i wanted to do this episode full justice, so it has been a wait for my analysis. plus i felt no real hurry, really, we've got until february!
written by: damon lindelof and carlton cuse
directed by: jack bender
the top people worked on this finale. all the action was there, but like the latest indiana jones, i felt it was missing something, especially when 'part 1' of the 3 part finale was so strong. some of the payoffs weren't properly set up (michael going the way of arnzt), and many of the big reveals lacked the power of previous finales because they didn't give us any new insight, only new headscratchers. we got a lot of 'well, isn't that interesting' moments, rather than the stunning 'holy shit!' moments of finales past. and to be completely honest, part of the delay in writing this analysis has been because of the difficulty in pinpointing exactly why i felt dissatisfied by the episode, but after several months of writing, pondering, and re-watching, i think i've finally managed to pinpoint it.
the rush of the post-writer's strike schedule really finally showed itself in this episode. some of the special effects looked hurried, even some basic shots just did not look up to 'lost' standard. but those are minor gripes. let's hit the big issues, mostly through the prism of the oceanic 6. plus i'll discuss recent developments at comic-con.
- the frozen donkey wheel
- jeremy bentham
- desmond & penny
- sayid & nadia
- the socks and others
- cool things
- four-toed statue
- pillar that locke's dad was tied to
- doorway in ben's closet, leading to something that controls 'smokey.'
- area surrounding frozen donkey wheel
so what is the true connection between the ancient power of the FDW, smokey, and the four-toed statue?
the orchid (and by extension, the frozen donkey wheel) enables a timeshift forward. we learn from the video that a bunny can be sent several seconds into the future, causing it to seem to disappear for a moment. ben blasts the back wall of the chamber, climbs down into an icy cave covered with heiroglyphs, breaks the wheel free of the ice and pushes it a good one-third turn. after doing this, ben immediately ends up in a tunisian desert, his arm cut just as it was in "the shape of things to come," his episode earlier in the season.
i think it's safe to assume that the dharma polar bear skeleton charlotte found in tunisia was the result of dharma experimentation with this magic wheel, probably created by the 'natives' to harness the natural magnetic powers of the island, and used throughout time to protect themselves from outsiders and potential abusers. it also might explain why richard alpert doesn't seem to age - maybe he is aging, he just has the ability to jump in time. ah ha!
here's what i want to know - what is the relationship between the frozen donkey wheel and the failsafe button desmond pushed in the s2 finale? the sound and light effects of each occurrence were extremely similar. 32 episodes to go, a LOT of questions to answer.
but let's talk about the island's disappearance. let's assume, based on given evidence, that the island has been transported to some point in the future, the question is when? just as the bunny described in the orchid station video would seem to disappear for a few seconds, will the island similarly reappear at a later point in time? does it reappear at the same date that ben arrived bleeding and steaming in tunisia?
my theory: ben pushed himself and the island to october 2005. then, locke will take ben's place as the others/hostiles leader, and for reasons we've yet to discover (probably to save the island from another attack by widmore), locke will be forced to push the wheel himself, moving the island another few years further into the future and simultaneously exiling himself, just as ben did. when locke pushes the wheel, the island moves from 2005 to 2007, right at the time 'jeremy bentham' first started visiting the oceanic 6 (plus walt).
so, the island is there, in the same spot, in 2007, just waiting for jack and kate and the gang to return - and when they do return, they'll be surprised to find that only 1 month has elapsed on the island since they left - a month that we'll see play out in the "real time" island story of the final two seasons. remember each season of the show has covered roughly 1 month of linear island time, but the shorter season 4 covered half that time (2 weeks), so i'm guessing that the remaining seasons will cover two weeks of island time each, one month total. of course they may just completely change the format for the final 2 seasons.
if claire isn't dead, how surprised will she be when kate shows up one month later with a giant 3 year old aaron?
