Guys, I really don't know what to tell you. I've been a Lost apologist for years now-- anyone who survived the Dharma cage days of Season 3 kind of has to be-- and even when this season has disappointed me, I've had faith it could turn around in time for the finale. But tonight's episode was the fourth-to-last hour of Lost we're ever going to get, and spent 42 minutes explaining half a dozen things we could have guessed anyway, and tying up an enduring mystery from Season One in a way that, somehow, didn't feel all that important. Ever since they were introduced at the end of last season, Jacob and his brother/nemesis the Man in Black have threatened to take over the show entirely, and though Man in Black's inhabiting Locke has kept that from happening, tonight they took over and squandered it with one of the show's slowest-moving hours yet.
Yes, we learned a lot of things tonight, but this season the show has made strong arguments for not explicitly explaining many of its mysteries, and nothing from tonight, save the Adam and Eve reveal, felt all that necessary to explain. Plus, half the answers came with even more questions, which is honesty the last thing we need given that, back on Oceanic 815 time, we don't even know what Ben and Richard have been up to. There was enough to like about tonight's episode-- notably the great chemistry between Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino as the Man in Black and Jacob, and the inexplicable and wonderful presence of Allison Janney. Yes, it did make me care about Jacob and the Man in Black as characters in a way I hadn't imagined previously. Still, it all felt like it could have slipped neatly into a flashback in an episode that moved forward the story we're actually invested in. Anyway, on to those pesky questions that got answered, and the new questions they brought up.
How are the Man in Black and Jacob related? They're not just brothers, they're twins, born to a woman who washed up on the island after a shipwreck and was killed soon after by Allison Janney, who had been living alone on the island Rousseau-style and was clearly in need of some twin boys for company.
Does the Man in Black have a name? His real mom got conked over the head before she could name the surprise second twin, and either Allison Janney never bothered to name him after that, or the writers went way out of their way to avoid telling us. I'm going with the latter.
Why can't Jacob and the Man in Black kill each other? Essentially, it seems, mom told them they couldn't, and they took it to heart. It's fair to assume that mom cast some kind of spell on them to physically prevent them, since she seems like the type, but basically she told them several times that she had made sure she couldn't hurt each other, and that was good enough an explanation for them.
What is Jacob protecting on the island? The wine/cork metaphor he gave Richard a few episodes back was really enough, but this episode puts a much finer point on it, introducing us to a golden glowing cave which, Allison Janney explains, provides "a little bit of this very same light inside every man." So, it's the source of all good in the world, and Allison Janney has been charged to protect it-- but one of these days one of the boys is going to have to take over. You can probably guess which one winds up getting the job.
Where did the Frozen Donkey Wheel come from? Learning that Allison Janney isn't his real mom (thanks to a ghost mom that we'll get into later), the Man in Black defects to the rest of the shipwreck survivors, and with their help discovers the island's pockets of electromagnetism, plus an underground access point to all that golden glowing light. Using some kind of physics I know I didn't learn in high school, Man in Black figures out that by tapping into the light and building a wheel attached to it, he'll be able to leave the island-- which, of course, is exactly what Ben and Locke do many, many centuries later. Unfortunately for Man in Black, though, crazy Mom shows up before he can finish it, tries to kill him, and caves in the well. So while the Frozen Donkey Wheel as we know it now wasn't exactly built by the Man in Black, he definitely got all the pieces in place.
Where did the Smoke Monster come from? Well, given how poorly explained all that glowing light is, it's hard to say exactly how this works, but basically Man in Black kills Mom in retaliation for her trying to kill him, Jacob finds out and gets mad, and instead of killing his brother-- which apparently he can't do, remember-- he floats him down the river into that golden light, and poof! Out comes the Smoke Monster. If I were to guess I'd say something about all that good golden light took all the nasty thoughts out of the Man in Black and converted it into pure anger-- even though the actual, human Man in Black didn't seem like that bad of a guy, a kind of Man of Science Jack to Jacob's hippy-dippy Man of Faith. I liked him, actually-- and not just because of his wicked guns.
Who are Adam and Eve? Hopefully you remember when Jack and Kate found the two corpses in the caves in Season One, and if you didn't, some handy flashbacks in this episode will tell you. I'd been predicting for well over a year now that Adam and Eve would turn out to be Bernard and Rose, but nope, it's the Man in Black and the mom he killed, put together forever by Jacob, who really has some mother issues to work out. So the Man in Black is dead, a corpse that's been in the same place for centuries. So who is having conversations with Jacob on the beach about wanting to kill him? Yeah, I don't know either.
Who is the little blond kid who keeps appearing to SmokeLocke in the jungle? It's not explicitly explained here, but it seems pretty safe now to assume it's young Jacob, reminding the Smoke Monster of his youthful human days.
