We all know up to this point that Lost is a story of Faith vs. Science. Free will vs. Destiny. Good vs. Evil. Black vs. White.

But the big question that we STILL haven’t answered after last night’s episode, Ab Aeterno, (which means from eternity in Latin) is: Which side is good and which side is evil?

Or perhaps it’s not so cut and dry. Maybe the whole show is making the statement that as with world religion, politics or any other belief, it’s up to each person to decide. Would it be better to live in a perfect place, such as the Garden of Eden, where there is no sin, no work, no hardship, no death, but at the same time, no choice about how to live?

Or is it better to have free will, even if our ability to make choices means living in a sinful world, full of happy and sad, good and evil, work and play, aging, disease and eventually death? Would it really be worth it to live forever if it meant living forever without the ones you love?

Last night, we got some major clues about the characteristics of our two dominating forces: Jacob and the Man in Black. It also was awesome to finally find out the story of never-aging Richard; his ship, The Black Rock, and why it is stranded in the middle of an island; and what happened to the rest of the statue standing guard at the edge of the island.

It was weird to find out that Richard, who always seemed to be such a dominating force on the island, has actually been walking around for 140 years without any clue about why he is really there, what his mission is and even WHAT the island is all about. He has been blindly following Jacob, but seems too weak to ever question the reason for his existence.

Richard seems to be part of a bigger allegory about the choices people make in life. While some ask questions, do research and demand proof, others follow, motivated by a faith in something they don’t completely understand.

JACOB

Here are some of the interesting things we learned about Jacob:

He has chosen not only candidates to replace him, but other people to play out key roles in his mission. He finds Ilana, wrapped in bandages in what looks like a military hospital, and gives her the job of protecting the six candidates. He gives Richard the job of being his intermediary and influencing people for him. I guess that makes Richard his “preacher”.

Jacob admits that he “brings” people to the island, but it seems his only purpose in doing so is to prove a point. The Man in Black believe that everyone is corruptible and it’s in their very nature to sin. But Jacob wants to “prove him wrong.”

He describes part of his mission on the island as keeping evil harnessed there. According to Jacob, the island is like a bottle with evil swirling around inside. But HE is the cork that keeps that evil from spreading to the rest of the world. So, is he really protecting the world from evil? Or is he trying to protect the island from the rest of the world?

Both he and the Man in Black throw out phrases that make them sound very Biblical and Christ-like. ” No one comes in unless I invite them in,” Jacob says as he pours Richard a glass of wine.

While the Man in Black takes a very active role in approaching people and trying to lure them to his side, Jacob says he doesn’t believe he should step in.

“I wanted them to help themselves,” he said. “…to know the meaning of right and wrong without me telling them.”

But just when I was starting to really think Jacob might be the all-mighty force that is running the show, we learn there is a limit to his power. He can give eternal life, but he can’t forgive sin? Well, sorry. But that doesn’t sound very God-like to me.

MAN IN BLACK

Here are the great insights we got into the character of the Man in Black:

He admits to Richard that he is the black smoke and that Jacob has taken over his body. If that is the case, then whose body does the Man in Black have? And in what form would Jacob be if he didn’t have MIB’s “humanity”.

While MIB seems to be the most likely candidate to be “Satan” as he roams around wiping out everyone in sight in the form of The Smoke Monster, he also sounded a lot like Christ with some of his phrases last night.

“I need to know you love me… you’ll do anything I ask,” he bargained with Richard before releasing him from his shackles, much as Jesus asked Peter if he really loved him.

“It’s good to see you out of those chains,” he said later.

When he’s in the form of Smokey, the Man in Black seems to kill most people indiscriminately. But with others, he takes the time to stop and look in their eyes, as if judging whether their lives are worth living. When he paused in front of Richard in the bottom of the ship, it sounded like he was taking snapshots of his face.

Much like Locke was able to stare into the eyes of The Smoke Monster, Isabelle said she was able to look back into the eyes of “the devil” and “all I saw was evil.” But, did she mean she looked into the black smoke? Or was she looking into the eyes of Jacob or the MIB?

The Man in Black tells Richard that Jacob is actually the devil. Jacob is the one who took Isabelle, and Jacob is the one who needs to be destroyed.

MIB gives Richard the dagger that Sayid had used to try to kill Smokey in the form of Locke. Apparently, the sword also works to kill Jacob. However, just like Sayid’s failed attempt, he couldn’t kill Jacob because he let him speak to him first.

MIB says he can’t blame Richard by being taken in by Jacob because he can be “very convincing”.

Finally, we find out that at least according to Isabelle, MIB is the bad guy. She uses Hurley to tell Richard, just as he was about to change sides and joins MIB’s team, that he has to stop him or everyone will go to hell.

IS THE ISLAND HELL?

Of course, the other big question from last night is whether the island is literally hell, as Richard believes, or if it’s only a figurative hell because it’s a place where people lose their choices in life and aren’t allowed to leave.

I would be greatly disappointed to find out I had invested so many years in watching this show only to find out all the characters are actually dead and in hell. Instead, I think the characters are saying that “hell” is a place where you can’t be with the ones you love.

But again, maybe those on the island COULD be with the ones they love, if only they had enough faith to believe. Isabelle told Richard that even though she is dead, “we are already together.”

What did I miss? What did you think??

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