2. jeremy bentham. we first hear this name when kate yells at jack in the opening scene:
kate: you show up here with an obituary for jeremy bentham? when he came to me and i heard what he had to say, i knew he was crazy, but you. you believed him. him of all people.
jack: yes, kate, i did, because he said that that was the only way that i could keep you safe--you and aaron.
kate: i've spent the last three years trying to forget all the horrible things that happened on the day that we left. how dare you ask me to go back?
this conversation between jack and kate asks and answers a couple things at the same time. it immediately tells that in last season's finale, kate was indeed talking about aaron when she said "he'll be wondering where i am." we kind of knew that already, but we didn't know for definites. then it gives us two new mysteries intended to set up and carry us through to the end of the episode: 1) who is jeremy bentham, and 2) what exactly happened on the day that they left the island that kate is going to bring it up now?
which leads me to one of my gripes about this episode, and season 4 in general. don't get me wrong, i think overall, season 4 was very strong (though the strike knocked the wind out of it, which is not an entirely valid excuse since the worst episode of the year was created pre-strike), and it didn't quite fully recover. but i digress. my season-wide gripe: these conversations are starting to feel deliberate in their withholding and/or revealing of information. i'm not just referring to kate saying in the s3 finale "he'll be wondering where i am" when she probably would have just said 'aaron,' i mean that it's often starting to feel like the flash (forward or back) is artificially manipulated to thematically 'fit' the episode at hand when the actual events don't support the dialogue.
in the s4 premiere, hurley, shooting hoops at the asylum, says to jack "i'm sorry i went with locke." the moment made sense in the context of that episode, but it seems pretty damn clear, once we have the full story, that by the time hurley and jack get off the island, spend a week on penny's boat together, have birthday parties, become doctors again, drive daddy's car, and play house, jack and hurley might have some tension, but by this point would it really stem from that moment, so long ago? sometimes the story they create to 'fill in' the space between the flashforward and the present do not quite match up.
so for kate, three years after the fact, to conspicuously bring up 'the horrible things that happened on the day that we left' means that it had better be pretty damn horrible to justify saying that line now, and when it happens, we should know exactly what she was referring to. in fact, when it happens, there should be a closeup on kate's face and a whoosh to her future story to even more solidly tie the traumatic moment with her future psyche.
but after having seen 'what happened that day,' i couldn't quite tell you what she's talking about. the (cgi) freighter explosion? the (cgi) helicopter crash? i guess.. but if on that day she had to make a choice, and chose to save aaron over sawyer (or something) - now then i would buy it when she spits out a line about horrible things happening on the day they left (yes, i'm very big on defining characters through moral choice.) because really, for kate, that day was pretty much the same as the other 100 days she spent there, and based on her flashbacks, not that much different from the time before she even got there. so yeah: conspicuous shoe-horning of episode themes.
but about jeremy bentham, i have a lot of questions, so i'll just ask them all right now:
- how did locke get off the island?
- did locke push the frozen donkey wheel?
- why did he choose the name jeremy bentham?
- why was he trying to get all the survivors back to the island?
- why would that be the only way to 'keep them safe?'
- did he die because he had fulfilled his 'purpose?'
- did christian shepard appear to him just before he died?
- why does his body have to go back to the island?
- what exactly happens to dead bodies on the island?
- if locke's body is brought back to the island will his body disappear and will a manifestation of locke start wandering around like christian shepard?
- do ghosts only form from people who died off-island and then had their bodies brought there (eko's brother, jack's dad)?
- is that theory invalid because we've possibly seen an on-island ghost of claire? (but is claire dead? possessed? a bad actress being slowly written out of the show?)
- do off-island ghosts count as ghosts or 'visions,' like kate's dream of claire appearing and warning her no to bring aaron back? why would an island vision try to keep someone away?
