Lost: the story so far, and the big questions

It's been eight months since Lost season four ended. And on the eve of its fifth season, we look at what happened last year, and what questions need answering...

The finale looms...

When Season 4 ended in May 2008, critics and fans alike threw down their jars of Dharma ranch dressing and slumped back into their sofas in awe and amazement; after a meandering and frustrating third season, Lost had bounced back in spectacular style.

With only one or two bum notes in a shortened season of 13 episodes, the show’s creators gave us excitement, intrigue, humour, romance, devastating shocks and time-travelling bunnies. They also gave us a lot of Jack and Kate’s on-again-off-again angsty nonsense, but we’re all pretty much resigned to that by now. We saw the sad departure of Jin, Alex, Karl, Danielle Rousseau and Michael the Traitor, and the arrival of a snarky ghostbuster, a squirrelly scientist and a stroppy ginge, as well as the man who will be forever known in this reviewer’s house as Martin Bastard Keamy, the New Otherton Child Murderer.

So, with only a few sleeps to Season 5, what can we hope to expect from Messrs Cuse and Lindelof in the coming weeks?

The Oceanic SixThey’ve made it off the island, but things are far from back to normal. A guilt-wracked Hurley is driving himself deeper into insanity, Sayid is working as an assassin for Ben, Kate’s flimsy claim that she is Aaron’s mother is likely to be challenged at any minute and Jack… has grown a godawful beard and bought a Nirvana album. And as if things weren’t bad enough, they now have to go back. Will we see their reluctant return before the next finale ends? And how on earth will they get there?

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Perhaps the most intriguing O6 flashforward – certainly more interesting than the one where Jack showed off his waxed chest and Kate pranced around in her pants – belonged to Sun. At the end of last season, the new mother and vengeful widow approached sinister Charles Widmore and suggested they work together; a tough performance from Yunjin Kim that showed the incredible transformation the character has undergone since we first saw her as a meek subservient wife back in Season 1. Has she really turned to the dark side? Is she playing double-agent for Ben? Or is she on some other mission entirely? Either way, Sun is the strongest female character the show has; long may she shine.

Questions that probably won’t be answered:* How will Ben persuade Kate and Sun to return to the island with the others?* Once he inevitably does, how will their return be made possible?* What is Sun’s real agenda?* What part will Hurley and his communion with the dead play in the main story arc?* Will Jack still be the same pompous, arrogant, gurning crybaby he’s always been? (Scratch that last one – we already know.)

The OthersThe last time we saw John Locke alive, he had been officially crowned King of the Island and was wearing the satisfied smile of a man who had finally achieved what he was born to do. With Ben in disgrace, the Others were in need of a new leader and Locke – whose spiritual connection to the island marked him as special – was their man. Richard, as revealed in Cabin Fever, had been keeping his kohl-rimmed eye on John since the 815 survivor’s premature birth and at last he was able to manoeuvre his new protégé into office.

Without Ben’s constant manipulation and one-upmanship distracting him from his purpose (which, admittedly, led to some of the most entertaining scenes of the last three seasons) Locke now has a chance to unleash all the potential he was never allowed to fulfil before the crash. It would seem, however, that things are about to go rather pear-shaped for the mighty hunter and his band of merry men and women. Whatever takes place on the island after its relocation leads to John’s departure and eventual death (and, presumably, a lot of other unpleasant business besides). So, what really happened to the man calling himself Jeremy Bentham?

Questions that probably won’t be answered:

* What happens on the island that forces Locke to leave?* What did Locke tell those he visited off-island?* * Will he be miraculously revived if he returns to the island, or will he become some sort of undead agent of Jacob, as Christian Shephard (and possibly Claire) seem to be?* Just what is the deal with the ageless Richard Alpert? And for that matter, his counterpart Matthew Abaddon?

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The FreightiesThe on-island action, whatever it may be, should hopefully lead to some much-needed character development for Daniel, Miles and Charlotte, who suffered the most from the impact of the writers’ strike last year. They parachuted into the show and commandeered a huge chunk of screen time without so much as a by-your-leave, but we saw too little of their backstories to form a solid opinion of them (although I’m pretty certain I hate Charlotte). It was difficult not to warm to pilot and conspiracy theorist Frank, but sadly he was always billed as a supporting character and has been absent from recent promotional photos. Let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of him. With this show’s track record for bringing back old faces, it’s highly unlikely.

Questions that probably won’t be answered:

* Was Charlotte a Dharma Initiative brat who somehow survived an island birth or are her origins even more mysterious?* Will Daniel need to call upon Desmond to be his constant, as hinted at in Season 4?* Why is the wonderfully snippy Miles there in the first place?

BenBecause really, he deserves a category all to himself.

The Ben-centric episode of Season 4, The Shape of Things to Come – vying only with The Constant for the title of ‘Best 42 Minutes of Television Ever Made’ – saw him in many guises; commander cracking under pressure, grieving father, ruthless avenger and, in one particularly memorable scene, Indiana Jones. Michael Emerson has stolen every scene he’s appeared in since his debut in Season 2; now, he’s the rightful focus of the show and one of the main reasons to tune in each week.

Season 5 sees our favourite silver-tongued sociopath in a very dark place. He vowed to kill Penelope Widmore in retribution for Alex’s brutal murder and it’s pretty clear that he’s not the type to make half-hearted threats. He also has the job of rounding up the Oceanic Six (plus Locke’s corpse) and persuading them to return to the island. While it’s inevitable that he’ll succeed at the latter, let us hope that he grows a conscience before Penny meets a grisly and undeserved end.

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Questions that probably won’t be answered:

* Where/when did Ben move the island to and why can’t he go back?* Why did he have a room full of foreign cash and forged passports and why has he needed them before?* What is the nature of his ongoing battle with Charles Widmore?

…And The RestIf the few stragglers left on the beach don’t join up with the Others, it seems inevitable that Sawyer will take up the leader’s mantle, a role he’s been gearing up for since Season 3. Let’s face it, the man needs a purpose. Since he finally took his revenge on Anthony Cooper in The Brig, he’s been floating around a bit aimlessly, sometimes displaying feats of derring-do that made this reviewer whoop like a crazed cheerleader, but mostly just mooning over Kate and playing the odd couple with Hurley. With both characters off the island, let’s hope the writers find something useful for him to do.

If he doesn’t take charge, enigmatic ice-queen Juliet just might step up now she’s no longer under Ben’s stalkerish influence. Her character is infinitely fascinating, but this reviewer can’t take much more of that supercilious smirk and it’s unclear at present whether there’s a significant role for her in the main story arc now.

As for the show’s other blonde beauty, what on earth has happened to Claire? Did she, as fans have theorised, die in the explosion at the Barracks? She appeared to Kate in a dream in last season’s finale, as the departed of Lost are wont to do, but like most things on this show the evidence remains inconclusive.

Off-island, it seems that Desmond and Penelope’s epic love story might not end as happily as both parties deserve now Ben is on his rampage of revenge. Even if Ben fails to murder the lovely Penny, have Desmond’s time-travelling days really come to an end or are there more thrillingly confusing events in store to mess with the poor man’s head?

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Questions that probably won’t be answered:

* What purpose do Sawyer and Juliet have now?* Will Desmond and Walt be expected to return to the island along with the O6?* What’s next for Claire and is she still alive?

Lost returns to US TV screens tonight, and is back in the UK at the weekend.

21 January 2009

 

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