Lost Review: “Ab Aeterno”



In all honesty, I was quite skeptical about the Richard Alpert episode that I knew was coming last night. I thought we knew all we needed to about the character, and that was one mystery I was satisfied in letting go, and a point by point explanation of his history with the Black Rock would only weaken the character.

Instead, what we got was one of the most interesting, and more importantly, informative episodes of Lost to date, so much so that I actually think that most of Lost’s mysteries are pretty much….solved.

This was a much, much different format for Lost this week, so much so that at times I barely knew what show we were watching. The entire episode for the most part was one giant flashback to the 1800s, and because of that, we thankfully got to skip any sort of alterverse episode for me to complain about.

In 1867, Richard was then Ricardos, a Spanish peasant living on the Canary Islands with his very sick wife. He races down the road to the doctor, but when the greedy bastard refuses all his money and his wife’s precious necklace, Richard gives him a shove, and accidentally impales his brain on the corner of a table. He swipes the medicine and races back to his wife, but alas, she is already gone.

Richard is about to be hung for his murderous crime, but his priest strikes a deal with a local English (Dutch?) ship where Richard gets to go to America and live, but as a slave. Well, as fate would have it, the ship is drawn off course and ends up smashing into the giant statue on the island, thus solving that mystery once and for all.


Onboard, Richard and his fellow prisoners are alive, but when the first mate comes down, that fact soon changes, as he starts stabbing all of them in the chest because he fears reprisals from them later on if he lets them go.

As he’s about to end Richard’s very mortal existence, old Smokey comes calling and devours the entire crew, and Richard is left to try and unsuccessfully free himself from his chains.

After days of lockpicking, Richard is about to die from a number of maladies, when all of a sudden he sees a vision of his dead wife. She tells him they are both dead and they can now be together, but Smokey once again comes and she vanishes.
Then things get interesting.

Not-Locke shows up in the cargo hold in the form of Esau (the anti-Jacob) who we first met in the finale of season 5. He tells Richard that yes, he is in hell, and the only way out to be with his wife is if he kills the devil. He sets Richard free, gives him a knife and marches him toward the base of the now-shattered statue.


Well, Jacob isn’t quite as complacent as he was when he was stabbed in the chest by Ben, and he kicks Richard’s ass up and down the beach, convincing him that he is in fact alive, and that he is not the devil. Jacob wants to give Richard a job, to be his intermediary to the people of the island, and in exchange, since he cannot raise the dead or grant absolution from hell, give Richard eternal life.

Jacob then launches into an extremely informative a metaphor while holding a flask of wine. The wine inside is pure evil, contained by the glass, and stopped from escaping by the cork. He says that Smokey is the wine, the island is the cork and that if the evil ever gets out, it would be disastrous for the world. Unless I missed something, we have pretty much learned what the island is, which has long been the central mystery of the show. It’s either a gate, standing in between the spiritual world and the physical one, or it’s more of a spiritual jail, sentenced to hold evil for eternity…or at least until it escapes.


Outside of Jacob straight up looking at the camera and telling us he’s an angel or Smokey acknowledging that he’s a demon, I think we have our answer as to what the island is, and who the two immortal forces are that populate it. I don’t think this is adhering to a specific religion per se, but there is definitely something spiritual going on here, but we’ve really known that for some time.

A few points of order here before we go. It’s pretty clear to me now that Smokey HAS to be the bad guy, and Jacob the good, but really, bringing an entire ship full of people to the island to die so you can get one dude to be your second in command? Although I guess the same goes for crashing an entire plane to find a few candidates amidst the wreckage. The definition of “good” is pretty loose here with Jacob. Also, I thought that Smokey could only take the form of people whose bodies rested on the island. Presumably, he scanned Richard’s brain while in smoke mode and found his wife in there, but it just seemed inconsistent with what we thought we knew about his powers thus far.

Nestor Carbonell did an EXCELLENT job this week as Ricardos, and his ghostly reunion with his wife was one of the most touching moments in Lost history. Did you notice that after a certain point, Hurley stopped translating altogether and Richard could just hear her?


I also found it interesting that Esau gave Richard the exact same instructions that Dogan gave Sayid when he sent him to stab Not-Locke. Don’t let him talk, just stab. Did Smokey try the same thing with Dogan when he arrived? I also find it interesting, that when Ben finally did kill Jacob, he put up no kind of fight and did plenty of talking. I suppose he was just exhausted after all these years of all of his candidates turning out to be shit.

