Ab Aeterno a latin phrase which means Since the beginning of time. (figuratively) Since a very long time ago.
In this episode we see how the Black Rock sailing ship and Richard Alpert end up on the island. I guess that people will either like this episode or really hate it. It gives us plenty of answers into Richard, Jacob and MIB’s motivations on the island, but little in the way of moving the story ahead for Jack and the rest of islanders. For me I liked the historical background and Richard’s search for absolution for the accidental death of the doctor and the loss of his beautiful wife Isabella. But this episode broke the pattern of mirroring the themes of Season 1. Well it had to since it was about a time long long before the plane crash that brought our present crew to the island.
Canary Islands – 1867
Richard is a farmer who rushes back to his modest home to find his wife Isabella dying. He loves her very much and promises to “save her” by bringing the doctor back. But he can’t save her and neither can the doctor, because the doc is a corrupt man who needs payment before he will even give Richard medicine (which probably wouldn’t have worked anyway). When the doctor refuses the modest sum Richard offers, he then gives him the “cross” necklace. The doctor says its worthless. This ties into a recurring theme of this episode – the theme of the truly faithful believers and those that reject or corrupt the faith.
Richard accidently kills the doctor, takes the medicine home but it’s too late – Isabella is dead. Richard is put in prison but he takes a Bible to read to help him learn English since he and his wife were planning to go to the New World to start a family. Richard asks the visiting priest for “God’s forgiveness”, but the priest says NO. He will not forgive for a killing even if it’s accidental. He says the only way to be forgiven is through penance (which the priest means paying to clear your name through good works). Now the priest is corrupt because in the Christian faith God has already forgiven the sins of each individual in the world by sending his Son to die in our place as a penance for our sins. Ajira 316 is a reference to the famous John 3:16 passage of the Bible.
The priest takes Richard’s bible and tells him he is to be hanged. The guards drag him out to die but the priest has taken money from a man representing Magnus Hanso the captain of the Black Rock ship who takes Richard because he can speak Engish since they are headed for the New World.
The ship is caught in a storm near Lost island causing a tidal wave to lift the ship high enough to smash into the great statue (of Taweret/Sobek) breaking it apart. The men believe the statue is El Diablo himself. The ship ends up in the middle of the island. Many of the crew are dead. One of the officers kills all the prisoners and his about to kill Albert when the Black Smoke monster comes. He kills everyone but Albert who he “scans”. Richard is trapped in his chains and can’t get out. One day his “dead wife” comes to visit him to tell him he is in hell. Evidently the Black Smoke is creating this apparition or it is a dream. She tells him they are both dead and in hell.
The MIB releases Albert on the one condition that he kills El Diablo to be free of hell and see his wife again. Albert goes to kill Jacob with the same dagger that Dogen (or maybe Ben) had. But he is stopped by Jacob who is not afraid to use his fists. He convinces Alpert that he is not dead and that Jacob is not the devil. He gives Alpert the job of advisor but can’t give him forgiveness for sins, or return his wife from the grave, so Alpert asks to live forever and Jacob grants his wish by touching his shoulder.
Jacob explains that he doesn’t want the job of protecting the island from the evil MIB, but he asks Richard to help him. He explains that “darkness and evil” are trapped on the island as a way of making it harmless, just as the dark wine is trapped in a bottle with a cork. He also tells him no one can enter Jacob’s house unless Jacob invites him first.
On the Island in 2007
Richard returns to where he buried the cross his wife gave him. He says he changed his mind and wants the MIB to allow him to be with his dead wife. Instead Hurley shows up and translates what his wife wants to tell him. She says she still loves him and he already has her because they are together even now.
Isabella’s words are similar to what Penny wrote to Desmond:
Please don’t give up, Des. Because
all we really need to survive is one
person who truly loves us.
and you have her. I will wait for
you. Always. I love you, Pen
There were many allegories to heaven and hell in the episode. Jacob’s choice to enter the statue reflects God’s election for those to enter heaven. When Sawyer visited the Black Rock to kill Cooper, Cooper said they were in hell.
MIB wants to be set free from the island, but Jacob can’t let him leave, so MIB needs to kill Jacob or whoever takes his place.
Richard says they are all dead – even Jack. In a season 5 episode, Richard says he saw them all die (meaning Jack, Kate, Hurley and the others from 815). In this episode Richard thinks he is dead because he believes his dead wife (who is really just Smokey).
Richard’s memory of his dead wife’s love for him will keep him from going to join the MIB. But what information does Richard have that will help Illana and her group of candidates take the next step?