Jacob have I loved
I am sorry to hear you’re hotel internet is down and I hope you are able to remedy the situation soon, because last night’s episode was a doozy, especially for the theologically minded. Good lord, how is one supposed to track all the possible biblical parallels and their overlapping, interweaving frames? I have long wanted more of Jacob and the Man in Black and this episode was absolutely fantastic on that front, though I have to admit, it left a few holes, questions, and puzzles that don’t exactly make sense to me. But more on that later. Let’s start with the shocking first scene: the birth of Jacob and his twin brother – can we just call him Esau? I mean, come on, he comes out covered in dark hair and with a definitively darker complexion. Sure, they are playing with the story, since in the Bible Jacob is born second and grasping at Esau’s heel. In the Bible, Jacob is also beloved of his mother, and Esau of his father. But since we don’t have a father figure (the island itself?), it is a bit hard to play that one out. The fact that they never tell us the MiB’s name also leads me to believe we are supposed to fill it in for ourselves.
Jacob and Esau aren’t the only biblical characters to surface via allusion and suggestion. We also have hints of Cain and Abel, but with Jacob in the role of Cain, sending his brother to a fate worse than death in the brilliant light/life source of the island. Then, of course, we have Adam and Eve, but with Esau/MiB and their crazy mother acting the parts. Esau, especially, plays a kind of Eve role, constantly seeking knowledge he is not supposed to have. And finally we have the intense eucharistic moment between Mother and Jacob, as pictured above. In offering him the wine with distinctly priestly gestures and saying “take and drink,” Mother mimics Jesus during the last supper – which is a theme we know the writers have been playing with since the start of the season. Once Jacob has drunk from the cup, Mother tells him that they are now the same – he has taken her life into him in an unmistakably sacramental way. And let’s not forget that this takes place near a rushing stream, invoking the continual image of baptism we have seen throughout the season. If we believe Mother that she is protecting the source of life, death and rebirth then this exchange is something like Jacob assuming the role of god/mediator for god. Then again, Mother is not an unambiguous figure so any neat theological notions about good and evil are undone when we see the carnage she left behind in slaughtering the original Others.
What does it all add up to? or mean? Really, I’m not sure and I don’t think there are supposed to be any complete allegories on Lost as much as suggestions and hints and themes. So let’s talk about some of those suggestions and themes, as well as knew knowledge we gained in this episode:
–the knowledge of good and evil: Mother lies to the boys about the nature of the world, insisting that there is nothing outside or beyond the island. Esau/MiB is clearly enraptured by the idea that there is something “out there” and seeks to know it. It makes his eternal quest to leave the island that much more believeable and sympathetic to me – he just wants to know what is out there. That said, by leaving to live with the Others he gains first hand knowledge of the good and evil his Mother has warned him about. I’m sure you noticed that her speech to the boys about the nature of humanity is echoed word for word by Esau when we hear him talking with Jacob as they watch the Black Rock head for the island. Jacob lacks this knowledge and doesn’t believe his Mother, even though he is the one who stays loyal to her. While the bleak pessimism of Esau and Mother is a bit over the top, I have to admit, Jacob ended up seeming pretty naive in his curiosity about humans and it makes me wonder how much we can trust his optimistic hope in their abilities.Which brings us to…
–the nature of humankind: a big theme throughout the series, tied to questions of fate and free will and the capacity of each of us to will both good and evil. What is curious to me is the way both Jacob and Esau see themselves as distinct from other humans, Jacob largely due to his lack of experience. But Esau talks about the Others like he is an observer watching a different species, or at least a distinctly different tribe or culture. Do they feel distinct simply because they were raised by such a Mother, or because her ability to bestow eternal life and a binding “do no harm” policy between them has, in fact, separated them from the rest of humanity?
–family relations: we have talked a lot about parental/child relationships in the series and those issues are back on the table. When Flocke told Kate that he had a crazy mother we see that he wasn’t joking. This primal mother figure might just take the cake as far as disfunctional parent/child relationships go. But the real theme of the episode is sibling relations, and sibling rivalry. This theme has not been explored nearly as much in other episodes/seasons, but we have had hints of its growing importance in alterna-world as Jack and Claire are brought together. Will it turn out that this foundational family relationship is even more important than the parent-child one?
–the nature of the island: I really should have put this first on the list, because finally we have been given some sort of explanation, however incomplete, about the nature of the island. It houses a great body of light that is “the purest, brightest light you’ve ever seen” – and which is the wellspring of the light that resides in each human being. It is also apparently capable of transporting people off the island and unsticking the island from time, as we learned in earlier seasons when someone after Esau was able to finish building that handy wheel under the Dharma Orchid station. We also know that this source is so powerful that to encounter it would be worse, far worse according to Mother, than death itself. Apparently at least one outcome of such an encounter is to be turned into a pillar of black smoke and hence we have…
–the origin story of the black smoke: it is not clear why or how Esau’s incapacitate/dead body is reincarnated as a pillar of black smoke upon floating into the light, but that is at least what happened to him. What is even less clear to me is the time line for Esau’s death, at least the death of his original body. We have seen several scenes where Jacob and Esau talked in these original bodies, the most significant being their scene on the beach at the end of season 5 when we learn that Esau is determined to find a loophole and kill Jacob. This conversation clearly takes place after the scenes we saw in this episode. Does that mean that Esau can materialize in the form of his own dead body? If so, why did he ever need to assume another form? Or was that assumption strictly strategic – a means of infiltrating our story and manipulating our characters, especially Ben so he will kill Jacob?Also, are we supposed to believe that in his transformation into black smoke upon contact with the Light, Esau became a force capable of extinguishing all Light if he ever leaves the island? Is he “the Light” now, or the Light’s inverse, and therefore he must be kept on the island to protect all of humanity? If that is the case, it is very intriguing to realize that Jacob did this to him and that Esau is, in fact, very much a victim in a cosmic game he didn’t want to play. It also raises the question of whether or not Jacob and his Mother were right: will all goodness die if Esau is allowed to leave?
There are so many more questions to ask and I personally could have taken a whole other hour of just Jacob and Esau (it was amazing how insignificant Kate and Jack seemed when we watched them discover Mother and Esau’s corpses in that flashback to way back when. Digression: did you notice how much more make-up Kate was wearing in that first season?). I really hope you can watch soon and comment, this week or next, because I’d love to know what you think of all this. And also, gentle readers, what did you think? What other new truths did we learn that I missed? What other lessons and allegories and bits of mythology are in play that might help us piece together the final bits as we march steadily to the grand finale?