The end is in sight, we're being fed huge pieces of the puzzle each week, and even if some of those pieces only confuse us all over again, I am getting the sense that we are very, very close to understanding the endgame of the series.

I was talking about "Lost" to a friend recently, and he was upset because he felt like the show was cheating.  "It's supposed to all make hard science-fiction sense.  It's supposed to be possible.  Now there's all this magic and time travel and... I quit.  They cheat too much."  First of all, did they really promise at one point that every single thing on the show would be explained by science?  Because if they did, that was definitely a mistake.  Second of all, as I tried to explain to my friend, they left reality behind about twenty minutes into episode one.  Complaining about that now is like someone sputtering about dirigible safety because they're pissed off at the Hindenberg crash.

What I find fascinating at this point is the way the larger picture comes into focus.  The way we're learning the whole history of the island.  And most of this is material that literally cannot have come one episode earlier in terms of storytelling.  "Lost" is a game, certainly, and much of the game involved just getting all of the pieces into play in order to start paying everything off.  To just now get to a place in a series where we can see something like the first meeting of Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus, and the context has real meaning for the long-term relationship they're going to have... that's why I commit to any TV show in the first place.  I want to have an experience in a narrative where my investment pays dividends in the form of emotional payoffs, character payoffs, story payoffs.  I don't need things to add up everywhere or even in any "normal" order, but eventually, for this sort of storytelling to really work, you have to deliver.  You can only tease for so long.

[more after the jump]

And at this point, there's so much we know that we're not even watching the same TV show we were watching in season one or season two or season three or even season four.  Our investments, our sympathies... they're not the same as they were.  The questions you're asking now are so different, and focused on such radically revised character dynamics.  I mean... one of the narrative threads we're following now involves Sun, who is in the present-day timeline, where she has found a photograph of a group of people in 1977 in the Dharma Initiative who are clearly the Oceanic survivors, her friends, and her husband Jin.  They're parents now, and for a time, she was convinced that he was dead.  How different is that than anything that Jin and Sun were doing in, say, Season Three?  Or Sawyer and Juliet?  Or Jack and Kate?  I mean, two years ago, could you imagine a more sad and broken ending to their relationship than last week's exchange?

"I don't like the new Jack."
"You didn't like the old Jack either."

I took an indecent amount of pleasure from every single second of the Locke/Ben storyline this week.  Terry O'Quinn has long been my single favorite thing about "Lost," and it's fairly obvious that the writers feel the same way.  Locke should just change his name to Commander Fucking Badass, because that's what I'll be calling him from now on.  Watching Ben react to John and interact with him this week is a lesson in why ABC can't possibly be paying Michael Emerson enough money.  Ben tells Locke that he knew that the Island would bring him back to life.  But when Ben's talking to Sun and tells her that Locke's resurrection scares the hell out of him, I think he's telling her the truth.  I think he's lying to Locke pretty much every time he speaks to him throughout the entire episode with a few notable exceptions.

I love the moment when they're walking together and Locke calls Ben out on how his powerlessness is obviously freaking him out.  It's a naked moment of power shifting from one person to another, and it's a calm, confident Locke, the best kind of Locke.  He's had some real moments of weakness... I mean, can you imagine the Locke who was such a freak inside the Hatch trying to take control of the Island from Ben?  That Locke was a mess.  Adrift.  This Locke?  This guy knows what's up.  He knows what he's doing.  And his plan, whatever it is, is exactly what the Island wants.  So when the final battle comes down next season, as we KNOW it is going to, between Widmore's forces and the reunited Oceanic survivors and Others and (possibly) whoever it is that's gathering "in the shadow of the statue," I'm going to wager that it's a good idea to be on John Locke's team.

And, yeah... this whole twist at the end of the episode regarding Zuleikha Robinson as Ilana and Brad Henke as Bram is sort of a "I figured something was up, and it's about time that shoe drops" sort of a way.  I just didn't think it was going to be some crazy-ass conspiracy thing where everyone onboard that flight who wasn't trying to return to the Island also just happened to be trying to get to the Island.  It seems incredible.  I did love the reveal, though, with the pass phrase and Frank's failure.  And I love the phrase... "What lies in the shadow of the statue?"  So cryptic... so evocative.

I'm guessing Said Taghmaoui is not as important to the rest of the season as I first thought he might be.  Dude just kept trying to step up, and look what it got him.  Ooooops.

"Let's talk about the elephant in the room."

It's the end of the episode that throws everything else into sharp relief, when Ben gets his wish and faces the Island.  Or, more precisely, he faces Smokey.  This is a moment that's been a long time coming, and I thought it was handled visually just right.  We finally see where Smokey "lives," so to speak, and the hieroglyphics above his little drainage grate were particularly spooky.  Smokey isn't nanotech, kids.  He's something older than Western civilization, according to those images.  He's judgment.  He's wrath in a can.  I wonder if this is what was in the Ark.  I wonder if this is that sort of force at work in this place.  Because whatever it is, the "Lost" team is setting some big, big pieces out on the board right now.  Ben sees his entire arc with Alex play out, and, yes, he seems to have genuinely cared about her to some degree, but there's a lot of failure there, too.  When he's confronted with the real thing, with Alex standing in front of him, what he thinks is going to be a tender reunion turns into a bit of a beatdown and a single gruff order:  do whatever Locke says.  And in that moment, not only does Ben learn that the Island knows how he sacrificed his "daughter," how his rescue of her turned out to be nothing more than an eventually self-serving stall, but he finally has to confront the truth, the thing he has been most terrified to hear.

Benjamin Linus is not the leader of anything. He is not special. He is not in charge.  He was not picked.

John Locke is the man.

End. Of. Story.

Oh, man, that's gotta smart.

My "Lost" recaps can be found here every Thursday.  Except when they can't.

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