Is it just me, or was tonight’s episode completely underwhelming? The mystery behind Richard Alpert has been built up so much over the course of the last few seasons that I can’t help but feel like we were all expecting something more. It’s not that the episode was bad (Nestor Campbell delivered one helluva performance, and Titus Welliver was brilliant yet again as the Man in Black), but rather that when it ended, I didn’t have very much to say. And considering that we’re already midway through the final season, shouldn’t every episode be somewhat memorable?
It may have ended well – and really, that’s all anyone is going to remember when people gather around the water cooler to discuss the episode tomorrow – but the first half was dreadfully boring. Granted, we now know approximately how old Richard is, as well as where he comes from, but did they really need to spend so much time on the death of his wife, his inadvertent murder of the local doctor, and his eventual incarceration? Just get him to the damned island already, because while it may seem important that he got there by way of the Black Rock (and as a slave no less), none of it really matters once he meets Jacob and the Man in Black.
Their feuding relationship is far more interesting than anything in Richard’s history, namely because the writers still haven’t given us a reason to believe that one is good and the other is evil. Obviously, the Man in Black is being set up to be the villain of the pair, but for someone who so desperately wants to get off the island, he sure has the patience of a saint. Okay, so maybe he doesn’t always tell the truth (I don’t believe for a second that Jacob is the Devil), but why didn’t he kill Richard along with the rest of the Black Rock survivors? It can’t be because Richard is a candidate, or Jacob wouldn’t have to worry about finding a successor. And if all the Man in Black wanted was someone to kill Jacob for him, couldn’t he have picked someone that was more likely to do the deed? (Like, say, that crazy officer who started stabbing all the slaves.)
Then again, maybe he just needs to prove to Jacob that Richard is capable of killing again. That’s certainly Jacob’s theory, who tells Richard that he brings people to the island to challenge the idea that it’s human nature to sin. But how does that make him any better than the Man in Black? He may not be asking anyone to kill for him, but he’s still interfering with their lives by dragging them to the island. The island, of course, isn’t Hell like Richard thinks. Instead, Jacob likens it to a cork on a wine bottle that acts as a barrier to Hell. So essentially, it’s like a Hellmouth, only instead of Sunnydale, it’s located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
All kidding aside, I think the island is like some sort of Purgatory. Not in the religious sense (that theory was debunked as far back as Season Two), but rather as a gateway between the two realities I’ve come to call Earth-1 and Earth-2. Prove yourself worthy of atonement and you’ll be rewarded by being sent to the reality where Oceanic Flight 815 doesn’t crash. Fail to repent for your sins, however, and you’ll be stuck on the island for eternity; or at least, until you can find a loophole of your own. I know it’s not a perfect theory, but it’s the best I’ve got.