It’s Season Break time in the Lost-verse, and that means one thing: Big answers, big questions, and a cliffhanger that’ll drive you nuts. Or rather, that’s what it usually means. After all, this break is as much motivated by the US writer’s strike. It might be a fading memory to most of us, but we’re not immune from the sting. The Lost writers were fairly vocal in saying that episode 8 would not be a satisfactory end to the season – but how will it perform when we know there’s only a month until the next episode?
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Following last week’s “unexpected” reveal of Michael as Ben’s man on the boat, we get to find out exactly what led him to this situation when he’s confronted by Sayid and Desmond. This week’s format-twist is to have most of the episode taken up with a single flashback, inserted into the episode as if being narrated by Michael “Kevin Johnson” Dawson.
The story begins back in civilisation. In case you’ve forgotten, after murdering his way into The Others’ good books, Michael was given a boat and allowed to take Walt out of Season 2 and into the real world. Quite how he made it back to America in the pedalo he was given isn’t addressed, but the facts are there for us to witness. He’s back. And he’s writing a suicide note.
After a failed attempt to kill himself, Michael tries to get in touch with Walt, who is living with his Grandmother and doesn’t want to see him. Pawning Jin’s watch in for a gun and bullets, Michael is about to eat a lead salad when who should step in but Tom, the famous fake-bearded Other who was killed by Sawyer in the Season 3 finale. Tom tells him that Ben wants him to work for them and thus redeem himself – turns out, the reason Walt doesn’t want to see him, and the reason Michael has become suicidal, is that Michael told Walt everything he did to get them free.
Unfortunately, that material takes up roughly half of the episode, and Michael – never the most likeable character – is more loathsome now than when he spent entire months screaming “WAAAAALT!” at everyone. More interesting than Michael’s bottomless self-loathing is Tom’s assertion that “The Island” won’t let Michael die while he still has work to do, but that aside it’s as gruelling a flashback as one ever was.
After a gun with a full set of chambers fails to fire, Michael starts to realise there may be some truth to this, and takes the assignment, heading to Fiji to board Charles Widmore’s boat under the assumed name Kevin Johnson, with the express purpose of killing those on the boat before they get to the island and kill everyone on it. When a bomb given to Michael by The Others turns out to be a fake (complete with a comedy flag popping out of it, in the style of 60s Batman) Michael learns that maybe Ben’s “We’re the good guys” speech might hold some water after all. It’s hard to say – Ben’s moral ambiguity and Machiavellian intent has never been harder to dissect. Even now, he’s ingratiating himself with the Locke camp.
As the flashback finishes, Sayid is unimpressed, He drags Michael straight up to the Captain and outs him as Ben’s spy. Slow clap, Sayid. If that wasn’t enough of a cliffhanger (and, to be honest, it wasn’t) we also catch up with Karl, Alex and Rousseau who, on Ben’s instruction, are headed to the temple and “safety” from the invaders. A hail of gunfire –presumably explaining why the helicopter was missing from the boat – suggests that they’re too late, and Rousseau and Karl drop like flies. It’s hard to know how dead Rousseau is, but given her lack of activity in recent weeks it wouldn’t be hard to think that she’s gone for good. The second cliffhanger has Alex standing up and telling the unseen attackers that she’s Ben’s daughter – something she was not supposed to let them know.
It’s all a bit disappointing, really. It’s got the trappings of a great episode – a radical format shift, a unique glimpse of what was going on in the outside world during Season 3, and yet… it’s hardly the gripping lead-in of previous season-breaks. Perhaps it’s due to the writer’s strike messing up the timing. Perhaps it’s Michael’s sheer lack of charisma. Whatever the case, it leaves me with an empty, apathetic feeling about the next episode, where previously I’ve been driven virtually insane by even the smallest break in airing. This wasn’t a bad episode in itself, and certainly holds up the high standard of Season 4 – but as the last episode for a month? We needed more than what we got.