A review of tonight's "Lost" coming up just as soon as I steal your watch...

"Feel like we're running in circles?" -Sawyer

Not anymore, James. Not anymore.

We knew "Lost" wasn't going to end well for everyone, but this badly? This quickly? 

"The Candidate" drastically accelerated the pace of the unhappy endings. The hour ultimately racked up up what I think is the series' highest body count ever in terms of regular characters, with Sayid, Sun, Jin and Lapidus all dying aboard the doomed Widmore submarine. And while versions of these characters still exist in the sideways universe - as we were reminded when Alt-Jin strode past Jack and Locke in the hospital, on his way to bring Alt-Sun a bouquet of flowers, after we saw Jin and Sun drown together on the sub - more and more we're being clued into the idea that the sideways universe is wrong and will have to go away in order for the real world to survive(*). And if that's the case, then we just saw three of the series' oldest characters (plus Lapidus) come to a permanent, premature ending.

(*) At least, that's my current operating theory, but I feel much more strongly about this one than I did about the epilogue-in-advance concept, which was mainly me trying to come up with something interesting to see in the early sideways stories.


And much as I loved the disaster movie intensity of the sub sequence - another fine "Lost" example of the Tension + Water = Awesome equation (see also Charlie in the Looking Glass) - I'm still wrestling with how I feel about that.

It's not that I don't want to deal with seeing beloved characters die. Death has always been a part of life on "Lost," though only sometimes for story reasons. (If Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje hadn't wanted to quit, I firmly believe that we'd be watching Mr. Eko give Smocke a good thumping with the Jesus stick right about now.) And so close to the end, I have no expectations that everyone will get out of here alive, or even that all of my favorites will.

No, what's still concerning me is the storytelling with each of these characters leading up to their deaths.

We spent the early portions of the season in the Temple watching Sayid come back from the dead, changed into something that terrified Dogen, and that seemed in personality to bear little resemblance to the Sayid Jarrah we knew. He was "infected" with something, just as Claire apparently was, and as Rousseau's team was, but nothing was ever explained beyond that, nor did we find out how/why the island resurrected him when it had never done so before. He was an empty killing machine, and then Desmond's soulful Scottish burr brought him back from the dark side, and then he took one for the team and carried the bomb as far away from the others as he could, and then... well, the mysteries of his resurrection (and his more pronounced English accent) will lie at the bottom of the ocean with the sub, I suppose.

I've talked before about how the writers kind of lost the thread of Jin and Sun by keeping them apart for as long as they did. But beyond them as a couple, I feel like the show lost sight of the two as individual characters. Jin was the guy off on his own during the time-jumps until they could land in a place where he could stop long enough to learn English, but his only real agenda was finding Sun. And I'm not sure what the point was of Sun's various twists and turns with Widmore and Ben and whatnot during the Oceanic Six period, nor was I ever entirely comfortable with the idea of her going back to the island for Jin while leaving Ji Yeon behind - at least not without us getting to see her agonize over that decision even a little. Ji Yeon began as a plot device during the period when the show was obsessed with the infertility storyline, then became an inconvenience when Sun had to go looking for her husband. (When Kate left Aaron to go find Claire, we got a chance to see how much it hurt her to do so.) As the sub was flooding and it became clear that Jin wasn't going to be able to get Sun out, I know I was supposed to be incredibly moved by Jin choosing to die with his wife - and Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim certainly played the hell out of that sequence - but all I could do was yell, "Tell him to get out of there for your daughter, Sun!"

So even as Sayid was sacrificing himself to give Jack a chance to stop Locke, and even as Jin was choosing to go to a watery grave with the woman he loved(**), I was largely thinking about missed opportunities and narrative dead ends. The writers clearly want me to side with Jack, who has come to believe there really is a grand purpose and explanation for all that's happened, and not with Smokey, who keeps claiming it's all random suffering, but good as tonight's episode was - and I spent large chunks of it holding my breath - there were moments where I found myself drifting over to Smokey's side of things.