I could talk about this episode for hours, but I think I’ve reached my word count limit for the moment. I’m very curious to hear your thoughts about it all, so let me know what you think below.

“Ab Aeterno” = “From Eternity”

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  1. Angels and Demons still seems like a jump to me given the seeming eventual mortality of the characters. Remember – highly advanced technology can at first seem like “magic” when one isn’t familiar with it.

    Just a thought.

    Am I Carlton Cuse? You don’t know!

  2. Ehhh I’d probably prefer spirtuality over aliens at this point, though I can see either being the case. Though, the smoke monster’s propensity to be made up of clicking electronics probably helps your argument.

  3. I don’t think the priest was his father.

    This was a good episode, i was hoping to see more of Richard on the island working for Jacob over the years, but i enjoyed this as well.

    And i was glad to see the man in black back.

  4. So if the Black Rock landed on the island during a storm, what was with that boat approaching the island on that nice sunny day at the start of the season 5 finale? Continuity error? Or possibly just other candidates arriving before Richard.

  5. I seem to be the only person on the entire interbutts that didn’t like this episode.

    Richard’s story was neat and all, but it was bogged down by poor writing and frankly shitty answers for lost-standing mysteries.

    A hundred foot tall solid rock statue is obliterated by a wooden ship flying through it? And the ship is still in one piece? AND it flies inland? AAAAAND it STILL is in one piece? (before someone says “it was the tidal wave that broke the statue”, fuck you, because it still doesn’t explain the other points)

    Richard’s immortality is because Jacob manipulated his feelings and took a hyperbolic declaration of wangst as a factual wish to live forever?

    The island is a cork sealing back evil? Way to jump out of “our epic fantasy will have a scientific backing and a logical, if outlandish, explanation for everything” and solidly land in “God did it! TADAAA!”

    Isabella’s ghost travels around the globe and hangs out for two hundred years, just to pop up and kiss Richard’s cheek, then disappear?

    Jacob is an emo kid who throws shipwrecked people into a jungle with no direction, knowing his sworn enemy is lurking out there, and is shocked, SHOCKED when they don’t do what he wants?

    MIB knows what the bottle represents despite not being privy to the conversation that explained it?

    *smash bottle* *DRAMA MUSIC*

    *Flocke’s face* *DRAMA MUSIC*

  6. best episode of the season so far. wine analogy was superb. regarding who is bad and who is good though is, i think, a bit harder to decipher. on one hand, we have jacob who seemingly brings people to the island to replace him, why is he so desperate to replace himself? He’s done a good enough job making sure Esau doesn’t leave up til now, i guess it’s an insurance policy of some sort. On the other hand, I got an overwhelming sense of good from him during this episode. I can’t quite pinpoint it, and his alter-ego smokey killing practically everyone on the ship was poorly explained (‘cuz the devil was gonna get em’), but I sort of feel myself rooting for him in a way. What is physically keeping him on the island? How did these two get there? So there are definitely some questions still to be answered, but jesus christ I needed an episode like this, i was losing faith in cuse/lindelof. It is now restored! 8 more episodes!!

  7. It’s Ricardo, not Ricardos. I think they said Ricardos in the show too, at the beginning, and then they started using the correct form: Ricardo. I agree, Carbonell did a great job. He’s Cuban and speaks as such, but since his character is from the Canary Islands and they speak very Caribbean as well it’s not so bad. The wife, she has a weird accent though. Please, don’t limit yourself, keep talking about Lost. I like your reviews, mostly. You should make a post on what mysteries you think have been definitely resolved, and what are still to be resolved. I enjoyed the show in Spanish, although not so natural at times, it gives certain good taste to the show the fact that not everything happens in English. Still don’t get why Ricardo had to learn English. So he could talk to Jacob and what he is name in black? I thought they could speak any language. Well, is an English spoken TV show, so I understand. But makes no sense. The part of the statue being broken by the ship, was weak. That was a mystery that didn’t need to be resolved. I liked to think of it as being build so long ago nobody remembered when it fell, like Giza, how weak would it be knowing its nose fell just a couple of centuries ago. Was it? Anyways, I love the show. My wife has never watched it, and she’s American, shame on her, but saw part of this last episode and now wants to watch all of the seasons. It means Lost marathons on the way for me. Take care

  8. @LAO

    Yes, I also found it hard to believe that the ship would plow right through the statue and remain in one piece. Was also hoping that there would be a more interesting backstory as to how the statue was destroyed.

