Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have said in recent interviews that this two-part, three-hour finale–of which we have now seen only a third–is going to be more action- and plot-oriented than prior finales, with less in the way of mindbending "whoa" moments. But hasn't that always been the way with Lost finales? Aside from the occasional four-toed statue or unexpected flash-forward, the Lost team tends to load up their endgames with treks, quests, and drawn guns.
Tonight had a little bit of all that, and if I seem a little hesitant in this review, it's only because it's hard to evaluate a story that's still in flux. Tonight's installment hardly counts as an "episode" in and of itself, because it had no real arc, either in the island action or in the flash-forwards. I can't really talk themes, repercussions or character revelations, because it's all still in the process of becoming.
Which isn't to say that "There's No Place Like Home" wasn't still intriguing and exciting in a lot of ways.
Here's the island/freighter news: Jack and Kate headed into the jungle to track Frank's radio, and came across Sawyer, who handed Aaron off to Kate and continued on with Jack until they found Frank and his helicopter. (Miles was with Sawyer too, and presumably headed back to the beach with Kate.) Hurley, Ben and Locke worked their way across the island to The Orchid station, where Locke is somehow going to work his "moving the island" magic, presuming the trio can get past Keamy & The Widmore Marauders. Sayid arrived on the beach (in a time-appropriate fashion, for reasons I'd rather not ponder too hard) and told everyone that he'd ferry them back to the freighter, but before he could begin, Kate returned, handed Aaron off to Sun, and Kate and Sayid headed off on the trail of Jack and Sawyer. Instead, they found Richard and the rest of the surviving Others (or Hostiles, or whatever you want to call them at this point). In Sayid's absence, Daniel (still rockin' the necktie after all these days, by the way) began the ferrying process, bringing in his first shipment the duo of Jin and Sun, plus Aaron. On the freighter, the Koreans were startled to see Michael, who had at long last gotten the ship's engines fixed, but is now stymied because someone has apparently loaded up the boat with C4.
So here's where we stand as hour one ends: Jin, Sun, Aaron, Michael and Desmond are on a ship that may be about to blow up; Juliet, Bernard, Rose and Charlotte (and presumably Miles) are back at the beach; Daniel's on a rubber boat ("Break out the rubber boats!"); Sayid and Kate are surrounded by Hostiles; Jack, Sawyer and Frank are making plans to 'copter off the island as soon as they can rescue Hurley; and Hurley's parked in the brush with Locke outside The Orchid, waiting to see how Ben's new plan--to surrender to Keamy--is going to work out.
All of which raises a question: How in the world are Jack, Hurley, Sun, Aaron, Kate and Sayid going to get off the island together and become The Oceanic Six?
Well, that's a problem for the next two hours to solve. As for this hour, I confess that I ran a little hot and cold with The Oceanic Six story as it was revealed in fragmented flash-forwards. I thought the opening scene of them landing in Hawaii and facing the media with their apparently contrived cover story was all very moving, and in the flash-forwards that followed, I thought it was cool to see Sun stand up to her dad by using her settlement money to buy a controlling interest in his company, and creepy that Hurley's car from "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" had "the numbers" running across its two odometers, and sort of satisfying that Jack finally found out that Claire was his half-sister by meeting her mom (and immediately having to bite his tongue about what he knows). But at the moment, these flashes feel pretty random to me. I'm hoping they'll seem less like paperwork once all the results are in.
Until then, I'm going to duck on grading this one, call it "good but unfinished," and ask to reconvene down in the "stray observations."
-What I think will make this finale powerful when all is said and done is the delineation of how the choices made by The Oceanic Six play out in their off-island lives. When Jack tells the Oceanic PR lady (hey, it's Michelle Forbes cool!) that they want to talk with the press and "get it over with," we already know that their fame won't end with one press conference. Jack, as is often the case, has unrealistic expectations.
-Just like the "adventure theme," I've always liked Lost's "reunion theme," which appears way more often on the show, usually accompanied by slow-motion hugging.
-Stephen Williams directed this episode, and I assume he'll be at the helm for the next two hours too, which would make this the first finale not directed by Jack Bender (for those keeping score at home).
-Commercial watch: Did anyone else catch the oddly appropriate Old Navy ad for the "Orchid Night Dress?" And is it wrong that I'm kind of excited about the return of The Mole, a reality competition show that I really enjoyed back when it first aired?
-When Sawyer noted Jack's bleeding abdomen and heard about his appendicitis, then asked, "What else did I miss?," did anyone else think about the lack of beach action this season and think to themselves, "Not much?"
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-The structure of this finale–with flash-forwards covering multiple characters–mirrors Season One's three-hour conclusion "Exodus." I wonder if there will be any other similarities? (Just please God, no looking down a hatch as a final shot.)
-So is Jin dead or not? Sun's answer to the question at the O6 press conference seemed awfully uncertain, even for a cover story.
