Finalewatch: The wheels on the 'Lost' go round and round

Michaelemerson_lost_s4_240 Here's what I want to do: I want to find all those Lost fans that checked out halfway through Season 2, complaining about the lack of progress on the show, and then present them the two-hour season finale of Season 4 that just aired. Because ladies and gentlemen, more things happened in those two hours than all of Season 2 COMBINED. I feel exhausted, I feel exhilarated, I feel like I've just been run over by a frozen donkey wheel.

Now, did this live up to the hype? Mostly. Was it the game changer that "Through the Looking Glass" was? Absolutely not, although to be fair, the two are apples and oranges. "Looking Glass" was a one-time opportunity for the show to completely reinvent itself right under its audience's nose, an insidiously genius move of which even Benjamin Linus would have approved. "There's No Place Like Home" had a different task altogether: finally explain the big mysteries of Season 4 while setting the groundwork for Season 5, a season I'll hereby subtitle "We're Getting the Band Back Together!" But I'll talk about Season 5 near the end of this recap; for now, let's get down to what actually happened tonight.

As I mentioned already, this show was dense. We're talking Paris Hilton dense. Death, destruction, more death, crazy ice caves, some extra death, imploding islands, exploding freighters, a spot more of death, and enough angst to fill a My Chemical Romance arena show. Trying to even recap it sequentially makes little to no sense, so I'll try and recap thematically, if you'll let me. And since I'm typing this out at home alone on my laptop, you kinda have to let me. Just how it goes.

Of all the people I picked that would come up with the idea of a cover story for the Oceanic 6, John Locke would have been ranked slightly above Frogurt and "random guy wiped out during the incursion on New Otherton." And yet, once I heard him outlining his plea to Jack atop the Orchid Station, it made perfect sense. Of COURSE John would want to keep the Island secret, keep it safe, making him the Gandalf protecting the One Island To Rule Them All. Jack eventually comes around to John's way of thinking, but only after approximately 765 terrible things occurred in the interim. But the idea generated with John Locke, first and foremost.

Remember that song "Bad Day" that played at the end of last season's America Idol episodes? That's the song running through my head as the day went from "forgot to set my alarm clock" bad to "I'm pretty sure I'm on fire" bad. When Sun said in Part 1 of the finale that the Oceanic 6 were in shock, she was not whistling Dixie. This season saw a series of events that pushed this season past comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back and straight into Leaving Las Vegas levels of masochistic misery. How Hurley is the only one in the asylum is beyond me, honestly. It took that many events for Jack to finally come around to Locke's suggestion.

But three years after their "rescue," none of the Oceanic 6 seem to be doing well at all. Turns out all of them, already unhappy as a general rule, were spooked good and plenty by the death of a figure named Jeremy Bentham, a name alluded to in "Through the Looking Glass" via a newspaper clipping. Since we'd never heard of a Jeremy Bentham, it would be natural to assume that this name was just one of Benjamin Linus' aliases (along with others such as Dean Moriarty). It was so natural, in fact, that astute Lost fans thought there was no way it could be Benjamin Linus. Benjamin Freakin' Linus apparently still has work to do. (By the way, there's of course a real, historical Jeremy Bentham. Read his bio; very eeeenteresting stuff I'll analyze in the coming weeks. But I'd brush up on Panopticons if I were you.)

Terryoquinn_lost_s4_240 But John Locke? Looks like he doesn't, since he was the mysterious Mr. Bentham, who went around visiting the Oceanic 6 after his mysterious expulsion from the Island after Ben successfully moved that sucker to Parts Unknown. If you had John Locke in your office pool, congratulations. (Also, let me know where you work, as it's a dream of mine to work in an office that has "Who's in the Coffin?" pools.) Turns out, John was going around telling anyone that would listen that leaving the Island was as ill-advised as David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue. Just not smart planning.

If you believe Sayid, John's death was NOT the suicide inferred by the aforementioned newspaper clippings, but rather the work of nefarious MURDER. (Cue dramatic music.) Which then leads to a question potentially addressed in Season 5: who murdered Locke? (My money's on Matthew Abaddon.) And perhaps as important: who replaced Locke on the Island? (My money's on Abaddon again. Remember: Locke owes him one.) As Benjamin Freakin' Linus descended into The Ice Cave of All Things Neat and Awesome, he essentially handed the keys of the Island over to John Locke. But three years later, Locke finds himself off the Island after years of trouble there. So what on earth happened?

Well, speculation's my normal thing over on the Lost blog, but I'll try and refrain from a full blown theory-fest on this front. But I think it's wise to look at two figures that literally haunted characters tonight: Christian Shephard and Claire Littleton. And when the final episode of Lost is aired, I think we're going to look at their scene with John Locke in "Cabin Fever" in one of those "I can't BELIEVE I didn't see this coming" ways. Hindsight's 20/20, people. But one thing I did glean from that scene in Jacob's cabin: Christian and Claire are NOT to be trusted.

I think that what we'll learn going forth is that forces on the island performed a long con on both John Locke and Benjamin Linus throughout the entire course of Season 4. In many ways, the freighter folk were a way to distract from the real goal of these past few weeks: neutralize Jacob. notChristian claimed to speak for Jacob, but do we really have any cause to believe him? Couple that with his convenient appearance on the Freighter (just after the helicopter could refuel and leave), and Claire's appearance in Future Kate's dream, and you have a set of circumstances in which certain forces manipulated events to send two of its biggest threats off of the Island: Benjamin and Aaron.

