- This week's LOST was one of those episodes that thoroughly entertained me, but also left me with a sense of "we're just getting to this stuff NOW?" With so few episodes left in the series, it's still nearly impossible to see how everything will wrap up in a satisfactory manner given how little time there is to follow through on some of the concepts that have just been introduced in the last couple of episodes.
That said, thank god that Desmond is back. After a triumphant return in the previous week's universe-spanning epic, Desmond almost singlehandedly elevated this episode to awesomeness, thanks to the overall cool-factor of the character, combined with Henry Ian Cusick's amazing acting chops. In two episodes, he is already, in my eyes, the MVP of this season of Lost. I mean, look at the conversation he had with Hurley at the fast food place. In another's hands, this would have been ordinary, unremarkable. But Cusick made it pop. His pep talk to Hurley was great stuff. Meanwhile, the double cliffhanger was pretty awesome. It was no huge surprise that Not-Locke angrily threw Desmond down the well in the middle of the jungle, but, what was a shocker was Desmond returning the favor by running down Locke in the alternaverse. Now, why did Desmond do this? Was it an attempt to deliver a blow to Smokey? Or was it an attempt to force alterna-Locke into a state of awareness regarding the multiverse, similar to how Desmond's own near-death experience with Charlie jiggered his memory in the last episode? Regardless, it was one hell of an ending.
Other aspects of the episode, however, came off as somewhat clunky. Ilana's sudden, dynamite-go-boom death was a jaw-dropper, but it also felt like an admission on the part of the writers that the character had become pretty much useless since her introduction. And that annoys me, because Ilana and her crew of Jacob followers were originally set up to be major players in the Lost universe. And yet, we never really got a sense of what their deal was, how they came to be a group, or what, exactly, their motivations were. We've seen somewhat ambiguous scenes of a hospitalized Ilana being comforted by Jacob, but we never really got the full story behind her origins. As I've said many times, I don't care if Lost explains every mystery or every character's backstory ... BUT ... it's semi-obnoxious that they provided little clues and teasers and dangled this carrot in front of us only to then throw their hands up and say "yeah, we admit, we never really had any clue what to do with this character."
Ironically, this same episode contained one of Lost's trademark "answers," in which some lesser mystery is explained via expository dialogue. Apparently, the "whispers" we've been hearing about since Season 1 are actually ghostly chatter from souls stuck on the island in psuedo-purgatory. Okay ... I don't know, I just am not in love with the idea that all these random ghosts haunt the island and show up to give Hurley helpful advice at random moments. It just seems way too hokey for Lost. And confusing, in that on the show we've seen dead people show up as manifestations of the Smoke Monster, dead people show up as ghosts, and dead people show up as physical forms for the Monster to inhabit. Frankly, it's a mess. Which dead people were ghosts, which were the black smoke? Was Christian Shephard ever really on the island, for example? And we still have no clue how or why Hurley can talk to the dead (which he now does every five minutes) - I mean, wasn't that supposed to have been Miles' schtick?
Hurley's off-island storyline this week was well-done. The interaction with Libby was really emotional and engaging, and it was nice seeing Cynthia Waitrose back on the show. I still don't quite buy that she loves him, and she and Jorge Garcia certainly don't have Desmond-Penny levels of chemistry. But, there were some nice moments between them nonetheless, and Hurley's vision of his life on the island was a powerful scene. Still, I feel like island Hurley is getting increasingly annoying. His ghost-chatting is starting to feel pretty forced, and someone in this ep raised a good point - why does he take everything that the ghost say as gospel? Meanwhile, the scene in which Jack, Miles, and Ben chose to follow either Hurley or Richard was sort of painful. They were acting out of some sense of urgency, but why? Hurley's big plan is to go talk to Locke. Umm ... great plan. Richard's big plan is to blow up stuff to make sure that Locke, and in turn everyone else, doesn't get off the island. Two plans, neither very good. It all felt like another instance of forcing the characters to just sort of walk from Point A to Point B without any rhyme or reason. I'm also sick of all the talk about what "the island" wants. Is the island a self-aware entity? I thought the whole point of this season so far was to establish Jacob and Smokey as the guiding hands of fate responsible for pushing the castaways in various directions? So is "the island" still a thing as well?
I feel like this sort of sloppy writing could really come back to bite Lost as it enters its endgame. On the other hand, the return of Desmond, the collision of the two timelines, and the promise of big things to come kept me really excited and entertained during this episode. With so many suprises, twists, and strong performances, this was, I think, one of the better episodes of Lost so far this season.
And by the way, the promo for next week's ep, featuring sampling of Gene Wilder's dialogue as Willy Wonka, was an inspired stroke of genius. Awesome.
My Grade: B+