Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Lost" recap: God, the Devil and Richard Alpert

Spoilers on this week's episode of "Lost" are below, so don't click through unless you've seen it.

OK, so now we're getting somewhere. This week's episode, titled "Ab Aeterno," was possible the best one of the season to date, for a number of reasons. First, it was just a tight, well-told story, abandoning (I assume) the island story/off island story structure of this season for a straight-up origin story about one of the show's most pivotal -- and mysterious -- characters: Richard Alpert.
The episode also was the first to give us a significant number of answers regarding the show's mysteries. We learned the full story of Richard's immortality (Jacob gave it to him, in exchange for Richard agreeing to be a liaison between Jacob and the people he brings to the island); how Richard came to the island (if you guessed that he was on The Black Rock, you won! Sorry, no prize. Bragging rights are all you get); how the statue got destroyed (the Black Rock smacked into it) and a wee bit more about the battle between Jacob and the Man in Black.
Let's start there, shall we? A lot of people have said they'll be disappointed if the entire series ends up being about the power struggle between Jacob and Blackie. That's a good point. After all, these are two characters we didn't even see until the end of last season. Why should we care about their beefs?
Well, what if the battle between them was a microcosm of the eternal struggle between good and evil? What if Jacob, as I've suspected for a while now, is meant to be a stand-in for God, with the Man in Black a stand-in for the devil?
Yes, I know there are people out there who believe Jacob truly is the evil one (certainly, that's what Blackie wants everyone to believe). But, after tonight's episode, I'm more convinced than ever that he's a God stand-in. He gives people a shot at redemption, but refuses to get personally involved, believing that people need to figure out their destiny on their own. He's convinced that there is good in people, but that they need to discover it for themselves. He gives those in his world free will. He asks them to have faith. He can offer eternal life.
Sounds a lot like God to me.
Meanwhile, the episode tells us that the Man in Black believes humanity is inherently corruptible. He can take any form. He's charming, persuasive, yet bent on unleashing himself on the world at large. Let me see now who does that sound like? Could it be....SATAN?
"Ab Aeterno" sets Richard Alpert up as a sort of Jesus figure. He becomes Jacob's messenger to the flock on the island. He's the one who's supposed to get involved when Jacob can't. He also, like Jesus, is tempted to turn to the dark side. Much like Jesus, he wonders (and I'm paraphrasing here) "My Jacob, why have you forsaken me?"
Of course, Richard Alpert, to our knowledge, hasn't turned water into wine or healed the sick or rescued a fallen woman from stoning. He helped Ben gas the Dharma-ites in the purge, was most likely involved in the death of Juliet's ex-husband and does all sorts of other odd, non-Messiah like things.
So, the logic isn't perfect. But it does set up an intriguing triangle -- and helps to unravel some of the show's mysteries.
Here are some more of my thoughts on "Ab Aeterno":
* By the way, according to Webster's, "ab aeterno" is Latin for "from the beginning of time." An apt title for an origin episode about Richard. Maybe it also gives us a hint about how long the struggle between Jacob and Blackie has been going on?
* Richard, we learn, was originally "Ricardo." I wonder what his last name was? I'm guessing not "Alpert."
* Like so many people on this show, Richard comes to the island with a broken heart. His was shattered by the death of his wife Isabella. In true "Lost" fashion, Richard is so desperate to save his ailing wife, he accidentally kills the heartless doctor who denies her help. During the struggle, Richard does manage to get the medicine his wife needs ... but by the time he gets to her, she's dead. Damn.
* OK, I didn't think I would ever again find a Smoke Monster attack scene scary (this season's "Sundown" seemed to present the be-all-end-all of Smokey Massacres), but I caught myself gulping in fear during that scene with a terrified, shackled Richard watching as an unseen something tore its way through the Black Rock crew. When the man poised to kill Richard was engulfed in smoke, I got chills.
* When the Man in Black unchains Richard, he tells him "It's good to see you out of those chains." That's what the Locke Mess Monster said when he saw Richard earlier this season.
* In telling Richard how to kill Jacob, Blackie gives him the exact same instructions that Dogen gave Sayid for killing the Locke Mess Monster.
* Jacob's "gift" to MIB is a white rock -- I'm guessing the same one that Locke Mess chucked into the water in "Substitute."
* By the way, Isabella's last gift to Richard is a cross -- kind of drives the Richard/Jesus connection home, doesn't it?
* Of course, Jacob tells Richard he can't offer he absolution from his sins. So maybe he's not God. But he's certainly God-like.
* As Richard, Nestor Carbonell usually gets little to do, aside from standing around being enigmatic. Here, he had a real character to play and really nailed it. That scene where Isabella speaks to Richard through Hurley was beautiful and heart-breaking -- even if it did kind of remind me of "Ghost."
* OK, gotta ask -- what is the connection between Ilana and Jacob? This is the second time we see her bandaged up in the hospital. How did she get that way? Did Jacob heal her? Does she have eternal life, too?
* When Richard told everyone that the island was hell and they were all dead, did anyone else scream "No! They promised they wouldn't do that!" at the TV? No? Just me? :(
* Welcome back, Titus Welliver, appearing on the show for the second time. I never noticed it before, but he and Terry O'Quinn have similar mannerisms and delivery. I'm guessing that's why Welliver was cast. Anyway, he's always welcome.
Well, that's it for me. What did you think?


Bill Scurry said...

This was one of the best three or so eps of the entire run. If the remaining are all this good, they don't have to answer a single question to keep my interest.

Notice that the cap'n of the ship was Magnus Hanso, descendant of Alvar Hanso (of the Dharmaandgreg Initiative, as we all know). I think that fact was spilled in the auction scene a few years back when Widmore won his diary.

I've been a big Titue Welliver fan since his work on "Brooklyn South," the first David Milch project post his work on "NYPD Blue." I'm always happy to see some Welliver -- a Connecticut product, coincidentally enough.

Also... Mirelly Taylor played Isabella, and she worked with a director friend of mine on his first film, "Kiss Me Again" (2006). Small world.

Col. Mike said...

I didn't really take Richard at his word when he said the island was Hell. Also: Did you get a Lebowski vibe when Jacob was dunking the scruffy Richard in the ocean? "Where's the money, Alpert? Where's the money, s***heeeeaaaad???"

Cori said...

Ok.....I like the God vs. the Devil thing but the question is of that's true what is the island? Is it a metaphor? Is it where God lives? Just a thought...