- do you even want to get me started with all the questions i have about the rules regarding the ghosts and visions?
jeremy bentham being locke was the big 'reveal' at the end of the episode. one of the things i liked about this season is that it took us back to almost the exact same point in time that it left us at the end of last year. and i think season 5 is going to do exactly the same thing. we will see how locke, on the island, becomes the new leader. will his demeanor and morals change, as ben has hinted? will we see whatever it is that forces locke to give up his leadership, go to the orchid, and push the wheel? (will we learn that widmore was leader of the island and pushed the wheel himself at one point?) in 16 episodes we will learn about locke's visits to each of the oceanic 6. in the season 5 finale we will learn the (hopefully) dramatic details of locke's death, and we'll know exactly how he ended up in that coffin. boom. then february 2010, season 6: returning to the island.
3. michael. first: sigh. second: why oh why? why was michael brought back to the show?
remember when michael's story was interesting? gotta go back to season 1 for that.
when damon and carlton approached harold perrineau to return, what exactly did they pitch to get him to say yes? word around the street was that harold was written out of the show after two seasons of grumbling about what a pain it was living in hawaii and not getting very much to do, and yet somehow they lured him back to finish out his character's cycle.
they must have promised to kill him off once and for all, though it doesn't quite explain why harold would start yapping to the press like this about 'racially stereotyping' the characters on lost. his evidence: walt is now another fatherless black kid. stereotyping? really? i do hate that tired cliche of having telekinetic psychic black children you have to kill and die for in order to protect them from global conspiracies. let's think outside of the box, writers, sheesh.
truth is, harold has every reason to be upset with the producers, but not for sterotyping; for completely and utterly bungling his plotline.
the only real, new mythological element introduced to the world of 'lost' via michael's reappearance was the simple fact that once having visited the island, you cannot die or be killed until you have fulfilled some mysterious 'purpose' set out for you. ok, that's totally fine - it sort of explains why fate intervened just as jack was going to jump off the bridge.
but what failed to pay off is the idea that michael's 'purpose' would be at all important and at least a little bit interesting - something beyond spraying a bomb with a fire extinguisher to buy jin a few more seconds to ambiguously die.
in a move that confused many viewers, christian shepard appears to michael in that final moment and says:
michael: who are you?
remember libby? what about ana lucia? his guilt over killing them was supposed to be the reason he embarked on this crazy mission in the first place. not only that, his guilt was strong enough to bring cynthia watros across the pacific to shoot 4 lines. (speaking of, does libby count as an island manifestation? ghost? fantasy?) if michael's story arc was to have any resonance, that guilt demands to be dealt with. a similar arc was handled masterfully last year with charlie. why was this so clumsy?
damon said it himself in an interview, where he laid out the LOST mission statement:
This show is about people who are metaphorically lost in their lives, who get on an airplane and crash on an island and become physically lost on the planet Earth. And once they are able to metaphorically find themselves again, they will be able to physically find themselves in the world again. When you look at the entire show, that's what it's always been about.he goes further to say that michael's story arc was the opposite of most of the other characters - michael started out innocent, and didn't become metaphorically lost until his season 2 murder spree. at the time we were promised that michael's return would be the closure he needed to find his redemption.
so harold, i feel for you. you were done wrong this entire season, but it wasn't by stereotyping. mr. friendly's boyfriend arturo - that was sterotyping.
other questions: so, since christian shepard is suddenly appearing to people who've never met him before (locke, hurley, claire, michael), and since he's now sitting in jacob's chair in the cabin, is christian shepard jacob now? what are the rules for his appearing, disappearing, etc? is he a vision? is he actually there? and what changed from the first three seasons that christian is now appearing to other people, when previously the visions were very clearly only seen by intended parties? wtf is going on?
the faithful part of me believes that based on the 13th 'missing piece,' below, released before the season 4 premiere, damon and carlton do in fact have full understanding of the rules and regulations regarding the ghosts and visions, and that from here on out, for some reason, the rules will appear to change.
4. jack. so here's the things we have to remember about jack when we think about his future self storyline:
- having visions of his father, starting to go a little crazy, doesn't trust kate anymore.
- one day locke shows up and says 'no, no call me jeremy, it's more confusing and mysterious that way.'
- 'jeremy' tells jack that he has to go back to the island because it's the only way to 'keep them safe.'