    Overall, enjoyed the episode though.

  9. So has EVIL been “uncorked” upon the world in the sideways reality? I’m curious to see how that plays out. Everything seems fairly normal (as opposed to paranormal) up until this point.

  10. Somehow I don’t quite get the year 1867, I saw it on Wikipedia too but I think it’s WAY off, a Spanish character talking about the “New World”? That seems to me more like 16th century, with America still under british colonization… I don’t know about the costumes, but I still think 19th century is too recent for that…

    @Jonás didn’t Giza lost its nose because of Napoleon’s army, when occupying north of Africa? They used the pyramids and sphinx for target pratice (true story)

  11. I agree that the show is not adhering to any specific religion, and is going the spiritual vs. scientific route over the last number of shows. I did find it interesting, though, that when Jacob was proving to Ricardo that he was not in Hell, he immersed him in water three times. Anyone else think of a baptism allusion when they saw this?

    To stea…quote from Wikipedia’s ‘baptism’ article: “Eastern Orthodox Christians usually insist on complete threefold immersion as both a symbol of death and rebirth into Christ, and as a washing away of sin.”

    Great episode, all around, though: tonnes of questions answered!

  12. nestor is the best…. such a great actor.

    an episode that answered questions?!?! i thought this season was just a waste of time and they were never going to answer anything!?!?! sarcasm, your complaints from past posts.

    i want more of richard on the island (especially with the dharma folk), but this was a great episode.

  13. I thought the metaphor was more like, the wine was the evil, the bottle the island and Jacob served as the cork, not simply that the bottle and cork were the island.

    Loved this episode though.

    In response to what John V said, maybe it’s not “evil” that is uncorked, but goodness; hence why the alti-verse is pretty decent. Maybe, Jacob really is bad and Esau/Not-Locke/Man In Black is the good, and his escape from the island is what sets the alti-verse spinning on the good axis. Although I am still all with the hope that Jacob represents good.

  14. Jacob and Esau are trans-dimensional beings. They manifest differently in our universe than what their true essence is. We’ll probably never truly understand their nature because it is beyond our capacity to comprehend. It’s not that Lost is all about good vs. evil, it’s just that the nature of our existence has simplified that multi-dimensionality into the story unfolding before us.

  15. @reverb- kind of like the “Liquid Satan” from Prince of Darkness? That would be an interesting turn of events.

    I keep wondering if they’re going to bring in the elements from the old on-line game they did back when Lost started. 6 candidates, 6 numbers (they even got their own numbers inside the cave), etc.

    It’s getting a bit to literally spiritual for me; I preferred the allusions to spirituality as encased in science better. Not because I dislike spirituality, but I don’t want a deus ex machina dropped on me in the last episode.

    @LAO- for the statue breaking, I can only think they writers saw one too many disasters movies (2012, Day After Tomorrow) and wanted something visually “neat.” In addition to Isabella showing up, I’m still having problems with Hurley being the “Ghost Whisperer.”

    I too would have liked more of Richard’s time in between meeting Jacob and the current time. Also, I hope we have a Jacob episode and a MiB episode towards the end that fleshes those guys out.

  16. Bat-Manuel almost brought a tear to my eye. I too thought the black rock riding a wave into the jungle was kinda dumb. I was thinking that since they had established that the island can “move” that it showed up underneath the black rock in the past. Oh well. Still satisfactory overall.

  17. I enjoyed this episode and had two major thoughts regarding it.

    1. So, the island is a Hellmouth, ala Buffy? If that’s so, why in the alterna-verse are things pretty much just life? They’re not better, not worse, they just are. I mean, if you let Hell or evil out of the bottle (and I presume blowing the island under water counts as breaking the seal), then why is the world pretty much the same?

    2. I think Lost is playing the “bad guy wears a black hat” motif a bit too strong, which makes me think we’re still missing some vital pieces and it isn’t as simple as Jacob being an angel and Esau being a demon. I am hoping Lost has enough sense to give us more than a good vs. evil story. They’ve set up characters who are, in most cases, a mix of both good and evil, selfless and selfish, so putting them into “good” and “bad” camps seems a cheap cop out. I’m holding out hope for them to mix up their metaphors a bit more than that.

