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'Lost': And then there were five

 When "Lost" began, it had 14 regular characters. A cast that size was basically unprecedented on network television at the time. Two of those characters didn't speak English. One of them was an Iraqi. One of them was a bald man who knew the ways of the wilderness and believed he had a mystical purpose. Yet another was a stubborn doctor who kept trying to be the hero and kept screwing things up. Some of the people in the cast hooked up. Some got to leave the Island. And some paid the ultimate price, dying to save their friends or to suit the Island's will. In that first season, the show let us get to know all of these characters as individuals, but it also insisted on making us see them as a community, a unit of people tied together by happenstance, sure, but also by something deeper, maybe.

Notice how many times in that first season -- and since that first season, really -- the show used long, silent montages of the characters on the beach, coming to each other's aid or just hanging out. The beautiful score of Michael Giacchino or a pop song would play while the characters shared little moments that wouldn't have existed had their plane not crashed. There was no good reason for these people to know each other, really, but now that they did, they were able to become a group, something greater than the sum of its parts. The show was fond of reminding the characters that they needed to "live together or die alone," but these sequences made that seem almost lyrical. Here is the way the world can operate when we're all in the same boat, when we're all working toward the same goal. 

I'm uniquely susceptible to stories of community building. My favorite TV shows of all time, which include "Deadwood" and "The Simpsons" among their number, are about people who may have separate goals but come together for a greater good (or a greater bad, in the case of those Springfield residents). "Lost" has also been about this for much of its run, about the way that deciding you're going to go off on your own can often doom you. The group is what's important. The survival of the group means that your memory will still live on in some way. When Jack kicks the Man in Black into the drink and says that the person who told him he had to stay on the Island was John Locke, it's not just an awesome act of a guy taking charge of his own life. It's an act of remembrance, a memorial for all of the people who have been lost along the way.

Because once tonight's episode ended, only five of the original series regulars played characters who were still alive and on the Island in the "real" timeline.

Ian Somerhalder's Boone went first, dying as a plane plunged from a tree with him in it (and man, that sounds kinda dumb when I type it out like that). He was followed, in short order, by Maggie Grace's Shannon, Dominic Monaghan's Charlie and Harold Perrineau's Michael. Malcolm David Kelley's Walt ended up back on the mainland, while Terry O'Quinn's John Locke died but sort of lives on in another form. And tonight, we lost three more: Daniel Dae Kim's Jin, Yunjin Kim's Sun and Naveen Andrews' Sayid. Who's left? Matthew Fox's Jack, of course. But also Evangeline Lilly's Kate (as the show seems to take perverse glee in almost killing her and then not doing so this season), Josh Holloway's Sawyer, Emilie de Ravin's Claire (unexpected!) and Jorge Garcia's Hurley. Five left out of 14, just as there are a surprisingly small number of passengers from Oceanic 815 still living. (Also, let us grieve a brief moment for Jeff Fahey's Frank Lapidus, who truly deserved a spinoff.)

But in another way, those characters are not really dead. "Lost" has always argued that the way people live on is by being remembered by other people. When Charlie died, it was to save his friends, sure, but he was also able to survive because both Claire and Hurley grieved him. The memory of him was fresh in their heads, and that allowed them to make the sorts of decisions they needed to make to live up to who he was. Because Charlie gave himself for the group, because he understood that living together sometimes MEANS dying alone, he was able to undertake one of the most significant acts in "Lost" history. "Lost" rewards sacrifice, and maybe the Island does too. What gets you in trouble is trying to do your own thing, trying to break away from the group to pursue your own goals.

I'll say this upfront. "The Candidate" features some messy storytelling here and there. It's never been immediately clear just why Sayid is on the side of the Man in Black after his death and resurrection, and while I hope we get an answer to that, it might have made Sayid's heroic sacrifice in this episode that much more powerful had we known just what the nature of the infection he was overcoming was. There's a momentum to the early passages of the episode that sort of demolishes all of your objections to it, but I'm not certain all of the motivations completely make sense here. There is a sense of pieces being pushed into place without regard for what the characters might actually do or say in those moments. In particular, having a better idea of Widmore's plan beyond just wanting to get rid of the Man in Black would have helped make his reasoning for leaving the airplane and submarine so poorly guarded make a little more sense. We have what the Man in Black tells us, but I don't know just how much we can trust him, particularly after this episode's climax.

