"They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same." -Man #2In the days leading up to the airing of "The Incident," Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have been trying to manage fan expectations. On the latest installment of their always-hilarious podcast(*), they even compared the ending to the final shot of season one's "Exodus," when the camera zoomed down the broken ladder of the hatch and we realized the show had spent months building up expectations for something they had no intention of showing us until the next season.
"It only ends once. Anything that happens before that, it's just progress." -Jacob
"We traveled back 30 years in time, and you're still trying to find ways to shoot each other." -Rose
"What's done is done." -Sawyer
"It doesn't have to be that way." -Jack
(*) Seriously, in some ways, I think those two are wasted on a sci-fi drama like "Lost." Just listen to their riff about how, in retrospect, they should have conceived of Jacob as a 60-foot-tall man made entirely of flame, who would inspire Locke to take one look at him and demand that someone bring him a bucket, and you know that they really should be working as a comedy team at nightclubs in the Catskills. (Are there still nightclubs in the Catskills?)
And I can see why they might have felt that way, and not just because "The Incident" featured several shots that were identical to that closing image of "Exodus," as the drill shaft at the Swan site looks to be the exact place where the ladder will sit 30 years later. After all of this debate about whether the past can be changed or is set in stone, all the talk of Jughead and The Incident -- and whether Jack and company were going to cause it or prevent it -- for them to end the season on a flash of white light, with no sign of what Jughead's explosion accomplished, feels, structurally, very much like the end of season one: a lot of teasing for an answer that's going to wait for months (and many more months than between seasons one and two, at that).
And you know what? I. Do. Not. Care.
Because that? That was so exciting, so mythology-intensive, so loaded with great performances and great character notes, so all-around kick-ass, that I feel more than satisfied.
And, in a way that I didn't think was possible at the end of season one, or for pretty much all of seasons two and three, I trust these guys now. Yes, ending "Exodus" that way was a tactical error given all the build-up (in retrospect, the very least they should have done was zoomed down to show a shadowy figure in a Dharma jumpsuit holding an assault rifle), but the rest of "Exodus" was wonderful, and the eventual payoff with Desmond was worth it in the end. Whatever missteps the show has made, some caused by external forces, some not, it's been so consistently assured and entertaining for these past two seasons that I feel confident Cuselof really do know what they're doing here -- that, whether the grand plan was really sketched out from the beginning, or made up at a later date, it's mostly going to work out as it should in the final season, and if I have to show a little patience to find out exactly what happened when Juliet made Jughead's core go kablooey, well... I think I can handle that now. Hell, they even had a plan all along with Rose and Bernard, leading to one of the best, most moving scenes of the finale.
Now, I have one significant complaint about "The Incident," and I want to get it out of the way fast so we can get to analyzing all that we learned: the minute Jack admitted to Sawyer that he was going forward with this insane plan because of Kate -- "I had her. I had her, and I lost her." -- I had to really, really resist the urge to flick some nitroglycerin pellets at the TV screen.
And it's not that I necessarily think it was out of character for Jack to do this. He's just that much of a stubborn, tunnel-visioned imbecile. It's that I had hoped that by now he had somehow grown out of it -- that his time on the mainland, and the realization that they needed to go back, really had cured him of some of his more reckless, headstrong ways, and his weird fixation on Kate was part of that. I was relieved when it turned out that Kate was going back to the island for selfless, non-Jack-related reasons, and hoped that maybe we were done with that half of the quadrangle, but alas... nope.
If Kate were a more interesting character, and/or if Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lily had an iota of the chemistry that Lily has with Josh Holloway (or, for that matter, that Holloway has with Elizabeth Mitchell), maybe I could buy into the idea that Jack would be willing to explode a hydrogen bomb to potentially recreate their love. But she's not, and they don't, and so it just made a good chunk of the 1977 portion of the second hour seem much sillier than it should have. If Jack were being driven by his messiah complex -- if giving him and Kate another shot was just one on an incredibly long list of things he could fix if Faraday's theory was correct (most of the other items being all the Oceanic survivors who died on his watch) -- I could have gone with it. But to turn the whole thing into the most explosive, dangerous chapter of the quadrangle story was a bad idea.
And it irked me that Juliet -- who's always been much more rational, and more empathetic, than Jack -- would flip-flop and decide to go along with this lunatic plan because she got her own heart broken due to an ill-timed glance at Sawyer glancing at Kate just as Bernard was giving an eloquent speech about the importance of being with the one you love until the end. They redeemed that part towards the end just because Mitchell and Holloway were so great and so raw as Sawyer tried to keep Juliet from being sucked down the pit, only for Juliet to let go to save the man she realized did love her as much as she wanted him to. But for a while there, I was growing to dislike Juliet almost as much as I usually hate Jack.
Okay, now that out of the way, where to begin? May as well begin at the beginning, in which we meet... Jacob, and his counterpart to be named later. These two have been on the island even longer than Richard (who I'm guessing was on the Black Rock, which I'm guessing was the boat Jacob eyed off the shore), locked in some kind of unbreakable cycle of violence, and one with specific rules that aren't supposed to be broken. (In that way, it sounds a lot like the conflict between Ben and Widmore.) They bring different people to the island as pawns in whatever this game is, and no matter who the pawns are and how they try to beat the board, it all ends up in disaster, only to begin again...
... until, that is, Man #2 appears to have found that loophole he's been talking about forever, and has somehow turned himself into a perfect copy of John Locke, at the same time that the real Locke's corpse remains very dead, and in the box that Ilana and Bram have been toting from Alcatraz to the main island. And however that allows him to violate the rules of the game, it's now allowed him to talk Ben into repeatedly stabbing Jacob in his home at the base of the four-toed foot.