    Instead, I’m thinking this show is taking more of a Garden of Eden theme, exploring those ideas of choice, free will, pre-destination, salvation, and damnation. Jacob admits that he judges people and expects them to know what’s right and act right. He pretty much implies that he allows them to die when they inevitably fail him, as no one has ever passed his little morality tests. Esau, however, seems much more comfortable with the concept that human beings will sin and chose the wrong decision (ie, free will). Plus, I see Esau as the snake (cause the smoke monster is kind of snaky).

    I guess I’m biased, but if I were on the island, I’d go with Esau/Not-Locke. Jacob has let down his followers horribly and we still don’t have a valid reason why he brings people to the island (the reason he gave on Tuesday’s episode makes me like him even less – he’s treating human lives like toys for his little live action role playing game), where they suffer horribly and are more often than not unable to leave (if not outright killed). I’m not saying Jacob isn’t the good guy, he might be, but he’s not the messiah I’d follow if I were trapped on that island. I think Esau just makes more sense . . . assuming he’s not just lying to everyone.

    Also, a point that’s been bothering me: Why does Jacob allow Smokey to kill some people on the island right away? Are they judged upfront? Is this “food” or a toll for Smokey? Is Jacob not able to control Smokey on the island? Or is it just that there always has to be a Devil to provide meaning to the concept of “free will”?

  18. ….As soon as you said the word “Eden” a lot of things clicked together in my head. That’s my vote for what the island is now.

    I did prefer the sciency base to the show over the spiritual one however.

  19. I think Jacob is in control of a Genie. Jacob as a result has a god complex bringing people to the island trying to prove some philosophical point. He uses people like scientists use rats. Jacob, like past visionaries with too much power, has become delusional and has lost his humanitarianism. People to him are now expendable. If that is true, all the “smoke” killings prior to Jacob’s death were ordered by Jacob. The genie is somewhat evil as stated in mythology, and will manipulate as much as possible to break himself free.

    Lost is science fiction, which is ultimately about human nature. In science fiction it is common to see the seemingly good guys end up to be the most corrupt.

  20. I don’t know about the angel/demon thing, or about the pure evil concept. Remember that the Man in Black said that he had once been a man, with a mother. That doesn’t fit someone being a spiritual being.

    Also recall that in this episode he said that at one point Jacob tricked him and took away his humanity.

    Furthermore, one of the candidates will take Jacob’s place, meaning they’ll become what he was. So, again, angel/demon doesn’t fit, since these are all physical beings (and if Jacob had an an angel or spiritual being, then he wouldn’t have been able to have been killed by Ben).

    No, there’s something else going on – though it’s clear that the island is a prison for the Man In Black. But what else it is (or what happened to place him there in the first place) isn’t at all clear.

  21. Lots of good ideas here. Watching the episode, and starting with the white vs black shirts, I pondered god/devil? good/evil? Not-Locke said recently that he was once a man. Esau said Jacob took away his humanity. But I wouldn’t give up on the SF aspect yet.

    Check out the Wikipedia article on Esau. Fraternal twin of Jacob, who was the founder of the Israelites. When their father Isaac died, Esau (the older brother, by a minute or two) traded away his birthright for a “mess of pottage” (meal of lentils).

    Depending on whether you read the Talmud or the Christian Old Testament, the unclear reasons for this are unclear in different ways. But the salient point is that Jacob gets what Esau wanted, and Esau vows to kill Jacob.

    Somehow, given how easily Jacob let himself be killed, how many ghosts run around the island, the fact that he can confer eternal life on people, that Not-Locke/Esau is a smoke monster, etc. etc., I doubt Jacob is really dead — or at least he can continue to exist without his body.

    There are still some mysteries to plumb.

  22. I still want to know how Desmond and Whidmore fit into this new Jacob/Esau story.

    He once said he was coming to claim what was rightfully his, but now that’s got confusing!

    And also, where do the others/Dharma/digging for electromagnetism/Walt fit into the story?

    That was a great site explaining stuff but, in hindsight, a lot of it is
    wrong now, but it’s worth a look.

  23. @Tim, I too want to know about Desmond. He’s supposed to hold and important piece of this whole puzzle, or at least that’s what previous seasons have pointed to. I mean, the island “is not done with him yet”, Daniel’s mom told him.

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