The episode starts to turn, however, when Jack and Sawyer get together and start to scheming and when the Man in Black launches his single-handed assault on the airplane, an assault that continues the show's somewhat unfortunate tack of making him just completely evil (though the worst is yet to come), the episode is finding its second gear. And then, when Jack shoves the Man in Black into the water, the episode moves so quickly and is packed with so many fantastic and moving moments that any concerns I had after watching the episode -- like just why Sayid was doing what he was doing, say -- were pretty much washed away in the moment. This is one of the greatest episodes of the show ever for pure adrenaline rush, right up there with "Through the Looking Glass" and "Exodus, Parts 1 and 2." 

Sunjin  Like those episodes, as well, the episode comes up with some incredibly moving moments. Sayid grabbing the bomb and running off with it to keep it from killing everyone is one, of course, and so is Lapidus' sad end, but what really makes the episode moving in the end is the final moments of Jin and Sun Kwon. After last week's exchange of "I'll never leave you!" and so on and so forth, it was pretty obvious that at least one of the two was going to die, but I don't know that I thought the series would have it in itself to kill both of them, particularly when Ji-Yeon is still out there and needing someone to take care of her. I spent most of the sequence expecting Sun to finally just come out and tell Jin that he needed to leave to take care of their child, but the whole thing seemed intent on not really making us think about her too much, the better to make the moment all the more moving.

And don't get me wrong. It WAS supremely moving. The two hands of the Kwons, drifting apart in the murky blue water after their deaths, a flashing red light behind them the only thing that ensures we can see them, is one of the most amazingly moving images the series has ever come up with, all the better for how it doesn't need to say anything, for how it conveys the entire story of who Jin and Sun were in a simple, graceful shot (seriously, props to director Jack Bender and any writers who scripted the moment). These are two people who have spent years and years just trying to be in the same time zone as each other again, and now that they are, they're separated again by the machinations of a supernatural being that simply wants to win a game we don't yet fully understand. Sun and Jin are in the same space again in their death, but they're also, somehow, drifting apart. Such is the way this Island torments people, plays games with them.

And yet as much as I liked the aftermath of the bomb going off, I liked the build-up to it even more. Once Jack found the bomb in his pack, you knew that thing was going to go off and it was going to go off in as spectacular a fashion as possible. But the build-up to it going off, the argument between Jack and Sawyer about whether it needed to be disarmed or whether they could trust it to just count down normally, was probably the best thing in the entire episode. Jack has aligned himself on the side that believes fate and destiny brought him here, and he's willing to chase that to his grave and has been for a while now. Sawyer, who's spent much of the season blaming Jack for killing Juliet, now has blood on his hands as well, and their argument and the chaos that ensues when the bomb goes off is a marvel of both pacing and editing. Again, the writing here is great, but it really shows off just what Bender, Giacchino and the show's technical staff bring to the show.

But now, the series is ending exactly as it should: with Jack and a man who looks very like Locke facing off. Regardless of your feelings on either character (and I agree that it's a little disappointing to just have the Man in Black be evil), the show has been building to this from something like the fourth or fifth episode. These two actors have squabbled and been pit against each other for so long that this conclusion seemed almost inevitable, even if it wasn't just a few episodes ago. Even in the flash-sideways world, which we got another nice glimpse of this evening, the two are subtly testing each other's limits, finding out just how far they can push each other, though being in the world of civilization and forced to mostly keep to polite chitchat hampers those plans a bit. In fact, I'm not sure the episode as a whole would have worked without that final act, where the series clearly focused again on Jack and Locke, showing the cost of grief in alternate universe Locke's monologue about how he destroyed his dad (rendering him speechless and in a wheelchair after a plane crash that was his fault) and then showing just how this is all going to go down as Jack and the others took a moment to grieve and the Man in Black came after them.

