Holy Episode, Lostfan! "Ab Aeterno" was an episode wrought with religious themes, from the physical – Isabella’s cross – to the spiritual – Richard’s search for absolution – to the hot, hot, hot – is the island Hell itself?
Ab Aeterno translates into “since the beginning of time”, and the episode went as far back as the show has gone – all the way to the mid-1800s – to give us a deeper look into the purpose of the island, Richard’s past, and the twisted relationship between Jacob and the Man in Black.
Even though the episode seemed to focus on Richard, his back-story really served as a means to reveal more about the two island powers, Jacob and the Man in Black. But that makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t Richard feeling more than a little bit used by Jacob now? If his character is being used by the island’s possible white knight, why shouldn’t his episode be, too?
Poor Richard Ricardo Ricardus. All he wants is absolution for a death he brought about by accident, and with the noblest intentions. But he receives his last rites from a crooked priest and is led to believe that he needs time to be forgiven, time that he does not have.
So he leaps at the opportunity to extend his life and winds up sold as a slave. Once on the island, his quest for his beloved and his absolution makes him an easy target for both the Man in Black, who promises him his wife back, and Jacob, who can grant him everlasting life to ward off damnation.
In the past, he is pulled back and forth between these two entities, both using him for their own personal gain, all while struggling with the death of his wife. In the present, Richard is a man lost, someone who has lived far longer than any of us can dream and yet has finally been driven mad by the desire to die. This range of emotions made for an excellent performance by Nestor Carbonell, who had us captivated from his first manic laugh to his touching reunion with Isabella’s spirit.
However, the performance of the episode belonged to Titus Welliver, who made his return as the Man in Black. Welliver was able to deliver some truly loaded lines, and his re-reading of the same instructions Dagon gave Sayid on how to kill DeathLocke was incredible.
We got chills when, after freeing Ricardo from slavery, the MIB said, “It’s good to see you out of those chains,” repeating the line DeathLocke greeted Richard with earlier this season. Welliver delivered a performance of calm, controlled rage, the coolest possible devil on the island. Between Welliver and Terry O’Quinn, is there any TV character in history who has had two better performers play him than the Man in Black?
Some questions remain:Richard was sold to Captain Magnus Hanso. Hanso’s ship, the Black Rock, shipwrecked on the island, and despite what the Hanso name will later mean to the island, it did not appear to purposely be heading there. Was Captain Hanso on the ship? Did he die? How do his descendants learn about the island for themselves?
We learned what Jacob and the Man in Black wanted Richard to know. But who knows what’s truth and what’s fiction? The Man in Black called Jacob the devil and told Richard he was in hell. Jacob denied this and proved to Richard that he was alive. So are they in hell? Is one of the two entities the actual devil? Or was the Man in Black just preying on Richard’s fear of damnation?
Jacob can grant immortality, but he cannot bring back the dead Isabella and he cannot grant Richard absolution. Isn’t it odd that the only gift Jacob can bestow is the same one that benefits him the most? On the other hand, the Man in Black promises Richard that he will reunite him with his wife, but are we sure he would keep his end of the bargain?
Jacob told Richard that he brings people to the island to prove to the Man in Black that people can be good, whereas the Man in Black believes all people are corruptible. But is Jacob really trying to prove something to his nemesis, or is he just looking for the right candidate to take his place and finally grant him his own freedom? We have seen Jacob do things that seem to be self-serving, and his actions with Richard only furthered that notion. It seems like the Man in Black may not be the only one who wanted off the island.
Eric Hochberger is the programmer of TV Fanatic, so please forgive his mediocre writing. His programming is far better. Follow him on Twitter and/or email him. Just don't request threaded comments. They're coming.