“Every question I answer will simply lead to another question. You should rest. Just be grateful you’re alive.”
“Across the Sea” is probably my least favorite episode of “Lost” since the debacle that was “Eggtown,” but I dislike it for much different reasons. I appreciated the episode a bit more on rewatch, since I was able to approach it from a more intellectual perspective, but I still resent that an entire episode so late in the game was devoted to characters we only just met at the end of last season. I wanted to spend these final hours with the characters I had grown to know and (for the most part) enjoy over the past five-and-a-half seasons. Add to that the fact that the dialogue is unimaginative and most of the performances are stilted, and you have a really rather unpleasant viewing experience overall.
Part of what made this episode so unsatisfying overall was that it was essentially nothing more than a massive mythology info dump. None of the regular characters were present in the episode (unless you consider some archival footage from season 1 at the very end). The only faces that were at all familiar were Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver as Jacob and the original Man in Black, and even they didn’t show up until half-way through the episode. I think the episode, and the series overall, would have been better served had the information we learned in this episode been delivered in a more organic way over the course of one or several seasons in smaller pieces. That would have given us more time to invest in these characters and this more fantastical aspect of the story.
The episode begins with a woman emerging from the water in the midst of wreckage. We soon see that she is pregnant. On the beach, she is met by another woman, played by Alison Janney, who clearly didn’t arrive on the Island in the same way. Predictably, the woman, whose name is Claudia, soon goes into labor, and Alison Janney’s character is there to help. As a baby boy is born, Claudia says “His name is Jacob,” much like Emily Locke said “His name is John” in “Cabin Fever.” Claudia doesn’t have an opportunity to say anything more right then, though, because she’s hit with another contraction. That’s right, folks, we’ve got a case of surprise twins on our hands. And Claudia doesn’t have a name picked out for baby number two. And she never will, because Alison Janney’s character bashes her head in before she has a chance to really think about it. The whole set-up made me wonder why Aaron wasn’t ultimately more important to the Lost mythology, considering the circumstances of his birth were similar to that of Jacob and his brother.
We next see flashes of the childhood of Jacob and his brother. There are really only two mildly interesting things about this. One is that these kids are the kids we’ve seen appearing around the Island and freaking Locke out. Second is just how crazy “Mother” (what they’re calling Alison Janney’s character) really is. She’s extremely manipulative. Jacob and his brother are playing a game that the Brother found. The Brother doesn’t want the Mother (yeah, Darlton are a little obsessed with not naming things, and it’s kind of ridiculous when you see it all written out like that) to know about the game, but as the Mother says, Jacob can’t lie. He tells her all about it. The Mother then goes to have a chat with the Brother. She tells him that she left the game for him to find. I don’t believe that, though. I’m betting she’s trying to hid the existence of Others on the Island (see what I mean by this not naming things getting out of hand?).
The Mother doesn’t put of this discovery for long, though. Jacob and his brother are hunting boar when someone else kills the boar right in front of them as they hide. The boys run back to the Mother, frightened by the fact that there are other people on the Island. The Mother doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea, either. She blindfolds the boys and hurries them towards a secret location on the Island. She wants the boys to see what’s so important about the Island and why it needs to be protected. The big secret of the Island is…a glowing cave. I can fanwank why the cave might be important (could that be the healing energy Isaac of Uluru told Rose about in “SOS?”), but the in-episode explanation wasn’t especially clear. We were pretty much just told that the light from the cave is everything good in the world.
Learning of the existence of the Others makes the Brother restless, and he becomes even more restless when he sees a vision of Claudia. Claudia takes him to see a whole village of Others, and she tells him the truth about how the Mother murdered her. The Brother tries to get Jacob to run away with him to the Others village, but Jacob remains loyal to the Mother. The boys get into a knock-down-drag-out fight, and the Brother leaves the camp. When we flash forward to the brothers in their 30’s, it turns out that the Brother has been living with the Others all these years, and Jacob visits him regularly. They discuss whether or not they think the Others are bad. The Brother thinks they are- he’s lived with them for decades, and he sees how selfish they can be. Jacob thinks there might be hope for them yet. I guess this is the origins of the game Jacob mentions to Richard in “Ab Aeterno.” More importantly, the Brother has been using the Others to find a way off the Island. They’ve been digging wells wherever there is magnetic weirdness. At the bottom of one of these wells is a way off the Island.
Jacob tells the Mother that his brother is leaving, of course. The Mother, who is not exactly stable to say the least, goes on quite the rampage when she hears the news. She finds the Brother at the bottom of the well and knocks him out. When he wakes up, he’s above ground, the well has been filled in, and the Others village has been burnt to the ground. She also takes Jacob back to the Cave of Specialness and Light where she tells him to drink from a cup of wine. Drinking that cup makes Jacob the next official protector of the Island. Jacob is reluctant to take the cup, whining about how the Brother was always the Mother’s favorite. He does eventually drink, though.
The ending of the episode is rather like a Shakespearian tragedy, only without emotional resonance. The Brother wakes up horrified to see what the Mother has done, and he stabs her to death. Jacob finds the Brother holding the bloody dagger over their Mother, and he goes nuts. He grabs the Brother and takes him to the Cave. Jacob tosses the Brother in the stream that flows into the cave, and when the Brother enters the cave, the Smokemonster is released. Jacob eventually finds the Brother’s body, so the original Man in Black is not the same entity as the Brother- the Smokemonster has just taken the Brother’s form. At the end of the episode, Jacob buries the Mother and his brother in a cave. This is intercut with footage of the discovery of the “Adam and Eve” skeletons from season 1, and we can now cross that off as another mystery solved in boring fashion.