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'Lost' returns, bends minds

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  February 2, 2010 11:27 PM

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These “Lost” writers, they are TV magicians of the first order.

Tonight, once again, we were their willing little playthings as they brought us yet another step closer to the great mystery of the island, then pulled us back two steps to keep us awake and guessing. Oh yeah, and they essentially broke time in two, pulling our brains in opposite directions by asking us to follow closely while two very different fates played out simultaneously. The plane crashed, and the plane didn’t crash -- both. Time passing became times passing.

The first two hours of the final, sixth season of “Lost” were filled with emotional wallops, cheeky in-jokes, Fake Locke revelations, Real Locke memories, death, rebirth, and a little tacky “Indiana Jones” temple shtick for good measure. If the episode is any indication, we’re heading into a wildly entertaining and endlessly engaging season that will find “Lost” doing exactly what more TV shows ought to be doing -- going out on top.

The night’s emotional peak came early on, right after the bomb’s white-out, when Sawyer rescued Juliet from a giant pile of metal that looked like some kind of giant found-art sculpture. But it was a feint; Juliet quickly died in his arms. Reviving Juliet only to kill her off felt manipulative, just the writers’ opportunity to milk a few tears and let Josh Holloway do some seriously felt acting (which he certainly did). But I thought that seeing the pair together and in love again was a valuable inclusion -- it helped us feel their break more powerfully last night, and therefore understand Sawyer’s rage toward Jack. Certainly, the Jack-Sawyer tension will be important in the coming weeks. I don’t think Jack caused Juliet's death, but Losties will need to debate that one thoroughly.

We learned that Fake Locke, aka the Man in Black, is also the Smoke Monster. Fake Locke, looking very “Heart of Darkness,” seemed more evil and cold-hearted than ever, beating and killing a bunch of people and sneering in contempt at the Real Locke. Indeed, Fake Locke seemed particularly nasty juxtaposed with the scenes of the more compassionate Real Locke, who consoled Jack in the airport after his father’s body was lost. “They didn’t lose your father,” Real Locke said. “They just lost his body.” It was a healing gesture, which Jack returned by offering surgery to help Locke out of his wheelchair. “Nothing is irreversible” were Jack's kind words.

It's not clear whether the people in either reality will learn about the alternate reality, although Juliet's dying message -- "It worked" -- may ultimately help lead to the connection. I think the "Lost" writers could actually pull that off, allowing the characters to know that they're in two places at once.

It’s also not clear whether the alternate world in which the plane crash does not occur (and in which we saw Boone as well as -- I think -- the Incredibly Exploding Artz) will be a happy place. Yes, Jack and Real Locke had their lovely moment, and Kate just may escape prison, and Jack saved Charlie, and Hurley is living in a bizarro state where, as he said, “Nothing bad ever happens to me, I’m the luckiest guy alive.” But this is “Lost,” and not Shangri-La. Right?

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