THINGS I NOTICED - WHAT THEY DIED FOR
If there's one thing to be said for the writers of LOST, it's that they learn from their mistakes. In past seasons, the pre-finale episodes contained an over-abundance of setup. There were a lot of stories to be wrapped up, a lot of characters to touch on, and a whole lot of traipsing through the beautiful jungles of the island.
Not here though. Not this time.
Maybe it's because they've been putting the pieces together for a while now, but What They Died For was a fantastic non-transitional episode of LOST. With a huge monster of a series finale looming just ahead of us, our gameboard is all set to go. The last pieces are in place, and that's left are the final moves that need to be made. Things I Noticed:
Claire's Here Now? Good Thing They Picked Up the Family-Sized Box of Super Bran
The timelines are merging for our characters. Realities are coming together. In our opening scene, the wound on Jack's neck is getting bigger and redder and much more prominent. What's even scarier, is that it now exists in the off-island universe... and not just in the mirror.
During LA X, I theorized that Jack's mark existed solely in the other timeline. We saw it reflected back in the mirror of Flight 815's bathroom, but we never saw it directly. "Whatever happened to cause the wound on Jack's neck, perhaps it only happened in the one 'true' universe. It's possible the mirror is reflecting back something that happens to Jack later on, or maybe even at the end of the show."
It now looks a lot like this might happen. As Jack chows down on the gigantic spread David put out for breakfast, we see there's a definite horizontal cut on his throat. After seeing what happened to Zoe this episode, this might be really bad news for Jack. It could easily be an omen of bad (island) things to come.
After dropping mention of the upcoming concert, the writers once again tease us with the last big LAX reveal they have left: David's birth mother. At this point, the identity of this woman is almost a running joke. It would be both funny and anticlimactic if it turned out to be Sarah, but I'm rooting along with the fan who wrote me in hoping that it's Nikki. After a half season of Zoe, it would actually be good to see Nikki again.
There's Perfect Harmony - In the Rising and the Falling of the Sea
In a parallel that reaches all the way back to the pilot episode, Jack is now the one stitching Kate up. Although the wound might be different the thread is still black. Sawyer watches zombie-like as a bunch of (very red) life vests wash up on the beach. The emptiness of these vests reflect not only the loss of Sun, Jin, and Sayid, but of the many friends and loved ones our characters have lost over the past six seasons.
Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley stand there looking out over the ocean - finally together, finally united and with a common goal: the destruction of John Locke. For me, this was an awesome image. It took a lot of struggle and a lot of death to get all of their interests aligned, but for once in a long while it seems that everyone is finally on the same page.
Even cooler than that, these characters finally stop blaming each other - and themselves. On their walk through the jungle, we can see the deep conflict going on behind Sawyer's eyes. He faults himself for getting their friends killed, knowing inwardly that Jack was probably right about the bomb. This is where - despite being raked over the coals for the death of Juliet - Jack lets his friend completely off the hook. "He killed them", Jack tells Sawyer in reference to Locke. Jack already knows the guilt associated with being responsible for the deaths of others, and it's noble of him to try and spare Sawyer that same type of pain.
I'm Gonna Pound You Into The Next World, Brotha!
Desmond's on a mission this episode: first he prank-calls Jack, then he sets himself up to burn another set of treadmarks into Locke's back. When Ben shows up again Desmond almost kills two birds with one stone, beating the snot of of Dr. Linus in front of what seems to be a pretty resilient student body. A violent madman stalks the parking lot twice in one week, but somehow school still goes on? I wonder if they get off for snow days.
At any rate, Desmond is serving up way more than the FDA-daily recommended allowance of reality. As we later find out, he's also got plenty to go around. I'm not sure he intended to cause Ben's flash here, but he did it anyway; Ben suddenly remembers getting beaten up by Desmond back on the docks. It seems to me that although Desmond is helping things along, unknown forces are still at work trying to get these characters to remember each other. Not sure if that's an island thing or a Jacob thing.
"You want to know who I am?" - This is another often-repeated phrase within LOST, and this time it's Desmond who drops these words like the hammer of his fist on Ben's face. In the overall big picture, I've always thought this dialogue had a much deeper meaning. Now it looks almost like a metaphor for dual-identity; the characters we see in the alternate timeline aren't exactly the characters we see on the island. Not yet, anyway.
