'Lost': Nine things to love about the first nine hours of the show's final season

matthew-fox3-lost-320.jpg9 up, 9 down. That's the quick breakdown of the number of hours in the final season of " Lost." Someone cue the Bon Jovi, because we're halfway there. And, as such, I thought it high time to celebrate what's been great about the season so far. Discussing the merits of the flash sideways is worthwhile. Figuring out the ultimate goals of Jacob/The Man in Black has merit. Wondering if the candidates are meant to fulfill or reject their roles makes for great party talk. (Assuming, of course, that the party's full of "Lost" fans. Otherwise, it could break down into nasty partisan political patter.) But for today, we're going to put all that aside and just talk about what we've loved so far.

In honor of the halfway point, I've picked 9 things that stand out when going over my entries and recaps from the past two months. Seems hard to believe we're already eight weeks into the season: at times, it has felt like it has flown by...at others, it has felt as if we were asymptotically approaching the finish line. It's like we're all participants in Daniel Faradays's Season 4 rocket experiment or something. In any case, here are nine things I adore about the season to date.

"You can let go now." Rose's line to Jack in "LA X," just after Oceanic 815 makes it through a patch of turbulence. When coupled with her words of wisdom in "The Incident," it's hard not to look at this line as the mantra of Season 6 itself. It's advice that would probably better the lives of every character in "Lost."

Kate/Sawyer on the submarine dock. Look, "What Kate Does" isn't exactly the high water mark of this season. But it did contain this scene, which for my money is still the apex for these two characters this season. They might have both done things that were more interesting/important later on, but never more emotional. When I thought back on individual scenes I loved on the basis of simply watching two characters interact, this quickly rose (pun intended) to the top.

Ben's two big speeches. Like many characters this year, Ben has gone in and out of the show's narrative focus. (Look: the show has a ridiculous amount of interesting characters. It's a good problem to have, in the grand scheme of things.) But just as he did in Season 5, Michael Emerson has made the most of his relatively limited screentime. In particular, I loved his short memorial speech at Locke's funeral, a speech that provided the emotional breakthrough that led to his finest moment of the season: his confession to Ilana in "Dr. Linus." Totally different, equally brilliant.

Sideways Jack makes a breakthrough about Christian Shephard. Mileage may vary on this one in your eyes, depending on either your tolerance for Jack, tolerance for daddy issues, or tolerance for the sideways stories. But I think we'll see before season's end just how important Jack's insight into Christian, gleaned through his post-audition recital with sideways son David, truly was. Plus, I didn't realize until "Lighthouse" just how badly I wanted a win for the much-maligned doctor. Emotionally speaking, this is only topped in the sideways universe by Ben not selling Alex out in "Dr. Linus." But this example will be equally important to the overall endgame.

Jacob/Hurley. It's the hip thing this year to try and conceive of "Lost" spin-offs based on what's gone down this year. Some people would like to see shows involving Ben Linus as history teacher by day, private investigator at night. Others desperately want a Ford/Straume cop show. Me? I want "The Dude Whisperer," in which Hurley communicates with the dead with the laconic help of the unseen Jacob. Everything involving these two has been gold this year: it's a relationship no one could have expected when the name "Jacob" was first uttered in Season 3, and a great example of the way that the writers of the show constantly confound expectations in ways that delight its audience.

The ending of "Sundown." I am on record as not jumping for joy over this episode. I liked it. Just didn't love it. But how can you NOT love the ending sequence: the camera slowly pans over the Temple's carnage, Sayid looks apathetically at the destruction he enabled, and Michael Giacchino's score melds with Claire's lullabye "Catch a Falling Star." Might be the strongest combination of image and sound since the reveal of The Purge in "The Man Behind the Curtain."

Jacob as Cosmic Sommelier. As I said in last week's podcast, the wine/cork scene in "Ab Aeterno" will be one of the 8-10 scenes remembered as seminal in terms of understanding the overall story, resonance, and importance of "Lost" as a whole. (I'll save the full list for another time.) Jacob's allegorical explanation for the Island thrilled, but not as much as Richard giving Jacob the key insight into ultimately allowing humanity to achieve the progress it so desperately needs. Top to bottom awesome.

Seeing old friends. You could have an argument that putting back long-lost players into show is more stunt than anything else. Well, the show's already done that plenty of times, through the use of flashback, ghostly appearances, and various other narrative machinations that insinuate that, despite Ben's claim to the contrary, that dead really isn't dead in the world of "Lost." But for now, I'm rolling with the re-appearance of the Boones, Keamys, and Charlottes that dot the sideways landscape. We should be happy that characters that have theoretically died are still making an impact on the overall story of the show. Here's hoping the ultimate meaning of these sideways stories only enhances their reemergence.

Terry O'Quinn. I mean, seriously. Has he struck a false note at ALL this year? A show's only as good as its antagonist, and while Ben Linus served that role well for years, the torch has been handed over to an equally seductive, altogether more terrifying entity in The Man in Black. Titus Welliver brings his own form of awesome to the role, but TO's edition of it, dating back to "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham," is in a league of its own. We fear him, but not unlike The Rolling Stones, we have sympathy for this devil. Please to meet you, Man in Black. Hope we guess your name.

Those are nine things I love about this season's "Lost." What are some of the things YOU are loving this year?

Ryan invites you to join the hundreds already in Zap2It's Guide to Lost Facebook group.

Photo credit: ABC