This episode breaks the pattern established by the first half of the season, and that lends it a certain simplicity. Thatâs also the result of the nature of the story. Richardâs story sounds like something that should be ridiculously complex, and yet, once revealed, itâs fairly obvious. Similarly, Richardâs initials interactions with both Jacob and his rival answer basic questions that reveal a context that isnât al that shocking.
For some, the answers wonât be direct enough. The writers donât give a whirlwind tour of Richardâs entire history on the island or repackage old scenes and situations from Richardâs point of view. Instead, the writers do something more in keeping with the tonal strengths of âLostâ: they provide a look into Richardâs role, as appointed by Jacob, and his resultant motivations. With that in mind, itâs up to the viewer to go back to Richardâs earlier appearances and see how it all fits together.
Which, frankly, shouldnât be a burden. Much of this episode was hardly a revelation. Itâs completely consistent with what has been shown. Richard has always been the intermediary between the leader of the Others, the people chosen by Jacob, and Jacob himself. And itâs equally clear that Jacob never really told Richard everything that Richard thought he should know. Now we know why: for all that Jacob wanted to demonstrate his faith in humanityâs ability to avoid âcorruptionâ, to utilize free will to be something better, his approach is innately flawed.
The message of the episode, by the end, is that Richardâs role as âadviserâ or âintermediaryâ is almost beside the point. Itâs a known quantity that doesnât need much explanation. Instead, itâs how he gets there. Just like every other character on âLostâ, it all comes down to Richardâs desire for redemption and absolution. Richard continues, in his own mind, to atone for the mistakes of his past. And like everyone on the island, he is tempted by the darkness.
At this point, it seems rather well-established that Jacobâs rival is not simply misunderstood. He may believe that he has been unfairly trapped on the island, but his methods are a lot more negatively manipulative than Jacobâs could ever be described to be. And Jacobâs description of their philosophical conflict is in keeping with everything that has already been seen.
It appears to come down to humanityâs true nature. Assuming free will, can humanity avoid corruption? Jacobâs rival has already made it clear that he believes anyone can be corrupted, and he has demonstrated a talent for offering people what they want, however impossible, to push them to embrace their darkest impulses. Jacob, on the other hand, manipulates the conditions of the choice, but seldom (if ever) makes an offer to push anyone towards the better, less convenient path.
If there is one plot point in the episode that doesnât quite track, itâs the notion that Jacob wouldnât have thought to use an intermediary such as Richard after centuries or more of unsuccessful management of Candidates. Itâs not as though itâs some subtle, ephemeral concept. Nor does it quite make sense for Jacob to keep acting like itâs a shock that his rival would try to kill him. Richard canât be the only person that Jacobâs rival tried to cultivate as an assassin.
Also, Jacobâs reaction to Richardâs presence by the base of the statue is a lot more violent than one might have anticipated, given Jacobâs demeanor up to this point. Given what is now known, the violence of the Others fits the notion that they were Candidates and potential Candidates who gave in to a measure of corruption. So it should have been easier for the writers, in this case, to establish a difference between Jacob and the Others in terms of their tactics.
On the other hand, Jacobâs violence could be seen as âself-defenseâ, if none of the previous Candidates had ever tried to find him directly. It certainly seems as though the island is deserted by the time of the Black Rockâs arrival. Also, it doesnât seem as though Jacobâs rival allowed too many arrivals to survive very long. Perhaps Richard was the first one to be virtuous enough to pass the test, and force Jacobâs rival to use different tactics. Richardâs presence might then mark a different treatment of survivors on the island.
Jacobâs explanation of the islandâs purpose, and perhaps his own purpose, implies that the philosophical debate between Jacob and his rival is an effect of the origin of their relationship and circumstance. Because Jacob speaks in metaphor, thereâs plenty of room for interpretation. Itâs unlikely that the island is, in fact, the cork keeping âhellâ from escaping into the rest of the word. But it has been said, more than once, that the âsicknessâ, now associated directly with Jacobâs rival, couldnât be allowed to leave the island. It all fits together.
