Poor Richard’s Test of Faith

Every time I write an entry about the night’s episode of Lost, I like to try and work in the episode’s title cleverly in the headline.  But because tonight’s episode of Lost, Ab Aeterno is a Latin phrase meaning something along the lines of “from the beginning of time,” I’ve got little to work with.

Hence, the titular line of this entry is more a description of what happened tonight.  Although for Lost viewers, it was much more than a job interview.  Not only did we get the backstory four years in the making, Ab Aeterno was chock full of Island mythology, the struggle between good and evil and possibly foreshadowing where the overall story is going.

But overall, Ab Aeterno was the story of Richard Alpert.  We first met Richard way back in Season Three, where he appeared to be just another one of Ben’s flunkies who got to travel off-island occasionally to recruit potential Others.  But Richard was much more than another flunky, as evidenced by his appearance in Ben’s flashback episode The Man Behind the Curtain, where, in  scene taking place in the early 70s, he appeared to be the same age.

Richard has already admitted that Jacob was responsible for his youthful appearance.  But tonight, we found out how he came to the Island.  Sentenced to death for murdering a doctor (in an attempt to save his wife’s life), Richard’s sentence was commuted to a lifetime of slavery in the new world.  However, the ship he was on crashed on the Island (taking out the statue during its arrival).  While chained in the ship’s hold, Richard witnessed the smoke monster kill the crew.  A few days later, the monster came to Richard and freed him.  The monster, playing into Richard’s belief that the Island was hell, offered Richard his freedom and the life of his wife for a favor: kill the devil (with instructions and a weapon just like Dogen furnished Sayid with a few weeks ago).

So Richard set out in search of the devil, but instead met Jacob.  Who, in an attempt to convince Richard he wasn’t in hell, gave him a baptism of sorts.  Then Richard and Jacob had a heart to heart conversation in which Jacob divulged the nature of the Island:

Jacob: My name is Jacob. I’m the one that brought your ship to the Island.

Richard: You brought it here? Why?

Jacob: Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell.  There’s many other names for it too…malevolence, evil, darkness…here it is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out, because if it did, it would spread.  The cork is this Island.  And it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.  That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because it’s in their very nature to sin.  I bring people here to prove him wrong.  And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.

Richard: Before you brought my ship, there were others?

Jacob: Yes.  Many.

Richard: What happened to them?

Jacob: They’re all dead.

Richard: Well if you brought them here, why didn’t you help them?

Jacob: Because I wanted them to help themselves.  To know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them.  It’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?

Richard: If you don’t, he will.

Jacob also offered Richard an exchange: be Jacob’s representative and in return, Jacob would give Richard what he wanted (within reason), which happened to be the ability to live forever.

This flashback (so nice to have one of those again!) took place framed by the story of Richard (despondent due to Jacob’s death) losing his faith.  It took Hurley and a visit from the ghost of Richard’s wife to get that faith back.  And by the way, Hurley had a message- Richard has to stop the Man in Black (a.k.a. fLocke) from leaving the Island or, well, you can see in the image to the left what would happen.

Richard’s flashback, while not fitting within the usual Lost storytelling devices, was still interesting and emotional.  A lot of it was drawn out (especially the scenes in the hold of the ship before the arrival of MIB), but necessary.  When Jacob told Richard he didn’t interfere, it had echoes of Locke’s philosophy of non-involvement as stated way back in Season 1’s The Moth.

So we know that the Island protects the rest of the world from evil.  And MIB/fLocke wants to leave the Island.  If he does, then bad stuff happens.  fLocke can only leave the Island if Jacob (or another anointed protector) dies (but there are rules that keep him from killing directly).  Jacob brings people to the Island to prove MIB wrong and for potential replacements.  Meanwhile, MIB uses those people as well in his ongoing attempt to kill Jacob and disposes of the rest.  Jacob believes people are good, while MIB believes they are inherently evil.

I have no idea what that means or where this all is going.  But I do have some thoughts about it all:

-Magnus Hanso, captain of the Black Rock is possibly related to Alvar Hanso, the guy who funded the DHARMA Initiative.  Back during The Constant, Charles Widmore purchased Magnus’ journal.  I suppose it’s possible that to get all of his pieces in order, Jacob had Richard take the journal off-island to Hanso’s descendants to bring DHARMA to the Island.  In turn, DHARMA bottled up the Island’s electromagnetic energy, and at the one time when it wasn’t released when it was supposed to be, caused an airplane crash which brought six (or so) candidates to the Island.

-Now that the cork metaphor is being thrown around, the Island can also be seen as a cork keeping in the Island’s unlimited, “geologically unique” electromagnetic energy.  Is that the evil?

-All along, I’ve been trying to figure out the sideways flashes.  My best guess is that it’s a world where Jacob never touched the castaways.  I thought at one time in the past that it was a world where MIB won, but that world doesn’t seem like hell to me (even if the Island is underwater).  Maybe it’s a world where Jacob and MIB killed each other, cancelling each other out?

-The end exchange between Jacob and MIB was chilling.  But I keep thinking about MIB and the bottle of wine.  He got the wine out not by uncorking the bottle, but rather by smashing it.  Could it be his way of foreshadowing that he has something else up his sleeve?  Again, no idea.

What did you think?

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One thought on “Poor Richard’s Test of Faith

  1. So does this mean Richard was the first Other? Kind of hard to believe that Jacob has been around forever, but it didn’t strike him until the nineteenth century that it would help his cause if he communicated with people once in a while.

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