SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, get out your giant hollow wooden ankh and leave yourself a note reminding yourself to watch the season premiere of Lost.
When I first saw the pilot of Lost, I made what was, in retrospect, an extremely stupid assumption about it: that since it was about people stranded on an island, it would have a tightly circumscribed group of characters, since there wasn’t much way to bring in new people.Then we discovered the flashbacks, the flashforwards, the Others, Dharma, the freighter, Widmore, Jacob, Smokey… you get the point. The point is, at every turn, at the start of every season, Lost found a way to confound my expectations and expand itself in a way I didn’t imagine.
Ditto the beginning of season 6. It seemed clear that the H-bomb explosion would in some way reset Lost’s timeline. And there was speculation out there—or leaked information, depending—that it split the timeline. But what I wasn’t expecting that we would see two alternative timelines, both reset by the H-bomb—and yet each slightly (or more) changed.
In the reset-2004 timeline–a reunion smorgasbord, with Boone, Arzt, Frogurt and more–Jack is still sitting next to Rose when the “turbulence” hits. (Although: was she reading Weekly Woodsman in the original pilot?) Charlie is swallowing his stash in the bathroom. But Hurley, in this “reset” universe, is the luckiest guy in the world, not a jinx. Christian’s body has gone missing. Shannon isn’t on the flight while Desmond is. (And Michael and Walt? I’m guessing we’re given to assume they’re on there somewhere? And the tailies…?)
Meanwhile, in the reset-2007 timeline (I called it “Universe 2” or “U2” in my notes), nothing has changed, except that it has. The survivors are still on the Island, but have been blown ahead in time. Juliet survives, but briefly: long enough to kiss Sawyer goodbye, yet not long enough to tell him to watch her return in V on March 30. But she delivers a message through Miles: “It worked.”
It did? Yet there is still a Hatch, which appears to have been imploded, as it was by Desmond. And the Others are on the Island, but what we meet, at the Temple, is a group of what I’ll call the New Others, who include Stewardess Cindy and the kissing missing tailie kids, who arrived via Oceanic 815’s crash. So how did the bomb blast work?
There was a lot more to process in the 2007 timeline than in the 2004 one: notably, the much-guessed revelation that UnLocke, a.k.a. The Man in Black, is also the Smoke Monster–“Let’s not resort to name-calling”–who got to show his stuff in a satisfyingly cheesy CGI fight scene. And we discovered that Smokey does not only have Locke’s form, but has access to his memories, including his final, confused thoughts: “I don’t understand.” Which, Smokey is right, is about the saddest thing I’ve heard on this show.
Indeed, leaving aside the cool reveals and confounding further questions, which we can talk about: this was a really sad two hours. Not just for Locke’s achingly final, tragic end, but for the fact that, so far, there seems to be very little real happiness for anyone in either of the alternative universes–so far, anyway. Charlie, in reset-2004, wishes he had died in the bathroom. Sawyer is alone in 2004 and grieving in 2007. Locke is dead one way and broken the other. And in either timeline, Jack is still unable to fix anything.
I wish I could advance some big theory of how and why this all resolves, but all I can do right now is rub my head, throw out some bullet points, and wait anxiously for next week. There are too many possibilities. Do these two timelines converge, or does one of them have to “win”? At what point do the characters become aware of the divergence? (Does it dawn on them gradually, as in, appropriately, Groundhog Day?) Are there universes existing in parallel, or are we simply seeing two realities, one true and one false—the aim of the season being to reveal which is “real”? (And in any case, can we stay invested in two realities, neither of which may end up being permanent?)
[Shrugs.] From here on out, I’m guessing, it’ll be hard to judge season 6 as individual episodes so much as one big one. I have a couple concerns: that alterna-2004 will be able to maintain interest (Kate running from the law again?), and that alterna-2007, with its Apocalypse Now / Indiana Jones Temple, is skating the edge of silliness. (And it also risked some repetition, as, for instance, we got a second tearful goodbye between Sawyer and Juliet, where the first had been so wrenching and effective.)
But skating that edge is where Lost is most comfortable, and where it does its best work. It was a brave move, and I’m guessing an intentional one, that in that bravura underwater zoom through the ruins of the Island, the camera-eye whizzed past an actual shark [Update: Dharma-branded, of course], as if defying us to say the show had jumped it. That’s what Lost does–it plays with the big fish–and credit to it so far for again exploding itself into a new world (or rather two new worlds) that I couldn’t have imagined.
Welcome back, Lost. Here’s your hail of bullets:
* I’m not even going to pretend to have spotted all the differences between the plane in alt-2004 and the plane as we saw it in the original pilot. To paraphrase a wise man, We’re gonna have to watch that again.
* How many times did we end up seeing Juliet dragged by chains? At a certain point, it starts to seem like a blooper reel.
* Jack doesn’t recognize the name Jacob when Hurley mentions it. I don’t recall this, but has he never heard Jacob discussed?
* Question: If the reset-2007 timeline–in which the bomb blast “worked”–did in fact successfully change the Island’s history, then has it changed the circumstances of the 2007 in which Smokey, Ben, Sun and Richard were last season? Or have they always been in that rest timeline?
* Other question: In the 2004 reset timeline, was the H-bomb the thing that sank the Island, or are we just assuming that?
* And one more: The title of the premiere was “LA X.” Why the space? Does it just indicate an alternate Los Angeles, or something more?
* Quibble: Why did it change from deep night to broad daylight by the time the crew drove Sayid to the temple? I don’t remember the specifics of the Island topography, but does it take that long to drive from any one point to another?
* I am assuming it is very significant that Christian’s body does not make the plane in alt-2004. But I have no guess what the significance is. Ditto the wound Jack finds on his neck while in the airplane bathroom.
* Speaking of which: does 2004 Jack have deja vu, or some kind of trace memory of the time he spent (or didn’t) on the Island? His behavior after we first see him hints at it. On the other hand, since he did meet Desmond briefly before coming to the Island, it’s possible that’s the reason Des seems vaguely familiar to him.
* “Lennon,” the English-speaking lieutenant of the New Others, was John Hawkes (of Deadwood and the Miranda July movie Me and You and Everyone We Know).
* This almost goes without saying, but excellent work by Terry O’Quinn, who managed to fully inhabit both the arrogant Locke-as-Smokey and the beaten-but-decent Locke of 2004; that latter performance really turned back the clock.
* Finally, though this was a very sad two-parter in some ways, there were some pretty funny moments. Many of them courtesy of our new villain, Smokey Locke. Best line of the night? “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”
Sleep beckons, so I’m going to leave it at this. I’ll check back in in the morning and maybe add some updates (and, probably, corrections). In the meantime, I’m sure you’ve got plenty to talk about.
Update 1: Oh, yeah, Sayid. How is he? What is he? Who is he? It could be, of course, that he was in fact simply healed/resurrected on a delayed basis. (In the ambiguous scene with Hurley and Miles after Sayid’s “death,” Miles seemed confused—perhaps as if he were not picking up a he’s-actually-dead vibe from Sayid?) On the other hand, best theory I’ve seen so far comes from Mo Ryan, who posits that Jacob is borrowing Sayid’s body, just as Smokey took Locke’s form. Of course, Smokey assumed Locke’s shape but not his actual body, whereas Sayid seems to have risen bodily. But it’s better than any theory I have at the moment.