”Lost”: The game changes completely
We got it wrong, didn’t we? All the so-called clues in the text, all the suspected hints tucked in the subtext — Stephen Hawking and his time-warping black holes, Ms. Hawking and her symbolically loaded ouroboros pin, the Room 23 film and its hidden message, ”Only fools are trapped in time and space.” For much of season 3, the freaky theorists among us suspected that Lost was setting us up for some continuum-contorting twist of Hiro Nakamura-esque proportions. Instead, the wrinkle in time that the show’s sensational season finale laid on us was smaller and more human than our fantasy-soaked imaginations envisioned, and yet it was every bit the capture-the-imagination mindquake we were hoping for: Goodbye, flashbacks; hello, flash-forwards. Although I don’t have confirmation that this narrative conceit will become Lost’s new modus operandi, the epic episode seemed to strongly suggest that beginning next season, the on-Island drama in the present (or is that the new past?) will inform the revelations about the castaways’ off-Island future (the new present?) — and vice versa. Lost, our great drama of anxiety in these terrible, terror-fried war-torn times, will become MASH and AfterMASH, rolled into one. Wow. Wow! Not for nothing did the plot of the finale hinge on the figurative flipping of a switch: With this simple shift in its dramatic paradigm, Lost flipped the switch on itself, revealing new dimensions to its creative world and grander ambitions in its exploration of redemption and damnation. And lest we miss the episode’s most important implication amid all this wonky talk, we learned that yes, eventually, at least some of the castaways are definitely gonna get their butts rescued! (But how many? And who?) Again, I say: Wow! Wow!
Although the big twist was saved for the final moments of the episode, titled ”Through the Looking Glass,” I suspect some of you smarties out there cottoned to it in the opening sequence. (Not me, though. Me dumb.) We saw Jack on a plane, badly bearded and guzzling booze, clearly a man transformed — for the worse. We weren’t given a time frame for this flash-forward, and how coy of the show to give Jack a newspaper but not give us a good peek at the dateline. Something else about the newspaper was denied to us, too — a death notice (but whose?) that left Jack emotionally rattled. (Fun fact! The voice of the airplane captain apologizing for the turbulence was none other than Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof. His partner in crime, Carlton Cuse, also made a vocal cameo in the episode as a newscaster.) When Jack got off a plane, he drove to a bridge and made a call to a person unknown with a type of flip phone that didn’t exist prior to the crash of Oceanic 815. (Or so my wife insists.) ”I just read — ” he said through tears, and immediately my mind linked to the Beatles’ sonic collage ”A Day in the Life” and the lyric ”I read the news today, oh, boy?” Another line from the song — ”He blew his mind out in a car” — came to mind when the despairing, spiritually distraught doc made a move to jump off the bridge. But Jack’s suicide attempt was interrupted by a car crash, and suddenly, Action Jack, Island Superhero, found at least one fleeting moment of off-Island relevancy. As we watched him sink into the depths of pill-popping, booze-guzzling, rock-star-sunglasses-wearing spiritual oblivion — bobbing his head to Nirvana’s ”Scentless Apprentice,” no less! — Jack reminded me of all those stories of real-life heroes who can’t make the adjustment back to ”normal life” after their extended moment of living in a heightened reality fades. The theme also reminded me of two other pieces of plane-crash-survivor pop: Fearless, starring Jeff Bridges, and Castaway, starring Tom Hanks. Later in the episode, on the Island, Rousseau told Jack that if they were to be rescued, she would never want to leave: ”This is my home now. There is nothing for me off the Island.” Perhaps in her oblique way, she was trying to warn Jack, too. ”Through the Looking Glass” wasn’t a fantasy about tumbling into Wonderland — it was a cautionary tale about what can happen when you tumble out of it.
The future drama of Jack was spliced into the Island-set story that brought the season-long conflict between the castaways and the Others to a close. It was also an interesting meditation on varying degrees of heroism, from the innocent, desperate-to-help idealism of Hurley to the by-any-means-necessary Machiavellian manipulations of Ben. (Assuming that you believe that deep down, Ben truly is a good guy. And you know what? I do.) There were many separate strands of plot — Charlie and Desmond in the Looking Glass trying to deactivate the jamming signal; Jack and the castaways trekking to the radio tower to hail Naomi’s ship; Sayid, Jin, and Bernard on the beach battling Tom and the mercenary band of women-swiping thugs; Ben at the Others’ encampment, scrambling to repair his unraveling plans amid a growing revolt among his doubting people; and John Locke in the Dharma mass grave, finding new life from an old, young friend. (Walt! Frakkin’ Walt! Waaaaaaaaaaalt!) Taken together, the finale paid off on a plethora of season 3 plot points and set up many more for next season and beyond.
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