(**) And I'm sure there's already speculation online that Jin made it out in the nick of time, just like he did when the freighter blew up - that the shot of their hands drifting apart came right before Jin saw that Sun was dead and chose to swim for it. But whatever issues I had with the drowning scene, Jin narrowly escaping death again would greatly cheapen what power it did have.

And yet so many other parts of "The Candidate" were so strong that I think I'm still ultimately on Jack's side (and I still find it hard to believe I'm typing a phrase like that after so many years of semi-professional Jack-hating).

Beyond the flooding sequence - one of the most suspenseful scenes Jack Bender's orchestrated in his six masterful seasons - we had that great moment right before Sayid took the bomb when Jack was arguing with Sawyer to let the stolen watch count down without trying to stop it. It was in many ways a mirror of the scene early in season two when Jack didn't want anyone to push the button in the hatch - only here, the man of science has become the man of faith, and believed the best way to avoid disaster was to do nothing but believe. Though I didn't like "Lighthouse" itself, the journey that Jack's been on ever since has been really interesting to watch, and that moment played off of everything we know about Jack, and Sawyer, and the real John Locke.

And speaking of that guy, sort of, the sideways scenes didn't advance that part of the story as much as some of the recent Desmond-ified episodes did, but I still thought they worked very well. There was some movement - with Jack being troubled to realize that he keeps crossing paths with people who were on Oceanic 815 with him, and with the semi-conscious Locke uttering various lines of dialogue Locke uttered in the real world - but mainly it was one more Jack/Locke two-hander where the two come close to finding common ground but never quite get there, and with some of Terry O'Quinn and Matthew Fox's best work together.

We learn that Locke's version of the monkey's paw happy ending is a life where he has Helen's love, and where Anthony Cooper was a great father and not a kidney-stealing monster, but also one where alt-Locke feels the physical and emotional burden every day of having ended any semblance of a life that great father had. He's punishing himself for that, just as Jack in both universes so often pushes himself too far to try to apologize to an unfair, unforgiving father.

And just as the sideways universe has allowed the show to have its cake and eat it - to kill Locke in one universe (albeit one where Smokey now looks and sounds just like him) while having him alive in another - I imagine we'll be seeing more of Sayid and the Kwons in the sideways stories. And perhaps the sideways universe might even allow their real-world stories to get the closure they appear to have been denied tonight.

But right now, the show has lost three more original, indelible characters. Oceanic 815 left Sydney with 324 people aboard. Nearly all of them are gone. Walt's on the mainland, Rose and Bernard might still be out there somewhere (depending on whether Jughead sent them forward in time or not), and we don't know if Cindy and the kids are among the members of Locke's army who scattered into the jungle. But for all intents and purposes, we're down to five survivors of that flight: Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, Kate and Claire. Living together or alone, that's one hell of a body count.

RIP, Sayid, Sun and Jin.

Damn.

Some other thoughts:

  • For that matter, RIP, Lapidus. Alas, Lapidus, we knew him - vaguely. He dies as one of a handful of regular cast characters (I think Libby and Ilana are the only others) to die without getting a solo spotlight episode, and it was clear he stuck around as long as he did mainly because Darlton got a kick out of Jeff Fahey's exasperated delivery, even if he only got to do it once every three or four episodes.
  • Bad as I felt for Alt-Locke, when I looked at Cooper in the nursing home, I was mainly pleased to see some version of the SOB suffer a fate worse than death.
  • Too bad Jack and Smokey sprung Sawyer and company from the polar bear cages so quickly. Would have been swell to see if Sawyer still remembered how to get a few fish biscuits.
  • In addition to Locke's semi-conscious ramblings from the real universe, we also got Jack offering Claire an Apollo bar (just like Jacob helped him get one), and Locke very clearly pausing because he recognized the phrase "I wish you believed me."

First post at the new digs, but same rules apply - specifically, be courteous of your fellow posters, and no spoilers of any kind (including any discussion whatsoever of the previews for next week's episode). With that in mind, what did everybody else think?