There were three important deaths in the May 11 episode: The Man in Black, the Man in Black's mother, and the show's momentum.
Sayid is gone. So are Sun and Jin. Lapedus is underwater. Ben, Miles and Richard have been AWOL since the college basketball season ended. Desmond is still in the well, just waiting to unleash his magical powers. Fake Locke is gearing up for an epic showdown. And yet...all this compelling drama got suspended.
Instead, viewers finally got the backstory of Jacob and the Man in Black. Make no mistake: Their history is crucial to the series‚ narrative. But to paraphrase a reoccurring Saturday Night Live segment...really??????!!! The Lost hourglass is quickly running out of sand and last week's episode was the most action-packed of the whole season. This stand-alone tale could have been told in March, easily.
That's not even the worst of it. I'm already bracing for the hater comments, so here goes: This episode was a letdown. Thanks to glacial placing, obvious themes, and heavy-handed dialogue (I think the phrase "You must protect the island!" was uttered 13 times), I found myself getting more frustrated with each passing moment. The surprises registered fairly low on the Lost a-ha! scale, while the big one shocker at the end just raised even more questions. It's mid-May. Viewers are entitled to more fulfilling answers than the identities to the Adam and Eve bodies who were discovered way back in season one.
So let's travel back. In the beginning, there was light. And water. And a pregnant woman ready to pop on the island. And a homely island native ready to play nursemaid. Conveniently, both speak perfect English. The nursemaid -- who looks just like the actress who played CJ on The West Wing -- delivers a boy. Mama has already named him Jacob. But wait! There's another baby. She names him Esau. Actually, nope. She's so shocked and unprepared for this second baby, she doesn't name him at all. One boy is wrapped in white cloth. The other is wrapped in a dark one. Then the nursemaid kills mama. Fade to black...Lost.
OK, if Sex and the City writers can name Mr. Big, then Lost writers can do the same for the baby in black. He can still be evil with a moniker, I swear! It just came off as an eye-rolling contrivance. Ditto the white/dark blankets. It would have been a more interesting twist if Jacob were the baby wrapped in black. Just saying. That said, the good twin/bad twin was a development that, frankly, I didn't see coming. (Which is pretty sad, considering I'm a twin myself). Knowing in retrospect that the two main island ancestors are brothers gives their relationship extra resonance. Blood is thicker than water (and wine), after all.
Fast-forward 13 years. Jacob is good boy, dedicated to his mother, incapable of lying and living blissfully on the island. His brother is more inquisitive and restless. But not evil. He wants to play games. And he's itching to learn what's the other side of the sea. His strict mother shoots him down, insisting that the island is the hot spot of the universe. But she does tell that she's special.
The mythology continues. Jacob and Teen in Black stumble upon the original Others. They run and tell their mother. She tells them to stay away from the group, and reveals that the two of them are there for a reason. What reason? "It's not time yet!" she exclaims. Then she leads them in blindfolds to a glowing light.
"We must make sure no one ever finds the light."
"Yes it is. That's why they want it. A little bit of this light is inside every man. But they always want more."
"Can they take it?"
"No. But they can try. And if they try, they can put it out. If it goes out here, it goes out everywhere. So I protect it. But I can't protect it forever."
Why the cryptic language? Just say what the light is! This isn't Pulp Fiction! Besides, if the light is that important, why has this development never been an issue until now? It would have helped if the castaways would have found this light at least once during the series. Just so viewers could have planted a flag somewhere.
Next, the brothers play another round of (yes) backgammon, complete with black stones and white stones. "One day you'll make up your own game and make up your own rules," TIB tells his bro. It's just one of many prophetic, subtle-as-a-jackhammer lines. Suddenly, TIB has a vision of a woman. His birth mother. She leads him to the original Others (actually the shipwrecked survivors), and tells him about the secrets and lies going on at casa mama.
That settles it. TIB wants to join his people and leave the island. He tries to convince Jacob to join his cause, but his brother is not having it and beats him up. "Those people are bad," the mother tells Jacob, "And I need you to stay good." Jacob stays with her -- even though she kind of admits that she loves his brother more than him.
Not that the other brother cares. Now an adult, he just wants to punch his ticket off that island. And he seems to have found a way. It took him 30 years, but he has figured out a way to mix the light and the water and the well and the wheel to transport himself. He shows his creation to his mother -- and in a nice moment of humanity, weeps while hugging her goodbye. You knew what was coming next. She knocks him out and destroys his well-concoction and goes on a murdering spree. She's very apologetic about it.
Then, revenge. The MIB -- who, several weeks ago, went on a soliloquy about his unloving mother -- puts a knife through her heart. Her last words: "thank you." Huh? Perhaps she really wanted off the island along. Which would make no sense, considering her ultra-protective nature.
Anyway. Jacob's wrath is palpable. He can't kill his brother, but he can do the next best thing. Throw him into the light, of course! As his mother told him earlier, to get thrown down into the light is to have a fate worse than dying. So MIB goes into the light as a man, and comes out as the smoke monster. It's a 5 on a 1 to 10 wow scale. But he's physically dead; and Jacob places the body next to his dead mother's corpse. Adam and Eve's skeletons, revealed.
Let me get this straight. The Smoke Monster is just that. A monster, albeit one that can apparently embody dead people. When Jacob and MIB were talking on the beach at the beginning of the season five finale, that was really Jacob and a spirit. And a spirit got Richard out of those chains.
Meanwhile, Jacob is the chosen one. His mother tells him that he doesn't have a choice about it. (Ah, but we all have choices, right Charlie?). And his responsibilities include selecting the possible heirs to his throne. And he does this by...leaving the island again and again and touching his successors and future island inhabitants.
Look, I'm all for Lost mythology. If I wanted easy-going simplicity, I'd turn on USA (no offense, Psych fans.) But this episode seemed so in love with its nods to the series‚ folklore, it lacked basic explanations -- starting with who invented these island rules in the first place.
I guess I should just follow the advice of the island matriarch herself. "Every question I answer will just lead to another question," she told the woman in labor at the start of the episode. "You should rest -- and be grateful you're alive."