I finally caught up on last week's episode, "The Little Prince," and part of me got a little nervous. It felt a lot like they were rushing through some plotlines and not really moving on others. Not bad per se, but not up to par with the previous couple of episodes. Luckily, things got back on track this week.
Episode: "This Place Is Death"
The Happenings: As we left on last week's cliffhanger, so we open this week with Ben explaining to Sun, "Jin is alive, and I have proof." She then takes Ben at gun point to meet a person who will provide this proof. Jack goes with them, but the rest of the six opt out.
Back on the island, we open up with a lot of Jin. Oh yeah, and... THE SMOKE MONSTER RETURNS!!! If that wasn't enough, it proceeds to immediately kill some Frenchmen, one of who is de-limbed in a struggle. From these untoppable beginnings, we start to time-jump with the island crew. Immediately, we flash forward to another excellent scene where Russo essentially kills the last remaining Frenchman.
After another jump, Jin is reunited with the rest of the time-skipping crew and they continue their trek back to the Orchid. In back to back scenes, Ben travels with Jack and Sun to prove that Jin is alive, while Jin, back on the island, convinces Locke to tell Sun that he is actually dead. He gives Locke his wedding ring as proof.
Locke descends into a well taht predates the Orchid while time continues to jump. Faraday tells Charlotte about his conversation with Desmond just before she finally succumbs to her aneurysm/brain-freakouts.
Finally at the bottom of the well Locke encounters Christian Shepherd who reminds him that Locke was supposed to move the island. Christian also confirms that Locke will have to die ("That's why they call it sacrifice"), before he shows Locke how to finish what needs to be done.
We end with Ben, Jack, Sun and Desmond (who sort of arrives out of nowhere) meeting up with Faraday's mother, Eloise Hawking.
The Craziness: During a flash, Jin watches Russo kill the last remaining Frenchman, who we are led to believe is actually Alex's father. She does this only after he pulls the trigger on an empty gun that was pointed at her. He had been spouting off about how the smoke monster was simply a defense mechanism to "protect the temple."
Charlotte confesses to Faraday before he dies that she grew up as part of the Dharma Initiative, though her mom tried to convince her that she didn't after they returned to England. She remembers that Faraday, as an old man, told her during her first time there that she had to leave the island and never come back.
During their conversation, Christian's implication ("Since when did listening to him get you anywhere worth a damn") is that Ben is working against Locke's interests. Which is another shift (#4,322 I believe) in the allegiances and rooting interests.
The Verdict: While this episode picked up some from last week's, there still seems to be almost too much going on. The time jumping is also beginning to strain this viewer's ability to suspend disbelief. There's just so many potential conflicts, and so many potential loose ends being created, while the fun and interest of it is starting to wear thin. It would appear though, that we've seen the last of it, for the time being anyway, so that gripe could be over.
I've also been struggling to orient the Oceanic 6 and their new characters who are all now three years removed from the island. They seem flat, and I'm not sure what it will take to even that out.
That being said, we got a ton of action in this episode, mixed with a healthy dose of some old fashioned sci-fi. My complaints are really more just quibbles or nit-picks as the majority of the show continues to improve and impress each week.
The Wild Speculation: There's some major questions that have started to coalesce around this season:
1. Was Locke ever alive back on the mainland? If so, when did he arrive, and why did he not immediately contact Jack or any of the other 6? If he was alive, and this would be most important, how did he die?
2. If Locke was D.O.A., then how did Ben retrieve the ring, and how did he actually know what and whose it was?
3. What part does Faraday's mother play in all this? She's in cahoots with Ben (who we are now getting a bad vibe from, if we can trust Christian), but she seems committed to the Island, and also seems to be against Widmore, who we can say for sure is evil (as judged by his willingness to send psychos to the Island to kill innocent people).
4. Finally, and maybe biggest of all, why the hell do they have to go back? What purpose will their presence on the Island serve?
There's a big picture here that we're only being allowed to see a bit at a time. There's Island folks, mainly Richard Alpert and perhaps Christian and Claire, who clearly are outside the "normal" world. Then there's Ben, Hawking, Widmore, etc, who seem to be battling for the Island. Then there's the 6, as well as the other Oceanic survivors, who are trapped in the middle. There's also Russo, who we have to believe is coming back, and don't forget the Smoke Monster and the giant severed foot. It's only going to get crazier from here!