Warning: spoilers up to Episode 12 of Season 6 of Lost
On the Island, the battle lines are being drawn between two factions. On one hand is the mysterious 'Man in Black', now posing as John Locke, and on the other, established heroes such as Jack and Hurley, following the designs of the mysterious (and now-deceased) Jacob. As the history of the Island is revealed and the factions prepare for the inevitable conflict, our protagonists are unaware that an alternate history is playing out in another reality, where Oceanic Flight 815 landed safely in Los Angeles. But are these two realities as separate as they appear?
As Lost's final season rumbles on, the stakes of the show are becoming clearer. Way back in the first season, an ideological conflict was established between the man of faith, John Locke, and the man of science, Jack Shephard, a conflict that has now been crystallised as a war to the death between Jacob (who appears to favour Jack as a potential successor) and his enemy (now taking the form, and in moments of high strain, the personality of the deceased John Locke). Both men seem to have been on the Island for a long time, centuries at least, with the mysterious 'man in black' a prisoner of some kind and Jacob perhaps some kind of eternal warden. It's a great set-up, ripe for many different kinds of story to spin off from it, but at the same time it's somewhat odd that it's emerging so late in the day (given how often the Losties traipsed over the Island in earlier seasons, them not stumbling over Jacob or the MIB until now is somewhat unconvincing).
Regardless of this, the show moves on and gives us some great episodes in this part of the show. Seeing Ben Linus as a decent human being in the Sideverse (where he is a history teacher) with occasional flashes of his Island-like ambition is fascinating, and Michael Emerson does great work in this episode. The next episode is less successful, but gets a bonus half-star for the brilliant idea of having Sawyer and Miles as buddy cops working in LA, which could be a viable spin-off TV series by itself.
Ab Aeterno has been touted for being disappointing for not giving us more answers and not living up to its billing as a big revelatory episode, but if you take that away the episode is very effective on its own merits and a great showcase for Nestor Carbonell, who plays Richard as a damaged, grief-stricken man given the chance for a new life on the Island brilliantly. His interactions with both Jacob and his enemy are fascinating and the revelation of the Island's true nature satisfying (if heavily foreshadowed by previous events, such as Season 2's main storyline).
The Package is a solid Sun and Jin episode, although it loses points for the silly contrivance of Sun taking a knock on the head and losing the ability to speak, which is a moronic plot device. Happily Ever After is a bigger success, as Desmond returns to the Island in a storyline that ties the main timeline with the Sideverse, with several Sideverse characters learning that their timeline shouldn't really exist. Henry Ian Cusick gives a typically strong, vulnerable performance as Desmond in this episode with a whole raft of unexpected cameos from other well-known Lost faces and which begins answering some of the bigger questions of the season. Finally, Everybody Loves Hugo starts off as another nice, funny, sweet Hurley episode before going a bit nuts towards the end, with regular characters being blown up, run over and sent plummeting into abysses. When even the requisite Hurley episode has to feature some major story arc-related movements, you know that time is running out for the show.
This batch of episode has been strong, with the structure of the end of the show now becoming clear. Some fans have expressed disappointment that the revelations haven't been bigger, but I think this is a result of there being six years of clue-seeding and pipe-laying leading up to this point. If big surprise answers were coming out of left-field every five minutes, I think people would be less happy. That we figured out Richard's backstory or the identity of the Whispers in the jungle years ago is merely a tribute to the fact that the writers had a plan and seeded clues to these elements in an intelligent manner that fans could pick up on. A mystery that the audience cannot solve is not much fun, and the fact that the audience has indeed solved a lot of Lost's mysteries themselves and is now merely getting validation and confirmation of these points is an inevitable consequence of this being a mystery show with such a huge fanbase.
Even in its closing hours, Lost remains interesting and entertaining television, although there are now only five episodes and six hours left before the show is gone for good.
607: Dr. Linus (****½)
608: Recon (****)
609: Ab Aeterno (*****)
610: The Package (***½)
611: Happily Ever After (****½)
612: Everybody Loves Hugo (****½)