Jacobâs task, it seems, is to ensure that the island, and its ability to contain his rival, remains intact. This ties into the previous impression that there is a connection between Jacob and the electromagnetic and temporal anomalies on the island. Those anomalies, unique to the island, keep Jacobâs rival trapped. Keeping people from finding the island appeared to be just as important; perhaps it was designed to prevent anyone from coming and giving Jacobâs rival a mechanism to escape.
While Jacob is still around in spiritual form, at least for now, the lack of a physical form seems to have weakened the cage, so to speak. Jacobâs rival can leave the island, and one might assume that Widmoreâs ability to find the island (where before he couldnât) is a part of the same phenomenon.
What all of this points to, in terms of Jacobâs side of the endgame, is finding a Candidate that, given the chance for redemption and a new life, embraces that opportunity and takes his place as the caretaker of the island. By the ârulesâ, still unspoken, the Candidate must apparently volunteer for this burden. The point of the current season arc, and thus the series, is the race for Jacob to identify and pass on his responsibility to his successor before his rival/prisoner can escape.
Ostensibly, this ties into the difference between âLost Primeâ and âLost Xâ, though the new timeline doesnât seem to factor into this episode. It all seems to tie back into âthe Incidentâ, and as mentioned in earlier reviews, itâs a fair guess that the difference between timelines is how âthe Incidentâ reacted with the electromagnetic anomaly on the island.
If âLost Xâ was, as it seems, the result of dispersing the electromagnetic anomaly and causing the island to sink, then the real question is whether or not Jacobâs rival would also be eliminated in the blast. If so, then âLost Xâ continue to show what would have happened if the characters had never become caught in the conflict between Jacob and his rival. If not, and if Jacobâs rival was unleashed, then the âLost Xâ timeline seems to suggest that Jacobâs claims in this episode are overstated. So while the basis of the conflict between Jacob and his rival appears to be well-established, there are aspects that still need serious explanation.
While Richardâs story was poignant and excellent, highlighting the talents of Nestor Carbonell like never before, there were some odd aspects of his history with the Black Rock. On the positive side, there is an interesting legend from the Canary Islands claiming the existence of an âeighth islandâ called St. Brendanâs Island. It is said to appear on some older maps, and there are stories of sailors that once landed on the island. Of course, there are only seven islands in the Canary Islands, so this legend corresponds neatly with the notion of an island that moves!
Within the story, however, there is an odd inconsistency. For all that the rest of the details work out very nicely, the writers seem to stumble with the history of the Black Rock. In âThe Constantâ, the ship was reported as lost at sea after its departure from Portsmouth, England in 1845. The ledger of Magnus Hanso, supposedly first mate of the Black Rock, was supposedly discovered in 1852. In this episode, Magnus Hanso is the captain of the Black Rock when Richard is brought on board in 1867.
The ledger was supposed to hold clues to the location of the island, which it should not, unless the Black Rock was repeatedly looking for the island over the space of more than twenty years. But logically speaking, why would the Black Rock have been said to be lost at sea after leaving port in 1845, if it was clearly known to be in use in 1867?
As it is unlikely that the Black Rockâs history will be mentioned again, here is a potential answer: in âThe Constantâ, it was mentioned that Magnus Hansoâs ledger was discovered at a pirate haven in 1852. It may be that the Black Rock initially left in 1847 on its trading mission to Siam, encountered the island the first time (perhaps linking to the scene between Jacob and his rival at the beginning of âThe Incidentâ), leading to a mutiny by Hanso and the crew. Hanso could have then taken control, spread the story that the Black Rock was lost at sea, and continued his quest to find the island by press-ganging criminals and convicts over the years.
Regardless, this apparent discrepancy, and the minor point about Jacobâs apparent lapse in judgment before Richardâs arrival on the island, do little to undermine the strength of the narrative. This is still one of the best episodes of the series, and the surest sign yet that the writers know exactly what they are doing as they bring the tale to a close.