Lost Review: Answers, Lies and The Show's Central Message

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Isn't this ironic?

After years of Lost fans craving resolutions to a number of questions, the events that led to Oceanic 815 crashing on the island were, in many ways, tied to what happened centuries ago - when someone withheld important answers from those seeking them.

Whether you loved or hated "Across the Sea," it's hard to not smirk at Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof for creating a show that is such a reflection of its viewers.

You want answers, Allison Janney's spiritual, unbalanced, selfish (more on that below) fake mother essentially told us? That's fine. But "every question will simply lead to another question."

This, of course, has been the chief complaint fans have had about Lost from the outset. I don't believe the creators are just being cute; I believe this is the central message of the show:

There is a higher power at work. But it's impossible to know everything about it. So don't ask. Don't worry about it. Just have faith, live in the present and love your neighbor. That's all that matters in the end.

I like that message. I believe that message. It fits into the show's themes of religion and redemption, of living together and dying alone. But I don't like the way the message has been delivered; or, getting to this week's episode specifically: I don't like the messenger.

A Fake Family

More than any episode to date, "Across the Sea" heaped information on us. But its main source of that information was a character we just met.

Before the opening credits even rolled, we were treated to a speech about the magical island water and the need to protect it from mankind. Pretty heavy, huge, mythology-oozing stuff - and it all came from a woman we didn't even know existed until five minutes beforehand.

Does it speak to Lost's layered genius that it can introduce a new character that fits into its backstory and sheds new light on established individuals and events, with just three episodes remaining? Absolutely. But it's also frustrating in a way.

After almost six seasons of wondering what's going on, Allison Janney shows up, sits down and just explains it all in 90 seconds? I use the actress' name because the show never revealed the character's name - and because, as a West Wing fan, I was distracted by this casting decision. Janney may be one of the finest performers in TV history... but during this key Lost moment, all I could think about was how C.J. Cregg was probably needed at the White House for a press briefing.

Having this character reveal such a wealth of information, with so little time remaining until the finale, also caused me to wonder: What does she actually know and how does she know it?

Fake Locke was apparently telling the truth: he was raised by a crazy woman. And now this crazy woman isn't just our main source of knowledge regarding the island; she's also the main source of knowledge for her fake children.

Did she tell them the whole truth about the water and the light and the inherent evil of man? Did she actually believe that nothing exists "across the sea" because she was told the same thing by the previous island protector, or was that a lie to quell her son's curiosity? Did she raise her twins in order for one to take over her job and the other to kill her?

It certainly seemed that way when she thanked MIB for the latter act, which means this lady is everything MIB described the people he lived with as: selfish, untrustworthy and manipulative.

She was everything bad about man, yet she was supposedly the one charged with protecting the source of man's goodness? What are we to make of that?

What are we to make of Jacob? He's the only person in this little family that doesn't believe men "come, fight, destroy and corrupt." He embodies all we'd want someone in his position to embody, but his beliefs are seemingly based on utter ignorance. Why does he have such faith in humanity? Will we ever find out?

I appreciate this faith, but Jacob has lost a bit of mystique for me now. This isn't some island deity, not in the sense Lost had led us to believe. He's just a guy who was raised by a crappy parent, the same as many of the castaways.

Adam and Eve

This is both a cool and a troubling twist, depending on what you want out of the show. It's cool because the revelations about Jacob and MIB ground them as wounded human beings. Cuse and Lindelof have always said Lost is a show about characters, not answers, and the stories of these suffering individuals is what has always kept my attention and interest.

But if the series truly wanted viewers to focus on the redemptive arcs of its characters, it should have revealed more mythology at an earlier date. The longer questions about the nature and history of the island persisted, the more fans fixated on resolutions to these issues.

After taking so many guesses about the identity of Adam and Eve, for example, will people be happy or annoyed to learn that they are two characters no one even knew existed a year ago at this time?

The theme I took out of this hour is that nobody actually knows anything. Ben and The Others were also initially presented as omniscient, powerful beings; same for Richard. Jacob and MIB might not even have the answers we seek, as the source of their information wasn't all that reliable.

The show has broken down all these characters and left them searching for the same answers as Jack, Sawyer and company. Clearly, there is a connection here: all search for a truth that doesn't exist, or at least can't be proven... and the result can either be bitter selfishness or the kind of enlightenment modern-day Jacob has somehow found.

