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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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I thought it was just shy of awful, and for all the same reasons you didn't like it. Lost's producers and writers have been, for five and a half seasons now, setting up a worldview that seems (on some level at least) to be basically Judeo-Christian in terms of good v. evil, who and what Jacob is, etc. In this episode, though, the worldview seems to be way more random than that - and more in line with epistemological nihilism, the view that knowledge and ultimate meaning are not possible. The characters who are supposed to at least be clues to all the answers, Jacob and MiB - we find out that they don't really know any more than we do, at least not by the end of last night's episode. Completely unsatisfying. And, yes, it is possible that "unsatisfying" is the goal of the producers and writers. If that's the case, it makes it even worse.

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This show left me with even more questions! I think what you said about "nobody actually knows anything" is proven true in this episode and this is frustrating. If Jacob and MIB cannot supposedly leave the island, why was Jacob able to leave the island seemingly at will to interact with the Losties? And is it just me or did Jacob come off as a wimp in this episode? MIB, before he "died", seemed more likable ... he was portrayed as curious and more independent. Also, who killed all the people in MIB's camp? It seems we are to assume Allison Janney did that, but is one woman capable of killing all those people alone? Or is there another presence on the island that predates her character? And where did she come from anyway? Don't think those questions will be answered and perhaps we won't see the personality transformation that Jacob obviously undergoes after the events in this episode. Will we ever find out why Hurley sees dead people and no one else seems to? Grrr......

Lost Season 6 Episode 14 Quotes

Every question I answer will simply lead to another question.

Mother

MIB: So, do you want to play or don't you, Jacob?
Jacob: Yes. I want to play.