Well, you should all have seen this now. It was on US TV last week, Sky One last night, so that’s all the bases covered. Nevertheless, follow me over the jump, to preserve the sensibilities of those who Sky+-ed it.
Season four has been something of a renaissance for Lost. Everyone loved season one. Not everyone was keen on season two, although it picked up towards the end. Season three was pretty turgid, but had a triumphant finale.
But once they knew exactly when the show was going to end, the show’s writers were able to stop treading water, stop writing entire episodes about Jack’s tattoos and get down to business. Season four, despite the writers’ strike, has been pretty fantastic.
Now, I imagine, given that the ratings in the US were the lowest ever for a Lost season finale, that it’s started to lose plenty of viewers all the same. The show had pretty much extinguished any chance of metaphysical explanations for the castaways’ fates (eg they’re in purgatory, Limbo, etc) and given us purely sci-fi ones. They’re good sci-fi ones, but intricate and complicated ones that must have repelled a few viewers who only wanted a bit more soapy romance between Jack, Kate and Sawyer or a simple explanation for everything that involves something they can relate to everyday life.
The reasons for Lost‘s new found lease of life aren’t just behind the scenes. The new blood of the “freighties” (or whatever name the Internet has christened them with) and the revelation that Charles Widmore is the true nemesis of the show has given the show a lease of life. The replacement of the flashbacks with flashforwards – bar one or two important exceptions – has also rejuvenated it. Now, instead of constant questions, we’ve been getting constant answers, albeit answers phrased in the form of more questions. We knew that some of them would get off the island, we knew what they would end up doing once they get off the island, we just didn’t know how – until now.
Of course, being Lost, there are still plenty of the big questions still to be answered, such as exactly who the Others are, what the island is, where it is and more. Yet we’ve now had enough answers that doubts about whether the producers knew what they were doing and whether they were just making it up as they were going along have been finally abated. I don’t think anyone who’s made it this far is now thinking of jumping ship.
The finale itself wasn’t quite as satisfying as we might have hoped, though. Jin had to die – it was just a question of when – so that wasn’t a huge shock. Michael’s death was unexpected, assuming he is dead and not with Jacob/Jack’s dad, but he’s been in it so little this season that no one probably cares he’s dead. In fact, most people are probably hacked off that he got absolutely nothing to do for his brief return – a common problem with many characters, such as Miles or Nikki and Paulo, is that they get time spent on them for their intros then the writers forget to do something interesting with them.
The revelation that Locke was in the coffin at the end of last season’s finale wasn’t too surprising, particularly if you know your English philosophers. More surprising was his lack of surprise at seeing that bloke with the bottle of sand and the knife hadn’t aged a day in 50 years. Plus we all knew that they’d have to go back to the island once they were off it.
All the same, there were some great moments. Ben’s relocation of the island was a genuinely impressive moment. The Sayid fight with the nasty marine was finally something worthy of being called a fight. Penny and Desmond’s reunion was moving, even if we know that Ben’s going to try to kill Penny at some point. And we have the minor mystery of everyone’s favourite red-haired fighting archeologist Charlotte to solve now, too.
We’re in the home stretch now, if you can call three seasons a home stretch. Watching Lost has stopped seeming like a duty, like eating your greens, designed for some pay off in the far off distance. It’s been almost consistently the best thing on US TV each week during its fourth season. It’s still frustrating, it’s still a big tease and it’s now so massively over-complicated that the chance of ever understanding what’s going on fully has long since disappeared. But it’s great TV.