Two episodes from the finale, Lost’s creators took us to the beginning of the story—the first 30-odd years of the lives of Jacob and the Man in Black (when he was the Boy in Black). The big take-away of the episode, “Across the Sea,” is that Jacob and the MiB are brothers. As if we hadn’t already guessed.
The episode unfolds like a parable or a myth or a fairy tale or a cheap knockoff of The Lord of the Rings if you feel like getting your Lost-hater ya-yas out. When the boys’ mother-killing mother leads them to the golden light, I half expected the Boy in Black to croak, “Oh, my precious,” before bashing his brother’s and his mother-killing mother’s brains in. They all look like citizens of Middle Earth! But as I’ve been trying to argue all season, there’s a very good case to be made that the Fella in Black isn’t completely evil and Jacob isn’t “good.” For instance, in this episode, Boy in Black commits no transgressions unless you think expressions of curiosity, a desire for independence, and the longing to escape from Devil’s Island are transgressive.
If we want to catalog evil: It’s Jacob who punches BiB’s lights out. It’s Mother who kills the real mother and confesses the murder to her boys and asks them to “understand.” Later, when Boy in Black is all grown up, he slips the shiv to the bitch after she greases an entire village of innocent castaways. In the name of justice, I say that he should have speared her earlier and maybe taken Jacob out as well for his complicity in the coverup.
I think you make too much of the color-coding Lost’s creators have applied to Jacob. White is not always right. Jacob is a passive, obedient, and timid wimp who is tied to the apron strings of the woman who killed his real mom! Talk about the banality of evil. She’s a New Age Nazi who will justify any murder and any lie to erect a 1,000 year paradise on the island. She calls the castaways, who appear to have done nobody but a few pigs any harm, dangerous and then pulls a Jonestown massacre on them. Jacob should have given his brother a high-five for killing her. Instead, he retaliates by flushing his brother down the eternal sunshine toilet—which his mother has told him is the worst fate that could be visited upon anyone—turning him into a smoke monster.
Now, tell me who is deeply evil, Jacob or the Man?
As long as we’re on the subject of the eternal sunshine toilet, allow me to share this timely image from the Web.
If I gave you points for spotting all the Lost parallels, I’d have to subtract them for your inability to make a grander point than everything that happens happens again. But I’ll let you off the hook. I know from experience that it’s hard to file an instant analysis of the show and that what seems like a sharp insight at 11:30 p.m. reads like hackwork the next morning. At least that’s how I feel about most of the early dispatches I’ve filed.
A couple of rambling observations before I hand off to Chad:
My friend John Podhoretz noted in an e-mail to me the similarity between the mother-killing mother and Mother Nature from a series of Chiffon margarine commercials that were aired in the early 1970s. The ongoing gag in the commercials was that Mother Nature couldn’t tell the difference between Chiffon and butter, and when alerted to her oversight, she’d bellow, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” to the sound of clapping thunder. Here’s a faded print of one of the commercials on YouTube.
Jacob seems to think that mother-killing mother always liked the Boy in Black best, but I sense no favoritism. In fact, if you give the first-born fraternal son a name but give the second none, I think you’ve telegraphed who you like best. Or maybe his name is Brother. I’d pay cash money for a scene in which Desmond walks up to the Man in Black and says, “How’s it going, Brootha?” and have MiB respond, “How’d you know my name?”