Lost: Since the beginning of time

“Ab Aeterno”  aka Tales of the Black Freighter: Episode 6.09 “Richardus”

The Cork & The Players

Having Richard Alpert so plainly state the persistent fan theory of the Island as Hell in the afterlife, was quite simply so sweet & savoury at the same time I laughed out loud. Richard believed it was hell, but then I’d consider any tropical paradise island hell after 150 years of being an errand boy. Of course, things are never that simple.
The Island is a vortex, a nexus; a gateway between chaos (or “hell”) and the world we inhabit (be it this one or the one off to the side where things seem nicer). It’s probably the closest we’ve been to applying christian beliefs to these metaphysical concepts; drawing connections between beliefs about Ma’at and the egyptian underworld, and concepts of heaven & hell. We’ve seen critical places like this before from the Hellmouth to a quaint little town called Twin Peaks, but I digress….
Lost is character based, character driven — all about the characters. Why wouldn’t they personify a malevolent force of chaos and the single watchful guardian of fate? The only version of this struggle that has done it so much intellectual justice has been Ralph Wolf VS Sam Sheepdog.
We know more about the players then we have before. Smokey, or Set as I sometimes call him, is evil without a vessel imprisoned by a jailer and forced to play by rules. He can change shape, but only of the dead (Alex, Christian, Isabella, Locke) and can also ‘read minds’ or at least tap into memories to manipulate weaknesses. Isabella’s second appearance in the ep I credit to Smokey playing mindgames with Richard, much like he did with Ben.
However it is not limited to shape-changing and a maniacal, noisy pillar of smoke. We also begin to credit the ‘infection’ first spoken of by Rousseau, and viewed later directly in Sayid & Claire as influence of the man in black. This isn’t some purge of chemical warfare we need to be quarantined from, this is evil penetrating your soul and overtaking your will, and the exact reason why keeping Him on the Island is essentially saving the world.
Jacob is able to be replaced and not inherently special unto himself. He is powerful, but a slave to a hierarchy of candidates & the same system of rules as his adversary is. Perhaps an underappreciated line in the episode is Jacob’s initial stance on fate and choice, and says  ‘he wants people to know the difference between right and wrong without being told.’ It is a statement so chock full of naive morality it could’ve been said by Jack in Season 1.
We’ve now seen Jacob through the ages, and are able to follow his progression from completely passive watcher (though suddenly aggressive if provoked), and we’ve seen the calmer, seemingly wiser Jacob that touches Losties and directly nudges his candidates in directions they need to go.  Eventually, what began as a game between adversaries becomes a war of the pawns.


The Game between Jacob & Smokey, represented by the white stone I attribute as a reference to Go. All three games have been featured in Lost, and we see a reflection of the struggles the candidates have made.
A comparison has been drawn among Go, chess and backgammon, perhaps the three oldest games that still enjoy worldwide popularity. Backgammon is a “man vs. fate” contest, with chance playing a strong role in determining the outcome. Chess, with rows of soldiers marching forward to capture each other, embodies the conflict of “man vs. man”. Because the handicap system tells Go players where they stand relative to other players, an honestly ranked player can expect to lose about half of their games; therefore, Go can be seen as embodying the quest for self-improvement—”man vs. self”.

Answers checklist

Not surprises, just officially stating these as 100% factual:
  • Richard arrived as a slave on Black Rock
  • Immortality a gift from Jacob when ordained
  • Hanso’s involvement in Island history
  • The setup for the punchline of “It’s an inside joke” as Smokey threw the white stone leaving only the black on the scale
  • Black Rock reaches the middle of the jungle on giant wave during a flood…
  • … breaking down the statue as it does so = killing 2 birds with one white stone
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