected by the gods. The game board that BIB finds could signal that the Egyptians came to the island well before Claudia's people, or that a group of Egyptians crashed there during the twins' childhoods.
Jacob is a total Momma's Boy, and can't lie to Mother. He's more loyal to her and eventually chooses to stay with her, despite realizing what she'd done. He's also vastly less-inclined to question the situation, whereas BIB wants to know what's across the sea, where Mother comes from, what it means to die, etc. Mother, for her part, is a big liar, telling BIB that there's absolutely nothing across the sea, and that the boys will never die or be able to hurt each other, echoing the Rules that we've come to be aware of.
BIB meets the ghost of his real mother, Claudia, who informs him that the other people on the island are survivors of the shipwreck that brought her to the island. Armed with the knowledge that Mother murdered his real mother, BIB abandons her and goes to live with the Romans, attempting to bring Jacob along with him. Here, BIB demonstrates that he can do good - he wants to protect his brother and rescue him from their crazy Mother. But Jacob is too loyal and faithful to leave Mother, and stays by her side.
Thirty years later, the Man in Black has learned much from Claudia's people, and together, they've developed some impressive technology and dug wells into pockets of special energy. His time with Claudia's people hasn't endeared them to him, however - he reveals that, like Mother, he has taken a negative view toward humanity and considers them to be vile, corruptible, and untrustworthy. Jacob, on the other hand, is always looking for the good in people, but doesn't seem to get out much. He passes the time doing chores for Mother and it's sort of pathetic. I couldn't help thinking, so this is the great and powerful all-knowing Jacob?
He even rats out his brother's plan to escape from the island, and Mother goes to investigate. MIB has plans to install a wheel into the wall of energy, allowing him to leave. Mother can't let this happen, so she knocks him out, kills the rest of Claudia's people, destroys their little civilization and even fills in the well. I have no idea how she could have accomplished all this by herself without super powers (and we never saw her possessing any), but she is one crazy mother.
Do you think the wheel that was presumably buried in the well was the Wheel? Obviously, MIB didn't actually get to finish the project. It would seem to me that he simply dug another hole and installed a different wheel during the centuries between then and now.
Jacob's also saddened by the fact that Mother had obviously wanted MIB to be the protector, initially. The candidate you get isn't always the one who looked best on paper, though, as Jacob will one day discover. Just think about John Locke, whose faith, love for the island and jungle survival skills seemed like they would make him the perfect person to become the next protector. But sometimes, the best successor is the most reliable person, not the most intelligent person. In the end, Mother tells Jacob that she's glad it's him.
When she returns to the camp, she finds it torn apart by a vengeful MIB, who stabs her through the heart with the same knife, presumably, that he would later give Richard, and much later, Dogen to Sayid. Would MIB's attack have worked had she not passed the wine of leadership onto Jacob? I'm inclined to think not - I don't think she was able to be killed until she had relinquished the post. But she probably calculated that if MIB couldn't hurt her, he would certainly go after Jacob, and not wanting that to happen to her successor, she allowed herself to be killed.
I'm less clear on why she would fight so desperately to keep MIB on the island, though. He's clearly not really evil up until Jacob drifts him into the spring. Why keep him around?
Unfortunately, the MIB soon becomes something that very much shouldn't be loosed upon the world. Jacob beats him to a pulp (so much for not being able to hurt each other), drags him to the spring of light and lets him float, unconscious, into the tunnel. What emerges is the Smoke Monster - its first appearance, chronologically. At a distance, Jacob finds his brother's body and tearfully says goodbye to both him and Mother: Adam and Eve.
Here's my take on what happened: entering the spring caused the light inside MIB (there's some in every person, according to Mother) to go out. When the light goes out inside a person, that person turns into a disembodied cloud of smoke, thus the Smoke Monster. If the monster escapes to the outside world, everyone's light will go out, and all people will turn into Smoke Monsters. This is why stopping MIB is so important now.
This would also shed some light on why Desmond is so important. It should be pretty obvious that the glowing light and the pockets of electromagnetic energy are one in the same. Desmond may be the only person who can enter the spring of light without becoming a Smoke Monster.
For the record, its not entirely clear that the Smoke Monster really is the Man in Black. It could be a separate entity that has just taken on his appearance, like it later would for Christian, Yemi, Locke, etc. Not only does it steal these people's forms, but their personalities as well. I don't really believe this theory, though, since then we would need a separate explanation for the Smoke Monster's origins beyond what we just saw, and there isn't enough of Lost left for that.
After this episode, I'm once again sympathetic to the Man in Black. What Jacob and Mother did to him was really, really horrible. That doesn't mean I'm taking his side in 2007, but Jacob is hardly Mr. Perfect, either. The hints that MIB/Flocke has dropped all season about his origins turned out to be pretty accurate - he did indeed have a "crazy mother who made his life difficult", and "Jacob stole his humanity". No matter whatever else MIB lied about it, he was rather truthful when it came to stuff about himself.
It's very interesting (and admittedly confusing) to watch the roles that Jacob and the Man in Black take upon themselves. The Man in Black is the fussy one from the beginning, crying as soon as he's born, while baby Jacob seems perfectly content. But as they grow up, we learn that the Man in Black can be caring and loving (he does show Mother love, sometimes) while Jacob can be wrathful. Along the same lines, their philosophies seem to change. Mother believes the humans are inherently evil, and her job is to protect the island from them. Jacob believes that humans can be good, but it's also his job to protect the island anyway. MIB believes that people are bad but that the island doesn't need protecting and he'd rather just leave. Again, these are not necessarily people who are polar opposites - there's a lot of grey in there.
Interestingly enough, Mother is the originator of "kill every person who comes to the island". Protecting the island comes first, human beings second. Jacob doesn't exactly object to this, as he will always put the island first, letting anyone else be killed along the way. He seems to be against directly killing people himself, though, hoping that they will choose to serve him. The Man in Black, however, will eventually take Mother's route of killing most everyone who comes to the island as soon as they arrive (the Black Rock crew, the French team). The Others will also fill this role, which is sort of weird, as the Others claim to be Jacob's people. Both the Smoke Monster and the Others go around killing bunches of people, but they are somehow opposed forces? I'm tempted to believe that the Others were unwittingly taking orders from MIB for a very long time. This would seem to be verified by the fact that Ben thought the man in the cabin was Jacob, when it was almost definitely MIB.
While it was good to spend so much time with Jacob, MIB and Mother, I missed our main heroes. Hopefully next week we'll finally learn what Richard, Ben and Miles are up to, the status of Desmond, and whether Frank survived the submarine sinking (like I said last week, I really hope that wasn't his death).
By the way, the title of my recap comes from Dylan Thomas's villanelle, "Do not go gentle into that good night". It's one of my favorite poems - Google it if you're interested.
Until next week,