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This episode makes you wonder how long they've been waiting to tell us these things, and how many "long-held secrets" they have had to make up in the last couple of months in order to tie everything together. The craftsmanship is such that we can believe that they knew it all along.
The opening is strong, a nice shipwreck victim sequence, filmed and cut with the same patience that made Richard so wonderful in the hold of the Black Rock. I wonder why she was at sea in her condition and what her story is. I don't need to know, it's just that every mystery solved opens up another one.
Her conversation with the woman on the island was odd. They were both using such different accents that I at first assumed that they did not understand each other and were each speaking their own language uncomprehending of the other. The older woman speaks with the deliberation of an English Latin instructor while Claudia's sounds more like Spanish. I don't speak Latin, but I find it hard to believe it didn't have a rhythm more like French, Spanish or Italian. It's nice to finally learn how Latin became the language of the Others. This would suggest either that there has been some continuity among the others since this time, that Jacob's foster mother did not kill all the others and that Jacob was lying to Richard when he said the others were all dead, or that Jacob or his brother has been taking a leadership role among newcomers, establishing Latin as a language of the island. Or perhaps newcomers have stumbled across writings from the Roman-era beachhead, and have adopted their language.
I could have done without the poorly researched, clichéd childbirth sequence: a Roman woman in the Victorian era lithotomy position, screaming like she's being ruptured, followed by the de rigeur "look you had a baby" display. Are audiences so unsophisticated that they won't recognize that a woman is giving birth in any other position? I guess it's a trope of the genre, like dialtones on cellphones. Nice result though. Surely someone had the theory already that Jacob and the MiB are literally twins. And it's just evil that we don't know Jacob's brother's name because he doesn't have a name, because his mother never gave him one. I like the echo in Claudia's ghost of Ben seeing his dead mother's ghost, and of Alex being raised by a parent she doesn't know is adoptive.
They tease us by establising the older woman as an unreliable narrator, telling the boys that this is all the world, and then have her reveal things that we want to know the truth about. What does she know about the island that she is not telling, and what is she saying that she does not know to be true? I think she became the keeper of the light by having the duty thrust upon her, just as she later thrusts it upon Jacob and eventually Desmond dumps the button pushing duties on the Losties. With the duty comes power.
There are some very odd cuts in this episode, so glaring that they must be deliberate, but the reason for them is not so glaring. For example, just as I'm wondering how we're supposed to believe that a boy in a three-person primitive society hasn't encountered death yet, they cut to the boys hunting. So has he been vegetarian up to that point or has she somehow fooled him into thinking the flesh of the meat and fish he eats just materializes? Then no sooner has she told the kids they cannot hurt one another but Jacob has punched his brother's face into bloody mush. How is that not hurting? Enough with the punching already. The Kate & Jack cuts later in the episode when the dead are laid to rest are also jarring to me, but I accept that they are necessary for the viewers who haven't spent the last six years wondering who the heck these two people are.
I love the primitive and ambiguous protobackgammon game. It returns us to the theme from the pilot, with Locke, and connects us to the larger game, the one we don't quite know the entirety of yet. I am pleased and surprised to learn to the extent we did of how the wheel was built. I don't really like the magical explanation, but the island has been magical all along, and I haven't minded that so I don't know why I object. It's better than a lot of bafflegab.
So Jacob's foster mother killed their birth mother and the other Roman shipwreck victims, including quite possibly the boys' father. In return the MiB killed his own mother, and Jacob killed his brother, to the extent such a thing was possible. This must be what will happen in the final episode: the chosen candidate will be asked to drink to take over Jacob's place.
And here's a moment I wasn't expecting to see: how the MiB became black smoke in the first place. I can't get over the fact that he really doesn't have a name. Someone should name him, after all these years. An image posted earlier gave him an obvious name for a twin to Jacob, but I think I'll call him Markus.