It kinda felt like time stopped for about 48 hours or so after "Lost" delivered to us its amazing season four finale on Thursday night. I couldn't think of anything else but the scads of plot developments served up in the three-parter, "There's No Place Like Home."
I watched it again the way it was clearly meant to be viewed -- the three parts consecutively, with pause and rewind buttons at the ready -- and tried to step back a bit and think about the larger story that has gripped so many of us since Oceanic flight 815 hit that first nasty pocket of turbulence on Sept. 22, 2004.
Interesting, if not surprising, to see that Jack is the most focused on piecing together the truth of what's been happening to them -- even in his pill-popping, boozy, out-there state in the flash-forwards, he's on a quest for answers. The remaining survivors, even Have Gun, Will Travel Sayid, seem to still be in a state of post-traumatic island fever denial.
On one hand, the fact that there is a conspiracy to cover it up -- the staging of the faux 815 plane wreckage, etc. - should give credence to Jack's stance that it's not about destiny or miracles but science, the individual and free will -- in this case some folks very determined to snuff out the free will, and the last breaths, of the 815 survivors. (It's not explicitly clear to me whether Jack's aware of who Charles Widmore is, but I'm guessing he got an earful from copter jockey Frank Lapidus during the time they spent together on Penny's boat)
But on the other hand (no pun intended), Jack has a fascinating conversion in the life boat after the helicopter crash, just before they run into Penny's boat. Soon as he sees the light at the end of the tunnel -- the lights of a boat that can help them get back to civilization -- he must've heard Locke's warning from the greenhouse echoing in his ears. In insisting that the shell-shocked survivors concoct a doozy of a story to cover their tracks, he's tacitly accepting at least some of what Locke asserted.
On that same note, there's a clear sense of resignation to the inevitable in Jack's voice in the scene just before the helicopter crashes into the water (very cinematic copter rollover -- they didn't scrimp on that shot) and before the island "moves" when he says "Lapidus, fly us back to the island." Maybe even here he's realizing that it's not quite meant to be.
By the time he's talking to Ben in the final scene, Jack is a broken man. When Ben says he has "a few ideas" of how to get the gang back to the island, Jack just nods his head, submissively. (The musical score seems to be channeling Bernard Hermann at this point, and it contributes greatly to the shock and awe of this scene.)
Any lengthy discussion inside my brain about Jack naturally begs questions about his dad, Christian. The last few segs of this season have really amped up his role in the mythos -- enough to make you wonder if the old man isn't more of a focal point for the island's voodoo than his son, no matter how gallant the son's efforts.
(Boy, in the finale Jack was insufferable with his "I told these people I'd get them off" and "I put Desmond and Sayid on that chopper. I'm going after them myself." Once you've seen the finale in its entirety, you realize that Jack's "Well, then this should be easy" line to Sun early on in part one about lying at the press conference is incredibly callous, given her loss.)
If so, why Christian? A craven alcoholic, an emotionally disaffected man who was mean to his son, cheated on his wife, was snobbish and elitist and utterly butt-headed in his thinking, right down to his last days on a bender in Oz. Why is he chosen as a vassal for Jacob? Was it just because he was a not-quite-cold corpse that was handy for Jacob to inhabit? Or could Christian be the fulcrum for why this particular motley group assembled on flight 815. Will we find out that Christian performed the kidney transplant for Locke and his equally craven father? A tummy tuck for Hurley's mom? We're fortunate to have this increasingly intriguing role in the hands of such a good actor in John Terry.
The other big thread revived in the past few episodes, of course, is the Others and what they're all about. (The fact that the psychic who gave Claire her ticket to flight 815 is an Other, as glimpsed in the finale, is mind-blowing. Credit to New York mag's Vulture blog for pointing this one out on Friday.) As other "Lost" commentators have noted, Ben seemed genuinely surprised to see Richard Alpert coming to his rescue during the great fight scene with Keamy's mercenaries. Richard's answer of "my pleasure" was totally weird. And then to see Richard welcoming Locke as the new leader (to Locke's obvious satisfaction, based on that grin) -- are they really a band of gypsies who really need a Big Daddy figure. Somehow I wonder...just like I wondered throughout the finale about Juliet.
There was something odd about her demeanor through the episode -- almost as if she seemed resigned that there would be no happy rescue ending after all. When she said early on in part one that she wasn't aware of the Orchid station, I didn't believe her. And it sure seemed to be telegraphed that she knew Faraday and Charlotte from the past. "Thanks for helping us, Dan," she said after he came back in freighter's speed boat for the second batch of survivors. It was as if she wasn't sure if he would live up to his word. And the way she called him "Dan" stood out.
Did she stay behind on the beach to finish Jack's work, or for another reason? Like maybe she's a time-traveling beatnik from way back? The last glimpse of Juliet pounding rum (yo-ho-ho) on the beach was very disturbing, in a way that could only come from a strong perf by thesp Elizabeth Mitchell. Can't wait to catch up with her next season.
Finally, my thoughts turn to the kids. The island is not kind to those who are below voting age. We know the island has it in for pregnant women. And every kid who had the misfortune to be on the island has been through hell and back: Aaron, Walt, the late Alex and Karl, and Ben himself, of course. I also often think of Zack and Emma, the two tail-section tots who were snatched by Others in season two. We've been assured by "Lost's" fearless leaders, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, that we will catch up with Zack and Emma. I just hope they're OK, and I hope they've had a bath sometime in the past 108 days.
A few more random thoughts:
**The 15-year-old crackers are an important dating hint -- but I can't tell you why
**Geronimo Jackson rides again! Album cover is briefly but clearly visible as the camera pans past the DJ at Hurley's birthday party.
**Ben's line about Dharma Initiative's "silly experiments" is interesting. We know he had no love lost for the D.I. but still, that comment seemed loaded.
**Do the "common interests" that Sun references in her confrontation with Charles Widmore have something to do with fighting Jack's efforts to get back to the island?
**I've been wondering for some time now whether Aaron's biological father -- the flaky Aussie artist that dumped Claire after she hung the curtains in their flat -- will ever come back into the picture. Just like I wonder if Walt's dead mother has any lingering significance in the story?
**Is there a big, honking, totally obvious shout-out to "Wizard of Oz" in any of the three parts that I totally missed? Other than the general theme of going home after a long, strange trip, obviously. I tried to look for homage-type easter eggs in my second viewing of the segs, but it's impossible (for me) to concentrate on that stuff when the storytelling is so phenomenal.