If the Man in Black is dead, but is also the Smoke Monster, what on earth does the Smoke Monster want? This is the part I haven't really been able to work out, and it may be just because I'm forgetting some key clue. All along we've been assuming that Man in Black = Jacob's brother = the smoke monster = the new John Locke, and all of the motivations of SmokeLocke came from the original human who was Jacob's brother, who sits on the beach with him and seems convinced that Jacob's desire to protect the island is hokum. But now it seems that the Man in Black, the human being, is dead, and the Smoke Monster is just some weird byproduct of his personality that has taken on a purpose of its own. So what does the Smoke Monster mean when, speaking through Locke, he says he wants to go home? I expected all this backstory about Jacob's brother to clear things up about what's inhabiting John Locke, but I'm more confused than ever.
Why could the Man in Black see his ghost mom, but Jacob couldn't? Ghost Mom is the one who starts all the trouble, telling Man in Black she's his real mom and all that, and her only explanation of why Jacob can't see her is "because I'm dead," which is not at all a helpful explanation on this island. We've been told to assume that dead people appearing on the island are usually the result of the Smoke Monster, but if this ghost appeared to Man in Black when he was a child, does that mean the monster existed before he got shoved into the golden light? is it an ongoing island force that simply found a new host in the Man in Black once he died?
Who burned down the Others village? Hey, it was probably Mom, but it's entirely possible that it's Jacob acting on Mom's orders, which adds yet another interesting wrinkle to his character. Speaking of which...
Is Jacob just a delusional mama's boy? This may just be a desperate attempt to find nuance in an episode that seemed dead set on being as obvious as possible, but I found myself pretty sympathetic to the Man in Black-- searching for answers, not willing to settle for easy explanations-- and wondering why Jacob was so eager to cling to apron strings and accept whatever his mother told him about some mysterious light that clearly has great power, but could really be anything. Jacob's blind faith in the light, of course, references back to many of the characters we've watched trust the island, and given that Jack is just now coming away to seeing Jacob's view of things, it seems unlikely that Jacob's faith in the island will eventually turn out to be misguided. But at the end of all of this, Jacob's ironclad rule of the island seems more tenuous than ever. At least we finally have a character with mother issues instead of obsessing over his daddy like everyone else.
What happened to the golden light when the Smoke Monster came out of it? We don't see it again after Smokey pops out, so are we to assume it's gone? It seems to still be around to power the Frozen Donkey Wheel, but the light has likely changed properties-- can that explain some of the island's other quirks? I might use that to explain stuff like Kate's horse, just to spare myself the headache.
When Jack found Adam and Eve, he said the bodies had been there around 50 years. What gives? Sure, the island's ability to jump through time may explain some of this. But I think we were intended to know that Adam and Eve symbolized the show's consistency over all its seasons, but the fact that the Man in Black and his mom died centuries and centuries ago makes it all seem, er, more than a little fishy.
Where We Go From Here
Give us nuance. Whereas last week's episode was apparently intended to demonstrate that the Man in Black is evil and must be stopped at all costs, tonight we saw a more human side of a guy who was basically the Man of Science we've been seeing in Jack all these years. Given that that human doesn't seem to have anything to do with the actual smoke monster inhabiting Locke, it's fair to assume we don't need to start feeling sorry for SmokeLocke. But I do want the battle of Jacob and his Candidates vs. Smoke Monster and his desire for escape to remain a little gray. Lost has excelled at blurring the line between good and evil, nowhere more so than in the character of Ben, and I'd hate for them to abandon that deft storytelling just to get a convenient ending in place.
Now that we know this much about Jacob and the Man in Black, get them involved. Yes, I've been totally against this idea all season because I was worried about those two distracting from the actual characters, but now that they've been upped to main-player status, I want the actual human beings Jacob and his brother to play into this final conflict. Yes, I realize they're both dead, and that it's more likely that their story will resolve itself metaphorically through Jack and Locke. But still, now that I've wasted an hour with these guys, I kinda like them and want the best for them.
Please, just be good to us. It's been hard for me lately to come up with commands for where the show could go next, both because the possible outcomes are so limited-- there are only so many hours left-- and the show is, well, wrapped. What I hope now is that we're done with island mythology, that we've learned everything we ever need to know about white and black stones and electromagnetism and why you can only leave the island on certain compass points, and from here on out we'll be getting the characters we care about and how their story together wraps up. I want three more episodes filled with scenes of Jack and Locke shouting at each other, of Desmond on a mission to make sense of it all, of Ben figuring out, once again, what this island means to him after all. The big ideas and philosophies are what has made this show so infuriating and wonderful over the years, but the time for those is finished, as tonight's mythology-heavy episode demonstrably proved. Now is the time for characters and emotion; if every minute of the final three and a half hours of Lost are as high-charged as the raft launch at the end of Season One, you might argue it'd be overheated, but I'd be thrilled. Lost, from here on out, I just want you to make me cry.