In homage to Lost’s most time-travel-y season, this review will be skipping around chronologically, with a segment-by-segment recap interspersed with immediate reactions and thoughts in retrospect.
Segment one: A man in white weaves in front of a fire, then goes down to the beach to catch fish. He cooks a hunk of fish on a rock, while staring out at a ship. A man in black walks up and blames the man in white for bringing the ship to the island. “We know how it’ll end,” he says, claiming that there will be violence. The man in white notes that even though they know how it’ll end, what happens before the end is “just progress.” The man in black says he’d like to kill the man in white—Jacob!—but knows he can’t until he finds a “loophole.” Jacob says he’ll be waiting. The camera pans up. We see the back and side of an enormous statue with what appears to be a crocodile head.
Immediate reaction: Whoa!
Post-credits thoughts: So much to ponder/unpack here. First off: Who is the man in black? (Besides the manifestation of opposition, as set up back in Season One when Locke taught Walt about Backgammon.) And did it seem to anyone else that they were having a conversation much like all of our heroes keep having? Blackie is arguing that fate will keep causing the same conflicts to occur over and over, so what’s the point of having a conflict at all? And Jacob is arguing that even though the results may be the same, the details change, and this is important. So here’s the question to carry with us throughout each of the segments to follow: Even though Jacob seems kindly and reasonable, is his way of looking at the world really the right one? Is he a good guy?
Segment two: Two kids sneak around a country store. The girl—Kate!—steals a New Kids On The Block lunch box, but Jacob comes along and pays for the lunchbox, getting Kate off the hook with a promise not to steal anymore. Back on the island in 1977, the grown-up Kate is on a submarine trying to convince Sawyer and Juliet to help her stop Jack—which they are reluctant to do. Meanwhile, Sayid has interpreted Faraday’s instructions and has determined that all he needs to do is remove Jughead’s core and transport it to The Swan in less than two hours, for detonation. And at The Swan, Chang and Radzinsky are bickering about drilling into the dangerous pocket of electro-magnetism. Radzinsky prevails, and the drilling begins. Thirty years later, Locke leads The Others on his Jacob-hunt, and warns Richard—who’s concerned about the nature of Locke’s resurrection, which is unlike anything he’s seen on the island before—that when they’re done with Jacob, they’ll need to “deal with” the passengers on the Ajira flight. The Ajira folks, meanwhile, are transporting Lapdius and their crate on a pontoon boat. Ilana and Bram open the crate for Lapidus. He takes one look at the content and mutters, “terrific.”
Immediate reaction: Very fleet way of tying all the pieces of the story together, while introducing a little bit of backstory.
Post-credits thoughts: Note the various conflicts at work here: Radzinsky versus Chang. Kate versus Sawyer. They’re all variations on the conflict between Jacob and Blackie. Should we act, or should we flee, effectively removing ourselves from the game?
Segment three: We open at a funeral, where a young man—Sawyer!—is working on a letter. Jacob comes along and loans him a pen. Another man comes along and warns Sawyer that, “What’s done is done,” and that he shouldn’t finish his letter. Back in ’77, Sawyer and Kate are still bickering over Jack’s H-bomb-detonating/time-resetting plan. Juliet takes charge and tells Sawyer that they’re going to help Kate. Sawyer decides not “to whine about it” and along with Juliet orders the sub captain to surface. Across the island, Sayid continues his core-extraction, while Richard tells Jack the story of his meeting Locke in the ‘50s, and says that he can’t figure out why Locke is special. Jack tells Richard not to give up on Locke. Meanwhile, in 2007, Locke wonders why Ben hasn’t told Richard about his plans to kill Jacob, and Ben confesses that the monster told him to follow Locke no matter what. Locke says that’s great, because he wants Ben to do the murderin’
Immediate reaction: I’m loving the feeling of mounting importance, aided by Michael Giacchino’s fabulous, multi-faceted score. I’m so into this that I don’t even mind the clunkiness of Ben saying “the monster” so matter-of-factly.
Post-credits thoughts: Jack helping Locke fulfill his destiny ties back into what I wrote last week about the self-fulfilling time loops being thematically relevant. Why is Locke special? Because people keep saying he’s special. Why should anyone believe him? Well, as Jacob would say: “You have a choice.”
