(3:50 AM – This is an incredibly long recap which I just finished. I haven’t edited it, and won’t till later because I need sleep. Sorry for any grammatical errors.)
Phenomenal episode of Lost. I think Richard’s backstory has been one of the most yearned for episodes since his character became known in season three. It’s not often the reality meets such heightened expectations, but this episode delivered.
We then find Richard in a jail cell, in shackles, reading the Bible. (I can’t tell what passage he’s reading, but it is Old Testament) A priest visits him, bringing him food, and asks to see his Bible. The priest opens up to Luke 4:24-29 (King James Version). (Stick with me, because it will make sense. A quick Bible study is needed, though.)
This is Jesus speaking. It is at the outset of his ministry, and he has returned to Nazareth (where he was raised). It was the Sabbath, and he went to the synagogue and read a passage from Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus then says that he has fulfilled this scripture in their presence, and people are marveled by this. Some wondered aloud, “Is this not Joseph’s son”? Joseph, Jesus’ father figure, was a carpenter. He was a simple man, and thus the implication is Jesus is a simple man. How can he be saying he is going to fulfill scripture?
Jesus then refers to the prophets, specifically Elijah and Elisha. Why? Because Richard is a prophet. A prophet, in the Bible, brings God’s words to Israel and its people. What has Richard done on The Island? He has brought Jacob’s words to The Island’s people. And, let’s not forget, in the Bible Jacob is renamed Israel, in Genesis 32, after he wrestles with God during his own testing of faith. That testing of faith was worry that his brother Esau was going to kill him.
Prophets led solitary lives, and were often under threat because they spoke God’s word. Their faith was often tested, and this is seen in Elijah’s life. He questions God and even asks to be killed in 1 Kings 19. What brought this about? He is threatened by Queen Jezebel, who is considered one of the most evil individuals in the Bible. The parallel is easily drawn with Richard’s life at the moment, who is questioning God and is under threat from Man In Black.
Verse 24 it says, “no prophet is accepted in his own country”, and we see that Richard is not accepted in his home anymore. He is sentenced to death for murder. When he confesses this to the priest, and asks for God’s forgiveness, the priest says he cannot absolve him of this sin. Regardless of the intent, the priest reminds him that he did kill. Richard asks if there is some way to earn God’s forgiveness, and the priest tells him “the only way to return to his grace is through pennance”.
Now, pennance is acts done to earn forgiveness of sins. Something similar is Purgatory, which in Roman Catholic terms is the process of purification which prepares one for Heaven. It has been often said by the producers of Lost that The Island is not Purgatory. However, I think it can be safely said that after viewing this episode, and knowing Richard’s life, that Richard’s time on The Island was pennance/Purgatory for him.
Back to the jail cell, where the priest tells Richard he doesn’t have time to earn forgiveness. He is to be hanged tomorrow, and that the devil awaits him in Hell. His final line to Richard? “May God have mercy on your soul.” Richard experienced both, you could say. The priest takes the Bible as he leaves, leaving Richard with nothing.
Next day, Richard is looking out his jail cell where the gallows are present. While praying, he is apparently being led to his death. But then mercy. The priest has arranged for Richard’s escape from judgment, his own loophole. He is now in the service of Magnus Hanso, and the Hanso family comes on the scene again. (Alvar Hanso funded the Dharma Initiative.)
Cut to the Black Rock, where they are amidst a storm. (This must be after the opening scene of the season five finale.) A fellow captive tells Richard that “the island is guarded by the devil”. The devil is Taweret, the Egyptian god of birth and rebirth. Of course, we find out later that The Island has “the devil” at its edge because it is keeping it there. (We now know what caused the statue to break.)
The next day, the captives are passed out below. One of them stirs and wakes Richard. The captive says, “God spared us”. (God or the Devil?) An officer comes down and begins killing the four remaining captives that are alive. He kills the first three, and then comes to the fourth, Richard. As he gets ready to kill Richard, Richard reaches for his cross necklace. It’s not there. And then, Man In Black comes onto the scene as the black smoke. It kills the officers.
The smoke then descends to where Richard is and looks into him, just as it had done with Locke and Eko. Richard prays, he is spared by Man In Black, and then the smoke is gone. A quick shot of Richard’s eye scanning the scene as the sound of the black smoke is heard in the distance. (Every now and then we get the shot of someone’s eye adjusting to the scene in Lost.)
We then witness Richard trying to survive and escape his chains. I liked how the boar appeared, eating the deceased. A nice reference to season one when right after Flight 815 crashed and boar were eating the deceased then as well.
