Well, I'm glad that the strike ended in time for there to be more episodes this season (starting on April 24), because Damon and Carlton were absolutely right: this would have been a terrible season finale. Lots of balls up in the air but no immediate peril for anyone but a minor character like Alex, and a cliffhanger ending that felt rushed and very un-"Lost"-like. (The shocker endings -- good or bad -- tend to focus more on characters doing something we don't expect of them, or us learning something we never would have suspected.)
That said, as an episode in a vacuum, "Meet Kevin Johnson" was quite good. While Michael was never my favorite character, his story was an important part of the show. His struggle to deal with the guilt from his Faustian bargain to save Walt was another moving example of how the writers this season are really trying to build on the emotional impact of everything that's happened before. We also got some intriguing hints about the big picture -- notably that the island's power can, in fact, extend to the mainland (which might explain a lot about Charlie visiting Hurley in the premiere) -- and a fine performance from Mr. Perrineau that was largely free (other than the "previously"s) of "WAAAAAALTTTTT!!!!!"
But it's clearly a show that was designed to be a middle chapter. I can deal with waiting a month to see the story continue, but if the strike had kept new episodes from being produced until next season, it would have been the most disappointing "Lost" finale since we didn't get to see what was in the hatch.
Because I fell asleep shortly after the episode ended and want to get discussion going quickly (for those of you near a computer on Good Friday), I'm going to go straight to bullet points:
- I'm trying to decide whether the timeframe of Michael's life back on the mainland is supposed to connote more time/space oddness or just the writers assuming that we wouldn't notice (or mind) that, in the span of a month (he was on the island for two and back by the time everyone else had been there for three), he had time to sneak back into America undetected (since he's still pretending to be dead), get to New York, alienate Walt by blabbing about the two murders, reach a suicidal level of depression, completely heal from an airbag-less car crash, and get all the way to Fiji. I'm not saying all of those things couldn't happen within four weeks (except maybe the healing, though you can attribute that to some weird island power), but it's an awfully tight squeeze.
- Also a chronology question: even if certain Others have the ability to get off the island quickly and go wherever they want, exactly when in the season three timeline would Tom's New York trip fit? He was with Jack for much of the season, and if we didn't see him during every episode while Locke was hanging with the Others, he was there for a lot of them, and then he died (after Naomi was on the island and therefore well after Michael had already gone to the freighter).
- One of the unfortunate casualties of the show's format, where most episodes are dominated by one character's story, is that other characters tend to get, well, lost for long stretches. Even if they're on camera, we don't really know what's going on with them. The Alex/Rousseau relationship definitely fell victim to that. After waiting most of last season for someone to put the two of them in the same room and explain their relationship, we got that exact moving moment in the finale (courtesy of Ben, of all people), but ever since, we've had to fill in the blanks on how they've been relating to each other. After spending her whole life thinking Ben was her dad and not knowing her mom, how was Alex responding to the knowledge that this strange, crazy woman was her real parent? During their time in Other-town, did the two of them bond? Did Rousseau struggle to pack away the crazy now that her daughter was back? Unfortunately -- but somewhat understandably, given the show's format and the fact that these two are really far down the character food chain -- there was never a chance to show any of that, so when Rousseau died (I'm guessing in a Ben-designed ambush), I felt like the show had wasted an opportunity to make that death far more powerful. Yes, it sucks that Danielle died shortly after finding her daughter, but I wish there was some way we could have gotten a glimpse of their relationship during their brief time together.
- Fisher Stevens got a bit more to do in these flashbacks, but no sign of Zoe Bell. I guess they really did just hire her to do the jumping off the boat stunt. Ah, well.
- I hope these appearances of Libby as a figment of Michael's guilt-ridden imagination aren't the only time we'll ever see Cynthia Watros again. It's not super-high on my list of Questions That Must Be Answered, but eventually I'd like to know the point of the "Libby was in the mental hospital with Hurley" reveal from "Dave."
- I've given up trying to guess (or, really, caring) whether Ben or Mr. Widmore is the real bad guy here, but I can't in any way fault Sayid's actions at the episode's end. The last time Michael was working for Ben, he murdered Libby and Ana-Lucia, and Sayid at this point in the chronology has no reason to trust Ben.
- The promo for the April 24 episode definitively identified Aaron as one of the Oceanic Six, so unless this is another case of the marketing people acting independently of Damon and Carlton -- and I don't believe they would allow that to happen with something this important -- then we have our answer, once and for all.