Desmond's beating puts Ben in the nurse's office rather than the police station, where he reflects upon his experience in a full-length mirror. His left arm is back in a sling, just like last time. Locke conveniently shows up so the two of them can bounce cross-timeline clues off one another, and this one last coincidence is the straw that breaks the camel's back for Locke. Time to see Jack again.
'Secreter Room'? C'mon, You Just Can't Beat That
"I lived in these houses 30 years before you did... otherwise known as last week." If anyone is wondering why the writers are still keeping Miles around, you're out of your mind. He's the one voice of reason we can count on when everyone else is accepting the most ridiculous of circumstances, and besides that, he's also funny as shit.
I thought it was cool that Richard had taken the time to bury Alex. It seemed he'd done it out of respect for Ben rather than out of necessity. As colleagues - if not friends - for so many years, it seemed something vital and necessary to the Ben/Richard relationship.
For a long time we've also wondered why burying or burning people seemed so important throughout the history of the island, as if the smoke monster couldn't take the form of those who were buried and gone. This leaves the question: did the monster appear as Alex during Dead is Dead before or after she was buried by Richard? Hard to say, but at this point it's probably not all that important.
This is very likely the last time we'll see the barracks, too. It's pretty far removed from the first time we saw it - an immaculately-groomed community where people watered their lawns. Now the swingsets are broken and the landscaping has gone all to hell. These images of desolation are shadowy echoes of what once was: people used to live and thrive here. Our island was once lushly populated with people, monsters, and mysteries. Now, in stark contrast, there are only a few souls left. The writers are slamming these images home for a reason: to let us know the end is near.
"That's where I was told I could summon the monster. That's before I realized it that was the one summoning me." Pretty cryptic, even for Ben. We'll probably never know who told Ben how to call the smoke monster, but it might've actually been the MIB himself. After Dead is Dead, Ben was smart enough to realize this little mud-toilet was put into place as a mechanism to keep tabs on him. Moving the Others to the barracks and behind the safety of the sonic fence defied the very rules of the island. The monster, constantly passing judgement, could count on Ben to call it in the case of intruders or interlopers. Maybe it even needed to be invited, in order to show up.
If You Need Miles, He'll be Running Through The Jungle. Again.
Okay, so it finally looks like Widmore's going to give us some answers. By breaking into Ben's house in broad daylight he allows their story to come full circle, mirroring Ben's midnight intrusion during The Shape of Things To Come. He brings Zoe with him presumably so she can get killed, because it's not like she's doing much of anything else. The real story here is why Charles came back to the island.
Ben seems genuinely surprised to see his old nemesis, thinking he'd banished him from the island for good. Widmore happily informs him that he was invited back by Jacob, and this may be why he was able to find the island again. They have a little pissing contest, mostly over who's the better chess player and who gets to blow up the Ajira plane first. Widmore sends Zoe out to pick up some more of the high-tech equipment that seems to have been working out so well for them lately, and that's when Flocke shows up.
Once again, I believe the dark man underestimates one of LOST's biggest characters. Here, after unceremoniously launching Richard into the jungle, he offers Ben the one thing he believes he wants more than anything else: dominion over the island. "When I'm gone you can have it all to yourself" - Locke's offer is pretty straightforward and very simple. So is Ben's answer: "Alright."
Here's where Ben betrays Widmore, and not out of his lust for power OR service to the man in black. His hatred for Charles stems back to the belief his enemy was directly responsible for the death of his daughter, Alex. Ben sells Widmore to Flocke out of pure spiteful revenge, wanting to both see and hear Widmore's screams as the monster tears him to pieces. And when it appears this might not happen? Ben takes matters directly into his own hands.
As for Zoe's death, well, I'm sure it was widely embraced. The problems with her character were similar to the problems stemming from Nikki and Paulo: she was introduced abruptly and in a very "know-it-all" type of way. She was combative and secretive, insistent and annoying. You don't get island-cred by acting like you're hot shit, or by trying to convince everyone that you're somehow important. You get it the same way Miles, Faraday, and Lapidus got it: by jumping onto the roller coaster and taking the ride along with us.
Widmore's storyline has been weak so far, and I was really expecting it to strengthen up. Instead, this once-great character is reduced to hiding like a coward in a closet. Less than one minute after being found, he's willing to sell out his whole operation on the off chance that the MIB will allow his daughter to live. The guy spends his whole life trying to get back to the island... just so he can whisper the darkest secrets of his master plan right into Flocke's ear?