Next scene we have Isabella coming down the stairs to Richard. I thought this to be Man In Black right away. Why? It happened in season five to Ben when Alex visited him. At the time, I didn’t know it to be Man In Black, but after the season five finale I did. Man In Black posed as Alex to trick Ben. It was part of the con to get Ben to follow Locke, who was really Man In Black.
Man In Black is posing as Isabella in a ploy to manipulate Richard. Isabella tells Richard that they are dead and in Hell, which is where Richard gets the idea when he tells everyone at the campfire at the beginning of this episode. She then tells him that she’s there to save Richard before the Devil comes back. She says, “I looked into his eyes…and all I saw was evil”.
Man In Black plays the part of Isabella well, and manipulates Richard perfectly. The black smoke returns, and Richard is led to believe that it kills Isabella. (Remember, last season when Man In Black posed as Alex the smoke was also present. It was able to be both smoke and a being.) Richard is broken. Perfect timing for Man In Black to appear.
This is a good time to interject some info about evil and its Biblical parallels. In the Bible, the Devil is known as a liar, a deceiver, a murderer, an accuser, a “prince of the power of the air”, evil incarnate and at war with God. The Devil has used people to get back at God and/or to prove a point. Most notably with Adam and Eve, and with Job. Job was the central figure in a bet between God and the Devil about the good nature of humanity. (With all that being said…)
Man In Black comes to Richard, gives him water to drink. Water is synonymous with life. (What life is Man In Black wanting to give Richard?) Richard asks who he is, and he says, “A friend.” Richard asks if he is in Hell, and Man In Black begins the lies. (This episode reminds us that anything Man In Black has said cannot be trusted, and that he will not be conned.) He tells Richard that he is in Hell, and figuratively it could be a true statement. (The best lies are 99% true.)
Richard and Man In Black continue to converse. Richard realizes Man In Black wasn’t on the ship, and Man In Black says he was on The Island long before. Richard asks about Isabella, and Man In Black says that “he has her” and Richard knows who that is. (The Devil) Richard says he wants to be free, and Man In Black says he also wants to be free. Man In Black strikes a deal with Richard in setting him free. (Man In Black strikes these Faustian deals with everyone. He always smooth talks them as well. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden with Eve.)
“It’s good to see you out of those chains”. A nice reference to the season six premiere when Man In Black, as Locke, came out of the statue remains and said the same line to Richard upon seeing him.
“I’m afraid there’s only one way to escape from Hell. You’re going to have to kill the Devil”. So says Man In Black to Richard as they exit the Black Rock. Man In Black begins his first plot to kill Jacob. Why didn’t he kill Richard when he first came upon him as the black smoke? He saw Richard as his loophole, someone he could manipulate to get to Jacob.
Man In Black gets him a meal, roast boar (another nod to season one), and then instructs Richard on how to kill the Devil (Jacob). Man In Black then recites the same lines Dogen said to Sayid about killing Man In Black. Even hands him what appears to be the identical dagger that Dogen gave Sayid. The power of words, the power of truth and lies, and that is why Sayid and Richard were instructed to kill before their target spoke.
Richard asks how he can kill black smoke and Man In Black tells him that he is the black smoke. Man In Black continues his lies and manipulation by saying Isabella was running from the Devil (Jacob) and not him. He tells Richard that he saw the Devil take Isabella, but there was nothing he could do to save her. Richard puts up a defense, but then Man In Black tells him that he isn’t the only one to have lost something. Man In Black says the Devil betrayed him, that it took his body, his humanity. Richard tries to point out the truth that Man In Black killed the officers on the ship, but Man In Black brushes that aside. He manipulates Richard, again, by telling him if he wants to see Isabella he’s going to have to kill the Devil.
The tension. Richard was jailed for murder. His judgment was death. He was shown mercy. And now? He is being told that he must murder for the greater good. (Remember that with Sayid, Ben and others?)
Man In Black asks if Richard wants to see his wife again, and Richard responds that he does. (Remember this for later.) Man In Black then hands him the dagger. Richard takes it and walks toward the statue.
And then, Jacob beats down Richard. This was interesting for a couple of reasons. One, that Jacob would act violently. He hasn’t shown any signs of violence before, but yet those under him have acted violently. Jacob will act violently. Two, he saw Richard as a threat and beat him, yet why did he not do the same to Ben? Ben, along with Man In Black posing as Locke, came with a knife to Jacob and stabbed him. Jacob seemingly surrendered to it.