But that's where it circles back, isn't it? Jack's greatest quality as a leader is that he eventually, after much, much prodding, will realize that his idea maybe isn't the greatest in the world, isn't the greatest for the group. He understands that he has a part to play, sure, but he also understands that there are other people who need to be cared for, dead people who need to be remembered. When Sayid tells Jack that it's going to be him shortly before Sayid dies, it suggests that, sure, Jack is the candidate to replace Jacob (and, hey, look at that episode title), but it also suggests that he will be the last one left alive because he is the one who is most willing to fully feel the weight of the grief that rains down around him and his friends and yet the one that is still able to push past it and do what needs to be done. There were many at first. Now there are only five. And in another way, now there's only one man who can make things right.

Some other thoughts:

  • * Sorry for the lateness of this post. Some problems with my Slingbox and Internet connection kept the East Coast feed from being fully present. I'm glad I watched the full thing, though, as that final act was the part I missed, and it really took the episode from "very good episode" to "incredible episode."
  • * Sayid gives us confirmation that Desmond is alive and, even better, that Desmond is pretty much the key to Jack triumphing over the Man in Black when push comes to shove. Jack and Desmond have always been tied together in the show, but the two haven't shared a lot of scenes together in ... a while.
  • * And, hey, that was "Catch a Falling Star" wasn't it? A nice homage to have that playing while Jack and Claire stare into the week's mirror image.
  • * The series finale will be two-and-a-half hours long? Well, sign me up! 
  • * The show almost always turns to Jorge Garcia to sell the weight of these deaths, but, man, he always delivers. His sob tonight was perfectly pitched, and it's often a hard thing to cry convincingly on camera.
  • * I'm sure we won't see Katey Sagal on the show again, but seeing her tonight was such a nice reminder of how well she sketched in the character of Helen, who was pretty much just "Locke's true love" on paper.
  • * On the other hand, it's now pretty obvious that Jack and Locke are going to be the ones who help each other realize the sideways universe is not the real one. Considering that the previous connections we've seen accomplish this all involved love, I'm pretty sure this will launch a million bad slash-fics.
  • * Kate Austen's continued whittling down of the female cast continues. Now, only Claire and Rose remain between her and having all of the men on the Island to herself. And this assumes Rose will return on the Island at some point.
  • * Not to spoil, but I guess the title of the penultimate episode now makes a lot more sense, huh?
  • * I'm trying to keep my expectations about these flashbacks into the lives of important mythological characters in check after "Ab Aeterno" wasn't sweeping and epic, but, man, next week's episode better be sweeping and epic, no?
  • * And speaking of Richard, when are we going to get to see him and Ben and company blow some stuff up? We're waiting, "Lost"!
  • * Finally, "Lost" Wednesday will be delayed this week and retitled "Lost" Thursday, thanks to unavoidable personal circumstances. But we have lots of great "Lost" content coming up between now and the finale. So keep those e-mails and Tweets coming!

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photos: Above: Jack (Matthew Fox, left), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Hurley (Jorge Garcia) are all still alive, but very few other characters are after tonight's episode. Below: For example, Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim), the Island's latest drowning victims. (Credit: ABC)

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Comments () | Archives (22)

I agree with you completely about our lack of understanding about what the sickness is taking away from Sayid's sacrifice. There doesn't seem to be any logic to it. In fact, I was pretty sure after "The Last Recruit" that Jack was going to be the next character to contract the sickness. The way he survived the mortar attack paralleled the way Claire survived the house exploding in Season 4 just before she disappeared and joined Smokey. And MIB's last words to Jack about him being "with me now" strongly indicated Jack had undergone some sort of transformation. Well, his actions in tonight's episode didn't point to any sort of transformation and one now seems unlikely with only three episodes left.