(And let's pause a moment to reflect on the life and death of John Locke, one of the series' most important and compelling characters. It looks like dead really is dead, and while Cuselof have, like Man #2, come up with a workaround that allows them to keep the great Terry O'Quinn employed, I do feel sad that he apparently won't get to play Locke anymore, and that the serene, fulfilled Locke of recent episodes was an impostor. He really did die the pathetic, miserable death that Ben gave him. Dammit.)
It was interesting to watch Jacob's past interactions with our surviving Oceanic characters, and to see exactly what he did and said to nudge them along the path that would take them to his island. He gives young James Ford the pen to keep writing the letter to Anthony Cooper, keeps Sayid from being run over by the same driver who kills Nadia, assures Locke that everything will be okay after Cooper throws him out the window, asks Jin and Sun to remember their love and try to stay together (which will lead Sun to get on the plane in Sydney) and explicitly asks Hurley to go back to the island (with the still-unexplained guitar case) after Ben's lawyers get him out of prison.
But I have to admit to being puzzled about the cause-and-effect with Kate and Jack. I suppose he keeps Kate out of trouble with the law at a young age, which could put her in a position to go fugitive later on, but all he does with Jack is to put Jack's recent surgical misadventure into a vending machine metaphor (noting that the stuck Apollo bar "just needed a push," like Jack needed from Christian). I'm open to interpretations on either or both of these.
Now, we don't know what Jacob's game is truly about, nor what happens when Jughead goes off, but I suppose now is a good time to do a status check on our remaining players:
Juliet: Trapped under debris at the bottom of what will one day be The Swan, almost certainly dead unless Faraday was right about the explosion changing the timeline.
Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Miles, Hurley, Jin and Sayid: At Ground Zero for Jughead's explosion (along with Radzinsky and Pierre Chang, who suffers the injury that will presumably lead to the amputation of his arm), with Sayid bleeding to death after being gutshot by Roger Linus.
Rose, Bernard, and Vincent: Laying low, living off the land and what they can scrounge from Dharma, enjoying retirement and generally being awesome.
John Locke: Dead, and/or cloned, and/or resurrected, and/or possessed by Man #2.
Ben: Committing another act of patricide, trying to stab to death a father figure who had so little apparent use for him that he never intentionally showed his face to Ben until now.
Sun, Lapidus, Alpert, Ilana, Bram and the Others: Hanging outside the statue, gawking at Locke's corpse.
Claire and Christian: Missing in action, and possibly not as connected to Jacob as we thought. (The way Ilana says "someone else has been using" the cabin implies a trespasser of some kind.)
Desmond, Penny, and baby Charlie: Still in Los Angeles, but presumably playing a major role in the final season, with or without Eloise Hawking.
Nicki and Paolo: Still dead, thank God.
There was so much going on in this finale, and I'm so eager to get this done so you can start talking and I can go to bed, that I'm going to go straight to the bullet points:
• I'm both too tired and too ignorant on the subjects of Egyptian mythology, the Spanish language and the works of Flannery O'Connor, so I leave it to you to analyze what the statue's face means (because that sure as heck wasn't Anubis), what Richard (aka Ricardos) says to Ilana, and whether there's any deeper meaning to Jacob reading "Everything That Rises Must Converge" as he waits for Cooper to throw Locke out the window.
• Jeff Fahey hasn't had a whole lot to do this season, but he's always wonderful, as exemplified here by his delivery of "Terrific" after Lapidus got a look at Locke's body.
• Man #2 was played by Titus Welliver, who's one of a legion of "Deadwood" alums to appear on "Lost" (also including Kim Dickens, Robin Weigert, William Sanderson and Paula Malcomson). Frankly, I'm going to be disappointed if the ubiquitous Garrett Dillahunt doesn't manage to put in an appearance before the end.
• Jacob, meanwhile, was played by Mark Pellegrino, whom you might know as Rita's sleazy ex-husband Paul on "Dexter," or as the guy in "The Big Lebowski" who peed on The Dude's rug -- which is a shame, as it really tied the room together.
• Kudos to the casting people for finding the actress who played young Kate. You didn't even need to see the kid playing the young MacKenzie Astin holding the toy airplane to realize who we were looking at.
• Though J.J. Abrams really hasn't had anything to do with the show since season one, Lindelof and Cuse still seem fond of the Todd Mulcahy scene from "Felicity," as Nadia became at least the third "Lost" character (after Michael and Juliet's ex-husband) to be abruptly hit by a car or bus.
• The Jack/Christian flashback, by the way, is the story he tells Kate in the pilot when she's stitching him up (a scene that they referenced themselves later in this episode).
• And in other continuity touches, Sun got to admire Aaron's cradle (which has held up remarkably well) and find Charlie's old Driveshaft ring.
• If Sayid's time on this earth isn't long, at least Naveen Andrews got to have some stellar moments in the finale, from the look of horror on Sayid's face as he watched Nadia die to the resignation, and even welcoming of death, as he bled out against the magic bus.
• I have a feeling we've also seen the last of Juliet. Why else would Cuselof have bothered to give her a flashback -- the only one in the episode to not feature a visit from Jacob -- if they weren't trying to give her some closure before writing her out?
• While this season closed off most of the temporal loops, we still need to see the other half of the scene where Sawyer and company were being shot at on the outrigger, and to find out why the beach looked so much worse than it did when Locke brought his group there in this episode.
• I like that Miles ordered Chang to get as far away as he could, just as hours earlier (from Chang's perspective) or decades earlier (from Miles'), Chang did the same for him and his mom.
For the last time this season -- and with a long wait until the final 17 episodes of this great series -- what did everybody else think?