And what about the end of the world? "If he gets off the island, everyone you know and love will cease to exist!" It's like all that stuff just flew right out the window the second Penny was mentioned. Ben shooting Widmore to prevent him from saving his daughter was a pretty cool scene, and I loved the line he delivers immediately afterward. But Charles Widmore? Unless there's an underlying storyline we don't know about, he went out like a total chump. His only apparent purpose - both times so far - was to get Desmond to the island.
Ever the scheming opportunist, Ben ensures his longevity by asking the monster "Did you say there were some other people to kill?" With Widmore gone and his plan revealed, Ben knows that the dark man has very little need for allies at this point. There are still some candidates Flocke can't touch directly, however, and I like to think that Ben somehow knows this. Maybe he's playing up to the monster to keep himself alive.
Ben's a character that's already seen some level of redemption. If Illana accomplished nothing else, bringing Ben back from the brink of the dark side seemed to be kind of important. I'm pretty sure he's playing the monster here, and that he'll betray it in the end. Ben's good at really playing people, and it would be great to watch him play the man in black into a very bad situation.
And no matter what, I hope that Richard is still alive! After all the trouble Hugo went through during Ab Aeterno to bring him back, I'd like to think he has some sort of ultimate purpose. It's "He who would save us all", not "He who gets his throat collapsed and flung into the jungle". Hopefully.
Oh But We Insist! Even if We Have to Kidnap You!
In the alternate timeline, Ben's place in Alex's life parallels a good many aspects of the on-island world. The one thing always missing on the island however, was a sense of family. Here, twisted and genius writing puts Ben at the very same dinner table with the woman who's child he once snatched away.
In stark contrast to her mentally-wrecked counterpart, LAX_Danielle is a well-adjusted mom who's happy to host her daughter's favorite teacher and father figure, Dr. Linus. The irony here is overwhelming. Ben is genuinely touched by the love felt for him in this household - the same household he once so violently broke apart. If and when his on-island memories come crashing home, I can see him feeling even more emotionally connected to both of these people.
You also have to remember this: Ben took Alex away to save both her and her mother's lives from Charles Widmore. After seeing his own beginnings on the island, we learned that Ben was never given the choice, or chance, for a normal life. Despite all the crazy things he's done, I find myself rooting for Ben to have a happy ending. If he ended up with both Danielle and Alex, it would fitting and cool.
There Should be a Jack / Locke Scene in Every Episode
Although the parallels are coming so fast we're getting a little numb to them by now, one thing that never gets old is watching Jack and Locke interact with each other. Here, once again in the LAX timeline, they're put together to speak about faith, hope and destiny.
It took a lot of violence and long hours in the makeup chair, but Locke is finally coming around. His mind is open to the possibility that he's being brought back to Jack, again and again, for a very specific reason. Jack tells Locke not to mistake coincidence for fate. These are Mr. Eko's words, and in my opinion, one of the best lines of the show.
I got chills when Locke said "I think I'm ready to get out of this chair." If and when this happens, it's going to bring his story full circle. Locke's paralysis was an integral part of the show's origins. If he were to finally get up and walk away on his own two feet, it would signify the end of a very long and awesome journey for both him, and for us.
C'mon Let's Face It - Your Lives All Sucked To Begin With
I've never waited six years for the answer to a question, much less one from a TV show. Yet here's the dream-scene we've all been waiting for: Jacob sitting calmly down with our characters, pushing all of the bullshit aside, and giving us solid answers to the most fundamental questions in all of LOST.
Everyone was brought to the island for a reason, and that reason was to help Jacob undo a two-thousand year old mistake. No one questions him. No one disbelieves him. There's still anger and resentment however, especially in light of all the surrounding death and destruction our heroes have been forced to endure. Sawyer even demands to know why they should help Jacob in the first place, and this is an excellent question. As we've been taught, a huge part of LOST's overall lore involves people cleaning up their own mess. Why should Jacob be any different?
We also get the answer to another long-standing mystery: why each of these characters all come from the same miserable background. Turns out Jacob plucked them from their shitty circumstances and placed them here not only because the island needed them, but because they needed the island. Hey, what can you say? The guy's all heart. He even crossed off Kate's name when she became a mother, telling her: "It's just a line of chalk in a cave, Kate. The job's yours if you want it."