I do not share your disappointment that MIB is pure evil. Maybe because I saw him that way from the beginning and never invested any hope in a more ambiguous character. But I don't think it takes away from the show. Jacob and MIB are more archtypes than characters and I think what is important is how they influence the human characters that we've invested more time in. In fact, I would go so far as to say that MIB represents the devil. Jacob basically told Richard as much in "Ab Aeterno." My crazy theory is that the flash-sideways represent the various characters' "deal with the devil", where they get something they think they want, but not quite in the way they wanted it. I think these represent MIB's ace in the hole. We know the candidates can't kill themselves (which I guess would make Sun the Kwon candidate) and that MIB can't kill them. But perhaps he can offer them their deal and get them to choose that alt-reality over the Island reality, making them disappear from Island time and freeing him to leave the Island. Desmond would obviously be the x-factor in this scenario who would allow them to see that the alt-reality isn't all it's cracked up to be (as he apparently did for Sayid).

What I'm a little sketchy on is Widmore's role. I think it's possible he already made his deal with MIB in Island time. He's rich and powerful and has a life off the Island. This might explain why he was banished by Jacob. Perhaps, he's actually in league with MIB and is paying his penance by helping bring all the candidates back to the Island and furnishing MIB with a sub to set his trap with and a plane to fly off the Island in (granted I'm assuming he worked with Eloise on this part). Or perhaps Widmore is arrogant enough to think that if he can somehow kill MIB, he'll never have to pay for his deal.

Anyway, I've probably written far too much, but I had to get some of this stuff off my mind.

Great episode but whiplash effect. First, I can't believe that Sayid wouldn't throw the bomb instead of holding it to die. I agree that if we only knew the extent of his infection it would make more sense but, and this may sound a bit macabre, once he died, I had the horrible blood lust to see more main characters die. Maybe it's because we know this is the final season but once I saw the show wasn't afraid to start putting pieces together sooner than the finale it was very exciting.

Second, I truly think the creators behind Lost hate kids. I find it disappointing to only implement them to make it more dramatic and completely disregard them once story is used up. Jin wouldn't go back to be with his daughter, really? Kate came all the way back for Aaron and Claire's not giong to get back, really? Alex died at the drop of a hat. Still sad to see the two Kwons go, though I'm sure we'll see them at hospital in sideways world.
And now that the main battle against MiB is coming, I feel like we wasted alot of time on the set up on the fence to keep MiB out. We know from S3E12 that when Mikhail was pushed into the fence it seemingly killed him only to see him walking about later. I'm assuming that was MiB then and since he's already penetrated the barrier that didn't get put up in time we wasted more valuable time. Next week's episode should be the end all of the story and the rest will be just how it plays out.

Messy, sloppy storytelling from a season rife with it. Why does Sayid do anything that Sayid does in this episode? You'll also notice that even before the events of the sub, he's dropped that goofy "dead-man" voice he's been using the whole season. Why does he suddenly have a change of heart? The episode doesn't provide any kind of stimulus, no character moment for Sayid. Just suddenly, because the script demands it, he's normal again.

Killing these characters might have had more impact if it had been done gradually over the course of the season, giving each death some kind of context or emotional connection. Instead, we spent five or six episodes wasting our time with irritating characters at the Temple for the sole purpose of stalling the narrative.

It's refreshing to read a critic who is as besotted and breathless about Lost as the regular fans. Last night was emotionally draining - and I agree that the final scene showing the Kwon's hands drifting apart was brilliant television. I did expect a longer good-bye for Sayid, but it was in keeping with the heroic side of character. RIP, Lapidus... we hardly knew ye.

Kudos to Jorge Garcia and Matfhew Fox for being excellent cryers.

I like how they settled the theory that Smokey can't get wet. I almost expected him to melt like the Wicked Witch when Jack pushed him in. Can't wait for next week.

Do you think Locke has been carrying that bomb around in his backpack the whole season? Just waiting for the right time to use it? I don't think I saw him actually take the bomb out of the overhead compartment (maybe I missed it)...If the bomb did come from the overhead compartment then maybe it was put into the airplane by Richard, Ben, and Miles. Not by Widmore!