- jack for some reason believes this (and, writers, when we see this scene next year, there had better be a damn good reason why doing this would actually keep them safe. right now, i'm not buying it).
- a couple days later jack sees in the newspaper that jeremy is dead. and based on what jeremy told him in that extremely crucial "the-final-story-arc-of-your-entire-series-depends-on-the-strength-of-this" scene, jack is thrown into full craziness and realizes that jeremy was right. they must go back.
all we really know about why jack needs to go back is what he tells ben about the conversation he had with jeremy bentham, a month earlier:
ben: and what did he say to you?
jack: he told me... that after i left the island, some very bad things happened. and he told me that it was my fault for leaving. and he said that i had to come back.
sidebar: production begins on the season 5 premiere in a few days, and the episode is entitled 'because you left.' which gives me hope. hope that damon and carlton have spent all summer writing that crucial scene.
5. desmond and penny. it was a lovely reunion, but i was strangely unmoved. 'the constant' was my favorite episode of the season - the relationship between these two was so strong, with so much investment in these characters, it felt like there was still so much story left to tell, so much struggle for them to go through before being reunited. but this felt too easy, unearned even, and probably because we lost two of the planned hours for this season.
now, what remains to be seen is how ben's quest to kill penny will play out in the remaining episodes. what will desmond's involvement be? is he chummy with penny's dad finally? will he be downgraded from a series regular to a guest star? what have desmond and penny been doing for the past three years? "pushing the button?"
another big question: does ben count desmond as one of the people jack has to return to the island with? jack certainly didn't think to include him when ticking off the roster for ben:
ben: i'm here to tell you that the island won't let you come alone. all of you have to go back.
jack: are you... sayid--i don't even know where sayid is. hurley... is insane. sun blames me for... and then kate. she won't even talk to me anymore.
here's a cool thing. henrik, seen above, on penny's boat, was one of the portuguese guys in season 2's arctic station 'i guess they're not in purgatory' ending, the challah.
6. sayid and nadia. alright. that epic fight scene between sayid and keamy was pretty kick-ass. one of the episode's truly great moments.
but what's most curious about sayid is the scene between him and hurley at the mental institution. it's tough to follow until you know who jeremy bentham is - and once you do know, you have to go back and look at the way each person speaks about him.
hurley: and why would i go anywhere with you? i haven't seen you in, like, forever.
sayid: because circumstances have changed.
hurley: what circumstances?
sayid: bentham's dead.
sayid: two days ago.
hurley: what happened?
sayid: they said it was suicide.
hurley: what do you mean, they "said" it was suicide? and why are you calling him "bentham"? his name is--
sayid: don't say it. we're being watched.
did ben kill nadia just to get sayid on his side? the timeline makes that a little difficult. ben arrived in tunisia on october 24, 2005 - we know that nadia was killed in los angeles right around the same time. ben might not have done it himself, but he certainly had the means to give the order. when ben transports to the middle of the tunisian desert, he doesn't even know if anyone got off the island. he would have had to have hatched his entire plan in a day or two.
something else that needs to be addressed - remember this photo of ben? when and where would this have been taken, if pushing the donkey wheel means exile?
7. kate. i wondered through all of season 4, if we would eventually see kate, post LAX meeting with jack, finally having visions of dead people from the island. and she does - claire appears, who tells her not to bring aaron back to the island. but unlike all the other ghostly appearances, kate wakes up from a dream of it. so, did we see a ghost of claire? a standard vision? a manifestation? or did we only see kate's dream? does this mean claire is dead? i have to say that the ambiguity regarding claire's fate is frustrating in an almost not fun way. again, it seems to be lacking in specificity similar to the recent christian shepard appearances - he's seen by people who've never met him, he talks to them, he clearly appears and disappears without effort.. i'm extremely curious about this choice to show claire (possibly?) as a ghost first and then fill us on her her death later.
