A woman flashes back to a father figuring saying, “Put your tiny hand in mine… and protect these six people.” A group of people sit by the fire, asking the eternal question, “What’s next?” The man who’s supposed to know claims that they’re all in hell. Others say he’s crazy. And they may be right, but maybe it’s a lunatic they’re looking for? Maybe, but he runs off into the jungle in the night to accept a deal with the devil offered over a hundred years later. The following morning, a ghost of a former lover tells the tragic, crazy man that it’s time he stopped suffering, and reminds him that he was set free from his chains long ago. A Hispanic millionaire acts at the medium for the message. Meanwhile, the devil watches from high above them and flashes back to a time when an old friend, one whose company he’s long since tired of, offered him a drink to pass the time and asked the eternal question, “Why did you try to kill me?”
But what’s important is what is the middle of all of those goings on, the story of Ricardo, the man who would become Richard Alpert, who suffered a bad night, the loss of his wife, Isabella, and the accidental murder of a doctor who refused to help her, only to find himself sentenced to death, then sold as a slave to the ancestor of the man who would later fund the DHARMA Initiative.
Personally, I like both how psuedo-Biblical the strife and conflict between Jacob and The Man In Black is, but also how painfully simple it is. All disputes should be settled through manipulating the hopelessly tragic into killing tools, willing them into waging knife fights in your name to further your goals.
Also, the metaphor by which we understand what the Island is: What did you think? The devil archetype on the show, The Black In Black, is the wine, is a thing of spirits, and he’s trapped in a bottle. Debatable: Is the Island actually the cork or is it the bottle? I would think that Jacob and his machinations are the cork, but hey, whatever.
“Spill the wine, drink that girl,” The Man In Black says to Ricardo.
Loved the references to previous things, like The Man In Black/Locke-ness Monster identifying himself to Richard Alpert on the beach by the four toed statue back in “LA X,” with “It’s good to see you out of those chains.” Or that the Man In Black’s decree about Ricardo needing to go kill Jacob mirrored in Dogen’s similar marching orders to Sayid in “Sundown.”
In fact, I feel striking similarities are developing between Sayid and Richard Alpert are drawn even further in this episode. Both of these character possess a kind of giant, voluminous natural cool, and both are haunted are haunted by their past, by a woman they lost. And they’re both terrified of going to Hell and paying for their sins for all time…
I could say more, but I found this episode, particularly the secret origin of Richard Alpert, to be one of the finest things Lost has ever given us, and certainly on par with Desmond’s stuff. A simple story, but that’s what it needed to, and that’s why it was so perfect. And the simple, sad story was beautifully acted by Nestor Carbonell, an actor to whom I hope many an excellent role opens up to after Lost comes to a finish. At the beginning of this show he was all charm and graceful evil, and as the show continued on he provided an immense about of presence, something so few thespians carry with them these days, and as the countdown winds down, he peels back layer of fragility and vulnerability in his aged character.
Everybody loves something or someone, and someday you will lose that person or thing. Whether temporarily or permanently, you will forever be a slave to that loss, to that lack, to that hole in your soul.
And we crawl even closer to the end. The second to last episode of Lost is called “What They Died For.” Do you want to know what the very last episode is called? Do you want to know what title could be put on the end of the story?