March 23, 2010 - If you haven't seen "Ab Aeterno" yet, here's your Spoiler Warning! The whole episode will be discussed below...

When I learned that this week's Lost was going to feature Richard Alpert, I knew we were in for something special. "Ab Aeterno" lives up to what I imagined a Richard flashback would be like. At this stage, it isn't heavy on the answers (we already know a lot about the character) but it's a great story that chronicles his journey to the island and his life changing encounter with both the Man in Black and Jacob. The overall story of Lost benefits immensely from the clarity that this week's episode provides. And it's all capped by one outstanding performance by Nestor Carbonell. Batmanuel – take a bow!

There isn't a whole lot of new information thrown at us but we do get a hell of a lot of confirmation on much of the speculation from over the last couple of seasons. A lot of assumptions that the Lost community had can now be confirmed. Richard Alpert arrived on the Black Rock, as a prisoner (something we weren't 100% sure of), was approached by Jacob and was made his representative. We now KNOW this about Richard. It's out of the way. Richard is no longer a mystery and for someone as mysterious as he has been throughout the course of the series – that is a huge deal!

Check out IGN Editors discussing "Ab Aeterno" (and wearing funny outfits)
in our weekly "Last Night's Lost" video:

Still, there is much we do learn about Ricardo's journey to the island that not only gives us some much needed insight into his character and his motivation but tells us a lot about both Jacob and the Man in Black. I think it was important to depict Richard as a god-fearing man as his encounters with both Jacob and MiB benefited from this particular point of view. From Richard's point-of-view there was only good or evil and not much room for anything in between. That made him easy prey for MiB who sought to use his beliefs as a way to turn him against Jacob – and it almost worked.

So what does Jacob do? He turns Richard's world view completely on its head. Sure, there is good and evil, but Jacob shows him that there is much more to human nature than just that. Those who Jacob brings to the island are given a second chance, their sins are washed away, and they are allowed to make their own choices and decisions to find themselves once again. Even in the most wicked there can still be good (look at Ben from just two weeks ago).

Richard is adopted into this new ideology right after being dragged into the water by Jacob and literally being put through something akin to a baptismal ritual. His head is repeatedly dunked into water and he goes from believing he's dead and the island is hell to becoming more open to what Jacob has to say. It's a fantastic visual and represents the series' faith based themes quite well. If we look back, I'm sure we'll find that many of the Losties have gone through a similar experience. Not necessarily as literal as what we saw for Richard (his original sin of murder is washed away), but a moment when they had to shed what they believed and in turn open themselves up to new possibilities. In fact, we've seen a lot of that this season in particular.

However, what I loved most about the scene between Jacob and Richard wasn't the fact that Richard's view of his religion and his world had been changed but that Jacob took a little something from the conversation as well. During this scene we learn a lot about why Jacob doesn't like to interfere in the lives of those who he brings to the island. This directly relates to something I've found troubling recently in his dealings with the Losties. In this scene between Richard and Jacob, Richard talks back and confronts Jacob about not saving the others on the Black Rock and that once in a while he should lend a helping hand. This is the genesis of their agreement and how Richard becomes Jacob's representative. It's an extremely important moment in the Lost mythos but it's also a huge turning point for Jacob, who for once, opens himself up to doing more than just 'playing god' and setting an example for the Man in Black. Both Richard and Jacob change and this affects everything going forward.

Loved the genie in the bottle imagery used to describe the Man in Black. There are plenty of parallels that can be drawn between the Smoke Monster and a genie, right down to the promise of granting wishes. However, with all these comparisons of the Smoke Monster to the devil and to genie are we still expected to believe that he/it is some sort of security system? Whatever happened to that? As it stands now, Jacob is the security system that keeps the Man in Black at bay.

- ABC
"Either you sing 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands' or I cut you!"
"Ab Aeterno" makes me comfortable in the thought that going forward, we have a clear understanding of what the Man in Black is trying to do, why Jacob is trying to stop him and what the candidates are. Before this week, we had a rough outline but now I feel that all those key points have been made clear. That is what "Ab Aeterno" does best – it makes everything clear and straight forward. There are still a bunch of nagging questions biting at my ankles but if some of those don't get answered I think I'll be fine. The story itself is what is most important and the creative team have shown me that they've got that well under control. Thinking back to those last few episodes before Battlestar: Galactica ended, I never quite got the same feeling. There was too much left to answer and there was much speculation that was simply never addressed. I don't get that feeling with Lost. There are a few big questions left to answer; who will replace Jacob, how do the flash-sideways factor in, what is the MiB's name, but the story itself is pretty much defined from here on out.

The love story between Richard and Isabella was central to Richard's motivation throughout the flashback and it all led to a fantastic conclusion with Hurley at the end. I'm just thankful that Hurley didn't have to do a little "Ghosting" this week (FYI, I love Community) and allow Isabella to possess his body for one final kiss with Richard. The way it played out was beautiful though and gave the distraught Richard a reason to keep fighting. Isabella's message about stopping the Man in Black or we'll all go to hell was perfect. It clearly defines what needs to happen from here on out. And when Hurley (speaking for Isabella) says "we'll all go to hell", I don't think she's talking just about those on the island. Freeing the genie from the bottle could mean the end of the world!

As usual, there are a ton of tidbits in this episode that I absolutely loved. I'm continually astounded by how much substance is packed into each episode this season. Richard proclaiming they were all dead and declaring the island as hell harkens back to one of the oldest Lost theories ever. I never thought it was the case, even when Richard said it this week, but I'm still glad it was brought up again. Hearing Magnus Hanso mentioned by name was also a nice touch. We now know, as the blast door described, that the Black Rock was indeed the final resting place of one Magnus Hanso. I'm still curious to know, even though I doubt we will ever find out, how the Black Rock's ledger ended up in the hands of Tovard Hanso and eventually at a Southfield's auction. Tying the destruction of the statue to the Black Rock crashing into the island was a little convenient but it also killed two mysteries with one stone.

There were even a few very key references to earlier moments this season that really stood out. The dialogue during the scene were MiB gives Richard the mission to kill Jacob was pretty much word-for-word (recalling from memory) what Dogen said to Sayid. I'm not too sure why this parallel was drawn but it cemented how important the choice was. It's interesting that both times, the person sent to kill didn't succeed and eventually did succumb to the person they were trying to murder.

IGN's Ratings for Ab Aeterno
Rating Description  
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9.8 OVERALL
(out of 10)
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