sawyer's sacrifice didn't quite 'land' for me. har har. it was clear what they were doing and going for, but this again felt underwhelming, and i'll tell you why: we should have heard every word, very clearly, of his confession/request to her before jumping out of the helicopter. the mystery was already set up in jack's episode a few weeks earlier, and it was time for an emotional payoff.
even though the details of it aren't really a secret or a surprise, by letting us into that moment, we could share in sawyer's pain as he makes the decision (again, defining character through moral choice) to jump. we would know that he's throwing away not only his chance to be with kate, but (in what is likely to be his third-act character arc) also his chance to find his daughter. sometimes too much mystery (or misplaced mystery) can kill the emotional power of a moment. ususally the show is masterful at parsing this kind of information: see part 1's 'claire is your sister' scene.
8. but now let's talk about something that did work, and that was sun screaming for the helicopter to turn back for jin. fantastic, fully committed work by yunjin kim.
what didn't really work for me though is this idea that the second person (besides her father) she blames for jin's death is jack. sun is a pretty logical person (except when she randomly decides not to trust juliet because it serves the needs of the plot, i'm looking at you, eddie kitsis and adam horowitz). it's obvious in this scene that placing all the blame on jack is pretty unfounded. she has equal reason to blame lapidus, kate, sawyer, desmond, michael, or anyone who told her, in those crazy moments, to sit back down and stop screaming, which was pretty much everyone.
it's only a problem because we got such fantastic mystery setup for who this second person might be during her daddy bitchslap 'i blame two people' scene. it demanded that the mystery of the second person be revealed in a way that shows that this person deeply deserves her wrath. We needed to see jack be more active in separating her from jin, and we needed to see jack accepting the guilt and responsibility for it. where was the scene where jack attempts to apologize to sun, and where she makes clear how she feels? what we got was a kind of muddled 'well, okay, i can kind of see how she'd be mad at just jack.' i wanted the crystal clarity we usually get with these things on lost. for a show steeped in so much mystery, facts and known elements must to be absolutely clear and solid so that the deliberate ambiguities do not cross over into confusion.
that said, we're just going to have to accept that yes, sun blames jack. moving on. i'm interested to see where things go now that she has joined forces with widmore - my guess is that she will be approached by jack to return to the island, as he must do - and she'll tag along as a spy for widmore. in this sense she will become like juliet since she'll be torn by loyalties and we'll never really know which side she's on. she will sabotage the mission, put everyone on the island in jeopardy again, and then realize at the last moment, or even too late, that jin is actually still alive and that her hate for jack was always misplaced. what would be awesome is if in her hatred, sun becomes a full-on series villain - and the price she pays for that choice is realizing that jin isn't dead, but then also causing his -real- death. oops. but if that doesn't happen, it'd also be cool to see jin's surprise when sun shows up on the island (a la kate with aaron) one month later with pictures of ji yeon, now 3 years old.
9. hurley: his flashforward scene with sayid ends with hurley checkmating "mr. eko," which indicates that hurley is being visited by multiple island ghosts.
some open ends with hurley, certain to be addressed in the coming seasons:
- why does hurley see multiple ghosts?
- why was it such a big deal that hurley had also seen jacob's cabin?
- is he more 'in tune' with the island than anyone else?
- if locke is ben's successor, is hurley meant to be locke's sucessor? or is jack? (will the series end with another push of the wheel?)
- does all this have something to do with the hurleybird?
10. the socks. ok, here's what i'm wondering: did, like, almost all of the other survivors of flight 815 just die in the freighter explosion? are those 4 or 5 people who were in the boat with farraday the only socks left?
farraday: was his boat in the jump zone when ben pushed the wheel? did they travel with the island, or is farraday stuck in the "present" with the oceanic 6? if so, will he also have to return to the island with jack and everyone? would all the socks on that boat have to return too? update: my new theory comes from the recently released comic-con video, in which dr. marvin candle (whose true name is apparently pierre chang) makes a desperate plea from 30 years ago (via some kind of video portal in time) to re-form the dharma initiative and continue its work. all this ties into this summer's alternate reality game: www.dharmawantsyou.com. the kicker is that at the end of the video you can almost certainly hear daniel farraday's voice.
