Lost – ‘Ab Aeterno’ – 6.9

[Editor’s Note:   For some reason my usual go-to spot for pics has not published those from last night. This post has been completed since this morning so in lieu of waiting any longer, I’m just going with this small assortment I found online. Sorry.] 

It’s official. We’ve hit the halfway mark of an 18-hour season. And I can’t think of a better way to crest the hill than with this long-awaited Richard Alpert back story – ‘Ab Aeterno’ – which not only fleshed out everything there is to know about this ageless stranger but also stands as easily one of the two or three best hours of this show period – alongside the Locke-centric ‘Walkabout’ and Desmond’s tale ‘The Constant’. More below, but I’ll tease the rating right now – I give this episode 5 out of 5 Mooninites. It was that good and if the finale can come close to matching the emotional and mythological crescendos hit here, then we are in for a real treat.

Before moving on to the usual bullet point format, I wanted to touch on one of my usual off-topic tangents. I was reading late last week that all signs point to this being the final season of 24. There is some chatter that it may move to NBC but I think that’s an outside chance – an audible that will only be called when NBC clears pilot season and sees how their deck is stacked for next year. The conventional wisdom seems to point to 24 making the jump to the big screen.

I bring this up for two reasons.

24 is in the grip of yet another lackluster season – making me really count my blessings that ABC allowed the Lost producers to complete their show where the story directed them and not simply march on at the behest of ratings. And secondly, I hope that when we finally say aloha to the island, it is on the backside of that salutation. This has been a helluva’ journey and there’s no doubt that the show could continue to draw some ratings – and certainly a sizeable cult – meaning the producers and ABC are leaving a lot of money on the table. I’m all for allowing them to mine the property via alternative media (comics, games, books, etc) but I see no reason to ever pick back up with our castaways years later – on screens big or small. This has been one of those “once in a decade” entertainments, and for once, it looks like it may just end in a very satisfying manner. And when the final page is turned, let’s let the story settle on the shelves of memory where every once in awhile we can dust it off and declare – “Geez, They don’t make ’em like ‘Lost’ anymore.”

All right – enough with all that. Let’s get Lost.

1.   ‘Ab Aeterno’ is Latin for ‘Since the beginning of time’ and while that doesn’t exactly triangulate Richard’s birth date (he appears to have been born on the Canary Islands somewhere in the mid-1800’s) it does underscore the entire theme of the show and really bring to light the very meaning of the island. Before we can dive head first down that rabbit  hole, I wanted to chase the little tease of current events we got at the beginning of the show before the segueway to an all-Richard hour.

2.   The episode opened by giving us a few additional moments of Jacob’s meeting with a mangled Ilana. We learned that Jacob directed her to guard the 6 remaining candidates – information that she later shared in that fireside chat at the beach. Now, Sun seems to think she’s the Kwon that’s mentioned but I think she’s wrong. I think it’s quite clear that it’s meant to be Jin as Jacob appears to believe running the island is a man’s job. Hey – he’s from a different time (perhaps the beginning of time). People and deities must not have been as enlightened way back when. Besides, is Jacob really going to tear Sun away from her child to act as stewardess to the island? My guess is ‘No’.

3.   We also saw that he directed her to reel in “Ricardo” when the time was right. The thing is Ricardo or Richard Alpert is the last guy to consult as the death of Jacob has led him to believe that he has been cursed to remain in what he was once told, and now believes, to be “Hell”. And this sends him running into the jungle, seeking an audience with the Man in Black, in hopes that a century later he will accept Richard back. And it’s here that we get the episode-long flashback.

4.   I’ll say it right now. I loved this episode and loved that once the flashback started it never broke form. Richard is a compelling, enigmatic character and one of the few who appears to be both a straight shooter and a decent human. He certainly seems willing to help, driven to a “good” end, approachable and loyal. And he rocks the guyliner like nobody’s business. I know it’s his real eyelashes that give that look, but look, coming from a completely hetero dude I say it with no uncertainty – Richard’s a good-looking dude. Anyway, I’ve been dying to learn his back story and this episode didn’t disappoint. Like the Desmond time-traveling episode, ‘The Constant’, it juggled big themes with good old-fashioned heart-warming sentiment. In essence, it’s the perfect example of this show – one where malicious smoke monsters mix it up with stirring melodrama. And the production values were top-notch all the way through.

