Have you ever wondered how your life might have changed if something went just a little differently in your past? Maybe, if you got just a few tiny decimal points higher on your GPA, you would have gone to your first choice college instead of your second. How much would change? How many different experiences would you have had?
It appears that we will get an opportunity to see just such an experiment in progress in the sixth and final season of LOST. This was a great premiere and, to me, a return to form for a show I had become somewhat dissatisfied with last season.
In "LAX," we were presented with two worlds-- one in which the Oceanic 815 survivors, fully aware of their past experiences on the Island, wake up in the 2007 "present." At first it appears that their plan failed; somehow, the detonation of Jughead had no effect on their past or future. But in another world, we see Jack and company oblivious to the existence of the Island, which lies deep underwater.
Flight 815 coasts safely over the Pacific and lands in Los Angeles, where its passengers resume their lives uninterrupted. But there are subtle differences in this second reality that indicate that it may not be quite what it seems.
Hurley is now the luckiest man in the world, instead of a numbers-cursed victim.
Shannon stayed in a bad relationship in Sydney rather than returning home with Boone. He sat next to Locke, who successfully went on his walkabout, heading home a seemingly happier man for the experience.
Alarmingly, Desmond was on the plane!
Jack recognizes him, but is he thinking of the time they met while running at the stadium,
or does he have some kind of imprint in his mind of the other reality? And where did Desmond disappear to only moments later?
Most curiously, we learn that Christian Shephard's coffin is mysteriously absent from the plane as it arrives in LAX, and Oceanic can't locate it. Is it possible the coffin "flashed" off the plane as it flew over the Island? More than ever, it seems like Christian Shephard is a major key to the truth of the Island. The mysteries that surround him connect the two realities.
Is he a third party somehow entangled in the rivalry between Jacob and the man in black? It could begin to explain why his son, Jack, and his grandson, Aaron, have been said to be so important to the Island. I picked something up in the recap episode that I hadn't noticed before. There seemed to be a hint of recognition in Ben's eyes when Sun and Frank told him about meeting the man named "Christian" in the abandoned 2007 barracks.
In this alternate world, however, Christian is nowhere to be found. Instead, Jack shares a poignant moment with John at the airport, where he reminds us that he is not always a man of pure science. "Nothing is irreversible," he says of John's paralysis, echoing the theme of this "reset" reality and reminding us that he once experienced an off-Island miracle, when his former wife regained the use of her legs after science had said she would remain crippled for life.
And yet, although history can be changed, it seems these people were still meant to meet in one way or another. As Jack and Locke shake hands, Kate escapes from captivity and forcibly shares a cab with Claire. Much like the scenes in early seasons that showed the crash survivors' lives overlapping with connections that they themselves did not realize, it seems we're being told that their lives are inseparably intertwined. No matter how history changes, they will somehow continue to interact.
The novelty and appeal of the alternate reality comes partly from the cavalcade of familiar faces: Boone, Charlie, Bernard and Rose, Claire, and even Cindy. But probably the most welcome face was John Locke-- the real John Locke. Terry O'Quinn proved again tonight why he is truly the god of LOST by masterfully playing dual roles-- one is light, one is dark.
Whether the real John Locke ever surfaces on the Island in any form again, we now know we'll be seeing him in season 6.
In a more familiar reality, things are looking quite grim. Juliet is dead-- or dies, in what I felt was the low point of the premiere. As an audience, we already had a chance to say goodbye to Jules in last year's finale, in a powerful scene with Sawyer. It seemed unnecessary to waste a third of the first hour digging her out from the Swan station rubble just so she could croak before our eyes before going off to star in V.
The other casualty of the incident was "James LaFleur." That man is gone now, and the hollowed out shell of Sawyer is what's left. For him, the Island is now truly Hell-- a place he cannot escape, condemned to dwell in the misery of his loss.
For Sayid, however, there is hope. Jacob appears to Hurley and sends him to the Temple to save his friend, and the others join the quest. It was a real treat to see Jacob again. In two short hours last season I developed a fondness for this benevolent overseer. Mark Pellegrino played the fabled Jacob with warmth and serenity, a perfect foil to his unnamed rival and just what I would expect of the Island's spiritual guru.
In short order we arrive at the Temple. The Temple seemed like just the kind of place the Others would call home.
We met a few new Others, and their ethnic diversity seems to be a deliberate choice to hint that their ranks are made of a mish-mash of various cultures who have been in contact with the Island in the past.
The reveals in this episode seem indicative of the lightning pace that the season will take. We've seen the Temple. We know what's in the guitar case-- an ankh and another list.
We also see, through Sayid, what probably happened to save young Ben's life in the 1970s.
Don't overlook the irony that Sayid shot Ben, necessitating his healing in the Temple, then Ben's father shot Sayid, necessitating his healing in the Temple. But the process was said by Richard to take away one's innocence-- what does this mean for Sayid?
The most chilling events of the premiere were those that picked up directly after last season's revelations by the four-toed statue. And, more quick reveals move the story right along.
Well, that settles that, doesn't it? While many fans had guessed this, the quick confirmation shows that the writers know how sharp the LOST community is. In the wake of this old menace with a new form, Ben is reduced to a simpering sidekick who cowers in the corner as his new master decimates the "good guys" who challenge him. For the record, I'm going to call Fake Locke/the man in black/Jacob's nemesis/the smoke monster "Smokey" from now on, since it's clear they are all one and the same entity.
At least Richard has the good sense to finally show Ben the truth about what has happened.
But mysteries remain. What is Smokey's relationship to Richard ("good to see you out of those chains")? What is his relationship to the Others ("I'm very disappointed in all of you")? What does he plan to do now that Jacob is dead? Exactly how does he plan to get home?
All of that will be revealed in due time. For now, I am more interested to see if and how the two parallel universes that now exist on LOST will affect one another. Will they ultimately converge into a single reality? We'll know in four short months.
Did you catch the return of the Dharma Shark?