so here's my theory: damon and carlton have hinted for a long time now, and stated pretty clearly that at a certain point, there would no longer be a classic flash forward or back structure. and here's how they're going to do it:
the show will now take place, in 'real time,' in all three places; past, present, and 'future.' when the island jumped, daniel and his boat are transported to a point in the island's past, where dharma is still operating. those still on the actual island, locke, juliet, sawyer, claire, are in the 'present,' and the story of the off-island survivors trying to return to the island is 'the future.'
this structure changes past, present, and future to 'now.'
with each whooshing sound effect, the show will jump between these three points. we'll still see rousseau's story - but it won't be a flashback, it will actually be happening. it's a cool idea but the logistics of it are making my head swim. plus, only 32 more episodes.. don't mess it up guys...
charlotte: from what damon and carlton are saying, her very special episode is one of the ones that got cut in the post-strike plan. which is interesting and weird. i can't say i'm sad that we didn't get more charlotte, but her two lines in this episode at least gave us some hint that she does actually have a larger purpose in the story: she believes she was born on the island. which could mean a couple things: was she, like aaron and alex, conceived off-island and then born on the island? or, is she one of the only people ever to actually be born on the island? is charlotte somehow related to annie, ben's long lost love? did ben send annie off the island to give birth to charlotte, and ben doesn't know she's his daughter? did annie push the FDW? and of course - jacob. is jacob charlotte's father? is jacob one of these ghosts, like christian shepard? was he someone from around the time that widmore was on the island?
11. cool things. as i tear this episode a new one, it's important to remember that originally all of the story in this 3-part finale was supposed to fit into only 2 hours. and after trying to pack it in, damon and carlton lobbied for an additional hour to help give some of these events emotional weight. so for all my complaining about things 'not landing,' i can't imagine how terrible this finale would have been if it had been forced to be an hour shorter. so i have to be at least a little forgiving. we are lucky to have had a finale at all, and we are lucky that it was pretty damn good.
each season of lost has its own internal structure and identity, and as the seasons progress, the premieres and finales mirror each other in interesting ways; whether with vintage music playing, eyes opening, island-wide events, exploding boats, or major new pieces of mythology revealed. i was struck by some of the parallels between this finale and previous finales, particularly season 1's: both end with the fiery destruction of a boat on which we've pinned hope for rescue, and in each of those incidents, jin and michael are both presumed dead by the time the preboomer hits.
and with reminders of season 1's finale fresh in my mind, i was filled with a brief moment of fear as penny's boat approached the survivors - would this be a replay of those s1 finale events? but no, we knew our heroes would escape to become the o6, but still pretty impressive that tension could still be created in a situation of certainty.
and, speaking of the...
12. preboomer - the final shot of jack and ben looking down at the coffin, along with the music cue, reminded me a lot of the final shot in the season 1 finale: jack and locke peering down into the open hatch. and this prebomer left me with a similar feeling: really wishing i was watching the whole thing on dvd so i could just put the next damn disk in.
i'm sure you've seen these alternate endings by now, which i think is a brilliant way to prevent the spoilers that riddled the internet last year. even people on set wouldn't know which answer was true.
reminds me of how they covered up the darth vader/luke's father secret by just giving the line to james earl jones during adr.
so there it is! my lengthy, unfocused thoughts on the finale. i've spent a lot of time thinking about it, probably too much, and looking forward to seeing where it all goes. the shape of the show is fundamentally changed. my only worry is that the story is too big to finish respectably in the two short seasons remaining. with 12 main cast members, it means your favorite character gets one featured episode per season. but, with the hinted at new structure, we may not see episodes based entirely around one character anymore anyway.
thanks for tuning in, thanks for checking to see if i've finally posted this, and we'll see you in february, possibly sooner if more 'missing pieces' or other lost canon (the ARG's are not canon) is released before the s5 premiere.