Jacob seems at first incredulous with Richard, but then realizes that it was all a ploy from Man In Black. Richard continues to repeat the lies Man In Black fed him, that he is dead and in Hell. Jacob grabs Richard and takes him to the water. Dunks him four times. (Funny line after he dunks him the first time, “Still think your dead”?!) Richard says he wants to live and Jacob says that’s the first sensible thing he’s said. And then he tells Richard, “We need to talk”.
Next we have Richard sitting, wrapped in a blanket, as Jacob walks over to him with a bottle of wine. Richard asks what’s inside the statue and Jacob says, “No one comes in unless I invite them in”. The same can be said for The Island. No one comes to The Island unless they are invited there by Jacob.
Richard asks if Jacob is the Devil, and he is told “No”. Some of have tried to propose a theory that Man In Black really is good, and that Jacob is evil, but I think this episode should put that to rest.
Then, a huge piece of the Lost mythos puzzle is revealed.
Jacob holds up the bottle of wine and tells Richard to consider the wine as Hell, malevolence, evil, darkness. Jacob shows how the wine swirls in the bottle, but is unable to get out. If it did get out, it would spread. The cork for the bottle is The Island, and its the only think keeping the darkness “where it belongs”.
JACOB: That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because its in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here? There past doesn’t matter.
RICHARD: Before you brought my ship, there were others?
JACOB: Yes. Many.
RICHARD: What happened to them?
JACOB: They’re all dead.
RICHARD: If you brought them here, why didn’t you help them?
JACOB: Because I wanted them to help themselves. To know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them, it’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?
RICHARD: If you don’t, he will.
JACOB: Do you want a job?
RICHARD: A job? (JACOB nods his head) Doing what?
JACOB: Well, if I don’t want to step in, maybe you can do it for me. You can be my representative. An intermediary between me and the people I bring to The Island.
RICHARD: What would I get in return?
JACOB: You tell me.
RICHARD: I want my wife back.
JACOB: I can’t do that.
RICHARD: Can you absolve me of my sins so I don’t go to Hell?
JACOB: Can’t do that either.
RICHARD: I don’t want to die. I want to live forever.
JACOB: Now that (JACOB touches RICHARD’S shoulder) I can do.
Okay, there’s a ton of stuff in there. Similar to the Book of Job, where God and Satan debate the goodness of humanity, Jacob and Man In Black have a challenge/debate between them with humanity being the deciding factor. God told Satan that Job was a blameless and upright man, none like him on the earth. Satan said Job was good due to God’s blessing. God then allowed Satan to test Job. Job’s life was ruined, yet he did not sin or turn from God. He proved God right. Which of the candidates is the figurative Job?
Why won’t Jacob step in to help? Partly, he wants to show Man In Black that he doesn’t need to step in. That someone will emerge who is not corruptible, without his help. This hasn’t happened. Richard then becomes the person to guide people who come to The Island. He will be the intermediary between Jacob and them. Remember back to the jail scene where we saw the passage from Luke 4? It referred to prophets, those that were sent to guide Israel back to God. That’s what Richard is on The Island. And, remember Richard said he was from El Socorro? That translates to help. Richard is the help to people who come to the island.
Before, the people who had come to the island that proved themselves to not be good, they are disposed of. That seems to have changed with Richard and his new position. A tribe starts where Richard is the intermediary.
A saying that is often attributed to the Bible is “God helps those who help themselves”. That saying is not in the Bible, but is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Jacob somewhat referred to it in this dialog.
Jacob says he cannot bring back Isabella. Man In Black had lead Richard to believe he could. While Jacob and Man In Black are powerful, they aren’t omnipotent. They aren’t omniscient either, since they aren’t aware of each other’s moves ahead of time. And, as evidenced early in the episode, we know they aren’t omnipresent.
What does this make them? Created being? Well, Satan is a created being, and if that is reflected by Man In Black it makes sense. What about Jacob? What does that make him? An archangel? (I sometimes have to remind myself to not strictly interpret the show from my perspective.) Who knows, he very well could be a representation of an Egyptian god. He has powers, and can bestow blessings upon people, but yet he cannot give absolution of sins.
Jacob is living in a statue of Taweret. Taweret symbolizes rebirth, and that is what Jacob wants for the people to have on the island. Their past no longer matters on The Island. We saw this with Locke, and now with Richard. Richard’s spiritual rebirth as well, since he will live forever. He will not experience Hell.