Segment four: Sayid and Nadia are walking happily through Los Angeles when Jacob distracts Sayid for a moment. Nadia, walking into the street, is hit by a car and killed. Back in ’77, Sayid loads the core into his pack and proceeds through the tunnels under the temple to a secret passageway that Richard opens, to the basement of a DHARMA house. Eloise wants to lead the group, brandishing her weapon, but Ricahrd clocks her on the back of a head to “protect” her. He tells Jack and Sayid to proceed without them. The two of them decide to “hide in plain sight” by walking through the compound in DHARMA jumpsuits (ducking away from Phil), but Roger Linus spots them and blows the whistle. Roger shoots Sayid in the gut; Jack fires back; Jin, Miles and Hurley arrive in a van to spirit them away.
Immediate reaction: The tension mounts, with no let-up. Will Sayid make it? Is his story “done,” to use Darlton terminology? Is Jack so careless with his friends’ lives because he’s convinced that his bomb plan will fix everything?
Post-credits thoughts: Who killed Nadia? Is it the same person who keeps running down key members of our cast in the past? And does that person work for Jacob?
Segment five: Kate, Sawyer and Juliet leave the sub in a dinghy and paddle ashore. Vincent runs up to see them, followed closely by Rose and a bearded Bernard. (“Son of a bitch,” Bernard mumbles.) Rose explains that they’re “retired” and no longer want to take part in people trying to shoot each other. They don’t care if they die—or leave the show, I guess—and quietly urge Juliet to stay with them, out of trouble. She’s tempted, but says no. In 2007, Lapidus keeps trekking with the people who call themselves “the good guys,” until they arrive at Jacob’s cabin, where they discover that the ash surrounding the building has been disturbed. Quick flashback to Ilana, beaten up and lying in a remote hospital bed, where she’s being visited by Jacob, who gets her to pledge her help to him. Then flash-forward to the inside of the cabin, where Ilana snoops around and discovers that someone else has been using the cabin. The Shadow Of The Statue people torch the cabin, after Ilana retrieves a piece of cloth that reveals their next stop.
Immediate reaction: Changing the narrative structure already, huh? The Jacob-flashback-cut-to-island thing was working pretty well, but Darlton can't leave well enough alone, can they?
Post-credits thoughts: From a practical point of view, the Bernard and Rose scenes get those characters off the show and prevent Darlton from having to answer “Where are Bernard and Rose?” on every podcast. (Is Vincent off the show now too?) But thematically, I think this is a pretty key scene. What are Bernard and Rose if not the voice of Blackie in Sawyer, Juliet and Kate’s ears, saying, “Opt out?” And again I ask: Is this the voice of evil, or the voice of reason?
Segment six: Jacob reads Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge (ahem!) on a bench outside a building, where Locke has just been pushed out of a window. He touches Locke on his shoulder and revives him, with a short, reassuring apology. In 2007, Locke leads The Others to the 815ers old camp to rest up for the night. Locke points out that he and Ben are sitting next to the door to the hatch “where we first met,” which doesn’t impress Ben much. Then he asks Ben about the time that they went to Jacob’s cabin and Ben pretended to see someone who wasn’t there. (“I lied… that’s what I do,” Ben says.) Locke reminds Ben of all the crappy things that have happened to him on the island, in order to goad him into killing Jacob. Across the beach, Sun finds Aaron’s old cradle, with Charlie’s Drive Shaft ring inside, then she flashes back to her wedding day, where Jacob offered the happy couple his blessing. (“His Korean is excellent,” notes Jin.) Back in the van in ’77, Miles is asking for more details about Jack’s plan, while Sayid is offering instructions with what may be his last breath. Then Hurley stops the van, because he sees Sawyer, Kate and Juliet standing on the road, bearing guns. End of hour one.
Immediate reaction: Really liking how the character stories are being woven together here. And that shot of the van-stoppers is kick-ass.
Post-credits thoughts: Jin and Sun got hosed this season. And for that matter, Sun’s father and Charles Widmore and Christian Shepherd and all the old bastards who’ve been involved in this ancient conflict for decades didn’t really get their due tonight either. I’d assume we’re going to learn more about all of them next season, but if Season Five has taught me anything about Lost, it’s not to assume anything. (So many of guesses about what’s going to happen on this show have been wrong, wrong, wrong.) As for Ben, his confession got me thinking: All that "God loved you as He loved Jacob" business in the brainwashing room was really just for show, wasn't it? Ben turned Jacob into his own twisted religion, even though he didn't know what he was believing in, or why. He was "The Man Behind The Curtain," in Oz-speak.
