Nobody long cons me.
We think it’s safe to say that last night’s episode was the one “Lost” fans have been waiting for all season. That’s not to imply that you liked it — the answer to that question depends on how attached you feel to the main characters. (Our take: We loved it, and killing at least three, possibly four, of the main characters is maybe the best thing the writers have done all season. But more in a second.)
A quick survey of the texts we received from our friends last night:
- “Snap son!” (Tad Smith)
- “Wow.” (Tad)
- “Holy sh*t.” (Tad)
- “I am very sad.” (Dave Powell, after you-know-who did you-know-what)
- “Easily one of the three or four best episodes ever.” (Mike Allen)
- “Ever.” (Mike)
- “That show is dead to me” (Erik Brueggemann)
All but the last one convey the popular sentiment today on the Internet. “I’m sure this episode is going to produce a visceral reaction,” says Ryan McGee in his Zap2It review. After cataloguing all the logic-defying events that led Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley to wash up on the same patch of beach (dubbing all the implausibilities “Lost’s” “liquid logic”), the skeptical Jack Shafer admits over at the Slate TV Club that “I sorta liked the episode.” Meanwhile, ahead of his recap, Doc Jensen gets Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof on the record with what is all too apparent after last night’s bloodbath: “There is no ambiguity,” says Cuse. “[MiB/Locke] is evil and he has to be stopped.”
If you haven’t seen the episode yet, stop reading and watch it. Consider this your spoiler alert.
Ben had a drama teacher who was fond of saying that sometimes you need to “kill your babies.” Meaning, in the course of writing a play, you can fall in love with certain lines or scenes that ultimately need to be cut for the greater good of the story. That may seem a merciless view of art, but it’s almost certainly the correct one.
That drama teacher was referring to the aesthetics of art, and not actually killing your characters off, but the writers took her advice both figuratively and literally last night. They killed their babies — first Sayid, then maybe Lapidus, then certainly Sun and Jin — and good for them. What “Lost” has lost over the course of the last few seasons is, literally, the weight of life and death. Dead characters regularly return to life, or reappear in different timelines, or appear as ghosts — we think, maybe. Playing fast and loose with death is initially kind of exciting — hey, who wouldn’t like to resurrect? — but eventually it feels like a cheat. It cheapens the stakes. If “Lost” is ultimately about good and evil, then it needs to be about life and death. “The Candidate” got us back on track there.
We were perfectly dry-eyed when Sun and Jin finally reunited last episode; they’ve never had the chemistry of Sawyer and Juliet, or Desmond and Penny. But last night’s watery death — Jin refusing to leave Sun even when he knew he could not save her, their hands slowly unlocking at the depths of the ocean — was heartbreaking. They could not have asked for a better way to go out.
Same for Sayid. Doing his best zombie impression for the last two seasons, Sayid had become a shell of a character, “Lost’s” Sisyphus doomed to keep killing any time someone needed to be killed. Why he suddenly had a change of heart last night — taking the bomb MiB/Locke had snuck into Jack’s backpack and running it away from his friends — is not clear. He’s never been the most consistent character. But the writers gave him a good death. (They also gave him a key bit of dialogue: after telling Jack of Desmond’s location and reiterating that Jack will need him to defeat MiB/Locke, Sayid answers Jack’s question of why he’s telling him this with, “Because it’s going to be you, Jack.”)
The final potential death was that of Lapidus — he took a submarine door to the head when the water burst in — but we never get a clear confirmation of his demise the way we did Sayid (“There is no Sayid!” Jack barked to Hurley) or the Kwons. Why would the writers have kept him around as wallpaper only to dispatch him with such little fanfare? Maybe because, up until this episode, they still needed a pilot to make us believe the castaways could fly off the island. (They still could, presumably, because the plane is still there.)
Speaking of the plane, are we to believe that Widmore really planted the C4 in the overhead compartment? Or was that MiB/Locke himself? Or perhaps Ben, Richard and Miles?
Is Jack right that MiB/Locke cannot actually kill the castaways himself? We say yes. MiB/Locke claimed he could kill Jack (or anyone else) whenever he pleased, and the fact he was choosing not to do that as proof that he could be trusted. That’s sort of a perverse definition of trust in our book.
But Jack was wrong about the bomb, you say. It still went off, and had Sawyer not pulled the wires to accelerate the timer, perhaps Sayid would not have sacrificed himself to save the others. We disagree. (By the way, the writers must have been watching The Dark Knight while writing this episode.) We don’t think the bomb would have gone off. Jack was right once this season with a ticking time bomb — the fizzling dynamite stick between him and Richard inside the Black Rock. We suspect Sawyer enabled the bomb when he pulled the wires out, which is exactly what MiB/Locke was counting on — the same way he was counting on Sawyer conning him with his escape plan.
All this finally leaves us with more unanswered questions about the relevance of the Sideways timeline. Jack and Locke’s stories were central last night, with Jack pressing Locke to let him operate (he tells Locke he’s “a candidate” for a new procedure) in the hopes Locke might one day walk again. Their conversation in the hallway after Locke has been discharged — “What makes you think letting go is so easy?” Locke asks Jack, to which he responds, “It’s not. In fact, I really don’t know how to do it myself. And that’s why I was hoping that maybe you could do it first” — was poignant and powerful. These two are the finest actors on the show. Their fates are increasingly inter-related on both the island and Sideways timelines — they need each other, but why? “I can help you, John,” Jack says to him before Locke wheels around the corner. “I wish you believed me.” Three episodes left, John. You’re on the clock.