While generally just as transitional as the previous episode, which suffered from a disappointing resolution to a long-standing mystery, the nature of the transition was more than enough to keep things interesting. Several character arcs are coming to a satisfying conclusion, and while itâs not hard to see how the body count could start rising quickly, this is shaping up as one of the best finales in recent memory.
The writers still have a lot to cover, of course, starting with the relationship between âLost Primeâ and âLost Xâ. This is a topic that keeps coming up, but thatâs because itâs key to the season arc, and thus key to the resolution of the series. The explanation has to make sense within the context of the entire conflict since the pilot.
And that comes down to the classical struggle between light and dark, order and chaos, destiny and free will, science and faith. The writers have been playing with these themes since the moment Locke explained the meaning of the backgammon stones to Walt. The question is: how does âLost Xâ fit into the picture?
One interesting aspect of âLost Xâ, particularly after Desmond began acting to show the passengers of Oceanic 815 their alternate lives in âLost Primeâ, has been the appearance of the numbers. Previously, the numbers themselves werenât notable in the slightest. But now, as the familiar survivors come closer and closer together and their lives converge, the numbers are appearing more and more.
Considering that âLost Xâ appeared to be a timeline in which Jacobâs influence was absent, it seems a bit unusual for the numbers to appear. But the numbers could be seen as an expression of the effect of Jacobâs imposition of order on chaos. If âLost Xâ is somehow related to the version of reality that Jacobâs rival continues to dangle in front of the Candidates, and it is a version of reality without Jacobâs intervention, then it makes sense for this sudden imposition of notions of destiny to be reflected in the numbers, just as happened throughout the âLost Primeâ timeline.
There are plenty of assumptions at play in this scenario, but itâs interesting to note that it fits very well into the predestination/free will conflict. Itâs been said before: âLost Primeâ is rife with manipulation and imposition of order in the form of âdestinyâ, and the characters have suffered tremendously as a result. In âLost Xâ, however, they have been free to make good or bad choices, and the results have largely been more positive.
Yet at the same time, it must be noted that ascribing order and destiny to Jacob and chaos and free will to Jacobâs rival is a complex matter. Jacob is wrapped up in the notion of finding someone who will make the right choice, but who is defining the conditions of ârightâ and âwrongâ? Similarly, while Jacobâs rival champions the lack of meaning behind the island and the need to escape to freedom, he is also using half-truths to succeed within a set of arcane rules and thus using the same tactics as Jacob.
None of this is particularly new observation, which is actually a good sign. The story is progressing along familiar and well-established lines. No doubt there will be twists and turns, but the overarching philosophical battles remain intact. Which is why it is so powerful to see a character like Jack approach the end of his long character arc.
It would be easy to assume that Jack, as a âman of scienceâ, was the one championing order since the beginning. But in fact, it depends on how one defines order vs. chaos. From one perspective, the introduction of a power capable of trumping the laws of time and space must be chaotic, since it defies the rational order of the universe. Yet in the context of the story, faith in destiny is the imposition of order on the familiar chaos of free will and choice.
Jack was never comfortable with the idea that there was a higher power at play, that decisions and choices would come out of something other than a rational consideration of self-interest. The idea that the island might hold some actual power over his life was terrifying, and he struggled against it until the Oceanic Six experiences broke him. And now he has come to believe that there must be a reason behind it all.
This is why Jacobâs tactics are so ironic. Jacobâs imposition of order and subversion of free will is very similar to Jackâs original perspective. How many times did Jack essentially subvert the will of the other survivors, much to their chagrin? In fact, this is a huge argument in favor of Jack taking up Jacobâs mantle. If itâs going to require someone to begin a new cycle of selecting a new Candidate, then who better than someone who understands both sides of the coin? (The answer is Kate, who for other reasons would make a perfect Candidate, as noted in previous reviews.)
For better or worse, Jack is the logical Candidate. He has been at the center of the show since the very beginning, and he and Locke have represented the two polar opposites for all that time. Jacob seemed very interested in pushing Jack towards a particular path in âLighthouseâ. (And for that matter, Jack and Jacob are pretty damn similar names!) And wouldnât it be fitting for the show to end with Jack and Locke, sitting on the beach, just as Jacob and his rival were at the beginning of âThe Incidentâ.
One would think that Claire and Jacobâs rival had both eliminated Jack as a potential Candidate for Jacob, according to the rule that allowing Jacobâs rival to speak first upon meeting indicates allegiance. Of course, that doesnât necessarily matter. It could be something that Jacobâs rival says to prevent his ârecruitsâ from considering other alternatives. After all, if Jacobâs rival pushes free will and the lack of a destiny, that implies choice, and one choice is to follow Jacob.
On the other hand, if it does eliminate the Candidates, that really only leaves Hurley as the last choice. (Unless Kate also spoke to Jacobâs rival first; thatâs not necessarily clear.) It still doesnât quite feel right, though. If the endgame is, in fact, the replacement of Jacob and the re-imprisonment of Jacobâs rival, then some combination of Jack, Kate, and Hurley rings true.
It seems logical, in light of this episode, that Sayid would sacrifice himself out of a desire for redemption. He knows that itâs possible to deceive Jacobâs rival now, because he certainly didnât kill Desmond. Richard and Ben both appear primed for sacrifice as well. Jin, Sun, Claire, and Sawyer would all choose to leave, if they survive, for the sake of their children (Sawyer is the least likely, however, and could die to save Kate). Despite all the shifts and changes, the triumvirate of Jack, Kate, and Hurley remains the most viable.
Which, as always, leaves Desmond as the wild card. Though Jacobâs rival did speak to Desmond first, Jacob did seem to be counting on Desmondâs arrival on the island (as seen in âLighthouseâ). And Desmondâs ability to perceive, on some level, both âLost Primeâ and âLost Xâ makes him vital to the resolution of that situation. But itâs clear at this point that Desmondâs role is not related to an electromagnetic anomaly within the well, so it has to be something bigger.
It all appears to come down to the nature of Jacob and his rival. The three things that are really necessary from a storytelling perspective are fairly obvious. The writers need to explain where Jacob and his rival come from, why they are on the island, and what these ârulesâ are. And those three elements need to make sense within the context of the entire run of the series. This canât be like the âwhispersâ explanation, where it really only glosses over the mystery. It has to bring the entire series into focus.
So far, the writers have only really missed the mark on one of the ongoing mysteries, and that was actually something that probably would have been best to leave unexplained. There are tons of other minor and major revelations that have fit the story perfectly. Thatâs something to keep in mind as the last few episodes unfold.
Overall, this episode was a nice bounce back from the flaws of the previous installment. While there were some revelations here and there to satisfy the desire for resolution, most of the fun came from the parallel convergences taking place in the two timelines. Another solid entry for the final season.