Segment seven: Richard shows Locke the statue-foot, and says that this is where Jacob lives. Back in ’77, Sawyer pleads his group’s case to Jack. Flash to Jack in surgery in L.A., at the famous moment when his Dad told him to count to five, use up all his fear, and then finish the job he set out to do. Afterwards, Jack tries and fails to get an Apollo Bar out of the candy machine, and then bickers with his father about how he embarrassed him in surgery. Jacob walks up and hands Jack his candy bar. Flash back to ’77, where Sawyer tells his origin story to Jack, and notes that he didn’t change his personal timeline even though he could’ve. Jack tries to explain Locke’s destiny theory, but Sawyer stops him, and gets Jack to admit that what he really wants is Kate back. Jack attempts to leave and get his plan started, so Sawyer punches him. A fight ensues. Juliet breaks it up and tells Sawyer she’s changed her mind and now thinks Jack is right.
Immediate reaction: Appreciated the emotional resonance in the Sawyer-Jack conversation. Loved the return of the “two people fighting” theme. Not sure about Juliet’s change of heart. Taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Post-credits thoughts: Still not sure about Juliet’s fickleness, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. A thought about Sawyer though: While Jack and Kate and others have had three years off the island to live their lives, Sawyer’s been on the island since he crashed, and aside from an excursion to Hydra and brief rides on a raft, a helicooter and a submarine, he hasn’t gotten to go anywhere. Nothing’s been said about this on the show, but I think it makes Sawyer’s plight more poignant.
Segment eight: Two sisters—Rachel and Juliet!—are hearing about their parent’s divorce, which Juliet refuses to accept. Back in ’77, Juliet explains that she changed her mind about Jack’s plan because of how Sawyer looked at Kate, and that she wants to make it so that she and Sawyer never met so that “I never have to lose you.” At The Swan, Radzinsky is still drilling over Chang’s objections. Phil radios Radzinsky to warn him about the impending arrival of Jack and company. Jack, hiding in the bushes, tries to explain to Kate once again why he’s doing what he’s doing: because nothing in his life “has ever felt so right.” Kate agrees to help him.
Immediate reaction: Blah blah blah. Quiet moments are welcome in a tense finale, but I don’t care much about these relationship woes.
Post-credits thoughts: I feel like the writers pinned maybe too much of the motivation for the 1977 action on this love quadrangle. There was enough else going on in this episode to make up for it, but I’m still not sure they realize that Lost fans find much of the “who loves who?” stuff on this show kind of corny. I’m much more interested in the clash of philosophies and worldviews. (Though if I gave it enough thought, perhaps I could find a way to treat Juliet-Sawyer-Kate-Jack as a metaphor for Jacob and Blackie’s conflict.)
Segment nine: Hurley gets discharged from jail in 2007 (against his will), and is met in a cab by Jacob (with his guitar case), who talks Hurley into returning to the island (with his guitar case) by telling Hurley that he’s not crazy. In 1977, Jack returns to the van to get the core, with everyone’s blessing. In 2007, Sun asks Ben what happened to the rest of the giant statue and Ben replies, “I don’t know, it was like that when I got here.” Locke summons Ben to join him at the base of the statue, over Richard’s objection. Locke and Ben enter a chamber. Ben takes a knife from Locke, after Locke promises him that everything is about to change.
Immediate reaction: Aaaaaaaaah! (Also: Could it be that Locke is now on the side of evil?)
Post-credits thoughts: What’s in the guitar case, dude? (Also: Yeah, Locke’s turned. Unless it turns out that Blackie’s not a bad guy.)
Segment ten: Miles finally raises a question on many viewers’ minds: Will Jack’s bombing cause “the incident?” (“Glad you all though this through,” Miles scoffs.) Sawyer sees Phil’s crew arriving to take out Jack, which prompts Juliet to say, “live together, die alone” (which Sawyer presumably told her all about one night in Dharmaville). The gang uses the van and their own guns to cover Jack while he jumps into the pit. Sawyer holds a gun on Phil’s head while Jack prepares to drop the bomb down the drill-hole. Meaningful looks are exchanged. The bomb gets dropped. Nothing seems to be happening. (“This don’t look like LAX,” Sawyer grumbles.) Suddenly, metal equipment begins collapsing and falling into the pit. Chang’s hand gets crushed. Phil gets impaled. A chain wraps around Juliet and pulls her in, despite Sawyer and Kate’s best efforts.
Immediate reaction: Yet another shootout, which isn’t so exciting this time around. But the emotional farewell between Sawyer and Juliet is pretty powerful (until Sawyer’s over-dramatic sob). I’ve gotta ask though: What did Radzinsky expect to happen when he drilled into a pit of electromagnetism? He seems surprised by the effect. As for whether Jack caused “the incident”… well, that’s going to be a “wait ‘til next year” question.