My guess now is that the alt-universe regulars will somehow show up in the Finale to help Jack battle the Man in Black, a simple reason being I can't see regulars like Sun and Jin NOT being in the Finale. Plus a showdown between just Jack and Locke isn't that interesting. As you mentioned, it's the "Lost Community" that makes the show interesting which won't be possible if they start killing everyone off.

What was with Helen thanking Jack for saving John (FSW) and then John thanking Flocke for saving him... (on the island) Is there something there? And Jack telling Locke he "could be a candidate"... (FSW)?

Last night's episode left me almost speechless. Even though I knew more characters would be lost... I mean - they had to die right? Will anyone make it out alive?

My heart soared at the sight of Sayid running with that bomb. I suppose it was the only thing left for him to do right? And hearing Lapidus' last comment 'ah hell!'... was 'almost' funny.

The look on John Locke's face as he wheeled around the corner in that hospital...! It appeared to be a look of disgust huh? That Jack could 'fix' him? Why be so angry about that? It left me feeling uneasy... Now I'm really thinking of that poem from Willie Wonka "The danger must be growing..."

I'm going to MISS this show..! I'm a big fan of Fringe - and it's mythology. But it doesn't come even close to the character studies of Lost.

Good write up Todd... I'm going to miss your posts as well!

This was a hands-down great episode. Well, maybe not hands down. I agree that Sayid's story could have been fleshed out a little more, Hell, most of the character's motivations should have been fleshed out this season. But it's almost over. It's much harder to complain now. We'll have to leave that to the autopsy.

think this show is ridiculous and can't wait for it to end---everyone looks so stupid running around with guns and blowing up things---please do not compare this show to deadwood----thought it was strange too that sun and jin didn't think of their daughter at death's door.

Nice post. I really liked this episode as well. Although it happened very quickly, Sayid's sacrifice was extremely moving for me. He did it to save his friends, but he also realized long ago (even before his first "death") that there was no saving himself. He was somehow destined to be a killer, but he was able to perform one last heroic action.

On the other hand, I couldn't stop thinking of Ji Yeon when Jin and Sun were drowning, and it totally made that moment flat for me. Jin didn't save anyone with his death, he only made his daughter an orphan. And previously in the same episode they were talking about how beautiful their daughter was. When people have kids it changes the way they think, and I feel like the writers have totally forgotten this with the Kwons.

Thank you for mentioning how many times they have almost killed off Kate this season. I am trying to figure out why she is still on the show. (I know this will make some people hate me, but I find her character extremely boring.) I hope she has some bigger purpose than going between Jack and Sawyer, because they have killed off some pretty awesome characters that I really miss.

And I agree that it is disappointing that they are making Flocke completely evil, but Terry O'Quinn is such a great actor he still manages to put nuance into this character.

Great analysis...

I’m now convinced that Smokey and Widmore are on the same side. Widmore left the C-4 in the plane (and the plane minimally guarded) for Flocke to find and use on the sub. Widmore wants the Island; Smokey wants off the Island; and they’re trying to get their chocolate and peanut butter together, so they can each have the candy bar of choice (an Apollo bar… What’d you think I meant?)

Also, I predict Desmond to be the new Eloise (something of a police officer for Time and Events in the Universe) and Ben and Jack to be the new Jacob and Richard (not firm yet on which will be which).

Wouldn't it be awesome at the very end of the show, that Smoke Monster make Frank fly the plane along with Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Desmond, Claire and Hurley (Where was Miles last night?) and they finally are able to leave the island....Few minutes in mid air...the plane explodes....then LOST....The end!

That's what I think it will happen.

I don't even know if I can come up with a coherent post at this point as I am still sobbing over last night's episode.

RIP Sun, Jin, Frank Lapidus and our poor misguided redeemed at the last moment Sayid. We'll miss you.

I will say this: I feel the last episodes are basically requiring 2 viewings as during the initial viewing I am so tense and distracted while waiting for something awful to happen, I know i'm missing vital information. anyone else feeling this way?

Lostfansincedayone - I've watched every episode this season twice. I know most haven't found all these episodes 'tense' - but they've all been moving, or filled with answers, or just plain 'good'. I'll watch last night's episode again tonight. I've found it's good to let it 'soak in' before watching it again.

