Sunday, 5 January 2014

Ab Aeterno

One of the most important things you should know about me is my love for Lost. I believe it is the most amazing TV series to have ever been created. Once in a while comes something that just changes the way you look at things, at life in general. I've been an ardent fan ever since it debuted on television screens in 2005. A million thanks to my sister who told me about it and got me hooked too. These days I try to catch up with the reruns whenever I can. It was two weeks ago that I got a chance to watch one of my most loved episodes titled 'Ab Aeterno'. The title is Latin for "from eternity", a phrase used to mean "since the beginning" or "for long ages". The 9th episode from season 6 i.e. the final season is a treat to watch. Surprisingly, it does not talk about any of the main characters from the show. It is about a man named Richard Alpert.
From the beginning of the series we've all been a bit intrigued about his character. There is always a sense of mystery surrounding him because nothing about him is ever known. Especially when we see him never die or whenever someone ponders over his age or how long has he been living on the island. He leaves the viewers baffled. Thus gives rise to some misconceptions about him. People think that he is somewhat sinister or portrays shades of grey. All the notions are dispelled in Ab Aeterno.
Richard is Ricardo in 1867. His story begins with him riding a horse through Canary Islands, making his way to his beloved wife who is suffering from a deadly disease. He is helpless as he tries to reassure her that he will save her and goes to fetch help. His wife, Isabella, gives him her gold cross that she wears around her neck. Despite heavy rains, he reaches the doctor only to be treated with disrespect and demeaned because he lacks enough money to buy the medicines. He tries to reason with him by giving him his wife's cross, but he refuses to accept it. Unintentionally, he gets into a fight with him which ends in the doctor dying accidentally. He rushes back to his wife with the medicines only to find her dead and cold. He doesn't even get enough time to mourn and is taken away by the police to be hanged. A chance stroke of fate in the form of his ability to speak English sees him being sold off as a slave to another man. On his way, the ship on which Richard is chained below the deck along with others like him, gets caught up in a horrible storm and shipwrecks on the 'Island' that we've all come to know and love. Since they are short of food and supplies, the officer on the ship decides to kill all the slaves. When its Richard's turn to die, the Smoke Monster introduces himself and kills the officer and everybody else except Richard. So now he is trapped under the deck, chained, hungry, thirsty and miserable. He tries to free himself but in vain. It is during one of the many days when he tries to release himself that he sees a vision of his wife. She comes to him and tells him that he is dead and that they are actually in Hell. Seeing his wife after such a long time, a part of him forgets that she is no more and he readily believes whatever she has to say. We see him helpless all over again as he believes that he's lost Isabella once again when the Smoke Monster comes for her. A few days pass and he is rescued by the Man In Black (Smoke Monster) who extracts a promise out of him to help him get off the Island in return for his freedom. He agrees readily. Preying on his weakness that is his love for his wife, the Man in Black convinces him that a man named Jacob has his wife and needs to be killed. Armed with a dagger given to him for this purpose he reaches the spot where Jacob is supposed to reside. Instead of what was planned, he is ambushed by Jacob and is soon brought to his senses. He realizes that he was being fooled into believing that his wife was being held captive by Jacob when she is indeed dead and that they are not in Hell. He enters into an agreement with Jacob to protect the Island and never let the Man in Black leave the Island. When asked what would he want in exchange for his services, he asks for his wife. Since Jacob can't bring back his dead spouse he promises him immortality. Richard is endowed with special powers that allow him remain untouched by old age or any other ailments forever. When the Man in Black gains knowledge of his plan going awry, he still tries his very best to convince Richard to join him by telling him that his offer of them leaving the Island together with his wife would always stand. Thus planting a seed of hope in his heart that never really dies. Decades pass by and Richard sees many people come and go from the Island. He doesn't age. Immortality, though considered a boon, can also prove to be the bane of one's existence. Richard finds that out the hard way when he loses all sense of purpose and thinks that he is leading an aimless life. He thinks he should have taken up the tempting proposal he was offered years ago and one fine day, after what seems like a really long time, in a moment of weakness and hopelessness he goes back to find the Man in Black asking him that he is ready to do what he wants if his offer about his dead wife still stands.
And that is why I'll always love this episode. The fact that even after decades, more than a century, Richard still wants to be with his wife is proof of the fact that immortality might not affect how a person feels about someone. It proves that maybe some people have hearts so strong that it is stands unaffected by the many trials and tribulations of life. It authenticates the fact that maybe love in some hearts remains unchanged even in the face of time and distance. Richard may have come across many people all those decades when he could have so easily given in to his need for companionship but he never did. Instead all he ever wanted  was to be with his wife all along. That was his wish from the beginning of his story when he tries all possible means to keep her alive during her illness and it remained his only wish when he was desolate at the bottom of the ship or when he was dejected and devoid of hope at the end of the episode. And it is this undying love that finally guides him to the right path.
 Do we love stories of unending love because we are well aware of its elusiveness but still yearn for it? Or do we as humans never want to let go of that shred of hope that somewhere people like really Richard do exist? Why should something that comes naturally from within us be considered fantastical? Isn't that why we were all blessed with a heart in the first place?


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