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Lost – What They Died For

In last night’s “Lost” episode “What They Died For,” the phrase “the end” or “coming to an end” or some variation of these words were used at least three times that I could count.  It’s a sign that “Lost,” a TV show that has been the poster child of exceptional television for the past six years, is finally coming to an end, and regardless of any disappointing moments the show has delivered, it has created characters that are as complex as any real human being, a plot that has twisted and turned like a snake slithering through the grass and has gradually evolved from a survival story on a mysterious island to an interesting and complicated science fiction/action-adventure/character study/drama show with biblical undertones and a team of writers that have allowed the last six seasons to all connect with one another without seeming contrived.  The finale of “Lost” doesn’t arrive until Sunday, but the penultimate episode, entitled “What They Died For,” avoided the pitfalls of most episodes that air before finales.  Normally, “Lost” would reserve the episode before a finale as build-up for the final episode.  However, there is no episodes after the season six finale.  “Lost” is going to end, and it seems the writers have realized (perhaps at the last minute) that they need to kick things into a higher gear if they want to have any chance at answering questions and clearing up key plot points.  

People may be pleased to learn that the episode begins with a Jack scene and NOT a Jacob and Man in Black scene that is set hundreds of years ago. There were a lot of complaints about last week's episode (I was one of these people, I admit) but there’s little to complain about this week as we return to the characters we’ve spent six years growing to know and there’s a lot going on.  In the sideways universe, we get a dose of nearly every character, but the focus seems to be around Desmond and his goal to help everybody “let go,” as he tells Ben.  He nearly runs over Locke again before Ben stops him and tries to do a citizen’s arrest (something that made me chuckle, considering  there’s probably dozens of people on the Island who want to do a citizen’s arrest on Ben).  Desmond gives Ben a few swift punches to the face, which jogs his memory in regards to the true universe.  Soon enough, Desmond arrives at the police station that Sawyer and Miles work at and turns himself in for running over Locke.  As he’s lead into the holding room, he finds two more familiar faces: Sayid and Kate (I’d just like to say how refreshing it was to see Sayid, especially considering his explosive and fiery demise a couple of episodes ago).  After awhile, Sawyer sends the three criminals into a truck and ships them off to the county jail.  However, Desmond informs Sayid and Kate that he has a plan and needs their help if he can get them out.  A few moments later, the truck pulls over and we see none other then Ana-Lucia Cortez poking her head into the back, asking for her money.  Hurley soon drives up in his massive yellow Hummer and hands her a envelope filled with money.  Hurley seems to recognize Ana-Lucia and remembers as much as Desmond, but it’s not entirely clear at this time how in tune he is with both universes.  Hurley takes Sayid while Desmond informs Kate that he’ll be taking her to a concert. 

There’s quite a lot to soak in with the alternate universe, and I’ll come back to that.  If you were expecting a story that was less dense and easier to wrap your head around on the Island, you’re mistaken.  Things unfolded faster than an episode of “24,” and we got reunited with some characters that have been missing for awhile: Richard, Ben and Miles, along with Widmore and the Island’s only glasses-wearing physicist, Zoe.  Having Richard, Ben, and Miles missing for so long was an unfortunate mistake by the writers, and I feel that focusing on other characters for so long (including Jacob and the Man in Black) took away from some scenes that could’ve involved them.  However, that’s all water under the bridge now, since we got to finally see what they’ve been up to.  Apparently, for the last few episodes, they’ve just been strolling through the woods.  Ben leads Richard and Miles to his old house where he claims to have copious amounts of C4 that he can use to blow up the plane once and for all.  However, it’s here they meet up with Widmore and Zoe.  With Locke on his way to meet with them, Miles decides to take the cowardly route and run into the woods to avoid dying, while Widmore remains stoic in the face of danger and says he’ll wait in Ben’s house.  Richard and Ben agree to go outside to talk to Locke/The Man in Black in person.  This doesn’t bode well for Richard; a few moments after stepping outside, he’s launched into the air by the smoke monster and is likely dead (until I see his body, I’m assuming he’s alive).