This line seemed tremendously important to me. Beyond all of these apparent rules and regulations, it turns out the only thing that really matters is choice, or free will. Jacob never had it. Ben never had it either. And although it looks like all of our characters were brought here without really choosing this path, Jacob won't select any single one of them to take his place. The person who takes the job has to want to do it of their own accord. And if no one does? Well, it's still kinda obscure, but apparently everyone is screwed.
This will go down as a legendary scene, culminating in Jack volunteering with "I'll do it". On every level, Jack's made peace with the fact that this is his destiny. All his life he's done nothing but make sacrifices to help people. He's given up on a lot of things: happiness, his marriage, even a life of his own, all to help everyone else get fixed. Here, he's got the opportunity to save not only his remaining friends, but to possibly spare the entire world from destruction. For a self-sacrificing maniac like Jack? It's the mother of all possible job offers.
Before the last of his ash is consumed in the fire Jacob, symbolically passes the torch to Jack - just as his mother did to him. He also tells Jack where the heart of the island is. Turns out it's on the other side of the bamboo field, right near where Jack fell from the sky. This is a big clue for many reasons. For starters, it seems to indicate that Jack was the chosen one all along. He was the one who fell closest to the heart of the island, and the one most suited to be its next guardian.
More importantly, don't forget we saw someone else in that bamboo field: Christian Shephard. In the mobisode that takes place before Jack even opens his eye in the pilot, Christian tells Vincent: "Go wake up my son. He has work to do." As far as I'm concerned, this solidifies the idea that every iteration of Christian Shephard was NOT the man in black. In this case, it's a pretty good guess we were looking at Jacob here.
In what could possibly be Jack's last moments as a mortal man, Jacob washes his hands of the island. He asks for a cup, fills it, and chants the same ceremonial bullshit his mother did. What words does he use? Nonsense words, of course. Jacob could be reciting a complete list of the stuff he plans to do once he gets off this rock - it makes no difference, really. The only thing that matters is that Jack believes in this ceremony. It's faith and belief that will allow him to guard the island. These are also the same things Jack will need to do battle with the man in black, and ultimately defeat him.
It Sure Ain't the Bon Jovi Concert
Of all the incredible scenes this week, my favorite one was the prison break. Desmond's knowing smile while turning himself in at the police station could've easily been taken for mild insanity. By the time Ana Lucia opened the doors and set everyone free however, I had a big shit-eating grin of my own. Desmond didn't just 'know' anymore... he knew.
The Hugo and Desmond we see here are fully-aware, fully-informed, full-fledged versions of their island counterparts. The casual way they address each other and Hurley's immediate recognition of Ana Lucia paints a vivid portrait of just how much these characters are in the know. Desmond's assertion of "She's not ready yet" also gives us hope that eventually, all of our heroes will make the same transformation as them.
As many of us have speculated for weeks now, these people now exist in the LAX timeline with full knowledge of their island lives. They've become aware of both universes. This is awesome news, because if the majority of LOST's ending takes place in the LAX timeline, at least we'll get back all of the characters we've known and loved for so long. The show can end with the original characters being thrust into a different setting, without really losing anything. It can also allow additional closure and endings for even those characters who've died. In short, this IS the other side.
I also loved the music in this scene. It was playful, cool, and it gave an accelerated sense of a rapidly progressing storyline. Somewhere along the line, Desmond came up with a plan. And judging from the fact that everyone's all headed to what's probably Widmore and Hawking's concert, I'll bet Daniel Faraday is involved in that plan too.
You Can Have The Island. . . Right After I Destroy It
Alongside the mystery of who let Desmond out of the well (my vote is for Sayid or Miles), we have to ask ourselves this: isn't telling Ben he plans to destroy the island in direct conflict with Flocke's promise to leave it for him?
If you're not sure exactly how Desmond acts as a failsafe for the island, neither am I. Maybe it has something to do with the cases of electromagnetic crap Zoe and Widmore brought with them in their canoe. Maybe he's supercharged with some of the island's inner glow. Whatever it is, we have to remember that the writers went out of their way to show us how immune Desmond was to gigantic magnetic fields. Not sure I want to see the island go out in a blast of energy, or even see the island go out at all.
Whew. We're almost done. It's crazy to think that in less than a week, I'll know exactly how LOST ends.
I want to wish everyone a happy series finale! See you on that other side...
THINGS I NOTICED - WHAT THEY DIED FOR