Every question I answer will simply lead to another question

Objectively, “Across The Sea” is a great episode.  Lost’s roots are in revealing surprising and insightful backgrounds for its characters and the Jacob/MiB origin is no exception.  That said, this episode really dropped the ball as part of the larger whole.  Last week killed what momentum Lost had and this week removed us from the narrative completely.  We’re now heading into the final two episodes from a dead stop when we should be moving at breakneck speed.  It’s not fair to criticize this episode what it isn’t, but it still feels like it was missing something.  This might have worked better as a FLocke flashback.

Looking at what we did get, I pleased with the oldschool Lost feeling.  Yes, FLocke is the villain, but the whole “evil incarnate” accusations need to be dropped (mostly) as his motivations are pretty understandable.  He really was raised by a crazy mother; she murdered his real mother, lied to him his whole life, destroyed his only means of escape, and killed his people.  Jacob really did destroy his humanity, knowingly condemning him to a fate worse than death.  He really does just want to leave the island, it’s all he’s ever wanted and it’s unjust that he’s been trapped there since birth.  All this goes a long way to making us sympathize with MiB without really excusing his actions.  Like most great villains he’s at least partially right.

Jacob also gets the traditional Lost treatment as his responsibility for the island gets a lot murkier.  For starters, he the reason the island is in danger to begin with.  I think it’s safe to say that Smokie can’t leave because he’s now linked to the “light of the world” that exists on the island and his departure would extinguish it.  That’s Jacob’s fault and he’s effectively punishing Smokie for his own crime.  There’s definitely a conflict of interest there as he now seems to be motivated by some combination of altruism, guilt, spite, and loyalty.  Finally, there’s the fact that he was never supposed to be the one that protected the island.

This brings me to the most exciting possibility suggested by this episode.  Maybe, just maybe, Locke-FLocke-Smokie-MiB is going to become the island’s protector.  Until now I was certain that Lost was going to end with Jack and FLocke on the beach, renewing the Jacob and MiB power struggle.  Full circle is certainly one way to end the story, but it may not be the only one.  So long as Smokie wants to leave the island it will always be in danger.  The only way to end that threat is for him to accept responsibility for protecting this place.  Perhaps what Jack is here to do is to “fix” MiB, possibly through forgiving him and/or setting him free and/or convincing him that humanity is worth saving, something Jacob himself, for various reasons, could never do.  If MiB was the one meant to protect the island then it makes sense that his successor (FLocke/Locke) and not Jacob’s (Jack) be the one to do so now.

Identity Issues

My Final Thoughts about this episode are numerous enough to need some subcategories.  First off, the identity issues being explored throughout this season really came to a head in this episode.  The exact relationship between MiB/Smokie/FLocke/Locke came into focus for me and bears some exploration.

MiB was born on the island and raised by his mother’s killer, who believed he was “special.”  He was curious about what lay over the horizon and wished his life were other than what it was, both traits his adoptive mother discouraged.  He learned the truth about her and the world at large and went to live amongst “his” people.  He concluded that they were inherently evil  (as his “mother” claimed) but came to share their curiosity, ingenuity and obsession with leaving the island.  He killed his adoptive mother in retribution when she thwarted this obsession and suffered a fate worse than death as punishment.

Smokie emerged when MiB was thrown into the power contained by the island.  It possess MiB’s memories, issues, and limitations (can’t kill Jacob) but has the power to change its shape and assume the essence of other beings (Locke).  Smokie is the product of MiB’s essence merging with “something.”

John Locke grew up thinking he was special, a belief reinforced by the machinations of Smokie.  He has a crazy mother, was curious about the way things works, and believed his life should be other than what it was.  His desire for validation lead to his crippling at the hands of his father and then to his refusal to accept his limitations.  Coming to the island, he believed his destiny was to protect it.  Smokie manipulated this belief toward getting Locke killed.

FLocke emerged when John Locke’s body was returned to the island.  He possesses all of Smokie’s qualities along with Locke’s memories and issues (“Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”).  Flocke is the product of Locke’s essence merging with Smokie.

Alta-Locke lead the same life as John Locke with some key differences.  He never went to the island and so was never manipulated by Smokie.   He had a positive relationship with his father until an accident crippled him and left his father a vegetable.  Alta-Locke feels that his fate is justified based on this responsibility.

To summarize: Smokie=MiB+X; FLocke=Smokie+Locke; Alta-Lock=Locke – Smokie’s influence;
To theorize: FLocke + Alta-Locke = <Smokie+Locke.  A merging of the two universes will not restore Locke, but it diminish the Smokie aspect of FLocke.

The Island

The light as the X-Factor has the virtue connecting identity issues running through this season with the “what is the island” question that’s been plaguing us throughout the series.  Traditionally, light is good and dark is evil, but this episode muddied the Jacob/MiB waters enough that I don’t think we can rely on that.

1-Scientifically, the light manifests itself as high levels of electro-magnetic energy and can be used to manipulate space and time.  It is contained by the island and breaching that containment can have catastrophic effects.

2-Spiritually, a part of the light exists in all people.  Extinguishing it on the island would extinguish it everywhere.

1+2 – The light is related to everyone’s “destiny” aka: where they should be in space and time.  Through manipulation of the light, a person’s path in life can be impacted.

The light is the essence of chaos.  This theory works with most of the known elements of Lost.

  • The piece of chaos that exists within all of us is our capacity for choice, something Jacob is preoccupied with protecting.
  • If the full force of chaos were unleashed it would destroy the world and/or extinguishing the light would eliminate choice.  Either possibility could be what Jacob is trying to stop.
  • Smokie is a union between MiB and chaos and therefore cannot leave without brining all the chaos with him.
  • MiB’s belief that people are inherently sinful was passed on to Smokie and now to FLocke.  This belief in inevitability is effectively a denial of choice, which means that no one has the light in them and that it doesn’t matter if it goes out.  This accounts for Smokie’s insistence that “it’s just an island.”

The light is the essence of order.  This theory, frustratingly, works nearly as well as the last one, although I like it less and so won’t expand upon it here.  That being said, I think the conclusion of Lost is going to involve a blending of the two.

Final, Final Thoughts

Wow, this post is a novel.  Thanks for making it this far.

No wonder FLocke is so insistent that Locke was wrong.  If Locke was right that means his “mother” was too and his leaving really can’t be permitted.

If MiB’s “destiny” was to protect the island, does that invalidate his desire to leave?  No.  His “mother,” and then Jacob, were wrong to force him to stay.  Denying his free will was the ultimate sin and has lead to a threat to the entire world.

Is destiny a point in the future pulling forward or the events of the past shaping our present.  Lost has explored both notions, although it’s the “events of the past” aspect that makes me think that island may be the font of chaos.  This a place where people are driven to lose their baggage, freeing them of whatever “destiny” was in store.

No wonder Jacob could never win the argument.  He’s not the best example of humanity’s capacity for good.

Was “Across the Seas” the song Hurley and Sayid listened to on the beach back in season 1?

So many more ideas in this episode, I haven’t even touched on all the biblical stuff, but I’ll stop here.

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