I'll say it again - I'm gonna MISS this show.

Brilliantly written post, as always, Todd. I always look forward to reading the post on Wednesday morning, almost as much as I look forward to Tuesday night. Two points of disagreement, though: It is ABUNDANTLY clear why Sayid is motivated to side with MIB--he promised Sayid that he would be reunited with his love. This is what makes MIB evil--he promises to fulfill one's desire at the cost of the abandonment of morality and principle. You literally have to sell your soul to the devil. That is why, I believe, Sayid appeared to be soulless after joining sides with MIB. That leads to disagreement number two: MIB has ALWAYS been completely evil, and will always be evil for the above reason. Jacob, on the other hand, demands sacrifice for the greater good.

Wow, that was one god-awful episode of the show, and I say that accepting that it had some great moments in it. Forget the fact that one minute Kate is near death from a serious gunshot wound and the next...not (apparently the sea cleansed her of bleeding to death). Forget the fact that a bomb that size on a pressurized submarine would have not only torn the ship in half but the shockwave would have killed or mortally wounded everyone on board. And please, please forget the fact that Lepidus received at best a rather offhand, nearly ignominious end.

Nope, this episode sucked because after spending two years telling us how important it was to reunite Sun and Jin, the whole purpose of that reunion was simply to set up a ]slap-in-the-face, heart-tugging, BS moment of drama. Sure it was pretty and all symbolical when Jin told Sun in Korean he'd never leave her, and then their dead hands slipped the bonds of life underwater. But that doesn't make it any less a cheap shot to fans of either character.

I'm afraid that Lost is building up to an epically disappointing finale now and its the producers we'll have to blame for it. Everyone else involved is doing exemplary work.

I'd still like to emphasize my hypothesis that the alternate universe is ultimately the one they're going to decide to go with. Especially now that Sayid, Jin and Sun are dead. It just seems like there's no incentive for them to stay in this universe at all.

It's also a little too convenient that Kate keeps surviving and so few others do. But at the end of the day, it's Kate.

I thought this episode was a bit beyond criticism since it's so close to the end, but the more I think about it the more illogical the rest of the season has been. So many spinning plate episodes. So many instances where the only reason FLocke might be considered good because he SAID he was good, yet committed so few good acts (killing in a brutal way, disappearing people, etc). So many characters that were introduced that were ultimately wasted.

So many new questions to be asked. Supposedly, Smokey can't kill anyone on the list (the pilot wasn't on the list since Lapidus was supposed to be on), so how could he kill Eko? What justification was given for his name to be crossed off? When he tried to repent and/or stand up for his decisions, did that show him to be too unpure?

My issue is, why didn't Whidmore just blow up the plane from the start? Why guard it when humans are no match for the MIB.

So I have two ideas:
1) Anthony Cooper's condition is very intriguing. This could just be speculation on my part, but I thought that his blank stare and mouth hanging open evoked the image of him just after getting strangled by Sawyer in season 3. Obviously, it might not be the intent. But the really interesting thing is alternate-universe Cooper's condition when the real Anthony Cooper had used his tongue to destroy people's lives and bring about his own demise by unknowingly bragging about a past con to the man whose life he destroyed. Not only that, but alternate-universe Sawyer will probably never learn who killed his parents if Cooper was in fact the one who conned them, let alone a conman in the first place. If he was never a conman, then his alternate-reality condition is a pretty harsh punishment for someone who has committed awful crimes but in another life.
2) I think that the box that Claire was holding was the same one that Rousseau had--you know, the one that she had Sayid fix back in season 1.

Is it that clear to everyone that Jin died? I was kid of hoping that maybe he was just waiting for Sun to go, maybe going up for air once or twice, and then trying to leave once she drowned. I don't necessarily get the mechanics of it all, but I thought he could have escaped. Surely it would have occurred to them that their daughter needed a parent?
Unless I am told definitively, I was actually holding out hope that the director/producers was trying to mislead the audience with that final image of the two pairs of hands separating, and that Jin is somehow alive.

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