Segment eleven: Richard waits with Sun outside the base of the statue. Sun asks for booze, which Richard can’t supply. Ilana and her crew arrive, asking for “Ricardus.” They ask Ricardus—Richard—“What lies in the shadow of the statue?” He answers, apparently accurately. They open their case for him, and he gazes upon… the corpse of Locke. Meanwhile, inside the statue-base, Ben looks at Jacob’s tapestry, while Jacob asks Not-Locke if he’s “found his loophole.” Not-Locke says that he believes he has, and tells Ben to do what he’s been ordered to do. Jacob tells Ben he has a choice, to leave if he wants. Ben, bitter about being ignored for 35 years, tells Jacob off, then stabs him. As Jacob’s dying, he gasps, “They’re coming” to Not-Locke, who kicks him into a fire. In 1977, Jack comes out of his daze to realize that everything’s a mess. Down at the bottom of a pit, Juliet bangs away at the unexploded bomb. The screen flashes white. The end.
Immediate reaction: Ben’s big speech is a wow, bringing up the old Lost theme of neglectful fathers/absent gods. And the revelation that Locke is Not-Locke (and thus, I assume, Blackie… who may have been appearing as ghosts in front of our characters for a while now) made me gasp out loud. As for the ending….?
Post-credits thoughts: Darlton had said in some interview or another that this season’s finale was going to be like Season One’s, in that it was going to end with a cliffhanger that will frustrate a lot of fans (much like Locke looking down the hatch). Me? I found the ending frustrating, but in a good way. This finale was entertaining as all get-out to me, and despite the occasional groaner moment, I think this may be Lost’s most purposeful, surprising finale. Do I wish it had told me more? Of course. But that’s only because I’m so eager to find out what happens next.
I’ll say a little more about the implications of this episode in a moment, but first let me jump back to something I wrote at the end of the Season Four finale:
Some guesses as to what's going to happen next year, besides what I already mentioned about Charlotte searching for her past: The Widmore/Paik alliance will work overtime to prevent the Ben/Jack alliance from finding the island before they can, though Jack will eventually wear Sun down. In order to find the island, Jack will have to locate the surviving members of the Dharma Initiative. In the island flashbacks, we'll see all-out war between Sawyer's camp and Locke's camp as resources dwindle. And as much as I hate to say it, I think Penny's going to die, bringing Desmond back into the fold with Jack (even though it may well be Sayid who does the killing). It'll be brother against brother and the secrets of Dharma, coming in '09.
Often with Lost over the years, I’ve made guesses about the direction the show is headed in, and often I’ve been wrong. I honestly thought that whole of Season Five would be about getting back to the island. I didn’t expect the time-travel-laden, mythology-heavy, action-packed season we got, and I certainly didn’t expect a finale that revealed Jacob (without really telling us who he is) and raised some of Lost’s recurring thematic questions in provocative new ways.
So I hesitate to guess at what’s coming for Season Six, though there are plenty of hints that it’s going to be much more than a matter of Jacob’s Forces Of Good triumphing over Blackie’s Forces Of Evil. There appears to be a more subtle set of philosophical struggles at work: Between destiny and free will, between science and faith, and between leadership and stewardship.
And still so many questions to answer: Who’s dead, and what does it mean that they’re dead? Was Locke really a nobody all along? Why did Jacob touch the people he touched? Why can Ben kill Jacob but Blackie/Not-Locke can't? Is Blackie Smokey? (I'm guessing no, not exactly.) Will the bomb-blast reset everything, or will it create some fresh hell? What’s in that blasted guitar case?
I want to step out now and let you guys speculate for a while, which I know you’re itching to do. There’s almost more here than I can wrap my head around, but I can tell already that for the next several months I’m going to be thinking about what Jacob said to Blackie at the start of the episode, and how attractive his way of looking at things seems to me to be. If I’m right about Jacob, it looks like he’s a believer that the world is permanently broken, but that we should try to fix it anyway because it gives us something to do—and might even make us better people, living in a brighter future. Last season’s finale ended with “Gouge Away” by the Pixies. This season had no such musical moment, but from the opening shot on, I had a song running through my head: Pavement’s “Frontwards.” And in particular one line:
“This pattern’s torn, and we’re weaving.”
Episode grade: A-
Season grade: A-
Once again, I thank you for reading this blog all season long, and for contributing so much to the discussion. We had more participation and a higher level of theorizing and analysis than we did last year—and last year was pretty great. It takes a lot of work to prepare for these reviews each week, and trying to write and post quickly can be stressful, but spending hours and days afterward sorting through all the details with you all is never less than a pleasure. I’m going to write something in the AVC blog next week that deals in part with this past season of Lost, and then I’ll be putting the show on ice—A.V. Club-wise—until the final season starts in January ’10. I can’t wait to see you then.