-I like Sawyer's comment to Jack as he followed him into the jungle: "You don't get to die alone" Way to throw the doc's words back at him, big guy.
-I feel like the writers have been overplaying the "Boy that Hurley likes to eat!" card lately, but his gnawing on the lockbox saltines, and Ben's quip, "You know those are fifteen years old," may have been a backdoor clue. Was 15 years ago the last time that Ben had reason to do something so drastic as moving the island?
Flashbackin' Season Three, Eps. 13-16:
-Once again, I'm going to keep this section short this week and save up the bulk of my thoughts on Season Three for next week, when that's all I'll have to write about.
This group of episodes included two of my favorite mythology-rich episodes, "The Man From Tallahassee" and "One Of Us"–the first of which reveals the details of Locke's paralysis and introduces the idea of Ben's "magic box," and the second of which continues the story of Juliet's transformation from meek medical researcher to duplicitous murderess–as well as the fairly scattered "Left Behind," which juggles handcuffed-Kate-and-Juliet on-island thrills with merely functional Kate-and-Cassidy off-island flashbackin'. But I want to start this week with one of the more divisive, controversial episodes in Lost history. Season Three, Episode Fourteen. Better known as
-"Exposé" As I've indicated before, the problems with "Exposé" are twofold. Firstly, the Lost creative team erred by trying to integrate Nikki and Paolo into the show well before they were needed; if they wanted to do a story about the background characters, they should've introduced these two as a one-off. Secondly, it may have been a bad idea in the first place to try to do a standalone episode in the middle of a tightly serialized show, especially when the potboiler narrative was finally starting to heat up. "Exposé" is more of a fanfic idea, or something for the series of Lost novels that some enterprising publisher will undoubtedly produce after the show is over. And yet, as an entertaining hour of TV, "Exposé" is pretty hard to beat, from its Rosencranz & Guildenstern approach to Lost lore to its twist ending that has Nikki waking up from her temporary paralysis just before Sawyer buries her and Paolo alive. Fun, fun stuff. But it's more than that too. "Exposé" follows through on several of Lost's core themes: the villain's redemption, the perils of mistrust, and the idea of mysteries nesting within mysteries. It also, I'm half-convinced, contains one whopper of a clue about what's going on in Lost's meta-narrative, teased in the show-within-the-show. If you'll recall, Nikki's character on the striper-crimefighter series Exposé discovers right before her death that the man she thought was her boss and friend (played by Billy Dee Williams) is actually the criminal mastermind she's been fighting against. Now, while I don't think Lost big reveal is going to be quite so clunky–if only because "good" and "evil" are a little more fluid on this show–I have been watching ever since for hints that one of our beloved castaways is actually behind everything that's been going on. Did the mega-rich Hurley finance this whole adventure in some way? Or did Locke arrange it all as one big game? Again, I don't think the real answer is going to be quite so ungainly, but in this season in particular, Lost has been edging closer to revealing that Locke in particular might have a hidden history with the island that even he doesn't fully know. After all, in "The Man Behind The Curtain" (which I'll be writing about next week), doesn't Jacob look an awful lot like Terry O'Quinn? And doesn't the Jacob reveal look a little like the Billy Dee Williams reveal in Exposé?
-Quick notes on the other eps:
*"The Man From Tallahassee" In Locke's flashback, he's watching Exposé Did we ever find out definitively whether Locke blew up Ben's submarine, or if he faked it? And who here thinks that the submarine was just a prop in the first place, designed to provide a cover for how Ben and his inner circle really get on and off the island? Great Ben line, when Locke wonders whether he secretly signaled Richard and Mr. Friendly: "We don't have a code for, 'There's a man in my closet with a gun to my daughter's head' although we obviously should." This episode is awesome, by the way.
*"Left Behind" In this episode's appearance of the smoke monster, it flashes bright lights at Kate and Juliet. What's that about? A lot of people were surprised by the way Juliet got the drop on Kate in this season's "The Other Woman," but it happens in this episode too. As badass as Kate may be, Juliet is apparently her kryptonite.
*"One Of Us" The writers have played all kinds of games with the fans when it comes to Juliet, teasing us about whether she's a force for good or for ill, but they've been very consistent about a few aspects of her personality: She was fundamentally sweet and caring before Ben Linus got a hold of her, and she's got a smart-ass sense of humor. One of her best (and first) one-liners came in this episode, when Hurley asked her why she wasn't on the dock when he was shackled and bagged, and she responded, "I had the day off." This show has always been good at reunions, and "One Of Us" has one of the best, with Jack, Kate and Sayid returning to the beach, and Sawyer–up until that moment, the new leader at camp–hesitates before hugging Kate (and Jack!) I wish to know more about this "Herarat Aviation." This episode is awesome too. More hits than misses over the past block of eight, that's for sure.
-Lost is off next week, but I'll be back here as usual, preparing for the Season Four finale by revisiting the end of Season Three. Hope to see y'all then. (Maybe I'll have some more thoughts on this week's "episode" too.)