5.   So we learned that Ricardo’s fate was sealed as a peasant living in the Canary Islands in 1867. With his beloved wife stricken down by some ailment, Ricardo makes a fateful journey to the island doctor to procure some medication. A scuffle ensues and Ricardo accidentally kills the man – thus sealing his fate. As he returns home, he finds it was all for naught, as his wife has succumbed to her infection. Thus, Ricardo – a pious man – is denied atonement and faced with execution and judgment in Hell.

6.   But, I think we are meant to interpret that Jacob’s hand has pulled the strings, and an emissary appears – taking the English-speaking Ricardo on board the Black Rock, as it steams through the ocean on a collision course with the island. The ship is commanded by Magnus Hanso – a name which is important as the never-seen but often mentioned ‘Alvar Hanso’ was the billionaire industrialist who financed the DHARMA Initiative. Now, we never actually saw Magnus in Richard’s flashback so that remains an enigma. Did he make it to the island, aboard the Black Rock, and escape Smokey’s first attack or was Alvar’s quest to locate this island simply fueled by the discovery of Magnus’ journal which we saw Charles Widemore bid on during the auction scene of ‘The Constant’? My guess is that it’s the latter. Magnus likely died in that initial assault and the Hanso clan became obsessed with locating the island when they found Hanso’s journal at sea. I also believe that Hanso had reasons to go hunting for this mysterious island – shades of “King Kong” if you will, minus the big-ass monkey. He learned there was a mysterious island out there full of untold riches and that’s exactly what this adventurer needed to hear.

7.   In a season that has seen some amazing acting from Terry O’Quinn in his dual roles as alterna-Locke and MiB Locke, I thought Nestor Carbonell gave us a Master’s Class. This was his show all the way through and it was harrowing – particularly during that extended sequence where he remained tethered to The Black Rock and was beset upon by the probing Smoke Monster, carnivorous pigs and the spectral appearance of his wife.

8.   The latter tips the cap to MiB’s game. Early on he “read” Ricardo’s mind and got a clear picture of what he was dealing with. Here was a man capable of murder yet remorseful all the same. Here was also a man who desperately wanted something more than anything in life – to be reunited with his wife. Here was a man with weakness to exploit – the perfect puppet for MiB. And that set the stage for psychological warfare – with MiB keeping Ricardo chained up, tormented and showing him the impossible – getting him just to the edge of a breaking point – and then appearing with water in hand and offering salvation. And he almost had him.

9.   That led to a nice dichotomy between Dogen’s direction to Sayid when sending him to kill the Man in Black “If you allow him to speak, it’s too late” and MiB’s instructions to Ricardo. Where Sayid simply met a counter offer, poor Ricardo was delivered yet another injustice through a savage beachside beat down.

10.   I thought Jacob’s attempts to prove Ricardo was alive were pretty intriguing. Most notable was dunking him in the water. Sure, he was attempting to ‘drown’ him to show him that what he wanted most was to live but in a way, it also served as a baptism too.

11.   And then we got to their sit down where Jacob officially confirmed the theory I have held near and dear way back since the first season. Way back then, I said that I felt the island was the proverbial birth place or origin of “good” and “evil” on Earth. And that the numbers signified a “viral” attack of evil on the world. That a balance existed on this island and as long as it existed then the balance of “good” and “evil” in the world was held in check. Sure bad things would happen. But good things would too. It was an ebb and flow of life. But as long as the island existed, it contained whatever balance existed, thereby preventing evil from grabbing a majority stake of the world. And all talk of “infection” and things like that was not so much driven by virus or pestilence but by evil. Therefore, what was at stake was the fate of the world.

12.   And with a bottle of wine, Jacob came out and said exactly what I thought. This island is intended to prevent evil from grabbing that foothold. From spreading its influence any further than it need to. There’s no Hell in the center of the world – that’s a fairy tale – but in the Lost-verse, it’s literally Hell on Earth and as long as there is a guardian at the gate (i.e. Jacob or whomever becomes his successor), then evil will be kept in check. And along with that, Jacob will continue to work to usurp evil by proving that within the true nature of man lies the ability for inherent goodness. And while his tests may have failed innumerable times, as he said in last season’s finale, he only needs to be right once.

13.   Sawyer will prove Jacob right. Mark my words.

14.   What’s interesting about their little pow-wow is Ricardo was rebuffed at getting his wife back (which MiB could deliver) as well as absolving his sins. Hence, Ricardo chooses eternal life for one reason. If he never dies, then he never goes to Hell and has to face his sins. That’s the impetus for his decision but like the best Twilight Zone endings, you have to be careful what you wish for.

