Turbulence—and then nothing. “Looks like we made it,” Jack tells Rose, and it sure does look that way. Well, for a few minutes anyway. I’ve spent a little bit of time over the last few months wondering how Lost, in its last season, was going to reconcile the two demands it seemed to have made on itself: to reset its own timeline, and to conclude the mysteries of The Island, and its recent developments in the present (the death of Jacob, etc.) I didn’t expect that they’d do it by fundamentally altering the structure of the show.
Lost has always relied on temporal shifts, moving from the (relative) present backwards or forwards in time. But season six has changed the game as radically as did the introduction of flashforwards in the season three finale. We’re now into the realm of experimental physics and the possibility of infinite alternate realities: we’re not moving between different time periods, but between different dimensions. (Or so it would seem.) It’s too bad Farady’s not around to help us make sense of it all, though there’s nothing to stop the writers from bringing him back at some point.
Because, for the time being anyway, dead doesn’t really mean dead anymore; the show is now stuffed with revenants. Well, it looks like Juliet is really dead, finally, after Sawyer dug her out of the Incident rubble like an aid worker in Port-au-Prince. (Juliet’s initial death scene in the season five finale was a dramatic coup, but seeing her and Sawyer interact one last time was still moving.) Sayid, bleeding to death, can apparently be saved if he’s taken to the temple—or so says Jacob(’s ghost), roaming the island and in contact with Hurley. Locke is dead, but his form is still moving about freely. (“I’m seeing it,” Lapidus says, “but I’m still not believing it.”) And, in the alternate timeline in which Flight 815 lands at LAX and The Island is UNDER FUCKING WATER, Boone is alive, chatting cheerily with his new friend John (the only one to be resurrected in two different realities), and Shannon is living in Sydney; Arzt and Frogurt are around, more irritating than usual, while Jack revives Charlie, choking on a heroin bag in the airplane bathroom. “I was supposed to die,” he tells Jack upon awakening.
That sort of double entendre ran through the episode in force. “My condition’s irreversible,” Locke, still in a wheelchair, tells Jack in Los Angeles, when they meet cute in a claims office. “Nothing’s irreversible,” Jack answers. Many characters seem to have lost something in this new reality: Jack lost his pen (Kate stole it?), Locke lost his case of knives; but the biggest of all: Christian’s coffin has gone missing from 815’s cargo hold. “We don’t know where it is,” an Oceanic rep tells Jack, echoing the audience’s feelings about the show. Where the hell are we? Can we two places at once?
Are things really better in this alternate reality? Locke tells Boone he’s just coming back from his walkabout; Hurley tells Sawyer that he’s the Luckiest Man Alive. But are those things true? (Locke does insist he’s not pulling anyone’s—wait for it—leg!) Would Locke have had enough time to spend ten days in the wilderness and still be on Flight 815? Why is Desmond on the flight? When Jack says he thinks he knows him, is it a residual memory from the negated Island history? Or is it from the stadium run they did together? Did that still happen?
Obviously, “LA X” left us viewers with a lot of questions, although the writers were kind enough to throw us a few answers, too: yes, the Man in Black and the Smoke Monster are the same entity; we finally got to see The Temple and its healing waters (oh, so that’s how they do it), and see what happened to the flight attendant and the kids—they’re holed up at The Temple with the Kurtziest Others we’ve yet met. (Hey—was the paper removed from the ankh “Jacob’s List”?) There were few surprises in the first hour of the finale—the real surprise was that this is the way Darlton has decided to run Season Six, but the story unfolded as one would expect it might thereafter, setting up an Epic Island struggle between Jacob’s forces and his smokey nemesis, paralleled on a smaller scale in the rivalrous animosity between Jack and Sawyer, given new urgency by Juliet’s death, for which Sawyer (uh, kinda rightly) blames Jack, who once again was wrong—just like when he brought the freighter folk to the island. Jack and John, the ostensible at-loggerheads-heroes for many seasons, increasingly seem like two failures. (“I don’t understand,” was Locke’s last, very poignant thought, we learned. That’s because he was never as special as he made himself out to be, Smokey tells us in his Locke form—he was weak, broken and pitiful, though with a heck of a spirit.) The new hero? Sayid, if Jacob's to be believed.
Or was Jack right? As Juliet's corpse tells Miles, "it worked." And the alternate reality intercutting our usual Island reality seems to confirm that. Shall the twain meet? Is destiny still at work? Are all the small character connections the beginnings of a grander course correction? Well, that'll be season six.
The greatest pleasure of this premiere, perhaps the best—or at least most balls-to-the-wall—of the series, was how fast it started moving. Hour one was a quick set up, the second hour jumped right into the story. If this is the pace at which we wind to a close, I’d say we’re in a for a hell of a final season. Although the threat still looms that we’re going to have to spend entire episodes with Kate as she explores her feelings. For now, though, she’s in a cab, with Claire (!!!), a gun pointed at the driver’s head. And that’s exactly where we should want her.