OK so now I get it. The island is a plug, keeping evil itself contained so it doesn’t leak out and infect the rest of the world. So it’s a bit like Gruinard Island only instead of anthrax it’s housing Esau/Smoke Monster/Man in Black (Titus Welliver) and letting him leave would be a big mistake. At least, that’s what Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) says but can you really trust him? Can you trust anyone on Craphole Island?
Ab Aeterno (from the Latin meaning "from eternity"), running us through Richard Alpert‘s life story, is one of the most important chapters in the Lost canon and also one of the best. It seems to finally give a reason for people being brought to the island. Jacob wants to prove Esau wrong – it is not in people’s nature to be bad, not everyone is corruptible. "When they get here" he tells Richard "their past doesn’t matter". Original sin or saving grace? Pick a side, because that is the big philosophical battle being played out on the island.
"’When they get here’ he tells Richard ‘their past doesn’t matter’. Original sin or saving grace? Pick a side, because that is the big philosophical battle being played out on the island."
Richard listens to the story and kind of digs it, even though he had originally sought out Jacob to kill him. Esau, being evil personified and all, had persuaded Rich that Jacob was the devil and that he had taken Rich’s dead wife Isabella (which makes all kinds of sense to the grief stricken and shipwrecked Hispanic).
The year is 1857 and Richard has just been washed up with The Black Rock, chained up in the voguish galley slave chic of the time. It’s not been the best year for Richard. His wife dies, he accidentally kills a doctor trying to save her, gets himself sentenced to death and condemned to hell by a really shit Catholic priest. Thank God you don’t get that kind of miscreant in the Roman Catholic church today, eh?
"Esau is a genie in a bottle – you’ve got to rub him the right way. But mainly not take the cork out lest he unleash hell on earth."
Things begin to look up for Richard when shit Catholic priest sells him into slavery upon the good ship Black Rock but when a tempest propels them towards the island of doom Richard concludes that he’s gone to hell. I don’t think they do beaches like that in hell, Rich. Such a drama queen.
Jacob uses a corked wine bottle to illustrate what a gwan. The wine inside the bottle, he tells Ricardo, is what you think of as evil. The cork is the island, keeping evil contained so it doesn’t spread. Esau is a genie in a bottle – you’ve got to rub him the right way. But mainly not take the cork out lest he unleash hell on earth.
"He’s a strictly noninterventionist god as long if you don’t count all the shipwrecks, plane crashes, turning up out of the blue at emotional high points and generally being a creepy weird puppet master god complex bastard."
The interesting thing with Jacob is he’s big on free will. He wants the people he brings there to learn the difference between right and wrong without being told. He’s a strictly noninterventionist god as long as you don’t count all the shipwrecks, plane crashes, turning up out of the blue at emotional high points and generally being a creepy weird puppet master god complex bastard.
"An island where exile equals redemption, where the miraculous is the mundane and where the lost are found."
But as Richard shows such an interest in the Lostaways, Jacob decides that he would be the perfect intermediary between him and the islanders. In exchange he gives Richard eternal life to carry out his day-to-day duties. Sweet gig, Rich!
Ab Aeterno is a bold and powerful statement from the show makers. They have committed themselves to a solution informed by some kind of biblical parable, an eternal struggle between light and dark. Jacob is the Good Shepherd – he finds the lost, herds them on to the island and leaves them to find themselves. Not quite Christ yet not quite human, a blank slate and a chance to prove yourself is what he offers. An island where exile equals redemption, where the miraculous is the mundane and where the lost are found.
Motherfucker, I’m there.
The verdict on Ab Aeterno: Impressive philosophical set up for the inevitable thunderous climax.
Marks out of 10: 8.5
Imagined: Friday, 26 March, 2010