Well, that was awesome. After six seasons of mystery and speculation, we finally got some answers about our eye-liner wearing friend, Richard Alpert. This episode was a bit of a throw back as well, as the storytelling took a break from the Sideways world and focused more on the very long past of the ageless one. It's funny though, even though we were thrown a ton of info in "Ab Aeterno," there were few jaw dropping moments of revelation, but that certainly doesn't mean that there is nothing to talk about.
"Your dead. We're all dead. We're in Hell."
First off, let's make sure we're all on the same page: the Island is not Hell. I think most people worked this out, but it's worth running through briefly just in case. Richard's declaration to Jack that the "Island is Hell" was quite a way to start off the episode, but as we moved through the hour we learned that his assumption was based lies planted by none other than the Man in Black. He's a crafty one for sure, and I must admit, they had me going for just a little bit (especially when Jacob went all medieval on Richard at the statue), but in the end what we saw was MIB up to his old tricks.
This episode was actually the perfect companion to last year's finale ("The Incident") when we saw - for the first time - Jacob and the Man in Black sitting on the beach waiting the arrival of the Black Rock to the Island.
Even back then, MIB was insistent on the frivolity of he and Jacob's game and let Jacob know that his ultimate goal was to kill him and escape from the Island. Therefore, when the ship subsequently crashes ashore, MIB goes straight to work on a plan to extricate himself from his own personal prison. In the form of Smokey, he wipes out the crew in short order, but stops short of finishing off Richard. While scanning his mind, he sees something in him; a broken man that is ripe for exploitation. This is no different to when Smokey stares down John Locke years and years later (in Season 1) and sees a life of failure, false hope, and broken dreams. In short, a sap that will be easy to recruit. For John, MIB dangled the carrots of leadership, respect, and destiny to win him over - for Richard he simply needed to tempt him with the lost love of his wife and Richard was ready to do his dirty work.
Richard's first encounter with Jacob provided a nice counterpoint argument to MIB's rather convincing statements in the hull of the Black Rock. As I mentioned, the calm and soft spoken man that we're used must have been on vacation as he rather unfairly beat the shit out of a man that was on the brink of death as it is, but I guess Jacob figured he needed a good dose of reality to convince him that he was not in fact dead at all - and a good punch to the face is as good a way to do so as any. After the ceremonial dunking/baptism into the "faith of Jacob" in the water, Richard was ready to listen. And here, we get a reprisal of Jacob's mission: 1) prove that man is inherently good and can avoid corruption by choosing the right path on their own and without influence and 2) to keep MIB trapped on the Island by any means necessary....cause if he gets out, then lookout cookout, the world quite literally turns to Hell.
What's key here is the interpretation of what Jacob means by "Hell." Does he mean that if MIB escapes, the world goes all WWIII on itself and we're to live out our days in post-apocalyptic misery? I don't think so. I think what he refers to is that man's ability to execute free will in order to make himself, those around him, and his environment a better place will be lost forever. Meaning, that we will be faced to live in a world without purpose, which is a life not worth living. It might as well be Hell. In "Dr. Linus" Richard said to Jack, "why do I want to die?! Because I just found out that my entire life had no purpose!" MIB's stance is that this path to despair is inevitable. There is no purpose to life and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. And if he succeeds and escapes the Island, it will be so in the world. But what happens if he doesn't succeed?
It may be a stretch, but I think the Sideways world is the direct result of MIB's ultimate failure on the Island. For a while now we've seen similarities between the two realities and how our characters' victories and defeats represent themselves in the Sideways, but we are still at a loss as to how the two worlds are truly connected. My take is that events that we see in the Sideways happen because they are living in a world in which MIB doesn't exist at all...or Jacob for that matter. And even without these forces of influence, man is able to make the right choices for themselves, entirely on their own. If this is the case, then it makes sense that the Island is under water, because its purpose to "cork" MIB's existence from the rest of the world is unnecessary. Similarly, if Team Light wins the war on the Island, then Jacob wins the eternal argument of man's inherent goodness, proving his point beyond doubt, which means that his existence (which arguably, is only to prove MIB wrong) is no longer necessary as well. And for the most part, the characters we've seen in the Sideways have made their lives better entirely on their own, through their own ability to choose the right path.
Now, how does that explain that the Island is under water? Well, as we know from "Dr. Linus," Dharma existed in the Sideways and their work on the Island was very real. The Island was still a "special" place based on its location and the scientific properties within it. So Dharma still utilized it for its experiments, and in the end, I think the incident still happened which in turn sunk it to the bottom of the Ocean (and we will assume that Ben and Roger left before said incident this time). But what is different in this scenario is that the rest of it - the influences from the Losties and the Others and Jacob and MIB - weren't a part of it all, because they were never there. When you think about it, the Dharma storyline and the Others/Jacob/MIB storyline are mutually exclusive. Dharma still would have happened regardless of whether or not Jacob and MIB lived there or not. And the Incident still would have happened without any Other / Lostie influence because the decision to drill into the Swan station was entirely Dharma's. Therefore the Incident still occurred, causing the Island to sink in 1977, and Oceanic 815 therefore never crashed 2004. Case closed? (I doubt it).
Who knows....as I said, it may be a stretch and I can already think of some holes in this theory (if Jacob and MIB never existed, why is the Statue still up in the sunken Sideways Island?), but it's what I got at the moment. I'd love to hear what you guys may think as well. At the office, theories of the long debated Purgatory scenario are making a come back, so there are plenty of theories going around. I may be wrong with the above, but I think that when we look back at the end of all this, "Ab Aeterno" will be viewed as an episode that provided some serious clues to the ultimate resolution of LOST.
The title of this episode, Ab Aeterno, is Latin for "from eternity." The phrase is used to mean "since the beginning" or "for long ages." This could certainly refer to a number of things, one of which would be Richard's agelessness.
You may have caught that the Captain of the Black Rock was Magnus Hanso. Indeed, Magnus Hanso is the great grandfather of Alvar Hanso, who was the leader of the Hanso Foundation, which funded the Dharma Initiative. Additionally, in the Season 3 episode "The Constant," Charles Widmore was shown as the winning bidder for a journal that was believed to be the property of the Black Rock's Captain on the ship's final voyage (at the time, another Hanso - Talvard Hanso - was the owner of the journal and was auctioning it off). Widmore likely wanted the journal so that he could use it to try and find the Island.
I found it interesting that MIB told Richard that "if you let him talk, it will already be too late," when referring to his instructions on how to kill Jacob. Of course, we remember Dogen saying this same thing to Sayid when instructing him on how to kill Flocke, and sure enough, once Flocke speaks to Sayid ("Hello, Sayid") he is incapable of being killed. But the confusing thing is that when Ben killed Jacob, Jacob did talk to him...but he was still killed. So apparently the same rules don't apply to both?? Or maybe the difference is that Jacob wanted/needed to die, so that a candidate can take over his position and end MIB's reign for good.
What Hurley says to a ghost (presumably Isabella) at the beginning of the episode: "Ok.", "What can you do?", "Yes, I can help you.", "But, I don't know how to find him, if I don't where he went...",
Illana continues to intrigue me...she is clearly an important character but we still know very little about her. After seeing in this episode that Jacob realized that Richard could be his adviser on the Island, I wonder if he eventually realized that having someone in the outside world would be helpful as well? If so, is that person then Illana? If so, is she also ageless? That hospital that Jacob finds her in seems like it's pretty old...maybe from the WWII era. Interesting to think about....hopefully we get an episode focusing on her as we wind down to the end of it all...
That's all I got for this week. Thanks for reading, as always, and looking forward to this week's episode, which is titled "The Package." Until then....