Ever since we were introduced to Jacob and the Man in Black at the end of Season Five, fans have been foaming at the mouth for more answers about their past. And with only two episodes until the series finale, it seems the writers have finally deemed us worthy of exactly that. Though it wasn’t as great as everyone was probably expecting it to be, tonight’s episode did fill in some of the gaps. In fact, along with shedding some light on the early lives of Jacob and MIB, it also explained why the latter is so damned obsessed with leaving the island… or did it?
Here’s what we do know. A pregnant woman named Claudia washed onto the island after surviving a shipwreck many years ago, and upon meeting another woman in the jungle, she gives birth to a pair of twin boys. The first is named Jacob, but because she wasn’t expecting to have more than one, the other is never given a name – and it remains without one after the woman kills Claudia and raises the two boys as her own. Flashforward to their teenage years and the unnamed child (who we now know as the Man in Black) finds a box on the beach containing white and black rocks that he fashions into a game to play with his brother, Jacob.
When the boys come across some other people on the island, however, they run back to tell Mother, who tells them that the visitors are evil. She later explains that the two of them are on the island for a reason, and that she’s made it impossible for either of them to hurt the other. She then takes them to a glowing waterfall in the jungle to show them just what they’re supposed to be protecting, and though she refuses to say exactly what it is, she warns them that the visitors will try to take the light, and if it goes out, it will go out everywhere. Of course, if MIB had been paying attention, he would have caught this slip-up, as Mother had previously told him that there was nothing else in the world beyond the island. Of course, that’s quickly remedied when the ghost of MIB’s real mother visits him in the jungle and leads him the other side of the island where the survivors of the shipwreck live. She also tells him about her murder at the hands of Mother, and although MIB tries to convince Jacob to come with him until he can figure out a way to leave the island, Jacob stays behind.
Flashforward again to their adulthood, and though they now live on separate sides of the island, Jacob and MIB still get together to play their childhood game. MIB even admits that Mother was right about the other men being evil, but he needs their help in order to find a way off the island. And as it happens, he’s done just that by digging into areas of the island radiating electromagnetic energy (or as he calls it, places “where the metal acts weird”), in order to locate the source of the glowing waterfall. But when Mother finds out about his dig site – one that includes the yet-to-be-frozen Donkey Wheel that will allow him to leave the island – she throws him against the wall knocking him out. And you wonder why the guy has been holding a grudge against her for all these years.
MIB survives the attack, however, and returns the favor by killing Mother, but not before she designates Jacob as the new protector of the island. Unable to exact revenge on MIB because of the safeguards Mother has implemented, Jacob drags his twin brother to the waterfall and throws him in, resulting in the emergence of the Smoke Monster. Later on, he discovers MIB’s body at the bottom of the waterfall and buries him next to Mother inside a cave – the same cave that the Losties discovered containing the Adam and Eve skeletons. It was a pretty cool way to have everything come full circle, but that doesn’t mean that there still weren’t some questions begging to be asked by the time it was over.
The one that strikes me as the most important of these questions is, quite simply, who is Mother? Evangeline Lilly recently stated in an interview (although likely without the permission of her bosses) that Allison Janney’s character was Mother Earth. It certainly makes sense in terms of the role she played on the island, but I find it hard to believe that Mother freaking Earth would be that vulnerable. You’d think she would be immortal, although I guess it’s possible that she lost her powers the minute Jacob become the new protector. I’m not completely sold on that theory, though, and I have a strange feeling that there’s someone else higher up on the island food chain that we still haven’t met.
The other major question revolves around the connection between the Smoke Monster and the Man in Black. Although it originally seemed like MIB turned into Smokey after he fell into the waterfall (Mother did tell Jacob that entering the light was worse than death), the surfacing of his body suggests that maybe they’re not one in the same. While many will likely theorize that Smokey takes on the physical image of MIB out of sheer convenience, I have another theory entirely – namely, that although MIB’s body emerged from the waterfall, his soul survives in the form of Smokey.
Hey, anything’s possible in the world of “Lost,” and if Mother’s conversation with Claudia is any indication (“Every question I answer will only lead to another question”), Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof aren’t too concerned with giving us the answer to every mystery. Between that line and MIB’s suggestion to Jacob that “one day you can make up your own game and everyone else will have to follow your rules,” it’s obvious that they had a lot of fun writing “Across the Sea.” I certainly had fun watching it, but that doesn’t mean it quenched my thirst for knowledge quite like I expected.