15.   Finally, we get to the end, where Hurley acts as Ghost Whisperer for Richard – allowing him to get some closure with his wife. It was a nice, heart-tugging moment chased with a chill, when Hurley passed on one final warning – If they fail, they are all going to Hell. Hell on Earth.

Well, that’s all I have for this week. See you next week for Episode 6.10, ‘The Package’.

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Comments now closed (14)

  • This episode was as close to being perfect as I had ever seen, and I do think the continuous-line flashback allowed Richard’s story to be told ( without my having to tell Uncle Ron ” Sideways/alternate universe” or ” back at the island”). And with Richard, it is truly all about how he got there, we pretty much know what he’s been doing. I will definitely watch it again next week, mostly because I forgot what the little white rock meant.

    Sadly, however, I still see BatManuel…

  • great episode!!! i love this show!

    aunt sharon (lol – funny, cuz you’re not MY aunt!) – i think the little white rock was symbolic toward the scales that sawyer and MiB locke found in the cave down the cliffs.

  • Correct – It’s their little private joke. Basically white is good and black is bad. Or maybe, white is the new black. I don’t know – I have a hard time keeping up on fashion.

  • Ed, I almost emailed you last night, to make it a good one ’cause that episode was fantastic. Glad we all agree. I loved it. You said it all. MiB sure can be alluring though can’t he? it’s what has made me still unsure as who is the evil one…although I know it ALL points to MiB of course. Interesting how it reflects life.

    OK, I have had one question that’s now even stronger in my mind.

    Assuming the wheel at the lighthouse had 360 names and what we have heard is correct, there are six names left. Right? So, 354 people’s names have been crossed out. Was Jacob there at the inception of using the names on the wheel or is Jacob someone on the wheel, like number 132 for example? Either way, what happens when we’re out of names? Does the wheel span the time of all humanity?

  • When we were first introduced to Jacob and MIB, wasn’t there an exchange of the white rock? I remember it being on the scale, but that was not the first time we had seen it…

    @Ed-Are tix on sale yet?

  • And I can be anybody’s Aunt who will have me. You may, however, want to discuss my attributes, or lack thereof, with our host, my glorious nephew and past ringbearer-Ed!!

  • The White Rock calls back all the way to the 4th episode of the first season when Jack followed his Dad (whom we now know was likely MiB) to find the caves and water. Alongside two skeletons were two rocks – one white, the other black.

    Also, that same episode had Locke teaching Walt backgammon where he espoused on the symbolic nature of “white” and “black” – i.e. good and evil.

    Tix are now on sale. Showtimes are Friday May 7th, Sat May 8th, Fri May 14th, Sat May 15th – 7:30 p.m. all shows. $10 for advanced tix.

  • @Carlos – I think Jacob COULD be a replacement for someone else, in that it could be possible. Essentially, they always need a guardian at the gate. That being said – I think he’s had this job for a long time. As he mentioned in this episode, many people have died on this island.

  • Ed,

    This is Steve Connolly of Albion Street fame. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not do the social media thing yet. If you get a minute email me so we can catch up. I wish I thought of google-ing you sooner. I am assuming as webmastwr you can see my email……

  • Now this made my Friday. Steve – I’ve been wondering about you for years. I’m sending you an e-mail now.

  • Hi. You and I share a couple of facebook friends which is how I found your blog. So dude, I’ve been reading it for a while but I simply can lurk no longer. I just can’t hold it back anymore: You’re AWESOME! I’m a huge fan of both “Lost” and as it so happens, great writing. So lucky lucky me for finding this gem, this perfect combo. (And you know, this is exactly the sort thing that makes me sad about the end of the show. I’m really going to miss reading the thoughts of others written so eloquently.) Anyway, I just want to thank you for putting in the time. I honestly look forward to your updates and obviously, enjoy them immensely. 🙂
    Thanks again,
    Marika

  • @Marika – Thanks for popping out of the shadows… and more importantly, for reading. Good thing you didn’t do this yesterday when I was perpetrating my cruel April Fools Joke on everyone by pretending to abandon the cause – with only 8 episodes left.

    Like I would ever really do that. ‘Gossip Girl’ can wait. : )

  • Oh – and more importantly – thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it and you made my Friday!!!