Episode Title: "Across the Sea"
Story: Once upon a time, two boys lived on an island. They were raised by a woman who was not their mother, and they were raised to believe that people are bad. But when one of these boys learned the truth that he's not from the island — that he's meant to live across the sea — he defected from his brother and his "mother," setting into motion a chain of events that continues to be felt to this very day.
Where To Begin: It seems like that's a question that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse must have batted around for quite a while — "Where do we begin?" I'm not sure they found an agreeable answer, as "Across the Sea" struck me as one of the single most disappointing entries in the entirety of "Lost." Entering this episode, there were only four and a half hours remaining in the series. With one of those hours elapsed, what have we learned? Frankly, not a whole lot.
We didn't learn, for instance, who the Man in Black really is. We learned that he's Jacob's twin brother, born from a murdered woman, and is apparently quite special — but we didn't even learn what his name is, despite several opportunities to give us this information.
We also didn't learn what this mysterious holy light source is, though it apparently has the power to turn MIB into the Smoke Monster. One theory making the rounds suggests that Jacob genuinely killed his brother by throwing him into the light, thereby unlocking the Smoke Monster — an entirely separate entity that merely uses Jacob's brother's likeness as a passenger much as it's currently using John Locke's body as a vessel. I kind of like that, but there's currently no real proof to back it up.
What else didn't we learn — how about any sort of meaningful elaboration on the rules that govern Jacob and his brother? We learned that their "mother" arranged it so that they cannot hurt each other, but we learned absolutely nothing about who this woman actually is, except that she sports an uncanny resemblance to a certain "West Wing" veteran.
Here's what we did learn: the Man in Black created the frozen donkey wheel, or was at least well on his way to creating it before his "mom" interfered. Adam and Eve are MIB and his "mother," revealed in a shoehorned scene forcefully intercut with footage from "The White Rabbit." So much for the Rose and Bernard theory. Even the beachwrecked and time-displaced corpses of Jin and Sun would have felt like more of a long term payoff.
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from "Across the Sea" is this: at the heart of the Island, there is a massive light source that exists in every man — a light that is presumably responsible for time travel, electromagnetism and a whole slew of other bizarre characteristics. It's a light that must be protected at all costs. The "Lost" writers certainly protected it over the years, so much so that the audience barely even knew that the thing existed. A hint in any earlier season would have been nice.
"Across the Sea" certainly proposed some interesting ideas and theories — is Desmond so dangerous to Smocke because he can withstand the electromagnetic heat of the light source, thereby crushing the Monster? — but it also ignored several pressing issues, including the highly controversial and increasingly troubling Sideways universe.
Hot off the heels of one of the show's most emotionally crushing episodes and with very few hours remaining, "Across the Sea" felt like an extreme waste of time, especially when there are characters like Benjamin Linus begging for attention. Perhaps the episode will hold up better in light of the series finale, but at the moment, "Across the Sea" is a bitter glass of wine.
Best Quote: "Every question I answer will simply lead to another question. Just rest. You should be grateful that you're alive." — Jacob and MIB's "mother," reflecting a sentiment from the writers that's growing rather tired.
The Shape of Things To Come: Next week's episode, titled "What They Died For," will hopefully live up to the title and explain why Sun, Jin, Sayid and other characters had to die. Only three and a half hours remain on "Lost."
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