Well, here it is – the beginning of the end. After nearly six seasons, last night was the last regular-length weeknight prime time episode before the LOST finale. Last week’s LOST podcast promised that the mythology was all behind us now, and what’s coming is all about what happens to the characters. To me, the most important thread that needed to be tied off was the flash-sideways timeline. While the flashbacks and flash-forwards of seasons past gradually filled in pieces of a single story, the flash-sideways device introduced this season has too often seemed like a gimmick that ultimately wouldn’t signify anything.
Unfortunately, it looks like it will take until Sunday for sense to be made of the flash-sideways story arc, which only continued to raise more questions. This was a difficult episode to assess, since it mainly read as a prologue to the series finale. The focus was narrowed to a core set of characters, but that was partially accomplished by rather hastily discarding others.
After disappearing weeks ago, Ben, Richard and Miles reappear, still on their mission to fetch C4 from Ben’s old house. When they reach the house, they run into Charles Witmore and Zoe. Witmore claims that Jacob contacted him to bring Desmond back as a fail-safe against Faux-Locke. Of course, we don’t get any details beyond that because Witmore is interrupted first by the appearance of Faux-Locke, then by a chestful of bullets when Ben shoots him.
This close to the end, a bunch of rules seem to be getting thrown out the door. Richard got smoke monstered (to death?) and Ben killed Witmore. Since we never actually knew what the rules were in the first place, does it matter that they’re being violated now? Or is that something that’s going to be shoe-horned into the finale? It gives me a headache.
There’s more deck-clearing when Faux-Locke kills Zoe – another character, like Ilana, who seemed like she might be significant until she was killed off before doing anything relevant – and Miles runs away into the jungle. It was nice to get some wise-cracking out of Miles, and I’m glad they didn’t kill him off, but really – that’s the best the writers could do?
What’s disturbing at this point is Ben’s apparent turn to the dark side. The offer of having the Island to himself wasn’t enough earlier in the season, but it seems to be enough now to make him willing to kill the remaining candidates. Of course, this gets torpedoed when Faux-Locke states his intention to find Desmond and use him to destroy the Island. Is there a reason for Ben to stick with Faux-Locke now? Character motivations are notoriously moving targets on LOST, but the finale really needs to deliver at this point.
Meanwhile, the final batch of candidates (Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sawyer), finally have the sit down we’ve all been waiting for with Jacob. He chose them because they were alone and flawed, like he is, and he needed someone to take his place and do what he can’t bring himself to do – kill his brother.
In the end, Jacob gives each of them the choice to accept the role of Island protector. He wants them to have the choice he never had, but it’s still really no choice at all – since someone needs to take his place or everyone else will die. Of course it’s Jack that accepts. I’ve been as guilty as anyone as far as indulging in various theories regarding who would take over, but it was always Jack. From the moment he took control of the situation on the beach back in the series premiere, it was clear that this is what he’s supposed to do.
Jacob and Jack repeat the ceremony we saw last week, with Jack drinking from a consecrated vessel and Jacob telling him, “Now you’re like me.” Jacob tells Jack that the light cave is just over the ridge from the bamboo forest where Jack first regained consciousness on the Island. Jack insists that there’s nothing there, which implies that the cave is shielded somehow, preventing people from just stumbling upon it.
Over in flash-sideways land, Desmond looks ready to run over Locke all over again when he’s confronted by Ben. Desmond reacts to this in the only reasonable way available to him, by beating Ben about the face and head. This of course leads Ben to flash to the Island reality, which is just what Desmond wanted.
The rest of the flash-sideways business with Ben is a coda to the Ben-centric episode from earlier this season. The show really hammers away at the whole father-daughter dynamic between him and Alex, and we finally get to see what Danielle Rousseau would look like as a middle-aged woman who hadn’t been driven insane by 16 years of isolation on a deserted island. In this episode, the flash-sideways underscored Ben’s desire for revenge against Witmore back on the Island, but with Ben’s increasingly slippery motivations it will be interesting to see if it’s indicative of something else come the finale.
Elsewhere in bizarro LA, Desmond calls Jack to tell him his father’s body has been found (in a ruse that has yet to go anywhere), then confesses his crimes to Sawyer so that he’s thrown in jail with Sayid and Kate. This is all so he can orchestrate an escape (with Hurley’s financial backing) by bribing Ana Lucia (whose appearance shocked nobody who looked at the opening credits) and indebt them to him such that they will do… something for him.
There’s some Jack business as well – a sweetly awkward domestic scene with Claire, the appearance of more mystery injuries first thing in the morning, but nothing really significant until the episode’s close. Locke comes to Jack and finally accepts his offer of surgery, but not before a discussion about fate and coincidence. The Jack-fixing-Locke plot is probably the most compelling one from the flash-sideways, so it will be fascinating to see how it plays out and what (if any) repercussions are felt back on the Island.
So what we’re left with is a reality in which Jack is going to kill Locke, and another in which Jack is going to try and heal Locke. The two timelines need to be reconciled, and as always, I think the Jack-Locke dynamic will be pivotal when we come to The End.
- Lots of variations on old images last night. The episode opens with a close-up on Jack’s eye – but he’s at home, not in the jungle. Also, this time Jack’s stitching Kate up on the beach instead of the other way around.
- Still no Juliet – I figure her for David’s mother. The stupid V stupid season finale was tonight – Elizabeth Mitchell must have been able to get away for at least a scene or two in the LOST finale, right?
- The LOST writers are big fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. SPOILER ALERT FOR THE DARK TOWER. The series concludes with Roland being sent back in time to relive his adventures all over again, while Susannah escapes to an alternate reality where she is reunited with Eddie and Jake, who had died. Is that the meaning of the flash-sideways universe? Will the dead go on to live in an alternate reality while Jack continues to toil on the Island?
- Desmond’s taking Kate to Daniel (Farraday) Witmore’s concert at Dr. Pierre Chang’s museum. Seems to me Eloise is the one who’s going to explain (cosmically speaking) what’s been going on with all this zany reality shifting. Also, this is really the last chance to give us anything more on the DHARMA Initiative.
- Since Ben has had a flash-sideways awakening, will that influence how he acts in the traditional timeline? Flash-sideways Hurley seems to remember everything (check his reaction to Ana Lucia), but there’s no indication that Hurley on the Island is aware of anything.
- No Jin and Sun this week. I still see them showing up again in the finale. Also, we were promised (threatened) with a Shannon appearance this season – is that seriously something that’s going to be crammed into the finale?