In every flash sideways of season six, characters have looked in a mirror and typically been confused or unhappy with what they've seen. Because viewers themselves will likely be left in the same position as the castaways (i.e. confused, focused on the past) when Lost comes to an end, we'll be the ones having to study ourselves and decide: Are we satisfied with how this show concluded? Will we keep striving for answers that will never come - or will be take comfort in the journey that got us here?

A few notes, questions and observations before I turn this analysis over to readers:

  • The rules between the brothers were established by their pretend mother. Are these the same rules Ben and Widmore have referenced? If so, how did killing Alex on season four "change" them, and how do Ben and Widmore fit into all this?
  • Desmond, who seemingly holds the key between the island world and the sideways world, has often been referred to as "special." And how does he refer to everyone else? As "BROTHER."
  • Has it been made clear just why MIB leaving the island is such a dangerous proposition? The magic cave separated his soul from his body, but did he also somehow absorb all the powers of the water? And if he takes that off the island, the world loses all its goodness? But MIB's fake mother made it impossible for him or Jacob to leave the island, long before the former was tossed into the glow. I need some help on this one.
  • The island itself is its own, powerful entity. It can create ghosts such as Claudia and it can punish actions such as the killing of a mother, by preventing child birth ever again on its grounds. But to what end? Does the island have its own purpose?
  • No wonder Jacob is all about free will. He was given his job of protector without being given a choice. He clearly wants his replacement to understand and desire that role.

There's more than ever to digest, so let the opinions and debate flow. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (128 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Has anyone thought to look at a psychoanalytic answer? The rules obviously symbolizes the Big Other, the symbolic order, the name of the father and the law bringer.... I'm guessing the smoke monster represents the superego which along with the law bringer attempts to arrest desire. Watch David Lynch's Lost Highway, it is basically everything Lost is with a better ending!

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Has anyone given any thought to who actually builds the "Big Wheel" that MIB was going to contruct? I mean, Mother stopped him and filled in the hole and killed everyone. That leaves only Jacob, right? I think everyone has overlooked this 'little' detail.

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it was ass

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So we got the back story of the the twins but not much else. That is what I am hoping is revealed in the last 3.5 hours. When and or where did all this start? Does anyone know? What game are they playing and what are the rules? I hope the opening of the series fainally starts something like "In the beginning...." Or it will just end on an uncertain point and then come the books, comics, movies, merch, etc. I am leaning more towards a movie. The tagline being "What happened? Find out and All the secrets will be revealed"

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my comment...the woman was intentionally helping the mother during the birth of Jacob, but it was when the second baby was born, and the mother said "I have no name for him" that the woman's face changed and she suddenly decided to kill the mother and claim the boys. As if by not having a name for the second child, it was an unclaimed "gift" from the gods to be used as her replacement. As someone else pointed out, it was the second child that was special, could see dead people, and was much more interested in the cave that his brother, Jacob. Also the woman herself...was she also a smoke monster? How did she burn an entire village and fill a well unless she herself had powers. My bet is that she herself had gone through the "Cave of Wonders" and that's what made her an immortal pillar of smoke and fire. This is also why she said Thank you when her son killed her. It was the only way she could be released. And an aside...remember when Locke was walking with Sayid through the jungle and they saw a young blond boy (now we know it was Jacob's young ghost) Locke told Sayid to ignore him, he's not important. I was disappointed with the episode at first, but after seeing again and catching some of the details, I liked it better. I still hope they tie up more loose ends, but I don't know how they're going to do that in 3.5 hours.

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M.L. House: Sorry to call you on this, but didn't you say that "this is the central message of the show" in relation to just having faith and not worrying. Now, you seem to be backtracking on that statement. What gives?

Matt-richenthal

@Samuel Simon: Since when is "faith" purely a religious concept? I also did not say the message I posted summed up Lost's six-year journey. This journey is all about the characters, not about something that can be summed up by one episodes. For those strictly focused on answers, however, yes the message is to "not worry and be happy," as you put it. Don't focus on every specific detail. Enjoy the entire picture.

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I still think "Ab Eterno" from season 6 (the one about Richard's story) is the most significant episode so far. If you want to talk philosphical points,human nature, anthropology, which the show is HUGE on, that one is pretty beefy. If someone asked me what the show was about, I'd show them that one

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No one is ever happy about how a show ends. The Sopranos is a perfect example. Everybody thinks they are better writers than the pros. I feel bad for the creators of Lost. No matter how they end the show people will be unhappy. If you bloggers are so smart, create your own show.

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I'm glad MC is posting positive comments. I can't believe how many people asks for answers equivalent to "how does a jump drive work" in a sci-fi show. Ridiculous. Last night's episode was epic. Can't wait for the final two.