Spoilers for "Lost" coming up just as soon as I get my dry cleaner to remove the blood and sand from my parka...
As the Jewish people are still in the middle of Passover, it's time to apply the concept of Dayenu to "Lost." Dayenu, for the gentiles among you, is a song sung around the Passover seder table listing all the things we have to be thankful for in the Exodus story: if God had only freed us from slavery, Dayenu (translate, "it would have been enough"); if God had freed us from slavery and taken us out of Egypt, Dayenu; if he had only taken us out of Egypt and fed us manna, Dayenu; etc.
With "The Shape of Things to Come," if Lindelof and Cuse had only given us the amazing, half-CGI, half-implied nighttime rampage of Smokey, Dayenu.
If they had only given us Smokey's rampage and clarified that Ben can teleport off the island and travel through time, Dayenu.
If they had only given us Smokey's rampage and the teleportation issue, while explaining why Sayid works for Ben in the future, Dayenu.
If they had only given us Smokey's rampage, teleportation, the Sayid explanation and Michael Emerson playing Ben's reaction to Alex's death, Dayenu.
If they had only given us Smokey, teleportation, Sayid, Ben's reaction, and Jack using Bernard to outsmart Faraday, Dayenu.
If they had only given us all of the above, plus tying Ben to Penny (and therefore Desmond), Dayenu.
Yup, "The Shape of Things to Come" was overflowing with manna from post-strike heaven: lots of action, lots of intrigue, the odd answer or three, and Michael Emerson again demonstrating why Lindelof and Cuse essentially turned the show over to a guy who was only supposed to be around for two episodes.
That isn't to say it was perfect. For starters, there's the matter of the redshirts among the Locke/Sawyer/Ben group. The matter of the lostaways who aren't regular castmembers (or at least recurring figures like Bernard and Rose) has always been a sticky one for the show. The producers tried to address the problem last year with Nikki and Paolo, but did it so clumsily that the entire audience cheered their deaths. The massacre in Other Town was the opposite extreme of that. Sawyer's really concerned about getting Claire into Ben's house as quickly as possible but doesn't have a plan for the other people who followed Locke in the premiere (for reasons unknown, because they hd no personalities) other than to tell them to get back in the house. And so, of course, the only people killed during the assault are the handful of non-regulars, while Claire survives a house blowing up around her. That sequence with Sawyer dodging bullets was supposed to be tense and frightening; instead, it was funny.
Meanwhile, between the last pre-strike episode and this one, I feel like the writers really dropped the ball with Alex and Rousseau. I understand the show has too many characters, and has enough trouble servicing the people in the main cast, but as I said six weeks ago, they spent the better part of three seasons with the matter of Rousseau's missing child hovering on the periphery of things, they finally had the two of them meet and learn each other's identity in the finale, and then they had no meaningful interaction with each other until Rousseau died, with Alex following quickly behind her. Between the flashbacks and the time travel and mysticism of the island, dead doesn't always mean dead on "Lost" (see Tom Friendly's recent re-appearance), but at this point in the story, I can't imagine them taking the time to go back to that relationship to fill in the scenes we should have seen between those two after their reunion in the season three finale. Seems like a waste.
But back to the good stuff. As said above, Smokey picking apart the mercenary unit was worth the price of admission. By now, we've seen enough of the monster to know what it can do and what it looks like doing it, and so having it go to town at night was a brilliant idea; not only did it no doubt save some money on the CGI budget, but it let our imaginations fill in the blanks on what it was doing to the bad guys. Lindelof likes to say, while trying to manage expectations for the eventual revelation of what the island is, that our imaginations are always going to come up with something better than what's in the actual show, and that sequence was a nice illustration of that. I don't think it would have been half as exciting or scary if it had been in broad daylight and we had seen every single thing Smokey did to those guys.
Meanwhile, we now know that Ben does have some control over the monster (and that it involves going into his Magic Box room to do it), that he can travel through time and space (and, based on him asking the hotel clerk for the date, doesn't always know where and when he'll be landing), and that he's a better hand-to-hand fighter than anybody left on the island save maybe Sayid and Desmond. We don't know any details beyond that, or what exactly the "rules" are between him and Widmore regarding who can be killed ownership of the island, etc., but the episode was exciting enough, and offered just enough information, that I continue to feel confident we'll find out more as we go.
(To be specific, I don't know that the writers are ever going to satisfactorily tie up every loose end from the early years, but I do believe that everything happening from now to the end is being done with a plan, and that all this stuff with time travel and the Oceanic Six and Ben's glove-trotting adventures will make sense, even if we never find out about the four-toed foot, or why Dharma keeps doing food drops, or how Mr. Eko's brother's plane wound up on the island, etc.)
While we didn't get any freighter time this week, and therefore can only guess who slit the doctor's throat and why the freighter people are playing dumb about it to Faraday (maybe the doctor gets killed in the future, and this is another time travel phenomenon?), we did get to fill in most of the blanks with Jarrah, Sayid Jarrah, as well as put a tragic bow on his search for Nadia, which was the running thread of nearly all his flashbacks in the early seasons. Poor guy finally finds her, and not long after, Widmore's people kill her for reasons unknown, and then Sayid lets Ben manipulate him into turning into an instrument of his vengeance. Nice. Might we reach a point where Sayid is trying to kill Penny (not knowing who she is), while Desmond (somehow back in the real world) has to stop him?
I could write more about Jack's sudden health issues, or Faraday not being bright enough to think that the guy who suggested the telegraph plan might know Morse code, but it's late and I have 70 other shows to watch and blog about tomorrow morning, so for now... Dayenu.
What did everybody else think?