After a two week layoff, I was ready for last night’s episode to be a disappointment. In the past, LOST has shown a tendency to lay off the gas when it’s time to floor it. The most egregious wheel-spinning took place back at the beginning of Season 3 in the polar bear cages on Hydra Island – where last night’s episode started. At first I took this as a bad sign before being drawn into a twisty, thrilling hour of television which included the most heart-breaking sequence in the show’s entire run.
The episode skipped ahead a few hours from the end of the last episode – from day to night, anyway – with all of the principles gathered on Hydra Island. Faux-Locke has lost most of his following, and only Jack and Sayid are left to help him ostensibly foil Widmore and get everyone off the Island. In short order, Sayid disarms the sonic fence and Jack (with the smoke monster at his back) rescues Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Lapidus, Jin, Sun, and Claire from the polar bear cages.
For a show that has increasingly trafficked in ambiguity, the stakes of last night’s episode were refreshingly straightforward – the castaways (with the exception of Jack) are just trying to leave the Island. With all the time-traveling and flashes back, forward, and sideways, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time this seemed to just be a show about a bunch of people stuck on an island and trying to get home.
Jack was always at the forefront of the “we have to get off the Island” movement, but he’s finally learned to let go and embrace whatever strange destiny the Island has in store for him. I’ve really enjoyed the return of the Jack who disappeared somewhere in the middle of the first season; from that point in the middle of this season, we’ve had to deal with a moody, frustrating character who has failed to live up to his initial promise. Now we’re back to the heroic, decisive leader who all the castaways naturally gravitated to back when the Boones, Shannons, and Charlies of the world inhabited the Island.
Last night’s episode returned to the classic LOST theme of misdirection, as Faux-Locke carefully manipulated the last of the Oceanic 815 onto a submarine conveniently rigged with a bomb. I know there’s a lot of debate about how maybe Jacob’s really the evil one and Faux-Locke is just tragically misunderstood, but the most resonant conflict is between the characters we’ve followed since the show began and whatever external forces are threatening them. The old bomb in the backpack trick definitely makes Faux-Locke the bad guy.
Once again, Kate was in a position to bungle things up; she gets shot (yay!), but doesn’t die (boo!), which forces Jack onto the submarine (double boo!). This put Jack right in the middle of the submarine bomb drama, which led to the biggest slaughter of major characters in the show’s run. The show has never been shy about killing off major characters, but we haven’t seen the death of one of the original castaways since Charlie at the end of Season 3 (unless you count redshirts like Neil Frogurt, which I do not).
Sayid hasn’t been quite right all season, and his death happened so quickly and with so little build up that I wasn’t much affected by it. What was more interesting is what Sayid said just before the explosion, telling Jack that Desmond is alive (duh) and where to find him, and also uttering the semi-cryptic line, “It’s going to be you, Jack.”
So this pretty much cinches Jack as Jacob’s replacement, right? I mean, I’ve indulged in speculation about Hurley or even alternate universe Locke being Jacob’s replacement, but it pretty much always had to be Jack, didn’t it?
There really wasn’t time to speculate much on Sayid’s final words, as emotion quickly trumped mystery – not something this show has done well in the past. I spent the bulk of the season waiting for Jin and Sun to be reunited, and almost perversely, they were back together for barely an episode. It’s a credit to the actors that Jin’s refusal to leave Sun never descended into melodrama. It was the kind of scene that, if done poorly, leaves you rolling your eyes, and if done well, leaves you dabbing at them. Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim achieved the latter.
What made the sequence even more affecting was Jin and Sawyer’s obvious affection for each other – Sawyer’s willingness to go back for Jin and Jin’s concern about Sawyer being knocked unconscious was played with great sincerity. LOST has done a great job of developing male friendships (Jin and Sawyer, Sawyer and Jack) and it all really paid off last night.
The 2007 sequence ended with Faux-Locke on the beach with (a reluctant) Claire in tow. He says he needs to finish what he started, which I think means bad news for Widmore first, though I’m sure Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley have reason to worry as well.
Hey everybody, it’s Bernard! I don’t know about y’all, but the way he casually remembered Jack, the flight, John Locke, and Anthony Cooper, implied to me that ol’ Bernie had a pretty good idea that the whole everyone-connected-by-Oceanic-815-coincidence was more than it seemed. Was he shown something by Desmond, perhaps?
The episode does resolve the mystery of alternate Locke’s alternate paralysis – a plane crash that also incapacitated his father, Kevin Tighe’s Anthony Cooper – which wasn’t the most compelling mystery the show needed to resolve, but it was nice to get an answer. The great intrigue, of course, was Locke’s fevered rambling – all button-pushing and belief – suggesting that he is conscious, on some level, of the original timeline.
Beyond the fan service of additional Helen (the marvelous Katey Segal) scenes, the flash-sideways was about building character relationships. Ever since I jumped to the conclusion back in Season 2 that Jack and Claire were siblings, I’ve been waiting for them to have a great brother-sister moment. That hasn’t happened on the Island, but there was the nicely heartwarming scene in which Jack invited Claire to stay with him.
What really resonated in the flash-sideways was the back-and-forth between Jack and Locke. For years, we’ve watched the increasingly loud disagreements between Jack and Locke’s philosophies. Traditionally, Locke is the one doing the persuading, only to be stopped short by Jack’s refusal to believe. Here, when Jack is trying to convince Locke to go through with experimental surgery, we see them playing the opposite roles, and without the desperate, over-the-top emoting we’ve seen in the past, just quiet urging and grim refusal.
- Thematically, I like Sawyer’s decision to pull the wires on the bomb. If the watch had run down and not exploded – proving Jack right – any ambiguity surrounding divine protection of these characters would have been erased.
- It was hard to tell, but it looked like Lapidus died, too. I’m sorry to see Frank go – it never seemed like he was used up to his potential, though there really isn’t any time left to do much more with the character. The Freighties all have fallen victim to the shorter episode runs (particularly the strike-shortened Season 4) that characterized the latter seasons of LOST.
- Just as I was recovering from the gut punch of Jin and Sun’s death, Hurley breaks down at the news. I don’t think they ever showed him cry over Libby or Charlie, and that choked sob from the character that has been described as the heart of the show played to some pretty raw emotional spots.
- The appearance of Jin at the hospital at the end of the flash-sideways is a reminder that the characters we’ve lost on the Island all live on in another way, but that doesn’t really blunt the impact of what happened to Jin and Sun beneath the sea.
- Next week is the episode that’s going to delineate the conflict between Jacob and the Man in Black. I like that they chose to demonstrate that by showing old footage relating to this and showed little (if any) new footage.
- Beware of online spoilers. In the comments section of a podcast completely unrelated to LOST, I read that Jin, Sun, and Sayid would die this week (as well as a couple of other things that didn’t happen and which I won’t pass along) and apparently six pages from the series finale have been leaked – pages that would pretty much ruin the suspense of the finale. It’s never come up in our comments section, but if you know any spoilers for the remainder of the show, please keep them to yourself.
- I watched the first episode of Happy Town last week, and in the interest of having another labyrinthine, ABC-produced mystery show to write about on a regular basis, I’m going to start writing about it here. Look for a double review of both the series premiere and this week’s episode later this week.