“It’s coming” has become one of Lost’s many catchphrases. We heard it again at the opening of last night’s episode, “Across the Sea,” but it’s getting harder, after a season’s worth of dawdling, to take it seriously. It may sound like a promise—answers are on their way? Action?—but in fact it’s a taunt: nothing’s coming but more delay and deferral. And if the producers can delay long enough, the season will be over, and they won't have had to answer anything. That seems to be their deepest desire.
Every season of Lost has expanded its scope, and at every step along the way we were eager to know what these new characters knew, thinking they’d finally solve this increasingly impossible puzzle: what I wouldn’t have given in the middle of season three to sit down with Ben and ask him every question I had, only to discover seasons later that Ben was a nobody in the grand scheme of things; he didn’t know shit. Then I wanted to do the same with Richard, only to find out earlier this season that it was the same with him: he didn’t know any of the Island’s secrets, he was merely its blind-faith servant. This chain had to stop at someone, I thought, and knowing that “Across the Sea” would be the Man in Black’s origin story made me think the day had finally come: the answers-buck could be passed no farther. Now we would finally get some information from someone who actually knew something about the Island.
But again, we’ve struck out, and this late in the last season, I think it was our last at bat. “Every question will simply lead to another question,” we were told (by a character full of answers that we'll likely never meet again), as though that were a truism, and not a line to cover-up the fact that nobody working on Lost seems to have any interest in answering that many questions.
Well, I don't care, I have some questions for Jacob regarding last night's episode: how do you not know what death is if you regularly hunt boars? How come you and your brother started defining your moral positions by the colors of your clothing as early as childhood?
But even Jacob hisself, it turns out, has no understanding, beyond the most rudimentary, of what he's doing or what The Island is: his “mother” (the first in a long line of the Island’s crazy lives-alone ladies) explains to him in Bible Stories For Children fashion the mysteries of The Island: he’s there to protect a cave full of warm, beautiful light, the originating source of all the world’s such light. Wait, I don’t get it—is it electromagnetism? Um, not really. All that science-y stuff has been a red herring: there ain’t no human science advanced enough to comprehend the magic spells at work here. Lost’s mythology has gone wackadoo. (Most of “Across the Sea,” in fact, felt like a cheesy 80s fantasy movie, the straight-to-TV spawn of Willow, or Legend. Seriously, check out this trailer for the latter and tell me it doesn’t sound like a teaser for last night’s episode.)
The lesson of the flashsidewayses so far has been that history parallels itself, but Reality has always shown us that history repeats, especially on-Island: and so last night we saw the Island’s first purge, its first Others camp, the origins of our demigods’ obsession with games, the first mommy/daddy issue that would come to dominate all of our heroes. But, look Lost, repetition is not a form of development; themes weren't deepened, despite Janney telling Jacob that she’d let Esau leave because “it's his choice,” but then telling Jacob he had to drink the wine because he had “no choice". We finally found out who "Adam and Eve" were, but central mysteries otherwise were simply reduced to simple/simplistic allegories: “The Island” is a cave full of light? Seriously? (Answers are gold, there's a cave full of them, and we're never allowed to go into the cave.) And the epic struggle between good and evil is really about a Romulus and a Remus with opposing worldviews? About one who wants to wander and another who wants to establish roots? And how they cope with their overprotective mama? (Other questions were dismissed altogether: how do people get to The Island? By accident!)
Esau erupted at his mother once last night when she said he had no idea about the power of the light (while building his frozen donkey wheel—whoop de doo, what a reveal): “I have no idea because you wouldn’t tell me”. And at that moment I felt a lot like The Man in Black, scratching my head over how Allison Janney got there, how she could bestow the gift of eternal life, what that light actually is, and why going to it makes you “worse than dead”—how it makes you Smoke Man. Except, I can’t dig my own well under Lost and get my answers another way.
+ Noel Murray, as always, makes a good argument for why last night's episode was better than you think. Not that he changed my mind, but it's a good argument.
+ Dave Itzkoff compiles hilarious Twitter reactions to last night's episode for the Times, then continues the work on his own hilarious Twitter feed.