First of all fairness, I think, requires me to acknowledge Sky’s innovative decision to simulcast the next and final episodes of ‘Lost’ at the same time as the American west coast transmission (along with some other international broadcasters). This means that UK viewers can see it from 5am on Monday. I won’t be watching but I will be recording for viewing later that day, and it means I won’t need to spend the rest of the week avoiding spoilers. I’m not dewy eyed about Sky: they’re not sacrificing a valuable chunk of advertising real estate and there’s as much in it for them as for the viewer. But we all know that if the BBC had the rights to ‘Lost’ they would presently be contemplating when to show season 4, so gratitude where deserved. Anyway, now to business.
“I don’t really know where to start” – Jacob
Any lingering feeling that ‘Lost’ might run out of steam or inspiration as it approaches the end was surely blown away by this titanic episode (‘What They Died For’). This was stupendous TV – as good as anything we’ve had all season, which is to say very, very good indeed. In fact, were it not for the fact that I’m hoping that it will be topped by the last couple, I’d be pointing to this as pretty much the perfect ‘Lost’ – everything you could ask for, whether you want mythology or just a great story.
I know I keep coming back to the flash-sideways, but I really have enjoyed them an unseemly amount. This week we had Desmond successfully putting into action his plan to bring together everyone who was on Flight 815: it looks as if they’re all going to a concert recital by Jack’s son. And, of course, we had Desmond smacking Ben around, which starts to remind Ben of the beating Desmond gave him in the original timeline. The relationship between the original and sideways worlds remains unexplained – presumably to be unpacked in the finale – but seeing the ‘Lost’ characters, recognisable yet somehow different, in the sideways timeline has been immensely entertaining and rewarding.
On-island, meantime, Jacob is now visible to the remaining “candidates” – there’s a beautifully judged moment when he explains to Kate that she was scored off the list because she became a mom, but that it’s “just a line of chalk in a cave; the job is yours if you want it”. Not surprisingly, though, it’s Jack who steps up. And while Desmond’s hunting everyone in the sideways, here everyone’s looking for Desmond – he’s Widmore’s failsafe, apparently, in a way which one would guess will be explained to us next time out. I have a minor reservation about how “the rules” – which I understand will never be spelled out – have become something of a get-out for any plot development the writers want to get away with. It’s not clear to me why Flocke doesn’t just kill everyone if he wants to – he chases them all onto a submarine, he tracks them around the island – but there’s something of the Bond villain about the Man in Black, I suppose, explained away by reference to “the rules” if need be.
What this episode demonstrated, beyond doubt, is just how much Ben (Michael Emerson) brings to the table: his wry ambiguity when going toe-to-smoke with Flocke on the one hand; on the other, his reaction to finding out how much he means to Alex in the sideways juxtaposed with his emotion at the loss of Alex on the island. It also confirmed just how much of a triumph the season has been for Matthew Fox, who has redeemed Jack as a character and enhanced his own acting reputation in the process. And for those of us who lamented every episode without Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), we had our vindication.
But not half as much as the showrunners. This season has been every bit as good as I could have dared hope, to the point where one can start to believe that the final episodes could live up to the level of expectation they’ve had around them for months now. And even allowing for the possibility of anti-climax after the show finishes, this season has been every bit as good as could have been wished for, and this episode was pretty much the perfect set-up for the finale.