Ben agrees to join Locke and help him do whatever he has to do to leave the Island.  Locke claims he wants Ben to kill people for him, which becomes abundantly clear right off the bat that this isn’t a problem.  Widmore’s death wasn’t as surprising as other deaths this year, but the coldness in Ben’s eyes as he pumps bullets into Widmore’s chest was bone-chilling.  Alex’s death back in Season 4 came as a result of Widmore’s attempts to reach the Island and Ben never forgot that.  Ben and Locke visit the well and find Desmond missing, which doesn’t seem to bother Locke all that much.  We learn from Locke that Desmond is a “fail-safe,” something that can kill the Man in Black in case all of the candidates were to die.  Apparently, the one person on the Island who is capable of killing Locke is also the one person who can destroy the Island, which is what Locke’s final plan is.

As for Jack, Sawyer, Hurley and Kate, they soon run into Jacob, who attempts to answer all of their questions and explain to them what their friends died for.  With “Lost,” when somebody says their going to answer questions, you can expect a whole lot of tip-toeing around the questions and barely answering anything.  Jacob explains stuff to the characters that the audience already knows and then announces one of them must choose to replace him now or the world will have no chance for survival.  Jack quickly makes the decision to take the job, and Jacob initiates him by having him drink water from a stream after he mumbles a few Latin words over it.  As easy as that, one of the show’s most mysterious characters is gone for good only to be replaced by Jack Shepard, an easy-to-recognize face who reaffirms his status as leader.

Call me pessimistic, ignorant, or any other word you’d like, but the second half of this season has not brought the same level of intrigue that it used to.  “Lost” used to be a compelling show because we knew that even if we didn’t know what something meant, the writers would explain it a few episodes later.  Sometimes, we’d be forced to bite our tongues and wait an entire season for an answer.  It was the reassurance that an answer was somewhere on the horizon that made the countless twists and turns tolerable.  However, the show is coming to an end, and we’re no closer to understanding some of the major aspects of the show than we were six years ago.  Some people don’t mind an ending draped in ambiguity (I personally wouldn’t care at all), but my problem is with the final explanation we’re given that’s supposed to explain everything.  I had always wondered why the Island was so important, and since the writers waited so long to explain, we’re left with an answer that we know is final, the end-all explanation to one of television’s greatest mysteries.  According to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the Island is important because of… a cave of light at its center that represents good and evil and everything in between?!  When I first learned this, all I could think was, “Why the hell tell us this so late in the show?”  As a result, the show’s final dramatic moments are hinging on a plot point that we’ve only had a couple of episodes to absorb.  It doesn’t feel as important as finding out what’s in the hatch, or learning who’s in the coffin at the funeral parlor in Season 4.  

The episode was great in terms setting us up for the finale, but disappointing by not following through on the promise of the episode title.  Even after Jacob’s final speech… do we still know what these people died for?  Are we any closer to reaching some sort of conclusion that will make us feel like the writers knew what they were talking about the entire time and not just improvising as they went along?  I didn’t feel that way from this episode.  The one thing I did like about the episode was how great the set-up was for the finale, in both the sideways universe and the normal one.  The scene between Jack and Locke in the doctor’s office was great, and it really gave us the feeling that the operation on Locke’s legs is going to be an important event.  Also, the concert that Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore are holding is being built up as the pinnacle of the alternate universe.  Ever since Desmond realized the truth in “Happily Ever After,” he’s been slowly moving people towards this concert, like a man playing a complex and life-changing game of chess.  Watching Desmond help people open their eyes in the alternate universe has lead to some of the season’s best moments, and hopefully they’ll be able to explain this sideways universe without making the audience feel as if they’ve been duped all season long.  Another important event to remember: Jack’s ascension to Jacob’s throne.  With Jack now in the perfect position to take down Locke, will we finally see the fight we’ve all been waiting for?  Jack vs. Locke?  Ever since the two nearly came to blows in Season 1, after Boone’s death, I’ve been waiting for these two to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other.  It appears we may finally reach that moment.  Hopefully the show doesn’t leave us hanging.

“Lost” is going to leave a giant gaping hole in the middle of television.  It’s a show that has revolutionized the art of story-telling on television and with its absence, millions of people will likely flock to other sci-fi or fantasy type shows, looking for something that will help them forget “Lost” is gone for good.  However, “Lost” is a one-of-a-kind show, and even if the show ends on a disappointing note, it will likely be a compelling note either way.  I’m not exactly pleased with where the show is going, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that  the finale will make up for any of the more contrived and confusing story-lines.  “What They Died For” did a great job of progressing forward, but it remains to be seen if the progression is enough to answer the important questions we’ve been patient to learn.


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