It must have been difficult to have written the recent episodes of LOST. The writers have to make things interesting while at the same time set things up for the series finale. You've got millions of people anxiously waiting to find out the answers to dozens and dozens of questions such as "What is the Island?", "Who are Adam & Eve", "What is the fate of our heroes?", etc. yet you've got episodes in which you have to keep the interest of the viewers without piling too much on nor giving too much away. Knowing that some of the big questions will be answered soon makes it difficult to appreciate the mid-season offerings.
Last week's episode, "The Last Recruit", was at times interesting and frustrating. The best episodes of this season have generally been the ones that take a narrow focus and show how a character or series of events are important or how they fit into a larger scheme. I'm thinking of "Lighthouse" and "Ab Aeterno", mainly, but there are certainly others which at least have the virtue of not being as scattershot as "The Last Recruit".
The scenes in the flash-sideways world are all over the map and feel like the writers were trying to kill multiple birds with one stone. Sawyer chats with Kate and busts Sayid with help from Miles. Jack meets his half-sister and finds Locke on his operating table which causes him to say, "I think I know this guy." Of course we're not sure if he's referring to their encounter at the airport earlier this season or to their lives through the looking glass on the Island. I guess everyone who was going to get an episode dedicated to their life in the flash-sideways world has gotten it so now it's time to start moving everyone in a particular direction. Last week just felt to me like the writers were overwhelmed and had to put as much narrative direction in as they could squeeze. Everyone gets an update so we can then go concentrate on what's happening in the "real world".
Back on the Island things focused on Jack specifically and Esau's band of merry Widmore hunters more generally. Esau and Jack have a confab in which the former welcomes questions. Jack inquires as to whether it was he that appeared as his father back in season one. Indeed it was. The Losties needed water and he – Smokey – has been Jack's guardian angel this whole time by trying to help him leave the Island. Add in some Locke bashing and you have a grand wasted opportunity. I just felt that, since we're getting to the close of the series, one of the characters could actually avail him- or herself of the opportunity to ask some more meaningful questions and really interrogate one of the Island's inhabitants. You're talking to a cloud of smoke that has taken human form so how about some more pointed questions. When Smokey avoids a real answer, press him and throw in "What is this place?" or "How did you get here?". Instead Jack does him Tim Russert imitation and lets non-answers come and go.
And is it me or was the Sun/Jin reunion one of the great anti-climaxes of the show? They've been separate for well over a season now and the two finding one another felt like a minor plot point that was now finally gotten out of the way. They trade I love you's and Frank says, "Looks like someone got their voice back." Lame.
My last gripe here is when Zoe visits Camp Smokey and tries to intimidate Esau by having him witness the firepower of a fully armed and operational rocket launcher. What was the point? Did Widmore really think that display was going to do anything? It just seems pointless to throw some rockets over at a smoke monster
On the plus side, Sawyer describes Lapidus as someone that "looks like he stepped off the set of a Burt Reynolds movie." The Losties have been very single-minded lately and such small details like colorful insults and nicknames which help flesh out and make for interesting characters has been absent. I also like Sawyer's rebellion. It made for some good tense moments wondering how Smokey would react to this mutiny. Sawyer and Jack have their spat with the end result being that Jack jumps off the boat and returns to shore only to be warmly greeted by Esau.
This brings me to my new completely unfounded theory of Lost. I now think that Esau is cursed. He and Jacob surely have a long history which pre-dates the Island. At some point they were both ordinary average guys but something happened to Esau which made him malevolent - he's the wine being stopped by the Island's cork – but he is essentially unaware of it. Jacob either believes or has been told that, like Darth Vader, there's still an iota of goodness left in Esau and it's his job to bring that out. Bringing people to the Island is Jacob's way of inducing anamnesis. Our Losties in the flash-sideways world are seeing the cracks in their local reality and that of the Island bleeding in and it is exactly this that Jacob is trying to induce in Esau. He's trying to show him that people are good and that there is goodness in him. There is only one end (Esau remembering who he really is) and the rest (being stuck on the Island while Jacob brings castaways) is just progress.
A couple final things:
1) Desmond can't be dead. Not sure why Sayid would suddenly lose the cold-blooded killer attitude but Desmond is too important to suffer such an ignominious end.
2) Jack is a beaten man. But I have faith that he will regrow his balls.