As a masterclass in plot structure, Season 4 of Lost really showed that the writers knew what they were doing, and a lot of elements of the personal and thematic arcs come to fruition in this episode. The problem is, for that reason, that anyone who’s been paying attention could’ve predicted a good portion of the “big” events in this episode. The island disappears. Penny’s boat arrives, reuniting her with Desmond. Michael dies, Jin “dies” and the Oceanic Six finally get off the island. Oh, and we learn who’s in the coffin from Season 3 – it’s Jeremy “John Locke” Bentham.
A fine set of events, admittedly, but mostly things that have been telegraphed by individual episodes of this season. Perhaps it’s because previous seasons have left us expecting scraps of revelation right at the end rather than all the way through, but as a finale, it feels like it’s just moving pieces into place rather than overturning the board as previous ones did.
The real big revelations in this episode were slightly more under the radar – the stuff that wasn’t telegraphed. I’m talking about Locke being unexpectedly placed in charge of The Others, Sun approaching Charles Widmore to propose a deal, and Miles accusing Charlotte of having been on the island before. They’re not incredibly big moments in the grand scheme of the Lost canon, but they’re sowing the seeds for where Season 5 might go.
It’s fairly telling that my interest is less in what happens in Season 5 than how they’re going to tell it. Knowing the Lost approach to stories, we’ll be besieged by flashbacks to the 3-year period after the Oceanic Six escaped, both on-and-off island, before eventually seeing the Six return to the island right at the end of S5. The suggestion that lots of “Bad Things” happened after the island moved, however, is an interesting signpost – especially since at this point it seems like the immediate threat from Widmore is more than over. Are we finally going to see some movement on the four-toed-statue and temple plotlines?
Now, don’t get me wrong, even if it wasn’t the greatest finale ever, that’s more because it’s competing with a season-full of episodes that vastly raised the bar for what we could expect from a Lost episode, and an unavoidable consequence of this is that season ender simply can’t be improved in proportion to those standards. This episode was still full of excellent Lost moments, including Ben’s brutal killing of the insane marine, Sawyer’s moment of self-sacrifice and the triple-headed failure machine that was Michael, Jin and Desmond attempting to deactivate a giant bomb without much success, leading to Jin’s “death” – though frankly, believing a screen death that occurs in such ambiguous circumstances is a rookie mistake. Unless I see a corpse, I’m going to be convinced that Jin’s coming back before too long. Likewise Desmond, whose story appears to be “over” is therefore a likely candidate for some significant appearances in the future.
With all the focus on plot, it’s easy to forget that Lost is a TV show with incredibly high production values. Usually. It’s worth asking what was going on in this episode, with explosion CGI that wouldn’t rival an episode of Doctor Who and at least one hilariously poor bluescreen moment. You have to wonder where they spent all of their budget for this season, really.
Overall, the ridiculously high quality of Season 4 leaves it near-impossible not to be chomping at the bit to view Season 5. When it finally hits screens, we can expect a very different approach to the now radically-different Lost landscape. Start counting down now.