Ben's a threat because, well, he's Ben. Kinda enough said, there. He's often tough to gauge, being the trickster that he is, but in the The Ice Cave of All Things Neat and Awesome, he sincerely (and bitterly) spoke words ("I hope you're happy now, Jacob") that rendered his turning of the wheel as an action sincerely performed as his final act on the Island. Doing so ended his time on the Island, or so he thought at the time. So how best to justify the Ben we see in the Ice Cave with Future Ben, full of resolve and commitment towards reclaiming the Island he believed once shunned him? By him finally recognizing the long con for what it was and striving to make things right against the forces that took over the Island in his absence.

Evangelinelilly_lost_240 As for Aaron: clearly, his removal from the Island shook things up in a profound way. I wrote about Aaron's connection to the bizarre "Drawing of the Three" scene from "Cabin Fever" a few weeks ago, but a short reiteration might be in order: the prophecy that Aaron should not be raised by another ties in directly with Richard Alpert's test of John Locke on a fundamental level. Both Aaron and Locke are examples of reincarnated spirits/entities that have lived past lives on the Island. Richard's test resembled that which is used to determine the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama, and one could look at Ben's obsession with childbirth on the Island as his way of fulfilling Jacob's need to find a corporeal being to inhabit. With no Aaron on the Island, there's no being to inhabit, and Jacob remains ethereal, trapped, powerless.

Speaking of reincarnated spirits...looks like we got a hint as to why a certain Charlotte Lewis was so excited to see a Dharma logo in the middle of Tunisia way back in "Confirmed Dead", eh? She stays on the Island, rather than be rescued, due to her wondering about the place she was "born." Talking about where one is "born" on this show is a tricky thing, since Ben long claimed to have been born on the Island (a blatant lie). But remember: dead people don't always stay good and dead on Lost. There's a good chance we saw Charlotte on the Island long before we ever saw her character. I'll let you try and guess who I think she might be in the comments below.

But I won't spend too much time on Charlotte here, because just like in the rest of the season, the Freighter Four got slightly shafted in this episode. Only Lapidus saw major screen time, and that was due to his practical flying skills. But the other three have enormously rich back stories tied to the Island, stories barely skimmed at best throughout this strike-shortened season. Hopefully, Season 5 will flesh out these stories, as the show follows two narrative paths: one detailing the actions between Locke arriving at The Others' camp, and one detailing how Jack gets the band back together in the year 2008.

As far as the Island moving...one can only assume this is only the most recent of a myriad of times this Island has in fact moved. The hieroglyphics, the lanterns, the wheel itself...all these elements suggested a rich mythological history dating back millennia, boarded up by the Hanso Foundation but paid homage via the countdown clock inside the Swan hatch. To watch Ben blatantly ignore the orientation video inside the Orchid was to watch a man once again openly spit in the face of an organization that sought to harness the Island's magical properties for cabaret acts (time-traveling bunnies). What was seen inside the ice cave was a ceremony: no more, no less: one performed throughout history by the exiled leader as a final act of self-sacrifice to the Island itself. Such a ceremony predates not only the Dharma Initiative, but modern civilization itself.

As such, his look of shock and horror and amazement in the Sahara during "The Shape of Things to Come" could be seen as one of, "How am I still alive?" And the answer is simple: while weakened, the Island is still powerful, and kept Ben from death. While under action by the forces of notChristian, it still have some modicum of power and can still exert its will to a certain extent. That kernel of knowledge informs everything Ben does in the future. It gives him purpose, direction, and above all else, a sense of righteousness. But is he in fact on the side of righteousness, or is Widmore? Trying to answer that is as difficult to do as ascertaining which one of them planted the wreckage of Oceanic 815 at the bottom of the Sunda Trench.

Yunjinkim_lost_s4_240 Sun, for one, seems some value in working with, not against, Charles Widmore. Naturally, this could be a double-cross, but clearly she bought a stake in Paik Heavy Industries with a plan in mind, not a mere business opportunity. Could it be locating the Island? Building a time machine of her own? Hard to say at this point, but what's easy to say is that of all the remaining members of the Oceanic 6, she'll be the toughest to convince to go along with returning to the Island.

I've spent the majority of this recap analyzing plot and theory so far, but let's take a moment to recognize the two emotional lynchpins of the episode: Jin's death and Desmond's reunion with Penny. I can honestly say I didn't really see either coming. I thought both were possible though improbable. I figured they would leave wiggle room for Jin to stay alive, and have a "just missed" connection with Des/Penny, but no, Jin's as dead as can be and Penny/Des got their long-awaited reunion and a one-way ticket aboard the Searcher to "Somewhere Only We Know," to quote the band Keane. I'm a bit worried that their going into hiding means less Desmond on Lost, but I can't be nearly as worried as all those Lost fans who damn near faint every time he shows up onscreen with his shirt unbuttoned. I'm just happy I saw them reunite, and look forward to how the show emplys their wild-card status in the future.

(You might throw in the Sawyer/Kate kiss as an emotional high, but I blame the ABC promo monkeys for giving that moment away too early, and thus dulling its impact. Plus, I'm super sick of watching Jack watching these two make out. Yuck.)

So we're left at the end of Season 4 with an Island moved, a group of people largely decimated, and two powerful men seeking to control those remaining in order to play out a global version of backgammon. One side is light, one side is dark. Least, that's how the game's supposed to go. What we have now is something quite different: two shades of grey, both seeking the light. And the wheel? It goes round and round. Stubbornly it goes round and round. Ever it goes round and round.

And it's up to the Oceanic 6 to set it right.

So what did you think of the season finale? Did it live up to the hype, or fail to meet your expectations? What happened on the Island after it moved that caused John Locke to end up back in the real world? And how in the world are they supposed to go back? Leave your thoughts and comments below. Also, make sure to bookmark Zap2It's Guide to Lost. The season might be over, but our work here has just begun.

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.