‘Lost’ in Thought: What They Died For

So, if the Internets are to be believed – and when are they not, really? — last week’s episode of ‘Lost’ was the most hated in the show’s run. It’s even more hated than the infamous Nikki and Paolo episode. (Which I happen to think is incredibly underrated, personally.) I’m of mixed feelings about ‘Across the Sea’. I understand and share the frustration that it opened up a whole host of new questions without answering many of the important existing ones, and that’s kind of a dickish move for the writers to pull so late in the game. But I think that the final verdict on that episode will really depend on what happens in the finale. And that brings us to this week’s episode, ‘What They Died For’, which the producers have been describing as Part 1 of the finale. Is the show back on track? I think so, yes. This was a very strong episode that puts a lot of pieces into position for the big conclusion. (Spoilers after the break.)

Now that we’ve dispensed with the Jacob and Man in Black backstory, this week’s focus is back on the Losties we care about, in both the island and Sideways timelines. To start, the “They” in the title refers to Jin, Sun, and Sayid. We have some assurance now that their deaths were not meaningless. That’s comforting not just from an emotional standpoint, but also allays fears that the title may have meant that the big secret to the ‘Lost’ mystery is that the characters are all dead and in purgatory. The producers have already tried to dispel that notion in interviews and podcasts, but sometimes they’re not to be trusted

I really enjoyed the Sideways storyline this episode, and am more eager than ever to find out how it will tie into the overall plot. Desmond has become some sort of potentially game-changing Trickster character, manipulating events towards a purpose we don’t yet understand. About running down Locke with his car, he tells Ben that he wasn’t trying to hurt him. “I’m here to let him go,” he says, and then proceeds to beat Ben’s face in. If Sideways Desmond has all the memories of regular Desmond, he has plenty of reasons to want to beat Ben senseless. But the beating also triggers Ben to have a flash to the other timeline.

At this point, I have to assume that when Desmond says that he’s helping the characters let go, he means to release them from this Sideways reality so that they can merge with the regular timeline. Just thinking about the metaphysics of this makes my head hurt.

This was a jam-packed episode, so I’m just going to run through the things that caught my attention. These may or may not be in any particular order.

The episode opens in classic ‘Lost’ fashion with a close-up of an eye. That’s a nice touch.

Widmore claims that Jacob invited him to the island. If true, I guess that would put Widmore firmly back on Team Jacob, and not working toward his own ends as I previously assumed. Of course, whether Widmore is telling the truth or not is still up for debate.

Young Jacob takes the ashes from Hurley and runs away. By the time Hurley catches up with him, Jacob is an adult again. This leads me to think that Jacob wasn’t “complete” without all of his ashes. When he gets them back, he’s a whole (adult) person again. But I have a feeling that doesn’t hold up with the timeline of prior episodes. When exactly did we start seeing young Jacob in the woods, and haven’t we also seen adult Jacob during that time period?

Man in Black (as the Smoke Monster) dispatches Richard out of hand, as if to say that Richard is irrelevant and just standing in his way. (He does the same to Widmore’s girl Zoe shortly afterwards). Are we to assume that Richard is dead now, or might we see him again? If MiB did kill Richard, that must mean that Richard wasn’t a Candidate (which I suppose we should know by now anyway, given that Jacob didn’t choose him to take over the island).

Island Ben takes a very dark turn this episode. First he rats out Widmore to Fake Locke, and then kills Widmore himself. “He doesn’t get to save his daughter.” That’s cold, even for Ben. Before dying, Widmore whispers something secret to Locke that he doesn’t want Ben to hear. Locke appears to be satisfied with whatever that information was.

I’m trying to figure out Ben’s agenda now. Clearly, he’s disillusioned with his role in Jacob’s plans. But is he really on Team Black now, or is he just trying to ruin everything for everyone? I’m not convinced that he really wants the island all to himself, as MiB has promised to him. So what the hell does he want? Just revenge?

Jacob allows himself to be seen by Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. Is this something he can do at will? Was he ever really dead after Ben stabbed him? He says to them, “I don’t really know where to start.” Jeesh, you’re telling me!

However, in a rare moment for the show, Jacob sits everyone down and actually explains some important things to them. “I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.” His answers tie in well enough with what we learned in ‘Across the Sea’, and make me feel a little better about that episode. I’m also happy with the explanation he gives to Kate about why her name was crossed off the list. (Motherhood meant that she no longer needed the island.) This presumably also explains why one of the Kwon’s names was crossed off.

Jack is fully the Man of Faith now, and accepts the role as Jacob’s successor. Drinking the special water seals the deal. I guess he’s a god now. Somehow, I feel like this is a red herring, though. I expect him to get bumped off in the finale, and someone else unexpected (like Sawyer) to step in for him.

The Sideways timeline gives us cameo appearances from Rousseau (very glad to see her again) and Ana Lucia. I know that Michelle Rodriguez is one of the least popular actors (and characters) in the show, but I’ve always liked her. (Frankly, hers was the only character I gave a damn about in ‘Avatar’.) I loved Hurley’s moment of saying hi to her, and Ana Lucia wondering how he knew her. Desmond says, “She’s not ready yet.” Does Sideways Hurley have all of the memories of regular Hurley, or just the ability to recognize people?

Finally, MiB (as Fake Locke) reveals that he doesn’t just want to leave the island, he wants to destroy it forever. To me, this sounds like a new idea he’s had, not his plan all along. My theory is that Widmore told MiB what Desmond can do. Earlier, Widmore said that Desmond is a failsafe, a measure of last resort to stop Man in Black from leaving the island. I’m thinking that Desmond’s “failsafe” is the ability to destroy the island (with MiB on it). Now that he knows this, MiB plans to use that ability to destroy it himself after leaving.

All in all, ‘What They Died For’ is an excellent episode, and has really built up my anticipation for the finale even more. I’m sure that there’s no way for whatever happens this Sunday to answer all of our questions or satisfy every viewer. But I’m feeling once more that the producers really do have something conclusive planned, and aren’t just going to string us along only to leave us hanging, which is the impression that last week’s episode left.

4 comments

  1. besch64

    I guess I’ll never understand why everybody hated Across the Sea. Without it, a bunch of things from this episode would make no damn sense at all.

    Anyway, loved the episode. To address some of your points:

    -It’s pretty damn obvious that Ben is being Ben. He’s not actually with Esau/MIB/Locke, rather he’s manipulating him for an unknown purpose. Maybe he has an idea of how to kill him? Despite his fall from grace, Ben knows more about the island than probably anybody else aside from Richard. There’s something big up his sleeve.

    -Speaking of Richard, there’s no way he’s dead. You don’t get an episode like Ab Aeterno written for you and then die without resolving anything at all.

    Can’t wait for the finale, but at the same time I dread it. I’m going to miss this show…

  2. Michael Palmer

    Well said. Have to admit last week bothered me, but it was probably more the fear of the ticking clock. Only 4 hours left, and they spent a large chunk of it with two emo-kids who couldn’t really act. That being said, I’m sure it will grow on me. BTW– Nikki and Paolo were fully annoying…until their last episode, which was a slick exercise / homage of Hitchcock or The Twilight Zone. Definitely underrated, and a turning point to what had been one of the series rougher patches.

    Also, here’s a two other articles:

    http://justtv.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/a-lost-week-of-questioning-answers/

    and

    http://cultural-learnings.com/2010/05/19/lost-what-they-died-for/

    • EM

      Another possibility: the previous episode raised a lot of questions about the mythology, which led to a lot of speculation…this episode was a lot more straightforward, and so there’s less for us to say.

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