Lost Season Six Episode Fifteen, "Across the Sea"
What’s the deal with the magic cave? What happens if it’s destroyed? Who were the proto-others? Who built the statue, lighthouse, etc.? What the fuck is dude’s name already? Did Smokey pre-date the Man in Black (and was released by his insertion into magic cave, and then took his form as he did with Locke etc.), or did the Man in Black become Smokey?
After some reflection, though, I am quite happy with the episode. It could stand on its own as an hour-long story, yet it fits in perfectly with the themes and back story of the show. It functions as myth, structurally for the story of Lost, and formally as a piece of myth – it has myth’s openness to a multiplicity of viewpoints. You can argue that Jacob is right, or that Smokey is right, or some other view, and find evidence for your case. Really, that’s one of the strong points of Lost as a whole.
The lack of answers is something we had best get used to. In Lost as in life, there is no all-knowing deity to provide all the answers. There are other people, like Allison Janney here, whose knowledge is always partial, and you can believe them, or not. She is just one in a line of island protectors, and this was not an island origin story. Judging by the Latin, the statue had already been built. So we don’t know why the fuck there is a Magic Cave / Waterfall, but we know it is the source of everything. It can be tapped – can make you immortal, turn you into smoke, travel in time & space, change dimensions. But I wouldn’t expect to learn too much more about it. It’s a MacGuffin, and its definition or lack thereof will not redeem or ruin your Lost experience.
Moving on, then. It was interesting that the MiB is allied with science (certainly with skepticism), what with the use of ingenious “wheels” to tap the power of the island and whatnot. So that puts him firmly in Dharma Camp, making the Dharma vs. hostiles dispute a Smokey vs. Jacob proxy war. Once the ‘others’ took over – the purge, courtesy Ben – theoretically Jacob would be in charge of the island again, but I’m starting to wonder if Smokey hadn’t “gotten free” by then, imitated Jacob, and caused the entire purge. So when Widmore was trying to get to the island, Ben was following Fakob thinking it was Jacob… phew.
A lot of fans and critics (what’s the difference again?) reacted quite negatively to this episode. To generalize, the argument is that not enough questions were answered, and that the show isn’t going to answer everything, therefore they didn’t really know what they’re doing. It’s a species of Lost Finale Angst, and I certainly understand it – I’ve had my doubts about this season, and my initial reaction to this ep was similar. However, I think it’s too hard to judge until the finale ends. But I certainly don’t think info-dump question-answering sessions make for very good television, and I don’t want everything wrapped up in a bow. Again, one of the strengths of this show is the multiplicity of viewpoints it supports and the discussion it engenders, and I hope the end of the show still leaves some room for that.
Next week: well, if you don’t know the episode title, I won’t spoil it for you. And then the two and a half hour finale on the following sunday… It’s gonna be huge. I hope.
Some further reading about “Across the sea:”
AV Club writeup and discussion
Cultural Learnings writeup