The one before the big one. The deep breath before the plunge. Anyone going into What They Died For figuring they’d be in for an episode of set-up and arrangement for the final stage to play out on would have been kind of right, and yet mostly just unprepared for the whammies slamming out.
Alpert strides out confidently for a more up close and personal meet ‘n’ greet with Smokey than he expected.
Slash! An inconsequential bit-player bites the dirt.
Blam! Blam! Blam! Down goes Widmore.
And in between all that there was Jacob gathering the remaining candidates and explaining his motives before ordaining Jack as new Island Protector.
As a lead-in to the grand finale this wasn’t mere filler. And yet, somehow, the episode did have to get on with the business of set-up to make sure The End had a platform worthy of the climax. Nowhere was this plotting more apparent than in the Alt-Timeline and Desmond’s machinations, where he’s been busy pulling together all kinds of character threads to weave into his own design – Jacob would be impressed!
Desmond’s experiences with electromagnetism previously, which we can now also tie-in as being part of ‘the source’ at the heart of the Island, have imbued him with this knowledge and power and purpose. In some respects he’s almost like a more pure Island servant than Jacob was (and Jack now is). He was characterised as a ‘fail safe’ for the Island, presumably suggesting that whilst he retains the power to thwart Nameless’ plans the resolution will come with drawbacks.
If we parallel him with the Fail Safe from The Swan the function there prevented the terrible electromagnetic overload that was happening but, as a consequence, destroyed the place. Does the same apply to the Island? Desmond the Fail Safe preventing Nameless from leaving but at the cost of the Island itself? It would make sense. A measure of last resort.
So what are Desmond’s plans in the Alternate Timeline? Well, ever since he requested the manifest from Oceanic 815 it was clear his intention was to gather together the passengers. Not all the passengers are going to be a part of this convergence, however.
Hurley’s offhand remark, upon seeing Ana Lucia, asking if she was also coming along showed us that his ‘Island awareness’ has very much kicked in. And Desmond’s answer, that Ana Lucia wasn’t ready yet, underlined the point that some people just aren’t coming along for the ride. That makes me think we’re not likely to be seeing the likes of Shannon or Mr. Eko, either, but I hold out hope!
Where are they going? Well, there seems to be a strong pull towards this benefit concert. Miles mentioned it to Sawyer, that his father, Pierre Chang, was going to be there, along with Charlotte. Whilst Sawyer declined the invitation I suspect he’ll get there somehow – even if it’s just to recapture Kate. (Aside: Kate leaned on Sawyer as they looked out to sea, and now Jack’s committed to the Island does that mean we’re going to get a Kate-Sawyer conclusion to the love triangle?)
Young David Shephard is playing piano at this benefit concert, and has invited his father along. I suspect Claire will also be in attendance. Throw in Desmond and Kate, and whoever else Hurley and Sayid have been sent off to rustle up and it’s clear there’s a solid meeting place. Expect other familiar guests. And one thing they’ll have in common is the Island, and the choice about whether they ‘awaken’ themselves to this other life or not. And then what?
Crazy theory: they’ll get on a plane together and head for the Island. Those that want to will go back. And maybe somehow they’ll crash on the Island in a renewed kind of timeline after a battle with Nameless and Desmond’s been a fail safe and who knows what else, and they will all possess memories of both their ‘lives’ and have a better realisation of how to live together and not die alone.
Yeah, it seems kind of remote, I know. But this close to the end I had to squeeze in one last long shot prediction! And an important axis of the Alternate Timeline surrounds, as ever, Jack and Locke. Locke may have been mistaking coincidence for fate (we’ve heard that before, and the reverse) but Desmond’s little nudge has made a believer out of him. When he says he wants to get out of the wheelchair it’s more of a metaphor that he wants to stand up and become the man he, deep down, was born to be. John Locke may literally rise again.
Quite how this fits in with the timescales is tricky, though. Does Jack have time to complete major spinal surgery, fix Locke, and get to the concert (whilst taking Locke with him!?). Unlikely. And what was Desmond’s fake call to Jack, about his father being found, setting in motion? Get Jack to the airport? Just remind Jack about his father, to foster that Island awakening? And, nicely, the cut on Jack’s neck made a re-appearance from its first emergence on Oceanic 815. I don’t know what it means still but I like that it looks set to mean something.
Maybe Jack the Island Protector will know. When he elected to take on Jacob’s role (well, of course, he was always going to be the man) and drank the water, when Jacob pronounced that he and Jack were now the same, did Jack suddenly become awash with knowledge and insight? Difficult to say because the recent humanising of Jacob has emphasised the point he made: that an Island Protector is a flawed human. He made a mistake with his actions over Nameless, and the people he brought to the Island to replace him were all, in their own ways, lonely and incomplete.
This criteria doesn’t just apply to the candidates here, mind, it applies to practically all of the Oceanic survivors. Consider Charlie or Boone or Shannon or Michael – they all had a lack of resolution when they came to the Island. (This was a necessary factor given that this is a dramatic television show, but the majority of characters also found redemption on some level during their time on the Island. Again, plot arcs dictate as much but it feeds in nicely to the theme of the show also. Those that are still ‘lost’ and alive remain as candidates.)
I liked Jacob’s amusing notice that Kate, despite having her name crossed out, was still viable as a candidate. She had become a mother and therefore was not ‘lost’, but that still didn’t preclude her from an Island Protector destiny if she so chose. It was, after all, just a line drawn in chalk! But, as stated, it was surely always meant to be Jack. . .