(Needing a breather…)
Richard walks back to Man In Black, and Man In Black accuses him right away. “You let him talk to you, didn’t you”? Neither side in this battle wants the other to even speak to people. Richard then hands Man In Black a white stone, and Man In Black chuckles. (A nod to the inside joke that Man In Black referred to when he took Sawyer to the seaside cave earlier this season?)
Man In Black tries to leverage the Isabella card again, and tries to plant seeds of doubt about Isabella and Jacob within Richard. Man In Black tells Richard that if he ever changes his mind that he can come back to him. Man In Black then hands Richard the cross necklace, and then disappears. Richard buries the necklace, burying his hope of seeing his wife again.
Back to the present.
Richard makes his way to the ruins and digs up the necklace. He then announces that he’s changed his mind. He wants Man In Black to come back, in hopes that he can see his wife again. Why is he doing this? Because he thinks Jacob has lied to him all this time, and that Man In Black really was right.
Then Hugo appears. Richard gets angry with him, until Hugo says that his wife sent him. “Isabella”. Richard’s in shock. Hurley tells him that Isabella is right next to him, and then we Isabella. Of course, Richard can’t see her. Isabella tells Hurley to tell him that his English is beautiful, which is something only Isabella would know. A hint of a smile comes across Richard’s face, and then he speaks Spanish to his wife. She tells him, through Hurley, to close his eyes. This refers back to when she was sick and Richard was in a state of panic/fear over it. She had him close his eyes and reminded him that they’ll be together. It gave Richard strength and resolve. This time, she absolves Richard of his suffering and reminds him that they are always together.
The moment seems to bring comfort and resolve to Richard. He puts back on the necklace, but Hurley isn’t done. Isabella said one more thing. Richard has to stop the Man In Black, he has to stop him from leaving the island. If he doesn’t, “we all go to Hell”. We then see Man In Black, as John Locke, watching over the scene from afar. We don’t know if he heard what was said, though.
The final scene starts with Man In Black sitting down, looking up at a mountain wall. Symbolic for the jail he is in on The Island. Jacob walks up and sits down next to him. Man In Black is fiddling with the white stone Richard gave to him from Jacob. Jacob mentions the “present” of the white stone, and Man In Black tells him to not gloat. “It doesn’t become you”.
They then discuss why Man In Black tried to have Jacob killed. Jacob stands in the way of Man In Black leaving the island, from “being free”. Man In Black makes it clear that he will kill Jacob. Jacob says someone else will take his place, but Man In Black says he’ll kill them to. Jacob then hands Man In Black the bottle of wine, it’s something to help him pass the time. Jacob leaves. Man In Black holds the bottle of wine there, and then smashes it on a rock. The symbolism is evil will not be contained, like Jacob referred to The Island as a bottle containing the wine (evil).
Why is Man In Black gathering people to his side, targeting the remaining candidates? He can’t kill them directly, but he can manipulate the situation so that they can be killed. There are six remaining candidates. Those six candidates stand in the way of Man In Black leaving the island. He’s trying to corrupt them to his side so they are not in his way. Jack, Hurley and Sun (if it’s not Jin) are the only ones in his way.
- It was a quick bit of dialog, but Jack is now aware that Locke has figuratively risen from the dead. I would’ve liked to have seen that realization fleshed out more, but it was quickly dashed by the presence of Hurley talking to Isabella.
- Tenerife is the biggest island in the Canary Islands.
- Interesting to me that while Jack and Kate have had their relationship tension for six seasons, in one episode we get a great love story that trumps anything between Jack and Kate. The best love stories on the show are not from the principal characters, but the secondary ones. Richard and Isabella, Desmond and Penny. Sawyer’s great love story was with Juliet, and she’s a borderline principal character.
- The medicine Richard took from the doctor was white. Synonymous with healing and good as it relates to The Island?
- Richard and Isabella wanted to travel to the “New World”. Indeed, Richard did travel to a new world.
- I really liked the scene of the Black Rock at sea.
- What’s with the blue butterfly that flew into the Black Rock when Richard was trying to free himself?
- I don’t know if I’d call it a gaffe, but why didn’t Richard use his feet to get the nail when the boar separated it from him? His legs weren’t in chains.
- Man In Black called Richard “my friend” a number of times.
- What ruins were those Man In Black took Richard to, where Richard buried the necklace? A chair, like a throne, seems to be present.
- I’m beginning to think Man In Black doesn’t have a name.
- The penultimate episode of the series I think will be the Man In Black’s backstory.