Lost is a symphony. The layers, the depth, the unexpected highs and heart-breaking lows, various instruments coming together to make beautiful music. Lost‘s now-accomplished feat going into season 4 was to link up the final two Jack moments of the season 3 finale: his bearded conversation with Kate and his satellite phone call to the freighter. Given that objective, which I think we can presume was the season 4 plan all along, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse shepherded season 4 along excellently. Despite what Lost fans may argue about seasons 1, 2 and 3, the fourth season of Lost was the show’s highest degree-of-difficulty narrative yet. Going from Point A (Jack talking to the freighter) to Point B (bearded, “We have to go back!” Jack) while keeping the audience guessing, introducing new characters, layering on the mysteries, expanding the story’s scope to frighteningly epic proportions, and giving audiences a three-hour finale that gave answers, was full of action and set up season 5 perfectly, is an incredible feat. And, remember, this was in two episodes less than planned, thanks to the writers’ strike. “There’s No Place Like Home: Part 2” was a brilliant piece of television, a satisfying conclusion to an immaculately plotted season.
Besides a few minor quibbles here and there, last night’s episode delivered across the board. The sheer insanity of what the writers are accomplishing with Lost is going to lead to flaws, but that’s more than OK. Lost cannot be judged on the same standard as other, less ambitious series (Lost being, possibly, the most ambitious television show ever). If Lost is attempting a 10.0 degree of difficulty, there will inevitably be some story flaws, no matter how expertly the writers pull it all off. Who cares, though? This is a series that moves islands.
The invent of the flash forward in the season 3 finale cemented Lost’s position as an innovator. Without it, and the subsequent season 4 flash forwards, the story could not have been told to its fullest effect. We can look back and say that the flash forwards were really the obvious next steps in the Lost story, but that’s easy to say in hindsight. Adding mystery and tension to the on-island action by showing the future is a concept that, on the surface, might seem counter-intuitive. But, with the vagaries of the time line in the future regarding the Oceanic 6, along with the always mysterious circumstances in which they left the island, were the driving forces behind season 4’s story. While sacrificing the mystery of Jack, Sayid, Kate, Hurley and Sun’s fate, the flash forwards significantly increased the suspense revolving around non-Oceanic 6 members like Desmond, Jin, Sawyer, Michael and Locke. It had to feel like a risk, both to the writers and ABC, but it was a risk well taken, and one that, in retrospect, we can all hopefully agree was one of the best things ever to happen to Lost.
The oft-unspoken struggle within cynical Lost fans is whether or not Cuse and Lindelof have a rigid master plan or are merely genius improvisers. Has the Lost story been meticulously planned for some time, or has the whole series been a scramble to fill out a self-written Mad Lib? Are they merely writing incomplete sentences, then filling in the blanks when they figure out a cool answer. The true test, to me, is if Cuse and Lindelof knew, while writing the season 3 finale, that Locke was the one in the coffin. We will probably never know the answer. Maybe this would have bothered me earlier in the season, this question of planning, but no more. I’ve been having little epiphanies here and there, not about the series in any specific way, but in regards to how I ingest it. It’s sort of like grappling with one’s mortality: we, as Lost fans, have no control over the series fate, so why even bother worrying about the machinations of the story, how its planned – we should all just sit back and enjoy it. If, at the end of season 6, the story is shown to be one big sham and Cuse and Lindelof are outed as charlatan monorail salesmen, then so be it. Egg on our faces. At least the ride was great.
When you parse it, the finale was something of a tragedy for Ben. He had every reason to be stubborn, shun his duties, and figure out a way to remain at home on the island. He could’ve manipulated Locke into turning that big wheel. But, he didn’t. Ben made his sacrifices for the sake of “it’s” will. Besides his one moment of emotional blindness (“So?”), I actually found Ben’s desperation touching. The ancient Wheel of Time (or whatever Losties will eventually call it) was wonderfully silly. Lost could’ve gone the high-tech route with the island-device, but the simplicity of the icy wheel cave added a nice mystical touch to the events. Ben’s reappearance in the final scene, telling bearded Jack what needs to be done, is a great (though, for the nitpickers, very on-the-nose) set-up for what season 5 will be: Jack wrangling up the Oceanic 6 to return to the island, while we flash back to the events on the island that led to Locke’s departure and eventual death.
I had a feeling that this was going happen. In fact, I predicted it. Michael needed to sacrifice himself for his own redemption. What I wasn’t expecting was the appearance by Christian Shepherd. For all the emotional moments in the finale, this was (perhaps weirdly) the moment that hit me the hardest. I’m a sucker for willing self-sacrifice, and there was something beautifully poignant about Christian “releasing” Michael. It got a little dusty in my living room. The forgotten heart-breaking moment of Michael’s death: Hurley having to lie to Big Walt about Michael being one of the people “left behind.”
Jin and Sun
We didn’t see Jin die, which means he’s alive. I’m convinced of this. The fact that Sun believes he’s dead adds motivation to Sun’s character, which we’ve already seen the results of (Sun’s purchasing of Paik, her possible alliance with Widmore). That scene with Widmore in London leads me to believe that Sun is going to become a very dark character, at least at the start of next season. One thing to keep an eye on: with Jeremy Bentham’s return to the mainland it stands to reason that, if Jin did survive the explosion and (somehow) made it back to the island, Bentham probably would’ve told someone about Jin being alive. If that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before Sun finds out. That could make it a whole lot easier for Jack to convince Sun to return to the island.
Sawyer and Kate
The mystery of what Sawyer told Kate before jumping out of the helicopter will probably be answered early next season, though I can’t imagine it’s something all that important. Less Lost mythology than something emotional, perhaps involving Sawyer’s child. As for Sawyer’s sacrifice, it was a big, emotional moment. Jack’s reaction to the kiss/sacrifice was perfect: (a mixture of horror, sadness and relief). I’m really hoping that Sawyer gets more to do next season as one of the on-island survivors. With Kate, I have a feeling that getting her to return to the island won’t be easy, though being haunted by Claire will certainly affect her decision making. I expect a lot of Claire/Kate interactions next season.
The realization that Bentham’s return to the mainland is what sent Jack into his downward spiral of pill-popping alcoholism is good, in that it makes Jack look less weak as a character. Jack thinks that whatever happened on the island after his departure is his fault. How this is the case is THE big mystery heading into next season, as far as I’m concerned. Besides the mere act of leaving, I can’t imagine what specifically Jack did to wreak havoc on the island – I guess we’ll find out in 2009.
Awesome. The appearance of Penny in that boat was both unexpected (yet, it made sense) and heart-wrenching. It was the most well-earned reunion we’ve ever seen on Lost, and even the most black-hearted viewer couldn’t help but be lifted up by that moment. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Desmond, and we could be poised for some serious heartbreak if Ben follows through with his “kill Penny” plan.
Locke’s death, and the insinuation that things went horribly wrong on the island the second it moved and Locke became the leader of the Others, brings some questions to mind: Was Jacob wrong? Is Locke not the rightful leader? Was it supposed to be Walt? Was it supposed to be Jack? Was Ben removed from his post too early?
The dense season 4 finale will be forever be regarded as a integral episode for Lost as a series. Depending on how seasons five and six play out, this finale will either improve or fall short in retrospect. It both set-up the fifth season and provided a ton of answers, resolved story lines and created a handful of juicy new mysteries.
The only bad thing I can take away from last night’s finale is this: seven months is a long damn time.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of ABC)