The place he landed in the jungle at the very beginning of the show wasn’t too far from the ‘heart’ of the Island, the cave of light. Whilst it’s been a popular idea that Jack was situated away from the crash site for all kinds of mystery reasons (mostly revolving around a time loop) I think the idea that he landed closest to the spot that was most treasured on the Island is good enough justification. He just had a lot of work to do before he’d evolve from the man of science to the man of faith before he could see it.
And it’s certainly not over yet because Jack has a couple of formidable adversaries in the shape of Nameless and his new acolyte, Ben.
The motivation of Nameless is clear enough. His instant brute attack of Alpert was due to the fact he knew he could not win him round. Alpert had had his chance, and he overestimated his value to Nameless. I’m 50/50 on Alpert being dead. I quite like how sudden the attack happened and Alpert was gone – but on the principle of a person not being confirmed dead without a body I expect to see a battered and crumpled Alpert found lying in the trees somewhere, still breathing. Same idea applies to Lapidus who, surely, got out of the sinking sub and is now over at the Ajira plane fixing it up ready for flight.
Nameless’ recruitment of Ben is a necessity; once again he requires his killer capacity against the candidates the same way he needed him to kill Jacob. The big question concerns how complicit is Ben in this. . .
His eventual murder of Widmore was understandable. The deft reminder of Alex, as Miles crossed over the resting place where Alpert had buried her, brought her back into our memories but she’d never have left Ben’s heart (and guilt). And seeing Widmore again would have brought back all those feelings of revenge. Remember how enraged he was when he killed Keamy – that same murderous intent was displayed when he shot Widmore, but it was certainly a lot more controlled.
In fact, I would go as far as to say it was more controlled than it appeared. That Ben’s apparently irrational killer impulse was a little too contrived; the urge to pull the trigger coinciding just as Widmore was whispering in Nameless’ ear. Nameless himself didn’t mind too much, since he had heard enough – but Ben was quick to justify his action with his remarks about how Penny, his daughter, didn’t get to live.
My interpretation is that Ben achieved his goals. He got Nameless on side, in his trust, and he also saw Widmore dead. I wouldn’t go so far as to consider Ben a ‘good guy’, but I doubt he’s as aligned and with Nameless as much as Nameless might believe. Let’s not forget he also sent Miles away with a walkie-talkie, too. The man with the masterplan looks like he’s cooking something up.
One last question, that I can’t answer, is how Ben was able to kill Widmore. When they met in The Shape Of Things To Come Widmore made a comment about how Ben could not kill him. We never really got a reason as to why that was, and now we don’t have a reason as to why that. . . wasn’t!
Alternate Timeline Ben, however, is in an altogether better place. Despite getting a beat down off Desmond (Ben has certainly made for quite the punching bag over the years!) he found emotional redemption in the Rousseau household – with Alex apparently looking to him as a father-figure and Danielle (looking absolutely fabulous and breezy) giving off heavy ‘you’re my man’ signals.
Whilst Desmond rained down the blows on Ben a memory triggered of the other time he received such a beating – from the Island Timeline. If there really is a matter of choice in whether or not a person elects to become ‘aware’ and accepting of the Island Timeline then Alt-Ben is one such character that is really not going to be thrilled about the man he was in the other place. Yet I don’t think that’ll be the way of it. I suspect we may have seen the last of ‘Dr. Linus’. Ben, on the Island, clearly has a big part to play but I still hold to the belief that death will be his resolution. Whether he goes as a martyr in the battle against Nameless, or is taken down as Nameless’ villainous sidekick remains to be seen. It’s good to see him get back to being conniving, though!
The episode reached the cliffhanging declaration from Nameless that he was now within the realms of possibility of destroying the Island completely.
Seeing that Desmond was no longer in the well, Nameless had put together whatever Widmore told him and been convinced his scheme could work. I suspect it may involve simply flinging Desmond into the cave of light – the very cave that made Nameless into the Black Smoke. Only with Desmond’s curious resistance to these forces the ‘fail safe’ result of such an action may mean the light is simply extinguished. As if Desmond’s durability would somehow enable him to try and claim the light (as Mother suggested all men want to do) and thus it would need to be snuffed out. The heart of the Island stopped dead.
Who let Desmond out of the well? Sayid’s last words to Jack inferred that Desmond was down there, so you have to assume that was the case. If none of the candidates threw a rope down to Desmond then the only other person who knew about where Desmond was, who heard what Sayid said, was Frank Lapidus. Maybe Frank figured he needed a hand getting Ajira 316 up and running and so swung by Desmond’s well on the way! (OK, the two locations are on separate Islands which means this isn’t exactly handy, but you get the idea. I say that if Frank isn’t at Ajira then he’s the guy that got Desmond out of the well!)
Like the last flickering ash embers denoting Jacob’s remaining time left, the group has been rapidly pruned down to just a few remaining key players. This certainly bodes for a tense, fraught finale that, no doubt, has a good few twists, turns, shocks and surprises before the curtain comes down. And probably some tears, too. The End awaits. The end of Lost. We’ve come a long way to get to this point and we face the final curtain with excitement and trepidation. The one before the big one. The deep breath before the plunge. Hold on tight. . . and I’ll see you on the other side.