Lost 5.16: "The Incident"

As it was the season finale, I'll be eschewing my typical format for a straight review. Be warned, spoilers aplenty up ahead.

Episodes 102 and 103 of the Lost saga brought us back to the beginning in a couple of ways. Literally, the opening scenes of the season five finale take us back perhaps as far as we've ever been in the history of the Island to introduce us (finally!) to Jacob -- the long-discussed, little-seen master of all that is Lost.

In this sequence, which finds him using a loom, fishing, and eating in the shadow of the statue, we also meet a cohabitant of Jacob's, another man with whom our mysterious godfather has quite a testy relationship. There's no mincing of words, as the two men watch a ship off in the distance presumably making its way to the Island. The other man engages Jacob in a discussion that digs at the heart of human nature -- one that indeed could be called foundational of the ethos of the show. In typical Lost fashion, there is much talking, but little is actually said. That is until the other man tells Jacob, quite frankly, that he will kill him. All he needs to do is find a loophole...

In another time, 1977 to be exact, the survivors of Oceanic 815 have been battling. They've been battling with the Others, who have recently killed Faraday (and are feeling mighty guilty about it); they are battling with the Dharma initiative, which seems, under its new leadership intent on killing everyone; and they are of course battling with themselves, as various factions strive to set into motion various convoluted machinations.

They are also spiraling toward what may well be their originating incident: that one act which will result in flight 815's crash landing and the start of their time on the Island. This of course, has been made so explicitly clear, that one couldn't help but question it, as we must with anything that appears too obvious in the realm of Lost. And so it came to pass that not only would everyone step out of Jack's way to carry through with Faraday's plan, but they were able to convince themselves, and perhaps us, that it didn't much matter one way or the other that a nuclear explosion was in the offing.

Taken all together -- the three major deaths (Sayid, Jacob, and apparently, Juliet), the one re-death (Locke), the contextualization of the statue, the reveal of the Ajira survivors -- "The Incident" felt far more like a prelude to an ending than it did an ending unto itself. That's how the show has always operated (Jack's "We have to go back!" being the best example), but here it felt even stronger.

So many overarching question may, yes, remain unanswered, but for the first time it feels like we may finally be at a place where solutions seem within view. And while that might be a disappointment to some, on the whole it has to be seen as a win. We've got 16 episodes left, and we've come nearly 87% of the way. Things cannot remain obscure and out of reach forever.

The question of where we're headed, while growing clearer, is still largely open. The seemingly obvious conclusion we could draw from the opening is that Jacob and his adversary are some type of deities -- or perhaps a metaphor for a very specific set of deities. Their quarrel appeared to cut to the core of human experience, with Jacob standing for hope and goodness, and his adversary, corruption, jealousy and greed.

Knowing something of their battle's conclusion, and the circumstances by which we have arrived at it, we can surmise that the adversary has undertaken no small amount of planning and acting. What remains unclear is the rules -- and therefore the loophole -- that the pair played under. Surely, at this point, nothing is outside the realm of possibilities. Their struggle too echoes the other binaries of the Island: the Others/Dharma, Widmore/Ben, the Others/Survivors, "Shadow of the Statue" gang/everyone. Many of these binaries are interrelated or even part of a larger whole, and Jacob and his adversary may be as well. At this juncture, it would be more surprising if they weren't.

And then there's the time traveling. Perhaps most interesting on this front was the way the producers tossed us what seemed to me an incongruous and overly-helpful bone. As everyone was arguing back and forth about what to do with Jack and his nuclear bomb, it just slipped out that perhaps the bomb had always been part of the plan. So it was that something that at one point meant certain death -- the bomb! -- became a rallying point for Kate, Juliet, Sawyer and Jack. With the careful structuring that goes into every episode, it felt all the more rushed a turn of events. That's not to say that it doesn't make sense. In fact, it feels like the only thing that could possibly make sense at this point.

The way we've seen the past and future interact (most critically in the Faraday/Desmond "go find my mother" sequence), it's impossible to believe that this past hasn't always influenced the present. This leads us directly into a circular theory of time, with the past and present always happening and having happened. This doesn't jive well with the concept of free will, but so long as in the present moment there is always the belief and the feeling that free will exists, it's hard to say if free will matters at all. The way that the murder of Jacob coupled with the bomb's detonation in the final moments, however, likely heralds a schism or a break in this circle -- at least that's my sneaking suspicion. Then again, couldn't that break have always occurred?

It's all these mental gymnastics, or maybe more appropriately, mental aerobics, that made this season a little more tedious than those previous. But as I said earlier, we finally feel like we're making progress, and that's something. With the finish line in sight, threads will have to really start getting tied up, and we can only hope that the characters we've come this far with keep it lively enough to reward our loyalty. Based on what we saw this season, I'm remaining optimistic.

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