Lost, Season 6, Episode 9: Ab Aeterno

By March 24th, 2010 5 Comments

Like an idiot, I fell, once again, for the only thing on Lost more deceitful than Ben Linus — the “Next Time On Lost” advertisement. A Richard episode teased with him saying that he knows what the island really is. I can’t believe I thought the episode was going to be about how Richard knows what the island really is.

Ilana tells the castaways that Richard knows what to do next, but Richard, upset that Jacob is dead and his life has no meaning, storms off, claiming they are dead and this is hell. The episode unfolds as a massive flashback, showing how hundreds of years ago Richard, looking for medicine for his wife, accidentally killed a man, and ended up on death row where he was purchased as a slave; the ship crashes on the island where the Man in Black and Jacob manipulate him, each claiming the other is trouble. The Man in Black promises Richard he can have his wife back if he kills Jacob; Jacob explains the Man in Back cannot be allowed to escape and gives Richard eternal life. Back in the present Hurley, telling Richard what his wife is saying, helps Richard to return to Team Jacob to prevent the Man in Black from bringing hell to earth.

One of the things I have always liked about Lost is how you never know what kind of story you are going to get: How to find food on the island, crazy time travel science fiction with Desmond and Faraday, temple fantasy with Kung Fu Guy and a Spa of Life, three dudes fixing a truck, Alfred Hitchcock Presents with Nikki and Paolo. Tonight was a period piece Telenovella mostly in Spanish, and you have to admire the audacity of how straight the first act of the story was played: Melodrama, Spanish, an accidental murder, a man on death row pleading for forgiveness, and not an island plot point in sight. (When a commercial for Windows 7 came on, the one in French with subtitles, it really started to feel like I was reading a book).

But a lot of tonight’s episode felt like filler, and I think it would have even if I had not been lead to expect more with such a juicy focus at the halfway point in season 6. A lot of it had been implied before to great effect, like how Richard came to the island as a slave in the Black Rock. Some of it we had already been told, like Jacob making Richard eternal. And some of it did not really add much, like Richard’s accidental murder of a doctor to save his wife. The story of a man who wanted to kill himself but cannot, and who tries to redeem his earlier crime of murder, told with an unusual structure for the show (one massive flashback bookended by two scenes in the present) — I already saw this when Michael did it in season 4. The theory that the island was hell and everyone on it is dead had already been raised by fans AND incorporated (and dismissed) on the show when Locke’s Dad claimed it back in season 3, and when Naomi told Hurley that the rest of the world found flight 815 and everyone was dead.

What was good was Jacob’s metaphor of the island as the cork keeping the evil (the Man in Black) in the bottle, preventing it from getting out and brining hell to earth. This raises the stakes of the show considerably, something I was looking for. I had wondered why we get a Richard story before a Sun and Jin Flash-Sideways — perhaps it is because the Alt U, where the island sunk, will give us a chance to see what happens if it is no longer holding the Man in Black back.

I also liked the little bit where the slave ship was run by Captain Hanzo. The guy that bought Richard was named Whitfield (thanks to Sara for looking this up) — a name that might someday morph into Widmore? (Or is this over-reading? It was more interesting to me when I thought the name was “Widfield”)

I have to end with something that both my wife and my friend Kevin Maher pounced on, something pretty genius. Kevin wrote me this:

“I don’t know my Bible or Greek mythology, but I do recognize a Chuck Jones cartoon reference when I see it. Tonight’s last scene in LOST may very well be an homage to “A Sheep in the Deep” and other cartoons starring Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Coyote.”

[The five second sound bite]

[a whole episode on youtube — go to the 5:50 mark to see the final exchange that feels like the end of this episode of Lost.]

Kevin continues: “On the surface it’s a joke that these two are mortal enemies, but they are civil co-workers before and after work. (The same way a Prosecutor and Defense Attorney might share a drink at the end of a day.) But on a “deeper” level, the sheepdog is the protector (Jacob) and the coyote is a menace (Man in Black).”

Like I said above, You never know what you are going to get on Lost. At the bare minimum it is going to make the final episode pretty exciting, cause there is no way to know what it will be about.

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5 Comments On "Lost, Season 6, Episode 9: Ab Aeterno"

  1. Marcin

    Honestly, i’m impressed they managed to do a 40 minute episode dedicated to Richard and not answer a single question. That’s art right there.


  2. David Hopkins

    Ditto Marcin.

    Throughout the seasons: This Desmond guy lived in the hatch, he must know all the answers. Once we get a Desmond flashback, we’ll know everything. Oh wait. Desmond knows nothing. Benjamin Linus knows everything about the island, right? Once we get his flashback, we’ll have answers. Nope. Benjamin doesn’t know anything either. Rousseau! Where’s our Rousseau flashback? She’ll know — wait, no, she’s crazy and clueless. Well, Richard has been there the longest. He will definitely know what’s going on. And… no, he’s in the dark too.

    Jacob. We need a Jacob flashback for the season finale. Yes?

    Yeah, I picked up on the sheepdog and coyote reference.


    • Marcin

      Jacob’s probably in the dark too the way this is going. The only fella with any real answers was Faraday.

      I’ve come to terms with my suspicion that most of our questions will never be answered. We’re half way through the last season and what’ve we got? The “numbers” represent the remaining candidates. and, well… that’s about it. We are, however, getting lots of information about things we’re not necessarily curious about (the conflict between MiB & Jacob), which makes the entire first half of the season feel like filler to me.

      The fusion of the two universes is looking less and less likely to happen. The main characters on the island will probably end up sacrificing their lives for the benefit of their “happy” selves in Universe B. There are of course the well established concepts of “Whatever happens happened” and “course correction” which might play a role in an immensely frustrating final twist the last two minutes of the show. This wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.


  3. Shannon

    OK this was a big disappointment. Way back at the beginning everybody said “They’re all dead, this is purgatory.” Apparently they ARE all dead. Except I’m hoping it isn’t as mundane as that…can you trust (believe) the people who say they’re dead? What this whole thing is about, I’m thinking is this: “Locke fell into a swoon; the garden died. God took a spinning jenny out of his side.” I think its the contest between Belief (Locke continually saying he was) and Science (Jack, Ben is a doctor, Juliet was, all the Dharma people were. Sawyer is a class A cynic, which is close to a skeptic/non believer). And I think at the end it will be a stalemate, as it is now in real life. Just reading that while we live in the age of science, about 80% of people believe in the afterlife.


  4. Shannon

    oops. missed a couple of words. Meant to say that Locke was continually saying he was a BELIEVER.


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